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The Hello! Project Fanfics => H!P Fanfics => Library => Topic started by: rokun on October 21, 2006, 01:13:37 AM

Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Epilogue ~COMPLETE~]
Post by: rokun on October 21, 2006, 01:13:37 AM
Well, this is a story I started a while back. Some of you may have already read the first chapters. But... today I felt an urge come out of nowhere to begin writing it again, so I'm posting it here (in heavily edited form for content, etc. to stay within the rules and keep things pretty innocent :), as well as other whims I felt when re-reading it), to see if anyone enjoys it.

The young girl is a certain someone named Reina Tanaka, and this is where her modern odyssey begins...


Prologue: News

   “Could you bend over with your back straight as if you’re going to pick the flower? Yes, very good, hold there a moment and look into the camera…”

   Reina did as she was told, carefully holding her fingers just shy of the flower’s stem, and glanced over toward the cameraman. The large light held behind it was nearly blinding, but she was used to it by now, and barely flinched. She only narrowed her eyes in a way that made her look even cuter. She liked looking cute sometimes, but usually there were limits. Right now, she was very close to one of her limits.

   She was in a rather small botanical garden in Utsunomia. Since there were no buildings quite nearby, a good cameraman could find an angle for a picture of her where it would look like she was in a wide field, a far cry from the cramped garden they now stood in. Even though there were no set plans for a new photobook anytime soon, here she stood with her hair tied up with ribbons and a short white dress that was nearly transparent. As she bent over, she imagined her underwear would be showing beneath it, but tried not to think about it too much. She caught sight of one of the photographer’s staff standing near him. He was young, maybe just out of university, with unruly hair dyed a gleaming brownish with highlights. He had a nice curve to his face, too. As she looked back to the camera, she bent over a little more to its clicking. She supposed she wouldn’t mind him seeing a little of what was beneath her dress.

   The clicking seemed to stop, and she saw the camera lower. “Thank you, Reina. That’s all for this shoot. If you’d like to enjoy the gardens for a while, we’ll pick up again at the café this afternoon!”

   Reina nodded and stood up. She began turning to walk to her trailer, but caught herself for a moment. She bent down again and picked the flower that she had pretended to be about to pick a minute ago. Maybe that cute intern liked snapdragons.

   She looked around, but he was nowhere in sight, and she saw only some of the crew hurriedly packing up their equipment. They sure seemed in a hurry to get to lunch. Her stomach rumbled, and she realized how hungry she was as well. She shrugged and finally began her walk to the trailer, the flower still in her hand, the boy forgotten.

   As she was making her way carefully down the narrow path through the flowers, a staff member ran nimbly up to her. “Reina, there is a phone call for you. It’s on your cell. I left it on the counter next to your sink.” His voice seemed rather insistent and nervous. Had he not wanted to tell her about the phone call? He sure wasn’t eager about it.

   “Thank you, Nobuki,” she replied with a smile that she hoped didn’t look too fake. She stood still in front of him since he didn’t move, slightly tilting her head in his direction. “Are you heading back? I can’t pass you, or I’d step on the flowers.” The nervous man jerked as if in surprise before blushing and looking around.

   “Oh, I’m so sorry Reina! Yes, I’ll go now. The phone’s on your counter.” With a slight bow, he ran back off again ahead of her. She shook her head, wondering if any of the staff had any manners, before continuing walking herself.

   When she got to the trailer and closed the door, she laid the flower carefully on the bed before quickly beginning to undo the straps to her dress. She couldn’t wait to get back into her shirt and jeans. After she got the first strap undone, she picked up her phone before starting on the second.

   “Hello, this is Reina.”

   “There you are Reina. This is… this is Yossi.” Reina barely recognized the voice. It was deeper than usual and seemed very unsteady. Her speech was broken, as if she’d just been crying or something.

   “Hello senpai!” she chirped, slightly suspiciously. “What’s going on? Are you okay?”

   There was a pause before the voice on the other end continued. “Reina, there’s… been an accident.”

   “What do you mean? Is everybody all right?” The girls had accidents and injuries all the time, usually involving a rehearsal or food, so she didn’t develop much worry, finishing the last strap and beginning to pull it off. Yossi wouldn’t usually be calling her from a city away about it, though…

   “Reina… no… Everybody is… I’ve been trying to get in touch with everybody. Since this is a photo week, most of the girls are scattered all over Japan, like you. Only Aichan and Koharu were in town too, and… oh Reina, the accident… Miki’s dead.”

   “Hey, at least I didn’t go too far. I have a life, unlike some of the others.” She grimaced down at the dress in her hands before tossing it to the bed beside the flower. “I bet you though, that Aichan and Koharu are…”

   “Reina, did you hear me?” a bewildered voice interrupted from the other end of the line.

   “Of course I heard you,” Reina said, now getting frustrated. “I just don’t see why you’re…” She trailed off, as her mind finally registered what else her leader told her.

   “Reina?” came the voice from the phone. The girl addressed just stood there in her underwear, eyes glazing over slightly.

   “Reina?” The voice was more insistent this time.

   “Wha…” she started. “What… Miki?”

   Yossi now sounded like the frustrated one. “Yes Reina, Miki. She’s dead. She had a car crash while driving through Shibuya a couple hours ago. Please, I’m trying to get everyone to come back here. Everything’s kind of chaotic now, but… I suppose we’ll have to set up some kind of memorial and… and things like that. Now, I’ve gotta go. I still need to call Eri and Sayu. Just try to get back to the studio as soon as you can, okay?” There was a click as she hung up.

   Reina still stood, staring at the dress on the bed as if it were the most interesting thing in the world, still holding the phone to her ear. The red-tinted flower lying next to it gave it a sophisticated look, for all its thin white fabric.

   Someone knocked on the door. “Reina, are you ready yet? We’ll be leaving as soon as you are. The driver said he knows this great ramen shop down the street.” Reina didn’t move, fascinated by the dress.

   “Reina?” The door opened slightly, and the intern she picked the flower for stepped up into the trailer. His eyes searched for her for a moment, and then he blushed, spinning around in a blur. “I’m… I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were… Let us know when you’re ready!” He leapt out the door and closed it fast behind him.
   
   “What a pretty dress,” Reina said, brushing her hair with the phone. “I wish I had one like it.”
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on October 21, 2006, 01:17:23 AM
Chapter 1 – A Somber Evening at the Studio

   Reina stared out the window of the taxi as it crawled its way slowly down Tokyo’s streets. It would have to be toward the end of rush hour that she got back in town. The cloudy sky was beginning to darken as it drew toward dusk. The UFA building appeared amidst the tall buildings on either side, and she stared at it, an odd sensation inside her.

   She didn’t really remember how she got back to Tokyo except that she told the photographer something about an emergency that required her presence as soon as possible. It seemed the next thing she knew, she was in this taxi with all her luggage in the trunk and headed back to the studio. She doubted she’d remember the taxi ride once at the studio. Then she forgot that she doubted it.

   The taxi pulled up as if it was double-parking along the curb in front of the doors, and she slowly got out. The driver came around and asked if she wanted her luggage, but she told him to just hang out. As late as it was, she doubted they’d be there long before she’d go back to her hotel room.
   
   Once inside, she ignored the receptionist who, recognizing her, made no effort to obstruct her way. She went down halls and up elevators that were quiet at this time in the evening before she came to a door with a plate saying “Morning Musume” next to it. She pushed it slowly open and walked in, staring blankly around the large room inside.

   She heard nothing but suppressed voices sounding like mumbles around the room. Tsunku, along with some other suits, was speaking softly near the door to the inner offices. He glanced momentarily at her as she entered and nodded slight and slowly before returning to his conversation. Not many of the other girls were here yet, it appeared. Well, she supposed she was the closest of any of them. Koharu was in one corner and appeared to be crying softly. Yossi was there seemingly trying to comfort her. Aya sat on a bench against one wall, staring forward with wet eyes. Apparently this gathering wasn’t limited to only Morning Musume. Risa and Konkon huddled together as well, though their eyes didn’t seem as red. Reina wondered fleetingly where Makoto was before remembering that she was off in Australia somewhere. That might be too far away to even contact, much less fly back from in the night. Sayu and Eri didn’t seem to be here yet. She knew Eri, at least, had flown to Nagoya for her vacation and photo session. She probably wouldn’t get back until late this evening.

   Since everyone seemed to be absorbed in their own affairs, she walked slowly into the room, feeling a trifle lonely. She wished Eri was there, or at least Sayu. Yossi would attend to her, she was sure, but she seemed to have her hands full with Baby Girl. Reina had started calling Koharu that, partly out of spite since she was no longer the youngest and got all the attention that comes with the station.

   She looked around the room again. Where was Aichan? She was supposed to have been in Tokyo, so wouldn’t have even had to take the Shinkansen in. She’d even feel a little better if she was there. They’d shared a trailer from time to time since they did photoshoots at the same location occasionally, so became relatively close.

   Not wanting to be fully alone after a long train and cab ride in, she walked over and sat on the bench near Aya.

   “Nee, Aya-chan.”

   “Hey,” she responded after a moment.

   “How are you holding up?” The other girl looked at her without expression.
   
   After she turned away again, Reina looked down and spread her feet apart, knees together. She’d heard stories of how close Miki and Aya had been of course, especially considering GAM, so it wasn’t surprising that Aya was in a mood now. Frankly, she was surprised the girl even acknowledged her. She was still trying to sort out her own feelings about the matter.

   The door opened again and Ai walked in. Reina thought she looked a little nervous, and she was wearing plainer clothes than usual – just a pair of jeans and a shirt that said “Underground” in roman letters. Looking closer, Reina saw that it was an advertisement for some skateboarding video game. The girl looked around at the somber tone in the studio and some of her nervousness seemed to drain away. She caught Reina’s eye for a moment and gave a small smile before heading over to join Risa and Konkon. Reina sighed.

   “So what have you been up to today?” she asked the girl sitting next to her, not expecting an answer. She ground her toe into the floor a little.

   “It was my day off,” Aya suddenly murmured. Reina paused her toe’s grinding and glanced over at her, narrowing her eyes in surprise at the response. “I was at Hakone, enjoying a maitai in the spring. Then my attendant came up with my phone…” She started sobbing slightly. “Mikitty was going to come, but something came up this morning. She said she had to work. It didn’t really look like she wanted to go, and I bet she would have gone had I insisted, but I didn’t…” Tears began streaming down her face. “I should have pushed her more…” she whined after a moment’s hesitation. “She needed a vacation.”

   Reina grimaced, feeling uncomfortable watching one of her senpai breaking down next to her. She awkwardly patted the girl’s back. “Don’t talk like that,” she said softly. “It’s not your fault.” Aya sniffed and laid her head on Reina’s shoulder. Reina even more awkwardly left her arm around her and patted her other shoulder. And she just wanted to not be alone. Good going, Reina. Way to show your sensitive side. She looked around. Some of the others were looking their way now, most notably the Gokkie group. They were whispering to each other, and Ai seemed to be studying her closely. Reina restrained herself from rolling her eyes.

   “I should have insisted on her going,” Aya continued redundantly. “I was enjoying the spa and a tropical drink while Mikitty was… while she was…” Her voice, angry at the start of the comment, trailed off at the end as she fell into tears again, wrapping her arms tightly around Reina. Reina was now very uncomfortable, but she resolved herself in regard to her situation. Nobody else was stepping forward to take over. Yossi was watching the door from next to Koharu, probably waiting for the arrival of the last girls. She hadn’t moved from that spot except to give Aichan an irritated lecture about being late to something serious like this. Even though Konkon and Risa had turned back to focus on their conversation, Ai was still staring over at Reina, who gave her a twisted smile while the shoulder of her shirt was getting soaked by Aya’s tears. Ai cocked her head slightly and turned back to the other two. Reina occupied herself with watching the movement of Ai’s lips. She always thought the girl had pretty lips. She smacked hers together unconsciously.

   “It wasn’t your fault, Aya-chan,” she repeated in a mumble since the girl’s ear wasn’t far from her mouth. “You know how Miki is. She gets something in her head and it’s hard to sway her. You of all people know that. And anyway, it was an accident.” She was just speaking her thoughts, and hadn’t realized she’d adopted almost a lecturing tone toward the end.
   
   Aya raised her head and looked hard into Reina’s eyes before breaking out into louder sobs. She pulled sharply away from Reina and jumped up from the bench, running off. Staring after her, Reina realized she was headed to the toilet. “What…” she said dumbly to herself. “Was it something I said?”

   Yossi saw Aya run off and swerved her gaze to give Reina a hard look. She began to stand, but apparently decided against it and rejoined Baby Girl. People sure were acting strange tonight.

   Reina wondered what she should do now that she was sitting alone against the wall. Nothing came to her mind. She just sat there and picked at the hem of her shirt. At least she was comfortably in her baggy shirt and jeans now.

   She didn’t know how much time passed, but Aya still hadn’t come out of the toilet when the door opened again and a wary looking Eri and Sayu stepped through. Reina brightened up at that. Finally, someone who might do more than ignore her or give her dirty looks. Eri noticed her but didn’t smile, and stopped walking, hesitating with her eyes on Reina while Sayu whispered something into her ear. Eri nodded and Sayu walked over toward Baby Girl and Yossi. Eri just stood there a minute looking at Reina, who looked back at her with just as little expression. Reina just realized how much she reflected the people around her sometimes.

   Aya came out of the toilet, some tissue in her hand, though her reddened eyes seemed drier. She looked over at Reina for a moment. What was this? Stare at Reina night? Thankfully Yossi, having left Baby Girl in Sayu’s capable hands, walked up to Aya and began speaking lowly to her. Aya turned her attention away from Reina. She felt the bench quiver a little beneath her and turned to see Eri now sitting next to her.

   “Hi,” Eri said, looking at her with that innocent expression that Reina didn’t think anyone could produce better.

   “Hi yourself,” Reina said, maybe a little ruder than she would have liked. Eri’s hurt look did quite enough to rebuke her, though. “I’m sorry,” she said quickly, touching the girl’s arm lightly. “The mood in here…” She looked over at Aya, who was nodding to something Yossi said to her in a quick voice. “It’s just getting to me a little I guess.”

   “It’s okay,” Eri said quietly. “I guess we all have the right to be a little grumpy today.” She looked earnestly up at Reina. “How are you doing apart from that?”

   Reina smiled in spite of herself. It was nice having someone actually interested in her. “Oh I’m all right… I guess.” Eri poked her in reaction to the uncertainty in her voice. “Well,” she continued, squirming a little, “After I got Yossi’s phone call I kind of spazzed out and the next thing I knew I was brushing my hair with my cell in my underwear.” Eri giggled, and Reina blushed a little.

   When she finished giggling, Eri cleared her throat. “Sayu and I were walking around the castle when her phone rang. She’d forgotten to turn it off before we went inside. The guide sure didn’t look too happy, at least until he found out what the call was about. Then he just looked guilty.” The two girls giggled again, a bit louder this time.

   A cleared throat brought them out of their chatter, and they looked up to see Yossi standing near them, seeming to draw up to her full height. Aya stood a ways beyond, looking nearly scandalized. “Is there something funny, you two? Care to share it?” The smiles vanished from the two seated girls, and they stood up quickly to bow slightly.

   “No, senpai,” Eri said smoothly. “There’s nothing we’d like to share.” She snuck a look to Reina, who nearly snorted under her breath.

   “I would think you two would want to show some respect. After all, Fujimoto was a good friend to all of us.”

   Reina felt slightly chastised at the mention of Miki’s name, and she could tell by Eri’s deepened bow that she did as well. Then, however, something seemed to flash in her head. She raised it to look their honorable leader in the eyes. “With respect, senpai, the attitude everybody seems to have in here would make a clown cry. I’m sure we all take Miki’s accident very seriously and deeply. In fact, I was just telling Eririn about how deeply I was affected myself after your call. However, moping around like this isn’t going to do any of us any good. We are Morning Musume after all, aren’t we? Isn’t our job to make people happy? Why do we have any business doing that if we can’t even be happy ourselves, even at times like this? We’ll honor Miki at the right time, but will it hurt anything to have the best spirits we can now? I’m sure Miki wouldn’t have wanted us bawling our eyes out all the time over her. She’d call us fools and try to knock some sense into us.”

   Yossi seemed to think about interrupting her when she started, but by the end of her rant she just stood there with her mouth hanging slightly open. Aya was looking hard at her from her spot further back, though not in the stricken sense as before. The rest of the room’s attention was on her as well, and she felt as if people were looking at her with mixed emotions.

   Yossi stared for a moment before she spoke lightly. “Er, yes, well… I’ll leave you girls be then. Carry on.” She turned and walked back to Aya, holding her composure well, though Reina thought she didn’t look quite as tall as she did when she approached them. Aya held her eyes a moment longer and gave her a small smile before turning away to walk along with Yossi.

   Reina, feeling a little flushed, turned her head slowly toward Eri, who was staring at her with wide eyes. Reina coughed, restraining herself from wiping sweat from her brow.

   “Well,” Eri said simply. “You always were the one to speak your mind.” She turned to sit back down on the bench, but not before casting another glance Reina’s way. Reina saw through the glance that she was impressed, but she tried to hide it well.

   Reina fell to the bench, not even looking at where she landed. Her butt hurt at the fall, but she didn’t really care. “Yeah,” she said, mustering up as much will as she could. “That’s right.” The girls fell once more into fits of giggles.

   A few minutes later, they heard a loud cough from the corner of the room. Tsunku had parted from the suits and stepped forward to address them. “Now that we’re all here,” he began, “Take whatever time you need to sort out things among yourselves, and then I want you all to get a good night’s rest. Take the morning as well, and we’ll gather in the afternoon for the wake and to discuss memorial preparations. I must also ask you to please, if you encounter anyone from the press or any other outside entity, not say a word. You’ll have escorts that will hopefully prevent that, but for now at least we want any official comment to come from public relations. I know how you all must be feeling, but we’ll all get through it together.” He looked over at Reina. “Until then, do whatever you need to ease your hearts and souls. I’ll see you in the afternoon.” With that, he smiled encouragingly at the girls and exited the room with the suits.

   “Do you want to head to the hotel?” Reina turned to Eri at her question. She looked almost eager for some reason.

   “No, I’d like to stay here for a bit. I want to see what the others do.” Eri nodded slowly, and Reina turned back to the room. The girls were beginning to mingle among themselves more. Apparently Reina’s and Tsunku’s speeches had broken some spell over them all. A few of them cast glances their way as if to approach, but none of them did yet. Ai stared thoughtfully at her, and she smiled back. Apparently if they were to talk to any of the others, they’d have to do the approaching.

   “Come on, Eri, let’s go see how they are.” Eri stood up with her and took her arm, and they headed over toward Yossi, Aya and Baby Girl. It was going to be a long few days, maybe even weeks or months, but those days seemed just a little brighter now.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on October 21, 2006, 01:25:40 AM
Chapter 2 - Sabishikunai

Reina and Eri quietly made their way up to their hotel rooms with Sayu and Baby Girl. They all had rooms in the same area, but apart from that, they only seemed to dwell in their shared grief.

It wasn’t too long after Tsunku’s statement that the girls began leaving. Reina and Eri had checked in with the two girls they now walked with, and spoke a little with the others too. Aya had once more seemed grateful to Reina, though Reina wasn’t too sure if that was necessarily a good thing. Even though she was more pleasant, though, there was an undeniable sadness that Reina could recognize came from deep within. That must be what it feels like when you lose a best friend. She glanced over at Eri a moment while they rode the elevator to their floor. Eri smiled back, though adopted a more uncomfortable look at what she saw in Reina’s eyes.

The elevator dinged their floor, and they stepped out into the hall, still in silence. They’d also talked a little with the 5th gen group, who seemed mostly concerned with catching up with Konkon after not seeing her in so long. Both Risa and Konkon were doing well at holding back tears, and Ai seemed hypersensitive for some reason. She had stared at Reina and Eri as they walked toward the group before the others even noticed them. When they spoke, she seemed a little pre-occupied. The years she’d been sharing the spotlight with Miki must have brought them closer than anyone realized. Thinking along those lines, Reina decided Ai might have been the closest to Miki apart from Aya. Yossi was closer to Miki’s age but… for some reason, the two never seemed to get along that well. The more Reina thought about it, the more she realized how much of a loner Miki really had been in the group. She began feeling sorry for that. Then she remembered Miki was now gone and felt even worse.

Sayu and Baby Girl reached their room and bowed their goodnights before heading in and closing the door. Usually the four of them, and maybe even others, would get together and have a small party until they needed to sleep. Staring at the closed door, Reina thought everyone must want some time to themselves tonight.

A touch on her arm brought her a little out of her trance. “Reina?” Eri asked quietly. “You coming?” Reina nodded, and they crossed the hall to their door.

When they entered their room, Reina noticed that her luggage had already been brought up, so she set down her bag and plopped into the comfortable couch, pulling up her legs to fold beneath her and becoming quite pensive.

After a moment, she felt a presence next to her. She slowly turned her head and noticed Eri sitting close. “Are you all right?” Eri asked earnestly.

“Yeah,” she replied. “I’m just thinking about some things.” She caught Eri’s interested gaze. “It’s almost funny seeing how everyone reacts to something like this. You get to see sides of people that you never thought might be there.” She leaned closer to Eri, because she at least was comforted by not being alone right now. “It just makes you wonder. We spend all this time together, and feel that we’re friends… but it’s still a relationship through work, and not because we came to like each other casually. Take us for example.” She looked up into Eri’s face. “You and Sayu and I hang out together because we joined Morning Musume at the same time. We don’t hang out with the other girls as much. I like to think sometimes that I’m friends with them, but times like this make me realize that I may not be. Then I think of you and Sayu, and think that we are only together by the coincidence of age and joining at the same time, and realize just how lonely I might really be.

“When we were in the studio earlier, seeing everyone else… Aya-chan seemed so distraught. As a soloist, she doesn’t have the opportunity to get as close with other girls, and the one girl who she actually was able to share a lot of time with is gone now. Aside from what she feels about Miki herself being gone, I’m sure she also felt so lonely in that room. She came to me, she came to Yossi… and you know how well she and I know each other at least.”

Eri nodded. “I think it’s great that you were there for her. You didn’t have to be that nice to her, but you still were.” She smiled and laid a hand on Reina’s arm.

Reina gave a small grateful smile in return. “Thank you, Eririn. Still, you know what I mean? It’s like we’re trains roaring down the lines at full speed past each other. We work together to take people places whether it’s literally doing that or giving them the entertainment they need, we share the same tracks at times, and we rest at the same stations, but when we’re close we can never be on the same track, and in the end, we say good-bye on our own.” She felt her eyes moistening slightly. She thought of the countless graduations they’d had through the years. Maki left to go on her own. Even though it was before she joined, she was still a fan and knew what happened. Kei left, Nacchi left, Rika, Kaori… Konkon and Mako-chan left nearly together, but took different paths afterward. Nono and Aibon were the only exception, and look where they ended up the past year. Aibon finally returned from her leave, but their duo is still in shambles, and the rest are just left wondering when they’ll finally give up. “It makes me realize that I’m the same way. It’s a way of life here.”

She sniffed. Then she realized the warmth that was beside her. Eri had nestled up closely so that their bodies never parted down their lengths, and she had an arm around Reina. She then spoke in what was barely more than a whisper, “I feel like I’m alone sometimes, too.” She looked Reina carefully in the eyes. “But then I think of Sayu, and I think of you, and I realize that what we have is more special than just the coincidence of joining at the same time. Maybe it’s just us, and you’re right that nobody else feels it…” she trailed off wistfully, “…but I know that we do have a bond that’s something special.” She licked her lips nervously, still looking into Reina’s eyes. Reina looked back, feeling anxious as well. What she saw in the dark pools of Eri’s eyes though was an innocence and sincerity and… affection? …that she’d never seen in someone before. In the silence between them she could hear the beatings of their hearts, which seemed to constantly accelerate as it deepened.

For some reason, she thought of the intern she met in the gardens at that photo shoot. She didn’t know what happened to him because of the chaos Yossi’s call caused, but she remembered the feelings he caused in her. She really thought of herself as quite a flirt, but nothing ever came of it. Nothing ever could, really. She thought of the snapdragon she wanted to give him but of course never had the chance to. She still had it, carefully placed within her luggage…

Those memories passed through her mind in the span of a second, and she came back to herself and to the girl who was sitting beside her sharing her gaze so strongly. In her periphery she studied the curves of the girl’s face, her defects, her perfections. Even though she loved to flirt, it was always directed to some boy or another, whether a cute idol from a boy band or a cute intern. She knew, or at least thought, that she didn’t have any close friends. However, now she was feeling something inside of her different than she’d known before. Maybe it started with her grief. Maybe it grew from her unsatisfied desires, those desires that couldn’t be satisfied no matter how much they gnawed at her. They couldn’t, right?

She stared back into those eyes which looked into her own with such varied emotion that she knew hers reflected. They’d been through so much, and have so much more to come. She told Yossi earlier why they have a right to be cheerful, even through this time of respect to Miki’s memory. After all, as she said, being cheerful is respecting her memory, isn’t it? Sometimes, you have to listen to what’s inside of you.

She smiled at Eri. Her breathing quickened, and she could feel Eri’s own warm breath on her face. They’d gotten closer than she realized. Confidently, she raised her arm and reached for Eri’s hand, taking it in her own. “Eririn…” she said slowly, in what was barely more than a gasp. Lost in the moment, not fully aware what was going on, she didn’t realize how it really sounded, and Eri licked her lips again, a bead of sweat glistening above her brow before sliding slowly down her cheek. She felt her hand being squeezed by Eri’s, and the next thing she knew was the touch of Eri’s lips being pressed to her own.

Reina froze dumbstruck for a moment as their lips held the soft embrace. She didn’t know what she was expecting, but she wasn’t expecting that. Or was she? Her mind clouded; she couldn’t form anything resembling a coherent thought. All she knew was the warmth and tenderness of Eri’s body and skin against her own. Eri’s lips moved against hers as if trying to caress them, but they were sealed, and Reina only felt the sweat of Eri’s nervousness. What was she doing? Then she realized… Eri must not know how to kiss! There’s no reason she would, Reina supposed, somehow forming a thought at the awkward disruption of the mood. Well, too bad she couldn’t say the same for herself.

After what seemed like a long while and all too short, Reina found herself lying on the couch, arms wrapped around Eri, who was lying face-to-face with her. Suddenly, calming down, she seemed to realize the situation she was in and what she had just done, and blushed deeply.

“Reina, are you all right?” Eri asked, some concern seeping into her voice.
   
She nodded and responded confidently, “Yeah. I was just realizing something.”

Eri nuzzled her face against Reina’s own a little. “Realizing what?”

Reina ran her fingers along Eri’s side idly before responding, “Just how beautiful you are, silly.” She kissed Eri’s nose, and the other girl giggled again. However, the giggling faded after a moment and Eri shifted a bit and turned around with her back against Reina, pushing back against her, her arms folded in front.

“Thank you, Reina,” Eri said softly to the room, cuddling back into her.

Reina wrapped her arms around the girl and raised her lips to her ear. “For what?”

Eri turned her face up to look into Reina’s. “It felt really comforting being with you just now. It makes me realize that I really do have at least someone who cares about me and who I can get through this time with.” She smiled. She really did have the most beautiful smile, Reina thought, and it was even still so innocent. Eri lifted her head to kiss Reina softly again, and Reina responded tenderly, holding her tightly. Yes, it was nice to learn that she may not be alone.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on October 21, 2006, 01:31:38 AM
Chapter 3 – Fond Farewells

It was a hard week leading up to the memorial for Miki. It wasn’t hard in the sense of work, but emotionally Reina felt drained to her limits. After her intimate night with Eririn, all the girls quietly went about whatever business they might have had before the wake that afternoon. She spent time mostly with Eri, Sayu, and Baby Girl, and it seemed that whenever any of them looked at her she couldn’t stop herself from blushing. Sayu and Baby Girl thought it was just Reina being Reina and so didn’t think much on it, but Eri, thinking she knew what it was about, didn’t let it go so lightly. In fact, at one point after lunch, Eri took her aside and asked her if something was wrong. She denied anything of the sort.

The wake itself passed with tears spread all around, so she didn’t have time to think of anything else. Along with the other girls, friends, and family, she passed by the portraits solemnly hung at the place of honor. They were different from the cute or sexy or whatever poses she generally saw Miki take for work. In these pictures, provided by her family, she saw the girl as she was, as a normal person, not as the idol that everyone else knew her as. She wondered if she even knew Miki for who she really was. She wondered if she really knew anyone around her like that. She blushed again. She really had to stop doing that.

As she left the portraits, she overheard conversation concerning why Miki’s body itself wasn’t there, since apparently that was the normal thing for wakes. She wouldn’t know, since she’d never been to one before. The staff being asked responded uncomfortably that her body was still needed for investigation of the accident, but also slipped in that it might be better that they don’t see the body after what happened to it, and would the questioner like a drink? Reina stopped listening after that.

During the hour she was there, she hugged seemingly every member of the Hello! Project; at least, aside from the kids, who apparently someone thought shouldn’t come to something like this. Everyone else seemed as depressed as she felt in this atmosphere, except for a few who seemed to have a lot on their minds. One of those she was sure was herself after last night and how she’d felt today, except strangely, Eririn didn’t seem affected at all. She even seemed happier than most of the others. Reina was glad of that, she supposed. For all of that though, they made sure to keep their distance during the day, since they didn’t want anyone to get any ideas. Sayu seemed to look at her strangely as time went on, though…

Aya was there, but seemed in a trance the whole time, only sitting in a chair in the front row and staring at Miki’s pictures through most of the gathering. Nobody dared to ask her to move from that spot, even Miki’s family, but several of the girls attempted to offer some comforting words and gestures. Reina did too after how Aya opened up to her the day before, but Aya’s seeming inability to appear anything but completely distraught soon drove her away. She felt bad about that, but she kept telling herself she did what she could. She figured nothing would help the poor girl right now, anyway. She gazed over at Eri talking softly with some of the other girls and swallowed at the smile she returned after noticing the look.

The other girls were as she’d expect. Risa and Baby Girl were as genki as always, though in a subdued way in respect to the environment. Makoto apparently couldn’t fly back here yet, but Reina supposed she’d come at least for the memorial whenever it happened. Ai and Konkon kept to themselves mostly, though talked with the others from time to time like the rest of them. Konkon seemed conflicted between happiness at seeing them all again and the sadness of the occasion, while Ai just seemed uncomfortable being there. She also always seemed to know when Reina was looking her way, because she’d always give her a hard look in return. Reina didn’t hold that look for long, and in fact, kept her distance from the girl as much as she could. Yossi, Maki, Nacchi, Kaori, and several of the others in turn asked Reina if she was all right, to which Reina always nodded her assurances, but otherwise just chatted among themselves.

Near the end, they all gathered together in the seats, though no one sat next to Aya, and representatives of their management and Miki’s family gave short comments and told them of the memorial to be held in about a week’s time. At the very end, when Miki’s family left, Tsunku stood and told the girls that they should go spend the next week until the memorial with their families and come back rested and ready to get back to work once it was done. Some of the older girls thanked him and seemed eager about the chance to spend so much time at home. Reina shared a look with Eri and hugged the younger Musume before heading out herself.

It wasn’t a bad week at home, though Reina had a hard time thinking about anything other than Miki and Eri, and for very different reasons. Her family was wonderful to her and catered to her every need, just happy to have her with them and to help her through what they knew was a hard time. She had long discussions with her mom about death and the wonders of the human soul. Reina thought she was trying to share her experiences with her daughter so she’d feel better, and just maybe understand better something she hadn’t thought about much before. Afterwards, she thought she probably did.

On the day of the memorial, she caught the train back into Tokyo and arrived just in time for the ceremony. Everyone looked well-rested just as Tsunku hoped, in fact more rested than Reina thought she’d ever seen some, although a few, including Sayu, Baby Girl, Ai, and Aya, looked like they hadn’t slept at all. Reina supposed everyone dealt with it in their own way.

The memorial was held in a small park near Ginza. They wanted to make it pseudo-public, Reina imagined, for the publicity it might generate, but security tape and police officers scattered around the perimeter made sure that no one who wasn’t actually invited was able to disturb the proceedings. Thankfully, the crowd of mostly young to early middle-aged men that had developed outside the lines was keeping respectfully silent. Looking around at the activity inside the lines though, Reina thought there might be another reason for having the memorial in a park. As she surveyed the rows of chairs lined up from near the podium, she wondered if that many people would even fit into a building.

After a moment she saw Eri arrive and couldn’t stop herself from smiling, though Sayu ran up to her and pulled her away before she noticed Reina was there.

“That’s a cute pout you’ve got there Reina-chan,” someone said from beside her. “I thought we were the only ones allowed to do that?” She turned and was surprised to see someone shorter than her standing near.

“Airin-chan!” she said happily, and lightly touched the arm of the c-ute girl next to her. “How are things going for you guys?”

“Not too bad,” the fellow Aa! member replied. “We’ve been busy in our tour with Berryz, as I’m sure you can imagine. I wish they’d feature me more though…”

Reina laughed and patted the girl’s head. Airi shrunk down a little and giggled herself. “Well, I think I’d better go up to Tsunku and tell him to feature my little sister more! He’s stupid not to recognize how special you are!” While they were laughing, they didn’t notice someone else had come up within arms-length of them.

“Tanaka… Reina?” an official-sounding male voice asked, and the two girls’ laughter died out before Reina turned to see who it was. Before them stood a somewhat tall, middle-aged man in a dark suit and unbuttoned trenchcoat. He wore sunglasses beneath his thick wavy hair and clutched a notepad in his hand.

“Yes, that’s me,” Reina said quietly.

“Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?” he asked, and looked over and down at Airi. “Alone.” He gestured Reina off to the side of the clearing.

“Um… ok,” Reina responded, and glanced apologetically to Airi before heading off with the strange man. When they got to a spot out of earshot of others, Reina whirled around to him and asked suspiciously, “So who are you anyway?”

“I’m Detective Kitamura,” he answered patiently, brandishing some kind of badge almost too quickly for Reina to catch a glimpse of it. “I just have a few short questions for you. I promise it won’t take long.” Reina stood puzzled and no less suspicious for a moment before deciding she’d at least hear what this “detective” had to say.

“On the day Miss Fujimoto… Sorry for your loss by the way… On the day she was killed, as I’m sure you know, she was driving a car through Shibuya. Do you know anything about what she had planned to do that day?”

Further deciding she would amuse the fellow, Reina responded, “Well, I was off at the time doing a photo shoot in Utsunomiya, so I of course can’t say anything for sure, especially about what she might have been doing right when she had her… accident… but a friend told me she was called into work that day. They were supposed to do something together, but apparently Miki cancelled because of that call.” The detective seemed to write notes smoothly as Reina spoke, and she kept an eye on his pen the whole time.

“This friend,” he continued, looking back up at her, “Who was it?” This time, Reina looked oddly at the detective before responding.

“Why are you so interested? It was just an accident, wasn’t it? Why the serious investigation?”

“Miss Tanaka, I assure you, everything is well in order. Even in incidents like that which happened to Miss Fujimoto there must be a thorough investigation into the circumstances. For insurance purposes, of course.” Reina didn’t think he sounded too convincing, but their conversation was disrupted suddenly by a very upset-looking manager of theirs, Mr. Shuyen.

“Kitamura!” It almost seemed he wanted to yell, but did his best to restrain himself. Reina was glad of it with respect to where they were. “I told you detectives not to come to this memorial! These girls have enough to deal with today without having to worry about answering your pointless questions. In fact, I’d prefer that you stay away from the girls totally from now on. There’s nothing they could know about anything and… Ahh! What am I saying! There’s nothing to even know anything about! Just let Fujimoto’s accident go and leave us in peace.”

Kitamura greeted Shuyen smoothly with a flourish and bow. “Shuyen-san, as you well know, this is an official police investigation, and we need to survey anyone who might know something about circumstances surrounding…”

“I don’t care!” Shuyen interrupted. “These girls have gone through enough. Let them mourn and honor the untimely death of their comrade. I mean it. If I catch any of you around them once more…” He glared threateningly at the detective, a look Reina was glad she wasn’t the one receiving. You know, this is a good homage to Miki… she thought wistfully.

Kitamura, however, did not look fazed. “All right, then. I’ll leave you all be.” He gave a piercing, but not unkind, look to Reina before turning away. “I’m truly sorry for your loss. Please, keep your spirits strong.” As he walked away, Reina stared after him. Maybe she had judged him too quickly. Still, she didn’t understand…

“Tanaka-san,” Shuyen said firmly to her, bowing. “I apologize for any discomfort that man caused you. Detectives have been harassing us all week for information on the crash. I promise you though, they won’t bother you any more.” With that, he gently took her arm and guided her back to the gathering area. As she looked around, she noticed that apparently she had developed quite an audience. Airi was looking her way, along with several of the other younger girls. Ai was also, as always, along with Risa, though Konkon didn’t seem to be paying her any mind. Sayu, Eririn and Baby Girl gazed at her approach while talking, but with varied expressions. Eririn seemed almost to want to run to her, giving her a look of warm worry, while Sayu looked like she’d eaten a sour grape. Baby Girl just looked like there was nothing between her ears. Nothing uncommon really, though she’d have to find out what had gotten Sayu’s pigtails in a knot.

Shuyen left her near the chairs, bowing his farewell, and walked back to join the other officials. Since no one seemed excited to approach Reina, she thought she might as well see what was up with Eri and Sayu. On the way, however, a soft hand grabbed her arm and made her stop in her tracks.

“Who was that you were talking to?” asked Aya. When Reina turned to look at her face, she saw in it a flurry of emotions fighting for dominance.

“I don’t know,” Reina lied. “Some guy who wanted an autograph. I’m just glad Shuyen-san was there to shoo him away.”

“I see,” Aya said with a mysterious voice. “I was just worried…” She paused, looking to the side for a moment. “I heard there have been some detectives asking around about Mikitty’s accident, and I worry that they might have moved on to questioning even us.” She seemed to grind her fingertips into her palm as she went on, “I hope they just leave us alone. Mikitty deserves better.”

After a moment, she looked up at Reina and widened her eyes as if coming out of some sort of trance. “Oh! Reina, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to go on like that. I’m… I’m sorry. I’ll leave you be…” After that, she walked off quickly, apparently fighting back tears. That poor girl… Reina thought pityingly.

Before she could go on thinking, however, three girls walked up and greeted her. “Hello Reina!” Eri said almost cheerfully, before restraining herself unsuccessfully. Reina smiled at seeing her friend’s… her lover’s, she supposed, though that sounded strange… cute face.

“Hi Eririn!” She gave the other girl a hug. So as to remain circumspect, she hugged Baby Girl as well, along with Sayu, though winced as she thought she felt the last girl’s nails dig into her back. Well, someone was happy to see her.

“Hello Reina,” Sayu said with a fake smile. Reina thought nothing of it though, since Sayu was an expert at fake smiles and fake well… almost anything, so it was nothing unusual once again.

“What happened with that guy?” Eri asked curiously. Baby Girl looked at her curiously, too. Ahh, to be young and naïve… Reina thought, unconsciously tilting her head while showing a wistful smile. It seemed she’d have to work harder on her lover.

“Oh nothing,” she said. “It was just… you know.” The other girls nodded knowingly, although Reina was sure they had absolutely no clue what she might be implying. It really was great to have friends like this. “So how was your time with your families?”

At the question, Baby Girl began talking as if she wouldn’t stop, and although Eri and Sayu did their best to act interested even though Reina was sure they’d heard the stories at least five times already, Reina’s mind drifted out into the warm spring air. It’s not like the youngest girl was even paying attention to her anyway. Once she started telling her stories, nothing existed but the words coming out of her own mouth.

A slight commotion from across the way caught her attention, and she watched as Aya and the fifth gens began to get into some kind of argument. She hoped Aya wouldn’t get herself into too much trouble with her moodiness today. Maybe it was best that she stay with the older group… They were more likely to sympathize with her, at least. She really did feel for the girl, and had felt closer to her since the accident for some reason, but there was only so much she could do. Sometimes she just wished she was older.

“And then, Nee-chan and I went to the park and picked these beautiful flowers! You wouldn’t have believed them! I swear they were two meters tall and were yellow as the sun! Oh, and then…” A fragment of Baby Girl’s story entered Reina’s mind, though it quickly died out once more as she continued gazing dazedly at the group of older girls arguing together.

Apparently they didn’t come to any agreement, because after a moment Aya just raised her chin and walked off. Gaki-san looked like she was in mid-sentence at the time and almost followed Aya before Konkon hurriedly pulled her back. Aya was headed over toward the older group. Reina was thankful for that. However, when she looked back at the fifth gen girls, Ai was staring at her once again. Seriously, what was up with that girl lately? Reina always thought she was strange, but her recent behavior really took the cake. She whispered something to the other two, never taking her eyes from Reina, and they looked over at her as well before starting a slow walk her way. Reina was wondering when other people would take interest in her since apparently the whole time since the accident had been “Let’s make Reina feel special!” time. Reina didn’t know how much more of this “specialness” she could take.

They arrived while Baby Girl was still telling her story of course, though Eri and Sayu now looked like they would pass out from boredom at any time. The brash young girl fell silent, however, when Ai spoke up. “Hey, Reina.” She looked slowly around at the others. “…Eririn, Sayu, Koha-chan.”

“How are you guys holding up?” Gaki-san offered her words this time.

“Oh we’re just all fine and dandy,” Reina said with heavy sarcasm, though she almost kicked herself when she realized it. Apparently she didn’t have to though, because someone punched her in the arm, and not lightly. “Aa! Itai…” She turned, rubbing it, and saw Sayu with what almost seemed like a satisfied smirk on her face and her fists at her waist.

“What Reina-baka means,” she said cutely, “Is that we are doing quite well, thank you very much. And you guys?”

“Well,” Konkon replied. “We’ve just been talking about some great times we’d shared with Mikitty. Ai-chan noticed you guys looking our way, and we thought we’d ask you guys if you had anything to share too? We thought it might help cheer everyone up.”

“Well…” Baby Girl began, though Ai-chan quickly cut her off, to the young girl’s supreme chagrin.

“First though… I was wondering, who was that guy you were talking to just now Reina? I mean, I thought we had better security than that…”

The clarification seemed a little fishy to Reina, but the other girls seemed to take it as perfect explanation for the sudden question, so she decided to go on like she had. “Well,” she started, but before she went on, she noticed Ai looking at her with a strong piercing gaze that made her hesitate. She never remembered Ai looking at her quite like that before. Is that the way her eyes looked the last week when they’d seemed to be constantly on her at a distance? She supposed she couldn’t have been able to tell then… though the gaze that was now just centimeters away from her own almost made her gulp. It was almost as intimidating as talking to that detective… “Th-that detec… I mean, that man was just… he had somehow gotten through the lines, and Shuyen had to come and shoo him back where he belonged…” Through her stuttering now, the explanation no longer seemed anything close to adequate, and she couldn’t believe that what lay behind those eyes believed her.

“Ah, I see,” Ai said, to Reina’s sudden surprise, and she looked back to Baby Girl, seemingly content to drop the subject. “Sorry to interrupt, Koha-chan. Did you want to say something about Mikitty?” The young girl beamed and began some other story about some time after a taping of some show or another.

Even though Reina kept her eyes on Ai for a moment, the other girl seemed to show no more interest in her, so she gradually shifted her gaze and tried to make herself become interested in Baby Girl’s story. Apparently it didn’t work though, because afterward she couldn’t remember a word the girl had said. She felt another jab in the ribs and winced, glaring over to see Sayu grinning smugly at her once more. The smugness faded though when Eri leaned down to her ear with a stern expression and said something apparently scolding. Now the smugness was replaced with one of Sayu’s cute pouts, and Reina rolled her eyes and giggled away her worries to herself inaudibly. Later, she would most definitely need to see what was going on with Miss Ichiban Kawaii.

…so then, Miki glared at the cameraman and said, ‘Hey! Watch where you’re pointing that thing!’ But you know what? I caught her just a second later whispering to the guy that he’d better keep it on her all the time… or else!!!"

Ahh, to be young… Reina thought through the unstoppable giggles that followed the punchline.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on October 21, 2006, 01:35:57 AM
Chapter 4 - Devil or Angel?

Reina sat between Eri and Ai through the speakers’ words during the memorial service. Eri she sat next to for obvious reasons, but she felt Ai just wanted to sit next to her to keep an eye on her, so she did her best to keep from looking at the girl throughout, even though she knew that a good part of the time, those eyes were on her. Of course, since all Morning Musume members sat in the same row, she had to sit next to someone, but that didn’t seem to matter in her logic.

Throughout the service, she barely could keep her mind on the somber words that were said among thoughts of Eri’s body sitting close next to her, the detective questioning her in that odd manner, and her lies about who he was. When the occasion rose that she did register the words she heard however, especially during when Aya spoke between tears, she thought she didn’t really mind that she couldn’t pay attention to the rest since they only seemed to make her want to cry. She wanted to do her best to keep from crying today, unlike seemingly everyone around her. When she looked around, she saw Eri’s face soaked with tears, and though Ai was crying less than Reina remembered from graduations, anything was surprising given how hard her face seemed to be lately. Sensing that Ai hadn’t noticed her look, Reina looked closer into her face and saw something besides sadness in her eyes. It almost seemed like… regret?

After Tsunku gave a final speech, everyone stood and took comfort in each others’ arms. Reina hugged Eri tightly, as well as even Sayu and Ai, two people whom she wouldn’t have expected to come to her now. Apparently whatever petty issues they might have with her made way for the shared emotion they all felt at this gathering.  

After their shared hugs, Reina separated from the others a little and walked up to the elaborate display of pictures, flowers, and written memories everyone had set up in Miki’s honor. As she looked at one large picture showing Miki’s mature smiling face, the tears she wouldn’t let fall during the ceremony crept inevitably into her eyes.

“She was unique, wasn’t she?” a low voice spoke warmly from beside her. Eyes red and wet with the sadness she felt turned to face a young man beside her, though through her blurred vision she couldn’t tell who he was. Right now, she didn’t care. She buried her face in his chest and wrapped her arms around him tightly, weeping unabashedly. She didn’t feel any arms wrap around her own body, but as before, she didn’t care. After a second though, she did feel some pats on her head. Before long, she realized what she was doing and almost jerked back, looking groggily up into the face in front of her through her tears.

The face was etched with worry, sadness, and nervousness at the same time, but she recognized it instantly. It was the boy from her photo shoot, but this time he was fully dressed up in a suit and lightly slicked hair.

“Wh-what are you doing here?” she blurted out without thinking. The boy’s face now began to look uncomfortable.

“All…” he began before hesitating. “All the staff was invited to the memorial, since we all knew Fujimoto-san. I’m sorry if I presumed too much with what I said.” He bowed stiffly at that last, and didn’t rise again.

Of course. Reina looked back at all the seats arrayed out within the park. They all were there for some reason – it’s not like they would have only invited the other girls and Miki’s family. If they’re trying to make such a public ordeal out of it, they had to invite somebody reasonable to fill in the ranks.

“No…” she began unsteadily. “I’m sorry.” She bowed to him herself. “I let my emotions take control of me. That seems to be happening far too often lately…” For some reason, she thought of Eri.

The two stood bowing at each other during a long pause after that. It felt uncomfortable, but Reina was determined not to rise before he did, since it really was her fault after all. Eventually, his nervousness seemed to get the best of him, and he did rise, slowly, Reina trailing slightly behind.

“What’s your name?” she asked.  

“Tsuyama,” the young man responded, seeming a little more confident now.

“Do you have a given name?” she asked slyly.

“Um…” She seemed to have unhinged him a little again. Good. “Daisuke,” he said after a small hesitation.

“All right,” she responded. “Well, it’s nice to meet you, Daisuke-kun.” She bowed slightly again. “And thank you for being here. Though, I need to get back to the others now.”

He bowed again in return. “Of course, Tanaka-san. Please forgive me for bothering you.”

“There’s nothing to forgive,” she said lightly. Smiling, she turned away to rejoin the others. Well, at least some of the staff had proper manners. She thought back to the flower she’d set up in a vase in her hotel room.

“Reina-chan! I see you’re getting along well with the photo staff!” Risa said, her genki-ness belying the redness around her eyes. “Just what do you do when you go off on your shoots?” She poked Reina in the side. “And here I thought those pictures were the result of pervy directors on power trips!”

Reina shot her a glare that Miki would have been proud of and kneed her in the thigh. The girl didn’t even have the decency not to giggle. Reina looked around at the other girls nearby who were laughing as well, and gave a weak smile. “Ok, so maybe I’m more of a crybaby than I thought,” she admitted in an attempt at distraction.

“You can say that again,” Ai said, chuckling lightly, though once more Reina noticed a different emotion in her eyes.

Before anyone could say more, Eri came up and snatched her arm. “I’m sure it was just an accident,” she said all too seriously, but still in a cute pouty way. “Wasn’t it, Reina-chan?” She gazed imploringly into Reina’s eyes. Reina sighed.

“Aww lighten up, Eririn,” Risa whined. “We’re just having a bit of fun with her.”

Eri twitched at the girl’s words and let go of Reina’s arm. “Right.” She now began to look embarrassed. Reina felt a tugging on her heart at the look on Eri’s face. “I’m going to go pay my respects to Mikitty.” With hardly a look back, she walked off in the direction Reina had come. Damn it, now she felt guilty.

“It’s too bad that we couldn’t see Mikitty herself here. Or the burial.” Reina looked over to see Ai now standing next to her, gazing off after Eri as she just was. After seeing who it was, she looked back after her lover and toward the memorial set.

“Yeah,” she said simply. “That’s too bad. I wonder why they didn’t bring her body over.”

“I heard that they wanted to keep Miki’s location a secret so that nobody would disturb her body until her spirit was taken care of. They’re not even sure if they’ll have a burial, though if they do, only family will be invited to it.”

Reina nodded slowly as Ai spoke. “That makes sense, I suppose.” When only silence hung in the air after her comment, she turned her head to see Ai giving her that piercing look once again. She couldn’t help but be captured by the other girl’s eyes.

“If you need anything, or if you get into any trouble, let me know, ok?” The girl sounded too serious. Reina gulped. “There are things going on that you don’t want to get involved in, that we should have no danger of even being involved in. So let me know, ok?” Reina nodded, feeling that was all she could do under that stare. “Good. Well. Take care, Reina.” With that, she headed back to Risa, Konno and Baby Girl, and immediately began laughing along with whatever story the youngest was telling now.

Reina was totally confused now, and couldn’t think straight about anything. Her mind wandered. Most of the attendees had left, but quite a few people still hung outside the security tape trying to catch more glimpses of the girls that were still around. The flower back in her room was still doing well enough, but it wouldn’t last forever. She’d have to figure out what to do with it. Eri and Daisuke-kun appeared in her mind, and both started doing things… She blushed deeply. “…Ai-chan, I never get the chance to talk to you! I’m so glad we have this time to hang out today! You know, I’d been meaning to ask you ever since…” Baby Girl’s words faded out as quickly as they entered her mind. The fifth gens actually seemed pretty interested, though. Well good for them. They don’t hang out with her all the time like… Where was Sayu? Reina looked around passively as if she were high on something again before a hand grabbed her arm and dragged her away.

“What…?” she asked as if in a stupor, having no idea what was going on around her. Her vision was blurred in her inattention, so the next thing she knew, she was sitting in the back of one of their limos. Determined to come back to reality, she steeled herself and took in the inside of the car. It was empty except for Sayu sitting directly across from her. Sayu’s eyes were cast down as if she was trying to think of what to say, but when she noticed Reina looking at her they snapped up in an intense glare. This didn’t help lessen Reina’s confusion, especially when Ichiban Kawaii opened her mouth.

“Well hello, Reina-chan. So, you’ve finally come back to reality? You really need to stop spacing out like that. I’m sure it really isn’t good for your health sometimes.” She said all this in the cutest voice she’d ever used, waving her hands in cute little gestures all the while, but the glare never left her eyes. “Some times like… oh… now!”

Reina shook her head. Something still wasn’t right. All she could see in front of her was a pink blur. “What in the world are you talking about, Sayumin?” Suddenly, the world snapped back into focus. Sayu’s face was inches from her own. She jerked back, but the leather seatback stopped her from moving any farther back than she already was, to the effect of her rebounding off it and slamming into Sayu’s face nose-to-nose.

“Itai!!!” both girls cried out, and Sayu fell back to her seat, rubbing her scrunched nose while Reina did the same with hers.    

The other girl was distracted. Now was the time to make her escape. She had no idea what was going on, but she knew that she had to get out of here as soon as possible. Or else. Usa-chan Peace! flashed through her mind and she nearly screamed. She scrambled for the door handle, but it was locked fast. She didn’t get far in an attempt to slide across the seat to the other door before a flash of pink interrupted her vision and she found herself held back against the seat.

“That didn’t feel too good, Reina-chan. And here, I just wanted to have a talk with you. Now, will you sit still and listen to me like a good kitty?” Reina suddenly felt like there was something around her ears and looked down and saw that she was wearing her cat costume from Turn Dori Chicken. What she felt on her head must be the ears. This time, she really did scream.



“Hello? Reina? Are you in there?”

Reina opened her eyes and found herself standing in the park the memorial was held in. Ahh, it was just a dream. She turned her head to respond to the girl who addressed her. “AHHH!”

She found herself jumping back after her scream, staring at the girl standing quietly in front of her. Sayu gave her a very weird look before saying, “I guess not.” Reina looked around wildly. The few girls who were still around were all looking at her, and she could swear she saw Aya giggling. The fans outside the perimeter were busy snapping pictures of the musume gone wild to shouted protests from the security, who tried to get in their way. She looked back at Sayu and swallowed.

The girl was looking at her as if she’d sprouted horns. Not daring to pause to consider the irony of this, she straightened her hair and gathered what dignity she had left before strolling up to her. “What are you talking about? I’m right here. Seriously Sayu, are you sure you’re quite all right?” She carefully kept her eyes on the cute girl’s face and busied them with tracing the lines on it in an attempt to avoid the stares of those around them. In her head she repeated an old mantra designed to remedy stage fright. Imagine them all naked, imagine them all naked. That didn’t help.

Uncomfortable silence hung in the air for a moment. Reina never noticed for some reason how large a mole Sayu had…

Sayu coughed. “Well, all right then. I meant to take you somewhere private to talk, but I think you did a good enough job of scaring people away that here will do just fine.” Reina’s eyes shot to Sayu’s at those words. The other girl stared back intently. “What happened between you and Eririn?”

Reina’s mind exploded. “Eri- ri… uh, huh… what?” she spluttered. She was sure her face was turning shades of red that had never been imagined before.

“You and Eririn,” Sayu said patiently but eagerly. “Ever since the day we heard Miki died you two have been acting differently between each other.” She looked to the side, flushing a little herself. “I wouldn’t normally notice this, but you two are my best friends, so I could tell.” She looked back into Reina’s face even more strongly than she did before. “Especially at times like this, we all need to stick together as closely as we can…” If there was a shade Reina hadn’t blushed yet, she was doing so now… “So please,” she went on insistently, “tell me what’s going on, because I want to help as much as I can.”

Reina’s eyes were now riveted on her toes, which were digging a hole in the dirt. She didn’t even notice. “Um…” she started pitifully. She coughed and looked back up to the girl, whose gaze wasn’t wavering in the slightest. “We’re fine.” Sayu narrowed her eyes in disbelief. “Seriously,” she went on, “we’re closer than ever!” She felt like loosening her collar, but realized she didn’t have one. “If you’ve noticed anything… strange… I think this whole ordeal with Miki has hit me harder than I’d like to believe…” She struggled for words. “I mean, just look what happened when I went up to the front earlier!” She let out a long breath she didn’t know she was holding and congratulated herself on the brilliant save. After thinking about it a second, she wondered if she wasn’t truth to what she said after all. Of course, it had nothing to do with the answer to Sayu’s question. Did it? She really didn’t know anymore.

“Oh,” was all Sayu said then. She looked down once more, and Reina thought she had actually gotten away with it. “But…” The word cut into Reina like a knife, and she looked back up nervously. “If there was anything happening with you two, you’d tell me, right?” The earnestness was back in her look, though Reina knew it served a different purpose this time.

“Of… of course,” she responded, and smiled crookedly. “So… you consider me one of your best friends?”

Sayu smiled and laughed as if in relief pent-up over the past week, hugging Reina. “Yes you are, silly! If any more strange men like those two from today try to harass you, just come to me! We’ll make them die of cuteness!” Reina couldn’t help herself giggling as well at that. They started walking back to the rest of the girls, each with an arm around the other’s shoulder and their heads tilted to rest on the other’s. Reina supposed it was time to get going; the fans outside the tape seemed to be getting testy. Sayu went on as they walked along giggling, “That goes for both you and Eririn. I love you two! If anyone tried to mess with or take advantage of either of you I’d show them what Devil Sayumin is all about!”

As Sayu’s giggles increased after that, Reina hoped that nobody around could tell how oddly forced hers had suddenly become.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on October 21, 2006, 01:40:28 AM
Chapter 5 - Dances

“Are you sure Sayu’s not around?”

“Yes,” Eri responded, pouting slightly at the interruption of their kisses. However, they resumed as soon as the word left her mouth.

The two girls made out again for a few minutes more until Reina pulled her lips away from Eri’s once again. “She went clubbing with the gokkies, right?”

This time, Eri pulled away a bit more and sat back on the couch, though kept an arm around Reina’s neck. “Seriously Reina, what is it about Sayumin tonight? Here I am so excited to finally get some private time with you after not even seeing you for a week, and all you’re talking about is her…” Her pout was now more pronounced.

Reina looked into the girl’s face and sighed. “I’m sorry, Eririn. She’s just best friends with both of us, and we’re probably her only friends, so I kind of feel bad that we’re doing this and keeping it from her, and going behind her back…”

“Do you not want to be with me?” Eri asked bluntly, her face all seriousness now.

Reina stared back stunned for a moment before responding, “No! No… Of course not. You know I love being with you.” She smiled at that last and brushed some of Eri’s hair behind her ear.

“Then…” Eri began, her face closing in once again to Reina’s, “…can we forget about Sayu for a while and just focus on us?” Her cute, sad eyes made Reina feel guilty again. She remembered wistfully why she was attracted to this girl. She closed her face in as well and kissed her, this time with nothing holding her back. Well, almost nothing. As the tender moments passed, she unthinkingly glanced beyond Eri’s cheek to a snapdragon hanging low in a vase near her bed.

Feeling that they finally had each other only to themselves, both girls let go of their inhibitions once again and enjoyed the comfort in each other they both needed after the day’s strenuous and poignant events. One thing Reina didn’t think about was how thin the doors in their hotel actually were.


Reina awoke to her cell phone beeping a new message, and after a moment still in the stupor of sleep, grumbled to herself and reached over to the desk to pick it up. After pushing a few buttons, she stared at it a moment.

“Hey you lazy bum! What are you doing?? Come join us in Roppongi Hills. You know the place! <3 Sayu”

She jerked out of her daze and glanced across the bed. No one else was around. Shrugging sleepily to herself, she closed the message. 22:30 flashed at her from the phone. She grumbled again about never getting any real sleep and hurriedly typed a response into her phone saying she would be there when she could.

While she was sleepily changing clothes, she decided that she’d have to stop somewhere for coffee before catching a taxi. There was supposed to be a good coffee bar near the hotel lobby…

A short time later, she sipped at her 750¥ espresso while gazing out the window of the taxi at the bright lights of night-time Tokyo flowing past.  As they flashed by in a nearly hypnotizing way, she thought about events of the past weeks. She thought of the cute boy at the photoshoot who she ran into again at Miki’s memorial. She thought of Eri, who she’d shared comfort with twice now. She still wasn’t sure exactly what she felt there. It was definitely pleasant and comforting being with her, but there was something… strange… about Eri and doing those things with her.

Thoughts of that comfort made way for thoughts of the reason why she needed comfort. She remembered back to Yossi’s phone call when she first heard about Miki’s accident. She remembered vague parts of that, as she was in some kind of trance most of the last half of that day, but she remembered she did some rather stupid things. Something occurred to her that never had before. She had a faint impression of there being someone else in the room around when she spoke with Yossi. Why would there have been someone there? She was changing, so she was just in her underwear… However, that thought, being ephemeral like the near-dream memories are, flowed into something else.

The face of the strange detective who questioned her at the memorial floated in her mind. What was he going on about again? He was trying to find out who was with Miki nearest to her accident, and what she had been planning to do that day. But nobody was with her. Aya was supposed to meet her, but she got called into work. Work to do what? They were all on vacation aside from those doing photoshoots. The photoshoots were somewhat of a vacation themselves. Nobody was even in town that day except for Ai and Baby Girl… Reina unconsciously twirled her hair as she smiled at the thought of her photoshoot and a snapdragon.

“Miss Tanaka?” she heard Daisuke-kun ask in a sexy voice while kneeling to hand her a bouquet of snapdragons.

“Yes…?” Reina said dreamily, enamoured with the moment. “Do you have something for me?” She smiled down at his face beaming up at her.

“Sorry Miss Tanaka, I can’t say I do… I’m hoping you have something for me, though.”

“What?” Reina asked, confused. She looked down at herself. She wore an elegant red dress that flowed down her body in a silky fashion and fanned out in front of her left leg while being cut up nearly to the thigh on her right. Her hands were empty. “I don’t think I have anything for you. Should I?” She started feeling desperate now. Was there something she was forgetting?

“I would think you should have my fare,” he responded.

Suddenly, Reina realized she was in the backseat of the taxicab twirling her hair with the driver leaning back and frowning at her. “We’re at the Maniacal Love club. The fare’s 1050 yen. Don’t tell me you’re one of those idiot teenagers with no money that’s trying to…”

“Sorry,” Reina spoke up quickly, pulling some notes out of her pocket. “Here you go.” She didn’t wait for him to count, but got out as fast as she could away from the glare of the driver. She heard some muffled cursing as she shut the door and he immediately pulled away as if in a hurry, but ignored it the best she could.

She shivered a little in the night air as she looked up at the fluorescent sign proudly pronouncing Maniacal Love. She focused her attention back down at the front gate set well away from the door. As always, a crowd of people gathered outside the gate, most with cameras in hand, some, mostly her age and younger, just hoping to catch a glimpse of somebody that might be important. It was always risky coming here like this, but Reina never cared much for doing everything by the book. She could be small and unremarkable-looking enough if she tried, and could avoid attention. Pulling her shawl tighter around her shoulders and dragging her chenille cap down toward her eyes, she walked toward the mass of people with her head down as well.

She felt the gazes of some of the crowd fall on her as she walked by, but they were no more than glances, most likely dismissing her as a shy fangirl that was out of her league. She wondered idly how many times she could get away with the act while slipping easily through the crowd to the area guarded by the unusual bouncers in Versace suits.

Seeing her coming out of the crowd toward them, the gate attendants gave her a hard look and she raised her unconcerned and most definitely not shy gaze to them, pushing her cap back up. However, she was still careful to show as little of her face as possible to those behind. The front attendant registered her features and nodded, stepping aside to let her pass. Another opened the gate that hung between austere brick walls and she passed through, noticing murmurs from the crowd behind her and the flash of a few cameras. She smirked to herself. For some reason, that entrance of hers always brought satisfaction.

She glanced around the courtyard to see if anyone interesting was out there smoking or just enjoying the night air. She saw a few members of minor bands, and an actor or two, but nobody too remarkable. She smiled at one boy that was somewhat cute, though, before heading inside.

She entered into a dimly lit bar area that was currently filled by the music of X. She liked them; she knew they were old, but she wished these places played them more often. “Welcome, Miss Tanaka,” one of the hosts greeted her, bowing low. “I can show you to the others if you’d like. They’re on the third floor at a table by the northeast counter.”

Reina nodded her head in return. “Thank you, but I think I’ll just walk around a little first. I’ll keep their location in mind though.” The host bowed her away as she walked on. It wasn’t too crowded tonight; nobody too big was there. She was a little disappointed with that. She’d hoped to at least see some of the Johnnys boys there. She shrugged. She might as well just find her friends.

Making her way daintily through the sparse crowd, she found the stairs and headed up to the second floor, the music slowly increasing in volume, and upon arriving she heard someone call out to her.

“Reina!” She looked in the direction of the voice and was surprised at who it came from. Aya waved and ran up to her, giving Reina a smile that actually seemed real.

“You seem happy,” Reina said without thinking.

Aya laughed and looked over her shoulder. Reina saw a familiar man a ways back smile and raise a hand in greeting. “Yes. I thought it was best to try to forget things and chill out for a while. Yossui suggested it after remembering your, um, comments last week.” She grinned stupidly and naughtily, and Reina peered at her oddly. “So… I decided to mail Keita-kun and see if he’d take me out tonight! Of course, he was more than happy to… though I don’t think we’ll be here for much longer.” She said that last with a smirk and another grin.

Reina, trying not to think too much along that line of thoughts that included jealousy and why Aya was even doing this in the first place, responded, “Oh, I see. Well, I’m glad you’re doing better.”

Aya seemed to just ignore her and went on, “You know, Mikitty being gone isn’t all bad. I mean, that girl seemed to just be prone to accidents…” Aya’s face closed in to Reina’s, and out of politeness, Reina restrained herself from stepping back. Was she drunk? Reina glanced past her shoulder again at Keita and saw him sipping some type of drink while sitting leisurely at a counter. There were several empty glasses at the counter already as well. “I mean, just look! One of them even got her killed! I guess she wasn’t lucky that time like she was back in July. That nearly scared poor Ai-chan out of her wits, not even mentioning me! I was actually in the car with her, too!”

Reina pulled out of her fog a little at those words and forced herself to look into Aya’s face. “Ai-chan? There was another accident?” she asked curiously.

“Yeah,” Aya responded, seeming nearly as if she would fall over any second. “We had just finished a GAM rehearsal, and Miki was going to drive us to her apartment…” Her face seemed to take on a wistful quality as she related these tidbits. “She pulled out of the lot, but wasn’t able to turn in time and nearly ran straight into the traffic in the other lane before she slammed the brakes! Ai-chan was running after us for some reason, but once we were stopped in the middle of the road, she just stood and stared at us as if she was stunned. Myself, I just spilled my tea over one of my favorite skirts! I don’t think the stain has still ever come out…”

An arm draped over Aya’s shoulder, and Keita leaned over it between them. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything,” he said with a charming smile. Reina, her thoughts seemingly tied into knots, just stared up at him. He cleared his throat and the smile vanished. “Aya-chan, I think it’s about time to go, don’t you think? Look at you. You can barely stand.” Aya smiled up at him dreamily and raised her head as if attempting to kiss him, but didn’t quite make it and passed out, Keita quickly arranging his arms to hold her up.

“I’m sorry, Reina-chan. I’m afraid I have to take Aya away now.” Reina nodded dazedly as he dragged her away toward the stairs. She started walking forward, her mind totally blank for some reason. Wait, had he just called her Reina-chan?

Eventually she made it to the third floor and found Sayu and the gokkies. They were all dressed in lavish outfits, and Ai and Risa were out on the floor dancing. Ai was the center of attention of course. Reina decided she’d have to go out and change that. But first…

“Reina!” Sayu chirped, running up to hug the new arrival. “Where have you been all night? We thought you’d join us hours ago!”

“Oh, I hung out with Eri for a while, and just wanted some time to myself… you know…” Sayu nodded knowingly. Reina felt she really had the dumbest friends sometimes. “I can’t stop thinking about the accident either. Actually, do you know…?”

“Oh forget about that for a night, silly!” Sayu interrupted, though Reina noticed a shadow fly across her eyes. “We came here to let loose a bit and get our minds off depressing things like that!”

“But, I was just talking to Aya and…”

A dark shadow fell fully across Sayu’s face now and she interrupted again, “You saw her?” she said quietly. “I thought she’d be gone by the time you got here. I don’t think she’s the best influence right now, Reina. You need to stay away from her.”

“But…”

Reina didn’t get any more words out before Sayu pulled her onto the dance floor to join the other gokkies. She giggled and grabbed Reina’s wrists to get her moving. Reina obliged, and before long she forgot anything about Aya or the accident as she became lost in what seemed like the endless competition between them on the dance floor. For some reason though, she pushed herself extra-hard this time to compete with Ai, once the others had dropped out wheezing… She was proud of the shape she was in. It had been a slow process while her body matured and adjusted, but lately even Tsunku complimented her on how her dancing had improved. While Ai could still maybe look better doing it - damn her and her age - she could spin circles around the girl any day, she was sure. After a time, in fact, the competition got so heated that Reina and Ai nearly were dancing circles around each other, bathing in each other’s sweat. They stared holes in each other as if nothing else existed until Reina accidentally tripped the other girl. Ai didn’t fall, however, at least how Reina expected her to, and before she knew what was happening Reina was looking up from the level of the floor herself.

She looked into the moisture-streaked face of the girl on top of her and prepared for a fight before noticing that part of the moisture was coming from her eyes. The girl was crying!

“I told you if you needed anything to come to me… but you insist on doing everything by yourself - thinking for yourself!” Ai ground out the words between gritted teeth. “You’ve almost gone too far now for me to be able to…” She widened her eyes as if some realization struck her and raised them to look at nothing. “It may already be too late…!” Suddenly, Ai jumped up and looked around wildly a moment before running off to the stairs and disappearing down them, leaving a stunned and hyper-energized Reina lying by herself on the hard wood floor, the center of attention of everyone in the dead-silent room who just a minute ago was cheering the duo on in their crazed impromptu dance contest that they would all remember for months to come. If only Friday was here!
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: Yuuyami on October 21, 2006, 01:42:20 AM
Miki... ;_________________________________________; -drowns in tears-

Although the Eri x Reina is cute....

Miki ;___________________________________________;...

And now I have an idea of how the plot will progress, and the general direction of the story :]

Looking forward to the future chapters.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: jafeijai on October 21, 2006, 02:27:03 AM
WOW!! 5 (not 4, -_- i can count) intense chapters in a row...O_O holy crap....and also a prologue!!

[cannot continue due to the awesome-ness of the fic so far]
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on October 21, 2006, 02:27:59 AM
Thank you. ^_^ Glad you enjoyed some of it... poor Miki...

There's another chapter coming soon, too. I couldn't post it again like this without giving at least something new now. :grin:
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on October 21, 2006, 04:36:12 AM
As promised... shin-chapter. ^_^ It seems that now, the story really begins...


Chapter 6 – Riddles in the Dark

“Um… Reina?” Risa broke the silence, cocking her head and leaning forward slightly toward the girl lying on the floor. Reina jerked her head over to her, making the girl pull back, and saw Sayu standing there as well, her mouth open while staring wide-eyed back, a forgotten drink in her hand sloshing onto her fingers as well as the floor.

Reina suddenly stood calmly, brushing off her skirt, though with sweat still dripping off her sticking her clothes to her body despite her best efforts, and looked around. “What?” she asked the room. “You never seen someone lose a dance contest?”

She heard a low whistle ring out from across the room, and looked over to see Akanishi Jin nodding his head and smiling. How come she didn’t notice him here before? Of course, she was a little distracted ever since entering the room… That seemed to break the ice, and the DJ quickly started up some music again. The crowd slowly began talking and dancing again, though she knew some of the patrons still gave her shifty glances as she walked over to the bar, plopped into a stool, and leaned over it, slapping her hand down and staring hard at the quite handsome bartender. “I need a drink,” she said evenly, but loudly.

The young bartender hesitated a moment before responding, “What would you like, Miss Tanaka? Soft drink? Milk? Juice?”

“Give me something hard,” she said, not changing her tone of voice. She didn’t even realize how she was talking, but the boy shrank back from her a little.

“You know I can’t give you anything like…” His words trailed off as she continued staring at him, and with a gulp he quickly went to work mixing something for her. Before long, he presented her the drink with a bow that looked more like a plea not to hurt him, but she just ignored him and spun around in the stool, gulping the drink down like it was nothing. Gods how it burned her throat, but right now she didn’t care.

She vaguely noticed Risa come quickly up and lean over the bar next to her, scolding the bartender in an angry voice, “What did you give her!? Do you even see how she’s acting, not to mention how old she is? I’ll call up one of the police downstairs…”

There was a bit of a pause, but Reina was only listening halfheartedly anyway, blood pumping through her veins that the alcohol seemed to only push on. The bartender answered in a hushed voice, but one that she could easily still hear. “Please please! No need for that…” he said desperately. “It’s just soda and tonic with lime to make it look fancy. It won’t do a thing to her, but I doubt she’ll be able to tell the difference, especially with the way she’s bolting it down.”

Reina heard that last part, but she really didn’t care, just looked down at her drink to the lime she didn’t realize was in it and plucked it out, sucking on it slowly. She heard Risa growl despite the bartender’s reassuring words and turn to her, about to say something, likely some sort of scolding.

“You don’t have to take care of me like I’m a little girl, nee-chan.” Reina said out of the side of her mouth, but loud enough to be very clear in her connotation. She didn’t turn to face the girl beside her, instead still lounging back on her stool, elbows up on the bar behind and staring out into the crowd. She noticed some of the others were still looking over at her and whispering to each other – she was sure about her – from time to time.

Risa, flummoxed by Reina’s cheekiness for a moment, finally responded in a low growl, “I wouldn’t have to take care of you if you didn’t get into a fight with one of our best friends and try to order… order… firewine at a bar!” Her last words came out in almost a splutter.

Reina finally gave the other girl a slight glance and saw Risa looking exasperated and worked up unlike she’d ever seen her before. “Yeah?” she said challengingly. “What do you care? I think you need to keep your best friend on a tighter leash.” With that, she slammed down her empty drink in front of Risa, startling the girl slightly, and walked off toward the stairs without a look back.

She strode easily through the crowd, as nobody wanted to stand in her way with what had just happened along with the way she now paced along. As she reached the stairs, she heard another voice call out to her, and she caught herself, turning to look at its source. Sayu ran up to her, her eyes still wide as saucers.

“Reina!” She said imploringly, stopping a pace away. “Are you… all right?” Her wide eyes looked eagerly and perhaps a little frightfully into Reina’s.

Reina opened her mouth to shoot some biting remark back, but a scene flashed through her mind…

…Sayu looked cutely at her, seeming to exude nothing but warmth and friendship despite the harsh feeling Reina had felt from her lately.

“You are my best friend… we need to stick together as closely as we can!”

“You really consider me one of your best friends?” Reina replied, disbelief rampant in her voice.

“Of course, silly! If we’re together, don’t worry about anything! We’ll overcome it all with cuteness!!” With that, she gave an impromptu “Usa-chan PEACE!” before hugging Reina tightly. Reina hugged her back just as hard…


Reina felt her mouth close as she altered what she was about to say. “Sayu… yeah, I’m… I’m fine.” Astounded by her own disbelief of the words she just uttered, she was surprised when Sayu bravely stepped a bit closer. The closest others, who were already a good 3 meters away, stepped a bit further back.

Sayu looked hard and carefully into Reina’s eyes, confidence that Reina wasn’t going to suddenly attack her suddenly radiating from her own. “Seriously… What has been going on with you lately? You’ve been like a totally different person ever since… since…” Her eyes clouded as recent events crashed back down onto her, events that obviously she was trying to forget in this evening out. Suddenly, she brightened up. “And what about what happened out there on the dance floor!?” Reina stiffened at the change in direction. “I’ve never seen someone move like that before! It’s like you were possessed by… by… someone who’s a really good dancer!”

Reina’s mouth dropped open and she stared back at the girl who was staring at her with something that was a mixture of eagerness and bubbliness and awe. And, of course, cuteness. How on Earth could the girl be this dumb and clueless!? Suddenly Reina burst out laughing, and Sayu drew back, features puckering into some sort of surprise. The others in the room moved a bit farther away from the two girls.

Unable to talk for a minute, especially seeing Sayu grow more and more pouty as time went on, Reina finally wiped her eyes and caught her breath, clearing her throat as her laughter died out. “One of these days…” Reina said, grinning stupidly herself now at the girl whose feathers looked about as ruffled as they could be. She cleared her throat once more and looked around. “I’m going to go, Sayumin. I don’t even know why I’m here now. Have fun…”

She turned around and started once more toward the stairs, but was halted momentarily by a hand on her shoulder. She looked over her shoulder to the girl’s face, one that was once again clear of any emotion other than concern. “Wait a second. I’ll come with you.”

Reina shook her head. “I’ll be okay, Sayu. You stay here with Gaki-san. I have a feeling she’s gonna need a lot more help getting home than I will…” Sayu cast a glance back into the room, where Risa was leaning back at a barstool gulping down some sort of drink, before looking back at Reina.

“Well… okay…” she finally said reluctantly, and lifted her hand slightly from Reina’s shoulder. “We’re best friends, remember?” she asked uncertainly. Reina nodded and smiled softly before turning away and heading down the stairs. The girl seemed to take that as a good enough reply.

 When she reached the second floor, she glanced around for Aya and Keita, who seemed nowhere to be seen, before heading on down to the ground level. Upon reaching it, Yamada-san, one of the head managers at the club, walked up to her and bowed smoothly.

“Good evening, Miss Tanaka,” he began, his voice consisting almost of a low sing-song quality. It always struck Reina that he was quite handsome for a guy who was likely at least twenty-five years older than her. “Is there anything we can do for you to make your evening a more pleasant one?” Reina shook her head quickly, and the manager went on without missing a beat, “We heard there was a small… disturbance upstairs a short time ago,” he said, giving what sounded like a well-practiced and oily hesitation to mark the use of what was likely quite understated language. Reina knew that even though he may have been down here the whole time, he would know exactly what happened, who was involved, and how many scuffs it had made on the floor.

“We would have sent our security in to assist you, but since the altercation involved only you and your… friend…” again with the oiliness… “We weren’t sure who, exactly, to help!” He finished with a smile and a small flair, as if it was the punch line of a strange gentlemen’s joke.

Reina’s eyes narrowed reflexively as she looked at the disarming fellow with his hands folded on top of each other in front of him, held out what must have been a precise distance from his chest, and she responded, “Thank you for your… consideration…” He bowed and smiled at that, as if she had just paid him the greatest compliment conceivable. “…But I think everyone’s going to be all right. It was just a… personal issue between myself and Takahashi-san.”

The manager bowed smoothly once again. “That’s good to hear, Miss Tanaka. I wouldn’t want any of our distinguished guests becoming injured while partaking of our services.” Reina caught the implication and “friendly” warning in his words that he wasn’t necessarily talking about just Reina, or even her and Ai.

Deciding this encounter should soon be at its end, Reina asked quickly, “By the way Yamada-kun, do you happen to know where Takahashi-san went? I would be… very interested in catching up with her and chatting with her on the way home.”

The man flinched noticeably at the slight, a sign of how perturbed he actually was, since he should by now be accustomed to the way Reina addressed people, especially those she wasn’t necessarily fond of, and especially in a situation, such as this, that she was far from fond of. “Ah. Miss… Takahashi… left through the back door shortly after your encounter. Unfortunately, I was unable to give her my regards before she disappeared.”

Reina nodded. It sure did seem the girl was in a hurry. If she left that long ago, there was no way she could catch up even if she knew where Ai was headed. She wondered if she even did want to catch up with her. Well, she supposed she had no choice if she wanted to find out what was going on.

“Thank you, Yamada-san.” The man began bowing hardly after she began speaking, and she brushed past him toward the back door. He would of course be keeping an eye on her until she was safely out of the club, to make sure no other “unfortunate incidents” happened along the way.

Even though she, as well as most of the other patrons of Maniacal Love, arrived at the red-carpeted entrance for exposure to the media and fans, or in Reina’s case, to mock it, many of them left through what they only called the “back door” – a smaller, unremarkable passageway that actually was near the back of the building, but that led to an alley whose mouth opened up a block away from the crowds. It allowed for a quieter and more “covert” exit and return to their hotels or mansions for those who didn’t want to spend the inevitable time giving face to the media and eager fans, as well as those who did not want attention drawn to themselves, or their companions, for “other” reasons. Reina found herself wondering if Keita had gone this way not too long ago, probably with someone in tow who couldn’t have a say in wherever she would be going.

As she left the building and headed down the alleyway, which was lit slightly only every couple dozen meters by a small lamp, giving privacy while preserving safety with security guards at either end – there was a hotel near the opening at the other end that served as perfect excuse for a security officer to watch carefully over the alley exit – she saw, as she always did, couples who emitted occasional laughter or other noises and tried to keep to the darkest areas between the lamps. She thought she recognized a few, including Jin, who seemed to be with a girl that couldn’t have been much older than herself. Perhaps younger. She also thought she saw… She squinted at the dark… No, it couldn’t be… Shaking her head, she wandered on, suddenly blushing once more. If Friday was able to see what went on in this alley…

About halfway down the alley, she began hearing steps behind her that seemed to get louder and closer the farther she went. Knowing she had nothing to fear here, she glanced behind her and saw two middle-aged gentlemen in what looked like Armani suits. Thinking nothing of it, she turned back around and continued on. Apparently some of the security was leaving their shift now, too.

Their steps became closer however, and when they seemed only a couple meters away she paused. The steps paused as well, and she turned to face the two men. They were very handsome, if way too old for her and with too many scars on their faces, and both held their hands behind their backs. She thought she could catch some type of marking just above the collar of one, easily visible since she had stopped opposite one of the wall lamps.

“Reina Tanaka?” the one without the marking asked. He was stockier than the other one, though from what she could tell, his muscles were still very well-toned. She wondered how much muscle-weight it would take to make someone that large if that’s all the man was composed of… She could almost believe that was the case with him.

“Yes?” she asked. “Do I know you?”

“I don’t believe so, Miss Tanaka. Though, we have been watching you for quite some time now,” the other replied stoically.

Reina abruptly narrowed her eyes warily at that admission, suddenly becoming somewhat frightened. Even though they could still hear some sounds of couples along the alley, there were none near them and most definitely not within audible distance of the low tone of voice the men used.

“What do you want with me?” she said warningly. She did not want to mess with something else like this tonight. “When I get back to my hotel, I’m going to call…”

“There’s no need for that, Miss,” Stocky interrupted. She decided in the frantic train of thought going through her mind at the moment that she would start calling them Stocky and Tattoo. That is, unless they gave actual names, which they didn’t seem very inclined to.

“We came because we wish to offer you a… proposition.” Tattoo continued.

“What kind of proposition?” Reina asked, the wariness not at all gone from her voice.

“Your recent activities… Your image as an idol, your affair with one of your coworkers…” Reina blushed profusely at that. “…The way you’ve honed your body lately, your little “performance” on the dance floor tonight with Miss Takahashi…” Reina now became very scared. How do they know this much about me?? Who have they told!? “We think you’d be very well-suited to a career that we happen to have quite a business in. You would be compensated quite well for it. Of course, you wouldn’t be able to begin officially until you are eighteen, but we like to begin training as early as possible.”

What on Earth are they talking about...? Reina wondered. She was about to ask just that when it hit her. No… It couldn’t be… There’s no way… She backed up a step reflexively in confusion and shock. The men didn’t move.

“Leave her alone.” A young feminine voice uttered from the darkness. Reina thought she recognized it, but when she looked around, she couldn’t see where it was coming from.

Stocky kept looking at Reina but spoke to the alley in response to the voice, “You know how this works. We recruit girls that we think will fit into our organization. Who they are makes no difference. We’ve taken in many popular idols before. She is no different. In fact, you were welcomed in the same way.” He paused for a moment. “Oh wait, that’s right, you weren’t.” Suddenly a small blur flew in front of the man and something clanged to the wall just to the side below the lamp. Reina jumped and barely held back a scream. Below the lamp, a knife was stuck in the wall, pinning the bottom half of Stocky’s tie along with it. Reina’s eyes widened and she looked quickly back at the man, who appeared unruffled, though looked a mite silly with half his tie ripped off. Well, as silly as a one hundred ten kilogram man in an Armani suit with eighty-percent muscle mass could look.

Suddenly, Reina could hear steps coming closer from the dark in the side of the alley opposite where the knife stuck. “I said,” the feminine voice rang out cold and clear again, “Leave her alone. She won’t be joining us for that purpose.” Reina peered closely as she began to see a shape take form in the shadows, trying to make her out. From what Reina could tell, she looked familiar… Suddenly, she gasped.

“As you wish, ma’am,” Tattoo said submissively. “We weren’t aware that you would be interested.” He nodded to Stocky and they both turned in and walked back down the alley together toward the club. Walking slowly up to take their place, Ai-chan gave her a long, hard look that Reina felt she had no ability to look away from. They stared at each other in the looming quiet, for there were no longer noises coming from couples stealing kisses in the dark.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: Yuuyami on October 21, 2006, 04:48:48 AM
Ai's a part of the organization eh? Well, that changes a few scenarios... o_O

Anywho, I believe I know where the story is going, now that you introduced the beginning elements, and the title makes me wonder if it has connections to the true Odyssey by Homer... Wondering if you're following that path of story-making... Anywho... XD

Do continue writing <3
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rndmnwierd on October 21, 2006, 05:28:05 AM
...*takes deep breath* AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! I remember this story! I remember the part with Eri and Reina you edited out! I remember!
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on October 21, 2006, 05:40:04 AM
Quote from: rndmnwierd
...*takes deep breath* AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! I remember this story! I remember the part with Eri and Reina you edited out! I remember!

^^;; Nice to hear that you do. I'm glad when I make an impression... in anything, lol. Yeah, had to edit it for posting. It's too bad too cause there was some fun stuff in there (aside from the "fun stuff") that I felt added some more depth to the characters... But it's not vital to the story so it's not a big loss. ^_^ Thanks for catching up with it again! I know it's a lot to read at first.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: goosefish on October 21, 2006, 02:45:05 PM
Whoah, rokun! I remember reading this over at jpm and wondering if you were ever gonna write the next chapter for this. So I'm happy that you have! :P I love the depth that you give to the characters...you seem to add a whole nother dimension to them.
 
After reading chapter 6, I don't know what to expect. Ai-chan & Reina showdown?! Bahhh...guess I'll just have to wait and see :rolleyes: .
 
Keep up the good work! :D
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: jafeijai on October 21, 2006, 08:57:28 PM
EHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH?!?!?!? secret organization that Takahashi has authority in?!?! [suspense]what will happen to Reina....? and what does this have to do with Miki's death, if anything?!?![/suspense] anticipating another intense chapter soon :thumbsup
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: JFC on October 21, 2006, 10:21:50 PM
^ Yeah, I'm just gonna say what they said.

EHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! :shocked:
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on October 22, 2006, 01:25:45 AM
Yuuyami: Thank you for your interest in my story so far! Your talk of scenarios and such confused me at first, but then I read some other stories around here and found that's just the way you read these. :lol: Keep it up! :grin:

goosefish: I read what you've posted so far in your story too last night. There are so many Reina stories lately, aren't there?! It's interesting reading your story since it's from her point of view just like mine... though the stories we're telling are quite different. ^^; Thank you for reading though and for your compliments. Don't know what to expect after Chapter 6? That's why I ended it there. :grin: Who knows what might happen next...

jafeijai :blush: Thank you for your praise, though I'm just happy if someone other than me enjoys it. ^_^ Good questions by the way... you seem to be following what's going on fairly well. ;)

JFC: Glad to see you here! ^___^

I'll write more when I get the time... It's busy for me this time of year though, so I won't have a chapter a day or anything unfortunately. >.>
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: JFC on October 22, 2006, 01:55:28 AM
^ Your fic is riveting, what can I say? I was totally glued to my screen as I read it. :D
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: jafeijai on October 22, 2006, 03:54:24 AM
^ that's second...ed...by me :DXD
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: lil_hamz on October 22, 2006, 07:46:14 AM
I third!! :D
I don't know what to say except how good this was. It was an incredible read in all ways and I really enjoyed it *GJ!*
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on October 23, 2006, 09:53:36 PM
Chapter 7 – Changing Tides

For a long moment Ai and Reina stared at each other, both of their minds seemingly whirring with thoughts or questions. Reina only thought Ai-chan was giving her a penetrating look the other times they’d talked in the past week. Nothing she’d seen before compared to the deep, soul-flaying gaze she was now subject to. No matter how much she tried, she couldn’t look away. Ai stood only two or three arms-lengths away in the same black-banded white short skirt she wore during their dance contest, but her knitted shawl, which came off during their exertions together there, was nowhere to be seen, and Reina, this time not distracted by music or the need to outdo this girl at her own art, for the first time noticed the black leather vest she wore over a white t-shirt. However, she thought that even had she noticed it in the club, it wouldn’t give the same impression it did now. Or maybe it was the black leather fingerless gloves she now also wore at the ends of crossed arms.

After a moment of staring at Reina, Ai turned and walked to the side of the alley where the knife stuck, Reina’s eyes following her the whole way, uncrossing her arms to quickly pull it out of the wall, the tattered remnants of Stocky’s tie floating forlornly to the ground. However, after stowing her knife somewhere in her skirt, she turned back at low sounds coming from behind her.

Reina couldn’t help herself. After what just happened in the alley – after what had happened the whole past week – staring at Ai’s almost unnaturally fluid motion and how she handled the knife triggered something within her, and she began to cry. At first she just whimpered and sniffed, but when Ai turned and gave her a somewhat less hard and more genuinely concerned glance, she completely broke down and her legs buckled beneath her, collapsing her to the ground as if she’d just lost all the energy she exuded just a short time ago.

Almost immediately, Ai was sitting next to her and wrapping her arms around the anguished girl, rocking her slowly attempting to calm her down.

“Ai- Ai… Ai-chan… I…” Reina moaned between sobs. She was crying too much to be able to get any words out. She wanted to though. She really did. She wanted to tell Ai-chan that she was sorry. She wanted to ask her what the hell was going on. She wanted to talk about why she was so frightened of those two men and why she was even more frightened seeing how they reacted to just Ai’s words. She wanted to… “I…”

“Shhh,” Ai said reassuringly, patting Reina’s head and stroking her hair, still rocking her to get her to calm. They heard steps coming toward them, and through her blurred vision Reina saw Ai jerk her head toward them. She couldn’t see who was coming, but when Ai looked their direction the steps ceased for a moment before starting up again, much quicker this time, in the opposite direction.

“Ai… Ai-chan…” Reina croaked out again. The girl turned back to her and held her closer. Reina felt weariness collapse in on her. Maybe she was right when she grumbled about Sayu’s text message invite ending up in depriving her of sleep, because suddenly, she felt like she could hardly even move. She didn’t try to speak anymore as she cried herself out, and before long, cuddled within Ai’s warm embrace, everything went dark and she descended into dreams.

After a length of time she couldn’t specify, she felt herself half-wake, just long enough to feel that she was in a much more comfortable place with Ai leaning closely over her. The girl leaned in and she felt a soft, moist touch to her forehead before sleep took her once again for a much longer time.



Reina woke to rays of sun streaming down through the window of her hotel room, and she lay there for a moment yawning and pulling the covers tightly around her again. She didn’t want to get up yet. Her phone beeped, pulling her a bit more awake, and she sat up slowly, stretching. Grumbling, she reached over to it and pushed the button that allowed her to check what the message was.

Wednesday, 2006 12/7
6:34

Reina, this is Manager Shuyen. We will be restarting rehearsals today. The memorial events have set us far behind in preparations for the upcoming concert tour. Please come into the studio as soon as possible. Doors will open at 8:30.

Shuyen


“Shit,” Reina whined, and was about to close her phone when she saw there was another message.

Wednesday, 2006 12/7
9:57

9:57?
Reina thought. What time is it now?! She glanced at her alarm clock on the end table. It read 11:02.

Now with much more energy and motivation, Reina flew up from the bed to the dresser while reading the message.

Reina! Where are you? You got the message about studio time this morning, right? Everybody else has been here for an hour now. We’ve been practicing the numbers that you aren’t in, but Tsunku is eager to get some full-group work in on Love Machine and Special Generation. I want to do Ren’ai Revolution with you Ai-chan and Risa, too. Please get here soon! I hope you haven’t overslept. You’ve been doing that a lot lately…

Your Eririn


While reading those last lines, Reina froze while holding her underwear in one hand and the phone in another. Ai-chan… Events from the night before crashed into her head all at once and she ran to the mirror, underwear and other phone messages forgotten, to see her face puffy and red from crying what seemed like all the way to her pillow. Her eyes widened. I can’t go into work like that!!!

She rushed to the bath, throwing off the rest of her clothes before scrubbing down as well as she could, trying not to think about last night. She wasn’t sure she ever wanted to think about it again. Maybe it was a dream. Maybe she just cried in her sleep. After all, if it was a dream, it was quite a traumatic one. After washing quickly, not having time for a soak, she looked again in the mirror, fairly satisfied with how her appearance improved, especially with a bit of added makeup, brushed her hair, threw on some work clothes and ran out the door.



“I’m sorry to have kept you waiting!” she told one of the managers as she flew down the hall toward the studio. The manager looked like he was about to say something, but Reina was gone before a sound left his mouth. One that she could hear, anyway. She wasn’t paying much attention.

She finally slowed down, catching her breath as she neared the door to the studio. She could hear the sounds of Aruiteru playing from inside. Good, they’re practicing something she doesn’t really do much in. After pushing down annoyed feelings about how she didn’t have a lead in the new single that suddenly bubbled up, she fell back against the wall and slid down it, holding her knees in front of her to catch the rest of her breath. While she did so, she glanced around the hall to find staff walking to and fro, some giving her frowns and shaken heads at her tardiness. She ignored them.

The music finished, and hearing just the voice of the choreographer booming within, she stood up, breath fully caught, and timidly opened the door. How she hated being late.

None of the staff noticed her at first, but a few of the girls did, giving her glances from Koharu’s rolling eyes to Eri’s concerned and desperate look to Risa’s… Well, she wasn’t sure what exactly Risa looked like. Remembering how she left her the night before and the girl’s current sullen-looking stupor-like demeanor, she guessed she wasn’t the only one who had a rough night. There was something else in her look too that she couldn’t identify… Well, if nothing else, Reina at least apparently had plenty of sleep.

As she closed the door, the choreographer and Tsunku, who was standing bit a bit behind, finally noticed her. “Tanaka-san!” Tsunku crooned. “A little late, aren’t we?” Reina bowed her head and scurried to drop her bag with the others. “I’d be interested in knowing what you were up to last night, not hearing your phone,” he continued in his squirrelly sarcastic manner.

“I’m sorry,” Reina said quietly, and pulling off her trainer walked up to the other girls. They were stretching in the downtime, some still casting glances her way with similar looks as before. Ai, however, was looking the other direction as if Reina wasn’t even there. Reina sighed.

“All right!” Tsunku shouted, clapping his hands. “Form up for the Love Machine / Special Generation medley!” The girls began taking their places above Eri’s moans of protest. “Don’t worry!” he reassured her. “We’ll do Ren’ai when Gaki-san and Reina are fully awake. I want you four energized for it! Look at Takahashi! She’s ready!” Reina did as he bid and saw Ai stretching from side to side, looking as tight and fit as ever. Now Reina came to think about it, she didn’t look quite that good before, did she? Risa’s grumbles of protest at his chiding of her brought her out of the trance she fell into while staring at Ai’s butt, and she jumped into place, trying to hide a blush, especially with Eri looking at her oddly.

After practicing the medley for a good hour, and Tsunku disappearing from the studio at some point during it, the choreographer called a break for lunch, which many of the girls cheered. It had been quite a while now since they’d worked themselves this hard with the recent time off. “Tanaka!” he yelled, as she was headed toward her bag. “Since you just got here an hour ago, I thought you might want to work through lunch on your solo piece.” Even though it was phrased in a way as to give her a choice, Reina knew she didn’t have one. She sighed, tried to ignore the grumble in her stomach – she hadn’t eaten since last night, having forgotten totally about it in the rush this morning – and headed back toward the floor. Risa bumped into her along the way and offered a short apology that wasn’t reflected in her eyes. Reina sighed again. She really had to stop doing that.

However, once she began rehearsing, her mood quickly lifted. In this tour she would be performing Iroppoi Jirettai as her solo, and though the idea sounded odd at first, she grew to enjoy it very much. She’d have all the wota going crazy for her by the time it was over. Maybe Daisuke-kun would be there to see it one night. Maybe Ai-chan would be able to see it sometime, too… She didn’t even realize she was thinking that last thought.

After forty-five minutes, the choreographer dismissed her with a wave and she gratefully bowed before running off to pick something up from a vending machine as some of the other girls were already returning. Maybe she had enough time for at least some cup udon and gogo no koucha.

After leaving the studio, as she was walking quickly down the hall she saw Eri sitting not far from the door, popping up as Reina passed as if she had been sitting there waiting for her the entire time. “Hey Reina!” she said in a cheery, if slightly strained, voice. Reina glanced and smiled at her and passed her without slowing down.

Running to catch up, Eri opened her mouth as if to speak but Reina managed it first. “Sorry Eririn. I’m hungry and don’t have much time to get food. Walk with me if you like,” she offered. Eri nodded and tried to keep pace, though was visibly aggravated at how quickly Reina was moving.

“Where did you go last night?” Reina asked, once again catching Eri before words left her open mouth.

She hesitated a moment before responding, caught off guard. “Um… I went back to my room. You were hogging all the sheets,” she responded as Reina finally found a vending machine and perused quickly before making a choice. “You weren’t in your room after I got up.”

“Oh,” Reina responded noncommittally.

Eri was apparently flummoxed by the way the conversation was going, so an uncomfortable silence stretched on while Reina prepared her food.

When she sat down, Eri joined her, and as she dug into her noodles Eri finally managed to speak up. “So do you want to have sex after dinner tonight?” she asked, a hint of eagerness in her slightly trembling voice.

Reina stared at her, slurping up a noodle, before breaking out into a giggle that deteriorated into coughing as she choked the noodle she just slurped. Eri’s nose pinched in, telling Reina that was obviously not the reaction the girl was hoping for.

“What’s so funny?” she asked, still pouting.

“Nothing,” Reina wheezed, recovering from her choking.

“Do you not like being with me?”

Reina stared back at the girl whose eyes were becoming emotional and glanced around before responding in a hushed tone, “Of course I do! What kind of silly talk is that?” That seemed to cheer the girl up somewhat, and Reina went back to her noodles.

“So… do you want to?” Eri pressed once again, reaching over to grab Reina’s hand.

Slurping the last of her noodles, Reina nodded dismissively. “Sure,” she said, carefully extricating her hand from the other girl’s and getting up to throw out the empty cup. No sooner had it left her hand than she felt a truck hit her and wrap itself around her. Well, it was no truck, it was just Eri, but it sort of felt like one. She turned to face the other girl and found a tongue in her mouth that was not hers preventing her from saying anything. They ended up being slightly late for the rehearsal once again.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: Yuuyami on October 23, 2006, 10:13:09 PM
Eri can be just as blunt as Reina? Haha, I'd giggle too if a lover asked me for sex the following night XD~!

Anywho, I look forward to your future chapters.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: jafeijai on October 23, 2006, 10:17:28 PM
LMAO AT ERI-TRUCK!! XDXD this story just keeps getting interestiing huh? hmm...Reina checking out Takahashi's butt..does that mean a relationship may begin? and what's the deal with Daisuke?! a play of words for "daisuki" maybe?? just my random observations :P
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: Sukoshi on October 24, 2006, 04:38:05 AM
Wow...I love reading this story!  It's so mysterious!  I'm wondering if Ai Chan has  super powers or maybe she's like a mob boss!  and Reina's beginning to become one of my favourites since I've been reading about her so much lately :heart:  

Reina and Eri are cute together although I'm worried that
a. Reina will leave Eri for Ai
b. Reina will leave Eri for Daisuke
c. Sayu will fight Reina for Eri

oh man the suspense! WHAT WILL HAPPEN?! :o :o :o :o
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: cheesesticks on October 24, 2006, 05:08:36 AM
:O

Eri wants Reina but Reina wants Ai!
Dundundun...
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: Sukoshi on October 24, 2006, 05:19:21 AM
Quote from: cheesesticks
:O

Eri wants Reina but Reina wants Ai!
Dundundun...


yeah totally dun dun dun!  My take on it is...

Sayu wants Eri, Eri wants Reina, Reina wants Ai, and Ai hopefully wants Risa XD
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: DO Me DO Me on October 24, 2006, 05:33:32 AM
haha @ Eri's random request. I laughed and choked like Reina except I wasn't eating anything XD

I'm going to repeat this comment on JPM so... *off I go*
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on October 24, 2006, 05:57:03 AM
Quote from: Sukoshi
yeah totally dun dun dun!  My take on it is...

Sayu wants Eri, Eri wants Reina, Reina wants Ai, and Ai hopefully wants Risa XD

What Ai wants, what Ai wants... it's a mystery, isn't it? Though does Reina know what's truly going on with anyone?

Risa's been a rather supporting character so far, but I have a feeling we might hear more about her in the future. ;) She had quite a rough night last night... The question is if Reina wants to go there... >.> I only tell her story, she lives it. ^^

Thank you everyone for reading, and the newcomers as well! :grin: I feel happy when people are enjoying my writing. One more comment about Eri... She's so innocent poor thing, she doesn't see what's strange about asking what she did... I mean, if you want to do it, why not? :lol: She'd better be careful though. If she bares her heart too much, she might lose it...
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: goosefish on October 24, 2006, 02:05:04 PM
Gah, everyone wants somebody else. :o Ok...not everybody. Just Reina.
 
Ai-chan and this group of...whoever are getting abit creepy. All she did was motion with her head and they backed away? Seems like she's in some sort of power position.
 
I laughed like a madman at Eri's bluntness. Her innocence in that was just cute XD.
 
Oh yeah...damn...I had something to say about the Reina and Eri in my fic and the Reina and Eri in your fic, but now I've completely forgotten. :evil: :evil: .
 
and like jafeijai said: LMAO AT ERI-TRUCK!!
 
Looking forward to the next chapter. Especially coz Ai-chan's character here really intrigues me.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rndmnwierd on October 25, 2006, 01:24:46 AM
Quote
“So do you want to have sex after dinner tonight?” she asked, a hint of eagerness in her slightly trembling voice.

I struggled really hard not to burst into laughter at this, seeing as I'm not at home right now.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on October 26, 2006, 10:10:26 PM
Chapter 8 – Over a Bowl of Ramen

It took until the end of the day for Reina finally to really have some time to herself after the rush to work this morning, the busy rehearsals, and the lunch break hardly worthy of being called such. She twirled a finger in her hair as she thought about that, too. Eri certainly is a strange girl…

As she was dressing and showering before heading out to dinner, she tried to avoid the other girls as much as possible, which wasn’t too hard as most of them kept pretty much to themselves since they still didn’t seem to have fully come to grips with what happened to Miki and their lives came back to them after the focus and distraction of rehearsals. Even Eri stared off into space as she tidied up. Reina guessed she’d gotten her “fill” at lunch for now. Plus, there was what was to come after dinner of course… Reina felt herself flush for some reason at that thought. Definitely a strange girl.

The one girl she did try to get a hold of after they were let out was Ai, however she seemed to sneak out right away, so Reina’s efforts didn’t yield anything to speak of. She’d thought about what happened last night all through rehearsal, and none of it made sense.

First, there was the dance club. Why did Ai get so competitive with her on the floor? Of course, Reina was quite competitive herself, but she didn’t figure that mattered because she obviously didn’t have any ulterior motives. Ai on the other hand could only be more blatantly suspicious if she had “I’m up to something!” written in marker on her forehead. She was amazed none of the other girls saw it. Remembering Sayu and Eri, her amazement died out considerably, but that still didn’t explain any of the others like Our Great Leader or… or Risa. Other events from last night popped into her head suddenly at that thought, along with Risa’s attitude throughout the day today. Risa is Ai-chan’s best friend, isn’t she? They were together at the beginning of last night, weren’t they? She decided she had a good place to start now.

Pulling on her turtleneck muffled her thoughts for a moment and rattled her brain enough for her to realize what she was doing. What the hell? I’m no detective. Leave it to the cops to figure out what’s going on. The one that notoriously spoke to her at the memorial seemed intelligent enough. She slammed her locker and gave a glance around while picking up her bag. There were only a few girls left, one of which was Eri, who was occupied stuffing way too much stuff in her very undersized bag. She decided she’d have to get the girl a bigger one for Christmas. A nicer one, too. Considering their relationship now, she supposed she was obligated to give her something more than what she normally gave the other girls. This was getting complicated…

Taking the opportunity of Eri’s distraction to sneak out despite an odd glance from Yossi, who didn’t speak up because she usually didn’t try to pry into the affairs of her kouhai unless they came to her first, she realized that not only were there few girls left in the locker room, but the reason was because there were so few girls left in Morning Musume. It was down to seven now. For some reason that number seemed so lonely. She paused for a moment outside the locker room to dwell on it. They might as well start calling us Berryz Koubou… Coughing out a hastily cut off laugh at that thought, she remembered why she was being so “sneaky” and quickly scurried the rest of the way down the hall.

As she rode the empty elevator, thinking of cops and investigations, she recalled that detective again. Shuyen-san told him to stay away from the girls, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t go to him, did it? He was investigating Miki’s accident anyway. That has nothing to do with Ai. The elevator dinged and she stepped out into the lobby before screeching to a sudden halt just like her train of thought as recent conversations and memories began booming loudly in her head, beginning with the call Yossi gave her what seemed like so long ago when she was out on her photoshoot.

“Since this is a photo week, most of the girls are scattered all over Japan, like you. Only Ai-chan and Koharu were in town too, and… oh Reina, the accident… Miki’s dead.”

Later on when they were all gathering together here, Ai arrived late and seemed nervous. Why was she late when she was one of only three living girls who had been in Tokyo already? And then there was Ai at the memorial…

“If you need anything, or if you get into any trouble, let me know, ok?”

That offer had seemed to come out of nowhere, unless Ai had suddenly taken it upon herself to be Reina’s surrogate mother or loving older sister or something. Immediately, at that thought, shivers ran down her spine and twisted her mouth in disgust. Of course that was ridiculous…

“I wonder, Reina, how you ever get anyone to like you when you give them looks like that.”

The words pulled Reina out of her reverie and she stared a moment at Risa, who had apparently walked up to her unnoticed and was giving her a strange look. Whatever the case, it didn’t reveal whether her words were meant to be insulting or just playfully sarcastic.

“Would you like to go to dinner?” Reina asked suddenly.

Risa hesitated for a moment, surprised at the invitation, before narrowing her eyes in a suspicious look.

“I’ll treat you,” Reina offered at the girl’s seeming reluctance. “At least, as long as we don’t go to a place much fancier than a ramen shop. It’s not like I’m rich,” she finished with a slight smirk that Risa didn’t quite seem to catch, and her suspicion hadn’t vanished at all. Reina tried again. “I just want to… apologize for last night, okay?” Risa’s eyes widened at that. Maybe she didn’t think Reina remembered it. Giving Risa an appraisal that took in her sleep-deprived vacant expression and red eyes, she mentally added, Though, I wasn’t the one who got drunk…

The girl finally seemed to mellow out, or maybe she just gave up, since Reina thought she heard her give a sigh of defeat. “All right. Why not. You decide where to go. Keep me away from anything too spicy tonight, though,” she said, a disgusted twist coming to her own lips.

“Of course!” Reina responded cheerfully. She took the girl’s hand and started dragging her to the exit, looking behind her to make sure that nobody else had come down the elevator yet. Along the way, Reina realized that she almost literally was dragging the girl, as it seemed that Risa could barely walk. How on Earth did she last through rehearsals today? She shrugged. Well, they all had to deal with that at times with the lives they led.



It was a quiet walk several blocks to a ramen shop Reina knew. They had both pulled on hoodies before leaving the studio building to give some disguise to avoid too much recognition, which usually worked, and not talking much was also part of their disguise, though it usually didn’t go this far.

They entered the shop and ordered after being seated, keeping their hoods drawn for the moment, and Reina watched Risa seemingly stare at nothing while pulling out and playing with her chopsticks. She was just about to poke her napkin with them for the tenth time when Reina finally broke the silence.

“So… how are you today, Gaki-san?” she asked, trying to be somewhat cheerful, even though she didn’t feel it.

Risa looked up at her as if she’d never seen her before until her eyes focused and she carefully laid down her chopsticks before responding, “Um, I’m ok,” and then beginning to play with the string of her hood. Reina now looked at the girl with overwhelming suspicion. Risa was never this un-energetic, even at other times when Reina saw that she was very worn out.

Reina’s phone abruptly began buzzing, and Risa looked in that direction as Reina reached to silence it and ignore the message. “You’re not gonna get that?” Risa asked.

Reina shook her head slowly, to which the other girl shrugged, and took the advantage of having at least some of her attention to bring up what she was interested in. “So… Risa. What have you been up to lately? Anything different or exciting going on?” The girl gave her a What are you? Baka? look. Reina coughed and reoriented herself, not realizing that she was fiddling with her own chopsticks. “I mean, aside from the obvious.” Reina looked carefully up at the other girl with her head lowered to gauge her reaction to that. The look didn’t change much, but it did seem to get more suspicious.

“No,” she said decisively. “There’s nothing special going on.” The suspicion seemed to deepen. “Why? Do you think something is?”

Reina waved her hand dismissively. “Oh, no, of course not. I was just curious. I mean, you look like hell today, and I know you hang out with Ai a lot, who has obviously –“

“I didn’t get much sleep last night, all right?!” Risa interrupted almost angrily, surprising Reina with the force of her voice. “I swear, can’t a girl have insomnia once in awhile without…”

“I’m sorry,” Reina said quickly. “I didn’t mean to imply –“

“How about you?” The flame of suspicion was bright in her face now. “You’re the one that almost got into a fight with Ai-chan in the club and brushed me off like I was nothing when I tried to help!”

“I’m sorry about that,” Reina said quietly and quickly again. “My adrenaline was running way too high right then. I’m just glad I didn’t get in a fight with…” She trailed off as the server arrived with their bowls of ramen and laid them on the table. Each of the girls pouted quietly with their arms folded until she was done. When she left, they dug into their food and neither continued their talk.

When they were about halfway through, Reina felt herself soften a little and decided to try a different tactic, one that had seemingly worked before, if not for herself. “I know we may not be that close Nii-chan…” Risa raised her eyes slowly at that address, probably since Reina had never called her that before. “But I do care about you. I care about all the girls. If anything were to happen to one of them… I’d want to do what I could to make it better.”

She paused for a moment to see how her words were being taken. Risa slurped a noodle, still just giving her a level gaze. Her features seemed to soften up a bit though, so Reina decided to go for it. “If you know about something that might have happened, you can tell me, you know? I know I may not be the first one you think of, but… If you need any help or anything, you can tell me, okay?” Reina tried to force as much honesty as she could into her words, which was surprisingly easy. Maybe Eri really was softening her up.

Risa kept her eyes on Reina’s while chewing slowly, but when she swallowed, Reina thought she saw them become slightly moist. She stayed quiet with just an air of expectancy as Risa looked like she was struggling with something. “I…” Risa started before getting choked up. The girl really was crying now, squeezing her chopsticks together tightly. This wasn’t exactly what Reina was expecting…

Risa shook her head slowly as the tears ran down her cheeks. “No, you wouldn’t have been the first one I thought of, Reina,” she said in barely more than a whimper. “But…” She sniffed, and her voice seemed to become slightly stronger. “But right now, there really is no one I could think of.” Reina narrowed her eyes questioningly at that. Risa sniffed again. “Ever since K- Konkon and Mako-chan left, there’s only been Ai-chan really. It was great to see Konkon for a while last week, but she’s already gone back to University, and…” She lowered her head and stirred her noodles with her chopsticks. “Ai-chan’s the only one left, you know? All the senpai are gone. I was never able, or even willing, to get close to you… you guys.” Her gaze rose back to Reina, looking at her now earnestly. Reina sat there patiently, deciding it was just time to listen now.

“And Ai-chan…” Reina’s ears grew just a little more attentive… “Ai-chan has always been great and all, but in the past several months I can tell she’s been distracted by something. Maybe she took Konkon and Mako-chan’s grads harder than I thought. I dunno. But either way, it’s been harder for me to just go to her about anything… like…” Her sobbing seemed to worsen once again, and Reina offered her a napkin, which she ignored and began just staring past her at nothing, or perhaps into her own personal world. “Like last night…” she said hollowly and almost without emotion. Her eyes focused back on Reina again, and she seemed to struggle with something before saying desperately, leaning closer to her, “Oh Reina… I didn’t wake up in my room this morning.”

Reina’s eyes widened, though she didn’t speak, having no clue what to say or what the girl might be talking about. After a moment of Risa staring at her though, she was about to ask for clarification before Risa’s own eyes opened even wider and she drew back, as if she just realized something terrifying. She looked around almost frantically before turning back to Reina and saying quickly, “I’m sorry Reina. I have to go.” Reina tried to open her mouth but no words came out. “Thank you for the ramen. I just… I don’t have much appetite.” She stood up from the chair and drew her jacket and hood tighter around her, as if trying to ward off something. Or maybe she was just cold… “I’m sorry…” she said once more, and set off quickly out the door before Reina could react.

She stared after the girl for a moment, totally flabbergasted, and slightly concerned for some reason, until the server came up to her table. “Excuse me, miss. Is there anything wrong?” She looked up at the girl for a moment and stared, noticing that she couldn’t have been much older than herself. She was fairly cute, too. She might not have made a bad idol if her life had gone differently. Instead, she was a server in a ramen shop. Reina wondered which of them was luckier.

“Miss?” the girl asked once again, now looking slightly uncomfortable.

“Sorry,” Reina said quickly, breaking off her stare. “No. Everything’s fine. We’re all fine here, now.” She looked at the vacant spot across from and quivered slightly before looking back to the girl. “Yeah. I’m fine. How are you?”

The girl looked at her oddly and perhaps a little scared and worriedly before responding, “I’m… fine, thank you. Well, let one of us know if you need anything…” She scurried off, leaving Reina staring back into her bowl of noodles.

Well, if it wasn’t obvious that something was going on before, it sure was now. Except… Risa didn’t seem to know anything about Ai except that there was something… which left her exactly where she was before. Of course, there’s the other thing that was clearly disturbing Risa, but Reina wondered if it had to do with anything she was worried about, and then wondered if she even wanted to know in any case. Well, she did say that she’d be there for the girl if she needed anything… At least in this case, she didn’t want to make a liar out of herself, even if she meant something totally different when she said it.

She finished her ramen and paid before hurriedly exiting the shop, whose staff was beginning to look very nervous with what happened at her table, since she didn’t want to draw any more attention to herself than necessary.

She walked quickly down the street, looking for a taxi since she didn’t feel like walking right now. The wind was beginning to pick up and become colder, too. She should have brought a scarf. Her phone buzzed again and she ignored it. All the rest of the day’s events aside, she realized what she had to do now. She had to find Ai. Or Detective Kitamura.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: Yuuyami on October 26, 2006, 10:32:18 PM
Didn't wake up in her own room eh? I think I can predict what happened then...

Poor Mame ;_;

Let's see what action Reina takes next in the story :]
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rndmnwierd on October 27, 2006, 02:50:58 AM
Oh Gaki-san, no more drunken nights for you.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: lil_hamz on October 27, 2006, 03:28:59 PM
Quote from: rndmnwierd;220641
I struggled really hard not to burst into laughter at this, seeing as I'm not at home right now.


I know what you mean. I get weird looks in the library when I start laughing at the monitor :P


“Do you not like being with me?”
Oh no no, Reina likes being with you Eri, its just that with Ai's its so exciting XD
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: jafeijai on October 27, 2006, 04:59:17 PM
o.O "didn't wake up in my own room.."?!?!?! oh noes....is that what i think it means??? :cry:
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on October 31, 2006, 06:09:53 AM
Chapter 9 – Games of the Elite

Reina walked from the police station under the cover of the deepening night. The dark was sometimes a blessing since, when roaming the night, she had little to worry over someone potentially recognizing her. She tugged her long faux leather coat tighter and turned her collar against the chill wind. Not everything was perfect about the night.

As she walked from her disappointing failure, she finally dared to turn on her cell that she’d had off almost since leaving the restaurant what seemed like hours ago. Having thought the chances of Ai being snug at her home slim due to recent experiences, she had decided to head to the police station nearest the restaurant and ask about Detective Kitamura. Even though she was not at all expecting him to have worked out of that specific office, she found that he actually did. However, he didn’t happen to be in on this night.

The front desk attendant was quite curious as to why she was interested in the detective, but she just told him that he’d questioned her about a case before and that she wanted to follow-up with him a little on it. He asked her what case, but she hesitated and didn’t give a quick response. Seeing her confusion, he asked if everything was okay before quickly saying that he couldn’t give her any information on the detective without better knowing her intent. She leaned in toward him and said quietly that she didn’t want to say more in order to protect her privacy. The officer, becoming more convinced at her seriousness, explained seriously as well that anything she told him could be kept in the strictest confidence if she wished, in accordance with the law.

Reina had felt reassured at his words and began quietly telling him her name and the “case” in question. He didn’t recognize her name at first, but when she told him it involved the death of Miki Fujimoto he drew back and told her that without further proof of who she was, he couldn’t give any details whatsoever due to the sensitive public nature of the case. Apparently she wasn’t the only one who had come in lately asking about it, although she was the first young girl. She handed him her UFA ID quietly and he looked at her hard before doing a short check on his computer. After a moment, he returned her ID to her apologizing to “Miss Tanaka” and, in a very forthcoming way, told her that Detective Kitamura was out on assignment and would not be back for possibly a few days. Reina went silent at that, and after he offered her the detective’s card, she took it and left the station.

As her phone came to life and she waited for the inevitable beeps of awaiting messages, she thumbed the card around to the front of the phone and appraised it once again. The attendant said she could call the detective at any time as he was very eager to hear anything that might help clear up the Fujimoto case, but she didn’t feel brave enough to do that tonight. She returned the card to her pocket just as her phone started beeping. Waiting at a traffic light, she navigated through three messages left by Eri, ignoring them all without reading them, before finding another whose origin gave her sudden surprise enough that she didn’t even notice the light change. Opening it slowly, she found that its contents were actually quite simple:

The door’s unlocked.

She stared at the three words for a moment before closing the message and pondering on the number and the “Ai-chan” Reina had labeled it as the first night they roomed together on a tour years ago.

Reina looked up, and, as if just realizing where she was, crossed the street in the direction she hadn’t even realized she’d been taking the whole time. She found the subway and pulled her coat and hat closer when she entered the unwelcome light beneath the ground. Jumping on the Harajuku line, she stared impassively out the window at the flashing lamps and walls and stations beyond until the announcer called her stop. She disembarked and quickly walked up the stairs, taking comfort once again in the night while shielding herself from the cold.

Before long, the high-rise mansion that housed Ai’s condo jumped into view from behind closer neon-illumed sentinels of a city that never sleeps. Reina looked up to the spot high on its side where she was eventually headed before tugging her coat tighter once again and lowering her head to trudge on the last few daunting blocks. She didn’t know what it was about this night, but it was as if an aura of foreboding drew around her and enveloped her in a shadow darker than the surrounding night. She coughed a sudden laugh. You’re being silly Reina. I’ve been to visit her before. It won’t be anything new. True, she’d visited Ai before… many times in fact… but it had been months since the last time because Ai had… Risa’s words from earlier echoed through her mind. “In the past several months I can tell she’s been distracted by something…” For the first time, Reina understood exactly what she meant.

When she reached the block the mansion stood on, she walked the last meters toward the entrance. This path was nearly empty since it was set slightly back from the main walk along the street, and no one had a purpose for coming this way except the moderately wealthy and wealthier that lived there, and those people didn’t like others loitering about so close to their private lives. A few of those such denizens gave her stern glances as she passed them, though Reina only offered them lowered eyes. Having quite an eye for such things themselves, once they noticed the clothes she wore most gave her no further regard. Ai wasn’t the only young starlet to live in the Hisuitora Mansion. Reina momentarily wished she could afford a place like this. In time… she thought. She only needed to marry a cute and popular singer or actor and…

A large man brushed past her and disrupted Reina’s thoughts when she noticed the end of some sort of tattoo twisting out from beneath the cuffs of his suit. The man mumbled a brief apology, which was echoed by Reina, but what she saw in his eyes belied an astute awareness and careful noting of her features. Be that as it may however, he paid her no further mind and continued on his way past. Reina sped up slightly until she reached the guarded doors.

She didn’t recognize the doorman on duty, but gave him her name. He recognized it immediately, and after a quick check of something on his Blackberry, pushed a button and opened the door for her, bowing her in.

“Do you know which floor you require, Miss Tanaka?” he asked as she began passing through.

“Yes, thank you,” she responded politely, and the man bowed once again before closing the door firmly behind her.

Reina took no time appraising the extravagant lobby, instead heading straight for the glass elevator to one side of the center hall. After pushing the “up” button however, she did take the opportunity to gaze up between the transparent shafts of the two twin elevators to the ceiling which glimmered dozens of stories up as if bejeweled by everything imaginable that shimmered.

Her elevator dinged, and she entered along with an older woman in furs. From the look of it, the woman would be going higher than her, so she surreptitiously hit her “25” and drew back into a corner. The woman hit “37”.

After a quiet ride up, Reina reached her floor, stepped out away from the windows and started down the carpeted and well-lit hall. It was empty except for another well-dressed man, this time with a bowler hat on as well, who was lounging against a wall near the elevator. He only gave her a glance, seemingly of disinterest, but Reina quickly passed him anyway. For some reason, she felt like he in that one look had stripped her and laid her bare. The indoor climate was pleasant up here, but she pulled her coat tighter around her once again. She didn’t remember a man like that or the one outside the last time she had been here.

Slowing down, she arrived at Ai’s door and, giving one look back down the hall at the man who seemed like he could have even been sleeping on his feet, knocked lightly. A muffled voice from within that Reina could barely make out called “Come in!” and she turned the knob.

Upon entering, the first thing she noticed was the smell of something like potpourri and, seeing nobody at the entryway, closed the door and made her way down the short hall to Ai’s living room. It had furniture recessed slightly into the floor, and in one of the armchairs sat Ai herself in a thin and close-fitting gown, her legs crossed and with a face smiling warmly to the new arrival.

“I’m sorry if my mail surprised you. After last night, I thought you might want to drop by to… Well, I could’ve been mistaken.”

Reina shook her head. “No, it’s okay.” She giggled nervously a moment. “Apparently, I was already on my way to see you when I got your message. Though, I just got it a little bit ago. I had my phone off a lot of the night.” She stood just outside of the foyer, fidgeting slightly and unconsciously.

“Please.” Ai stood up and gestured to another of the chairs. “Have a seat. No need to be so formal and nervous. We’ve been friends for years, remember?”

Reina smiled nervously and nodded before attempting to walk smoothly over to take a chair. However, it wasn’t that smooth as she tripped and almost fell when stepping down into the recess. She quickly glanced up at Ai, but saw that the girl only gave a small smile before sitting down again herself.

Once Reina was finally seated and attempting to relax, Ai continued, “So you had your phone off… I suppose that makes sense, stopping by a police station and all.” Reina shot a look back up at her, suddenly quite wary once again.

Ai’s face changed from the warm smile into a concerned frown, and she bowed her head as if searching for the right words. “Reina…”

“Yeah…?”

A moment passed, and Ai looked up, showing hardness in her eyes that didn’t seem to be there before. She got up and walked over to a window, staring out into the city. Reina kept quiet, quivering between being uncomfortable and worried, having in general no clue of how to feel at the moment.

“Do you remember the first time we met?”

That was a question Reina wasn’t expecting. “Um… when the rest of the Rokkies and I came to our first Morning Musume meeting, right?” She paused a second. “I remember you were one of the first ones that came up to me. You were eager to meet all of us, but it seems that you latched onto me more than the others for some reason…”

“I knew there was talent in you, Reina.” Ai turned around to face Reina. Reina thought she saw moistness around her eyes. “I thought…” She began walking toward the chairs again. “Well, Morning Musume was different back then. We’d slipped a little, but we were still going strong. I knew…” She stopped walking. “I had a lot of ambition. It’s good to be ambitious, you know?” She broke a sort-of laugh through her tears. Apparently the effect was lost on Reina, though the mood did seem to lighten a little.

“Well, you know, being young and stupid like I was, I thought you might finally be one I could join up with and we… We could really hit the big time, you know? It’s nice and all being idols like we are, but… I thought we could have been artists.”

Reina looked up at Ai, trying to read something in her face. “What? What are you talking about?”

“So…” Ai turned and walked back to the window. “I tried to get us to room together as much as possible so I could get to know you more. I thought… I thought when the time was right, maybe when you got a bit older, you’d feel the same as me, and we could really be something.”

“Really?” Reina said, disbelief now conflicting with the other emotions she felt just being there. She got up and started walking toward the girl at the window. “…I never knew that.”

Ai nodded, still facing away from Reina. Then she turned, finding Reina standing barely a meter away, tears still in her eyes. “But then… We started to lose popularity… It got to where the only ones that really cared about us were the otaku, and there’s no way to build a singing career on that…” Reina looked hard into her eyes, trying to find a purpose. Suddenly, they became harder and looked back solidly into her own. Reina’s breath caught. “And then… Miki…” Her voice almost seemed to get as hard as her eyes.

Reina kept staring back, now dumbfounded and becoming slightly scared at the look in Ai’s face. It reminded her of… last night… She backed away a step. “Miki? Ai-chan, what… What about Miki?”

“It’s all her fault.”

There was silence for a moment before… *Slap!*

Ai kept her face to the side after Reina’s blow, not even bothering to raise a hand to it. Redness bloomed in the image of a handprint on her cheek.

This time, Reina was the one with tears in her eyes. “Miki’s… fault?” she said, sobbing, then looked up into Ai’s face. “Maybe you didn’t get to know Miki like I did, but I liked her.” Her voice gained strength as she went on. “And now… Now it’s her fault for dying?!”

Ai brought her eyes around to face the furious Reina again. “You don’t know what’s going on here, Reina.”

“I sure hope I don’t know what’s going on!” Reina almost shouted. “You… basically invite me to your home. You sweeten me up with talk about how…” She sobbed. “About how you wanted to be friends… partners with me…” She paused a moment. “You know, not long ago I would have gone crazy about that offer. I liked you. I… respected you. But now…” She paused again and looked back up firmly into Ai’s face. “Do you know I talked with Risa tonight? You seem to know everything else I’m doing.” Ai nodded slowly and unsurely. “Well, apparently something happened to her last night that… that she hadn’t told anyone. At least, not until she came to me.” Ai’s face darkened slightly. Reina tried to give her a defiant look. “Yeah. She came to me. You’re her best friend, and she came to me. She said you’ve been distracted lately and felt like you were drifting away from her.”

Ai’s face had darkened even further by this point, and tears began coming to her eyes again. “I’ve been busy lately. I haven’t had time to…”

“To do what? Be there for your best friend? Make new friends? I’m not gone you know…” She stepped a little closer to Ai. “Neither is Gaki-san. It doesn’t have to be this way…”

Ai lowered and shook her head. “It’s too late.”

“No… it’s not,” Reina said, stepping a little closer. They were now just centimeters apart. Reina felt butterflies in her chest. She was hoping her hand wasn’t too sweaty. She hesitantly took Ai’s in it and squeezed it. “It’s not too late…” With her free hand, she lightly touched Ai’s chin and slowly lifted it up until they had eye contact. Reina swallowed, leaned in, and kissed Ai’s lips. Tingles ran through her body. This was unreal. Here she was, kissing this girl, this girl who was so beautiful and so talented and so… dangerous. She tried to deepen the kiss, and finally Ai returned it. It was pure bliss for a moment until… it stopped.

Ai pulled back from Reina’s mouth and pulled her hand away too, spinning around to look out the window, leaving Reina standing there flustered for the moment. Before Reina could recover, the other girl turned back around, hardness in her face again. “We shouldn’t have done that,” she said.

“Wh… Why not?” Reina asked breathlessly.

“I didn’t want you to get involved. I was trying my best to keep you safe. But now…” She glanced sideways. “Now I think it’s too late.” Her gaze hardened even more. “Too late for everything.”

“What are you talking about?” Reina asked, now beginning to feel tired, and a little bit upset.

“Because, Reina…” Ai started. It seemed she was steeling herself for something, but Reina didn’t think it was words. “I killed Miki.”

_______________________________________

Everyone, please comment. ^^ I love hearing what you have to say about my writing, and it encourages me to write more... I know it's long, but I think if you read it, you might enjoy. ^^ I hope you will...
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: lil_hamz on October 31, 2006, 07:00:33 AM
*GASP*
*Fumbles around the keyboard trying to post my comment*
Ai-chan.....Ai .... killed Miki :ON@_@:
*gulps*
And Reina slapped the killer :ONdepressed:
OMG this chapter was like so incredibly good. The suspense is killing me if I'm not dead already. What's going on??? *music starts up* XD
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: JFC on October 31, 2006, 07:04:27 AM
:ONfrustrated: :ONfrustrated: :ONfrustrated: :ONfrustrated: :ONfrustrated:
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO~!!!!
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: Sukoshi on October 31, 2006, 07:14:13 AM
Wow..that was intense and I loved every second of it!  I didn't find that chapter long at all...infact I want more :pen_angry: *so addicted*  The amount of detail and emotion in it was very impressive!

man so much happened...first thoughts...Poor Eri!!  What's with Reina kissing Ai chan!! :pencry:..argh but she's still so likeable in this story...and I appaud her for slapping Ai!

and and Ai chan!  :pen_shocked:  *just speechless at the ending*
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: ferrar1 on October 31, 2006, 07:32:35 AM
Hmm another fabulously written mystery fan fic.

seems like its a transition from love -> mystery/horro fics here eh :p
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: Yuuyami on October 31, 2006, 12:32:01 PM
And one of my predicted scenarios came true :O...

Now it's up to what happens next... I have scenarios guessed for the next chapter too, so write on so I know if I'm right or not D:

Liked the mood near the end of the chapter :] I have a feeling this mood will be common throughout the story.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on October 31, 2006, 05:39:07 PM
Thank you all for your comments. ^___^ It makes me happy you're enjoying it so much. People seem to be taking things out of this that I didn't even expect.

Quote from: lil_hamz;225416
What's going on??? *music starts up* XD

That is the question, isn't it? ;) Even though you think you know something important after this, remember what the last three words of the chapter were and that they were the last three words... What happens next? :?
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rndmnwierd on October 31, 2006, 06:27:13 PM
Ai-chan? I knew it! I knew that she'd be the most likely to kill off the other girls for a solo career, lol.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: goosefish on November 01, 2006, 04:46:52 AM
Great chapter!!
 
Reina comepletely ditching Eri, then ignoring her messages... Eri must be feeling so confused and rejected by this point. :(
 
Gosh, Ai-chan sure manages to keep a real close eye on Reina.
 
And she admitted to killing Miki! I knew there was something odd about her from the start!! But was it actually her, or did she tell those men she seems so to have control over to do the deed? :o
 
I really wana know how Reina reacts to the last thing that Ai-chan said!! It's just gnawing at my brian now so I can't wait for the next installment!!
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on November 04, 2006, 03:28:32 AM
Chapter 10 – A Humble Offer

“Because, Reina…” Ai started. It seemed she was steeling herself for something, but Reina didn’t think it was words. “I killed Miki.”

Reina stared at Ai a moment, tiredness slowly seeping away, before bursting out laughing. Ai killing Miki? Ai killing Miki… Ai killing Miki… she rolled that statement around in her head and couldn’t stop laughing at the ridiculousness of it until she noticed Ai’s expression had not changed at all – she was still giving Reina a hard, steely look and occasionally flicking her eyes to the sides as if someone were going to spring out at them. Spring out at them…

Reina found her mind suddenly full of images of the men in the alley last night, of the two large men she saw on her way to Ai’s room, of… She stopped laughing. Ai killing Miki… It made perfect sense, didn’t it? She’d almost come to the conclusion herself, though for some reason also hadn’t even thought of the possibility. Ai-chan? Ai, who was so sweet to her when they first joined. Always so friendly. Always so shy. Of course, she’d been changing lately… Reina’s eyes widened. She finally took a step back from the girl, realizing what had just been happening.

“What…” she choked, not noticing her throat had apparently constricted for some reason. Clearing it, she went on. “What are you talking about? Miki died in an accident…” She looked at Ai, pleading with her eyes for the girl to tell her that it was all a mistake – that she was wrong, that she was joking… Joking? Why would she joke about something like that?

Apparently satisfied that the shadows in the room weren’t going to jump out and attack them, Ai turned back to the window, this time slowly. The night was deepening now, but the lights of Tokyo still shone strong. “An accident…” Ai said, bowing her head. “Yes, it was an accident. It’s possible it wouldn’t have turned out like that. It didn’t the last time.” Last time? What was she talking about?

Ai turned back around to face Reina. “This time it was different though. This time, I wasn’t just…” She paused for a second. “Please don’t cry again. It pains my heart when you do…” Seemingly despite her best efforts, her face was softening once more.

“Cry? What are you…” Reina whined between sobs. She hadn’t even realized she was crying. She fell to her knees. Ai started forward, but caught herself before she took a step, looking uncertain about something.

Reina couldn’t say anything while she cried for a while, with Ai looking on. When she finally began to calm down and speak, she said only one word. “Why…?”

Ai looked back at her strengthening gaze. The shock was now leaving Reina and was being replaced with… anger. And a little bit of fear. Ai crouched down to her level, still appearing elegant in her dress, and emotion seemed to be warring in her eyes. After a moment she spoke. “I can’t tell you that now.” Reina’s eyes narrowed. “I didn’t want you to know. I didn’t want anyone to ever know. I didn’t want to do this but… If I had to, I wanted to make sure nobody ever knew. Then you started being curious. You happened to talk to the right people… After that, I knew I had to protect you.”

“Protect me?!” Reina leaned forward, almost as if to grab the other girl by some convenient part of her body, but, probably fortunately, didn’t. She barked a sardonic laugh. “You didn’t want to protect me. Why would you care about that? You killed Miki.” Ai’s face darkened again. “You just wanted to make sure nobody found out so that you wouldn’t get caught. Well too bad, you did, and now I’m –“

She began to stand as she spoke, but was cut off quickly, with Ai standing again herself. “No. That’s not the reason. If you knew more, you’d know why.”

Reina was now making quite an effort to restrain herself from attacking the girl. She also still wanted to run off and call the detective, but something in Ai’s words kept her here. It wasn’t that she necessarily believed her – why should she, after the lies she’s lived by the past weeks, or who knows how long? It was Ai’s voice itself. She was faced with being caught and turned in for murder and yet… There was absolutely no fear in her voice at all. No worry. That kept Reina’s feet glued to the floor.

“So I don’t know anything, huh? That’s why I’m here, and that’s why I’m torn between tearing your hair out and turning you in for murder?”

“No, that’s not what I meant.” Reina listened carefully, but there was still no trace of concern in the other girl’s voice. Her anger was now beginning to be slightly overcome by her fear. The girl sighed, not in desperation but as if she was becoming resigned to something. “However, since you insist on wanting to know…” She hesitated a moment before starting softly, “I didn’t want to do this, but…” She caught Reina’s eyes with her own, giving her a look once again unlike any Reina had ever seen. Her breath caught. It was dangerous… seductive… yet also insistent. “If you join me… trust me…” Ai began, “You’ll learn everything. I didn’t wish it for you but maybe… Maybe they’re right. Maybe you need it. Maybe we need you. Maybe I need you.”

The gap between them had narrowed again, and after tearing herself away from those eyes, Reina found herself staring at Ai’s lips as she spoke those words. They were still moist from their kiss earlier. Their kiss…

The next thing she knew, her eyes were closed and she felt soft lips against hers. It was as good as last time. It was better. She felt Ai’s arms around her, holding her. She melted into the girl’s embrace. Then her mind returned to her and she remembered, “I killed Miki…"

She tore herself away, staring wide-eyed at the girl in front of her who looked like she might lose her legs this time. Reina slowly backed away in horror. “Ai-chan…” she breathed, noticing she didn’t apparently have any air in her lungs. She didn’t say anything more, but continued her slow retreat.

Ai apparently regained her breath more quickly, though. “Reina, I need you to trust me. It’s the only way…” She reached out her arm and started walking toward Reina, who began backing away faster herself to match it. Reina thought she saw tears come to the other girl’s eyes for some reason, but just shook her head in protest until she felt her back hit against something hard. She spared a quick glance to the side and noticed that she was at the door. Fumbling for the knob, she glanced back at Ai who was now just standing still in the living room. Not giving enough of a glance to see what was in her face though, she swung the door open and slipped out, shutting it behind her and breathing heavily.

She didn’t give any hesitation before taking straight off down the hall toward the elevator. The man in the bowler hat wasn’t there now. She was grateful for that. Before long, she was back outside and walking quickly away from the building. It was even colder than it was before, but she now felt no need to pull her coat tighter.

Once she felt comfortably far enough away from the mansion, she took out her phone and quickly looked up a number. She called it and raised the phone to her ear.

“…Moshi moshi.”

“Eririn? It’s Reina.”

“I know. I have your number in my cell you know. In fact, I have a special ring for you. It’s this cute little –“

“Would you still like to meet tonight?”

“Where? I’m just sitting in my room right now. Staring at the blank TV screen. Alone. I’ve been trying to catch the person I see in it, but he always seems to evade me and I end up hitting my nose…”

“That’s fine. I have to take the subway, but I’ll meet you there as soon as I can.”

“Are you in Harajuku?”

“…”

“If so, it’ll take you a while to get here.”

“…I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

Frustrated, Reina ended the call just before heading down into the station. As she descended she darted her gaze all around her, but saw nothing out of the ordinary. She shook herself, mentally chastising herself for her paranoia. It had just been a long day. As she made her way toward the train, as much as she tried to make herself believe that, she couldn’t. What have I gotten myself into?



Reina woke up early the next morning feeling warm and cozy. She was lying on her side somewhat curled up facing the edge of the bed, and turned her head to look behind her and find Eri holding her closely, curled up in a similar way. The warmth felt so good, but she delicately lifted Eri’s arm and set it behind her, causing the girl to grunt in her sleep and fall over onto her back. Free of the girl’s clutches, she slowly pushed the covers down and got up.

When she got home they hadn’t had sex, to the great disappointment of Eri, but just held each other until they fell asleep. Reina was withdrawn most of the time, not saying a whole lot, causing Eri to poke fun at her teasing her about her pouty attitude. She didn’t mind a whole lot though, because even though she didn’t say much, Reina held her very close unwilling to even let her go in the slightest. Still, after a good while of the poutiness and clinginess, Eri jokingly asked if someone else had died. Reina was not amused.

Reina crept her way through the still-dark pre-dawn to the refrigerator, opening it to pull out some milk and rice balls. She sat on the floor leaning her back on the front of a chair to eat it, watching Eri’s chest rise and fall in her sleep. She thought she felt safe in Eri’s arms, but she couldn’t tell for sure anymore… She didn’t know what Ai wanted with her. She didn’t know what those men in the alley wanted with her. Even though Ai had shooed them away, she had a feeling she might not have seen the last of them, especially considering her experiences last night.

As she sat and ate and thought, the sun began to rise slowly, and before it was up, the alarm went off on the clock right next to Eri’s head. The girl bolted straight up, gasping, and slammed her palm down on the thing, shutting it off. “I have got to move that someplace that’s… not… there,” Reina heard her grumble, and she chuckled softly. Eri heard this and turned her head to stare at her. Her hair, still fairly short, was sticking straight up in random places, and the way her unfocused eyes stared at her like saucers, Reina thought she looked like a ghost in the soft glow of the sunrise. She was very cute.

“Good morning,” Reina said, giving a small smile.

“GmMhffmmmmh…” Eri responded, raising a hand to scratch the side of her head. While her fingers were up there, she seemed to notice her hair and began trying unsuccessfully to pat it down.

“I think you should just give it up,” Reina said, a smirk now forming at the side of her mouth.

“Meh,” Eri grunted, and crawled out of bed. Reina watched as she headed to the dresser and stared at it for what must have been a full minute.

“I don’t remember you being like this the last morning after we spent the night together,” Reina commented reminiscently.

Eri kept staring at the dresser. “Somebody didn’t keep me up hours past my bedtime last time,” she scolded it. Then she turned around in all her disheveled morning glory. “Do you want to take a bath with me?”

Reina thought for a second before licking her fingers and standing up. “Sure.” She headed to the bathroom and started taking her pajamas off. Well, they were actually Eri’s pajamas since she hadn’t thought to drop by her room to get her own, and Eri hadn’t wanted to let her out of her sight again. Either way, she supposed they were technically hers at the moment. After a moment, Eri joined her.

   When they had finished the bath and were brushing their hair, still with no clothes on, Reina began to think about last night again. That had been a nice distraction, but the fear inside her was too great to ignore forever. She looked over at Eri. “Your hair looks better now.”

   Eri blushed as she pulled a particularly stubborn knot out. “Usually getting it wet fixes it.” She looked worriedly over at Reina. “It doesn’t look like that every morning, you know. Seriously! I mean, it wasn’t that bad –“

   “I know,” Reina cut in, smiling, before setting down her own brush and heading into the other room to get a long shirt and some underwear of Eri’s to put on. Thankfully they were almost the same size. Once on, she bagged her clothes from yesterday and pulled on her coat. Passing by the washroom on the way to the door, she said, poking her head in, “Thank you for the clothes. I’ll get them back to you after the next time I wash my things.”

   “No problem,” Eri said, waving her hand at Reina, attempting to get at yet another troublesome knot. “Keep them if you like. What’s mine is yours.”

   Reina smiled at that, though the girl didn’t look over at her, still frowning into the mirror. “Thanks. Well, I’ll see you at the studio!” And she left Eri’s room on her way back to her own to finish preparing for the day.

   At the studio, the coaches kept them apart to work on their individual issues, so Reina wasn’t able to see much of the other girls. From what she did see though, nobody paid her too much mind, even Eri. Well, aside from Baby Girl of course, who was gushing about what had happened last night in her return to the studio for Kirari. Apparently there was some cute singer there assisting with one of the numbers, and she went on and on about him. Each of the girls who listened to her pointed out that she had to be very careful around “cute boys”, but she, always off in her own little world, didn’t seem to pay a bit of attention. I wonder how long it’ll be until we see her in Friday… Reina thought as she was finally able to tear herself away. She then got worried at the prospect of losing their new and apparently rising little miracle. The worst thing is… If she does get kicked out of H!P, she’d still have Kirari and who knows what else. How nice it must be to have a sizable number of fans who aren’t 40-year old men… she thought, twisting her mouth in a grimace. Although, sometimes she didn’t mind…

   The times she caught sight of Ai, the girl didn’t even seem to notice her. Even when they practiced the daily full-group choreography after lunch and she was dancing next to her, she was all business-like and didn’t act as if anything was out of the ordinary. There was a constant war inside Reina’s mind throughout the day of whether to try to approach her or not when she was able. However, thinking of that also caused Reina to remember things she was trying to block out. “I killed Miki…” She decided time after time to call Detective Kitamura after work, but time after time also decided that was a very bad idea. Part of it might have been that the times she decided to call were some of the few that Ai, when she was around, actually recognized her existence and gave her a level and unconcerned stare. It made her wonder if the girl could somehow read minds, too.

   At lunch, Sayu had popped up seemingly out of nowhere and insisted on taking Eri and Reina out for box lunches, claiming that they hadn’t spent enough time together lately and the “best friends” needed to catch up on everything. Eri and Reina would look at each other whenever Sayu spoke and grin to themselves, but they had a pleasant lunch. It almost reminded Reina of old times, before… before she had become older.

   After practice, everyone was saying their “Good job!”s and Reina headed out of the studio after packing her things. Eri asked her if she wanted to go to dinner, but Reina told her she just needed some time to herself. She would catch up with her later though, she promised. “Look for a surprise visitor in your room in an hour or two!”

   After parting from her friends and leaving the UFA building, she hadn’t escaped the sidewalk next to it before she heard, “Hello Reina.”

   She glanced up at the speaker and smiled in surprise. “Hi Aya-chan. How are you? I’ve not seen you… in a while,” she said carefully.

   “Oh I’m all right,” Aya said non-chalantly, straightening her fur muffler. “Things are going better. Well at least, they were.” She adopted a more serious look and gazed down at Reina.

   “They were? What do you mean? Did something happen?” Reina tried to ask naturally.

   “Oh nothing much really,” Aya replied, waving her hand dismissively. “Just… I had a strange message on my phone earlier today.” Reina cocked her head, peering up at her curiously. “I didn’t recognize the number, but all it said was, ‘Seek she whom you confided true. The cat spilt the milk, and wondered why it stained the cloth. She knows what all should not.’” Reina kept gazing at the girl, struggling to keep a disarming smile on her face.

   “Oh?” she squeaked, quickly coughing to cover it up. “It sounds like they sent it to the wrong number. Or else some crazed wota is trying to harass you.”

   Aya stared up thoughtfully, tapping a finger to her teeth. “You know, I thought about that. But it’s a rather strange message to send to anyone if it’s just a mistake. And as for crazed wota… I think they’re more into getting you to come to them, not some woman you might have confided something to.” She looked down at Reina again. “The only strange thing that’s happened in my life recently that might have led to a strange anonymous message on my private cell phone is a certain event that happened in Shibuya, and in the distraught state I was in for the past weeks, there was really only one girl I talked to… Do you have any idea what I might be talking about? My memory’s not as good as it… used to be.”

   Reina could feel the girl’s eyes boring into her own. They were such pretty eyes, though… Reina shook herself. Now’s not the time to think about those kinds of things, you idiot romantic girl. “Um… I’m not sure Aya-chan. I think I’d still go for the crazed wota. You should have your number changed.”

   Aya suddenly closed in on her, and Reina noticed she was backed against the wall. At least people passed constantly, so if the older girl tried to attack her, that wouldn’t last long. “If I find out you’re hiding anything from me, little girl,” Aya growled in a soft but menacing voice, “I’ll wring it out of you whatever it takes. With the police’s help if I need it. Mikitty was important to me. She was my life. If I had someone to take revenge on, she’d wish she’d never been born. I trusted you, but now it’s starting to seem like I shouldn’t have. You’re now at the top of that list. Just give me a reason.” Then she backed away and looked around, acting as if nothing at all was out of the ordinary. “It’s getting a bit nippy out here, isn’t it?” she said cheerfully. “You’d better button your coat before you catch cold. Wouldn’t want that happening.” Then she smiled and turned to walk away. Reina definitely didn’t see a smile in her eyes, however.

   Pushing herself forward from the wall, she did as Aya told her before realizing it – buttoning her coat and turning her collar. After a short pause though, she thought, Well, it is cold… The girl makes sense… A part of her mind laughed at her for her first thought after that encounter. Looking around herself, she saw Baby Girl back toward the building’s entrance, standing still and staring over at her. Once she saw Reina notice her, she began walking toward her.

   “Hey Koharu,” Reina greeted automatically, brushing the back of her coat off. Did the girl really have to push her against a wall?

   “Hey,” the younger girl responded.

   A few seconds later, after finishing with her coat, Reina looked up to see Baby Girl still staring at her. “Is there something you need? A ride? A dinner treat? You know I don’t have a car here…”

   “That was Aya-chan, wasn’t it? Who you were just talking to.”

   Reina hesitated a moment. “Yeah. She just had some advice to give me for my solo. Why? Were you looking for her?”

   The girl shook her head, not taking her eyes from Reina’s. “No. I was actually looking for you.”

   Reina just kept staring at the girl, giving her a “What are you, serious?” look. Just spill it already… Was she ever that young and dumb?

   After a moment, Baby Girl finally spoke. “Mistress, I mean Ai-chan, wants to see you. She’s still inside. She says she has something for you.” The girl tilted her head to one side. “If I were you, I’d come see her. I don’t know what she sees in you though. You’re not that much older than me…”

   The fear that had lain dormant most of the day suddenly bubbled up inside Reina as she for a moment just stared at this young… this baby… girl.

_____________________________________

...A lot happens in this chapter! Thank you all for your comments. Keep them coming! :grin: Please comment on anything you feel the need to...
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: Yuuyami on November 04, 2006, 03:38:58 AM
Oh hell O-O Koharu's in the organization too?!

Holy crap.

O-O...

And I'm surprised Reina isn't torn between Ai and Eri...yet? :]

Nonetheless, good chapter. I look forward to the rest :]~!
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rndmnwierd on November 04, 2006, 03:49:50 AM
Mistress, mmm.... XD
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: lil_hamz on November 04, 2006, 04:14:25 AM
OMG Koharu is in! I knew she was a smart one. But Ai-chan as the mistress? That totally blew me away :lol:
Okay now I'm suspicious of Sayumi.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: jafeijai on November 04, 2006, 04:49:22 AM
O_O..Koharu's in this too...and she's not liking Reina for some reason...maybe the attention Takahashi's giving Reina? o.O hmm...interesting plot twist..
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: JFC on November 04, 2006, 05:27:02 AM
I'm finding myself wracking my brain over that phone msg that Aya got. :evil: :evil: :evil: :evil: :evil:
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: Sukoshi on November 04, 2006, 05:39:18 AM
Quote from: lil_hamz;227869
OMG Koharu is in! I knew she was a smart one. But Ai-chan as the mistress? That totally blew me away :lol:
Okay now I'm suspicious of Sayumi.


Omg...I'm starting to suspect Sayu too!!  In fact this story is making me suspect everyone! :ON@_@: and and baby girl?!! :ONscared:  so blown away right now by how cool this story is...only random thoughts jumping out at me right now...:ONcool2:  

like bath :ONbath: :ONluvluv2: :ONshy1:

and Eri and the man in the tv?!  man did that sound really creepy :ONdunno:

In the back of my mind I keep thinking this would make for the best h!p tv drama ever :ONwriggly:
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on November 06, 2006, 04:06:04 PM
Quote from: Yuuyami;227856

And I'm surprised Reina isn't torn between Ai and Eri...yet? :]

Right now Reina doesn't see the commonalities between Ai and Eri... Eri's always there for her and is her safety blanket. She's part of Reina's normal life. Ai is apparently in the middle of a quite extreme and not-so-normal plot while being irresistably sexy and alluring to a girl who sometimes lets her heart and emotions guide her more than she should... We'll see how long it takes for Reina to realize what is really going on between her and Ai... whatever that is, of course. :)

I'm glad everyone's enjoying the mystery! It wasn't even a great intent of mine to be so mysterious... I just mainly want to be dramatic and keep some tension in the space between my words.

We know so little about what's really going on with Koharu so far, don't we? ;)

Welp, I had to go out and buy FFXII, and now that is sucking up a lot of my time, but depending how boring work is I might be able to turn out another chapter later this week. :) Don't want to leave you hanging too long!
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on November 09, 2006, 05:33:22 AM
Chapter 11 - A Bargain Struck
     
Reina followed Baby Girl – Koharu, Reina corrected herself in her head; she didn’t think she could ever really call her “Baby Girl” again – back up passages to one of their locker rooms. Reina thought it was a rather odd place for a meeting, but supposed it wasn’t up to her to decide it. They saw Ai still pulling up some socks while sitting on a bench near her locker. She was the only one left in the room. At least, until they arrived.
 
      “Thank you, Koha-chan,” Ai said pleasantly, not looking up. Koharu bowed her head slightly, but hesitated, standing still between Ai and Reina. After a moment Ai spoke up again. “You can go now. You were heading back to your room before dinner, right?”

      “Yes Mistress, but –“

      “I’ve told you before to just call me Ai. There’s no need for that ‘Mistress’ talk.”

      “Yes Mistress, I’ll try to remember that.” Ai sighed. “I…” she began to continue, but now that her timing had been spoiled turned around to pout at Reina before lifting her chin and attempting to walk gracefully out of the room. Reina gave her an odd look as she passed.

      “Kids…” Ai said once the young girl had left the room. “What can you do about them, huh?” Tightening her last shoelace, she stood up to give Reina an appraisal. Reina blushed as the other girl looked up and down her body. Ai didn’t seem to notice.

      “Um…” Reina began, then decided she had no clue how to continue. “Did
your rehearsal go well today?” She had no idea where that came from.

      “Yeah actually,” Ai responded. “It… Well, can I tell you a secret?” She stepped closer to a frozen Reina and leaned over almost as if to whisper in her ear. “The choreography was way too easy. I was bored to tears most of the day.” She stepped back. “So I suppose being easy and being bored is not too bad, huh?”

   Reina swallowed. “Um…” she began again. “I guess. Does that mean you were holding back in the dance club the other night?” Ai just smiled. Reina let the silence go a moment before gaining some confidence. “But you didn’t call me here to discuss the difficulty of our choreography I imagine, did you?”

   “Astute as always, Reina…” Ai praised with a grin, and picked up her duffel bag. Duffel bag? Why does she need a bag that big? It’s even full… “Would you walk with me?”

   “Do I have a choice?”

   Ai just smiled again. They left the locker room, walking slowly and leisurely down the hall, nodding at the staff they passed along the way. Something was very strange about this situation, and Reina had no clue what to expect next.

   At one point when nobody was walking near them, Ai spoke. “My offer is still open, you know,” she said, seemingly sincerely.

   Reina glanced at the other girl before turning her eyes back ahead of them. “And why in the world do you think I’ll join you since you killed Mikitty?” she said, carefully keeping her eyes forward and not looking at the girl beside her.

   Ai didn’t say anything for a moment before Reina heard her cough a short laugh. “You sure are gutsy. You’re not doing a good job of convincing me you’re not a good choice.”

   Reina stopped suddenly at that and whirled to face the other girl, who herself turned to face Reina calmly. “Convincing you??” Reina snarled. “The only thing I should be convincing you of is that the cops are going to be dragging that pretty little ass of yours off to jail soon!” She gasped as soon as she said that and slapped a hand to her mouth.

   Ai smiled in that excruciatingly unconcerned way that she had of late. “You know, I should have your tongue cut off for that.” Reina’s eyes widened, but after a second Ai couldn’t hold back a smirk. “Just kidding!” Reina didn’t think her eyes were kidding. “However, me getting my pretty little ass dragged away is not going to happen. I think you know that. What could happen though…” She stared at Reina hard a moment, hesitating for some reason, her eyes boring hard into the girl across from her. Then she tilted her head up slowly and looked at the ceiling as if going deep into thought, before beginning to say slowly, “What could happen is another certain cute girl getting carted away. A girl who’s been asking a lot of questions… acting very suspicious to people who are paying attention. People who might do a bit of… detective work.” Reina realized her fingers were around her phone and gripping it tightly. She thought of the card lying next to it with a number that seemed to blaze out at her through her pocket.

   Ai looked back down at Reina, and it seemed to Reina like there was some kind of fire blazing in the other girl’s eyes. “All it would take is someone to call them on it. Someone who feels very strongly about what happened. Someone who…” Ai glanced down at the hand Reina had wound tightly around her phone. “…gets the message,” she finished calmly, and almost… resignedly.

   Reina’s body was nearly shaking. Ai let her last words sink in for a minute until Reina ground out through gritted teeth, “What do I have to do for you to help me?”

   Ai’s eyes found hers again. “Like I said before Reina, I just want you to join me.” Reina saw her eyes blazing again with varied emotions including… hope?

   Reina stood tense for a moment longer before relaxing with an inaudible sigh. She hoped she wasn’t making a deal with the devil… “All right. I’ll “join you”, whatever that means.” However, she followed her statement up with a hard glare at the other girl. “I want it clear though that I’m only doing it because it seems I need to. I’m not in the habit of being friends with killers.”

   Ai gave her a steady gaze in return. “I understand. I’ll leave it to the future to define what our relationship will ultimately be.” Reina had no clue what she meant by that, but she supposed as long as the girl was satisfied… Her mind clouded, and what she had done just hit her. She’d have to be even more careful from now on.

   “Now, to begin that future…” Ai began, looking around a little and stretching as if some weight had just been lifted off her shoulders. “Go ahead and go home. Do whatever you were planning on doing before talking to me. I’ll find you when it’s time to start learning what you’re so desperate to know. It’ll probably be sometime when it’s dark.” She adjusted her bag, hoisting it as if about to leave, and then turned from Reina toward the hall. “Oh, and one more thing…” she said, not looking back. “I hope you’ll see Nii-chan tonight. I’m worried about her and…” She hesitated a moment, and Reina thought her voice became more strained and sorrowful. “Well, please do your best to take care of her.” With that, she walked down the hall and vanished from sight, leaving a motionless and confused Reina behind.

   Try her best, she could not figure out what was going on with that girl. One minute she seemed a cold ruthless bitch and the next she could… Reina could still almost feel long kisses… The next moment she could be the warmest and friendliest girl you’d meet. And the saddest for some reason…

   Shaking her head, she adjusted her bag and began her walk once again down the hall. When she got to the bottom of the elevator, she found Koharu just outside it. Was the girl waiting for her?

   “I’m sorry about earlier,” the girl said, staring at the floor in front of her. Reina gave her a strange, wonky-eyed look. “It’s just… Sometimes it seems like nobody sees what I’m capable of. I know I could do just about anything. I just know it!”

   Reina’s look didn’t change. “You do know you’re fourteen, right?”

   The girl looked up. “So?” She looked a bit taken aback at that. “So are Yajima-san and Shimizu-san. They’re already the leaders of their own groups.”   Maybe Reina’s estimation of this girl shouldn’t have changed after all…

   “…And you have a solo career and a coveted spot in a group where everyone else is at least three years older than you. Saki-chan would kill to have what you do.”

   “Ah, Morning Musume is a joke,” the girl responded dismissively. “It has been ever since –“ She almost choked out that last word, finding that there were fingers around her throat.

   “I dare you to continue along that line of thought…” Reina growled between gritted teeth. The other girl struggled slightly, but Reina held her firm. Her rage was aflame from various things coming to a head in this encounter with this younger girl. “I won’t have you saying things like that – things that are lies sprung from the immature mind of a stupid immature kid.” Koharu’s eyes widened in shock at her senpai’s words. The girl clearly had not expected Reina to do anything like this. “Of course, that’s not why I’m about to choke you right now. I don’t know what you had to do with what happened to Miki, but –“

   “Miki?!” the girl spluttered out through her constricted throat. “Why do you think I had anything to do… to do with that?? She got into a car accident…”

   Reina suddenly released the girl, pushing her lightly against the wall as she did. As Koharu brought her own hand to feel her throat, Reina took a step back and studied the young girl. “An accident?” Reina said quietly.

   “Yeah…” Koharu whined, seemingly terrified at this never-before-seen side of Reina. “Isn’t that what Yossi said? She got into an accident when driving through Shibuya…”

   That was indeed what Yossi had said. The problem was why this girl didn’t seem to know anything more while her “Mistress” claimed responsibility for a murder. “Has Takahashi-san not talked to you about the accident?” she asked carefully.

   “Mistress? Why would she talk to me about it? Did she comfort you?” Koharu’s mouth twisted when she asked that, as if the potential subject was something distasteful and appalling. “She doesn’t deign to such trivial things. Mistress is too important for that.”

   “She is?” Reina asked quietly again, trying to hide her curiosity.

   The other girl narrowed her eyes in confusion. “Of course. Don’t you know? I would have thought you would…” She bit off that last word, as if saying something she hadn’t wanted to. “This is the girl she is making her Chosen??” the girl hissed under her breath. Reina thought it wasn’t intended to be heard, but the girl seemed to have issues with controlling the volume of her voice among the many others.

   “Chosen? What do you mean?”  she asked quickly.

   Koharu looked up again, eyes wide as if Reina had just sprouted horns. “How…” she began, and then hesitated, seeming to think on something. “Maybe I was wrong about you.” She bowed slightly to Reina. “Excuse me, I have a date with Akihabara I can’t miss!” And she ran off before Reina could hardly move.

   Reina stared after her a moment before shrugging. Ai said to go home. I guess I’ll go home, she thought, grimacing to herself. She was beginning to get the idea that Koharu wouldn’t be a very helpful source of information.

   When she got outside she looked around, but Koharu was not to be seen, and neither was anyone else she recognized. She started down the sidewalk, not worrying this time about turning her collar. It was actually somewhat pleasant this evening. Still quite cool, but not as bad as it had been… Of course, she imagined later tonight it would chill her once again. Sometimes she wished she wasn’t so thin.   Tonight…

As she walked, she wondered when Ai would come. She said it would be when it was dark, so it would probably be when it was cold. She shivered involuntarily at that thought. She thought back to the rest of the conversation they just finished a short time ago. She’d said she’d join her… What did that mean? At least she’d learn something instead of walking around clueless like she always seemed to. Ai killed Miki… She shivered again, though this time not from the cold. She had made a deal with a killer… Though, especially after the talk with Koharu, she wasn’t sure if she even believed Ai. But why would someone claim to kill someone she hadn’t? She was quite serious; it didn’t seem she was lying.

“Shit,” Reina cursed, scooping out her phone from her pocket. She had just remembered another part of their conversation.

She dialed a number and held the phone to her ear. It rang a few times, but eventually a tired-sounding girl’s voice came through.

“Moshi moshi…”

“Gaki-san? It’s Reina.”

“I don’t think you’ve ever called me before… Did I give you my number?”

“Um… I think you gave it to me a couple years ago? After I first joined? How are you doing?”

“Ehhh….”

“Where are you now?”

“Near the train station.”

“Hey, umm… Would you like to come over to my apartment? I could… use some company.”

“…Huh? Wh… I mean…”

“Please?”

“…I don’t even know where you live.”

“I’m in Room 732, Nippon Heights Tower 1.”

“A hotel?”

“Yeah. I haven’t found a permanent place in Tokyo yet… I was waiting until I got older…”

“I see… Um… I don’t know, Reina. I’m… kind of with someone right now.”

“Oh? I… see. Anyone I know?”

“…Probably not. We’re just having dinner though, so… I suppose I could come after we’re done…”

“That’d be great! So I’ll see you in an hour or two then?”

“Sure. Reina. Um… See you then I guess. Bye bye.”

“Bye.”

Reina stared at the blinking call timer on her phone until it disappeared and her wallpaper of a picture of the group of the three sixth gens appeared. It was one of her favorite pictures – of course, that’s why it was on her phone. She was wearing a cute dress and standing between Eri and Sayu, all of them flashing peace signs. Eri was cuter than ever, and Sayu was smiling while doing her Usa-chan Peace! They both looked so happy. Reina wasn’t so sure about herself though… She wondered how many of the smiles she gave were fake. The ones during concerts of course were, unless she spotted some cute fan, but they weren’t the only ones…

She tucked her phone in her pocket. Who was Risa with? She walked down the steps to the subway station. While waiting for the train, she glanced around at the crowds. There were many salarymen and women, all seemingly withdrawn into their own busy worlds. She spotted a few men who looked like otaku. She tried to keep her face hidden from them. She stared a moment at a young woman who couldn’t have been much more than a girl holding a baby, trying to get it to stop crying… That was a more unusual sight. The baby cried as if it were alone in the world and not being held by its mother. The girl hollowly tried to hush it, giving a bland look as if she were the one alone in the world. Everyone around did their best to ignore them. Hers wasn’t their problem, after all. Reina tore her eyes away from the pitiful sight and scanned slowly along the rest of the crowd. A man and his wife... A pair of gaijin... A man in what looked like a more expensive suit than a regular salaryman, with some type of birthmark creeping up his neck from his downturned collar…

Wait. Birthmark? She looked back at the man. He turned her direction and she saw what looked like an identical mark on the other side of his neck. They wouldn’t both be birthmarks…

She noticed now that he was leaning back against a pole, arms crossed in front of him. Reina looked at his face, and he appeared to be looking back, though it was hard to tell since he wore dark sunglasses. His hair was buzzed to about an inch. He nodded at her. She looked around and seemed to feel eyes now looking from all around her. The people shuffling by seemed to give her shifty glances and whisper about her. Looking down to avoid their judging stares, she realized she had been rubbing her palms together. They were sweaty, and she became consciously aware of anxiety bubbling within her. She looked back over at the man, who still gazed back at her evenly, though he didn’t seem threatening at all. In fact, if anything, looking at him she felt… safe. The feeling from the crowd lessened.

A sound brought her eyes back to the tracks, and she noticed her train had arrived. She headed over to it, looking back to where the man was. He was gone. Even so, the feeling of safety didn’t go away, and she boarded the train home.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rndmnwierd on November 09, 2006, 06:32:55 AM
Wow, what's going on? The suspense killz!
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: Sukoshi on November 09, 2006, 07:45:58 AM
Wah so many mystery men...I want to know who Risa's with :o  !
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: goosefish on November 09, 2006, 09:04:45 AM
Oh Reina, what have you gotten yourself into this time? Joining Ai-chan in whatever sneaky business she's up to can't be good news... can it?
 
And Risa sounded quite odd in the telephone conversation. I wonder who she was with.
 
Suspense!
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: Yuuyami on November 09, 2006, 12:24:05 PM
Suspense :]

Seems Koharu isn't as important to Ai as Reina is? Seeing how Koharu still doesn't know about a lot of things :]...

I don't know why, but now I see slight connections to the Odyssey's  beginning. Call to war, Refusal of the Call, and then finally, going to war... If that really is the case, then we're in for a hell of a story, yes? :]

Who Risa's with also calls my suspision :]...

The mystery men? Now that Reina's 'with' Ai, the men will now gladly protect Reina? At least that's how I'm viewing it o_o. Unless they're with a rival yakuza gang or something o_o...

Write more~! <3
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: lil_hamz on November 09, 2006, 02:00:01 PM
Risa must not be with a date. Why should she sound tired if she is, right?
I'm surprised Reina really looked up Risa. I thought she wouldn't take orders from Ai. And why do I think Koharu wants to be the chosen one? Argh so many questions, update soon please, I can't wait!
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on November 09, 2006, 07:07:21 PM
I thought I'd respond to everyone's comments so that you know I love them all even if I haven't responded directly to you yet, in the hopes of getting more people to comment and hopefully read, too! ^__^ I know it's long though... so take your time!

rndmnwierd: If I told you what was going on now, it'd ruin the fun of the story. ;) You will find out more eventually... but don't expect that everything Reina comes to believe is the truth...

Sukoshi, goosefish & Yuuyami: Everyone wants to know who Risa's with... :roll: (not that I didn't make that an obviously intriguing question ;))

more Yuuyami: Interesting conjectures! You seem to be catching on to a few things, which doesn't surprise me with how you analyze these stories (:)). Will our little Reina follow the heroic arc? She does seem to be a type of hero after all... There is definitely a lot ahead of her still. :)

lil_hamz: :)  Looks like you've caught onto a few small details as well.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on November 10, 2006, 09:48:39 PM
Chapter 12 – The Stars of Fate

A knock on the door prompted Reina to set down her tea and rise slowly. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to do this, but she knew she had to have a friend who understood. She wasn’t crazy about doing anything Ai told her to, but she felt this was more of a “request” anyway. Ai had sounded as if she was genuinely concerned about Risa, which she should be being her best friend and all. Though, Reina wondered how much longer that would be the case, especially since it seemed Ai had almost given her up. She also felt for the girl. She had to have been going through a very rough time, the cause of which Reina only knew a little bit of, and well, Reina just thought of herself as a nice person. She arrived at the door, unlocked it, and opened it wide.

“Eririn…!” she said, visibly surprised.

“Hi Reina,” the other girl responded. “You’re finally home.” Without another word, she doffed her slippers and walked past Reina into her room.

Reina stood there a moment with her hand on the doorknob before pushing it slowly shut. “What are you doing here, Eririn? I’m expecting someone…”

The other girl just plopped on the couch and turned on Reina’s TV. “I was bored. And waiting for you to get here. You’re hard to track down, you know?” Eri didn’t take her eyes off the TV. “Who are you expecting?”

“Um… nobody,” Reina responded, fidgeting a little near the door.

There was another knock on the door. Reina froze where she stood. Eri still didn’t look up from the TV. The knock sounded from the door once again. “Nobody seems to be at the door. Aren’t you going to welcome her in?” Eri said as if absolutely nothing were out of the normal. Reina felt as if her brain was going to explode, but she turned back around to the door.

When she opened it to reveal Risa, the new arrival greeted her. “Hey, Reina-chan.”

“…Hi,” Reina said hollowly.

Risa gave her an odd look and peered beyond her into her room. “You have the TV on. Am I interrupting something?”

“Hey, Gaki-san!” Eri said in a loud voice apparently from the couch.

“Eri?” Risa asked, her voice a bit louder too so the girl within would hear her. Then she looked back at Reina questioningly. “Are you having a party?”

“It would seem so,” Reina said, sighing as if resigning herself to the situation. “Come in, Gaki-san…” The other girl kept looking at Reina a moment as if unsure before she strolled slowly in herself. Reina closed the door, wondering what the world had against her today, and tentatively moved back further into the room.

Risa was standing not in the middle of the room, nervously shifting from foot to foot and casting glances at Eri and the TV. “Want some pocky?” Eri asked, offering some toward Risa.

“Er, sure… thanks,” the fifth gen responded hesitantly, and she headed over to join Eri on the couch, taking a stick of pocky to munch on as well.

Reina was about fed up with the situation. Suddenly taking off from her spot near the door, she marched over to the TV and turned it off, spinning to look at the two girls sitting on the couch, fists at her hips. The two girls looked up at her curiously, both munching on their treats. For some reason Reina had an image of lambs looking up while munching on their feed like when they visited the farms.

“Eri,” she said commandingly. “What are you doing here?”

The other girl looked back at her innocently. “Eating pocky,” she said through her full mouth. Reina’s eyes narrowed.

Risa looked between the two staring at each other and swallowed the last of the pocky she had been chewing on. “Um… I can really leave if I was interrupting you two.”

“No,” Reina said quickly. “I asked you to come here and you’re welcome here. I wanted to talk to you.” Her eyes never left Eri’s wide innocent-looking saucers when she spoke. “I… I want to show you that I’m here for you.” She finally looked over at the other girl, who just appeared mystified. “Please stay.” Risa nodded slowly.

“Eririn…” she began, returning her attention to the still-munching girl. “You know I love having you here but… I need to talk about some personal stuff with Risa. I don’t know if she’d be comfortable having someone else around…”

“Anything she says to you she says to me. Right, Reina?” Eri asked, still acting as casual as ever.

Reina took a deep breath. “It’s okay…” Risa said. “I don’t really have a whole lot to talk about.” She shot a dangerous look at Reina.

“Please, Eririn…” she sucked in air very slowly, committing to a course of action. “I promise I’ll tell you everything I can in a little bit. I just need to talk to Risa alone now. Okay?” With that, she moved to right in front of Eri and pulled her up, wrapping her arms around her and giving the girl a long, deep kiss.

After some time she pulled back, still looking a breathless Eri in the eyes, trying to express as much emotion and honesty as she could in her own. She tried to tell the girl with her eyes that things would be different from now on. Eri for her part looked back at Reina, who had obviously gotten her attention, and swallowed the pocky that was still in her mouth before the kiss.

“The pocky tastes good, by the way,” Reina said, smiling softly.

After Reina let go of her, Eri pulled a little farther back and looked between Reina and a wide-eyed Risa. “Okay,” she said. “You’ll call me later, right?”

“I will,” Reina said definitively, giving a sharp nod.

Eri smiled at that and headed for the door, looking back at Risa. “She’ll take good care of you,” she told the other girl, before slipping out of the room.

Reina, whose eyes had been on Eri the whole way, looked back at Risa, who was still staring bewildered after the departed girl. Reina smiled and sat next to her. “So… How are you, Nii-chan?”

Risa still didn’t seem to have a voice for a moment. “I’m, um… fine,” she said, now giving Reina an odd look. “Since when are you two…?” she asked after a moment, obviously unable to restrain herself any longer or say any more than that.

Reina turned to look ahead as if lost in thought. “I guess it was since what happened… since what happened to Miki. We were always close, though.” Reina looked back at Risa to see her nodding slowly, still looking at Reina as if she’d never seen her before. “What? Do you mean you’ve never thought about that with Ai-chan?”

Immediately when she said that Risa scrunched her nose. “No! Of course not! Why would I…?”

Reina barked a laugh. “That’s right. You’re the innocent one, aren’t you? And you didn’t let her kiss you that one time…” It didn’t get the reaction she was hoping for, though.

Risa’s face suddenly became blank and she seemed to withdraw within herself a little, her eyes looking through Reina at something that might have happened in another place at another time.

Reina put a hand on Risa’s, which was lying on her leg. After a moment she asked tenderly, “What happened the other night, Nii-chan? You said something at our meal yesterday, but… What you said could have meant a lot of different things.”

The other girl looked fearfully at Reina, and Reina felt the hand beneath hers quiver as if with some inner turmoil. She squeezed it a little. Risa looked down at their hands and then back up at Reina. “I shouldn’t be worried that you’re gonna go all pervy on me or anything, right?” she said, attempting a crooked smile and cock-eyed look to try to divert the subject a little.

Reina giggled. She wanted to do her best to amuse the girl and follow her lead in order to be totally unthreatening and help her as best she could. “I don’t know…” she said sarcastically. “You are pretty hot, especially since I know you and Ai-chan aren’t together. If I didn’t have Eri, you might have to watch yourself!” The other girl finally let out a small giggle of her own. “So…” Reina began, thinking this was a good opportunity. “Who’d you have dinner with? I’ve been dying to know. Our innocent Nii-chan wasn’t out on a date, was she?”

Risa’s eyes widened in a mock scandalized look. “Of course not! What are you talking about? I couldn’t possibly…” She shook her head vehemently. “I was… um…” She looked up at Reina again, as if unsure whether to tell her something. “Well, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt telling you. You’ll be the first to know though, and you have to keep it a secret until it’s officially announced!” Reina nodded quickly, overcome with eagerness at whatever scandalous thing the girl next to her might be up to.

“I’m doing another photobook!” she said cheerfully.

Reina laughed. Well, so much for scandal. “Good for you!” She raised Risa’s hand in hers and clapped it between her own a few times. Risa laughed softly too at the other girl’s oddness. Suddenly though, Reina dropped their hands back to Risa’s leg and adopted an over-serious look. “That doesn’t tell me who you were with, though,” she said, unable to hide a smirk at the end.

The other girl rolled her eyes. “Who I was with…” she began, “was part of the crew. It was our first meeting to discuss our ‘vision’ of what we want the book to be like. I was meeting with Yamamoto-san, Kaho-chan and Tsuyama-san. They’re going to be the main staff for it, I think.”

Reina’s ears caught one of the names Risa just gave her. “Tsuyama-san?” A flower she hadn’t thought of for days came to her mind suddenly.

“Yeah,” Risa said. “I know he’s a little young, but he’s apparently going to be the senior assistant photographer for this job. Why…” Something suddenly dawned on the girl. “Wait! He was the one you were with at the memorial, wasn’t he?” Reina looked down to hide her deep blush. Risa poked her side with her free hand. “What, are you afraid I’m going to steal him from you or something? Of course…” she said, as if thinking about something, “Since you’re with Eri I guess that’s not it.” Suddenly she looked up and gave Reina a hard look. “If I catch you two-timing that poor girl, I’ll wring your neck!” She held the menacing air a moment before breaking out in another giggle.

Reina joined her after a few seconds. She felt like loosening her collar. Was it getting hot in here? “I don’t care,” she said, trying to appear as if that were true. Deciding a slight change of subject was most definitely in hand, she continued, “I’m happy to hear you’re finally being recognized for how insanely cute you are,” she said with a grin. It was now Risa’s turn to blush. “But…” Her mind adopted a more solemn mood. “Are you really okay? I don’t mean to push too…”

“No, it’s all right,” Risa said dismissively. “Thank you for making me laugh. I haven’t done that for a while.” She looked up at Reina, this time with no fear, but honesty, as if appealing to Reina’s friendship. Reina smiled encouragingly, glad she’d been able to make the girl comfortable with her. “Like I told you last night, yesterday morning I… didn’t wake up in my own bed. I was in a room of that hotel at the end of the alley behind the club. You know which I mean?” Reina nodded, worry creeping up a bit more within her. “I…” she hesitated slightly, but only slightly, before going on in slight embarrassment. “I was in only my underwear. My clothes were on the floor next to my bed. Nobody else was there and… I don’t remember a thing about how I got there.” She paused after that, and Reina couldn’t help but squeeze her hand a little harder.

“I’m sorry I left you like I did at the club,” she apologized.

Risa shook her head. “It’s not your fault. I was stupid. After you left, I ordered the bartender to give me a real drink, unlike the fake one he gave you, and even though he objected I wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Unfortunately I also know enough to know what’s real and what’s not.”

“You’re not that innocent after all then, eh?” Reina asked, looking up with her eyes at the other girl, her head still lowered slightly.

Risa laughed softly. “No, I’m not. I am eighteen now, you know. There are some things I know too well. In fact, after what happened that night I’m not sure if I can be called ‘innocent’ at all anymore…” She didn’t say anything for a few seconds. “After I woke up I checked myself out enough to realize that I hadn’t… at least fully… done anything. Apparently whatever happened, it only involved me in my underwear. Still…”

Reina pulled the other girl’s hand up and kissed it lightly. “Nii-chan, you didn’t do anything. Whatever happened, it was done to you. And if I ever find that guy, even if he didn’t go past your underwear, I’m going to kick his ass!” Images of Ai with her knives flashed through Reina’s mind, and she wondered if, before too long, she would be capable of fulfilling that promise and much more. Well, that wasn’t what was important now.

Risa laid her head on Reina’s shoulder. “Thank you, Reina. It just felt good talking about it with someone.”

Reina’s free arm was now wrapped around Risa’s neck, and she brushed back her bangs a little. “Of course. I’m glad you trust me as a friend.”

“I do.” Risa said, raising her head to look into Reina’s eyes. She then looked down at Reina’s hand which was now joined with hers near the top of her thigh. “Hey, no pervy stuff, remember?” she demanded. They both giggled at that.

After talking a little longer, Risa said she really had to get going as she had a lot of work to do, so the two girls hugged and said their goodbyes for now. When Risa was gone, Reina basked in the still silence for a few minutes before picking up her phone.

“Moshi moshi.”

“Eririn? Um, would you like to come over now? Gaki-san left.”

There was no response, and after a moment Reina was about to ask if the other girl was still there when there was a knock on the door. Carrying her open phone with her, she opened the door to find Eri standing there, her phone to her ear still. “Hello,” the other girl said lightly.

Reina chuckled. “Come on in, silly,” she said, dragging the girl into the room. Their phones were soon forgotten in the kiss Reina pulled her into. After what seemed like hours and a fraction of a second, Reina’s lips came away from Eri’s and she caught her breath. “That was quick,” she said with a grin.

Eri tore herself away from her and plopped herself down on the bed, looking invitingly up at Reina. Reina wasn’t quite ready for that yet though, and sat over on the couch, enjoying Eri’s pouting look of disappointment.

“You have to let me keep my promise, don’t you?” Reina asked tauntingly. Eri looked at her curiously. “I was going to tell you what’s going on.” Eri sighed and moved over to drop next to Reina on the couch.

Reina told her of some of her feelings since Miki’s death. She told her how it affected her, and that she wished she could do something about it. She told her about the detective, whom Eri gave a surprised yelp about. She told her about the club the other night and the strange men that approached her afterward, saying that they gave her an offer which they left her to think about. She told her about her worries that something was going on. She told her about Aya’s strangeness ever since the accident which apparently only she had seen firsthand. She told her that Risa had been going through a lot, but not what, saying that it wasn’t her place to tell her that story. Being a good person, Eri understood that.

She didn’t tell her about Ai. Or Koharu from today. Throughout the whole telling of the story, she left out all the little bits that included her, except when it was necessary to acknowledge her presence. If she told her anything about that, she feared she’d fall into the same trap Reina had found herself in. She didn’t want that to happen to Eririn. She wanted to protect her.

After their long talk, they finally made it to the bed. For some reason, now that they had shared more with each other, it was a much different experience than before. It was softer… sweeter… more wonderful. It almost felt like they were closer than they had ever been before. Still, Reina felt that they weren’t as close as they could be. It was a feeling an obviously blissful Eri didn’t seem to share.

After an amount of time Reina had no clue to the length of, except for knowing that night had fully fallen outside, Eri pulled herself from Reina’s arms and got out of bed. Reina looked up at her in disappointment.

“I’m going back to my room to sleep,” she stated, pulling her clothes on.

Reina now felt like the one with her stomach emptied. “Huh? Why?” she asked uncertainly.

“You kick too much in your sleep,” the other girl responded with a grin. Reina sat up in the bed, pulling her sheets around her, grimacing. “I feel like one of these mornings I’d wake up with bruises all over after sleeping next to you!” she continued.

Reina pouted. “I’m sorry... But do you have to…?”

Eri giggled, leaning over to kiss Reina’s cheek. “Don’t act so hurt silly. But… we’re even now.” Eri grinned, and Reina sighed. She supposed the girl was right. “Seriously, though. I’d love to stay with you but… I have a lot of work to do, and I think you need sleep a lot more than me.” Reina began to protest, but Eri shushed her by continuing, “No objections. I’m making sure my little Reina gets plenty of sleep tonight! You’ve had a long few weeks.” Reina now kept her mouth closed. She didn’t want to argue any more. The girl was probably right anyway. “I’ll find you when it’s dark…” Ai’s words sounded through her mind. Yes, it was probably best to let the girl have her way.

“Okay,” Reina grudgingly agreed. “I’ll see you at rehearsal in the morning then?”

Eri nodded. “Yeah. I won’t get to sleep until late tonight, so I’ll be sleeping in as long as I can.” Having now fully dressed, she grabbed her box of pocky and stood to look at Reina a moment. “You look cute sitting with the covers around you like that,” Eri said, smiling. Reina blushed. “Of course, you look better without them…” That made Reina blush furiously. “Good night~!” Eri cheerily said with a sing-song voice, and flipped around, heading for the door.

“Good night,” Reina said quietly to her back. In a moment she was gone, and Reina was left sitting within her covers. She laid back, hands behind her head, and peered out the window at the stars. She saw one shooting down to the horizon. Her mother always told her that shooting stars signaled change. Things were definitely changing all right. She wondered how far it’d go. She turned her head back to the ceiling, which kept her from noticing many other stars shooting across the horizon as well. Shadows seemed to play across the ceiling from outside. She tried following them until they all disappeared.

The next thing she knew, she woke up, lying on her side facing off the side of the bed. She wondered why it didn’t feel like she was wearing anything under the covers until she remembered what happened earlier. After shifting a little, she decided that she’d have to try this more often. It had a nice feel to it. While she was adjusting her leg, she felt it brush up against something warm and she froze. She scooted back a little more and realized that there was something warm along her full length. Someone was with her in the bed. Had Eri come back?

She turned over slowly beneath the covers, and when her eyes adjusted she gasped. Miki’s face stared from beside her.

“Why did you kill me?” the dead girl said.

“I… I…” Reina stuttered, hardly able to form words.

“Were you the one?” the apparition asked. Her hand came out from beneath the covers to rest on Reina’s bare shoulder. “You must help me. Heed the messenger, though she brings tidings of concern. The one who wishes, if she gains all, she loses everything. Listen for my voice…” Miki’s other hand took Reina’s other shoulder and pulled her close. Reina tried to scream when their lips were about to meet, but couldn’t…

She woke sweating. She was staring off to the side just as she was before, breathing heavily. The room was quiet around her. It was a dream! she told herself. She forced herself to calm down. It was a dream…

“Bad dream?” a voice asked from next to her, bringing her out of her thoughts. So Eri had come back…

She turned over, but no one was lying next to her. There was, however, someone sitting cross-legged on the other side of the bed, chin in her hands, looking down at the sweat-drenched girl. She glanced up and down Reina’s body. “While that’s pretty hot what you’ve got going there with the sheets stuck to you all over, don’t you think you should put some clothes on? We have a lot of work to do. Oh, and don’t worry about getting too little sleep before rehearsal tomorrow. It’s been… cancelled. For you, at least. Well, are you gonna move?” Reina just stared, frozen, up into the face of the girl who was sitting above her. Into Ai’s face.

_________________________________

I have to say, I'm very happy about this chapter. I hope you all enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it. :)
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: Yuuyami on November 10, 2006, 10:12:04 PM
Yay! More Odyssey connections XD. The Miki appariation was what stuck out the most :]

To be honest, I wondered how Ai felt, walking in on Reina like that XD. And for a second there, I thought Reina was going to do something to Risa too o_o... Actually, now that I think about it...

Thinking back to Reina and Ai, and Reina and Eri, and connections to the Odyssey, Odysseus winded up being with countless women (usually against his will), so will that mean Reina will end up kissing/sleeping with a lot as well? o_o;

Anywho, do continue with your story~!
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: Sukoshi on November 11, 2006, 03:21:01 AM
Wow what a great chapter! :panda_love: It was a really good read! :D

Quote from: rokun;232563


Reina’s ears caught one of the names Risa just gave her. “Tsuyama-san?” A flower she hadn’t thought of for days came to her mind suddenly.



Another mystery man!  well I guess he would be mystery guy number 1....I wonder if he works for the mistress...:ONdunno:

Quote from: rokun;232563


“Since you’re with Eri I guess that’s not it.” Suddenly she looked up and gave Reina a hard look. “If I catch you two-timing that poor girl, I’ll wring your neck!” She held the menacing air a moment before breaking out in another giggle.



This can't be good if Risa finds out that Reina's kissing Ai...whose neck does she wring first?!:ONerr: ...not that Risa's interested in Ai or anything but Reina's two timing too close to home!  and I think Risa's next on the list afterall she was kissing Risa's hand! :ONding:

Quote from: rokun;232563


“I was in only my underwear. My clothes were on the floor next to my bed. Nobody else was there and… I don’t remember a thing about how I got there.” She paused after that, and Reina couldn’t help but squeeze her hand a little harder.



Hum...I think the mysterious hotel person might be Ai...she seems to know exactly what Reina is doing all the time so maybe she could also tell what Risa's up to....I'm still wondering if Ai has special powers or if she gets her information from her mobsters.

I'm also wondering if it was really an appariation or not...it seems more like a dream so far since the message is exactly the same as the one Aya had...

ah so many questions!  I'm so loving this story! :tfr9a7wg:
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rndmnwierd on November 12, 2006, 01:07:05 AM
GJ! I'm eager to see where the night will take Reina.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on November 18, 2006, 06:50:41 AM
Tension. It's a feeling we all love, and it's a feeling we all dread. In my stories my beloved readers seem to find tension everywhere. I suppose I think it's a device that tells a fine story. Dear readers, we'll see what you think. In this chapter I hoped to build tension within you and never let you out of its grasp. I hope I don't let you down. :)

Chapter 13 – Naked Truth

*clunk!!!*

The wrong end of a knife clanged off the pegboard wall Reina was attempting to throw it at, causing her wrist to be grabbed for what seemed like the hundredth time in the early dawn. The girl behind her jerked her wrist to the side in an imitation of the motion she’d been trying to teach Reina for an hour now.

“Remember, you have to be quick,” the girl said. “Just a snap, a flick of your wrist, where you have a high percentage of the strength of your ki focused. Remember that focus. It is the key to everything you’re learning.”

Reina didn’t think she could focus on the broadside of a barn right now after the hours of early morning torture the surprising girl had put her through. This wasn’t exactly the “information” she was thinking of when she agreed to join her.

It had started almost right when she woke up to find the girl sitting beside her in her bed. Ai advised her to get up from her bed and dress for a workout, but had continued staring at her when she slipped from her sheets and wandered around the room naked trying to find her clothes. She’d been at bath with the girl before, but this time seemed… different, somehow. She felt dirty when she knew the girl’s eyes were on her. It made her uncomfortable but… there was a strange exhilaration to it, as well.

After she managed to find her clothes, Ai had almost dragged her from her room and on a long walk through the cold city until she had no idea where she was. Eventually they wound up at a dark-looking building, and Ai took her down some stairs at a side and into this place which she supposed was some kind of training area, though tonight at least, there was nobody else around.

Since they arrived here, Ai had been drilling her on anything from meditation exercises to what seemed like a strange kind of yoga to what she had been doing for the past hours, techniques of knife-throwing. She wasn’t sure how she felt about dealing with these very real weapons, but was left with no opportunity to question it. She thought she began to understand how Ai had excelled at so many things, from singing and her ballet to whatever she knew now – the girl had an amazing amount of discipline. And she seemed to intend Reina to have even more.

Very conscious of the girl standing quite closely behind her holding her wrist, Reina’s breathing quickened. Whether it was due to that or just her seeming failure to grasp any point of what Ai had been trying to teach, she surprisingly felt the pressure ease from her hand and the girl stepped back away from her.

“Well, it seems you do have quite a potential.” Having no idea what the girl meant after Reina’s failures the past few hours, Reina turned around to give her a weary look. Ai looked into her face for a moment before continuing, “Although… I think it’s best now if we take a little… break.”

She led Reina into a smaller room with a kotatsu holding two large teacups. Reina almost shouted with glee when she saw it because the training room was freezing, especially with her dressed only in a tank and shorts for workout clothes. Thankfully the physical activity she was doing kept her a little warm, but at times like these when she stopped she could barely even keep her teeth from chattering. She ran to the kotatsu and eagerly stowed her legs under its blanket. Hugging her body with her arms to warm herself the best she could, after a moment she remembered where she was and looked around for Ai.

The other girl had disappeared for the moment, but Reina had no desire to go away from the warm spot where she was. Not that she had any reason to look for the girl anyway… since she was really here against her will to begin with and all. After a moment Ai came in with a pot of steaming tea and Reina almost yelped for joy again.

Ai sat across from Reina and delicately poured their tea with what looked like quite a practiced technique. Reina wondered if that was part of her training. It did seem to require quite a bit of control. Immediately when Ai was done pouring Reina’s cup, she grabbed it and sniffed it automatically before taking a large quaff. It was different than any tea she had tasted before. It was delicious.

As she drank the strange tea, she felt herself warm up considerably. She also felt re-energized. After a moment, she held the cup in both hands below her nose, savoring the aroma and gazing curiously at the girl across from her. Ai sipped her tea just as delicately as she poured it, not seeming to even pay Reina much mind at first.

“Well you’ve shown me so far how horrible I am at concentrating, so what do you have for me next? Gonna show me how weak I am? It seemed that’s where you were headed with that last little exercise with the knives.”

“Maybe,” the girl responded simply between sips of her tea.

Reina waited for more, but more did not come. “One of the reasons I accepted your gracious offer was to learn something of what’s been going on lately. Like what happened to Miki. I haven’t heard you breathe a word about that this morning.”

“Your mind must be trained before it can contain the inferno of knowledge,” Ai said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

Reina stared at her. “I have no idea what you just said.” The blasted girl just continued sipping daintily at her tea. This was starting to get annoying. “All I want to know is about what happened with Mikitty. What are you, some Zen sensei or something now?”

Ai calmly brought the cup from her lips and set it gently on the tabletop. After looking down at it for a second, without raising her chin her eyes shot up to Reina. What was in those eyes took Reina’s breath away.

“I’ve told you I killed Miki,” she stated quietly and a bit dangerously. Darkness seemed to emanate from the shadows of her lowered face, her eyes the only jewels shining out from the twilight. “What more do you wish to know?”

Reina finally found breath to speak after what might have been a minute. “Why?” she breathed at last. It felt like it was getting frosty instead of warm beneath the table.

Ai finally raised her head and reached for the teapot behind her. “Would you like some more tea?” She poured more into the cup Reina just noticed had become empty. Reina wasn’t sure what was going on here…

After she replaced the pot behind her, Ai turned back to Reina. “You show so much strength.” Her eyes glowed at Reina, though her face was no longer dark. “But I wonder if you have the will to do what needs to be done…” She said that last even more quietly, almost as if to herself. Reina chose not to respond, and soon Ai’s attention returned to her.

“Let me tell you a story about a girl,” she began. “This girl was unhappy, even though millions loved her. She felt she wasn’t given what she thought she was worth. Because of this, she wanted more. However, I believe she just fulfilled the worth that was in her mind, whether it was truth or not. One day, a day not unlike a day you lived through recently, she met a man. She met a man who worked in the shadows yet offered her all she could possibly want. Against all reason she trusted the man, and began to learn about a different world. This world was fascinating at first, but it soon became unfamiliar… and terrifying. This wasn’t her world and she had no business trying to fool anyone that it was, least of all herself. She wanted to leave, but this grip, once tightened, does not release. Soon, it was not only about her.”

Ai paused a moment and sipped at her tea. Reina’s tea was held forgotten in her hand, as she was captivated by the vague but intriguing tale she was hearing.

“So… Miki…?” Reina began, unable to find the words to finish her question.

Ai finished her tea and set it on the tabletop. “Are you warm?”

Surprised at the question, Reina responded quickly, “Yes, thank you.”

“Good. Then it’s time for more training.” Ai rose from her comfortable-looking seat and stretched slightly. “We’ll stick with the knives for a while yet; probably the rest of the day. You still need to find your focus.”

Reina peered pleadingly up at the girl, not willing to leave the warmth that was cradling her legs. “You saw how exhausted I was after we finished a bit ago. There’s no way I’m gonna be able to keep going like that. I’ve gotten hardly any sleep…”

Ai made her way to Reina and leaned down to grab her arm, pulling her up quickly to squeaks of protest as Reina’s legs grazed the table. Ai grinned. “There’s a little more strength left in those chicken arms and legs of yours than you think, dear Reina.”

Reina shook off the girl’s hand and glared at her. Intensity flared within her body as it came to life with strength she’d not felt in what seemed like ages. “Stop making fun of me!” she demanded. After a moment of Ai just smiling at her, her fury faded and she was left with the energy in her muscles, confused.

“I take it you noticed that was no ordinary tea. Now you’re noticing some of its effects.” Reina darted a glance down at her cup. “Don’t worry, I told you that you would learn everything. I’ll teach you how to make it in time, when you’re ready, because there will be times when you need a little extra… jolt.” At the last word, Ai once again grabbed Reina’s wrists, pinned them behind her body, and pulled Reina tightly against her in a move too fast for Reina to catch. With the breath suddenly jolted from her lungs, Reina looked into the face of the girl just inches away. “Just remember, sometimes it takes more than that to succeed. There’s one question you need to ask yourself – now, and whenever you’re threatened. Do you want to live… or die?”

Reina’s breathing quickened throughout Ai’s whole speech, no longer just from inability to use her lungs but from growing horror. “I…” she gasped. “I want to live…” Tears began to come to her eyes. “Ai… Ai-chan… I’m just a girl.”

Ai stared at her hard a moment before quickly pressing her mouth to Reina’s, giving her breath, giving her a hint of comfort, while still holding her in an unbreakable embrace throughout what became a long kiss. Reina felt like her world was held in the arms of this unusual girl. She couldn’t feel anything except the tight embrace around her and the surprisingly soft lips cemented to her own. Images flashed through her head of knives, of Miki, of Eri. It was pure sensation. Was she in heaven… or hell?

She felt the lips withdrawing from her own, leaving only their moist imprint behind. Her breathing didn’t slow, but she could hardly even tell if the girl holding her was breathing. She felt like she’d been torn away from ecstasy, and given a reprieve from torturous exile.

“Then…” Ai spoke, “The time for questions must be over for now, and you must learn to survive. And dominate.”

Captivated by the power the other girl held over her, Reina found it impossible to disagree. A feeling dawned on her from the core of her being. She began to understand.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: lil_hamz on November 18, 2006, 09:45:03 AM
I wasn't expecting Ai to put Reina through training so late in the night. And the way she just appears in her room is kinda unsettling XD
It's another great chapter as always :yay:
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: Sukoshi on November 18, 2006, 11:34:20 AM
Ahhh~  All I thought after reading the last part was poor Eri...Reina's so likeable in the story yet still so unfaithful and clueless :ONsweat:

Survive and dominate? :ONshock: hum...that makes me wonder who the real enemy is :ONdunno:
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: Yuuyami on November 18, 2006, 04:30:40 PM
(Woot~! 300th post on this story <3)

I have this feeling that Ai and Reina are more connected than they realize. Like how Ai seems like she too, was forced to be who she is against her will, and now Reina is following the same path as Ai. And of course, I think I'm kinda right on how Reina might play the role of the woman who winds up sleeping with others against her will o-o, seeing how you finally put a slight implication in there when Reina thought of others, and Eri, and thought of whether she was in heaven or hell. Poor Reina ; ;... Nonetheless, I definitely look forward to your future chapters.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rndmnwierd on November 19, 2006, 02:14:34 AM
Wow, intense. ...That's really all I can think to say right now...
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on November 20, 2006, 04:20:37 PM
Thank you all for reading! XD That chapter was a bit serious because it's the beginning of Reina's path, but the next one will change and hopefully be lighter. ^^ I've almost got it written and should have it up later today sometime!

Sukoshi: Lol, yep Reina's been pretty clueless, hasn't she? That might change a little now though that she's beginning to train her mind... You might see some progress in the next chapter.

Yuu-chan: Ai's motives and purpose might be somewhat un-ascertainable for quite a while still. ;) She's a complex person right now... And we'll see what comes of Reina's relationship issues!

rndmnwierd: Hope I didn't fry anything in your head with the tension! :lol: <3
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on November 20, 2006, 09:37:48 PM
As promised! This should be more of a fun chapter. :grin:

Chapter 14 – The Warmth of a Cup of Coffee

“Hey Reina-chan…” Eri piped up when she finally got the time to talk to the girl in question. “Where have you been all weekend? I tried calling you dozens of times… Did you lose your phone?”

Reina continued her stretches in the short time they had between rehearsal numbers. For some reason, these stretches didn’t seem to hurt as much as they used to. She also swore she was able to reach farther down her leg. She could always catch her toes easily – she’d always thought of herself as quite flexible and proud of it – but now she could grab her whole foot and squeeze it with no problem. The feel of a gaze on her leg, bare below her short gym shorts, made her turn to look at the girl sitting cross-legged next to her. Did she even try?

Eri shook her head as if coming out of some kind of trance. Noticing her come back to reality, Reina asked slyly, “My leg’s that sexy, huh?”

The other girl blushed and bowed her head, before mumbling “Of course it is” under her breath. Not one to be distracted however, at least about this, she quickly raised her head and asked again, “So about the weekend…”

“I was busy,” Reina said dismissively. “You do know what that’s like… right?” She raised her eyebrows at the other girl. “I’ve found it’s best to keep myself occupied since what happened to Miki. I guess it’s the opposite for you?”

“But I do keep busy!” Eri protested. “Saturday I went shopping with Sayu and Koha-chan, and Sunday I practiced my religion.”

Reina grimaced to the floor, still clutching her foot. Shopping. She had a feeling it might be a while before she did something quite that novel again. And… religion? She looked up at Eri, whose wide innocent eyes stared back insistently. “What religion do you practice anyway? I don’t think I’ve ever heard you mention it before.”

“Oh it’s quite complex,” Eri said, nodding to make sure Reina knew exactly how complex she was implying. “I’d tell you a bit about it but I imagine you wouldn’t understand. Maybe sometime…”

“That’s all right,” Reina said, releasing her foot and pulling her knees up to hug them against her chest. “I don’t need any more spiritual enlightenment at the moment anyway.”

Eri nodded wisely, apparently quite agreed that was the best thing to do. Reina wondered what her dear friend regarded as so complex and almost barked a laugh.

“So you were busy this weekend, huh?” Eri asked in one more futile attempt.

“Yep.”

Reina hopped up and nearly bounced over to the floor for the next rehearsal. She heard Eri follow behind, although she didn’t look back.

“Excellent energy, Tanaka-san!” the choreographer crowed in a bubbly voice. “If everyone shares your effort, we should be done in half an hour!” She then quickly pulled all the girls together and they ran through the set for their encore. After an hour passed, they were still seemingly endlessly waving their hands and making peace signs. Reina was becoming bored after having done it perfectly since fifteen minutes after they started, but praise from the choreographer – “That’s exactly how it should be done! Why doesn’t everyone have Tanaka-san’s energy?” – didn’t seem to have much of an effect. Reina was very conscious of a feeling of being watched the whole time, though, and she knew by whom.

After the day of rehearsal was up, Reina still felt energized and ready to do anything. Maybe what she was being forced to go through wasn’t that bad after all. The girls all filed out of the studio and said their otsukaresama deshitas before reaching the freedom of the hallway. Reina chatted a little with a few of the other girls and was turning a corner while talking to Risa and Sayu when they ran into a few of the members of C-ute, including her imouto-chan she hadn’t seen since the memorial.

“Airin, hi!” she said cheerfully. “Are you guys having rehearsal today too?”

The other girl smiled enthusiastically back at her. “Yes, we were just on our way there! I’ve just come from school with Leader and Chisa-chan. It’s nice to see you!” The two girls she named bowed and greeted the three Musume when Airi mentioned them.

“So what have you been up to lately?” Reina asked, happy with the diversion from what has become her daily life.

“Oh, we just started up rehearsals again over the weekend,” the young but talented girl responded. “They were worried about us, but I don’t think any of us are having trouble really. It’s sad about Miki…” she paused a second, bowing her head, “But none of us really knew her that well aside from the few that backed her up in her videos years ago. And that was, well, years ago…”

Risa nodded at Airi’s words. “Yeah. Miki kind of kept to herself even among most of us. It’s too bad… I know I wish I’d gotten to know her better.”

Reina piped up immediately after Risa finished speaking, eager to change the subject. “So what have you guys been rehearsing the last few days? I haven’t kept track of what all you have coming out.”

Airi laughed at that and poked Reina in the arm. “You haven’t?! I’m hurt!” she said, and held her hands beneath her eyes, mocking crying.

“Airin-chan, be nice!” Maimi grinned, and looked to the Musume. Reina felt that the leader of C-ute would fit quite well with Morning Musume’s image. She was a hell of a lot more sophisticated-looking than Koharu, for example. That damn kid… she thought as the girl came into her mind. She looked around to see no one but the six of them in the passage. She’d have to look her up sometime and harass her a little more. Ai had told her a bit of what was going on with her, and she was eager to take care of that little issue as soon as possible.

Maimi went on in an explanatory tone, “Actually, we’re picking up again with recording of our new album, Cutie Queen 2. It’s been tough without Megu-chan, but we’re doing our best!” She said that last very proudly as if to convince the three Musume she was keeping her troupe in line. She didn’t notice Airi and Chisato giggle softly and roll their eyes at it as well. “Hopefully we’ll get someone from your 8th gen auditions, too. Someone like that Satou. She’s our age, and I think her voice would go perfectly with Airin-chan’s!”

Sayu smiled cutely at C-ute’s leader and spoke up finally herself, “I know! She seems very talented, but I’m just not sure if she’d fit in with us… She looks too much like Nii-chan here, and one of those is all we can handle I think!”

“He~y…” Risa whined, and punched a giggling Sayu in the arm playfully.

Reina cleared her throat, grinning herself. This was too good of an opportunity, and she was going to make the best of it she could while she had the chance. “If Nii-chan will stop molesting my friends…” - “I’m not molesting!” Risa protested with puffed cheeks – “…Would you guys like to talk more? We have tons to catch up on! There’s a coffee and tea shop just down the street. Would you join us if you have time before your rehearsal starts?”

Airi and Chisato both looked at their leader, who gave a quick nod. “Yeah. We have a little time. We were just going to chill for a while before it started, but I’m sure we’d have much more fun with you guys too!” The other two girls turned and beamed to the three Musume.

They turned to walk toward the elevator, and all the girls began chatting among themselves. Airi hung on Reina’s sleeve. “Nee-chan, I’m so happy to see you! Where have you been the past week?”

“Hey Gaki-san, you know I absolutely love your solo songs, and I haven’t gotten the chance to tell you how awesome you sounded in Koe on the last tour!” Chisato gushed. “I’m kind of scared… For some reason they’ve given me a solo song on our next album! Do you have any tips?”

“Yassui-chan, have you been training a lot? You seem a lot more… fit… than I remember…” Sayu said, giving Maimi quite an appraisal and frowning down at her own legs and stomach. The other girl blushed profusely.

Ahh, it’s nice to have things back to normal for at least a short while on an evening… Reina thought. As they passed a crossing corridor, her awareness caused her to look sharply down it at a figure standing still and watching them. She stared for the split-second they passed and gave a lightning-quick shake of her head that she knew the other would notice. She didn’t need baby-sitting now. As the figure fell out of sight and they continued on, she thought with confidence that it wouldn’t be long before she never needed it again.



It was a fun time, albeit short, as the six girls chatted over coffee and tea. Reina didn’t have a drink herself, despite the urges of her friends, telling them that she just wasn’t thirsty. She wasn’t; but that wasn’t all of it. Regular tea just seemed to have lost its appeal lately, and she was already way too wired for any coffee. It made her happy though… She was able to keep up easily with the kids. It made her feel young again and not like a girl who just turned seventeen. Seventeen… Damn, she was getting old. Well, thankfully it seemed to be stopping a little!

After only a half hour or so the C-ute girls had to leave, hugging each of the Musume and reaffirming that they should hang out more often. Just before she left, Airi told Reina that she was looking forward to getting together with her and Miya for Aa! practice for the upcoming short H!P winter concert tour. Reina didn’t even know they would be getting together for that. The young girl sure did keep well-informed. Nonetheless, it made her excited. She loved working with her two kouhai, even though sometimes it seemed they stole the stage from her. Well, she’d see if that would still be the case from now on.

When the C-uties were gone Reina sat lounging in her chair while Risa and Sayu delicately sipped their respective drinks. “Well, that was fun wasn’t it?” Sayu said smiling after softly setting her tea back on the table.

“U~n,” Risa chimed, smacking her lips after the sip of her own cappuccino. “It’s nice to hang out with girls who have as much energy as me sometimes,” she said, grinning at a now pouting Sayu and wonky eye rolling Reina. “Although…” she continued, “Reina-chan seems to be besting me at that today.” She gave the girl in question a skeptical look. “I guess I just can’t keep the energy anymore at my age,” she said wistfully, stretching creaking bones in a perfect image that just begged for pity.

“Be careful there or you might break something,” Reina said, hardly stifling a giggle. Risa gave her a mock affronted glare.

“So Reina-chan…” Sayu said slowly and with a cutely serious expression, sliding the tip of a finger along the rim of her cup. “I heard from Eri that you wouldn’t tell her what you were up to all weekend. I hope it wasn’t anything too scandalous. I’m sure we’d hate to see you in Friday again.”

Reina leaned forward, the front feet of her chair hitting the floor from being raised in her lounging. “I told her why I was busy,” she mumbled. “Nah, I don’t think you guys will be seeing me in Friday anytime soon,” she said louder and with a wink.

Risa chuckled a little, looking down at and playing with her cup. “Hopefully none of us will be in Friday ever again…” she said ponderingly, with quick peering glances up at Reina.

Reina took a hint and looked over to Sayu. “Sayumin, would you hold the table for us? I need to use the washroom.” She glanced now to Risa. “Would you like to join?” Risa nodded and the two rose from the table.

Sayu pouted. “He~y…!” she said, “Oh fine, you two run off without me. I’ll just sit here. Alone. And look cute.”

“You do that,” Risa said with a wink and pointed finger, and the two girls walked off leaving the Ichiban Kawaii behind.

Reina and Risa didn’t say anything until they entered the washroom, and once there Reina went to a sink to peer into the mirror as if to fix her makeup. “So… how are you doing?” she asked the other girl, who was pulling at part of her hair for some reason.

“I’m okay,” she responded. “I went back to the club Saturday night but couldn’t find out about anything that happened last week.”

Reina nodded understandingly. “Well, if anything does happen again, we’ll make sure you’re safe,” she said reassuringly.

The other girl looked over at her. “We?”

“Mhm. Ai-chan and I.”

Risa stared at her. “Ai-chan? What does she have to do with anything that involves me?” There was a hint of bitterness and anger in her voice.

Reina turned to her. “Ai-chan and I have become… close lately,” she said in explanation. “She knows that something happened to you – don’t give me that look Nii-chan, I didn’t tell her, she just knew – and between the two of us we’ve decided to do our best to make sure you’re safe from now on.”

“Safe?!” Risa yelped. “I don’t need you two to take care of me! I’m even older than you at least and plenty able to take care of myself, thank you very much!”

“Oh,” Reina said nonchalantly and turned back to the mirror to pick at an eyelash. “Didn’t you tell me you woke up nearly undressed in a hotel room you didn’t remember going to?” She tensed herself, knowing what would come, eager to put some of her new skills to the test.

From beside her in the mirror as well as through her burgeoning instincts, she noticed the girl lunging at her from the side. Before Risa reached her however, Reina felt as if time slowed down and she spun rapidly to the side to face her assailant, reaching out to take a firm grip on the girl’s shoulders, and as time sped up again her lips left the girl’s nose after a quick and light kiss. Risa was stopped dead in her tracks and stared stunned at the girl who held her.

“You’d better be careful Nii-chan. How quickly you forget the talk we had last week. You wouldn’t want me to get frisky now, would you?” she said, grinning.

Risa stared into the grinning face across from her that showed surprising tenderness and empathy. Reina understood how she felt, but she had to get the girl to stop being so jumpy and sensitive all the time or she’d never be able to heal. Before long, Reina saw moisture bloom around the eyes of her senpai and relaxed her grip, allowing Risa to fall forward and hug her, now beginning to breathe heavily with tears.

Reina patted Risa’s back just a little awkwardly. She’d gotten more comfortable than she used to be in situations like this recently, but she still didn’t fully have the knack of it. At least this girl wasn’t as old as Aya and was someone she’d been close to for a while. The thought of the peach girl caused a momentary shadow to pass through her mind, and she involuntarily squeezed Risa a little tighter, but the crying girl didn’t seem to notice.

“I’m…” she began between sobs, “I’m sorry Reina. I should have told you the truth from the beginning. I suppose I didn’t fully trust you yet.” She pulled back slightly from Reina’s chest and looked her in the eyes, sniffing. “I… do remember what happened that night. I had a few drinks, but not that many. Just enough to get me a little wound up, especially after what had happened earlier with you and Ai-chan.” Reina tried to picture the girl wound up as she claimed to have been – that is, more so than usual. She failed.

Risa’s sniffling seemed to get better, and Reina offered her a tissue she accepted graciously before continuing. “And then…” The sound of a door opening interrupted her, and the two girls both snapped their heads to look at the culprit. The young woman who had just entered, an office-worker by the look of her, took only a step before her eyes widened while looking at the two girls standing there with their arms around each other – one of them also with a red and wet face – and bowed low, murmuring hasty apologies and slowly backing directly away, fumbling with the knob before exiting the room and disappearing quickly from sight.

The girls turned back to each other. “And then...” Risa resumed as if nothing had happened, “A really cute boy from some band I’ve never heard of started talking to me. I was feeling really down, and he seemed nice, so one thing led to another and…” She looked down, but Reina squeezed her arms reassuringly. Risa gave a small smile as she looked back up to Reina. “Well, we ended up in that hotel room and messed around a little bit, but then he wanted to go further than I did and wouldn’t at first take ‘no’ for an answer…” Her eyes now disassociated from Reina’s and she adopted a faraway look, as if unwillingly recounting some horrible event. “Eventually I fought him off and he called me names before pulling his clothes on and storming out. I didn’t know what to do, so I just stayed in the room and huddled under the covers until I fell asleep… After that, I woke the next morning like I told you.” Her eyes refocused on Reina toward the end and seemed to gain a little strength.

“Poor Nii-chan,” Reina said, brushing Risa’s hair back from her eyes. “Can you tell me who it was that did this to you?” she asked earnestly.

“…No,” Risa said after a slight hesitation. “I don’t want to make a big deal out of it. He did leave, after all.”

Reina nodded slowly. “I understand.” She let go of the other girl and waited until she washed her face before taking her hand. “Shall we return to Sayu? After all this time, she’ll think we’ve deserted her,” she said with a grin. “You know, that’s not a bad idea…” she said thoughtfully as they left the washroom.

They arrived at the table to find Sayu staring out the window with a vacant expression. She didn’t seem to notice the two girls as they sat down, and after a second Reina waved a hand in front of her face. “Don’t tell me you actually have become porcelain now… have you?” she asked, as the girl seemed to come back to reality and looked in surprise at the two girls who had joined her.

“Maybe I did,” she said seriously and a tad tartly. “I sure had enough time to with how long the two of you were gone. I think your tea has dried up and become a permanent part of your cup.”

Reina rolled her eyes and Sayu gave her an odd look. She surely was a strange girl. Reina wondered what was in her mind half the time. Memories of an encounter in a limousine and a cat costume flitted in her head and she shivered, poking Miss Porcelain. Hard.

“Itai~!” the girl pouted.

“Looks real enough to me,” Reina said with a smirk. She could easily mentally envision horns on the head of the girl whose pouting glare she received in return, though the only audible response was the laughter from between them of a girl re-learning being young.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: Sukoshi on November 21, 2006, 03:30:29 AM
aww this chapter was so cute :ONshy2:

Quote from: rokun;239620


“So Reina-chan…” Sayu said slowly and with a cutely serious expression, sliding the tip of a finger along the rim of her cup. “I heard from Eri that you wouldn’t tell her what you were up to all weekend. I hope it wasn’t anything too scandalous. I’m sure we’d hate to see you in Friday again.”



wah for a second I was worried that Sayu knew about Reina+Eri!  but then I read the rest and was like whew~  lol I guess I'm just afraid of the dark side of Sayu (according to what Miki said about Sayu on Sayu's radio show) :ONsweat:

Quote from: rokun;239620


From beside her in the mirror as well as through her burgeoning instincts, she noticed the girl lunging at her from the side. Before Risa reached her however, Reina felt as if time slowed down and she spun rapidly to the side to face her assailant, reaching out to take a firm grip on the girl’s shoulders, and as time sped up again her lips left the girl’s nose after a quick and light kiss.



Kawaii~~~

aww that was my favourite part in the chapter~ suki suki~ :pen_whirl:
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rndmnwierd on November 21, 2006, 07:50:50 AM
Suki suki! Motto motto!
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on December 01, 2006, 08:54:55 PM
I'm sorry it's been awhile... I've been quite busy with the end of the semester. Here's your next installment! Be sure to tell me what you think! :) I know there's more of you out there than those precious few that have commented so far...

Chapter 15 – The First Confrontation

It would be several days before Reina had virtually any time to herself again; days full of last-minute concert rehearsals as well as her other training. There were concerts coming up, too, so it didn’t look like things would die down anytime soon. At least New Year’s was coming up before long.

She was sitting in her room drinking a cup of chai while looking out the window at the falling snow. It was cold before, but winter had fallen hard lately. She didn’t mind though – it’s not like she did anything outside anyway besides traveling to and from her dual obligations. She liked the snow actually; bundled up in her coat hidden behind the veil of the falling flakes facilitated focus within herself, something she’d been working hard on lately. She thought she was really beginning to get it down, though Ai never gave her any praise. That just resulted in her trying harder thinking she was failing, but she was beginning to believe she’d never receive even a pat on the back. Whenever Ai spoke to her it was always along with a hard gaze of eyes that seemed in turmoil over something that Reina couldn’t begin to fathom. She’d been good and not asked questions like she was told, but after this length of time her curiosity was gnawing at the edges of the focus she tried so desperately to always maintain.

While deep in thought over the cup of tea, the curiosity and frustration finally won. She decided it was time to do some things herself and not just wait to rely on others to deign to give her what would likely not even be more than scant morsels of explanation and assistance. That decision resulted in the cup of chai being relegated to sitting and cooling on the table and Reina trudging through the snow toward a new destination. If she wasn’t going to get help from those who were responsible and dangled it all over her head, she would begin with those whom she did seem to have some power over.

A few blocks later, she was riding the elevator up to a mid-level floor of another hotel. When she arrived at the destination, she left the elevator and headed down the hall to the door she was looking for and rapped sharply on it. After a moment, it swung slowly inward and the bright face of a young girl appeared.

“Reina-chan,” the girl said, seemingly with surprise. After a brief hesitation she continued, “How are you? Is there something you need?”

She said no more since before the girl could blink Reina stepped in through the door and pinned her arms to her sides, kicking the door shut lightly and nearly slamming the girl to the wall near the washroom door. All that showed from the girl now were wide eyes full of fear.

“My dear Koharu-chan…” Reina began, “I think you and I have some things to settle. And maybe discuss.” The younger girl opened her mouth over and over but no sound came out.

“What in the world are you doing to Koha-chan, Reina?”

Reina jerked her head to peer further into the room toward the source of the voice she didn’t expect. Upon seeing the girl who seemed quite surprised herself, Reina quickly released Koharu and unconsciously brushed off the girl’s sleeve as if she had dirtied it.

“Sayumin. Hello,” Reina said, forcing a smile onto her face. “I didn’t expect to see you here.” There was a long pause after that, but none of the girls spoke. Reina stared at Sayu while the other two stared at Reina. Koharu seemed too petrified to even move away from the wall. “It’s just a little greeting game Koha-chan and I play, right Koha-chan?” She now glanced at the younger girl, danger reflected in the daggers in her eyes.

Koharu coughed. “Umm. Yes. Sayumin, you know how strange Reina is. She insists on silly things like that.” The girl finally moved, flashing Reina a triumphant and smug look before taking a seat on the couch.

Sayu still didn’t seem totally convinced. “I see. Well, I’m not surprised. Reina doesn’t tell me everything, after all.” Reina received a pouty look at the end of that as well before the girl took a seat next to Koharu. “So how are you, Reina? You haven’t been very sociable lately. I’ve not seen you outside of the studio except at the café that night.”

“I’m fine,” Reina said, walking over and looking around distractedly before taking a seat on the bed as if it was her worst and only choice.

“See,” Sayu said now, looking over to Koharu, “That’s the kind of attitude you shouldn’t have toward your best friend. ‘I’m great! How are you, Sayumin?’ ‘I’ve been having a hard time lately Sayumin, can I talk with you about it?’ Now those are more appropriate things to say.” Koharu looked straight at Reina during the girl’s whole lesson with a smirk that Sayu must have not been able to see, while Reina’s face became darker with every word.

“Sayu,” Reina asked in the sweetest voice she could muster. “I have something that I need to talk about with Koha-chan here. Do you think you could give us some time alone?”

“Anything you would need to tell Koha-chan you can talk about in front of someone who’s the best friend of both of you, right Koha-chan?” Sayu responded.

“Mhm,” Koharu mumbled sweetly. Reina thought she just kept her mouth closed to avoid bursting out in laughter.

She stared at the two for a moment before coming to her conclusion. “All right then.” Sayu’s head turned toward her in surprise. Obviously she was expecting Reina to continue to be “rude” as she saw it. Reina suppressed the urge to smile. She was still a nice girl. This would be interesting.

She shifted her eyes to Koharu, whose smirk was gone in a face now slightly clouded with uncertainty. In a further attempt to show who was in charge here, she stood up and slowly paced in front of them as well. “So Koharu-chan. I’ve heard some very interesting things from Ai-chan about you. She says you’re a good lackey but you know…” she clicked her tongue, “she doesn’t really think you quite fit the bill to make it in this business.” She gave the young girl a sharp look to make sure she knew what “business” she was referring to.

Sayu chose to interrupt now, of course. Reina had been waiting for it. “But… She’s doing great! By herself she’s already outsold all of the rest of us. I think it’s because of her wonderful training, don’t you Koha-chan?” she asked, looking eagerly and proudly at the girl sitting next to her. Reina suppressed a giggle.

“Um…” Koharu said, seeming slightly off-balance. Good… “I think so, but… I still have a long way to go, I think.” She said that last with a small look up at Reina.

“That’s ridi-” Sayu began.

Reina cut her off, smiling warmly. “Well that may be,” she replied over the cutely affronted girl, “but the thing is…” she clicked her tongue again, “I can’t take the risk that you’ll ever be able to succeed.” She stood still now just in front of the girl she was addressing. “Because you see, I just don’t think we work well together. When you first came into the group you took my place as the youngest. Now, in other things, you’re in my way too. While you haven’t been important enough yet, the way I know you operate I just don’t think is too good for how I think the business should be run - the way I know Ai-chan wants it run too even though she may not show it too much.”

“But Ai-chan-” Koharu began before being cut off by Reina again.

“I know, I know. You don’t think Ai-chan thinks the same way I do. You have her up on a mysterious pedestal that you think just represents the power you desire. That’s all it is to you. I assumed you would be dumb enough not to see past that, and I’m happy to see I’m not mistaken.” She gave the girl a large smile, a girl who now had emotions in her face warring among fear, anger, and shock.

“Excuse me!” Sayu said, standing and stepping close to Reina. “I have no idea what you two are talking about, but you have no right to barge in here and call her names! Now, somebody had better tell me what’s going on, or else I am going to get angry!”

“But you’re so cute when you’re angry!” Reina responded, lifting a hand to pinch the girl’s reddening cheek. “But… I need you to sleep now.” With a flick of her arm, Reina released the girl’s cheek and lowered her hand to bring her elbow up to give a measured blow with her tensed arm to the side of Sayu’s head, and the girl crumpled into Reina’s quickly extended arms. Setting her carefully down on the couch, she turned back to the wide-eyed girl who was now basically alone in the room with her.

She didn’t do anything but smile though before squeezing in-between Koharu and the now-unconscious Sayu on the couch and draping an arm around the younger girl’s shoulders. Koharu looked like she wanted to bolt up and run, but for some reason she didn’t.

“Now, Baby Girl…” Reina started. “I know you have dreams of doing something greater than a little singing career. But, you know what? I want to make sure you know that it’s not going to happen, at least in the way you want it to right now.”

Koharu began to open her mouth, but Reina shushed her by laying a finger against it. “You were a help to Ai-chan in the past no doubt, but now that I’m here our goals have… changed, and there’s no longer room for you.” The girl began to adopt an angry look, and Reina softened her tone. “I’m sorry. I know what this meant to you. I know that you think by following Ai-chan around and calling her Mistress and doing those things you think are important you have power; you’re greedy for it. The only problem is… You do have power. But… you don’t understand everything that comes with it. I don’t understand everything that comes with it yet, but I know it’s something you don’t want to mess with.”

Koharu took Reina’s wrist and pulled her hand away from her mouth so she could speak, which she did in a low and dangerous voice. “I have the right to make my own decisions, you know. I don’t need you and Mistress deciding it for me. In fact, I don’t even believe Mistress agrees with you that I should… leave… so you know what? I’m not going to.”

Something flashed in Reina’s eyes and she quickly reversed the girl’s hold on her wrist, grabbing Koharu’s own as well as her other, and pinned them behind the girl’s back, pulling her midsection sharply forward, ending up with their bodies close and her face centimeters from Reina’s. The girl adopted a slight look of fear once again.

“I’m not going to let you play your stupid little child-like games for the sake of greed of power and potentially cause problems for my plans,” she hissed briskly. “You’re too young for me to hold you responsible for your actions, but I’m not going to let them continue.”

She slowly released her hold on the girl, who now really looked like she wanted to take off and run. A moan came from behind Reina. Apparently Sayu was beginning to stir again.

“Koharu, please,” she firmly insisted, “You have a great thing going for you being in Morning Musume. You have an even better thing going in your solo career with anime. Stick with that. You don’t want to follow Ai-chan and I into wherever we’re going.”

The other girl seemed to finally relax and calm down a bit, apparently affected by Reina’s sincerity, and no doubt by her show of power as well. “So why are you doing it?” It was a simple question, and all she said.

Reina took a moment to respond, the only sounds during that time coming from the whimpering girl behind her. “I didn’t want to,” she said very quietly, “But then things started happening that pulled me into something bigger than anything I had thought about before. It started with Miki’s accident… if not before…”

The other girl gave her a curious look, and Reina gave her a stare in return. She didn’t even know what she meant, because she didn’t even know about the accident, and Reina wasn’t about to tell her. Not ready, indeed.

“I still don’t know all that’s going on, but I feel I’m on the right path to doing something about it. I’m through with just listening to and watching everybody else. I… I feel it’s my destiny, whatever “it” is. If you insist on fighting me, think about it. What do you really know about Ai-chan? Isn’t what she does a little strange?” She left her with that thought for a moment, while she thought about the same thing herself. She now realized the real reason why she came here.

“Ai-chan?” spoke a small voice from behind her. “What’s going on with her? Is she graduating or something?” There was a pause; Koharu and Reina kept staring at each other. “Did I faint?”
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on December 08, 2006, 10:41:01 PM
Some of you are going to hate me for this, for many reasons. If so, I apologize, but this is Reina's story. :)

Chapter 16 – Daggers in the Night

I am pleased to extend an invitation for you to attend the ninth annual Hello! Project Christmas Celebration. The dinner and reception will be held the evening of Sunday the twenty-fourth of December in the Park-Hyatt Tokyo ballroom. Note that this is for the artists and staff of Hello! Project only. No fans or other non Up Front Works personnel will be allowed in the area.

Please come and join us for festivities as well as a short all-project meeting to discuss the coming year.

~ Tsunku♂

Reina folded the card carefully and stuffed it into her coat pocket before slowly swinging the door shut behind her. The invitation was just a formality of course – they’ve been talking about the celebration and preparing for it for weeks now. Now, it was just a few hours away and she was becoming excited. This was always the best work party of the year, and her first few had been memorable. This year should be memorable too, though there will be the somber shadow hanging over it from Miki’s death a month ago. Well, she was sure they wouldn’t dwell on that long. However, it would basically be their last formal farewell to her…

She knocked on a door down the hall and heard a muffled yell from inside that she couldn’t make out. Taking it to indicate she should wait a minute, she backed up to the opposite wall and lounged against it.

While waiting, she fell into the focused concentration of the training she had now been at for half a month. It was beginning to be almost natural to her. Despite her earlier curiosity about Ai’s lack of any sort of praise, she felt she was coming along quite well. She saw something in Ai’s glances at her as well that told her the girl was impressed. Actually, she was beginning to wonder if she was learning faster than Ai herself did. The lack of words other than the orders of what to do Ai gave her in their sessions had begun to be suspicious to her, and anytime she caught her eyes they seemed to indicate a girl lost in contemplation of plans unknown to Reina. After all the long nights of silence, Ai had finally spoken to her over a cup of their special tea last night.

They sipped their tea under the kotatsu like they did at around this time every night while Reina worked on her focusing exercises, a thing much enhanced by the warmth and strength of the tea they drank. They never spoke a word while sitting there, so Reina was so surprised that her focus completely shattered when she heard Ai’s voice ring out suddenly from across the table.

“I want to… thank you for your eagerness to learn what I can teach you. Before you joined me I was worried about being alone, even though I was doing my best, and that something would happen to me as almost inevitably happens to those in my particular… position… especially those who have risen as quickly as I did. But…” She finally raised her eyes to catch those of the girl watching her intently, eager to glean whatever she could from the unusually fortunate openness of the girl across from her. “Now, I don’t feel that I’m alone anymore. I feel that…” It seemed like Ai’s face softened to an extent Reina didn’t believe she’d seen in months. “...I feel that I have someone I can potentially trust - someone that thinks the same as me, has the same experiences as me – someone that was forced into gaining maturity that she didn’t want yet, but tries her hardest to do her best in spite of the circumstances and… in spite of the one in command of her.”

Reina kept looking into Ai’s face, not knowing what to say. Ai had hinted before that she was dragged against her will into this organization that was still a mystery to her. Despite that, Reina hated her for what she did to her, yet…

The girl continued on. “Now that I have you, if I can truly gain your trust, I believe that you and I together can set things right again. We can be rid of at least one evil that exists in this world, and set the souls of our… dear friends…” A shadow seemed to pass over the girl’s eyes at that, and she lowered them again. “…at ease.”

Reina lowered her eyes, too. If the girl was going to be frank, then she would dare to be frank as well. She looked back up and spoke. “You talk of trust,” Reina said in a low voice. The girl’s eyes came back up to look into hers. “How am I supposed to trust you?” She paused between each of her sentences. “How am I supposed to trust someone who has admitted to killing someone who was a friend to us both? How am I supposed to trust someone who virtually blackmailed me into… joining… with you?” Reina lowered her eyes again and drank another sip of her tea. “I do my best as you say I do, but I want you to know…” She raised her gaze again, this time giving the other girl a look through eyes of white-hot fire. “I want you to know that I will
never become like you.”

After holding Ai’s intense gaze for a moment longer, she broke it and slowly swigged the last of her tea. While the cup was held in front of her face, she heard the other girl pull out from the kotatsu. Lowering the cup, she looked up to see Ai standing across from her, eyes staring at nothing in particular.

“We’re done for the night,” she said with a tight voice. “You should get some rest. You’ll want to be alert for the party tomorrow.” Then she turned and disappeared into another room.


“Oy! Reina!” a voice said, breaking her from her contemplation. Reina turned to watch the girl approach her from down the hall. “Were you spacing out again? You seem to do that a lot lately. And I thought I’ve been bad at it!”

Reina smiled at the girl. “Yeah. I dunno… I guess I’ve been really tired after all our rehearsing lately. I know the Kouhaku is coming up, but still…” She stretched muscles that felt perfectly fit. She wasn’t tired at all of course; in fact, she felt in better shape than she ever had before in her life. Giving the girl who had come up to her a better look, she continued, “You look gorgeous, Gaki-san. You should wear pink and red more often.” The girl wore an elegant dress that was slim-fitting yet frilly at the collar and cuffs. She was jealous of what she saw at the girl’s low neckline.

Risa blushed slightly. “Thank you. I usually try to go with a bluer outlook on things, but you know I can’t do that all the time, especially tonight,” she said with a wink, and Reina giggled.

The girl gave her outfit an evaluation and seemed about to mention her appraisal when the clicking of the door came from a few feet away in front of Reina.

“I’m sorry!” a girl in a long green dress beneath her leather jacket said as she closed the door behind her. Reina couldn’t help but stare at her. Her dress bowed out slightly above her knees but below a belt that sparkled silver. Small blue ribbons also crisscrossed along its length up to blue feathers that stuck out from above her bust, giving her an elegant neckline that did not dip.

After a moment of staring at the girl hurriedly making sure she had everything ready, Reina didn’t notice the girl’s own eyes finally looking over at her. “Are you seriously going to the party in seifuku, Reina-chan?” Eri asked, eyes wide, bringing Reina out of the trance she had fallen into.

“Of course!” Reina said defensively. She pulled back her coat a bit to show more of the outfit. "The tie is silk, and don’t you think its red goes well with the velvet black of the dress?” She twirled around as if to show how smoothly the skirt would flow when she danced.

“Okay…” Eri responded with uncertainty. She nodded to Risa and they started walking down the hall. After a meter or two Reina heard her whisper under her breath toward Risa, “I still say it makes her look like a sukeban.”

Reina ran up and wedged herself between them. “Hey, I heard that!” She heard Risa giggle from beside her. “And yes, that’s supposed to be the point! Sukeban-style is in this year, you know. Just ask Ayaya and Rika-chan.” The other girls rolled their eyes.

…

After a limo ride that seemed longer than it should have been, the three girls arrived at the hotel and unloaded in the valet area between lines of stern-looking security guards. Beyond them were scattered fans and paparazzi trying to snap pictures of the girls and others arriving, and they definitely became a bit more aggressive when these three stepped lightly out of the car. They passed through the security smiling and nodding, giving peace signs and other signature poses of themselves to those who managed to get clear shots, before making their ways inside and toward the ballroom foyer. At one of the entrances stood a guard who smiled at them and asked for their invitations. Reina and Risa pulled theirs out and handed them to the man, but were held up while Eri dug through her handbag.

“Oh no! I thought I put it in here this morning! Where did it go?!” she cried in a frantic voice. With her attention focused on the bag, she didn’t notice the grins coming from her friends.

The doorman broke their fun however, quickly interjecting, “Miss Kamei, if you can’t find your invitation it’s nothing to worry about. We just have them to keep an air of formality and organization about these proceedings. As the guest list is quite exclusive, everyone here knows who you are and where you belong.” Despite his seeming formality, the man himself couldn’t hide a grin as he finished. The look caused the other two girls to break out fully in giggles.

Eri looked around at them all, scandalized. “What! You mean they’re not required? But it says I need to bring it…” The doorman stepped aside, gesturing them in with a flourish, and Reina and Risa each took the third girl by an arm and pulled her in along with them.

Since it was still over an hour until the dinner would start, the girls chatted among themselves and posed for pictures what seemed like every minute. Before long, Sayu came and joined up with them, and the rest of the girls from the project who weren’t already there. Sayu mostly spoke with Eri and Koharu, not offering much to Reina aside from yet another comment about her outfit. Reina responded by giving yankee poses at every opportunity. She was cool, damn it. Koharu of course didn’t speak to her at all. Reina didn’t think they’d said two words to each other since the night Reina visited her room.

The other girls greeted Reina and they exchanged a few words, except for Airi and Miyabi who came together and chatted with her a few minutes about their upcoming rehearsals together – they would be starting after the New Year – and Ai, who nodded at Reina, otherwise giving her no words along with an inscrutable look.

After all the socializing, dinner began, and Reina enjoyed sashimi along with delicious sukiyaki and tempura dishes, though didn’t talk a whole lot because she was seated with the rest of Morning Musume by seniority, which put her between Sayu and Koharu. The eighth gen girls didn’t sit with them because they had a special table nearer the head since this party was partly a celebration for them as well as the holiday and end of the year.

“Can you pass the soy sauce?” Sayu asked casually, and Reina handed it her way. As the girl began pouring it, without looking up she continued speaking, “I notice you’ve been by yourself a lot this evening, including right now.”

Reina gulped the food she had in her mouth and opened it in protest, “No I haven’t. I’ve talked with plenty of…”

“Oh have you?” Sayu interrupted, delicately cutting her noodles. “I wouldn’t say Miya and Airin count, would you? They are just kids after all. They can’t be more than pets to you. And as for Eririn and Gaki-san…” She leaned down to take a bite, but pulled fully back to daintily chew, giving Reina a view of the other side of her. Beyond, Reina saw Eri and Risa chatting with each other and laughing, clearly enjoying themselves, while Reina was stuck between Miss Priss and Baby Girl. She stopped looking and leaned low over her food, stuffing more in her mouth and glowering at the tablecloth.

“Things don’t have to be that way, you know. For example, we used to be best friends. You never talk to me any more lately though. Right, Koha-chan?” she asked, glancing over Reina’s head to the girl on her other side.

“Mhm,” Koharu said in a low mumble, her mouth stuffed with food. After a moment, apparently long enough for her to chew and swallow, she continued, “Reina doesn’t like to play with others. She’ll never have any friends. Her sukeban outfit tonight fits her perfectly.”

Suddenly, Reina lifted her head up and laid her chopsticks over her bowl, following by pushing her chair back and standing. “Excuse me, I need to use the washroom.” She laid her napkin on her chair and set off away from the table, not looking back.

When she reached the washroom, she dampened a towel and dabbed it along her face before letting her hands fall to the sink and beginning to cry. She hardly knew why she was doing it. She knew who her friends were. She was even learning to be strong and powerful. Why then did she feel like crying…

While crying, she ducked into one of the stalls and just sat there, holding a tissue beneath her eyes so her makeup wouldn’t get too ruined. She didn’t know how long she was there, but she heard Tsunku’s voice from outside, obviously amplified by a microphone, introducing the eighth generation and telling everyone a bit about them. When he seemed to be about done, she heard the washroom door swing open and someone walk in on heels. She tried to stop her sniffing, but apparently she was still too loud, and she could see the feet of whoever it was turn from what appeared to be the sink.

“Who’s there?” a voice rang out smoothly and somewhat cutely. “Is someone crying?” Reina held her hand to her mouth and nose, trying to cover up whatever sounds might come from them. She recognized the voice. She saw the feet walk toward her stall, however, and pause just a meter or so away. “If so, why are you crying tonight? This should be a happy night for everybody!” There was a slight pause. “Well, almost everybody…” The voice wasn’t as cheerful now, though it was far from depressed. It was more… contemplative. “Whatever’s wrong, it will get better. I’ve spent too much time crying in the washroom myself lately, as well as at home, at…” There was another pause, and the girl’s voice seemed to regain some strength. “But I’ve been better lately. I’ve pointed my emotions to where they might actually be able to do some good.” Reina tried to hold herself still and not move a bit, but she couldn’t help a small shiver. “Are you sure you won’t come out? I can tell you it’s really not worth it just to stay in there and cry…”

Reina heard something in the girl’s voice, and for some reason, despite all better judgment, she rose from her seat and unlocked the stall door, swinging it open and slipping out, coming face-to-face with the girl who had been speaking to her.

“Oh, it’s you…” the girl said, and she seemed torn between wanting to turn away and looking at the redness below Reina’s eyes.

Reina took her hand away from her mouth and swallowed before responding. “Hey, Aya-chan.”

“Hey,” the other girl responded. After a moment when all the two of them could hear was Tsunku’s voice from outside, she went on, “I haven’t seen you in a while.” Reina nodded, trying her hardest not to burst into tears again. Whatever internal battle was going on in Aya’s mind, one side seemed to come out on top, and she approached Reina, draping an arm around her shoulders and pulling her toward the sinks. “Come on,” she said. “You look like a mess. Let’s get you made up so you can go back out there, because despite whatever it was that sent you in here crying, I’m sure you don’t want to miss tonight.”

Then she helped Reina wash her face and let her use some makeup she had brought with her to try to hide the marks left by her crying. After a few minutes, Tsunku had finally stopped speaking and Aya put the last of the eye shadow back in her handbag. “There we go!” She stood behind Reina, holding her shoulders, looking into the mirror along with her at a face that no one would be able to tell had just been streaked with tears. “You’re all ready to go back out there, finish your meal, and start dancing!”

With a smile, the older girl turned and headed for the door. “Thank you…” Reina struggled to say.

Aya turned back to smile at her. “Don’t think of it. You helped me out too, after all.” She then lowered her head, as if hesitantly wondering whether to say something. “I’m sorry about what I said to you a few weeks ago, by the way. I just… Well, you know what I was like back then. Still am, to some extent. I don’t think you would ever do anything to one of our friends. Plus…” She looked up again. “I’ve been talking with a detective and it sounds like he’s making some progress in his investigation. You aren’t in any way a subject in it.” She smiled at that last, but then her voice began to take on a firmer quality. “We’ll still get to the bottom of this and make whoever was responsible for Mikitty’s death pay, though. I swear to that. So don’t worry, it’ll all be well.” She smiled again encouragingly after that, apparently realizing she was getting a bit too serious for the moment.

Reina tried to smile back at her. “Thanks. I’m sure it will be.” Aya nodded at that and left the room. Reina heaved a sigh and followed. It sure would be.

She returned to the table as everyone was finishing up and beginning to rise for dancing and random socializing. Eri and Risa asked where she’d been. You missed the new girls! They were so cute… She smiled and joined them for some talk. Sayu and even Koharu eventually joined in. Things seemed to be going well. After a bit of talking and once the music started up, some of the girls began dancing, and Reina and the others joined them. It really was a memorable time, and it seemed like they danced for hours. Even Ai was rather congenial to everyone and happily danced along, something Reina was glad to see, though she thought it was a little strange.

Eventually, Reina felt like she couldn’t take any more, even though she could of course, and went to refill her drink. She looked around to see where everyone was. The kids were mostly getting ready to leave – the ones who had family near wanted to spend time with them tonight still – and a few of the other girls were scattered around. Koharu was once again talking her head off to Sayu, and for once the other girl seemed genuinely interested. She was glad to see that. Maybe those two would get back to normal at least. Ai was nowhere to be seen, and neither was Eri. Even if she wasn’t tired after all the dancing, she was definitely hot, and she hoped to take advantage of it before the euphoria went away, so she took a sip of the punch and headed off to look for the other girl.

She didn’t find her in the ballroom, so she searched the washroom and eventually headed out into the foyer. It was quieter in there since most everyone was still enjoying themselves in the ballroom, but there were a few people, mostly hotel staff, rushing around. She made her way out of that room even and down a hall, passing security guards standing sentry next to the closed doors to the area. Nobody could come in, but of course nobody could go out either unless they were finished for the night and had an escort. Further down the hall it was much quieter, without much sound, and she found her way into another large room probably not much smaller than the ballroom, which was dark except for dim soft sconces along the walls and the lights of the city coming in through the huge windows composing what seemed the entirety of the outer wall. She walked through there quietly, thinking she probably shouldn’t even be in there, and was about to leave when she heard some noises coming from a corner of the room. She headed softly toward the sound, but could only see two forms close together on a couch. At this distance, she couldn’t make out who they were. Curious as to what new scandal this might indicate though, she tiptoed closer, trying to sneak up on the couple, and eventually got close enough to make out facial features. When it hit her what she was seeing, she stopped cold.

There were two small-looking girls cuddled up on the couch, making out. Their arms were around each other and Reina could only catch the sides of their faces, but that was enough. Distinguishing Risa’s round cheeks and Eri’s short hair made the overall features click in her head, and her mind went blank.

She stared at the two making out for a long minute, her head pounding and no thought seeming to come into it, before she slowly backed away and spun around, sneaking back toward the door as quickly as she could while trying to make as little sound as possible. Apparently she wasn’t fully successful.

“Who’s that? Is someone there?” she heard one of them whisper quickly. She kept moving. She was almost to the door.

“Gaki-san,” the other whispered. The quiet stillness of the room helped the sound reverberate loudly into Reina’s ears. “There’s no paparazzi in here, are there? I don't want to get into trouble…”

Reina didn’t hear any more before she made the door and dashed out, now running down the hall despite calls of protest from the staff and guards. She didn’t know where she was going, but she knew she had to be far away from that room.

Eventually, though she didn’t know how she got there, she made her way to a wide balcony, and darted out into the cold December air. Crossing her arms, though not really feeling the chill, she headed to the rail and stood in front of it, looking out into the bustling city. The wind played through her hair, making her look like a phantom in the night.

She just stood there and stared for a good while until she heard steps behind her, ending just back and to the side. “I suppose I should have expected to see you here,” she said, not looking back. “It’s all I need tonight.”

There was no response, but the steps resumed again and this time she felt the presence right behind her, and arms reached around to cradle her own, still crossed over her chest. Eventually, a voice did speak over her shoulder. “You know I’m always around,” it said. “Although, I truly do wish you would have been able to remember this night for other reasons.”

Reina finally focused her eyes and turned around to look into the face of the girl who held her. “I do too,” she said, with an unwavering gaze and dry eyes.

Ai released her hold and stepped back slightly, still looking strongly at Reina. “There still might be something to make of this night… if you don’t want to just give up.”

Reina smiled and almost barked a laugh. “Give up? After what I’ve already been through? With everything that’s happened, how could anything get any worse?”

Ai smiled, though it seemed distant to Reina. “How indeed.” She cast a glance past Reina to the city for a moment before focusing her attention back to the girl in front of her. “You’ve been coming along well, and that hasn’t gone unnoticed.” Reina could tell the girl didn’t mean just by her. “I’ve been given new orders, and I’ve been told that I’m to offer them to you as your first real duty. It’s meant to be a sort of… initiation, to prove your loyalty, and your skill, and your courage.” There seemed something behind Ai’s voice as she spoke, but Reina couldn’t tell what. In any case, she listened intently, glad to stay distracted from other things assaulting her mind and heart, her dress and tie flowing in the breeze. After a short pause, Ai finished, “You’re to kill Aya Matsuura.”
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: JFC on December 09, 2006, 02:00:10 AM
Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh shit! :shocked:
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: Sukoshi on December 09, 2006, 03:39:37 AM
Ehhhhhhhhhh?! :ONscared:  Wah KameGaki?!  that was unexpected! (well I love the unpredictability of this story) but ERIRIN~ noOOooo!  :ONcool2:

Oh my god...i think this is the next theme!  In recent stories everyone's been cheating on Eri and now's she's the cheater! *crushed*

:ONgyaaah:

hehe I think I should be more shocked at the ayaya part :ONshifty: but oh my mind has gone foggy after what Reina just witnessed.

:ONfainted:

great chapter rokun!
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: lil_hamz on December 09, 2006, 09:37:28 AM
Wowweeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! I missed 2 great chapters but heck it was worth reading it all in one goal.

Kamemame, about time XD. I've always liked this 2 together :panda_love:

And I quote JFC.... OH SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIITTTTTTtt :panda_omg2:
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rndmnwierd on December 10, 2006, 05:42:48 AM
Kamemame is becoming popular now. I salute your cliched use of them and look forward to the Tanaka Kamei confrontation.



Poor Ayaya doesn't stand a chance... I wonder if Reina will go through with it?
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: crazychickencow on December 27, 2006, 06:37:51 AM
*waves a TanaKame flag* I shall not be swayed! XD ...but then again, I am still reading this.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on December 28, 2006, 04:23:05 AM
As a little Christmas and Turtle Day treat... How about a little divertissement from the regular fare? Lol, or... you can have this. :P This is just a little something I whipped up... I'm posting it here because it happens along the storyline of Odyssey. Although, some things might be exaggerated. Might...

A Few Days Earlier…

“Kamei, you know you’re useless, right?” Sayumi dragged her along behind while they went shopping for Christmas gifts. The girl had just been asking her what she thought they should buy Reina and she could barely say a word – just mumble something that Sayu couldn’t have heard even if she did have the pointy ears Eri sometimes thought she could see on the sides of her head.

“I don’t know why I drag you along on these shopping trips. You’re even slow as a turtle.” This trip was going no differently than any other. Still, Eri followed obediently along, not wanting to inflame the famous Usa-chan Temper. She could be the good little lapdog when the situation called for it. Actually, lately it seemed that’s what she did nearly all the time…

The two girls, Sayu looking like no more than a pink puffball in her warm and fuzzy winter garments and Eri herself looking, well… Eri-like, shopped for a good part of the afternoon until one moment Eri looked up and the other girl was nowhere to be found. She called out for her through a loudspeaker that looked curiously like a cell-phone, but for response she received nothing more than sudden bouncing walkie-bits on her screen dancing around bears bouncing upon balls to the computerized tune of Balalaika. This terrified her so, that she made her cell phone quickly disappear into parts unknown, and she wondered if it would ever materialize again. It wouldn’t be the first time that happened. Cute bears with broad fixed smiles jumping and dancing on beach balls… She couldn’t prevent another shiver from rushing chaotically through her.

Of course, now having fully forgotten why she was in the middle of a strange department store, she looked around with frantic eyes and ran for what seemed like ages until she found the exit. Once out, she wasted no time in rushing to the nearby studio.

“Kamei, what are you doing here?” a quizzical-eyebrowed Niigaki asked, accosting her as she was on her way to the dressing room. Accosting. That was a funny word. She’d have to remember it.

She looked ahead to see Risa staring back at her in bewilderment. “What? Do I have something sticking out of my head?” She quickly felt around in her hair for any potentially foreign material. It had never been proven, but she swore that sometimes she had things sticking out of her head. She wasn’t sure what she would think if she found she actually did, though. It always seemed to be worst when Gaki-san was around…

“No…” the other girl said slowly, raising a hand to lightly touch Eri’s shoulder. The touched girl shrank back unconsciously. “You know, Kamei, your strangeness never ceases to intrigue me!” With that the energetic girl pulled quickly away and skipped off into the darkness. Well, actually it was the elevator, but as far as Eri was concerned it was a steel cage that would some day drop her into the Pit of the Eternal Stench of Doom. She shivered at the thought and scampered quickly away in the other direction.

“Kamei!” Another voice accosted her with its shrillness as she left the building. She looked far up into the face of its owner, blinking between wide-eyed stares.

“Didn’t anyone tell you that we have the afternoon off? You should be at home, relaxing in your bath and listening to the newest masterpiece from Koda!”

Eri blinked, unsure how to address her Great Leader in her current predickle… pickament… predickapickle… argh!... her current sour long green vegetable. “Yocchan! Ganbarimasu!” With a big toothy smile she crisply saluted the bamboozled boss, the boss being barely able to breathe a breath of… bamboozlement, and brushed past in a brisk brandishing of boots.

All outside demons and alliteration soundly evaded, she returned to her apartment and set to her evening meal. No sooner had she sat down and uttered an “i”, a beginning syllable of the word to express her indebtedness to the Great god of Food, than it quickly lengthened to “iyyyyaaaaaaaa!!!” as she was accosted (yes, accosted!!!) by yells and bodies of every single person she had ever met. Ok, well, it was an excited cheer of “Happy Birthday!” that was given by no more than the number of girls that joined her as daughters of the fledgling sun, a number that she never really knew any more, but was definitely somewhere between five and eleven million six hundred fifty eight thousand five hundred and… seven.  The last two digits always swung between seven and ten, but it definitely felt much more like a seven lately.

She was appropriately humbled and embarrassed by the show of so much appreciation from her closest friends, but received their presents warmly. Well, almost. She had to shy away from the stuffed bear balancing on a ball that Koha-chan gave her, as it brought back memories she’d rather stay hidden in the deep, deep… deep recesses of her mind.

They enjoyed a cake prepared by… Well, she didn’t know who it was prepared by, but she hoped it wasn’t by the girl with the Usa-chan Temper. The bright smile the pigtailed girl gave her when she cast her a glance didn’t give one bit of comfort. Anyway, they enjoyed the cake prepared by Master Baker Alejandro Francois Daiichi Smith and celebrated long into the night.

Somewhere between the short and the long, Eri found herself staring out from her balcony as her friends partied joyfully back inside her apparently not-so-humble abode.

“Despite all faux love,
Alone I feel in respite.
A turtle moos.”

“Kamei-san,” a plaintiff voice called out from behind. “Are you okay? That sounded… er… depressed?”

“Aye…” the forlorn girl breathed morosely.

“A stranger I be,
Useful to no other soul.
A-feared am I.”

“…”

Eri looked back at Sayu behind her. The girl hung her head low and gazed up through eyelashes that sparkled in the night. “You know that’s beautiful.”

Eri looked at her unblinking. After a moment, she yelped when the girl suddenly accosted her, throwing her arms around her. “Eririn… I’m so proud to know you. No matter how I’m feeling, all I need to do is look into your eyes and hear your impossible words to know… it’s all okay.” She pulled back, tears glistening in her eyes and smiling.

“She’s one of a kind, isn’t she?” Risa asked, beaming as she leaned against the dark steel doorframe.

Sayu smiled and turned back to Eri. “She sure is.”

Staring in her never-broken wide-eyed stare back at the two, Eri thought she’d better check just once more to make sure nothing was sticking out of her head.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rndmnwierd on December 28, 2006, 05:14:24 PM
That is quite possibly the most confusing thing I've ever read. A turtle moos? It really fits Eri! Yay confusement!
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: lil_hamz on December 28, 2006, 05:28:09 PM
A very entertaining chapter. I also like how it got sweet at the ending :)
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on December 29, 2006, 07:50:55 AM
Now for a real chapter, though themes still abound. :grin: Please enjoy, and thank you for all your wonderful support! I'm sorry it took so long for this, but here you go...

Chapter 17 - Celebration

Reina ran offstage with a feeling of exhilaration overwhelming her. Even though this was her fourth Kouhaku performance, it still gave her excitement that nothing else matched. Performing in front of a real crowd and being broadcast to millions across the country… Well, it was a far cry from the not-so-diverse concerts she was otherwise accustomed to.

However, she was unhappy with the outfit they made her wear. Usually the girls get some input as to what they wear when they perform; not so with tonight’s event. She wasn’t the only one excited about the opportunity the night presented. In fact, her own anxiety didn’t hold a candle to that of their managers. Everything had to be just so… Grumbling, she straightened her bra in an attempt to fix an itch.

“Good thing you waited to do that until we got off-stage Reina. Don’t want people to think you’re trying to take Fujimoto’s place. It would be awful yankee of you, though,” Risa commented with a grin. Reina narrowed her eyes and stalked away from the girl, who furrowed her substantial brows at Reina’s mood. “I was only joking!” the traitor called after her. Reina hadn’t spoken one word to that girl since the night before Christmas, and wasn’t about to start now. Although, oddly, Risa’s hurt looks when Reina ignored her made her feel sympathetic to her. Gods, she was a fickle person.

She stopped when Mitsui came up as if to hug her, but instead of giving her that hug, the girl’s eyes widened and she ran quickly in the other direction. What? Did she have something on her face?

“Hasn’t someone told you not to scare away the kouhai?” Sayu told her, giving her a frown, even though her eyes sparkled. She had that deceptive look down to perfection.

“What are you talking about?” Reina barked at her. Then she realized what she just did. Her glare didn’t weaken. Sayu smiled and Reina could swear she almost giggled.

Another girl walked up beside Sayu. “Hello, Reina,” Eri said. Reina tried her best to refuse to acknowledge the girl’s existence.

“It’s this damnable dress,” she pouted, adjusting herself once more. “It’s so itchy it’s affecting my mood. You know how that is. They always put you in the cutest things possible, and I know all those outfits can’t be that comfortable.”

Sayu didn’t appear to be listening to her though. The porcelain doll flashed her gaze between her and Eri, looking for some type of reaction, but finding only Reina acting like the other girl wasn’t even there, and Eri with her head bowed slightly, staying utterly quiet.

“Reina,” Sayu began scoldingly, focusing her attention solely on the girl she was addressing now. “I will not have you and Eririn acting like this toward each other. Eririn at least seems to be making some effort, but obviously you aren’t. And I don’t think either of us has any clue why. So…” she said, waggling a finger at a visibly disgruntled Reina, “It’s time to stop! We are Best Friends Forever, after all.”

“I don’t see any friend of mine here, Princess,” Reina growled through clenched teeth, “Aside from yourself. And I’m beginning to wonder about that. Real friends respect others’ wishes and don’t associate with dirty rotten… backstabbing… scoundrels!” She almost yelled that last into the faces of the two bewildered girls, but caught Eri’s stricken eyes and Sayu’s supremely astonished expression before turning away from them too and almost running toward her dressing room, feeling her eyes begin to moisten despite her best efforts. She was quite shocked herself as to how she let it all burst out in one moment like that… It was quite unplanned. She never went all yankee like that unless she really meant it. Unless she really...

Making it to the refuge of the dressing room she shared with a few of the other girls, none of whom were those she encountered or had made it there yet, she shut the door behind her and leaned back against it, her hands still behind her back on the handle, and fought inevitable tears. All that vaunted self-control she’d been trying to learn lately seemed to crumble in an instant, and she soon felt her bottom drop to the floor, hands covering  her eyes attempting to ebb the flow of the tears now streaming from them.

What was wrong with her? She’d never acted this way before… about anyone… Last she checked, she didn’t even know how she felt about Eri. The girl was just kind of… there, when she needed her. If that was the case, why was she making her dress itch more from the tears soaking its front and hardly able to catch a breath between choking sobs? This was ridiculous… Reina… Pull yourself together!!

She reached up to the door handle and pulled herself up slowly, as if it took the last of her strength. She would not keep crying like this. She was better than that. Be strong, Reina… The words of Ai sounded in her head, “You can be nothing if you cannot control your feelings. You must take those superficial emotions and wrap them up tightly, then stow them in a barge that will take them away from you. If you can control your emotions, they won’t control you, and you will feel nothing but the calm seeping to every corner of your body, enveloping you. When you are in control, you become one with the World, and the World bends to your wishes.”

Just remembering the girl’s words seemed to soothe her, and her whimpering slowed. She recognized the emotions and acknowledged them before wrapping them up and pushing them away. That was the other thing that was important – to know anything, she must know herself. She had never known she had such feelings for the girl. Images of Eri flashed through her head – Eri smiling, Eri frowning, Eri pouting, Eri bewildered. She felt tenderness when she viewed them, but there was something sharper too, something hard, stabbing. She recognized the feelings she never knew she had for the girl and stopped crying, though adopted another sort of sadness. Lots of good knowing them would do now. She saw to that.

She made her way over to the mirror to see what she could do about her hopelessly streaked face. She looked like this much too often lately. Hurriedly brushing some powder on to try to hide what couldn’t be shown, she managed it satisfactorily just in time before the other girls who shared her room began returning. Things certainly weren’t getting easier.



There was a New Year’s party of course; no one would pass up the chance for any celebration, much less one that the whole country seemed to share in – the whole world even, though she always felt there was something special and different about them being the first – but with the last week’s events, she gave everyone rushed apologies that she wasn’t feeling well and that it would be best if she just stayed home.

This resulted in her sitting in her hotel room cross-legged in a chair that could be much more comfortable, a blanket spread across her legs, drinking a cup of hot cocoa, her bedside clock announcing 23:59 in its bold red letters, watching a scene on her television where over-excited young celebrities – notably not her – chattered away amidst pictures showing the ringing of the bells at different temples across the country as they counted down the last minute until the New Year.

“Five… Four… Three… Two… One…” people shouted, sounding as one from the streets of Tokyo. “Happy New Year!!!” Everyone cheered and hugged and kissed one another as huge letters flashing “2007” appeared on the screen and fireworks lit up the sky over the bay. After a moment, she could hear their echoes outside her own window as they blasted through the night. She looked out the half-fogged window, but couldn’t see them. There wasn’t even any snow to make the night beautiful to her, only the constantly flashing lights below from a city that never sleeps.

“Happy New Year, Reina,” she breathed to herself in a voice barely above a whisper. She stuffed a store-bought mochi into her mouth and then took a good, long sip of her hot cocoa.

How had she come to this, she thought while peering over the cup at the panoramic views of the joyous crowds, who had now begun singing. True, she had always been somewhat of a loner, but she was still a very social person and always tried to be a center of attention at parties – as respectfully as possible in regard to her senpai of course. But here she was, probably one of the only girls in Japan sitting alone in her room to bring in the New Year – a stuffy hotel room at that. She sighed. Life just wasn’t always what she expected.

Before long, since there was nothing better to do, she crawled into her bed and stared at the ceiling. She hadn’t been to training for several days now – both her and Ai were busy with New Year’s preparations, and according to Ai it was useful to have time off once in a while, especially on special occasions, to reflect on what she’d learned and find her meaning inside herself. After all, Ai could teach her what she could, but it was within herself that Reina had to find her true potential. Tonight she wasn’t feeling too optimistic about what that potential might be. She was almost literally dragged into this kicking and screaming, but Ai’s “Way” had come to have a more personal meaning to her than she ever could imagine. It was no longer about things such as whether Ai was responsible for Miki’s death. It was about her, and what it means for her to grow – how she intends to live her life. Ai and especially whomever she represents may be evil, but there was most certainly truth in the way they lived. As she saw it, it was just up to her not to choose the wrong path.

While churning all this over inside her head, she didn’t notice when she dropped off to sleep, but her dreams were fitful. In one, she was sitting next to Miki, who was driving them toward a cliff, one that the girl didn’t seem to notice as she just kept prattling to Reina, who was frantically trying to get her to notice what lay ahead. In another, she was riding a turtle along a sandy beach at sunset when suddenly it disappeared and she fell to the hard sand – the turtle was then paces away looking sorrowfully at her. “Who are you?” it asked her, over and over. The turtle’s repetitiveness grated on her, and she started moaning “No… no…!” until she felt herself twisting in her sheets and came awake, sweat pulling her pyjamas tightly to her.

She breathed hard for a minute, holding the sheet tightly beneath her chin, staring hard into the darkness off the side of the bed that was only broken by the soft red of her clock, which now showed 2:43. As she stared, it changed almost unnoticeably to 2:44.

As her breathing slowed, she began to feel more relaxed, but quickly realized that it wasn’t only from her own natural calming. She felt as if her hair was being stroked softly from behind, and her breath caught, though she didn’t dare turn to attempt to find who or what it was.

“Be calm, sweet Reina. The night isn’t quite so harsh yet,” a soft voice rang out soothingly from behind her. Reina couldn’t force herself to breathe yet, though. She recognized the voice, even though it had been so long since she heard it.

“Poor Reina. You’re so alone, sealed behind walls you’ve built up around yourself. You’re becoming more and more like me every day.” The voice adopted an oddly sorrowful tone as it spoke that last.

“I won’t end up like you, Mikitty. I promise,” Reina moaned in response. She wouldn’t – but to do that she would have to be strong. She’d have to make sacrifices. She remembered the duty she’d been given that she hadn’t fulfilled yet.

“I talked with Ayaya yesterday after rehearsal,” Ai told her as they prepared to take the stage at the presentation of the teams when Kouhaku began. “It was an interesting conversation,” she said thoughtfully. “Especially interesting, because I thought she was supposed to be dead. That doesn’t seem strange to you at all, does it Reina?”

Reina tightened her mouth and pointedly did not turn to the other girl, flicking her eyes around just enough to notice that nobody was quite close enough to hear what they said in a low voice such as Ai was using. “I know my job. I suppose you also know my reluctance to do it. I’m not happy at all to… kill anyone.”

“Happy you might not be,” Ai responded in a patient manner, “But sometimes we have to do things that might not make us happy. It’s partly because of her you’re even in this position to begin with.”

Reina growled softly in return. “That doesn’t mean she should be the one that makes me a murderer.”

“Not murderer,” Ai chimed. “Assassin. That is, if you do your job right.”

“There’s no difference.” Reina’s voice still barely hovered above a growl.

“Murderers kill for pleasure, or for sport, or because they are insane. Assassins only do what needs to be done. Remember that. It will serve you well as you learn more about your new life.”

Reina didn’t get the chance to say any more as the two of them were shooed with the other girls and onto the stage, donning fake smiles to the crowd below. At least, hers could be nothing other than fake. Ai’s, on the other hand, looked as genuine as a smile could be.


Reina could feel the stroking of her hair pause, but the hand she felt didn’t pull back. “You’re going to kill my best friend, aren’t you?”

Reina felt her eyes begin to water once again, though this time stopped it before any tears coalesced. “I have to… It’s the only way to become strong.”

She then felt a sharp tug on her hair, and yelped in pain. “Fool girl. No wonder we always had to baby you. I swear I felt like your mother sometimes since you looked up to me more than the others as a comrade of sorts for joining the same time as you. Sure I talked up a good show and was rough enough that you might think I was a little dangerous, but there’s nothing strong about taking an innocent life. There hasn’t been an innocent life lost so far because of this, and I sure hope it doesn’t start now.”

“But…” Reina started, becoming confused.

“Think, girl!” the voice said. “I know you’re not as stupid as you look. Ai knows it too, or else you wouldn’t be having this conversation with a dead person.” Reina tried to wrap her mind around that for a moment, but failed miserably. “Remember, you already know the Truth. It’s been hammering at your insides for weeks, but you haven’t allowed yourself to notice it. You won’t succeed until you see the Truth beyond the illusion of reality.” Reina thought for a second after that and opened her mouth, but was interrupted before any words came out. “Oh, and one more thing. If you do kill my best friend, I will make sure we both haunt you as long as you’re still in this world!” With that, she felt the hand come away from her hair and heard only a cackle fade away into nothing.

Breathing heavily once more, she realized her eyes were focused on the clock once again. It changed in its mysterious way to 2:45. She felt as if her mind had turned to goo. Nothing made sense anymore.

As her breathing slowed once again, this time fully of her own volition – there was no phantom hand stroking her hair, and she had checked to find nobody behind her – and she fell back slowly into sleep from the exhaustion of her surreal encounter, she whispered softly, barely aware she was even doing so, “Happy New Year, Reina.”
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: lil_hamz on December 29, 2006, 08:16:58 AM
Ok I'm a little confused. So Reina was having nightmares at the end? That means noone is going to kill her best friend? Or is her dream a premonition of something to come. But the mega question is.....*drumroll* who is her best friend? Is it Eri? Or someone else? GAH so many questions swirling i my head :ON@_@:
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: jafeijai on December 29, 2006, 03:50:53 PM
the way i see it, Reina was talking to Miki, so then it was Miki who asked Reina about killing her best friend (namely Matsuura Aya).

poor Reina, having to spend New Year's alone in her hotel room. :ONsad: i don't know why, but i laughed when Miki said "“I know you’re not as stupid as you look. Ai knows it too, or else you wouldn’t be having this conversation with a dead person.” " XD

i'm really liking the deepness of the story, though i'm anxious to find out what this "Truth" is...[sits down with a bowl of ramen and waits]:MKramen: these monkey icons are so funny XD
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on December 29, 2006, 05:14:51 PM
Quote from: jafeijai;269966
the way i see it, Reina was talking to Miki, so then it was Miki who asked Reina about killing her best friend (namely Matsuura Aya).

Yes, the quotes in italics toward the end were being spoken to her, not by her. So it's not her best friend being talked about - as jafeijai says, it seems to be a reference to Reina's orders to kill Aya at the end of chapter 16. That's also why the question about the best friend follows Reina's flashback. I'm sorry if it was a little confusing, but there's a reason I designed it that way, too. As to your first questions about Reina's "nightmares", it is hard to tell exactly what is going on toward the end there. :)
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rndmnwierd on December 29, 2006, 08:00:20 PM
Ghost Mikitty to the rescue! Or non-rescue. Or something.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: Yuuyami on December 29, 2006, 09:47:20 PM
I really like this chapter :]

Mainly because I could picture it vividly in my mind, and it would be an excellent thing to draw for a manga too, I can totally imagine Miki trying to persuade Reina and such *-*...
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: Sukoshi on December 31, 2006, 08:39:03 AM
Ah so they are assassins :o   Okay so one thing revealed :D

Quote from: rokun;269758
There hasn’t been an innocent life lost so far because of this, and I sure hope it doesn’t start now.”


eh?  Does this mean that Miki's doings weren't so innocent and that her actions caused her own death?  Hum....time to ponder some more~
Title: *bump*
Post by: iacus on January 15, 2007, 12:38:00 PM
This is (no hyperbole) the best fic here. And one of the best fanfics I have ever read. Your writing style is detailed and elegant, the plot gripping and well thought out, and the characterizations interesting and deep. hopefully you are just taking your time with the next chapter and not completely abandoning this story. If you do abandon this story I'm afraid I may settle into a horrible drunken depression born out of despair. Please write again, if not for your own pleasure than for my sake. You dont want this :JD: to be my only friend do you?
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on January 19, 2007, 02:02:58 AM
LoL. :lol: Thank you... Glad to see someone is still reading it. I figure I'm giving everyone time to catch up now. :P *cough* I definitely haven't abandoned this, just have had too many other things going on lately I think... Sports is beginning to take over my life, and I'm just beginning to settle into the new semester I think. Work is still very busy since we're short-staffed, and that's where I do a lot of my, er, thinking about what to write. I'm hoping to get some motivation and write more soon, but this weekend is going to be full of sports again! Urgh... Well, c'est la vie.

And thank you again. :grin:
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: iacus on January 19, 2007, 10:21:20 AM
(Crawls out of drunken despair)Yay! Rokun actually talked to me!! *giggles insanely*
Quote from: rokun;286459
I definitely haven't abandoned this

YES, LIFE IS GOOD.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on January 20, 2007, 05:33:48 AM
Sorry for the holiday, but it was a holiday after all, wasn't it? :) I've felt sick today and didn't care to do anything else, so thought I'd continue on. I love this story too much not to continue, and I hope some of you feel that way too. At least, love it enough to keep reading. Please enjoy. :)

Chapter 18 – A Flame Strikes

“Honestly Koharu, I’m beginning to think lately that you are Kirari. I’m debating whether I like it better than when you were kissing Ai’s boots though…”

The addressed girl stuck her nose into the air indignantly. “Well,” she began, “You know most of the country actually thinks I am Kirari. I can’t walk down the street any more without some cute little kid crying ‘Hey! It’s Kirari-chan!’ and trying to get my autograph. Meaning Kirari Tsukishima’s, of course. At least I have something I’m known for. Unlike you…” She looked Reina up and down. “What are you known for, anyway? You’re just the one that really has been kissing Takahashi-sama’s boots lately.” She looked as if she might continue, but was impeded by a blow to her face, and fell to her rear, stunned. After a moment, she began crying. “Yoccchan!!!” she whined, and jumped up to stick her bottom lip out at Reina and ran off, whining for their leader repeatedly.

Reina still stood there, hands balled in fists at her sides and huffing in fury. She would pay for that, but it was worth it. She felt her eyes begin to moisten slightly. It was, right? Abruptly spinning on her heel, she stalked off down the hall. She bypassed her dressing room – she couldn’t face anyone else right now – and after a while she realized she had climbed some flights of stairs and was nearing the door to the roof. She pushed on it, but it didn’t open, locked. Casting quick rote glances to the sides, she kicked at the door and it clanged open, all in barely the blink of an eye. There were times for subtlety, but she felt in no mood to be subtle right now. It also still amazed her how strongly she could kick like that. She imagined the door was Koharu and a slow small smile crept onto her face.

Walking out into the brisk January air she hardly felt, she went to stand at the rail near the edge, staring out at the lights of the city. They were performing in Kobe tonight as part of their newest Wonderful Hearts tour. The girls all brightened when they had heard the Hello! Morning Box camera was set up backstage, and whenever they took breaks most of them did some goofy thing or another in front of it. Well, those that wanted to. Reina didn’t, but she was forced into it anyway since the staff wanted all the girls to have some time in front of it –her especially since she was one of the leads. She smiled faintly at that. No. That juvenile mockery of a fourteen-year-old was just jealousy as always. She would not let the girl get to her. She found herself tugging at one of her pigtails and growled. She just wouldn’t. She’d only gone in front of the box with her because she was forced to, and was even regretting allowing that now. What harm could it do? she had thought. What harm, indeed. People just sucked lately, and that girl was hardly her favorite to begin with. Memories of another came floating up in her mind at that thought, but she stamped them back down vigorously.

She realized she was glaring at the city below her, and quickly cleared up her expression. She wasn’t mad at Kobe, of course. Although, there was something odd she’d felt about the city ever since they arrived yesterday…

“Tanaka-san!” a strained male voice called out to her from behind. “What in the world are you doing up here? You’re due on in five minutes. And… Tsunku’s called a full meeting immediately when it’s over. Something’s happened apparently, but management won’t tell anyone what yet. They just say to wait until the meeting.”

Reina turned, hurriedly fixing her hair and rubbing beneath her eyes in case she’d actually shed any tears, and faced the young man who stood breathless at the door she had kicked out. She noticed him look nervously at the door every so often – it was very obviously not opened the usual way. Seeing who it was, she smiled one of the few real smiles she shared lately.

“A meeting you say, Daisuke-kun?” she asked, sauntering toward him and the door. He looked unsure whether to back away or keep coming toward her. “That’s odd. I wonder what it could possibly mean.” Her voice had turned to simpering, as it usually did around fans and others of the staff. She talked as if she were the clueless brainless girl she looked, but she had a good idea of what the meeting would be about.

“I couldn’t say, Tanaka-san. My manager just told me to inform any of the girls I came across of it. I noticed you weren’t with the others and began looking for you. I only came up here because another of the staff said he thought he saw you running toward some stairs. When I saw the door here… open…” The boy flushed slightly, now pointedly avoiding looking at the door in question.

“How sweet of you to have noticed,” Reina responded with a slightly faltering smile, though he would not have noticed since his eyes were now lowered to her feet. She did not run up those stairs! “You always seem to be around when I find myself in… trouble.” Having now reached him, she reached up and ran a finger slowly down his arm.

Daisuke-kun blushed even further at her words and action, and his eyes raised briefly to catch hers before dropping quickly back down to the floor. “Please, Tanaka-san. Follow me. We need to get you to the stage.”

“Daisuke-kun,” Reina said, jutting her lower lip in an effort at fake poutiness, “Didn’t I tell you to just call me Reina?”

The boy’s eyes raised to hers again, this time holding them a fraction of a second longer before dropping down. “No, Tanaka-san. I’ll remember that, Tanaka-san.” He then bowed before turning and walking quickly away, not making an effort to ensure she followed. Reina grinned though. For a moment when their eyes had met, she thought she detected a faint hint of a smile gracing his lips.



Having finished the final performance of the evening – a sprint to the finish for Reina since she performed the whole Morning Musume segment, which was the final one of the groups of course, as well as the last all-project songs – the girls chattered amongst themselves as they filed into a large room backstage that contained chairs which looked as if they had been very hastily assembled in expectation of their meeting. Reina didn’t chat with anyone at first of course, though Niigaki had attempted to start some sort of conversation with her as she always tried to for some reason. Reina did her best to pretend the other girl didn’t exist though, and eventually took shelter near Miyabi and Risako. She didn’t say anything to them aside from brief greetings and a smile for Miyabi – she did like her fellow Aa! member after all – but at least it could seem she had friends she was hanging out with. She sometimes wished she could talk with Miya-chan more, but aside from First Kiss they really had nothing in common. Quietly, she took her seat next to Miyabi and closed her eyes, trying to block out the noise in the room and bring herself into focus.

She’d had some more training lately, and she felt she was really learning well this time, though of course Ai never gave her any suggestion of success. They hadn’t had training for a few days now, though. She felt a little hint from Ai in that, and finally agreed that it was a perfect opportunity.

“Ahem.” Tsunku cleared his throat, flanked by two suits, and looked around at the other girls. Did he seem somewhat nervous? Well, he should be, Reina supposed. It wasn’t every day his project had quite as devastating an occurrence as today brought.

The girls all quieted immediately and looked eagerly to their Producer, who ran his eyes across them all as if looking for something. Reina kept her eyes closed, hoping it looked like she was asleep. These concerts were tiring, after all. Of course, he wouldn’t have known she didn’t feel the slightest bit tired. Her conditioning went far beyond the effort of a little concert now.

“I have some, um, news to report to you all tonight. I hate to give you more bad tidings so soon after the New Year, and so soon after… what happened several weeks ago, but I want you to find out from me before you hear it in the papers and weeklies tomorrow.”

The tension in the room now was palpable – Reina thought she could almost cut it with a knife. That made her think of how skilled she felt she had gotten using knives lately. She still didn’t match Ai, she was sure, though the girl didn’t let on how much she really knew. Reina definitely remembered that night in the alley, though.

“Aya Matsuura has… gone missing,” he continued, and Reina thought she heard one or two soft gasps around the room.

“Missing?” Reina heard Yossi ask. “What do you mean? She probably just overslept or went home suddenly without telling anyone or something.”

There was a pause, and Reina could almost feel that Tsunku was shaking his head. Let the calmness flow through you… fall into yourself. Let outside sensations become meaningless. Only by fully detaching yourself from your senses can you become fully aware.

“Those things do happen, of course,” Tsunku admitted. “But, it has now been three days. After the first day she didn’t show up to work. Staff members tried calling her, but there was no response. We thought she might just be cutting work, so we didn’t think too much of it, but we did send someone to her house later in the day. There was still no one home. When she didn’t show up the next day either and we still had no response when we called, we tried her family, but they knew nothing. Then, we filed a police report.”

There was a pause in the explanation again, as if he was expecting some response, but the room was as silent as if there weren’t dozens of young girls and staff members occupying it. Drink in the silence. Many people are scared of the silence – they get uncomfortable; it makes them feel alone. But if you embrace it, it’s a first step in obtaining complete mastery of your environment. If anyone cared to look at her now, in the calm trance-like state she held, she would think she really was asleep. Of course, it was quite to the contrary.

“This was yesterday. The police entered her home and only found signs of a struggle. I… don’t want to say more, but there’s now a nationwide hunt out for her. I’m afraid…” His voice cracked slightly at that, but when he resumed, it was as strong as ever. “They will keep the hunt going until they find her.”

Reina opened her eyes. Tsunku still stood, hands behind his back, his face set with determination. One of the younger girls started crying.

“Everyone!” Yossi barked as she jumped to her feet and walked over toward their Producer. “They will find her. Don’t you worry about that. You know Ayaya - she’s just playing some kind of game. She’s had a bad year and wants to draw some attention to herself, yadda yadda yadda. However,” She now cast a stern look down the rows of girls seated very still. “If any one of you knows anything about this, I’m sure you will tell Tsunku or me as soon as possible. Right?” Her hard eyes lingered a moment on Reina at the end of the line. Reina gave her a cool stare in return. She felt nothing but calmness suffusing her now. After a moment, Yossi ran her eyes back along the rest of the girls.

“Now,” she said more calmly, and gave Tsunku a look just long enough to catch his nod before turning back. “Everyone get undressed and back to your rooms. Chop chop!” She clapped her hands in rhythm with those words. The room was then full of chairs rustling as the girls all stood up, though no one spoke a word until they were back in the hall.

“Did you see that?” Reina heard Miyabi whisper to Risako. “When she was accusing us, she stared straight at me for the longest! I barely even know Ayaya! What could she think I’ve done?!”

“I’m fairly certain she was looking at me,” Reina said in a normal voice. The two Berryz gaped at her with wide eyes as if they had forgotten she was there. Reina did her best to keep her eyes from narrowing. A few of the other girls gave her shifty looks as well, though Reina wasn’t sure if it was because of her visibly loud voice or whether they, too, had noticed Yossi’s eyes.

“Why would she have given you that look, senpai?” Risako squeaked.

Reina shrugged. “I don’t think I’m her favorite person right now. I’ve hardly talked to her in weeks, and when I did back then… Well, suffice to say I wasn’t exactly whispering sweet nothings into her ear.”

The two girls looked confused by that a moment before Miyabi seemed to suddenly remember something and moaned, “Oooh… I heard a bit about that. You were quite insubordinate to her, weren’t you?” Reina couldn’t tell whether the girl was impressed or appalled by that. Likely a bit of both. She thought the girl did like her too, after all.

“Probably also because I’ve talked to Ayaya more than most lately. She hasn’t been one for a whole lot of socializing since last month’s incident.” She filled the last word with scorn, but the two young girls didn’t seem to notice. Not surprising of course, once again. However, since she was still speaking in a normal voice, some of the others looked at her askance once again. Go ahead, she thought, let them wonder! She wondered if she really cared anymore. Probably not, considering she knew none of them would ever find out what happened unless she wanted them to. Or someone else who was even less likely to reveal it.

“You don’t know what happened to her, do you?” Risako asked curiously, and the blunt question caught Reina slightly off-guard, enough so that she stopped walking. The other two stopped a pace ahead and looked nervously back at her. The other girls kept walking along, though she definitely did catch the attention of many of them.

“I’m sure it’s nothing for you two to worry about,” Reina said finally as she began walking again. “And tell your friends the same, too. You’re too young to have to deal with things like that.” She was then quite aware that she wasn’t all that much older than them. Well, honestly, she was too young as well, though there was nothing she could do about that.

“Okay…” Miyabi said, and the girls all walked in silence for a minute before the others began talking about some new boots or some such. Reina didn’t care.

Before long, she reached her dressing room and walked in, carefully avoiding the searching eyes of the other girls present, though no one spoke. She quickly undressed and donned her street clothes. When she pulled the tight red boots that she was so proud of on, she almost couldn’t help smiling. After so long as a loner, she thought it was nice actually being noticed. She had a feeling people would notice her a lot more from now on, as well.

She felt so good about herself in fact, that she hardly even gave a thought to the smile and nod Ai gave her as they passed on her way to her room. Any other time those gestures could have meant anything, but the events of tonight and what she saw in the glance she caught of the girl’s eyes told her everything.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: Sukoshi on January 20, 2007, 07:28:26 AM
Wow that was a great update!  The news of Ayaya gone missing totally threw me off XD  I thought it was for sure going to be about erm..something else...but that would be too sad...so I'm glad it wasn't about that.  Hum, I have a strong feeling that Reina is hiding Ayaya somewhere but you always seem to surprise me so I'll have to keep guessing XD
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: JFC on January 20, 2007, 08:12:59 AM
Shit...did Reina actually follow the orders Aichan gave her? :shocked:
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on January 24, 2007, 06:06:04 AM
To Sukoshi and JFC's comments: :)
Everyone please comment! It makes your writer happy! Since I've still been sick this week, here is the next installment... the story gets serious?


Chapter 19 – The Raven and the Canary

Lounging on her bed flat on her stomach, Reina enjoyed a cup o’ noodle as she watched the night’s Utaban. She usually tried to watch the show, as well as other similar programs, though in the past she was normally occupied in these hours, whether shopping, having dinner with friends, or just hanging out with her friends. Sometimes when they were all hanging out they’d put the show on, but usually just on special occasions, such as if they themselves were the guests. Those times they’d have so much fun laughing at Miki’s bored expressions, Reina’s too-cutely-serious looks, or Sayu’s evil eyes. They’d also laugh when Taka-san tricked them at something or other, which happened quite frequently, really.

Now though, Reina lay alone with her noodles, only dressed in a long t-shirt and black heart-speckled boxer shorts as if ready for bed, although she wouldn’t be sleeping for a good while yet. Before long, she would be headed for another session with Ai. For some reason she didn’t feel as completely worn out as she used to when she dreaded those sessions. Apparently something she was learning was working.

Tonight’s guest was Kat-tun, doing yet another follow-up for their last single. Before she knew it, Reina’s eyes had narrowed and she growled softly. She used to be crazy about boy band members, but lately whenever she saw any, she couldn’t help but think of Risa’s experience with one. None of these boys had done it of course – Risa had told her the boy she was with was a member of some band she’d never heard of, and she has definitely heard of Kat-tun – but it still felt the same to her on general principle. It was a good thing Jin wasn’t there though, since he wasn’t quite so innocent in her mind.

Reina almost barked a laugh at that. Innocent? That’s something absolutely none of those boys were. Something none of the girls were either, no matter what image they present to the world. Suddenly she realized what she was doing and mentally chided herself for still having feelings over what happened to the fifth gen girl. She was the enemy now, after all. She wasn’t even speaking to the girl, so why did she still feel this way?

A knock at her door brought Reina out of her little reverie. Not thinking about who it might be with all that was on her mind, she hopped up from the bed and lazily walked over to open it. When the light from the hall flooded in, she caught whose face it presented and stopped short, unmoving.

Eri stood in her jeans with their elaborate belt and a small vest over a shirt that printed something in what appeared to be English, though with the vest covering the sides, she only caught the letters “B E” with another “E” below them. She decided she didn’t want to know what the vest hid.

The girl’s face looked pained as she gazed imploringly at Reina, but Reina grew sullen and crossed her arms, tensing her leg to keep her foot from tapping. “What do you want?” she asked in an emotionless voice.

Eri gulped and blinked, hesitating a moment before asking softly, “Can I come in?”

“Why should I let you in?” Reina responded flatly.

Eri licked her lips, seeming a little nervous, as well as a little confused. “Why shouldn’t you?” she asked. She proffered a hand, and Reina realized there was what looked like a box of candies in it. “I have gummies.”

Reina stared at her for a moment longer, then let her gaze fall to the gummies. “Fine,” she said finally, and snatching the gummies away, turned and walked back into the room without a backward glance. She crawled back on her bed and resumed her position, popping a gummi into her mouth as she very studiously glued her eyes to the screen.

She heard some shuffling from back toward the entrance and the soft click of the door shutting, but it was quiet for a minute or so.

“Why are you being like this?” Eri finally asked in a quiet voice. Reina ignored her.

After another moment, without warning Reina felt her side being shoved. She reacted instantly with the instincts she had developed so well recently, dropping the box of gummies and curling her body toward the source of the pressure, hands darting out to grab the arms of the girl that had just pushed her, and pulled. Eri’s body flew over her own, but she had precise control over the moment, and pulled the girl down to the bed on her back, Reina rolling over on top of her holding the girl’s wrists close together above her head while straddling her hips.

Eri was breathing heavily, eyes wide in shock, though Reina was as calm and composed as if she had not just tossed a girl who was slightly heavier than her through the air. She paused for a moment though, because now she was in a position that she had not really been expecting. When the girl tried to push her, the instinct that she had honed so well lately kicked in and it was all over in barely a second.

She pushed herself up quickly, but stayed seated on Eri’s legs. “Why did you do that?” she asked, unable to keep a hint of curiosity out of her voice.

Eri, still breathing hard, continued looking up at her, but her mouth tightened in frustration. Reina schooled herself to keep steady. The girl was just so cute when she did that…

“I wanted to get your attention since you were ignoring me. I thought I’d push you over so that you were looking up at me and not low at the TV like you were,” Eri explained. After a slight pause she continued very softly, “Obviously that didn’t work very well.” Reina thought she detected amusement in the girl’s voice. Amusement! There was a hint of a smile too. Was the girl impressed? Reina crossed her arms and looked to the side. She couldn’t look down at the girl like that any longer and keep any semblance of composure.

“Are you pouting?” Eri asked. Reina immediately tightened her lips. “Seriously Reina, what’s been going on with you lately? You’ve not said a word to me. Nii-chan says you’ve done your best to ignore her, too, for who knows why.” Eri’s voice trembled slightly on that last sentence, but hearing that name was quite enough for Reina. She jerked back off of Eri’s legs until her back was against the wall at the head of her bed, crossing her legs and arms as if they would make an impenetrable barrier. In reality, they nearly were.

She turned back to the girl now sitting up at the foot of her bed, feeling fire in her eyes. “It’s time to stop this little charade of yours now. Both of you. You both know very well why I’m not talking to you. You just didn’t know that I know, too, and have known for a while. Ever since the Christmas party, in fact.” Her muscles tensed even more as her speech sped up as she went on. “Was that even the first time? What am I supposed to say?”

Eri stared at her a moment, unblinking, before nearly whispering in a weak voice, “That was the first time. The only time. Seeing how you were acting after that night, I didn’t feel right doing more for the time being.” It almost seemed like she was talking to herself, with her eyes drawn inward and the wistful tone.

Reina’s eyes narrowed. “Well that’s a relief.” When she spoke, Eri seemed to snap out of her trance and gave her a horrified look. “At least my girlfriend isn’t sleeping with one of my other best friends every night.”

Eri opened her mouth, but no words came out at first. The corners of her mouth twisted up slightly in a smile, of all things. “You think of me as your girlfriend?” she asked wonderingly.

The next sound was Reina’s mouth snapping shut, cutting off whatever she was about to say. Then she almost sighed at the slip of her tongue. Yes, that was what I felt. “No.” Eri gave her a confused expression. “I might have thought that way,” she began, before hesitating while trying to decide how to continue without totally contradicting herself. “Maybe I still want to. But… I can’t outside of my own mind. I mean, no matter what I think, obviously it’s not true.”

The other girl stared a moment before adopting a slightly sad expression. Reina wasn’t sure what she wanted, but she was being given less of a reaction than she thought she’d receive. “I’m sorry Reina,” Eri said solemnly, and Reina noticed the girl’s eyes begin to glisten momentarily. “I didn’t know.” She looked away as if unable to continue looking Reina in the eyes. “The times I spent with you were great, but you always seemed so… distant… like you didn’t want to give yourself to me. Like you had other things that were more important. I guess that made me think I wasn’t that important to you. I saw how you looked at some other girls, other guys. I figured there was no way I was the only one. I mean…” She turned her head slowly to look back at Reina, tears shining brightly in her eyes now. “Why should I be?” She looked back to the side and down.

Reina sat motionless, eyes fixed on the tender-looking girl opposite her. She looked so vulnerable. She seemed almost as if at a tap, she would shatter into a million pieces. Reina looked down to find her arms no longer crossed, instead folded in her lap, her fingers fidgeting slowly, idly.

“I guess it was at my birthday party that it really hit. You weren’t even there. I didn’t notice why, but I could hardly even think throughout the whole thing. Risa-chan was the one that was there for me… She kept me involved, allowed me to be happy. I was seeing much more of her since you two had for some reason become closer, and I guess she was just trying to fit in. ‘Didn’t she have other friends?’ I thought. Then at the Christmas Party, we just got talking over dinner, you disappeared somewhere, and we ended up alone and…” She swallowed, lowering her head again and shaking it. “I’m sorry. It’s all my fault.” Her head suddenly rose up and she looked around with wide, wet eyes, not seeming to see Reina. “I shouldn’t be here.” With that, she crawled quickly off the bed and nearly ran to the door, opening it and ducking out. As it closed, she was already gone.

Reina stared after her. Is this what it feels like? she thought. If it was, she wasn’t sure it was all worth it. Why can’t things be easier? Why can’t two people just be happy and enjoy each other? Why do bad things have to happen?

She pulled her legs up and slipped them under her blankets, pulling them up to her neck. She felt cold suddenly, though the blankets didn’t seem to help. The television still chattered away to her, oblivious to everything else going on in the room. All the boys were now playing some silly game again, with Kazuya shaking his head in disbelief at some outrageous turn of events. Why wasn’t life like that? People laughed, people were teased, they took it all in good fun, but above all everybody was happy.

She found herself reaching over for her phone. Once she grabbed it, she brought it in front of her upon the blanket and stonily began going through her contacts. She passed by one name hesitantly. There would be time for that later. Then she arrived at another and left it selected, hovering her finger over the “send” button, but there was a knock at the door.

The knock wasn’t strong, but it sounded confident. It couldn’t be Eri then; the girl had just left as if Reina just destroyed her. The knock sounded again, slightly louder. “The door’s open,” she called out in a voice that she didn’t believe the visitor would be able to hear. It opened anyway, and she was surprised at who it was. When Ai visited Reina, she didn’t knock and come through the door.

The girl sashayed into the room, looking around her in what seemed feigned interest, and arrived at the foot of Reina’s bed. “You look nice and cozy,” she said in an amiable voice. “Catching a little TV before bed? You remember we were supposed to train tonight, right?”

Reina nodded. “I’ll be ready in a minute,” she said as she pulled herself out of her blankets and swung to the side of the bed. Her chill didn’t go away. But then of course, the blankets hadn’t been helping anyway. She had a feeling that would last all night.

Standing and walking over to her dresser to sift through her clothes, she was turned away from Ai, but she knew and could feel the girl’s eyes examining her up and down. She was very conscious of only the very thin t-shirt and short boxers she wore, though was not uncomfortable. She had gotten used to being free with the girl. Actually, it felt a little exhilarating for some reason. The coldness ebbed slightly.

As she pulled out a sweat shirt and pants, she felt Ai’s hand touch her wrist, causing her to freeze her motion. “You won’t need those tonight,” Ai said behind her. Reina turned very slowly to find Ai standing close, and she looked into the girl’s dark yet animated eyes. “You’ll want something a bit nicer-looking.”

Ai pulled back slightly, removing her hand from Reina’s wrist, to cross her arms against her breast in an ‘X’ as if giving a sign. It looked somehow familiar… Reina now noticed that instead of her normal athletic attire, Ai was wearing an outfit of full black, with outwardly netted shoulders and thighs, tight over her chest and at her hips, though very elastic-like on the arms and legs as if to allow fully free range of motion. It was perfectly clean, and above her left breast were four slanted gold-embroidered lines, parallel and maybe a centimeter apart.

“Reina Tanaka, pupil of Taisho Ai Takahashi of Tokyo Sect, humble servant of The People, you are hereby summoned to attend the Council of the Raven and her humble Chairman, Asahito Yamagata. With proof of loyalty already given, and the foundation of trust built, you are to be inducted into the Order as an official subordinate of Taisho Ai Takahashi and given full access to all resources of the Tokyo sect.” Ai bowed, arms still crossed, and rose again, smiling. “Congratulations, Reina,” she said in a warm voice, a sparkle in her eye telling Reina there was much more behind her words than what she actually spoke, “You’ve made me very proud.”

Reina, in her baggy t-shirt and heart-covered boxers with her sweats hung limp from her hand, stared back into those eyes that now seemed raven-black, though full of a depth hiding surprises that, to Reina, never seemed to cease. I’m sorry, Eririn, she mouthed indistinctly, captivated by those eyes and realizing fully what the girl had been trying to tell her.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: iacus on January 24, 2007, 11:03:08 AM
Wow. I go away for a few days and what do I see when I come back?
Two big, long, sexy chapters: full of plot, character, intrigue, and big surprises.
Truly excellent. Bravo. (btw Which one is the "you are an awsome writer" smiley? I keep trying to say how good you are but I don't think I'm doing you justice)
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: JFC on January 25, 2007, 04:28:24 AM
Oh hot damn, time to meet the big-wigs! :w00t:

Poor Eri, even though she kinda screwed herself over by making out with Mamechan, you still can't help but feel badly for her.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: Sukoshi on January 25, 2007, 12:03:39 PM
Ah so Reina finally figures it out..kind of late though since Reina and Eririn are both unhappy :cry:
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on January 26, 2007, 05:19:05 AM
Being sick does wonders sometimes, doesn't it? :lol: This one is quite a bit longer than the last few have been, but with purpose... This is a bit different in some ways. I think some of you might really like it. We'll see. :) In any case, please enjoy...

Chapter 20 - Initiation

Reina gave Ai a strange look when the girl took her through the entrance of a tall, non-descript building near downtown Kobe. Ai gave her a reassuring smile and nod, apparently recognizing her thoughts about their current surroundings. The building looked no different from a normal downtown office building, but as they entered the columned lobby, a feeling tugged at Reina that something was different.

It didn’t have anything to do with the room. It wouldn’t have been out of place as the reception area of any of the myriad skyscrapers around Japan, with the dark-suited office workers filing along and the front desk lady sitting patiently giving a glance to the newcomers. The different thing was that it was 23:00 hours. She knew many company employees worked late, but this seemed like it pushed it quite a bit…

Ai took her hand, breaking her out of the study of the room, and smiling, led her to the front desk. “Ai Takahashi and Reina Tanaka,” she told the receptionist. “We’re here on business from Tokyo.”

The short-haired professional-looking lady behind the desk looked closely into both of their faces before nodding. “Miss Takahashi, welcome back. Things have been going well I take it?” The woman was very brisk with her words, but Reina noticed genuine interest in them.

Ai nodded. “I believe so,” she responded, giving the woman a smile that seemed different from the ones she gave Reina. It seemed almost… indulgent. Obviously Ai knew the woman, and apparently didn’t think all that much of her. “Although of course, you can judge for yourself...” She turned to Reina and smiled while saying that, a smile that was as warm as it ever was. Reina looked back into her eyes. What did the girl think of her?

“Yes. Miss Tanaka, no?” The woman turned to Reina as well and scrutinized her. Reina drew herself up, feeling quite proud of her appearance in her short black skirt with white polka-dots and small red leather jacket over a cream-colored blouse. She would have worn a longer dress, but Ai advised against it for some reason. “Welcome to Kobe.” As if that were all she cared to say to the fresh face, she then drew her eyes quickly back to Ai. “I believe you know the way?”

Ai bowed slightly, a bemused look on her face. “Thank you, Ms. Fumitsu,” she said, and pulled Reina away. Reina kept her eyes in… Ms. Fumitsu’s? direction though and saw the woman give a glower to Ai’s back. “Don’t mind her,” Ai said through clenched teeth, plainly schooling herself well to keep from bursting out laughing. “She’s just a little sore that management doesn’t recognize her talent. Knowing what happened with me doesn’t help.” Reina looked sideways at the girl, whose face was pointed ahead in the direction they walked. What did happen with her?

They stopped when they reached an elevator and Ai pressed the button to go up. Reina stared at her, but she didn’t seem to notice. “You seem uncomfortable,” Reina said at last, and Ai gave her an odd look.

“What do you mean?”

Reina kept staring. “You’ve never been this… friendly… since long before you told me you killed Miki. In fact, not for a long time before that, too.” She tilted her head slightly and gave the girl a grimace.  “It’s kind of creepy.”

Ai arched her eyebrows and chuckled softly in response before poking Reina in the shoulder. “Maybe you’re rubbing off on me,” she said with a smirk as Reina rubbed her arm.

“I still think you’re uncomfortable,” Reina stubbornly insisted.

Ai sighed and turned back to the elevator, her smile becoming wistful. “I haven’t had the best experiences in this place,” she said after a time. Her expression darkened and she continued softly, as if to herself, “That’s going to change soon, though. Even more than it already has.”

Catching herself, she turned once again to Reina, who stared back. “I think you’re the one being creepy,” she said with a grimace herself. “Don’t keep staring at people like that!” As if to emphasize her point, the elevator dinged and its doors slid open. “Come on,” she said as she walked in, assuming Reina would follow. She did, of course. What else was there to do?

The elevator was empty except for them, odd for as many people as seemed to walk around the lobby. Looking back out at them, she realized they all walked in very regular patterns, and some already looked familiar, too. Their eyes darted around with much more of an awareness of their surroundings than office people busy about their work usually kept in her experience. As the doors slid shut, she decided they weren’t just passing through.

With nothing else to look at, Reina glanced at the level buttons next to the door. Ai hadn’t pressed one yet. Instead, she was standing in front of the panel gazing silently at Reina. She gave her a smile when Reina noticed her and reached out to push a button. The elevator started up, and Reina blinked before looking again at the panel. The lighted button – the one Ai had pressed – had no floor number next to it. It occupied the space between the buttons for twelve and fourteen, but there was no number printed.

Noticing Ai gazing at her again, she looked over at the girl. “It’s western-style, you know,” Ai explained bemusedly. “They think there’s something strange about the number thirteen and so sometimes skip that floor when they design buildings. Silly superstitious Westerners...” She chuckled. “At least, the impression it gives is that it’s supposed to be western-style.”

Immediately after the girl finished speaking, the carriage slowed to a stop and its doors slid open to reveal a long, silent corridor, dimly lighted. Reina squinted. No, her eyes weren’t fooling herself, the lights were flickering!

“Are those torches?” she blurted out.

“Uh huh,” Ai said, still not hiding the amusement in her voice. “Come on.”

Ai took her hand, making Reina blush slightly. Then she wanted to blush more when she realized she had blushed. She tightened her hand into the girl’s and they walked forward into the hall.

There were doors at intervals along the sides, although they were all closed, and they passed them all before stopping at one that looked as if it had been worn and unused for years. Why would they keep a door like this in this kind of building? she asked herself. She looked to Ai for explanation since she usually somehow was able to read her mind about these things, but drew back. The girl seemed to have undergone some kind of transformation. Reina nearly forgot she wore the tight black suit with her near friendly attitude since they entered the building, but now she fit it perfectly. Her face was hard as stone, expressionless as it always was during her harsh training sessions, and she drew herself up as if she owned the world. To Reina, it nearly seemed as if she did.

Reina loosened her grip slightly on Ai’s hand, intending to let go since the girl apparently switched to professional mode, but Ai tightened her own grip, turning to face her. “I’ll be here beside you. Just be yourself.”

Reina wasn’t sure she wanted the girl to be beside her for anything, since her new attitude reminded her too much of her professional life – including being Miki’s murderer – but the girl’s grip was hard as iron. Nodding, Reina turned to the door and drew herself up also. Well, even if she was about to meet her doom, she would meet it with all the pride she held. And whatever they thought they would use her for, Reina Tanaka would not be just another pawn in the dangerous and terrible games they played.

Ai knocked on the door with a black-gloved hand, the glove covering it to the elbow. When had she put a glove on? The hand she held Reina’s with didn’t have one. Reina thought she could feel the girl’s blood pounding in it through her strong, taut grip.

After a short moment the door swung open, amazingly without creaking, to reveal a large room lit only by two circular red lights on the back wall straight ahead. Reina couldn’t see much, but by the silhouettes she made out, it appeared there were a set of tables set in a small half-circle, split just left and right of center. Behind each side table she thought she could see three figures sitting, and just one in the smaller one at the center, just below the red lights. The door had been opened by a man not unlike the ones she met in the alley what seemed so long ago, as well as the ones she saw on the way to Ai’s apartment, and he stiffly bowed them in.

Reina felt a tug at her arm, and as Ai stepped forward she found herself following. She wished she could pinch herself. Despite her experiences in the alley and Ai’s “training center”, it seemed like she had walked into a dream. A vision of Eri briefly flashed through her mind, but something so normal couldn’t seem real right now. More appropriately perhaps, Miki’s voice from one of those horrible nights sounded in her thoughts, “You won’t succeed until you see the Truth beyond the illusion of reality.” It made absolutely no sense to her, but still seemed quite fitting for her current situation.

As she walked with Ai into the middle of the half-moon style tables, she stared at the red lights. For some reason, they seemed to become smaller the closer she grew. They almost looked like eyes… She caught herself before an involuntary swallow. Of course. Raven’s eyes. Despite the horror of the idea, she nearly wanted to burst out laughing.

“Taisho Ai Takahashi,” a somewhat rough but strong voice intoned from beneath the eyes. “It has been some time since our gaze has fallen upon you.” Even though he used the imperial-sounding plural, Reina had no doubts that he was speaking only of himself. She slid her eyes to the left and right, but no sound came from the figures at the sides seated solid as stone. “And you bring another,” the voice went on, as if in surprise. “Why should our gaze be given to this one?”

Ai answered, in what to Reina seemed a too-patient voice. She was frightened for a moment until she realized that only someone who knew Ai’s subtleties would notice. She was then also frightened over how well she apparently knew the girl now. At least, she hoped the others in this room didn’t know her quite so well. “Master Chairman, at my side is Reina Tanaka, one whom your eyes have watched for quite some time, though for varying reasons.” She squeezed Reina’s hand slightly as she spoke, and Reina noticed a slight inflection to “at my side”. Reina began to feel woozy. “She has succeeded in every task set before her, including a Trial of Necessity, and per the acknowledgement of the Council, and sincerest recommendation I have given no other, ask for her entrance into the Chosen.”

Reina had no idea what the girl was talking about – it must be some kind of formality with this organization that seemed quite steeped in tradition – but she understood enough to realize this was much more significant than she had realized. The Chosen?

There was a long pause, during which Reina felt herself begin to sweat. What Ai requested seemed for some reason an awful lot to ask for. She was waiting for them to laugh and ask why this foolish little girl was standing here, a comment she was sure would be followed by her head getting chopped off or something. However, eventually the voice from the middle gave a response. “We will see her.”

Suddenly, the red lights dimmed and white light sprang up from all around; not bright, but enough that she could clearly see what the room held. She found that she wasn’t mistaken about the red lights – they still glowed softly as the eyes of what looked like a large carved black bird’s head above the center table. Below them stood a man, and out of the corners of her eyes she saw five men and one woman sitting at the sides – two of the men fairly young, but the others middle-aged.

She didn’t notice any more detail about them because her eyes were fixed to the man who looked just past middle aged that stood behind the table at the center, which she could see now was really no more than an elaborately worked and carved podium. Wearing a long dark coat with the collar turned up over what must have been a white silk shirt and loose black leather pants, his eyes stared into hers with a gaze that took her breath away. It was a hard look, maybe as hard as the ones Ai gave her at times, and with a scar just beneath his left eye accentuating it, Reina thought she was looking into the face of Madness. Above his eyes, bushy brows furrowed beneath a mat of short buzzed and cropped hair, colored black but streaked with gray. She wanted to look away, but his intense gaze held her, apparently satisfied with its captivated audience. However, it wasn’t as if she was attracted to the man – far from it. In reality, the gaze made her feel as if she needed to take ten showers in a row, even before it slid from her eyes slowly down her body. It felt like she was naked beneath it. Why had the girl insisted on such a short skirt?!

After seconds that seemed like an hour, his eyes flicked to the girl next to her, and she nearly gasped for breath in relief. “She seems to have some little strength,” he told Ai. At that moment Reina didn’t doubt the “little” part. “So she’s the one you’ve been going on about, eh?”

The tension seemed to suddenly loosen, and the man sat back in a chair that she hadn’t noticed was behind him, lounging as if he couldn’t be more relaxed. “Yes, Yamagata-sama,” Ai responded, though by the tightening of her hand on Reina’s, his statement might have been a bit of an exaggeration.

Yamagata looked between them for another moment before continuing, “You two look quite close. Are you sure you chose the right career path for her?” The corners of his mouth twisted in a sneer with the question.

“As your honors are well aware,” Ai responded, her glance now including those to the sides, “Even with the short, however intense, training she has had, Tanaka has performed with supreme grace and honor, especially for one so young, and easily captured her first mark of blood.” Her eyes returned to the man in the middle, who was now returning her a white-hot glare, though Reina’s eyes widened since she couldn’t imagine why. “I also personally vouch for her trust, loyalty and skill. This is a request I would make for no other.”

Reina felt her chest tighten at Ai’s words. There she went again. Why did the girl seem to think so highly of her? She sure didn’t feel that respect with how she acted in their nightly practices. The girl sometimes drove her so hard she wondered how she’d last until the morning.

Yamagata leaned forward, a sneer still on his face below his glare focused directly on Ai. If nothing else, Reina was definitely becoming more impressed with the girl. She knew she would be able to do nothing but cringe away from the man if he gave her such a look, yet Ai stood as proudly, and almost as defiant, as ever.

“You personally vouch, eh?” He then leaned back into his chair once more, grasping his hands in front of his face. “You wouldn’t have, perhaps, violated her yourself, eh?” The twisted and sadistic grin he flashed her now seemed to finally chip away at Ai’s defenses, and Reina felt her tremble slightly through her hand.

“You sick bastard!” Reina shouted out as rage impulsively filled her, stepping a foot toward the man as far as she could while still holding Ai’s hand in a death grip. “She has done nothing of the kind! I will not have you talking that way about her!” Something nudged at the heat filling her body telling her that she was being stupid – more like utterly and completely insane – but she paid it no heed as she glared at the scornful face in front of her. She felt Ai’s hand squeeze hers until she was certain the girl would break it, trying unsuccessfully to pull her back.

“I move for approval of Taisho Takahashi’s recommendation,” a strong and hard yet surprisingly pleasant voice piped up suddenly from the side. Unthinking, she turned her head to its source, one of the middle-aged men with full dark hair sitting with hands on his legs and eyes gazing steadily at Reina.

“I second,” another, younger voice rang out from beside him.

“I vote for approval,” the first who spoke shot back.

“I also,” from the woman on his other side.

“Approval.” The young man again.

“I vote approval,” from a silky-toned voice on the other side.

“Approval.”

“Approved,” came the last of the six a moment after.

Flummoxed by the cacophony of calls disrupting her rage, Reina blinked and fell back slightly, letting Ai easily pull her once again beside her, before her eyes once again settled on the man in the center, the sight of him refocusing her razor-sharp fury. He stared back at her, his upper lip twisting in the makings of a sneer, but his glare no longer held the heat it had directed toward Ai.

“So it seems the would-be night stalker has bite, does she?” Standing, he drew a sword Reina hadn’t noticed he carried at his hip and held it just above the podium, pointed at Reina. “Far be it for me to defy an otherwise unanimous vote of the Council,” he continued with a wicked smile that seemed to show just what he thought of such a vote. “So I give it the Chairman’s approval as well, even though it be an unusual request.” Walking toward Reina with the sword held vertically in front of him, both hands on the hilt, Reina looking back with the challenge and fury that seemed as if it would never abate, he took her free hand swiftly, palm up, and sliced it shallowly diagonally down the center. Reina hissed softly at the sudden pain, and drew her eyes to her hand which Yamagata raised between them, squeezing it so red blood seeped out the edges. Reina noticed for the first time just how scarred his hand actually was. She wondered momentarily if that was the same with the rest of him, but cleared the thought quickly from her mind.

“Welcome, Taisho Reina Tanaka,” he intoned, and Reina could feel his hot breath even from half a meter away. “I’m afraid I don’t have a command to assign you to, but I’m sure Takahashi will have you…” He turned to Ai, grinning once again, “…quite well taken care of.”

With that, he released Reina’s blood-streaked hand and in a stately pace returned to behind the podium. Laying his sword sideways now upon it, he looked to either side of the room. “This special session of the Council of the Raven is now called to an end.” Giving one last nasty look back at Ai, he continued, “How eager I am to see how you surprise me next in this room.” Then, turning on his heel, he hit a spot on the wall with the heel of his palm causing a hidden door to open within it, and disappeared beyond, followed by the six other council members. Even though he didn’t look back, Reina noted that several of the six did to give last quick, studying glances at the two girls now standing alone.

“Come on,” Ai grated in a hoarse voice, and she pulled Reina around back toward the door they entered through, the man attending it opening it and bowing them through. Reina thought his eyes lingered on her for a moment, but once through, she didn’t look back.

They walked in silence the return way down the torch-lit hall and Ai pressed “down” next to the elevator. Reina kept glancing down at her hand, which she held in a ball palm-up in an attempt to lose the least blood possible. The man had cut her! She shivered, not eager to see what it would look like once she got the blood cleared off. She would have liked to help that along a bit, but her other hand was still held as tight as ever in Ai’s grip. She wondered how Ai could even still hold it that tightly as slick as it must be now with her sweat. It even seemed like Ai was sweating a bit. The girl had always used to, but lately, for reasons Reina now knew the “why” to, she kept her body cool almost no matter what.

The elevator dinged, and the two girls walked in, Ai pressing the button for the first floor. When the doors closed and the carriage jerked to begin its descent, Reina felt as if her arm was almost jerked out of its socket when Ai spun her toward her, a look of pure delight on her face.

The girl’s eyes practically glowed at her, though she was silent for a moment through a wide smile until her features calmed slightly. Finally she spoke in a soft but obviously restrained voice, “You’re the youngest ever to be Initiated, you know.” Reina detected pride in her tone, as well as something else she couldn’t pick out. Tilting her eyes slightly down and to the side, she continued, “This will surely send shockwaves through the system, though the Council unanimously agreed…” She no longer held Reina’s hand, but instead ran her fingers slowly up Reina’s tender arm, the caress smoothed by both girls’ perspiration. Otherwise, Reina thought she looked as if she could burst out in dance right there as she so often… used… to like to do. She looked back up into Reina’s face. “I think they’re even still recovering from the last one. It wasn’t too long ago that the previous youngest claimed the station. As if that itself didn’t surprise Mr. Yamagata-sama …” She hesitated a moment before continuing, “I overshot hoping that you’d at least gain enough of a level that you would have some little influence, but…”

Reina looked wide-eyed at her in amazement. The older girl was positively brimming with glee! As Ai held her eyes a moment longer, she no longer saw the darkness she was so accustomed to finding in them. This was a warm Ai, a gentle Ai, the Ai that she was sure Risa grew to be best friends with, the Ai that Reina never got to know. Risa… she momentarily wondered how she could have ever been angry with that girl.

Feeling herself brought back to the moment, even though she knew they didn’t, their faces seemed to become closer, and Reina could feel Ai’s hot breath as she breathed it in herself. Between the fury that was still subsiding within her and her current proximity with her mentor, she began to feel intoxicated…

Ding!

The elevator doors opened to the bustling of the apparently ever-present workers pacing back and forth across the lobby. The girls pulled apart, Ai’s smile disappearing and Reina attempting to regain her senses, and they began walking slowly toward the street entrance. They no longer held hands but still walked very close, paragons of pride and presence, feeling as though they could triumph over whatever came into their way, though nothing did. Reina spared a glance for Ms. Fumitsu, and the woman looked as if she’d eaten yet another bushel of sour grapes, obviously attempting to hide her glances at Reina’s dark red-streaked hand. As the men and women in suits passed, most gave a small bow to the two girls striding side by side, and it didn’t even cross Reina’s mind to bow in return. Instead, she turned to Ai and cocked an eyebrow. “News travels fast,” Ai said, the corner of her mouth turning up in a small grin. Reina just shook her head.

Once out of the building and on their way back to the hotel, it was quiet for a short time. “I’m afraid Tsunku may have to do without even more of his performers, at least for the time being,” Ai said finally, causing a glance by Reina, though the speaker kept looking ahead. “The stage is set. Now you and I have some work to do to save his Project…” She finally turned to face Reina. “And hopefully much more.” The knowing glint in the girl’s eyes sent shivers down Reina’s spine.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: JFC on January 26, 2007, 07:30:53 AM
Quote
She has succeeded in every task set before her, including a Trial of Necessity.

...

Even with the short, however intense, training she has had, Tanaka has performed with supreme grace and honor, especially for one so young, and easily captured her first mark of blood.
Holy carp she DID carry out the "orders" Aichan gave her! :shocked:

Quote
“I’m afraid Tsunku may have to do without even more of his performers, at least for the time being,” Ai said finally, causing a glance by Reina, though the speaker kept looking ahead. “The stage is set. Now you and I have some work to do to save his Project…” She finally turned to face Reina. “And hopefully much more.” The knowing glint in the girl’s eyes sent shivers down Reina’s spine.
WTF? To "save his Project" ??!??!? What in blue blazes is going on????
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: Sukoshi on January 26, 2007, 09:41:08 AM
I'm pretty certain Ayaya is still alive. How Reina pulled it off without any of the Chosen people noticing is still a mystery to me though :ONdunno:

Quote
This was a warm Ai, a gentle Ai, the Ai that she was sure Risa grew to be best friends with, the Ai that Reina never got to know.


^ my favourite part of the new chapter.  It was all warm yet sad :ONfarofflook:
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: Sakura Momusu on January 26, 2007, 12:48:59 PM
lol...despite all that's happened, my main concern is how will Reina :panda_argh: and Eri :ONcry:make up...as well as Ai and Risa. :pen_what::pen_shocked:
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on January 26, 2007, 06:56:46 PM
Quote from: Sakura Momusu;293620
lol...despite all that's happened, my main concern is how will Reina :panda_argh: and Eri :ONcry:make up...as well as Ai and Risa. :pen_what::pen_shocked:


LoL. I figured that's what some of you would only care about. :P You'll see what happens with all that, though it may not end up quite like people are expecting...

I love how you guys are guessing and questioning what's going on in the story. That's one of my aims - getting you to think. I'm afraid that's also why so few people read and respond too, along with the length. >.> Even though I know more of you are out there reading than do respond! Please comment. It makes me happy. :) And maybe you'll mention something that is interesting to someone else.

It seems like most people are interested in Reina-Eri and what happened with Ayaya. That's why I tried to reveal more of Ai's character in this chapter - I believe she's actually the most complex in the story. Though, maybe that's why no one talks about her, because no one knows what in the world is going on with her. :lol: There will be more Eri - probably in the next chapter though depending how I sequence what's to come next. As for Ayaya... There have been hints about it so far, but now that Reina has been initiated you probably won't hear much about it at least for a while.

A bit of an explanatory comment to help with an immediate question - Ai's words at the end of the chapter that so many people seem interested in - the performers Tsunku may have to do without for a while are Reina and Ai. They'll be taking a little unannounced "break". They have a lot of work to do, you know? Don't worry, that doesn't mean none of the other characters will be around. Quite the opposite, in fact. Also, remember, and this goes for the whole story - just because people believe something doesn't necessarily make it true. The world is a complicated place and people are fickle creatures. ;)
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: Yuuyami on January 26, 2007, 07:42:25 PM
Haha, I'm more intrigued with Ai's character really. What had made her join such an organization in the first place? And what are her true motives anyway? She strikes me as a schemer :] As for Aya's situation, it might be connected to 'saving' the project. But right now, I'm debating. I'm pretty sure Aya and Miki, when she was still alive, had been a part of something that rivals the agency Ai and Reina work for now. However, this has made me wonder for awhile now... About that agency Ai and Reina work in... And whatever Miki and Aya were involved in...

Who are the true villains of the story?

But nonetheless, I can't help but think that in the future, there might be a Reina versus Ai confrontation, as that's what stories like these usually point to. I would elaborate more, but I fear I might spoil too much for readers as I'm usually on target with analysises such as this xD...



Write more <3
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: JFC on January 26, 2007, 08:26:08 PM
Quote from: Sukoshi;293518
I'm pretty certain Ayaya is still alive. How Reina pulled it off without any of the Chosen people noticing is still a mystery to me though :ONdunno:
I'm hoping that's the case. Reina can look at Aichan and go "you taught me too well." :D
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on January 27, 2007, 06:36:48 PM
Well, for everyone's enjoyment, here's yet another installment of my little story. ^^;; Don't expect it to keep up like this though... I definitely have to start getting busy again on Monday. Well, for the meantime, enjoy. :)

Chapter 21 – Flight for a Fight

Looking down at her hand as she wrapped it carefully in a large bandage, Reina winced at the neat slice she saw across it. She hoped it wouldn’t leave a scar, but realized that was likely wishful thinking. The cut was deeper than it looked when the Chairman held his sword in front of her. At just the memory of him her mouth twisted in a growl and she tugged the bandage hard. “Itai…” she groaned before she could help herself.

At her cry, she felt Ai behind her leaning over her shoulder as if to see what was the matter. “Having problems?” the girl asked playfully.

Reina turned to her and grimaced. “No,” she replied. Before she could catch herself, her eyes fell down to Ai’s still-gloved hand.

“Did you never notice I’ve been wearing gloves lately?” the girl asked. Reina blinked and looked up at her. “When we train or are in rehearsal or performing I wear both gloves, which isn’t anything out of the ordinary. When I take them off you’ve likely never noticed.” She tugged at the fingers of her gloved hand and pulled it slowly off, afterwards raising her palm to Reina. There was a light scar slanted across the middle, very similar to Reina’s.

“I stood in that room the same way you did,” she explained, soft eyes looking into Reina’s before becoming distant after a moment. “Except I was alone, so some things were much more difficult…” Her eyes adopted a look of sadness and even slight distress, making Reina restrain herself from patting the girl’s arm. Quickly though, Ai blinked and her gaze returned to focus on Reina. “No need to look so concerned,” she said with a small smile, patting Reina on the shoulder. “I’m still standing here in front of you, after all.” Reina gave her a skeptical look. Yes, she was standing in front of her, but she wondered how much of the girl she used to be was left. She thought she saw some of it tonight, though it reeked of ambition. Then again, according to her when Reina visited her apartment what seemed so long ago, her ambition was apparently always there, just now directed at something different. Reina wondered what that might be.

“So I guess we share more than just the skills you’ve taught me now, huh?” Reina asked, lifting her bandaged hand.

Ai smiled in return. “More than you know.” She turned and walked over to the window, looking out into the city. “I started wearing these gloves shortly after Miki’s accident,” she continued, and Reina silently watched her. Despite all her promises when she blackmailed Reina into joining her, she rarely even mentioned the incident. “I suppose you could say Miki to me was kind of like Ayaya to you. Though, you’re smarter than me, aren’t you?” She turned back around, tilting her head while looking again at Reina. Reina kept her face as blank as she could. “I mean, that and whatever you did at the Council was all you needed to get Initiated. And my request, of course.”

She smiled. “The mark for Ayaya was given to me, do you know? You showed so much promise though, I thought I’d pass it on to you as a bit of a test to see what you would do. If you managed it, I thought that might be evidence enough to help you advance to where you at least wouldn’t be at the mercy of the beck and call of any low level management and so we might be able to work together instead of me having to lead you around. But of course, you surprised me again, didn’t you?” Her smile widened. “I always knew from the first there was something special about you.”

Beginning to feel uncomfortable, Reina made sure her bandage was secure and began to pack her things. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said, not looking at the girl she was addressing. “It seems I haven’t done a single thing I’ve wanted to since your Miki assignment.” Eri stared at her within her head, but she brushed it off. And look how that turned out… she thought.

There was a pause for a moment until Reina gave a glance to the girl standing by the window. She still smiled, but her look was full of sadness. “Another thing we share in common,” she said quietly.

Stuffing a last skirt into her bag, Reina rose and gave Ai a hard look. “You keep talking about Miki and how her accident was a task assigned to you. Now you say it’s the same as Ayaya and me.” She shook her head. “It’s not, though. I knew what they had against Ayaya. I still think it’s ridiculous, but she was the reason I was blackmailed to join you since it seemed she was getting too close to something Yamagata and whoever wanted to hide. Why Miki, though? What does she have to do with any of this?”

Ai looked at her for a short time before walking back around near her and sitting down on the bed. She motioned for her to sit beside her, and Reina reluctantly complied. It was still a moment before Ai began though, as she leaned forward looking at the floor apparently searching for the words. “Do you remember those two men who approached you in the alley when you left the club after our… dance contest?” she asked finally. Reina nodded, unsure of the girl’s point. “Do you have any idea what they wanted with you?”

Reina tried to remember back to that time, but it was mostly foggy since it was something she would rather not dwell on. The main impression she was left with was Ai’s knife whizzing between them before becoming stuck to the wall through a torn tie. Thinking harder, she grimaced, a sick feeling overcoming her.

“It appears you do,” Ai said, studying Reina’s face closely. Reina nodded. Ai’s words now were all the confirmation she needed. Still, it would have been her choice, right? Thinking of how flirtatious she was though, she really wasn’t too sure what her choice would have been had she been pressed. Morning Musume sure didn’t seem to be going anywhere too fast.

“Is that how they pick up girls? In the dark of some alley somewhere?”

Ai nodded. “The alley you found them in is one of the most common. They have a good eye for idols or other celebrities that might be interested in something a little bit extra on the side, or instead.” Reina still felt slightly sick. Her experiences since then, and especially with Yamagata, had changed her opinions on some things. Ai reached up and stroked her hair softly. “Anyway, Miki was apparently also one of those girls.” Reina’s eyes now glistened with sadness. She was afraid of that. “Except, she approached them about it, and they did her certain… favors… in return for her consideration. Unfortunately, she must not have realized what kinds of strings were attached to those favors since she changed her mind and wanted out. She had even been invited to the chambers you and I just came from.” Reina couldn’t tell whether Ai was regretful or spiteful while describing the dead girl’s actions. Feeling her hands tender on her hair, she decided on regretful. “So of course, as I’m sure you know by now, they couldn’t let her just go, and she had no intention of continuing. So, they decided to stage a little accident. The one I was involved with was only the second actually. The first one was a failure…” She trailed off after that, and Reina looked to her for further explanation, but was interrupted by a sound coming from the door.

The handle turned and the door swung open, revealing two girls silhouetted in the hall’s lighting. They walked in and Reina cursed beneath her breath. She felt Ai’s hand leave her hair and trace down her arm.

“Reina-chan,” one called out. “We talked it over and thought we should come and have a talk with you.”

She now could make out the form of Eri walking into the low lamplight within the room, trailed by Risa not far behind. The two girls stopped after just a few meters though as they saw the two girls on the bed.

“Oh,” Eri continued. “You’re not alone.”

Risa walked up beside her and looked carefully at Ai. “Hi Ai-chan,” she said. Both girls adopted odd looks when they studied Ai’s outfit.

“Hello Gaki-san,” Ai said. Reina realized the girl was now holding her hand. “Eririn.”

Eri now looked between Ai and Reina, obviously noting how close they were, and on Reina’s bed. Risa still had eyes only for Ai. “I’m sorry if we’re… interrupting?” Eri said in a confused and slightly exasperated manner.

“No, you’re no-“ Reina began, and started to stand before she felt herself held to the bed. She looked down to see Ai’s gloved arm snaked around her waist.

“I was actually just leaving. Reina-chan and I were just about to run off together, as a matter of fact. We hoped to do it in secret, but that obviously didn’t work,” she said with a grin and shrug as if she’d just been unfortunately found out. She turned to Reina, and Reina faced her, mouth hanging slightly open. Of course she wouldn’t know what was going on with Eri – the girl no longer kept a close watch on her since she had her in the palm of her hand since she began training – but where did that come from?

She raised her hand along with Reina’s between them and squeezed it slightly, saying, “Reina sweetheart, I’ll meet you in the lobby in a half hour. Don’t be late. We don’t want to miss the last train back to Tokyo.” Then, before Reina could react, she leaned in and kissed Reina on the lips, a strong kiss made deeper by the fact that Reina’s mouth was already open. Reina’s body seemed to turn to jelly, making her unable to tell how long it lasted, but the next thing she knew Ai was standing in front of her and releasing her hand. As she turned away, she was giving her a not unkind “You know this is for your own good” look. She then brushed smoothly past a very still pair of girls and passed out the door. Reina stared after, licking her now moistened lips she had pressed tightly together and her hand still half-raised before her.

After a short moment, she managed to catch Risa nudging Eri, who seemed to shake out of a trance and look back with wide eyes. After just that glance, both girls turned to face Reina, Eri’s eyes wide in a face drawn with emotion and Risa giving her a low-browed glare.

“What in the world is she talking about?” Eri asked finally in a weak and obviously skeptical voice. “You two are running away together to Tokyo?” Reina thought the girl was about to burst out laughing. “We still have two more nights of concerts left here first.”

Obviously they are not running away to Tokyo,” Risa growled with absolute certainty. “I would like to know what they are doing, however.” She gave Reina a very level look, puckering her lips and tapping her foot slightly with crossed arms as if expecting explanation. Every few seconds her eyes flickered over to Reina’s packed suitcase.

Still staring as if stunned, Reina tried to speak, but nothing but air came out. She cleared her throat. “Actually…” she said in as strong a voice as she could muster, though to her it still sounded all too breathless. “…We are running off to Tokyo tonight. We… um…” She looked at Eri, who was gazing very earnestly back at her. For her own good, huh? “She’s right…” she said, lowering her eyes and face. “We’re running off together. We know Tsunku and the public would never accept us, so we’re going into hiding. Don’t bother trying to find us. If things change, maybe… maybe we’ll come back out eventually.” She watched as she played with her fingers in her lap, waiting for the explosion or sound of a door slamming she knew was going to come.

Instead… “That…” Risa sounded as if she spit that out, “is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard! There is no way you and Ai-chan…” She paused for a moment as if just realizing once again that she just saw her and Ai-chan. “It’s just ridiculous!”

Reina chanced a look up and saw Risa’s face filled with disbelief and Eri’s, surprisingly, with expectation. “You two are just joking around, right?” she asked eagerly, apparently wanting Reina to drop it and admit it already. “You’ve confided in her about it… for some reason…” she said in a voice that stumbled along, very conscious of Ai’s ex-best friend beside her, “And when you two saw us walk in, you did that to get back at us, right?” Again with the eagerness.

“Some joke, with her tongue halfway down your throat…” Risa grumbled, almost as if to herself. Eri ignored her.

Beginning to get frustrated, and a little bit distraught, Reina quickly stood. ‘No,” she said, and turned around to zip her bag. “Like I said, we’re running off to Tokyo.” She picked it up, and pointedly avoiding looking at the two girls, shuffled past them, snatched her coat from the closet handle, and put her hand to the door. However, she paused before opening it. “I thank both of you for… for being there for me, and for your trust,” she said, head bowed slightly toward the floor and eyes down facing the door away from the girls. “I’ll hopefully see you again some day.” Then, without waiting for any response, she quickly pulled the door open and dashed out, nearly running down the hall to the stairs. Once she reached the stairwell and heard no sound behind her, she stopped and leaned back against the door. “Thank you…” she said again under her breath, and began her way down.

In the lobby she met up with Ai, who had somehow already changed and was now in just a normal pink blouse and long pleated skirt with designs embroidered all over it. “I hope you didn’t let them down too hard,” she said cheerily.

Reina glared at her. “That was not fair, you know.”

Ai just kept smiling and shrugged. “It worked, didn’t it? You got away from them and I don’t see them hunting you down for their talk.”

Reina forcefully kept her arms at her sides. They wanted to reach up and strangle the girl. Or else hug her. She wasn’t sure which. “Well you got your wish. I’m alone again. Or at least, you have me to yourself.” She tilted her head to study Ai. “I wonder how you’re going to treat me.”

“Oh,” Ai said, waving her hand dismissively. “The days of me dominating you in every way are over now. After tonight, you have equal authority as me. I think the question is really… How will you treat it?” She peered at Reina, and her expression seemed to soften. “I’m hoping we can at least be friends,” she said mysteriously. “That way, you wouldn’t really be alone.”

Reina licked her lips and swallowed unconsciously. “I suppose that depends on if you keep that distant attitude and keep trying to murder my other friends…” she responded.

Ai suddenly became serious, and she spoke with seeming honesty, “I haven’t forgotten who I was,” she began, and her eyes rose as if she could see something through the ceiling. “I didn’t choose this, but I’ve made the best of it, the same as you have. If you and I can make what I hope true, some day things might get back to ‘normal’.” She looked back down to Reina. “And hopefully in some ways better off than we were before.” Reina felt like swallowing again. “Come on, we have to head to the station if we’re going to make the train on time.” She reached for Reina’s wrist, and Reina let her pull her gently along.

Once outside, Reina tightened her coat to the moderate cold. After a moment when Reina thought about some things, she spoke, “You say that we’re equal now, and that you won’t be ordering me around.” She glanced over at Ai, who was looking ahead along their way. “So why am I running off to Tokyo right now, when it’s obviously not what I want to do?”

“Isn’t it?” Ai asked. “I haven’t forced you into anything. You made no complaints about coming along.” Reina stayed silent, not wanting to think of the reasons she might want to stay with Ai right now. “In any case,” Ai continued. “I do have a request to make of you, which I think after tonight you will… probably agree to do.” The girl, still clutching Reina’s wrist, pulled her closer so their faces were only centimeters apart as they walked. She then explained, in a soft voice, “You’ve seen the harm the Chairman and his misuse of power can do. The Council are really nothing more than business people, with at least as much power as those from Toyota or NTT. True, they make most of their money in business that skirts the law, if not does away with it entirely - we do physical training for more of a purpose than tradition, of course – but Yamagata takes it to the extreme. As you know, he orders people killed if they’ve done no more than slighted him, and the way he treats many of the girls he brings in…”

Reina felt her shiver slightly and hesitate for a moment. She tugged her arm slightly from Ai’s grip and instead took the girl’s hand in her own. She felt Ai squeeze it softly before continuing, “They all brought me in against my will, but I’m of no illusion who was always behind it all. I worked and fought my way up as hard as I could, but when I arrived here I realized I needed help. I never did want you to get involved, but you insisted on being involved, so… I thought I’d try to fulfill an old dream I had, one that you so far have fulfilled perfectly.”

They now neared the train station, so Ai continued in a quicker voice, “I’m sure you saw how the Council aside from Yamagata looked at us earlier. You can’t think your approval came as a random twist of fate. They see something in us, and though I don’t fully understand why, I think it’s up to us to rise to it. They’ve sat in those chairs for so long under Yamagata that they couldn’t lift a hand without him matching it, but you and I are new. We’re unpredictable elements. We’re already so out of the ordinary, almost nothing else would make things more unusual.”

Arriving at the stairs up to the station, she stopped and turned to Reina, taking both of her hands. Reina looked into her face, and she did look like the Ai from a year ago again. “Please, Reina,” she asked in a voice that did sound like a sincere plea, “Help me bring the Chairman down.”
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: Yuuyami on January 27, 2007, 08:10:57 PM
Ai's a schemer indeed.

Poor Reina can't go back to her normal life... Just yet...

Once again, this reminds me of Homer's The Odyssey xD Challenges ahead, and eventually, Reina will 'master two worlds' and then 'Come home' as the two stages of it say xD. Well it seems that those two are seriously dropping out of the entertainment industry for awhile eh? Actually, I still say a Reina versus Ai conflict is inevitable xD

Write more <3
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: JFC on January 28, 2007, 02:50:59 AM
So it's one of those "If you love them, let them go" deals in terms of Eri and Risa. :(


So Aichan wants to take out Yamagata? Maybe she can be redeemed after all.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: lil_hamz on January 28, 2007, 06:24:59 AM
Quote from: JFC;292582
Oh hot damn, time to meet the big-wigs! :w00t:

Poor Eri, even though she kinda screwed herself over by making out with Mamechan, you still can't help but feel badly for her.


They didn't really make out right? They only wanted to. But then again I have a lousy memory XD

Quote from: Yuuyami
What had made her join such an organization in the first place? And what are her true motives anyway? She strikes me as a schemer :] As for Aya's situation, it might be connected to 'saving' the project. But right now, I'm debating. I'm pretty sure Aya and Miki, when she was still alive, had been a part of something that rivals the agency Ai and Reina work for now. However, this has made me wonder for awhile now... About that agency Ai and Reina work in... And whatever Miki and Aya were involved in...


Yes I wonder about Ai too. Why did she join the organization? Was she forced into it? If no then why? And why can't she get Risa involved like she did Reina?

I'm curious about GAM too of course. Arghs so many questions :ON@_@:
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rndmnwierd on January 28, 2007, 07:55:59 AM
Kill The Chairman. That makes me think about the bakajo test and the idiot Chairman. I could just imagine Ai and Reina cutting him down while he screams for mercy. Lol
Title: I dont check the forum 2 days and ther are already 2 more chapters to read
Post by: iacus on January 28, 2007, 11:05:11 AM
I don't check the forum two days and there are already two more (long) chapters to read. You have a very impressive output. Random questions that popped into my head while reading the past two chapters.

What is the council of the Raven? is it some sort of idols only death squad? Why only idols? Does Yamagata have a master plan? What is it?

What does Ai think of Reina? What is Ai's plan? What did Yamagata do to Ai? Has she killed anyone else?

Why is Reina going along with Ai's (not very well defined) plan? What does Ai mean when she says that they are "equals"? Does she mean Reina's position in the order. (Taisho? And what does that mean anyway?) Are Very Bad Things going to happen to everybody?

Another excellent pair of chapters. I'm excited to see where all this is going.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on January 28, 2007, 03:46:49 PM
Quote from: lil_hamz;295233
They didn't really make out right? They only wanted to. But then again I have a lousy memory XD

If you're talking about Eri and Risa, Reina saw them after the Christmas party a few chapters ago...

Quote
Yes I wonder about Ai too. Why did she join the organization? Was she forced into it? If no then why? And why can't she get Risa involved like she did Reina?

Ai mentions several times that she joined against her will, like Reina, but it's slightly ambiguous as to why... You might be able to read between the lines and figure it out though. ^^ And she didn't want to get Reina involved, but Reina insisted in sticking her nose into Miki's accident... so I'm guessing she doesn't necessarily want anyone else to get involved either. Would you want to get your best friend to become a murderer (and who knows what else)?

Quote
I'm curious about GAM too of course.

GAM rules all.

Quote from: iacus;295409

What is the council of the Raven? is it some sort of idols only death squad? Why only idols? Does Yamagata have a master plan? What is it?

It's not idols only. Ai and Reina just happened to be ones. Actually, that's part of the reason those two are of so much interest - they're more than the average salarymen or criminals involved in the organization, although they do recruit "girls" that used to be idols or 'celebrities' from time to time. Remember what Ai said about the Council consisting of business people?

Quote
Why is Reina going along with Ai's (not very well defined) plan?

That's what Reina was asking herself at the end of the last chapter. ^_^
Quote
What does Ai mean when she says that they are "equals"? Does she mean Reina's position in the order. (Taisho? And what does that mean anyway?)

If you don't know what that is or what these mean, I urge you to look them up in a Japanese dictionary (I recommend Jim Breen's @ http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~jwb/wwwjdic.html): 大将
It's a ranking in the Council's organization, and the word should give you a good idea of what kind of ranking it is. :) I've slightly Americanized the word for those that are picky. :P
Quote
Are Very Bad Things going to happen to everybody?

Oh, it wouldn't be too interesting if they didn't, now would it? :lol: I will say this though... for those familiar with my writing, I do intend to give this a happy ending (though that ending is still quite far off).

Quote
Arghs so many questions :ON@_@:

And see? I actually do answer some. :lol:
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: Sukoshi on January 29, 2007, 09:39:06 AM
Wah I think I was holding my breath after Eri and Risa walked in.  I kept wanting Reina to clear things up and make things good again with Eri !  But alas...I seriously hope Eri/Risa don't join the organization while the two are off to Tokyo!  That would just be too evil :o
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: iacus on February 02, 2007, 10:54:24 AM
Quote from: rokun;295545
Quote
What does Ai mean when she says that they are "equals"? Does she mean Reina's position in the order. (Taisho? And what does that mean anyway?)

If you don't know what that is or what these mean, I urge you to look them up in a Japanese dictionary (I recommend Jim Breen's @ http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~jwb/wwwjdic.html): 大将
It's a ranking in the Council's organization, and the word should give you a good idea of what kind of ranking it is. :) I've slightly Americanized the word for those that are picky. :P

Quote
大将 【たいしょう(P); だいしょう】 (n) general; admiral; boss; (P)
黄頷蛇; 青大将 【あおだいしょう】 (n) common harmless snake
足軽大将 【あしがるたいしょう】 (n) samurai in command of a troop of foot soldiers
お山の大将; 御山の大将 【おやまのたいしょう】 (n) king of the castle; king of the mountain
餓鬼大将 【がきだいしょう】 (n) boss of the children (in the neighbourhood); boss of the children (in the neighborhood); bully
総大将 【そうだいしょう】 (n) supreme commander
若大将 【わかだいしょう】 (n) young leader or master
征夷大将軍 【せいいたいしょうぐん】 (n) commander-in-chief of the expeditionary force against the barbarians; great, unifying leader
大将軍 【だいしょうぐん】 (n) commander-in-chief

Ah, so Reina and Ai are commanders-in-chief, bullies, young leaders, snakes, mountain kings, generals, and samurai. That explains it, thanks.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on February 09, 2007, 10:01:01 PM
After a long two weeks, I finally have another chapter to share with you all. This one is just more of a transition chapter, but still, as always, please enjoy. :)

Chapter 22 – A Quiet Night In Tokyo

Thwack!!

A knife vibrated as it stuck into a wall at the side of a dim alley. A young girl dressed in a short white skirt below a tight, midriff-bearing shirt with a short red leather coat to match stood as if paralyzed, wide eyes glancing between the two men in front of her and the knife she could barely see that had just flown between them.

“I thought I told you not to come around here any longer. This is my city now,” a youthful but strong female voice called out from the darkness. “I won’t have you approaching any more girls.”

The two men standing with hands crossed behind their backs exchanged glances, and one eventually spoke in the direction of the voice, “You know our business. We come under special orders from the Chairman himself to resume recruiting practices in Roppongi Hills, as well as elsewhere in the city.”

“You heard what I said,” the voice rang out once more.

“If we stop now, the Chairman will be very displeased. You may have had some small success in your… innovations… but our traditional business still continues. Likely he will…” The man speaking looked at his companion before continuing, “…want to speak with you in person.”

“Is that a message?” the voice responded, amusement creeping into its tone. “If so, please do me the honor of telling it to me face to face.”

The sound of heels now came from the voice’s direction, and eventually the form of a small girl appeared. The girl sported a tail of hair threaded through a band on top of her head and hanging to the back and strode in high red heeled boots, with dark tights beneath tight cut-off denim shorts. A waist-length black leather jacket, buttoned up as if against the cold, covered her upper body, and tight black fingerless gloves adorned hands that swung with her arms as she strolled with an air of cool confidence. One hand closed over something that couldn’t be seen from the front.

She walked toward the men and stopped only a short distance from them, the other girl now peering over at her attempting unsuccessfully to get a good look. Apparently, however, she was still too shocked and frightened to move her feet.

One of the men’s eyes narrowed as if affronted at being addressed by a small girl such as her, and his arm tensed. “There is no message yet. However, the Chairman forbade nothing.”

They stared at each other a moment longer. Suddenly, the man sprinted toward the small girl fluidly as a jaguar, brandishing a pistol in one hand and a knife in the other.

The girl stood still though as, with the man’s lunge, time seemed to slow. She watched the gun rise up toward her and, when he had closed half the distance, with a quick crouch and flick of a wrist, the knife she gripped in her hand snapped up and flew toward him. Before he had the pistol pointed at her, the knife caught it in its glide and knocked it free of his hand, the hand jerking up in response. The man’s face twisted and he brought the knife around, but the girl, now in a full crouch, dodged at the last second to the side, a sideways chop of her hand on his wrist knocking the knife free as well. No sooner had she landed then she dove again toward him, her quickness far out-matching the man’s bulk, well-conditioned though it was, and she caught his wrist to pull it behind him, sliding another dagger out from the recesses of her jacket to slash across the back of his knee.

Time suddenly returned to normal and the man collapsed in pain while being pushed chest-first into the ground, the girl holding his wrist tightly and fast behind his back. The man could not recover, and tried to look sideways up into the girl’s face as one grizzled cheek ground against the hard pavement.

“I take it I make myself clear?” she asked the thug, whose struggles were beginning to cease. Soon he became still, only staring at her with his one available eye. He jerked his face slowly in a nod. “Good,” she said, and released him, stepping back quickly. She looked over at the other man, still standing as he was before as if nothing unusual had just happened.

After a moment of capturing her eyes, he gave a glance to the humbled and hobbled man on the ground. “Tsuruda has been a servant of the Council for years,” he said easily. “He did not like the idea of your rise. He thought tradition should be held. He doesn’t understand Japan is adopting a new order.” He brought his eyes back to the girl’s. “Despite my personal feelings, I do understand. Power claims power. You would not have attained the Council’s approval without earning it. I have no desire to become maimed as well.” He now pointedly did not look at his fallen partner.

“Power is nothing,” the girl said, her voice now full only of youth. “I only do what I must, and what I feel I can, in order to help set things right again.”

“As you say, Taisho Tanaka,” the man said automatically with a slight bow of his head.

Reina stood and stared at him while holding her knife with its blood-stained tip pointing upward, her lips pursed in an effort to avoid showing her distaste. “Get your companion out of here,” she ordered finally, kneeling to quickly wipe her knife tip against his coat.

The man came and pulled Tsuruda to his good leg. “We’ll tell the Chairman we ran into some trouble…” he said uncertainly.

“Tell him whatever you want,” Reina replied, her knife stashed once again and her arms crossed, now staring with pursed lips at the girl, who seemed to be attempting to speak. “He knows how things stand here, and he knows he won’t do anything to change it. He could stop wasting the time of people like you, though.” The man just bowed as he pulled the other away down the alley and into the darkness.

“…You’re Reina Tanaka!” the girl squeaked, seeming to be able to find her voice now that the men were gone. Reina ran her eyes up and down the girl, from her well-muscled legs to the outline of her well-filled bra. “Aren’t you supposed to be, like, dead or something?” The girl’s voice held a mix of excitement and nervousness in it, but fear still lingered.

Reina tilted her head. “Why, you must have me confused, Miss. I have no idea who this ‘Reina’ is. Now, shouldn’t you be getting back to wherever you’re going to sleep for the night? I’m hoping it’s your apartment or a hotel room.” After she finished, Reina strode over and tugged the knife from the wall, seemingly giving it a thorough inspection. She heard a squeak from behind her as if the girl had just remembered what Reina just did, and then the sound of her running down toward the alley exit in her heels.

Reina shook her head. Some of these girls would probably end up in the sex business anyway, but she still was not going to let the Chairman do whatever he wanted with them. Memories of hints Ai gave her of what he might do filled her mind and heart, and she stuffed her knife likely harder than she needed to into the sheath on the outside of her skirt. She may not be able to accomplish much, but she could be sure to keep as many girls around here away from his touch as possible.

She turned around and leaned back against the wall, crossing a red-booted foot over the other as she watched the celebrities and starlets begin once again to pass down the alley. Some looked to the sides since they knew something had happened here just moments ago, but she made sure they didn’t notice her in the darkness. She sighed. Well, this place should be free of his filth for the night.

She pulled away from the wall and walked slowly toward the center of the alley and into the light so she wouldn’t be noticed as out of the usual. Once there, she strode the opposite direction of most, her eyes staring ahead at the door to Maniacal Love, though her awareness spread much farther.

Once there, she opened the door to the sound of tonight’s band blaring out, walking past the doorkeeper as if not noticing him, though he gave her a low bow. Fortunately seeing nobody near, she calmly ducked to the side and pulled open a nondescript door. Once within, she passed down the hall just the other side of the first floor lounge’s wall until she reached a window out into the lounge itself. She stopped in front of it and crossed her arms, gazing out at the entertainers who were trying their best to entertain themselves tonight… as well as anyone they were lucky to get acquainted with. None of them noticed her watching, of course. She’d never really known it before, but one-way mirrors were incredible things.

“I heard there was a little trouble outside, Mistress Tanaka?” a man with an oily voice queried from beside her as he arrived at the window as well.

“There won’t be any further worry for you, Yamada,” she replied, not bothering to look at him. She hadn’t liked the man before she learned that, in her new position, she was actually his superior, and now his sleek and oily manner, which before was manufactured politeness toward her as a customer, now reeked of questionably motivated eagerness to please. He knew whom she now represented, though he still did not seem thrilled about working at the discretion of a seventeen-year-old girl. She made the distinction quite clear, however.

“I’m very happy to hear you say that, Mistress Reina,” he praised. “But…”

She turned to him quickly and narrowed her eyes, causing him to break off his speech and begin bowing repeatedly. “If I say there’s no need to worry, Yamada-san,” she said with a smile and the sweetest voice she could muster, “Please believe me, there is no need to worry.”

“Yes,” he responded, still bowing. “Of course, Mistress Reina.” He backed away bowing as if he wanted to be somewhere else as quickly as possible, but stopped himself short apparently finding better judgment. “Would you like something to drink?” he offered, as if getting her something was the last thing he wanted to do. Still, he hid it well. The man wasn’t too much of an idiot, after all. Otherwise, Reina could not have used him.

“No,” she said dismissively, turning back to the window. She then only heard his shuffling as he let her be.

She had to have someone who knew what he was doing running this place. It had been a few weeks since she and Ai returned to Tokyo, and at first she hadn’t known what to do. For all of Ai’s talk about the work she needed help with, there seemed to be very little Reina actually needed to do. Ai arranged meetings with apparent contacts from high in the organization, for what purpose Reina could only guess, leaving her to fend for herself the majority of the time, which usually involved training.

After nearly a week, Reina seriously considered returning to Morning Musume when they were scheduled to return to Tokyo as well. Aside from feeling otherwise useless, she began to miss performing, as well as the girls she had come to be close with. Even though Eri and Risa had upset and betrayed her, with the time apart she found that she really did miss them. She even missed Sayu, though she wasn’t sure if she’d go as far as Koharu as well. The girl knew most everything about her anyway, so she had a feeling of all of them, she was the one most likely to show up soon.

However, an article in Friday on that very day changed everything. She was expecting it of course, but seeing it still came as a shock – in that issue, the magazine reported that “Tanaka Reina and Takahashi Ai of Morning Musume” had gone missing and were presumed dead. It even had interviews with Tsunku, expressing regret and seeming to imply that they didn’t have much hope of finding the two girls alive. After that article the story exploded in the national news, with police soon saying they had no leads and would close the investigation. That seemed quite soon to Reina, but she had a feeling from some of the looks Ai gave her that she and the Council had something to do with the investigation’s brevity.

She could still have returned of course, but reading what all the papers said, she felt that she would never be able to handle the shame of returning after all of it and having to explain it away some way or another. Plus, it was soon after that she discovered exactly what her new standing meant, and she realized that she carried quite a large amount of influence around the city. Members of the organization owned a large part of businesses both here and across Japan, and she apparently had a high enough ranking that they were forced to listen to her. Of course some, like Tsuruda from the alley just minutes ago, wouldn’t listen until she proved she deserved the ranking. Her reputation was growing though, and that led her to embark on some ventures of her own – one being the Maniacal Love. She instituted, with Yamada and others’ advice, some new policies that seemed to her a bit more… ethical. She was amazed at how ingrained in the underworld this place was.

Once Kobe received word of some of the changes she’d made, she had a few run-ins with men like Tsuruda. The Chairman was very proud of his girls, after all. She was having none of it though, and with the surprisingly increased profitability she managed to obtain, the Chairman couldn’t overtly subdue her without looking like a sulky fool himself. Reina smiled at that image. He might not like some of the things she’d done, but had apparently developed an outward respect for her management. As long as he didn’t realize he should be watching her even more closely…

That brought her thoughts back to Ai. She bit her lip, regretting now not requesting a drink from Yamada. Well, there was no way the man would return anytime soon now. She still wasn’t sure whether she hated or loved the girl, but she kept finding herself working with her toward whatever aims she had. Reina hated the fact that Ai was responsible for Miki’s death and had also ordered her to kill Aya, but whenever Reina looked into those hard dark eyes she saw a girl not unlike herself who was dragged into her new career kicking and screaming, even though Reina still didn’t know how or why. She decided it must have had something to do with Miki by the way the girl talked about her, but the specifics she could only wonder at.

As the weeks back in Tokyo passed however, the two girls seemed to be “working together” less and less. Ai kept having her meetings and doing other things that Reina could only guess at, while Reina had been trying out her new authority at places like the Maniacal Love and just practicing her newfound skills. She was rather surprised over how successful she’d been, but perhaps that was why anyone else seemed to be leaving her alone for the most part. The few chances she was able to see Ai, the girl had nothing but smiles for her, but for the most part, nothing very exciting was happening beyond her occasional tussles with men sent by Yamagata.

A face from the other side of the lounge caught her attention, and her mind cleared as she stared on at three girls entering the lounge from the second-floor stairwell. Eri, Risa and Sayu were laughing, though in what Reina thought was a somewhat subdued manner, and they were red-faced as if they’d either just been dancing hard or drinking hard. Reina didn’t think she particularly wanted to know which. As they crossed toward the door and closer to Reina’s window chatting away, Eri paused for a moment and looked directly over at Reina. Reina’s breath caught, though there was of course no way the girl could see her through the mirror. Risa and Sayu walked on a few steps before realizing their companion had fallen behind and stopping their chatting, coming back to pull the turtle girl along, Risa telling her something with a laugh while giving an amused glance over at the mirror herself. They succeeded in pulling a now somewhat pouty Eri away, but the girl kept staring toward Reina a moment before turning back around to join her friends.

Reina let out the breath she held since first staring into the girl’s eyes and watched after them as they headed out the front door. Apparently they weren’t into subtlety tonight. Waiting a few minutes after seeing the girls leave, she tightened her jacket slightly and left out the back door herself, keeping to the shadows while passing through the alley. Nobody paid any attention to her of course – what people did in this alley was nobody’s business but her own – and once out beside the motel she approached a dark sedan and smoothly entered the back seat.

“Where to, Tanaka-san?” the driver asked, stealing a last sip of coffee before setting it down and starting the car.

“Take me home, Daisuke-kun,” she told him in a warm voice.

“Yes, ma’am,” he responded politely and cheerfully, and pulled out into the road. Once again smiling at the boy’s politeness, she looked out her window at the brilliant lights of the city as she rode down the still-busy late-night Tokyo streets. Yes, life had become rather quiet lately. But, still smiling, she didn’t think she really minded all too much.
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: JFC on February 10, 2007, 06:35:18 AM
Quote
“Where to, Tanaka-san?” the driver asked, stealing a last sip of coffee before setting it down and starting the car.

“Take me home, Daisuke-kun,”
Daisuke? As in, the intern from the photoshoot and Miki's funeral? He knows about Reina? :shocked:
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: Yuuyami on February 10, 2007, 04:38:57 PM
Ah, good to see Reina is seemingly comfortable with her job. However, I could definitely tell that although her performance was grand, her spirit in doing so was not because she misses home (Of course, the camaderie of Morning Musume) ;_;...

Don't worry Reina! You'll return home soon!
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: Sukoshi on February 11, 2007, 01:12:20 PM
^Yeah I hope Reina gets to go back too!  However I'm still praying that everyone..erm everyone remaining gets to make it out alive in the end!  *thinks back to the last story...*sniffles*  

but since there's more to come before the ending I hope Eri finds her way to Reina!  Even though Reina has Ai and Daisuke near by, it's just not the same XD
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: lil_hamz on February 11, 2007, 04:15:14 PM
Quote from: Sukoshi;305789
^Yeah I hope Reina gets to go back too!  However I'm still praying that everyone..erm everyone remaining gets to make it out alive in the end!  *thinks back to the last story...*sniffles*  


Yes they can't die, not anyone of them *begs* But I wonder how are Ai and Reina can return to MM with that article.

PS: Reina's so cool in her new "job". Total kickass :yay:
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on February 12, 2007, 04:28:59 PM
A rare morning posting! :grin: Of course, I just wanted to give more to read for you all who hadn't caught up with the last yet. ;) This is kind of a crazy chapter as I'm sure you'll tell from the title. Please enjoy. :)

Chapter 23 – Egao YES Nude

Reina continued watching the lights, holding her eyes half-closed in a measure of half-sleep that she used quite often lately to recuperate some energy on the fly. Staying focused and calm as she needed to lately required quite a lot of energy – much more than the few short hours of sleep that she managed to get every night restored in her.

She slowly tilted her head to look at the phone she carried in her hand resting on her lap, and it flashed 1:28 back at her. It looked like she wouldn’t get much sleep tonight, either. She would be up at daybreak in a few hours to get in an early-morning workout before visiting a few of her business contacts. Maybe she would look into some other areas she might be able to expand into.

Eyes closing fully, she barked a soft laugh. Workout early in the morning, then off to the day at work. Finish it up with a night at the club… The schedule she now held was not so much different from her time in Morning Musume. Well, it wouldn’t have been if she had any sort of discipline then, that is. That made her wonder. Have I really changed… grown… so much?

She caught eyes peering at her through the rear-view mirror in the front windshield. “Is something wrong, Tanaka-san?” Daisuke asked from the driver’s seat, slight concern in his voice, but also amusement indicating his understanding of the hint of her mood.

Reina stayed silent a moment before responding. “Yes, as a matter of fact. Why did you accept the invitation to be my escort?” She did her best to hide the smirk that wanted to appear at the corner of her mouth.

“Someone as humble as me would be quite foolish not to take an opportunity like that offered by one such as you, Ma’am,” he responded. Reina grimaced. The boy almost sounded sincere!

“Opportunity, huh?” Reina mumbled. “Didn’t I tell you to not call me things like ‘Ma’am’? I get enough of that from all the sleaze balls working for me, so I definitely don’t want it from you…” She stopped after she said that, realizing she probably didn’t quite use the right choice of words just then.

Daisuke didn’t appear to notice, however. “That wouldn’t be proper, Tanaka-san. I could hardly be less polite when I was just assisting on your picture crews, so I definitely cannot now that you’re in your new… station.”

Reina thought for a second before sliding forward a bit on her seat and leaning up near the headrest of the driver’s. She noticed Daisuke’s eyes giving her glances through the rear-view mirror still, and she smiled back at him. The boy seemed to be getting nervous.

“Tanaka-san? What are you doing?” he asked. Reina noticed his knuckles pale slightly in the tight grip he held on the steering wheel.

“I’d really like it if you just called me Reina…” she nearly purred, taking a decorated fingernail and gliding it up his shoulder and slightly onto his neck. The boy swallowed. “Are you sure you can’t do that for me? You keep saying you’ll do anything I say, after all…”

“Er…” he started, eyes no longer darting to the mirror and instead fixed hard on the road ahead. “I… I guess I could…” Reina noticed him shiver slightly as she blew softly against the back of his neck.

‘I’m sure you can…” she cooed.

“Yes, Reina,” he said quickly. “I’m not sure if I trust myself enough, since I definitely wouldn’t be able to speak that way when we’re not alone, but I’ll do my best.” His quick speech indicated a strong nervousness and desire for the girl behind him to cease her teasing. Reina decided she wouldn’t let him off that easily, though.

“And why would that be a problem?” She now lazily drew her finger to and fro across the back of his neck.

“If anyone heard it, I’m afraid they might get the…” He finally glanced back into the mirror, though his eyes didn’t look as afraid as his words. “…wrong idea.”

“Oh?” Reina murmured. “Let them.” With a last touch to his ear, she drew back into her seat, still staring into the mirror at his eyes. Daisuke’s held them for a moment before returning quickly back to the road. After that though, the car was silent for a few minutes.

Reina smiled softly to herself and gazed back out into the city. Harajuku buildings were beginning to come into view. It wouldn’t be long now.

“How connected are we with UFW?” she asked after a time, not taking her eyes from the window. She could imagine the wide-eyed glances he gave her through the mirror, though.

“We aren’t, as far as I know,” he responded after the small hesitation. “I’m somewhat… independent. Call it a holdover from my university days.”

“You went to Tokyo University, right?” she asked. The boy didn’t respond. Well, she didn’t really expect him to. She could imagine the questions forming in his mind over how she knew that. In reality it was just a guess, but his silent confirmation dropped her into thought herself.

She knew she must have asked it a million times already, but truly, what had she gotten herself into? She’d seen movies and read stories about secret societies at the most elite colleges and even high schools, but she’d never really thought of it as more than fiction. Well, it was far beyond fiction now, and she was as tightly tied to it as the best of those Tokyo graduates. It made her want to laugh hysterically. For all her outward act, it was ridiculous for a small teenage girl from Fukuoka to think she deserved all of this. As the Hisuitora Mansion came into view from around a corner and she saw the small number of press still camped out at this hour across the street, her thoughts sobered. Whatever she thought, whatever she really deserved, this was reality.

Daisuke pulled up to a gate which fronted a large barred door at the side and punched a code into the mechanism beside them. As he pulled away from it, the gate slid slowly open and he drove up just past it, stopping as the gate closed and the door slid open. He then took them into the dimly lit underground car park, slowing and finally stopping beside an elevator door.

Daisuke didn’t speak since no words were necessary at the moment, and Reina put her hand to the handle. For some reason, she felt very antsy. Maybe it was the night’s work. Already turned as if to exit the vehicle, she turned her head back slightly to cast a glance up at what she could see of Daisuke in his seat. From this angle, she couldn’t see his face through the mirror.

She realized how vividly she felt her chest heave with her breath; her heart beating quickly. “Would you like to come up?” she asked in a quiet voice.

“…Excuse me?” Daisuke responded.

“Up,” she said simply, and in a voice a bit stronger. “To my rooms with me.” Her heart must be beating a million times an hour. What was happening to her?

There was a pause before Daisuke spoke again. “I’ll keep an eye out down here,” he said softly, “But I don’t think I should…”

“Of course,” Reina said quickly, and pushed open the door in a rush, swinging it shut and darting over to the elevator. Her heart didn’t stop pounding until its door slid open and she heard the car rumble slowly away.

Ducking in, she pushed for her floor and fell to the back of the carriage, laying against the wall and catching her breath, arms crossed tightly in front of her. Where did that come from? Daisuke was certainly cute with his mid-length dark scattered hair, and quite handsome with his high cheekbones and all, and… She shook herself. She supposed she always had somewhat of a crush on him since her photo shoot, but she didn’t think it was near to the extent of inviting him up to her apartment! He was her escort, after all. It just… It just wouldn’t be proper!

The door slid open again, and she walked out onto her floor. A large suited man was leaning against the wall not far from the elevator as always, and he gave her a look and a nod before returning to his intense study of the floor. She strode past and down the hall. She still felt like she wanted to jump out of her skin. She knew this feeling, but didn’t particularly like it right now. She thought she’d gotten rid of it since learning to school her thoughts and emotions, but obviously all that had fallen apart for some reason now. Maybe she shouldn’t have tried to be so amorous with Daisuke-kun to get him to loosen up with her…

At that thought she missed a step and blushed, quickening her stride until she reached her door, hurriedly swiping her card and slipping in, the lights flicking on automatically at her movement. She needed a cold bath. That made her think of Eri and the last time they shared a bath. That was the last time she’d felt this way…

She couldn’t make it into the washroom quickly enough.

An indeterminable amount of time later, she sat in her recliner in front of the flickering flames of the fireplace brushing her hair. She felt much better. That was definitely not something she’d let happen again. She glanced over at the clock which flashed 2:43 at her and sighed. She would get less sleep than she even originally thought tonight. Pulling the last stubborn knots from her precious hair, she set the brush on the end table and laid back, closing her eyes and just enjoying the coziness of her chair and the fire in front of her.

Upon returning to Tokyo, she and Ai met with a representative of Ai’s “sect”. Apparently somehow he had learned of Reina’s new position already, and he explained that he’d arranged a condo at Hisuitora for her. She was shocked, and at first couldn’t understand it. Aside from the obvious upgrade to her current Tokyo hotel room, she wondered how she could keep a low profile at such a high profile residence. She gave it a try however at his and Ai’s insistence – and Ai’s calm comment about how she herself lived there, in fact just down the hall from where Reina was now – and once she learned what kind of security they had here, she couldn’t turn it down. It had also been quite a surprise when, at another meeting, she found Daisuke as part of the crowd. Soon after, after both of them shared moments of surprise, Reina suddenly asked him if he’d be her escort, since Ai told her she should choose someone she trusted to accompany her and to act as her “bodyguard”. She distantly felt herself smile at that. If push came to shove, she had a good idea who would be whose bodyguard. Of course, Ai didn’t tell her who her own was, if she had one.

The soothing sounds of the crackling fire reverberated in her head, and her mind wandered. She thought of the moves she would practice in the morning. Knives appeared in her mind and flew around in chaos. One, guided by her hand, sliced the back of a knee not unlike earlier that night, though much more blood spurted in her vision than in reality. That blood then washed fully throughout her head, and faces rose up out of it. First Aya’s, which stared warmly as the friend she’d known shortly after Miki’s death, and then Miki’s herself. Those eyes, however, glared. Reina felt a yelp in the back of her throat at that, but it never made her lips…



Reina’s eyes opened to the dark embers of a dead fire before her. Bright white light reflected off the mantle, and she tenderly twisted her woozy head toward the source – the sun, shining in through the large window near the entrance to the kitchen. Her eyes widening, Reina sent jolts through her reluctant muscles and jumped up from her chair, nearly unable to stop her momentum from running her right into the opposite wall.

The sun was shining! What time was it?? She looked at the clock near the mantle and squinted her eyes to make out its dim glow against the sunlight. 11:15 it blinked slowly back at her.

“Shit…” she mumbled, and stumbled into her room trying her best to avoid tripping on her robe. Once in there she walked up to her dresser, but just stared at it.

So she overslept. She didn’t get up at 7 and work out like she’d hoped. She didn’t make her rounds of the businesses she dabbled in lately. So… what? There was no rule stating she had to work out at 7 – it was her own rule that she would do it. The businesses would run fine. They were all run by very capable people who knew what they were doing long before they knew anything about Reina Tanaka. Sure, they were doing things differently now at her discretion, but they would do it no matter whether she checked up on them or not – they knew what would happen if they broke one of her rules. Her rules…

Reina leaned over the dresser and laid her cheek on it, sighing. What did she do anymore that was not by her rule, her order? The council and the Chairman were her superiors, but they didn’t bother her. Ai never really bothered her since Kobe, either. All the meetings she’d joined her at were by polite invitation as between equals. She truly had free rein. For some reason, she felt like hugging herself. She wasn’t sure how much she liked that. Everyone always says they want to have no rules, do whatever they please, but now that she seemingly could… Why did she suddenly want to be told what to do?

Unthinkingly, she walked back out of her bedroom in her bare feet and robe, unconsciously tying it tighter around her waist. She grabbed her key card from the table next to the door and went through it out into the hall, looking around dazedly before walking down toward the elevator. The man at the end of the hall gave her a short gaze, but his expression betrayed nothing more and before long he dropped his eyes once again to the floor.

Before she knew it, Reina was walking along the street past stores a few short blocks from the mansion. A few people gave her a short glance as they passed, but most didn’t look and just kept to their business. She stopped in front of the Chanel store and looked at some of the hats they featured in their window. A sales clerk standing beside the front door gave her suspicious glances, but seemed content to leave her be as long as she stayed where she was. People continued passing by without any more glances than before until she sensed two small forms come up slowly to her and stop barely a meter away.

“Reina?” she heard one ask. She tilted her head to glance at the girl who addressed her and stared.

“Why am I not surprised to find you near here?” Koharu said with a furrowed brow. “I knew you and Takahashi-sama hadn’t gone missing and been killed. Though, I hadn’t heard word from her lately… Tsunku is in quite a state, you know.”

Reina stared at her for another moment. “You know you should call me Reina-sama now,” she said blandly, provoking widened eyes from the younger Musume.

After she spoke she heard a giggle from next to Koharu and turned fully around to view both girls. Aika stood with a smile, eyebrows raised in disbelief. “I know I don’t know everything about being in Morning Musume yet,” she said, “but I’m pretty sure I’m not going to start going around and calling you Reina-sama! Even if you did rise from the dead…” She tilted her head at that and acted as if she wanted to poke Reina to see if she was real, giving her queer looks up and down.

Reina looked herself up and down and seemed for the first time to realize she was barefoot in a dark robe with cherry blossoms printed all over it. She looked back up at the two girls. “You’re not going to be calling me anything, Aika-chan. As far as you know, I’m dead and out at the bottom of the sea somewhere.” The youngest girl seemed to feel her feathers ruffled by that and stuck out her lower lip, opening her mouth as if to argue, but her companion interrupted her.

“You??” Koharu nearly shouted. “I know Takahashi-sama always favored you for some reason and you had your own insane thoughts, but I can’t believe…” She said the last words over the newest Musume giggling at her way of saying Ai’s name again.

Reina opened her mouth as if to put the girl in her place, but stopped herself and suddenly smiled. “Actually, I don’t care what you call me. All you need to remember is to not tell anyone that you saw me. You know what Ai-chan will do if you were to blow her cover…” Koharu’s face paled at that. Reina actually wasn’t sure if Ai would do anything, but apparently the threat was good enough for the girl’s too-vivid imagination. All those stories in her head were apparently working in Reina’s favor finally… “And make sure to keep the lips of our newest friend here sealed just as well!” To go with her words, she patted the new girl’s head. Hard.

“Hey!” she retaliated, pushing Reina away before smoothing her hair. “I’ll tell whoever I want to t- mmm mmhhmm hmmm…” Whatever else the spunky girl was about to say was muffled by Koharu’s hand suddenly over her mouth, and her other arm quickly wrapped around the younger girl’s waist, Aika reacting to being restrained literally kicking and, well, attempting to scream.

“You tell Takahashi-sama we won’t say anything,” Koharu said with a cute glare at Reina, taking care to emphasize the name of the girl she apparently stood in awe of, and looked down at her younger companion. “Come on,” she told her, beginning to drag her back down the sidewalk. As they stumbled away, Reina heard Koharu continue mumbling, “I’ll have to have a talk with Miss Niigaki. It’s good to be assertive, but this is ridiculous…” If she said anything else, it was drowned out in the low murmur of the surrounding crowds and the growing distance between them.

For Reina’s part, she spun around and strode confidently back toward the mansion, her robe billowing slightly around her legs, which didn’t feel the cold at all. When she found her room once again, she picked up her phone and looked at the last text message she received early yesterday. It hadn’t made sense to her at the time, but the sudden revelation she had while in front of the Chanel store in her cherry blossom robe and bare feet while talking to her two former kouhai seemed almost too outrageous to be true. She was only guessing, but if it was true, she could have kicked herself for not realizing it sooner. Actually, kicking was not a strong enough response…

Clearing the text, she brought up her list of recent calls and stared a moment at a number that had no name next to it. Calling it, she listened to the other end ring four times before a click and a small voice tentatively saying, “Hello?”

“Ayaya,” Reina responded. “It’s Reina. We need to talk. I’ll also be bringing along a detective. His name’s Kitamura.”
__________________________________

Micchi :heart:
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: JFC on February 13, 2007, 04:40:15 AM
Aya's NOT DEAD!!! Reina didn't kill her! :w00t:
Title: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rndmnwierd on February 13, 2007, 05:34:42 AM
*slaps thigh* I knew it!
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey
Post by: rokun on April 27, 2007, 04:05:38 AM
And here I see how I deal with writing two stories at once again. :P I'm sorry for the gap between updates - it's been a long semester. The next two chapters, which will somewhat be just two different parts of a whole, will hopefully be worth it though (I'll post Chapter 25 at some point in the not too far distant future). This chapter moves kind of slow, so hopefully it gets everyone back into the swing of the story. With what's coming up, think of it as... the calm before the storm. >:D

Chapter 24 – The Perfect Storm Arises

   Reina watched the people – mostly average salarymen with a few women in like dress wear sprinkled in – pass by along the busy Shinjuku sidewalks as Daisuke drove her steadily through the traffic. And all too slowly as well, at least for Reina’s current temperament. She tapped a lacquered fingernail against her cell, which was lying in the lap of the actually quite sophisticated, if still short, black skirt she wore beneath cream blouse and black tie. That was all and well, and quite expensive really – the silk and elaborate fabrics nothing she could have afforded while being only an idol celebrity - but it was the accoutrements she hoped would attract attention.

   Around the waist of the skirt in a slightly tilted circle, she wore beads that could be just taken as a teenager’s faux attempt at style, but upon closer inspection were revealed as akoya pearls of the highest quality she could find. Of course, it would normally be worn as a necklace, and a girl would have to be crazy to wear it around her waist. Well, Reina had wondered lately if she was crazy, and today was maybe the best day to find out for sure. A silver chain also hung from her side.

   Above her expensive lower body trappings, she wore a short jacket over the blouse. The jacket was designed specifically for her by Gucci, which was actually just a few blocks away from her present location. It had an inner lining of Italian leather with velvet trim, and arrayed on its front were silk textures flowing in patterns Reina sometimes thought she could lose herself in that she believed could only be found in Tokyo. She had done up her hair as well, wrapping it in a tight silk ribbon where it blossomed just to the right.

   It was quite an endeavor to get everything just right, but she wanted to attract attention today. Also, she had to admit, she liked wearing clothes that she never could have dreamed of years ago.

   She continued tapping her fingernail on the phone, her heavily shadowed eyes glancing from the passing salarymen down to it every few seconds. Eventually she couldn’t help herself and flipped it open, navigating quickly to her inbox to open a message from yesterday.

   “Find me when you’ve realized the cat directs only her pack of kittens. The lioness stands tall.”

   She stared at the message a moment before flipping her phone closed and pulling her eyes back to the window. She’d repeated the same process probably ten times since she got in the car, and imagined she’d repeat it ten more. Especially if they didn’t reach their destination soon. She growled under her breath and caught Daisuke’s eyes from the rear-view mirror.

   “If you keep giving me looks like that, I will make you come up to my rooms,” Reina warned, her eyes narrowly looking at those in the mirror.

   “Yes, Tanaka-san. Whatever you say, Tanaka-san,” the boy said. Reina thought she even detected a hint of a smile! She knew he would enjoy coming to her bed. Then she blushed slightly at that thought. Come on Reina, you can’t have your teenage hormones kick in at a time like this…

   Finally they arrived in front of the East Shinjuku police station, and as Daisuke pulled the limo into a park up against the curb she waited impatiently.

   “I’ll pull into the lot across the street, Tanaka-san. I’ll try to look for you when you come out.”

   “Just stay here, Daisuke-kun. I don’t want to have to walk across the street with the dear Detective.”

   “But Tanaka-san, I can’t stay parked…”

   “Just stay,” Reina said once more, firmly, and exited through her door.

   People began glancing at her right after she left the limo, probably partially from interest as to who was in a limo arriving at the police station, and also from surprise at seeing that it was a young girl in quite elaborate fashion. Reina spread smiles liberally among their skeptical faces, but none really gave her more than a passing glance. Well, no more than could be expected from the streets of Japan she supposed.

   She walked smoothly up to the door to the station and pulled it open. A uniformed officer manning the entrance gave her a short visual evaluation and glanced out at her limousine. “I presume your driver will move your vehicle to a legal parking location presently… Ma’am?” he asked gruffly and as if by rote, except for the slight hesitation before giving her a title.

   “He will not,” Reina said, paying the man no more mind and continuing her walk swiftly into the smallish lobby, and soon arrived at the counter. Once over her unexpected response, the door officer would obviously be radioing something within, but she wasn’t worried.

   The man at the desk was the same one who was there that night what seemed so long ago. She checked her Rolex, and the hands pronounced 15:00 back to her. She sighed. How shortened days came to be when you got up so late. Well, that explained why a second shift officer was on duty already.

   “Can I help you… Miss?” the man asked uncertainly. He had apparently seen the exchange at the door and was viewing her with an amount of suspicion. He also had the look as if he recognized her but couldn’t quite place who.

   “I need to see Lieutenant Kitamura,” Reina said plainly and with a patient voice.

   “May I ask what this is concerning? The Lieutenant doesn’t often see visitors… except by appointment. Do you have an appointment, Miss…?”

   “Tanaka,” she said. Her voice sounded as if the name held some mysterious significance. The officer’s eyes widened, now with recognition. “I believe he will be very interested to see me, and today I’d rather see him than Mr. Kuroshi.” The man’s eyes widened further at that. Not many people knew Mr. Kuroshi – at least by that name. He was one of the directors of the Tokyo police force, and that was his pseudonym for his dealings with the underworld. Reina was half-surprised the man at the desk recognized it.

   The officer appraised her once again, and when a guard at the door moved as if to cover her he quickly shook his head and shooed him away. “Yes, Miss… Tanaka. Will you wait here while I let the Lieutenant know you are…”

   “No thank you,” she interrupted. “You can just take me to his office.”

   “…Understood,” he responded after a moment, and lifted a detachable countertop so she could walk behind.

   As he ushered her through and around the desks arrayed across the floor – most with an officer seated busy with some paperwork or another – she glanced around at them. She couldn’t stop a slight flush of excitement running through her. For all her new status had allowed her to do, walking almost freely through the depths of an administrative police station still was quite a sensation. She almost envisioned herself as a criminal being escorted to a jail cell and supposed she could just as easily be doing that instead, especially if they really knew anything about her. And, of course, if they could get away with it. The times when she threatened Ai about calling the police came around to her memory, and she almost giggled at the ridiculousness of that had she known anything at the time. She was such a naïve girl… Well, she couldn’t afford to be anymore. A true test of that would come today.

   They came to a door with gold-threaded letters pronouncing the characters for “north” and “village”. “The detective should be in now,” the man said, and raised his hand to knock on the door.

   However, before he could do so, Reina took the handle and pushed the door open. Leaving the flummoxed under-officer with his hand raised, she entered the room and shut the door just behind her. A short man sat at a desk in a plain cream button-down short-sleeved shirt. She could see the trench coat she remembered hanging on a tall rack to the side of the desk. However, he didn’t wear the sunglasses she also remembered. That was probably because they were inside at the moment though…

   At first when she walked in, he stood up as if in surprise at the intrusion, but then he noticed who the intruder was. “Fancy outfit you’ve got there for a girl your age,” he said calmly and not at all as if he was impressed before sitting back down and reclining in his simple leather office chair. He then peered at her over hands he steepled below his dark eyes.

   Reina studied him for a moment, calm herself as well. “I take it you remember me?” she asked quietly.

   “Oh yes…” he responded just as quietly. He picked up some papers on his desk and appeared to browse through them. “Reina Tanaka, formerly of the all-girl singing group Morning Musume. Reported missing January twenty-fourth, two-thousand seven. Several weeks later the search still goes on, but Tanaka has officially been reported dead.” Laying down the papers, he sank back into his chair again, raising his arms as if to stretch before folding them behind his head.

   “Then, of course, what any papers don’t say. ‘Has risen to an unidentifiable but high post in an elite conglomerate of various activities, including organized crime. However, it is currently being reported that she is reforming such subordinate businesses across the city of Tokyo and even, if rumour serves, patrols the streets at night saving young girls from a, shall we say, not so graceful fate.’”

   Reina lowered her chin as he spoke, though kept her increasingly glowing eyes on the Lieutenant. She felt a surge of adrenaline over how much of interest she apparently was to authority figures she knew from before it all came about. “Things appear to be a little different than the last time we talked, Lieutenant…” she said, lost in her centered world of calm and focus.

   “I could have you arrested and thrown into jail right here on at least a hundred different charges, you know,” he stated matter-of-factly in response.

   “…And you know I’d be out while the night was still young,” she responded with a soft smile.

   “Are you so sure of that?” he responded quickly, leaning back toward her, his eyes adopting a piercing gaze at least as hard as Ai used to give her.

   Reina began to respond but caught herself at his intensity. This is true, Reina. Remember, that’s the whole reason you’re doing this today. Remember, there is always someone more powerful. That’s what the writer of that text message taught her. She relaxed and stayed silent. Kitamura, noticing she wasn’t going to respond, gestured to a chair near her. She sat down, taking care with her clothes and adornments.

   “Whether that’s true or not, I need to appear as if I’m indestructible,” she said carefully, adjusting her “belt” of pearls.

   It took a few seconds for Kitamura to respond. “I’m glad to see you haven’t adopted the wit that would match those trinkets you wear,” he said finally, and noticeably relaxed in his chair. “So Miss Tanaka, what can I do for you?”

   She studied him carefully again. Now that proprieties were out of the way… “Do you remember Aya Matsuura?” she asked.

   “Yes, of course,” he replied. “She was a sweet girl. She came to me with a want to help out as best she could. Unfortunately we couldn’t really do anything for her, and she didn’t know enough to help… It’s too bad though. I’m afraid we can’t expect to see her alive again.” He said that last looking carefully at Reina. Obviously he didn’t believe a word he was saying, and now the ball was in Reina’s court. This detective was no fool. Good… she thought. Not that I expected anything different. She was very conscious of the cell phone now lodged within her jacket pocket.

   “I was sent to kill her, you know,” she said easily. The Lieutenant’s expression didn’t change. “She was asking too many questions, and I don’t think they liked her talking to you.”

   “Shall I add murder to the list of charges against you then?” he asked with a slightly raised eyebrow.

   She chuckled a bit, lowering her eyes. For a fleeting moment her former self realized the situation she was in. Had she truly gone insane? Laughing when an officer of the law threatened charges of murder… Well, if she was, there wasn’t too much she could do about it right now. “You know, people I know have been receiving very odd text messages for months now. Aya received one that I think, along with another I received around the same time, partly resulted in my current situation. Then there was no word for a while until… Just yesterday, another one came. There’s no mistaking it came from the same place, although of course the number was unidentified.” She looked back up to the detective. For the first time she noticed a trace of some emotion behind his eyes. Obviously this news meant something to him. “You wouldn’t happen to know anything about those, would you?”

   “I can’t say that I do,” he responded after a second. Noticing her apparently unconcealed look of skepticism, he continued, “I wish I did know. I’m not thrilled to hear that someone might be interfering with my investigation.” From his inflection, Reina could tell that “someone” he mentioned seemed to be a specific person.

   “I see,” Reina replied. “That’s too bad. You know, that’s interesting though. The message also led me here to you this afternoon. I guess…” She looked at him, a question already forming in her eyes. “I guess we should proceed with this little game of ours?”

   “I don’t know what games you are playing, but if you have something else to say, you have my ear.” He turned back to his desk as if to resume going through his notes. “I’m a busy man. I’ve no time for things like that.”

   Reina smiled at him. He was good, no doubts about that. Reina’s hopes raised a little more. “Well then. Shall we go see Aya?”

   He looked back up at her, though no surprise showed on his face. “If you’d like. I wouldn’t mind asking her some questions.” He rose slowly, straightening his clothes and reaching for his trench coat. “I hope it’s not a long walk. I’m getting to be an old man, so I’m not sure how far I could go.”

   Reina thought about her limo for a second. There really was no point in it. Her aim was to attract attention after all. “It’s not too far.” Kitamura simply nodded as they headed out the door.
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Chapter 24 - Finally UP!]
Post by: JFC on April 27, 2007, 05:12:41 AM
Reina has remembered that she originally only joined in this mess to bring it down from the inside. Time to get the ball rolling.

Quote
I'm sorry for the gap between updates - it's been a long semester.
So long as it gets continued, it's all good dude.
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Chapter 24 - Finally UP!]
Post by: Sukoshi on April 27, 2007, 08:30:00 AM
Glad to see you back  ;D

ah the detective is good!  :smoke:  but so is Reina  :sweat: so this should be interesting!  I wonder how Ayaya is holding up :badluck:
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Chapter 24 - Finally UP!]
Post by: rokun on April 27, 2007, 09:37:40 PM
Let the storm begin... Enjoy. I hope everyone who's been keeping up with this gets to read this. It's one of my most favorite chapters I've ever written. And because of the cliffhanger, I might just let it go a little while before the next update because you know I love torturing you all. ;) Of course, if more people comment maybe I'll update quicker. I hope everyone who has been reading comments this time. ^^

Chapter 25 - The Perfect Storm

   When they left the police station, Reina saw her limo still parked out front. Daisuke sat in the driver’s window, left alone with officers apparently not approaching him, yet appearing visibly nervous.

   “Parking there’s illegal, you know,” Kitamura informed her. “I’ll add that to your list of charges.”

   “All right,” was all she said as she walked toward Daisuke, who looked quite relieved to see her.

   “Tanaka-san! Are you ready to go now?” He looked around again nervously and lowered his voice. “If you don’t do this to me again, I swear I’ll come up to your apartments and do whatever you want me to do…” The words seemed to come choked from his throat.

   Reina smiled. “I don’t think there’ll be any need for that, Daisuke-kun. But I have somewhere to run with the Lieutenant here.” Daisuke suddenly adopted a different look of suspicion as his attention turned to the man standing back from the curb. “Take a break. I’ll give you a call if I need to go anywhere else.”

   “Are you sure, Tanaka-san?” he asked, continuing to dart suspicious glares at Kitamura. “I can trail behind…”

   “Yes, quite sure,” Reina replied. “Now, take your break, or I will have to drag you to my apartments.” At that, the boy nodded and turned the other way to check traffic before pulling away from the curb.

   “Looks like you have quite the admirer there,” Kitamura said as Reina walked back up to him. “I hope he knows what kind of girl he’s getting into.” Reina gave him a sour look and started walking down the sidewalk. Kitamura smoothly kept to her side.

   “He’s just a boy,” she said, though she wasn’t sure who to. Images of a flower she’d been seeing for months now appeared in her head again. He was, after all.

   “Of course,” the Detective replied quietly.

   They walked in silence down the streets of the city. Occasionally the pair of them would get glances – a young girl dressed in outlandishly over-indulgent fashion accompanied by a middle aged man in a plain suit and trench coat. He’d put his sunglasses back on out here as well.

   Eventually they arrived at a wide alley that Reina turned them down until they reached an old, possibly even World War era, building. She pushed the door open and entered into a lobby area before heading down a dimly lit hall. Knowing by memory where she was headed, after a short walk they stopped at a door that looked just like any other, and she knocked.
      
   There was no sound for a moment before an unsteady voice called out from inside, “Who… Who is it?”

   “It’s me,” Reina responded. “Reina.”

   The door swung open and a wide-eyed Aya appeared. Reina could hear the television on in the background, and Aya pulled a robe over herself, concealing skin that was even paler than it used to be.

   “Hello,” she said with little emotion. She looked to the man.

   “This is the detective I told you about, Detective Kitamura,” Reina said in introduction.

   “We’ve met,” Kitamura said, and stepped forward, proffering his hand. “Hello again dear,” he said warmly. “I’m glad to see that you’re well. Not too much the worse for tear after being in hiding all this time. Believe me, I know what that can be like.”

   Aya took his hand slowly, but with recognition. “Thank you,” she managed. Reina couldn’t help herself but look into Aya’s shadowed face. It had lines now that shouldn’t even be hinted at on someone her age, and her eyes had a haunted, faraway look. Reina hadn’t seen her since bringing her here a couple months ago, and the change was drastic. She couldn’t help a feeling of guilt welling up inside her that she was the cause of it all. Well, I suppose it’s still better than being dead…

   “Please, come in,” Aya said without seeming to really feel it, and stepped back, gesturing them into her small apartment. Reina looked around at the small washroom branching off the main hall… the bare walls with slightly peeling paper… the combination living and bed room that couldn’t have been much larger than the washroom. It could barely have been four tatami mats in size. That hadn’t changed since she was last here.

   Aya closed the door softly behind them after likely instinctively looking up and down the hall and shuffled in to sit on the futon. Reina and Kitamura stood near the television. “I’m sorry, I don’t have much to offer you,” she apologized.

   Reina waved her hand in front of her face in dismissal and Kitamura bowed. “Thank you for the offer, Matsuura-san,” he said politely. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking anything. Your hospitality is plenty for me.” Aya just nodded and pulled her robe tighter around her. Reina almost felt like doing the same with her jacket; it was cold in here. The small space heater Reina provided her with apparently didn’t do the trick. She began to feel worse.

   “What can I do for you two then? Have you had any further breakthroughs in Mikitty’s case, Detective?” Aya looked up at them with big eyes while she spoke.

   Kitamura looked empathetically back at her and it seemed like he wanted to tell her something, but he stayed silent a moment before turning to Reina. “I think Tanaka-san is the one who wants to talk. She brought me here, after all.”

   Reina cleared her throat, staring at the floor where she was pushing a piece of broken-off plaster around with her toes. “You know, I’m not fully sure why I brought us together here. …Things… just seemed to lead me to do it. I guess I didn’t really know what to expect when we got here.”

   “I’m glad to see you both here,” Aya said, finally showing a brief smile.

   Reina finally looked up and into her face once again. After all she’d been through, it was still incredibly beautiful. It deserved to be seen by millions again, or hundreds, or just anyone other than nobody who has seen it the past two months. “I’ll get you out of here, Aya-chan…” she said under her breath, though it wasn’t soft enough for Aya not to hear. The girl’s eyes adopted a slight glow they hadn’t had since they walked in the door as she looked up to Reina.

   Before either of them could say anything more though, Kitamura cleared his throat. “How do you propose to do that, Tanaka-san?” He went on in a slow voice, as if asking in his voice for confirmation of the words, “If… I’m not mistaken, apart from the hysteria her sudden reappearance would cause in the public arena, and especially for her fans, she still has a death warrant that would become so large every mobster in Japan would be after her head.” He then gave Reina a sorrowful look, as if he wished he didn’t have to continue, “And yours would likely be even greater. You may have taken Tokyo quite impressively, but there’s always someone more powerful. Especially many someones.”

   “I believe I can answer that,” came a voice from well behind them. “If you’ll give me the pleasure of course, Tanaka-taisho.”

   Ai Takahashi strode through the door to Aya’s apartment. Reina stared at her, her mind suddenly gone blank. How had they not heard the door open? Of course Ai could probably do nearly anything completely noiselessly, but common sense knowledge like that fled her at this specific moment. Her eyes darted to Aya, who was looking among the three others seeming confused, before flying past the Lieutenant and back to the striking girl who now joined them in the room. Ai wore a long tight red dress with gold embroidery patterns down each breast and a belt that couldn’t have been much less fancy than Reina’s.

   “Takahashi-san, I presume?” Kitamura asked after appraising the new arrival.

   Ai nodded. “Lieutenant Kitamura, I presume?” she said in a voice and with a posture that appeared more self-assured and confident than Reina could ever imagine. Her breath nearly caught. Kitamura nodded as well in response. “I remember you from Miki’s memorial. That’s where I believe you also met our Reina here and made me begin to worry about her.”

   Kitamura looked carefully and warily at the girl addressing him. He might have played the wise figure of experience with Reina, but appeared to realize nothing of the sort would work on this girl. This… woman. Reina was sure her breath caught now. Many questions seemed to go through his mind and be rejected before reaching his mouth, and finally he said simply, “You said you can answer my question?”

   “Yes,” Ai responded. She looked around at the three in the room.

   “Excuse me…” Aya spoke up from the couch, strength seeming to return to her spirit now in her confusion. “Ai-chan? What are you doing here?” Her voice also reflected a near-frantic anxiety.

   Ai turned to the girl and smiled. “I suppose I’m not surprised she hasn’t told you yet, but I’m the one who ordered Reina to kill you,” she said casually.

   Aya didn’t seem to grasp that for a moment before spluttering, “What?!” Her eyes widened almost as far as they could go in astonishment and disbelief.

   “You seem to have accepted that Reina here was sent to kill you. Why is it so hard to think that I might have sent her?”

   “But…” Aya stuttered, “I…” She looked over at Reina, whose face felt clouded with emotion. However, there was definitely nothing in it to contradict Ai’s words. “How could you?!” She began to approach Ai, but Reina dashed forward and caught her before she reached her, pinning her arms to her sides, her pale robe now flowing forgotten out to her sides.

   “Aya-chan,” Reina whispered in her ear. “Now is not the time. I’m sure we’ll explain later.” Still holding the weakly struggling girl with no effort, she turned her eyes to the Detective. “Lieutenant, I’m sorry, could you please pour a cup of tea for Aya? She has a lot to absorb, and I think could use the calming influence…”

   Kitamura nodded without hesitation and disappeared around a corner into a kitchen Reina couldn’t see into. While he did what she asked of him, Reina looked back to the woman standing patiently near the hall. Kitamura’s death threats certainly seemed very real right now. She didn’t think that their supposedly “equal” ranks would make a difference in a matter such as this, a matter that in fact even was the reason for Reina’s position. Her mentor just looked around the room though, seemingly totally unfazed by the whole situation. She finally brought her eyes to Reina’s and smiled warmly. Reina stared back, comprehension dawning inside her. How long had the woman known?

   After just a short time, Kitamura returned with a steaming cup of tea. “If you’ll let your friend go, I’ll hand her the tea,” he informed Reina, whose eyes drifted from Ai to him. As if just remembering she was restraining the other girl, who had ceased to struggle and in fact now seemed as limp as ever, she loosened her hold. However, she quickly became worried whether the girl could stand on her own two feet, so she helped her to the futon, and Kitamura handed her the cup, to which she muttered a low thanks.

   After leaving Aya to fend for herself, Reina stood up straight again and cast her eyes back to Ai, who was now looking at Aya with a similar look of sadness Reina could have imagined she had just a short time ago.

   Aya took a small sip of the tea before turning her attention up to Ai as well. “You said you knew of a way to help me?” Her voice really did seem weaker than ever now and… resigned… to whatever fate, or in this case Ai and Reina, had in store for her.

   “Yes,” Ai said in a softer tone than she did before, and spread her glance among all three of them. “Now that I’ve located Aya-chan here, we can continue with the plan I’ve been developing for months now. With the preparation I’ve done, it’s impossible we won’t be able to accomplish the overall effect – a total coup on the Council of the Raven in Kobe and reformation of its policies – and the rest… Well, that will depend on how Reina and I perform individually. That is of course, if you’re up for it, Tanaka-taisho.” She looked at Reina with what felt like a sense of pride emanating from her. Reina couldn’t help but be inspired herself. The sense of fear that pervaded her just a minute ago was completely gone, replaced by excitement and… a lust… that what she felt she had been working toward all this time might finally become a reality. There was a different kind of lust too that she didn’t recognize as easily…

   “I’ve been hoping for this chance ever since I heard about Miki through a phone call. The chance for redemption and to just do something that… matters… was all that drove me through torturous training run by someone I thought was a killer…” Aya choked on her tea slightly and stood up, but Reina went on, “Ai-chan, whatever I can do to assist, please, just let me do my best.”

   “That,” came a strong voice from back at the door once again, “is precisely what I hope the both of you will be able to do.” The only sounds that cut the utter silence after those words were a terrified shriek from Reina and Aya’s teacup crashing to the hard, cold floor.
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Chapter 25]
Post by: iacus on April 28, 2007, 08:01:15 AM
I was really confused at first, but then I realized that I had somehow missed two chapters you posted way back in February. So I read those and then read the two new chapters you posted up. And I must say, I was a bit surprised by the direction that Reina was taking. I didn't expect her to be quite as enthusiastic as she was with her new job: though, thinking about it now--after re-reading some of the story to bring myself back up to speed--it fits perfectly with Reina's slightly egotistical, power hungry, yet lonely, personality. But I would also wager a guess that she doesn't actually know what she wants.

Sorry if that was a bit scatter shot, I can't wait until you post the next chapter.
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Chapter 25]
Post by: coachie on April 28, 2007, 11:59:40 AM
I can't believe it's been two months since the last chapter, I'm so happy you finally updated  ;D

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   “That,” came a strong voice from back at the door once again, “is precisely what I hope the both of you will be able to do.” The only sounds that cut the utter silence after those words were a terrified shriek from Reina and Aya’s teacup crashing to the hard, cold floor.

oh my, don't tell me Miki's back and her death was just part of a big scheme to bring down the Raven Council

Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Chapter 25]
Post by: JFC on April 28, 2007, 09:06:30 PM
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The door swung open and a wide-eyed Aya appeared. Reina could hear the television on in the background, and Aya pulled a robe over herself, concealing skin that was even paler than it used to be.
Holy shit Aya's been in hiding all this time? No wonder the higher-ups weren't on Reina's case about killing her anymore. 


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“What can I do for you two then? Have you had any further breakthroughs in Mikitty’s case, Detective?” Aya looked up at them with big eyes while she spoke.
That's friendship and loyalty right there folks. Aya's first question doesn't concern her situation, she doesn't want to know "when can I get out of here". No, her first concern is with Miki's case.  :heart:


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   “I believe I can answer that,” came a voice from well behind them. “If you’ll give me the pleasure of course, Tanaka-taisho.”

   Ai Takahashi strode through the door to Aya’s apartment. Reina stared at her, her mind suddenly gone blank. How had they not heard the door open?
(http://i30.photobucket.com/albums/c340/J-F-C/GreatGoogly.gif) Aichan's got super-ninja skillz!



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Of course Ai could probably do nearly anything completely noiselessly
Anythi-...nevermind, too easy. >:D



Quote
   “That,” came a strong voice from back at the door once again, “is precisely what I hope the both of you will be able to do.” The only sounds that cut the utter silence after those words were a terrified shriek from Reina and Aya’s teacup crashing to the hard, cold floor.
Please let it be Miki, please let it be Miki, please let it be Miki, please let it be Miki, please let it be Miki, please let it be Miki, please let it be Miki, please let it be Miki, please let it be Miki...
 :prayers:
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Chapter 25]
Post by: Sakura Momusu on April 29, 2007, 12:44:59 AM
I'm pretty sure it's Miki...it has to be!! :farofflook: Her wake didn't include her body after all (reference: Chapter 3)  :k-great:

Ai-chan's picked the right apprentice then, cause apparently, they did the same thing: saying they killed their targets but really secretly smuggled them to parts unknown.  :ding:
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Chapter 25]
Post by: Sukoshi on April 29, 2007, 08:19:04 AM
Ah I like your idea Sakura Momusu!  It would be cool if Miki were really alive...well of course that would really mean that Reina is crazy though because all of those dreams would be her own imagination  :p  The poor thing.  But I'm glad that things are looking brighter if the mystery person doesn't spoil all of the fun.
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Chapter 25]
Post by: rokun on May 01, 2007, 08:42:01 PM
Now... some of the mystery is revealed... This may be a little hard to follow, so you'll need to pay close attention ;)
_______________________________________

Chapter 26 - Glimmers of Understanding

   “Mom…” Reina asked as her mother caught her eye while walking by her bedroom door. “Do you believe that people who die stay here with us, or do they go somewhere else?” Reina herself was seated cross-legged on the bed and had been looking through some photobooks she’d acquired over the years. Most of the time she received them free as gifts. She had them all nestled in a fashionable bookshelf near her bed. To her, they were the most precious reminders of the wonderful people she worked with. The walls of her room were plastered with posters of her, of Goto-san and others. It had been a long time since she really called this place “home”.

Her mother studied her quietly, and a bit sadly, before walking slowly into her room. Reina had been home for a few days now since the wake, and most of the time she spent quietly in her room thinking about things. Her mother was so kind; she didn’t say a word about it, only brought her food whenever she desired it. She would do anything for her daughter, and was so proud of how far she’d come. She came and sat at the side of the bed not far from Reina, but Reina didn’t look at her. She was still looking at the last page of her newest photobook of Miki. She also took a minute before responding. “Do you remember when your grandmother passed away?”

Reina nodded, looking slowly up into her mother’s face. “It was only a few years ago, Mom.”

Her mother smiled softly and her eyes adopted a faraway look. “When I sleep, I can feel her presence still. It’s as if she watches over my dreams, looking after me. I pray at her shrine every day in thanks for all she’s done for me.” She looked back down to Reina. “Even if you don’t have a shrine to remember someone by though, that doesn’t mean they don’t still become spirits and look after those of us still around in the world of Life.”

Reina looked back down at the book, and she noticed a tear had fallen on Miki’s shoulder in the picture it was open to. “She wouldn’t want to watch over me. We never really did much more than fight. She was the oldest that joined when I did, though especially after our first song I always thought I was the best and teased her about losing her chance at being a star when she fell from her solo career.” She carefully wiped the tear from the book, though despite her efforts another fell to take its place.

Her mother stayed silent, though Reina felt tender fingers begin running up and down her spine. She continued, “Recently we hadn’t been fighting as much. I guess we both became happy with the way things were in the group. In fact, we hadn’t hardly talked at all for months… Things were moving so quickly…”

“Things do move quickly, little girl. How old are you now? Eighteen yet?”

Reina looked back across the small gap between them into Miki’s face as she spoke. She could barely see it in the dark of her hotel room as it rose up from the depression it made in the pillow next to hers. “Seventeen,” she responded. Her voice sounded as if it was coming from somewhere far away from her body, but she still knew it to be her own.

“Seventeen…” Miki whistled through her teeth. “You were just thirteen when you came to be known and loved by every pervert in Japan, weren’t you?”

Reina’s eyes narrowed slightly. They weren’t all like… “Yes,” she heard her voice say.

“And what have you accomplished since?” the other girl pressed. Her fist appeared from beneath the sheets between them, and a finger popped up. “You haven’t graduated from high school. In fact, I hear you’re far from doing so… if ever…” Another finger joined the first. “You led your first single, but since then you haven’t done anything special. Three years after you joined you finally managed to get a solo on an album, but after that you fell to just another one of the faces of a train of girls from Morning Musume. Like me…” she finished with an evil looking grin.

“I…” Reina began in response. “I’ve risen faster than anyone has before in one of the largest businesses in Japan.”

“One of the largest crime syndicates, you mean,” Reina twiddled with her thumbs while Ai spoke from across from her. They were both seated on her bed, the light streaming in the windows illuminating their serene faces easily. “That’s quite an accomplishment, isn’t it? It only took a friend’s murder and blackmail to show you what your lot in life really is.”

Rage suddenly overwhelmed Reina, and she dove at the other girl, wrapping her fingers around her neck as she pushed her back to the bed. The girl didn’t struggle, and as she tightened her grip and saw Ai’s face begin to redden, the rage bled out of her. However, her fingers stayed strong. Looking into eyes whose life was slowly being drained from them, Reina’s face adopted a calm, pensive expression.

“I learned this from you, you know. When you murder someone, if you stay calm and shut out all external distraction, you detach yourself from the situation and it becomes nothing more than a part of your job.” She tilted her head slightly, the life now almost gone from the other girl’s eyes. “Do you think you’ll stay on this Earth when you’re gone? The person you killed did. She comes to me at night, giving me hints. Giving me direction. Torturing me… In fact, last time she said…”

“Fool girl. No wonder we always had to baby you. I swear I felt like your mother sometimes since you looked up to me more than the others as a comrade of sorts for joining the same time as you. Sure I talked up a good show and was rough enough that you might think I was a little dangerous, but there’s nothing strong about taking an innocent life.”

“We never did much more than fight. I always thought I was better than her…”

Her mother now began to massage her shoulders, and Reina fell into her as she was hugged close, now letting herself cry as much as she needed to. “Shh… Shh…” her mother soothed, rocking slightly. “You all were wonderful. She was a wonderful girl. I don’t remember those fights. What I remembered was my daughter, who had just found out the best news someone could hear, coming home and telling me that she was so happy she finally got to meet the people she loved to watch, and did I know Fujimoto-san was joining with her? With her! She looked forward to all she might be able to do with her new friends. In the next months you would call home every so often and tell me something or other, and a lot of the time it had to do with some talk or practice you had with Fujimoto-san… If you fought, she still managed to leave quite an impression on you.”

“It doesn’t matter now,” Reina choked out, sniffing. “She’s gone…”

“There hasn’t been an innocent life lost so far because of this, and I sure hope it doesn’t start now. You won’t succeed until you see the Truth beyond the illusion of reality…” Miki’s outstretched finger moved closer to Reina’s face until it touched her nose. Her eyes crossed and her vision became a blur.

“No…” she said through the blur. “This couldn’t be more real.”


Reina cut off her scream as she heard Aya’s cup break against the floor.

“Well, I wasn’t hoping for the calmest reaction, but I’d yet to have someone scream when I walked into a room.”

“Mikitty!” Aya cried, and ran to embrace the girl in her arms, her robe hanging now totally forgotten at her sides. “I didn’t know what to do without you. I couldn’t even live my life…” She broke off in a fit of sobbing.

“I see that,” Miki said, patting the girl’s back awkwardly and frowning around at the other people filling the room. “I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not the only one here responsible for that though…”

“I would have had to kill her otherwise,” Reina said flatly, hardly able to think through the shock she felt. She still wasn’t sure if what she was seeing was real or just another of her hallucinations. They had to have been hallucinations now; this girl whom Aya was clinging to for dear life sure hadn’t been haunting anyone lately.

“Oh,” was all the other girl responded, giving Reina her intense scrutiny.

“Miki Fujimoto…” came another voice from across from Reina. “I have to say I’m a little surprised to… see you again.” For the first time since Reina saw her cry at the memorial, she could sense that her mentor was shaken.

“Ahh… the woman who tried to kill me,” Miki responded, giving Ai a careful evaluation as she held a still sobbing Aya to her. Finally recovering somewhat from her shock and realizing that what she was seeing was most definitely real, Reina noticed an intensity about Miki’s bearing that most definitely didn’t relax at whatever she found in that evaluation.

“You know what Ai does now,” Reina said with no hint of question in her voice.

Miki nodded, still keeping her eyes on the dangerous woman between them. “Yes,” she confirmed needlessly. “And I know she’s brought you into her world. But what I don’t know… is what that world really involves, or what your intentions are. At least, I didn’t know that last until I was happy to hear what I did while still standing outside the door. Since I remember you as my colleagues from Morning Musume, I don’t know whether you’re good enough to succeed in what would be, I hear, quite a challenging task.”

“Yes,” Reina responded with full confidence. “Whatever you’ve heard about the Council is most likely true… and you’d have to take it a step further to have an idea of what Ai-chan is capable of now.”

A man cleared his throat from behind Reina. “You can believe Miss Tanaka here, Miss Fujimoto. In the time since we’ve spoken last I’ve uncovered certain things as well, and these two girls seem to be capable of just about whatever they put their efforts into. In fact, I think Miss Tanaka belittles her own abilities.” Reina felt herself flush slightly at the compliment. Yes she knew she was good at the work she had been forced into doing, but she wasn’t the match of her teacher.

Miki’s eyes flashed finally away from the other girl to Reina, and she smiled slightly. “That’s something I can believe, Detective. Our little Reina always seemed to overachieve in anything she did because she has a work ethic and determination to match anyone I’ve known.” Her face became slightly thoughtful as she continued and Reina’s blush deepened. “I suppose I’ve no business calling her ‘little’ anymore though, have I?” Her attention switched to the Lieutenant. “Nice to see you again, Sir. I’m sorry I haven’t contacted you in so long, but I’ve been busy trying to lay plans of my own.”

“So I’ve heard,” Kitamura said as if unhappy with the hearing. “I think we have you to thank for today.”

“You do me too much honor, Detective. I just tried to push Reina in the right direction – nothing out of the ordinary.”

Kitamura chuckled. “I didn’t know you were so manipulative. Although I should have guessed it with how you pressed on with such determination even from supposed hiding. You know, the object of being hidden is so that no one knows where to find you.”

“Well it would seem that I succeeded at that fairly well, don’t you think, Sir?” Miki said with a sly grin. She looked back around at all three of them again. “So our quarry has a name now eh? Council of the Raven? It sounds so… mysterious…” She complimented that word with a sardonic twist to the corner of her mouth.

Our quarry?” asked Ai, seeming to have quickly regained her composure.

Miki nodded. “You see, the Detective here recruited me about a year ago to help in an undercover operation attempting to infiltrate an underworld organization that had become too big for its own good. Its leader had apparently become quite skilled at his job. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out too well, and as most of you well know, I was found out and apparently came to be in considerable danger. Of course, at the time I was clueless and just thought I was helping out the law here, but after I had a mark on my head I had to grow up very quickly…”

Reina noticed Aya hugging her friend tighter as she continued telling the story, likely in sympathy and understanding of their shared situations. Miki went on though, “They managed to save me from the second accident after the blown first try, and sent me off to disappear. Though of course, that’s not my style. My career seemed over, and I was angry as hell. So I started working with the police and eventually gathered to myself some talented people who were able to help in tracking down this leader and his people, and we had just learned enough to solidify a plan to pull the organization down… Along the way I found the surprising news that one of my old friends and juniors had gotten involved for some reason as well…” She looked at Reina as she spoke now. “So I tried giving her hints about where to direct her path and to make sure she didn’t get too big a head. Just recently I found that someone else was also involved, and apparently much more deeply…” As she finished, her eyes fell once more on Ai.

“You don’t know what you’re getting into,” Ai said with an air of warning. “If the Lieutenant has been looking into us, surely he can give you the same idea that whatever group you’ve assembled can’t hope to go up against the power of the Council. No offense of course, Fujimoto-san. You may have started what I became, but now I’m the only one who can finish it.”

There was silence for a moment as everyone digested her words. Aya finally pulled herself away from Miki’s plain outfit to look at Ai as well. Miki studied her closely.

“She’s right,” Reina said. “You seem to know where I came from in all this, and so hopefully you can believe me if you aren’t able to trust her yet. I do have one question though…” She took a step closer to Miki, who looked over to her with the piercing gaze she left Ai with. Reina swallowed before continuing, “Are you really… alive and still with us?”

The girl’s stern face broke into a smile. “Yes I am, Reina-chan,” she responded assuringly. “I’m glad to see you still care.”

Reina looked up at her with big eyes as she still stepped slowly toward her until she nearly leapt the remaining distance and wrapped her arms tightly around both her and Aya as well. “I’m sorry, Mikitty… I’m so sorry…” she whimpered, letting loose tears she’d held in for weeks.

Miki was quite taken aback. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. There’s nothing to apologize for…” she said uncomfortably, again a bit awkwardly patting the younger girl’s head.

Aya smiled as she looked into the face of her best friend whom she thought was gone forever, and the two girls’ displays of affection made the Detective still standing off to the side slightly uncomfortable, though with a softened expression at witnessing such sweet acts of love. Ai also showed warring emotion and expression on her face, but didn’t move to join in with the tear-filled reunion herself…
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [26]
Post by: Sakura Momusu on May 02, 2007, 12:13:17 PM
hmmm...can someone make a sketch of how he/she could imagine that last scene? it just seems a bit too sickeningly sweet.  :wriggly:

Hmmm...so I was wrong...Miki did everything on her own. Looks like she really wants to do a solo career so she went ahead and started the entire chain of events herself.  :cool1:
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [26]
Post by: glcorps2002 on May 06, 2007, 04:01:39 PM
I finally read all of this story in 5 days. I officially rate this story: "Hella Good"!

But to be honest, I would have assumed that Ai had hid Miki like Reina hid Aya. So she really tried to kill her, huh? That's pretty fucked up! She's too damn focused on taking down the Council! She doesn't even know what happened to Risa does she?

But I feel the worse problem will come from Koharu somehow ratting them out!
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [26]
Post by: JFC on May 07, 2007, 07:26:59 AM
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“Miki Fujimoto…” came another voice from across from Reina. “I have to say I’m a little surprised to… see you again.” For the first time since Reina saw her cry at the memorial, she could sense that her mentor was shaken.
So Aichan did NOT hide Miki the same way that Reina hid Aya? She really did think that she killed her?


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Her attention switched to the Lieutenant. “Nice to see you again, Sir. I’m sorry I haven’t contacted you in so long, but I’ve been busy trying to lay plans of my own.”
WTF Miki and Kitamura were in cahoots?!?!? They trying to expose the "Raven" society or something??? :o


Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [26]
Post by: iacus on May 08, 2007, 06:32:29 AM
So Ai did try to kill Miki, But she's still alive and has been working with the police the whole time.  I can honestly say that I did not see that coming.
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [26]
Post by: Sukoshi on May 13, 2007, 10:11:02 AM
Fujimoto is alive ! :shock: so Reina was crazy after all  :lol:  Now that Miki's back in the picture and things are starting to move, I wonder if the other girls will be making appearances soon.
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [27: Fire]
Post by: rokun on June 10, 2007, 04:03:29 AM
Umm... yeah... I have nothing to say about this right now. :oops: I'll let you guys do the talking... Who says Miki is going to come in and take over? ;)

Chapter 27 – Before the Fire

The next week was a whirlwind of preparation and daily activity. Reina made sure all her business affairs were in order, though of course they definitely could manage by themselves. With Ai back in the picture, the two of them met often to discuss what they were going to do about the Council and, more specifically, the Chairman.

It turned out Ai had been having secret meetings with each of the Council members, and they had all given their unequivocal support of Ai’s plan. Even though it was Ai’s newness to the organization that spurred everything into action, the Chairman was obviously an unpopular leader. Unfortunately, he had too much power behind him to be dealt with easily. Tradition also prevented anyone from acting sooner. An organization like what the Council heads that could trace its roots back into even feudal times did not change easily. In fact, it seems to resist change. Leave it to the youngest initiate in generations to disrupt the old order.

For all of Reina’s established accomplishments as of late, Ai herself seemed to command a presence above and beyond anything Reina had begun to aspire to. Whenever she walked into the room, Reina felt like her breath caught at the aura she exuded. Of course, the tight leather uniform she’d taken to wearing regularly might have contributed to it. Reina wondered what exactly she had underneath it – it looked so solid, it must have been something quite protective. It also made Reina wonder nervously what she was doing where she needed protection like that…

Reina no longer wondered at her bodyguards – nearly everywhere she went since their pivotal meeting with Aya and Miki she was flanked by two large-muscled brutes that put to shame any of the bouncers Reina had encountered from the organization before. If worst came to worst, Reina still debated whether Ai would be the one needing protection. For example, Daisuke-kun was surely nothing compared to Ai’s men. Reina didn’t trust anyone other than herself if matters came to a point where security had to be thrown to the wind. Well, perhaps except for Ai. Still, she supposed there was always the possibility of a knife in the dark. If anyone could sneak up on Reina or Ai like that though, Daisuke-kun or even Ai’s men would probably matter little. She ended up deciding they were just for show. She certainly had ulterior motivations with Daisuke-kun…

The best thing that came out of their meeting at Aya’s was probably an improvement in the host girl’s situation. Now that Miki had found her, she took the girl to wherever she’d been hiding out to join up with their little task force. Reina was glad for that; the guilt she felt at Aya’s previous situation worsened considerably after that day. Obviously Miki was getting along quite fine in supposed hiding herself, so it must be a vast improvement for the other girl as well.

Reina didn’t know much about what those two and their companions were doing. They left the gathering with the detective, though she hadn’t seen any of them since then except for a short phone call from Kitamura asking if she knew when they would be ready to launch their coup. Reina still didn’t know yet of course, though she hoped it would happen soon. However, she didn’t know how much she wanted to tell him anyway because she was unsure of what they could actually help with…

Her current meeting with Ai had a different air about it, though. It was over a week since Miki’s appearance, and over that time they’d worked out how to handle the Chairman’s followers and set up their encounter with Yamagata himself. Miki’s group, without their knowledge of course, wasn’t really pulled into the process. They would be backup in case things went horribly wrong. The issue was just that things couldn’t, or else there would be nothing to back up.

This meeting took place in Ai’s apartments above Reina’s own at Hisuitora. They’d met here before, but this was definitely different. All this went through Reina’s mind as she sat quietly in a large armchair near the red crackling fire of Ai’s living room. The two had been sitting in identical chairs here in silence since Ai directed her to have a seat. Ai usually was the first to speak in these occasions, and Reina felt she had nothing to say, so they both stayed wrapped in their individual solitudes.

Reina was very comfortable in a floral-embroidered knee-length silk skirt and matching blouse. She always tried to dress to impress when she met with Ai, for reasons that could be obvious or veritably inscrutable. Tonight though, she felt overdressed since Ai sat in her chair with a bare foot pulled up onto it, the other crossed beneath it and her head resting on her upraised knee. She only wore plain mauve sweatpants with a light navy shirt. It was the most casual Reina had seen the girl in what seemed like ages, and made her almost wonder if she was planning a workout tonight, though her relaxed posture belied that theory. She remembered their long training sessions, though much time had passed since the last. Sometimes she was worried she was losing ground to her teacher without the benefit of her instruction. She did her best to improve herself all the time in any way she could, but the standard she was held to seemed insurmountably high.

“Do you ever wish for easier days?” Ai asked, almost startling Reina in the sudden break to the silence.

She gathered herself before responding, “I suppose easier days would seem nice, but going back to them after all this… I’d be afraid I’d fall into deep depression at the meaninglessness of it all.” Ai sighed and slid her head further down to where her forehead was propped against her knee. Had she said something wrong?

“I suppose I’m the same way,” she said after a moment. Then she coughed a laugh before arching an eyebrow toward Reina. “We were both always so ambitious, weren’t we?”

Reina looked calmly back at her. Yes, she supposed they were. Ai certainly seemed to be with all she’s done with her career, and Reina constantly tried to improve herself and her surroundings in any way she could. Unfortunately, as Reina had found out, ambition could easily become a double-edged sword.

Noticing that Reina wasn’t going to respond, Ai continued. “What did you think when Miki appeared in Aya’s doorway last week?”

Reina hadn’t exactly expected this question, but she thought carefully before responding, “Honestly, I thought I’d seen a ghost. Miki had come to me in dreams ever since…” She paused and looked back into the fire thoughtfully. “It wasn’t unlike how you appeared sometimes. I thought I’d gone crazy…”

“Do you still think you’re crazy?” Ai asked quickly.

Reina glanced back to the girl to see an intense look in response that she couldn’t turn away from. “How do you suppose I’d know if I was?”

Ai’s severe expression turned swiftly into a smile. “How indeed,” she said, and turned to the fire herself. Reina watched as the flames seemed to dance from the corners of her eyes, still unable to look anywhere but that stern and beautiful face.

“I felt like my whole life was being turned upside down,” the girl said slowly.

Concern now flooded Reina’s expression. “What are you talking about? You seemed perfectly composed to me.”

Ai coughed a laugh again. “Oh? Have I become that proficient at hiding everything I feel then?”

“Well, I noticed you seemed surprised. But it didn’t last long,” Reina said almost defensively.

“Do you know the last time someone else was able to tell how I felt by the expression on my face?” Ai asked. Reina stayed quiet. It was true; the little surprise the girl showed was probably equivalent to another screaming and falling faint on the spot. Yet more evidence of how far Reina herself was from matching up to her.

“Miki was the first person I… thought I’d killed,” Ai continued, seemingly entranced once more by the fire. “After that, it took me a long while before I could even live with myself again. But even once I could, I was changed. I had no problem taking a life if it was required of me or if it served a greater purpose. Do you know I was told to keep an eye on you once, and even to kill you if you came to know too much?” She glanced at Reina, who stared back captively. “Of course, not long after that I was elevated to a position where I could determine your fate myself. I thought, rightly so if I may say so myself, that you could contribute much more by living, even once you did come to know too much.”

Reina kept staring at the other girl. Why was she telling her this? Was it to make sure Reina knew how horrible a person she was? Was it so Reina knew exactly how the girl put herself on the line for her sake? If that last, there was no need, because the endless training and shared experience gave them a bond she didn’t think could ever be broken. And if it was to express her vileness… Well, Reina knew there was much more to her than that.

She looked back to see the girl fixing her with one of her piercing stares again. “Do you understand what I’m trying to tell you?” she asked in a strong and insistent voice. “With Miki alive, everything I’ve built my life on since then has been a lie. I thought I’d lost my soul that day, but I’ve come to realize it’s bled out of me constantly ever since.” Reina swallowed, nearly breaking out into a sweat at the other girl’s words. “But do you know what? Here we are, you and me sitting here on the doorstep of righting a serious wrong in the world today. By the setting of tomorrow’s sun, we will have completed a mission I thought I couldn’t have conceived of not too long ago.” Tomorrow? That was sudden… but at least there was now a schedule for their judgment day.

“That evil in me was taking over,” Ai continued, “But from almost the moment you first came to me, something has been fighting it. You think of yourself as anyone does, but above and beyond that you hold such value for the sake of others. I knew about Aya from almost the beginning of course, but tell me, have your hands ever been permanently stained with the blood of another?” As Ai said this, she rose from her chair and walked slowly over to Reina, ending with taking her hands and holding them up as if inspecting them for that trace of blood.

Reina shook her head, looking up into those deep dark eyes. “No… I don’t know if I could live with myself if they were.”

Ai smiled a small, haunting smile. “How could I have guessed,” she said quietly. “You’ve taken an organization that prides itself on ‘necessary’ murder and greed by storm and become as powerful as those who are stained so deeply by it they can never turn back, and done it all with unwavering virtues antithetic even to its existence.”

Reina stood slowly before the girl, eyes never leaving hers, their hands still held between them. “And the deed that spiraled you down along what you call your path to depravity – a fall I don’t believe for an instant inevitable, by the way – has turned out to be nothing of the sort. After tomorrow things will be set fully right, and you can regain the life that you think is lost to you.” Her expression softened into a tender smile. “You’re still Ai-chan, after all.”

Reina thought she felt the other girl’s breathing quicken slightly, and her face hardened as if trying hard not to show some kind of emotion. Reina hoped she wouldn’t harden it too much. Emotion could be good sometimes.

“You have such faith, even against all odds…” Ai said in what could hardly be called other than a hoarse whisper. Reina definitely noticed the girl’s breathing quickening now. They were standing very close, and Reina could feel the heat emanating from her. She hoped she wasn’t giving off so much herself, but knew she must be.

“I love you, Reina…”

At those words Reina’s breath disappeared, and she wasn’t sure that her heartbeat didn’t either. Her mind became so full suddenly that she couldn’t form a coherent thought. What was going on? This couldn’t be happening…

In the next moment, her lips lit afire as the other girl’s met them. When they first touched in this very place it seemed there couldn’t be a better feeling. Now, after being through so much, she knew she was wrong.

Unlike that time the kiss deepened quickly, and she felt Ai’s hand run up her arm leaving a trail of sharp tingles along the way before sliding her blouse strap down her shoulder. The girl pulled her close, and she returned the embrace. The heat spread down from her lips until she felt her whole body enflame, and for a long while the infernal ecstasy of her and her idol’s intimacy was all she cared to know.
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [27: Fire]
Post by: JFC on June 10, 2007, 08:16:58 AM
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With Ai back in the picture, the two of them met often to discuss what they were going to do about the Council and, more specifically, the Chairman.

It turned out Ai had been having secret meetings with each of the Council members, and they had all given their unequivocal support of Ai’s plan. Even though it was Ai’s newness to the organization that spurred everything into action, the Chairman was obviously an unpopular leader. Unfortunately, he had too much power behind him to be dealt with easily. Tradition also prevented anyone from acting sooner.
That often is the case, isn't it? The leader is often disliked but has his/her position sewn up so well that one literally can't do anything to try and dispose him/her in a "traditional/proper" manner.


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Ai herself seemed to command a presence above and beyond anything Reina had begun to aspire to. Whenever she walked into the room, Reina felt like her breath caught at the aura she exuded. Of course, the tight leather uniform she’d taken to wearing regularly might have contributed to it. Reina wondered what exactly she had underneath it – it looked so solid, it must have been something quite protective. It also made Reina wonder nervously what she was doing where she needed protection like that…
That outfit sounds damn hot. The description reminds me of Aya's battlesuit in the Sukeban Deka movie she did.


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Reina didn’t know much about what those two and their companions were doing. They left the gathering with the detective, though she hadn’t seen any of them since then except for a short phone call from Kitamura asking if she knew when they would be ready to launch their coup. Reina still didn’t know yet of course, though she hoped it would happen soon. However, she didn’t know how much she wanted to tell him anyway because she was unsure of what they could actually help with…
Ah, so it's the type of scheme that works like a jigsaw puzzle. Everyone does their own thing, but no one knows what the others are doing, and in the end their combined efforts (hopefully) all work out together.


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“Do you ever wish for easier days?” Ai asked, almost startling Reina in the sudden break to the silence.
Ah, someone's feeling "reflective".  :O


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“Miki was the first person I… thought I’d killed,” Ai continued, seemingly entranced once more by the fire. “After that, it took me a long while before I could even live with myself again. But even once I could, I was changed. I had no problem taking a life if it was required of me or if it served a greater purpose. Do you know I was told to keep an eye on you once, and even to kill you if you came to know too much?” She glanced at Reina, who stared back captively. “Of course, not long after that I was elevated to a position where I could determine your fate myself. I thought, rightly so if I may say so myself, that you could contribute much more by living, even once you did come to know too much.”
Wow, Aichan's confessing a lot to Reina here. I guess it's been weighing on her mind for so long, she needed to let it out in front of someone and talk about it.


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I knew about Aya from almost the beginning of course, but tell me, have your hands ever been permanently stained with the blood of another?” As Ai said this, she rose from her chair and walked slowly over to Reina, ending with taking her hands and holding them up as if inspecting them for that trace of blood.
Aichan knew Reina didn't kill Aya? She knew that she was still alive somewhere? And yet she kept it to herself. She must have really wanted Reina to be a part of her plan to bring down the chairman.  The fact that she didn't kill Aya must have shown Aichan that Reina could still be trusted to do the RIGHT thing.


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Reina stood slowly before the girl, eyes never leaving hers, their hands still held between them. “And the deed that spiraled you down along what you call your path to depravity – a fall I don’t believe for an instant inevitable, by the way – has turned out to be nothing of the sort. After tomorrow things will be set fully right, and you can regain the life that you think is lost to you.” Her expression softened into a tender smile. “You’re still Ai-chan, after all.”
Aichan must see herself as a monster because of how she was able to kill those other people after she thought she had killed Miki. But Reina's right, she may have had to do some monstrous things, but that doesn't make her a heartless monster herself.


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“I love you, Reina…”
See? Aichan can still "feel". She isn't a monster.
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [28]
Post by: rokun on June 15, 2007, 09:26:13 PM
Thank you, JFC, for your thoughtful responses. :) Keeping an eye on my views a little, either a bunch of you read this or one or two of you kept checking it over and over. :lol: Either way, I'm glad I'm sparking some pretty good interest in you guys. Of course I love reading what people have to say... but I also understand this is the sort of story where not much may need to be said... Anyway, as you can probably tell I'm reaching a climax of the story and am trying to do my best to write what I see in my head as well as possible, so as always, I hope you all enjoy...


Chapter 28 – The Scent of Freedom

Reina felt blinded by brightness and thought the fire had claimed her before she opened her eyes. They were indeed assaulted by some searing radiance, but quickly adjusted as she realized it was the dawn sunlight blazing through the bedroom window. She let herself adjust for a moment, clutching a soft light sheet to her chest, until she realized there was nothing separating the sheet from her skin.

The previous night’s events came flooding back to her, and she turned her head slowly to see Ai sleeping soundly very close beside her, facing her direction. Reina’s cheeks flushed slightly before a smile came to her lips. She now fully remembered the night, and finished turning carefully onto her side so she could watch the other girl sleep. The figure beside her looked so calm and vulnerable, totally unlike any character Reina had seen her exemplify in so long. This incredible girl whom she had looked up to in both awe and fear for so long was now hers. She remembered the confusion she felt the night before, but now she couldn’t imagine things to be any different.

Slowly and carefully sitting up, she kissed the girl lightly on the shoulder and slid out from underneath the sheet. Unable to find her skirt and blouse, she searched through Ai’s drawers for some suitable clothing. Thankfully they were basically the same size. Reina didn’t want to be wandering through the streets in a nightgown again. She smiled as she remembered that time.

Finding something appropriate, she slung it over her arm and left the room, closing the door gently behind her, and headed to the bath. After cleaning up, she came out to find Ai leaning against the bedroom doorframe in a thick bathrobe and drinking something that appeared to be steaming. The scent of warm tea came to her nostrils. Apparently the girl had been busy while she was bathing.

“Good morning!” Reina said with a smile.

Ai took another sip of her tea. “Good morning,” she said in a low but not unpleased voice. “I was wondering if you would ever come out of there. We do have an internationally nefarious and evil organization to overthrow today, and probably some people to kill. Or maybe you’d forgotten…” The girl looked down at her cup with a small smile as she trailed off, not terribly subtly indicating why she thought Reina might have forgotten the day’s activities.

Reina felt herself color slightly. She was proud she didn’t show it even more; she must be getting a little stronger at least. “I haven’t forgotten…” she said in barely more than a murmur. Truth be told, she almost wished she had forgotten about today. Sure, they would put hopefully at least a serious dent in the ideology she had been fighting against almost since she technically joined in its pursuit, but Ai was right about there probably being some people to kill… That part, she wasn’t looking forward to.

“Have a cup of tea,” Ai offered, tilting her head in the direction of the kitchen. “As you know in a way, traditional tea making is an art I’ve somehow managed to pick up along with everything else lately, so it’s quite good. It’ll give you the energy and nutrition you’ll need later.” Draining her own cup, she nonchalantly set it on an end table and headed past Reina toward the bath herself.

As she brushed past, Reina felt her take her hand gently and they turned to face each other. “Oh, and feel free to leave whenever you’d like to do whatever you need to get ready for this evening. You might want to call Ayaya. After I’m finished here I’ll need to get ready and leave right away to get everyone together and talk to the Council members one last time, so won’t have time for…” With that, she leaned over and kissed Reina, who leaned into it easily. It was over all too soon though, and with a light smile that Reina noticed didn’t really reach her eyes, the suave girl strode into the washroom.

Reina just closed her eyes for a moment at the pleasant way she now felt. It was the best since… She opened her eyes, a small pang of guilt tickling at her stomach as Eri sprung to her mind. Well, that was no longer her world, and she was the one that was betrayed first after all. The feeling didn’t go away though until she poured herself a cup of tea and took a sip. It really was as good as Ai said it was, and it had just a hint of milk. She looked down into the cup, swirling it slowly. She wondered if that was a skill she might be able to pick up too.

She stared into the remnants of last night’s fire, sitting in one of the armchairs as she drank her tea. In minutes she was done, and supposed she might as well be off. That last kiss seemed to be Ai’s farewell, and she did need to get some things from her apartment for the day’s work. She also needed to check in with some of her businesses, and apparently call Aya… Reluctant to leave the place she’d spent the night, she took her handbag from an end table where it had been since she arrived and slowly headed out the door.

After making a short stop at her apartment she made her way outside, breathing in the freshness of the mid-morning air. They’d slept in perhaps a bit longer than they should, but it was of no matter. Despite all the preparations they were going to make, what it would come down to was how the both of them would perform at the end, and Reina felt last night was the best preparation they could have had.

She paid only half of her attention to the managers and presidents of the various offices and even breakfast-serving fast food establishments she visited at a leisurely pace. They were as thrilled as always to see her appear, but all the same they couldn’t deny how their business had improved since she made them aware of the inefficiency of their traditional practices, except for places like the fast food restaurants. Since they were already sufficiently modernized, all she’d had to do with them was get them to relax and put the best interests of their customers ahead of their own money-making, and in some cases laundering, schemes. Many of them were quite surprised at how their profits actually increased once they stopped focusing on them so much.

However, eager to see her or not, Reina told them all the same message this morning and into the afternoon, leaving a trail of somewhat confused faces that stared after her long after she was already down the street. The message was simple.

“Today we celebrate liberation,” Reina told one nervous-looking fellow who managed a downtown warehouse. His eyes kept dancing to the sides as if one of the many passing labourers would come to him angrily demanding why he was talking to this young girl who wore a slim-fitting and short pure white dress that was clasped with a large belt with a buckle that looked, and in fact was, gold-trimmed. It was in stark contrast to the dim warehouse environment they stood in.

“After today your business will be only yours. You’ve learned how to turn revenue to support yourself as well as a good bit extra, so you no longer need the backing of NDI. You’ll no longer be held to their standard… But be careful. If you lose your integrity again, I’ll still be watching…”

The warehouse manager, no longer shivering with anxiety, silently stared at her as she weaved through the busy labourers and departed the warehouse without a backward glance.

Back in her apartment finally after a day of mostly the same errands and friendly warnings, she stood at a window looking out onto the streets packed with vehicles and people. The sun was quickly lengthening its evening shadows. It wouldn’t be long now. However, she still had a call to make.

“Hello?”

“Good evening, Aya,” Reina said calmly into her phone as the other girl greeted her.

“Reina!” came her response quickly, though there was a hesitation before a quieter, “It’s nice to hear from you.”

“Thanks,” Reina said automatically. She was momentarily pleased with how much stronger Aya sounded now. Miki must be taking good care of her. “How are you holding up in your new surroundings?”

“Well, it’s honestly quite a lot to take in. I couldn’t believe the organization Mikitty has developed. Do you know there are dozens of people working with her toward this end?” Reina didn’t, actually. “You know… I think their plan may actually work. Are you and Ai-chan still dead-set on the crazy idea she thought up? I didn’t think much of it before, but now that I’ve worked with Mikitty… I hope you’re not about to go on a suicide mission. We’ll be acting tonight too, you know.”

That, Reina did know. What Aya didn’t know however was that her concerns about Reina and Ai were uninformed. Of course ultimately it would come down to skill and steel, but that was something she had a feeling neither Aya nor Miki could envision with any bearing on reality. Still, it was good to know they weren’t alone. Reina felt as if she would never be alone again...

She smiled throughout the rest of their conversation, which mostly consisted of Aya’s feelings on adapting to a situation that was very unlike being an idol as well as confirmation that they would be ready to put Miki’s careful planning into action.

After she finished talking with Aya, Reina made herself a large bowl of ramen to give her the final energy she’d need for later. As she sat at her dining table, chopsticks seeming to clang loudly every time they hit the bowl, she looked around at her otherwise silent apartment. It was still largely unfurnished since she hadn’t had the time nor motivation to do anything about that, and the small sounds she was making while eating seemed quite amplified off the walls that surrounded the living and dining area which was at least three times larger than the entire apartment she maintained prior to her initiation before the Council.
 
It had certainly been a whirlwind few months. A lot of the time she missed her other friends from Hello! Project and the performances, but she also was more satisfied lately in a way because she felt she was making a difference in the lives of many people. This morning was actually quite fulfilling in that regard. This didn’t apply to the supervisors she spoke with of course, but she knew the influence eventually would be felt on the working-class labourers beneath them. They weren’t the ones that were licking her boots all the time; in fact, she was relatively ignored by almost all of them. To them she was just another executive, albeit an oddly dressed and young one, but all the same nothing they cared to become involved with.

After stowing her bowl away to be washed, she headed to her closet to pull out her clothes for the evening. She began by changing into a dark leather skirt that was of course considerably short. She didn’t think she could wear anything that stretched much beyond mid-thigh. Tightening a wide carbon fiber belt around it fastened with a large shiny jade dragon’s head, she also pulled on a light white tank top which she covered with a tight-fitting yet plain denim vest. Overall, it was a plain yet at least in spots particularly durable outfit. Durability was the key for now; she had no need to impress tonight.

As she was closing her wardrobe, she thought she heard a light knocking coming from the front of her apartment. Immediately wary, as she was not expecting any visitors now and no one else should even know she lived here, she headed toward the front door and unfastened the locks, pulling it open. She stared at the figures standing in the doorway.

“I see Koha-chan was right. You have gone fully sukeban, Reina-chan…”
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [28]
Post by: glcorps2002 on June 16, 2007, 12:16:15 AM
^ Risa and Eri, am I right?
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [28]
Post by: JFC on June 18, 2007, 01:15:50 AM
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Unable to find her skirt and blouse, she searched through Ai’s drawers for some suitable clothing.
Sounds like it was quite a night.  :pimp:


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Ai took another sip of her tea. “Good morning,” she said in a low but not unpleased voice. “I was wondering if you would ever come out of there. We do have an internationally nefarious and evil organization to overthrow today, and probably some people to kill. Or maybe you’d forgotten…”
Aichan still has that focus, she still sees that goal that they're both striving for.


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That last kiss seemed to be Ai’s farewell, and she did need to get some things from her apartment for the day’s work.
Might that be some foreshadowing I see?


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However, eager to see her or not, Reina told them all the same message this morning and into the afternoon, leaving a trail of somewhat confused faces that stared after her long after she was already down the street. The message was simple.

“Today we celebrate liberation,” Reina told one nervous-looking fellow who managed a downtown warehouse.

...

“After today your business will be only yours. You’ve learned how to turn revenue to support yourself as well as a good bit extra, so you no longer need the backing of NDI. You’ll no longer be held to their standard… But be careful. If you lose your integrity again, I’ll still be watching…”
So basically, Reina's telling them that she won't be coming around anymore because they no longer need her to check up on them like she has normally been doing.  So long as they keep up with their new business practices, they'll be fine. Yet, if they should start slipping up, they'll once again be seeing her, and not in a good way. 


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“Well, it’s honestly quite a lot to take in. I couldn’t believe the organization Mikitty has developed. Do you know there are dozens of people working with her toward this end?” Reina didn’t, actually.
Looks like Miki's been rather busy while she's been "dead". ;D  She's on the ball, she knows that she'd have to bring in more manpower to take down the organization.


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“You know… I think their plan may actually work. Are you and Ai-chan still dead-set on the crazy idea she thought up? I didn’t think much of it before, but now that I’ve worked with Mikitty… I hope you’re not about to go on a suicide mission. We’ll be acting tonight too, you know.”
So not only does Aya know of the plan, but she's also helping/participating in it too? I guess I can see why. If there was an organization that tried to have my best friend killed, as well as turn two other friends into assassins, I'd want to help take them down too.


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As she was closing her wardrobe, she thought she heard a light knocking coming from the front of her apartment. Immediately wary, as she was not expecting any visitors now and no one else should even know she lived here, she headed toward the front door and unfastened the locks, pulling it open. She stared at the figures standing in the doorway.

“I see Koha-chan was right. You have gone fully sukeban, Reina-chan…”
Oh crap, Koharu snitched? :O
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [28]
Post by: iacus on June 21, 2007, 09:58:00 AM
Maybe I'm reading this the wrong way, but it seems to me that Aichan is kinda messed up in the head and the one thing that's been keeping her from falling apart has been her mission to overthrow the organization. And, now, Reina I guess has also been helping her keep her sanity and her humanity intact.  I do wonder what's going to happen to her, mentally, after the mission is over.(assuming she survives that is)   I would also wonder how loyal Koharu is to the syndicate and to Aichan. Did she tell whoever is at the door (Eri?) by herself? Or did Aichan order her to?
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [28]
Post by: rokun on June 22, 2007, 02:26:55 AM
I like your thoughts, Iacus. :)

Thanks everyone for reading and responding! Your detailed comments make me happy that people are really paying attention to my writing... This chapter is, well, there's a lot in it. I hope you enjoy this prelude.


Chapter 29 – More Worth Than Gold

Eri, Risa and Sayu, who showed a more pouty-looking face than usual, stood before Reina in front of the door. Reina didn’t speak right away because even though it didn’t show on the outside, she hadn’t in her wildest dreams expected these girls to show up at her front door. While Risa and Sayu stared her up and down, she herself stared with unblinking eyes into Eri’s, who gazed straight back.

Sayu was the one who spoke, but Reina ignored her comment. “What are you guys doing here?” she asked in a low voice.

In response, Sayu walked straight past into her apartment. Reina could have stopped her, but for some reason she didn’t want to interfere. After looking around inside her apartment a moment, Sayu spoke up again. “I’m very upset with you, Reina-chan.”

Reina finally broke her eyes from Eri’s challenging and hurt-filled gaze to see the younger girl, who was dressed in a shiny pink jacket and skirt and carrying a black handbag, still scrutinizing her living space. Heading over to one of the armchairs, Reina sank down into it, pulling her knees together. She should have just shooed these girls away, especially with her tight schedule this evening, but something inside her told her they deserved this.

Sayu walked up and stood before her, fists on her hips. Reina looked back into the accusing glare. “I told you to let me know if anything went on with you. I thought that’s what best friends did.” Reina looked back at her blandly. The girl began to tap her foot. “But then we go to our concert in Kobe and you don’t show up and eventually I find out that you were missing and thought dead.

“Of course I didn’t believe that for a second. I know you would have told me were you going to be kidnapped or killed, but still, that didn’t answer the question of where you were.”

She now turned to the other two girls, who had entered the apartment and stood not far from Reina and her lecturer. Risa was giving Reina a hard and angry look, and Eri looked so meek it seemed as if she would melt into the floor.

"Then these two started keeping to themselves and hardly talking to anyone else. Every time I would try to talk to Eririn and tell her that there was obviously nothing wrong with you, she would run and hide like she couldn’t face the world anymore, poor thing. When I managed to find her, Gaki-san was always around and shooing me away.

“I tell you!” she exclaimed with a flourish of her arms, her handbag flying wildly, “I could have sworn they were going out, as crazy as that might sound, because I couldn’t for the life of me imagine what else it could be! Eririn had a new girlfriend, and so couldn’t be bothered with her best friend anymore. At that time, I was getting very angry,” she said with a stern look on her face that from her looked like absolutely nothing other than a very severe pout, “And so imagine my surprise when one time I was eavesdropping on them and I heard them talk about you running away with Ai-chan, of all things!”

Reina stared up at the girl, dumbfounded. She managed to squirrel out so much, but there were such huge gaps in her knowledge Reina wondered how she managed. It was amazing she turned up with socks on every day! Of course, Reina was sure her nearsightedness definitely did not stretch as far as her fashion.

The pink girl now had her arms crossed, a finger to her chin as if she was in deep thought. Reina thought it looked like very hard work. “Well I’d had enough! I barged right in and overwhelmed them with my irresistible cuteness, and so of course they told me what happened. I still wasn’t sure I believed it until I came here and what do you know! Apparently you did run away to Tokyo! I don’t see Ai-chan around, but I know she lives in this building so that part of your story is likely true as well…” She now studied Reina’s face closely as if the mysteries of the universe would unravel themselves to her from there.

While the girl contemplated, Reina looked back toward the other two. Risa was now looking disdainfully yet long-sufferingly at Sayu, where Eri, not anymore looking like she’d melt away, studied Reina’s face as well, although in a far different manner than Sayu. Reina felt a guilty sadness as she gazed back at her and Eri, as if suddenly realizing something in her mind, widened her eyes.

“Speaking of finding you,” Sayu continued, oblivious to anything else going on, “We checked your apartment when we returned to the city, but since it looked like no one even lived there anymore, I was at a loss about how to find you with nothing more to go on than that you ‘ran off to Tokyo’!”

Reina licked her lips slowly as she shared Eri’s wide-eyed gaze, since they suddenly felt very cracked and dry. Eri stretched out a hand slowly toward Reina as Sayu took up again. “But…! One time after weeks had passed when we were discussing whether we should just give up on you since you’d obviously given up on us, Koha-chan was passing by, and when we mentioned your name we heard a crash. Looking over, the girl was frozen with hands still out that no longer held a plate that had dropped to the floor and exploded. Too late, she apologized quickly and bent to clean it up, but I was on her in two cute shakes of a rabbit’s ear since I knew something was up, and after torturing her found out quite an absurd story about ravens and yakuza and hookers and you and Ai-chan, as well as where likely to find you. After that of course…”

Trailing off, she finally seemed to notice what the other girls were doing. She spoke so fast, Eri’s hand had just now stretched almost all the way to Reina, but the so-vulnerable-looking girl retracted it suddenly as if from a coiled viper.

“What are you two doing?” Sayu demanded.

Eri’s eyes were still wide and Reina, now with the realization of what the girl had understood, lounged back in her chair to look at her with slit eyes.

“Iya~!” Eri cried softly, and with a passing look at an extremely puzzled Sayu turned to face Risa, who was also looking among the three in slight confusion. Suddenly and with a quickness that impressed even Reina, Sayu gasped as Eri dove at Risa, kissing her hard and long. Risa struggled for a moment, but eventually gave in to the other girl’s aggressiveness.

After pressing together for what must have been a full minute, during which time Reina’s grip unconsciously became tighter and tighter on the padded arms of her lounge chair, they finally parted with Eri still looking into Risa’s face and the other girl taking loud quick breaths. Nobody spoke again until Sayu let loose a small squeal.

“You two are going out!!!” she breathed in a quite shaken voice. “I…” she  began, “I…”

Risa, having caught her breath, was looking carefully at Eri. Eri turned to look at Reina, who noticed her eyes flicking to hands that she quickly unclenched from the arms, but she was too late.

“Yes we are,” Eri said in a calm voice. “Sorry I haven’t told you Sayumin, but I was too embarrassed,” she finished, sounding and looking nothing of the sort. Reina looked coldly into eyes that were nearly as hard in return.

“I see…” Sayu said, quickly gathering herself. If there was one thing the girl had going for her, it was an unflappable composure when matters didn’t require her drama queen appearance.

She turned back to Reina. “This is quite a day of surprises, I see.”

Reina looked back at her, pointedly avoiding looking at the other girls. “Yes,” she said emotionlessly. “It is.”

“So,” Sayu continued, sounding now as if there was nothing surprising at all going on, “Now that we’ve found you, you can come back with us and put all this sukeban nonsense behind you. Tsunku will be so relieved. He and UFW have been a wreck. What with Mikitty and Nono and everybody else graduating or missing, I’d heard talk of him even shutting us all down and going totally independent with TNX. Of course he’d draft me to come along with him, but I’d be worried for Eririn and Nii-chan over there.” She gave them a sideways look. “Although maybe with this new scandal of their own, they might be of enough interest to stay around.”

She leaned over, pulled Reina up from her chair, and started for the door. Before she’d gone two steps however Reina’s arm slipped easily out of her grip. She didn’t even realize it until she’d taken another.

“I don’t think so,” Reina said, giving all three of them a cool look. She was pleased to see a somewhat abashed look on Eri’s face in response to her new attitude. “If Koharu really did tell you everything, then you should know that it’s all true, and more.” She heard Eri gasp softly, but Sayu still gave her a disbelieving frown.

“What are you talking about?” the ichiban kawaii asked. “You’re no assassin… working with the yakuza to run illegal businesses… and prostitute rings… all over Tokyo!” She couldn’t keep a straight face while saying that, and fully broke out laughing when she ended at the clear ridiculousness of the idea. However, when she noticed she was the only one her laughter died out quickly. She glanced nervously from Reina’s serious posture to Eri and Risa’s understanding yet somewhat horrified expressions. “You can’t be…”

“I have to go,” said Reina hollowly, buttoning her vest and walking past the three girls to the door. “Please lock up when you leave. I can afford to have this place refurnished if everything is stolen, but I’d rather not bother with the hassle,” she continued as she opened it, not looking back.

She paced out into the hall, not bothering to shut the door while the other three were still behind, but was surprised to hear a soft ‘click’ seconds later and the sound of feet running to catch up with her. Risa and Eri pulled up on either side of her, matching her pace, and she stopped, shifting her eyes between the two of them.

“We’re going with you,” Risa said, her voice as dead serious as Reina’s was just moments ago.

“We’re never leaving you by yourself again,” Eri said from the other side. Reina looked back at her into eyes that still held deep hurt and now some guilt, but steely resolve as well.

“There’s no way,” Reina said, now the one sounding disbelieving at the ridiculousness of the situation. “You have no idea what’s going on. There’s no possible way you could…” The two girls’ resolute expressions never wavered, and they didn’t move from her side as if they would protect her from anything that could come along.

What are they doing?! Reina thought frantically. She had just decided to bolt into a run ahead that they couldn’t possibly keep up with before a pigtailed girl came around them and halted directly in front of Reina.

“We lost you once…” she said in the most serious voice Reina had ever heard from her. “Gods know what you’ve gotten yourself into, but I think I finally understand that none of it is a joke.

You may not think we need to know everything, but we’re still best friends, and we’re not letting you go that easily. If you try to get away from us, I’ll have you know we have the best driver Tokyo Taxi has to offer, and he won’t have any trouble keeping up with you. One way or another, we’re going with you. Of course, I’d prefer if it was together…” She finished with a determined yet slightly pleading look as if to appeal to Reina’s good sense.

Reina stared at her. She felt the two girls on either side of her slide over so closely they almost touched her shoulders. Why were they being ridiculous… She and Ai-chan had to do this alone…

An image popped into her head of Miki’s and Aya’s faces. Aya told her again that they would be ready to put Miki’s plan into action. Their faces faded into a vivid text message telling her she could never control everything, and there would also always be others striving for the same ends. Nobody need stand alone. She felt her body calm as she felt the unfamiliar camaraderie standing among these girls gave her. However, she still wasn’t fully convinced of the sense of it all.

“But you’ll be killed… I may not even survive…” she said, almost defeatedly now. This time the three girls looked at each other before anyone responded.

“You’ve helped me through so much…” Risa said. “Although I’ve been upset with your disappearance lately, I know a lot of it is still my own fault. Along with Ai-chan…” She paused a moment. “...you are the closest friends I know. I’ve even used Eririn for my own selfish ends…” The two of them shared a long look, but it ended with slow nods. “Now I want to return some of all you’ve given me. I can’t say I know much about dying, although these last several months have made me grow quite a bit, but I’m sticking with you until the end.” She shared a look with Reina, but Reina nodded with little hesitation.

“We’re best friends,” Sayu said simply. “I want to go wherever you do. I don’t want to… die…” She said the word with distaste. “But if you can survive then I can.” Reina looked at the girl, deciding once again if she was a devil or an angel. The girl had no idea what she would face; it wasn’t as simple as them all conquering some foe together. Well, she would take care of that when it came up. A plan was already forming in her head. She nodded.

Expecting more again, she looked at Eri. The expression returned caught her breath and made the butterflies of guilt flutter in her stomach once again. Eri looked at her with love that she couldn’t fathom mixed with white-hot resolve.

“I’d go with you to hell and back,” the girl said in a tight yet quite strong voice. She felt the other two girls’ breaths catch as well. Apparently this was something they weren’t expecting. As Reina looked into those deep eyes, she realized that their owner was perhaps the only one of them who fully understood the magnitude of what they were facing.

“I’m sorry…” Reina breathed. She wished to say more but couldn’t. She knew the love that radiated out at her wasn’t reflected from herself. She’d made her choice. However, at her words Eri just shook her head as if to brush it aside, and Reina nodded and smiled sadly.

“…All right,” Sayu said after a time, still looking between Reina and Eri. Apparently deciding to leave that be for now though, she began to turn around. “Let’s go.”

The four girls marched down the hall to the elevator. There was no large muscled man reclining against the wall this time. Once down to the lobby they crossed it and left the mansion. There wasn’t a soul in sight.

They were led by the young girl in pink with a black handbag, whose serious and set expression looked so out of place on that porcelain face. Behind to either side walked girls in stonewashed jeans, one with a t-shirt and short leather jacket and the other simply in a green polo shirt. They kept protectively around the focal point of the group who walked in the middle, an even smaller and younger girl who walked as if she held the weight of the world on her shoulders. Indeed, the garments she wore reflected the weight of piles of gold, but it all didn’t seem quite as heavy as it had just a short time ago.

They arrived at a limo whose driver was a young man that looked curiously at the four before at a nod from the youngest he opened the door for them. Before they got in, the one in front turned around.

“So… Where are we going again?”
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [29: Treasure]
Post by: JFC on June 22, 2007, 05:41:19 AM
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Eri, Risa and Sayu, who showed a more pouty-looking face than usual, stood before Reina in front of the door. Reina didn’t speak right away because even though it didn’t show on the outside, she hadn’t in her wildest dreams expected these girls to show up at her front door. While Risa and Sayu stared her up and down, she herself stared with unblinking eyes into Eri’s, who gazed straight back.
And now, we await the dramatics and the waterworks. :)


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Sayu walked up and stood before her, fists on her hips. Reina looked back into the accusing glare. “I told you to let me know if anything went on with you. I thought that’s what best friends did.” Reina looked back at her blandly. The girl began to tap her foot. “But then we go to our concert in Kobe and you don’t show up and eventually I find out that you were missing and thought dead.
Holy, didn't quite expect Sayu to be the one giving the lecture. That dark side of hers really has a way of sneaking up on you.   :O


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Sayu took up again. “But…! One time after weeks had passed when we were discussing whether we should just give up on you since you’d obviously given up on us, Koha-chan was passing by, and when we mentioned your name we heard a crash. Looking over, the girl was frozen with hands still out that no longer held a plate that had dropped to the floor and exploded. Too late, she apologized quickly and bent to clean it up, but I was on her in two cute shakes of a rabbit’s ear since I knew something was up, and after torturing her found out quite an absurd story about ravens and yakuza and hookers and you and Ai-chan, as well as where likely to find you. After that of course…”
See, it's stuff like THIS that show why Aichan picked Reina to be her kouhai in this endeavor over Koharu.  When you're getting into what they're getting into, you need nerves of steel. You can't just break down and spill your beans like that.  :err:


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“Iya~!” Eri cried softly, and with a passing look at an extremely puzzled Sayu turned to face Risa, who was also looking among the three in slight confusion. Suddenly and with a quickness that impressed even Reina, Sayu gasped as Eri dove at Risa, kissing her hard and long. Risa struggled for a moment, but eventually gave in to the other girl’s aggressiveness.

After pressing together for what must have been a full minute, during which time Reina’s grip unconsciously became tighter and tighter on the padded arms of her lounge chair, they finally parted with Eri still looking into Risa’s face and the other girl taking loud quick breaths. Nobody spoke again until Sayu let loose a small squeal.

“You two are going out!!!” she breathed in a quite shaken voice. “I…” she  began, “I…”
CUE THE ANGSTY-DRAMATIC MUSIC!  :mon blowhorn:


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“What are you talking about?” the ichiban kawaii asked. “You’re no assassin… working with the yakuza to run illegal businesses… and prostitute rings… all over Tokyo!” She couldn’t keep a straight face while saying that, and fully broke out laughing when she ended at the clear ridiculousness of the idea. However, when she noticed she was the only one her laughter died out quickly. She glanced nervously from Reina’s serious posture to Eri and Risa’s understanding yet somewhat horrified expressions. “You can’t be…”
Poor Sayu. She talks about Tsunku and UFA being a wreck, when by the sounds of it she's really talking about herself. Thinking that they had lost Reina & Aichan, that she had lost two of her closest friends must have really been a shock for her.  So many changes have happened recently in her life, and it must just all be so overwhelming. Sayu just wants some normalcy back in her life. She wants things to go back to the way they were.


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“We’re going with you,” Risa said, her voice as dead serious as Reina’s was just moments ago.

“We’re never leaving you by yourself again,” Eri said from the other side. Reina looked back at her into eyes that still held deep hurt and now some guilt, but steely resolve as well.

“There’s no way,” Reina said, now the one sounding disbelieving at the ridiculousness of the situation. “You have no idea what’s going on. There’s no possible way you could…” The two girls’ resolute expressions never wavered, and they didn’t move from her side as if they would protect her from anything that could come along.

What are they doing?! Reina thought frantically. She had just decided to bolt into a run ahead that they couldn’t possibly keep up with before a pigtailed girl came around them and halted directly in front of Reina.

“We lost you once…” she said in the most serious voice Reina had ever heard from her. “Gods know what you’ve gotten yourself into, but I think I finally understand that none of it is a joke.

“You may not think we need to know everything, but we’re still best friends, and we’re not letting you go that easily. If you try to get away from us, I’ll have you know we have the best driver Tokyo Taxi has to offer, and he won’t have any trouble keeping up with you. One way or another, we’re going with you. Of course, I’d prefer if it was together…” She finished with a determined yet slightly pleading look as if to appeal to Reina’s good sense.
This here is true friendship. Sure Risa, Eri, and Sayu have no idea whatsoever of what they're getting themselves into. They have no idea of the possible dangers that awaits. However, none of that matters to them. All they know is that Reina's going to do something big, and that's reason enough for them. Regardless of whatever other issues they may have between themselves, as they said, she's their friend, and they're going to help her no matter what.  That type of friendship, that type of loyalty is worth way more than the gold trinkets Reina has been wearing lately. It's worth more than the bodyguards and the weapons and all that other crap...it's priceless.
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [30: Crimson]
Post by: rokun on June 26, 2007, 02:01:12 PM
I'm glad to see a few people are still reading... This is perhaps my most-edited chapter. I hope I expressed what I hoped to. Cue drama...


Chapter 30 – Eve of Crimson

The four girls were mostly quiet as Daisuke-kun drove what seemed like forever to Kobe. Reina sometimes rode in buses this long to their tour sites, but it seemed quite different in the relatively cramped confines of their limo. The four of them had plenty of room of course since this was a luxury automobile after all, but still each seat was designed for only two. Reina shared hers with Sayu while Risa sat beside Eri.

Sayu thought this arrangement was appropriate since the other two were apparently dating. However, the pair didn’t hold hands or even really touch along the way. In fact, the closest they came to any sort of affection was when Eri fell asleep at one point with her head on Risa’s shoulder. Reina suspected Sayu would meet the same fate at some point, but to her surprise she was as alert as herself. The girl seemed to have unexpected energy behind her porcelain façade.

When they first had entered the limo, in response to Sayu’s question Reina filled them in on the general points of what they were going to do. There was of course far too much background to explain everything, but Reina thought they should know a little of what they faced.

“So you and Ai-chan are going to be heroines of Japan after this! That’s so wonderful!” Sayu had commented at one point.

“If we do our job right, no one outside of the Council will know exactly what goes on tonight,” Reina corrected. “The rest will just think there was an assassination and shuffle in leadership.”

Sayu was quiet for a second. “Assassination…” she repeated to herself, as if it was a strange and unfamiliar, and ultimately distasteful, word. Quickly though she pushed that minor aspect aside and pouted. “No one will know…” she complained under her breath. “What’s so romantic about that?” Reina kept her face steely. Eri and Risa exchanged looks. At least they seemed to get the idea.

Reina spent most of the rest of the trip pondering how to get rid of Sayu since, as well as not possibly being able to help in the night’s activities, she obviously grossly underestimated the situation. She was surprised the girl didn’t try chatting with them more throughout the trip, but she spent most of her time gazing out the window at the countryside they passed. Reina did a little of that herself. It truly was beautiful, and she didn’t really have the time to enjoy it while traveling normally. Although, as the hours passed, dusk spreading over the fields beneath a crimson sunset shrouded much of the view.

Finally the squat buildings and glimpses of the sea along Kobe port came into view through the darkness. It wouldn’t be long now before she would meet her fate, whatever that would be. As they came ever closer to their destination, Reina pondered that very thing. She supposed the Council would be dissolved and all the major figures arrested; the Chairman likely killed. That was to be Ai’s battle. Even though Reina didn’t know exactly what it was, the two of them had a history that made Ai’s face darken nearly every time his name was mentioned. Reina felt very sympathetic toward Ai for that, but she still hoped there was some way they could accomplish their aims without killing anyone. It was very likely she would have to kill someone for the first time tonight, and the thought sent chills down her spine like very little else could any longer.

The limo slowed and finally came to a stop in front of the nondescript building Reina remembered from her last appearance there. It wasn’t the most pleasant memory. Seeing Reina’s interest, Risa poked Eri awake and the other three girls peered out the side, odd looks appearing on their faces.

This is the headquarters of Nippon Dai Ichi?” Risa asked. “I was nearly expecting a palace…” She and Eri gave Reina slightly odd looks, though they extended no further than that. Sayu however gave her quite a different one.

“You’re not just making all this up to scare us, are you Reina-chan?” she asked, but Reina was prevented from replying by the door opening and Daisuke-kun looking in at them.

“We’ve arrived, Tanaka-Taisho.” He looked around at the other girls. “Will you all be departing here?”

Reina nodded, giving Sayu a glance that told her she’d be talked to later, and slipped out the door. Risa ducked out after, followed by Sayu and Eri. Reina took a few determined steps toward the building before turning back to direct the others. As she did, she heard the limo door slam shut and what came next happened in a rush.

The sound of metal being unsheathed, something her ears had almost been trained to catch if heard a kilo away, rang through the night. She drew two of her own long daggers that were hidden down the outside of her thighs and with a cry leapt forward toward the sound, unsure at first where it had come from.

However, that soon became apparent as with her movement time seemed to slow. She saw a pained look flash across Eri’s face, and the girl began falling to reveal a blood-stained knife being thrust forward by Daisuke-kun, whose face was set in focus and concentration with no other emotion, such as the anger Reina might have expected, interfering.

Apparently noticing the movement behind her Sayu began to turn, but her head was knocked back around by Daisuke’s blade, a spatter of blood flying from the side of her face toward Reina, as well as Risa, who she had just passed in her desperation to get to their attacker. Daisuke had just dropped his arm in order to strike his weapon through the pink fabric of Sayu’s midsection when Reina reached him, feeling both her points strike true as time seemed to come back into focus. Her vicious momentum pushed him back hard, pinning him to the door he had just closed after them.

They stared hard into each others’ eyes, Reina’s with a look of rage fueled by her friend’s blood spattered on her face and vest, and Daisuke’s with an infuriating calmness that softened as the life was slowly being drained out of them. His blade fell to the pavement from a hand that no longer worked right, and his body began to go limp, now held up only by Reina’s twin daggers thrust through his chest and ribs.

“Why…?” Reina growled in what was barely a whisper as she held him fast and hard. Daisuke opened his mouth, but no words came out other than a trickle of blood. “Tell me!” she ordered through gritted teeth. “Why did you attack my friends?!”

He coughed, bringing some more blood to his lips, but finally seemed to find his voice. “The Council has taken care of me ever since I joined when I was a boy and had nowhere else to go,” he said somewhat weakly. “I’ve had a wonderful life ever since. Their backing allowed me to go to the best college... My work for them let me land job as photographer to girls other men in Japan my age would do or pay anything to be near to.” He seemed to become dizzy and disoriented, his eyes opening and closing before focusing once more on Reina’s. “They allowed me to meet you…” His lips spread into a faint smile as he went on, “But when I found out what you were up to, I had to stand up for our Chairman…” His eyes focused harder on hers. “Although, maybe this is for the best. Good-bye… Reina…” With some last weak coughs, his head fell forward to Reina’s chest.

With watery eyes Reina wrenched her daggers back and Daisuke fell to the ground. Hesitating for only a second at what she’d just done, she turned around to see Risa cradling Eri’s head in her arms and smoothing her hair. Sayu sat off to the side with her legs bent and a glazed look on her face, as she held her hand to her cheek while staring at those in front of her. Seeing Eri’s state Reina quickly knelt next to her and put her hand over Risa’s, which was held at the girl’s side. Risa looked up at her.

“There’s so much blood…” she said blankly in a voice that rang even hollower to Reina’s ears.

Reina slowly pulled Risa’s hand away, and indeed the side of Eri’s shirt was soaked through and had turned from green to a dark crimson. Quickly she placed Risa’s hand back against the wound. “Keep holding your hand there,” she directed. “Tightly.”

Rising quickly, she headed toward the car and lightly kicked Daisuke’s unmoving form away from the door before opening it and leaning inside. She unlatched a compartment and took two small towels before ducking back out and kneeling once more next to Eri. Telling Risa to lift her hand, which the girl did reluctantly, she slid Eri’s shirt up to reveal an ugly gash beneath her ribs that made Risa gasp. Reina pressed one of the towels against it and tightly tied the other around her body to hold it there.

She glanced up after she tied it off to see Eri look groggily at her with half-shut eyes. “I feel cold…” she said in a wispy and ethereal voice. “It’s dark… and I want to go to bed...”

Reina leaned over her, inches away from her face. “You need to stay awake a bit longer,” she told her gently. “You’ve got a big performance to do in just a few minutes. You don’t want to miss that, do you?” Hovering over Eri as she was, Reina too felt like shivering. She couldn’t lose her… She didn’t know why, but a sharp tingle twisted at her stomach. She looked at Eri’s lips while they moved slowly as if trying to form words that wouldn’t come. She wanted to lean closer, but knew she couldn’t. Instead, she pulled back.

“Gaki-san, you have your cell phone right? Call 119.” Risa nodded. Reina looked back toward the building in front of them. She wanted to stay with Eri, but the tall structure standing out forbiddingly in the night called to her. Looking back at Risa, who was now on the phone nearly in tears while looking at Eri, she made up her mind and stood. It wasn’t her place right now. Risa would take care of everything, and she had Sayu too. She looked over at the girl who still had her hand at her cheek. Sayu was looking back up at her, and when Reina caught her eyes she stood slowly.

“Are you all right?” Reina asked, noticing the blood seeping from around her fingers.

“My face…” Sayu said. She pulled her hand away to reveal a long thin slash across her cheek that blood was running slowly down from. As if someone had flipped a switch, she looked down and dug into her handbag to pull out two rolls, one that looked like it contained bandages and the other tape. Tearing off one bandage, she dabbed it to clear up what had already bled, although it still left blotty marks, and then she pressed another to the cut, using the tape to hold it in place. Reina watched quietly as she did this. The cut must not be too deep – it wasn’t bleeding through the bandage.

Sayu stuffed the rolls back into her bag and tossed the soiled bandage to the ground, looking up at Reina. Her mouth was tight and her eyes carried a fire Reina had never seen in them before. She glanced down at the other two girls. Risa was apparently finished on the phone and was back to holding Eri, whispering something softly to her. Raising her eyes past the limp form near the car, she brought her gaze back to Reina.

“Why did he do this?” she asked in a hard and cold voice. Reina stayed silent. “Tell me, Reina!” she yelled, stepping forward and clenching her fingers onto Reina’s shoulders.

Reina met her gaze calmly. “It’s what they do. He lived in an artificial world he thought contained happiness, but was only a slave just like all the others. If somebody gets in their way, they’re quietly disposed of like we almost were.” Sayu looked hard at Reina through the silence that followed.

Reina looked down at Risa and Eri but spoke to the other girl still. “I have to go now. Stay with them and help Gaki-san look after Eririn.” She turned back to see Sayu’s heated gaze capturing hers once more.

“I’m going with you,” she said in a voice that brooked no argument.

Reina immediately shook her head. “I can’t have you –“

Reina’s ears rang as her face was jolted to the side. Sayu pulled her hands back and took a step away. “Don’t you dare tell me I’d only be in the way! You’re not doing this alone, and you may be surprised by how well I can take care of myself.”

Reina looked back at her, rubbing her jaw. Well, the girl apparently did have an astoundingly hard forearm at least. Deciding it would be useless telling her she would be meeting up with Ai inside, but still full of doubt yet feeling happiness deep inside at how loyal her friend was, she nodded. Glancing back again at Risa tending to a too-still Eri, she started toward the building. Sayu, a thin line of scarlet just now becoming visible through the bandage on her cheek, followed at her side.
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [30: Crimson]
Post by: JFC on June 26, 2007, 07:52:45 PM
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The four girls were mostly quiet as Daisuke-kun drove what seemed like forever to Kobe.
I wonder if the other girls recognized Daisuke?


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“So you and Ai-chan are going to be heroines of Japan after this! That’s so wonderful!” Sayu had commented at one point.
Typical happy-Sayu reaction. :P


Quote
Reina spent most of the rest of the trip pondering how to get rid of Sayu since, as well as not possibly being able to help in the night’s activities, she obviously grossly underestimated the situation.
In a situation like this, underestimating just how serious it is can get you killed. Reina will have to find a way to keep Sayu out of harm's way, both to protect her as well as to protect Reina, Eri and Risa.



Quote
He coughed, bringing some more blood to his lips, but finally seemed to find his voice. “The Council has taken care of me ever since I joined when I was a boy and had nowhere else to go,” he said somewhat weakly. “I’ve had a wonderful life ever since. Their backing allowed me to go to the best college... My work for them let me land job as photographer to girls other men in Japan my age would do or pay anything to be near to.” He seemed to become dizzy and disoriented, his eyes opening and closing before focusing once more on Reina’s. “They allowed me to meet you…” His lips spread into a faint smile as he went on, “But when I found out what you were up to, I had to stand up for our Chairman…” His eyes focused harder on hers. “Although, maybe this is for the best. Good-bye… Reina…” With some last weak coughs, his head fell forward to Reina’s chest.
Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit! So Daisuke has actually been with this organization since he was a kid? That would definitely explain his loyalty to the Chairman.  Considering Reina's skills, he probably knew that if he didn't succeed, he was as good as dead.  Still though, his loyalty and desire to protect the Chairman would have compelled him to at least try.


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She glanced up after she tied it off to see Eri look groggily at her with half-shut eyes. “I feel cold…” she said in a wispy and ethereal voice. “It’s dark… and I want to go to bed...”
Crap Eri's going into shock from the sudden loss of blood. If she loses consciousness she's as good as dead. :o


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“Why did he do this?” she asked in a hard and cold voice. Reina stayed silent. “Tell me, Reina!” she yelled, stepping forward and clenching her fingers onto Reina’s shoulders.

Reina met her gaze calmly. “It’s what they do. He lived in an artificial world he thought contained happiness, but was only a slave just like all the others. If somebody gets in their way, they’re quietly disposed of like we almost were.” Sayu looked hard at Reina through the silence that followed.
Welcome to the underworld.


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“I’m going with you,” she said in a voice that brooked no argument.

Reina immediately shook her head. “I can’t have you –“

Reina’s ears rang as her face was jolted to the side. Sayu pulled her hands back and took a step away. “Don’t you dare tell me I’d only be in the way! You’re not doing this alone, and you may be surprised by how well I can take care of myself.”
Looks like Sayu's finally realized just how deep they're in this. Let's hope now that she just doesn't do anything stupid.
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [30: Crimson]
Post by: Sukoshi on June 27, 2007, 09:21:08 AM
O M G ! :scared:  If you kill one of them off like in your last epic!!!!  :OMG: AHHHH!!!!  ERI!!!  I can't believe Reina's leaving her there with only gaki san!  It's just not safe !  :scolding:

Ugh...can't form proper thoughts..... :gyaaah: *takes a couple of breathes before continuing*

Reina already killed someone and they haven't even entered the building yet  :stoned:  I expected her to have to kill but it's still shocking!

I have a serious suspicion that there is way more than meets the eye with Sayu.  I mean the way she handled herself after her cut and by how strong she is when she slapped Reina...wow...that was pretty darn cool ! :mon innocent:
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [31: Harsh Reality]
Post by: rokun on June 30, 2007, 05:49:57 AM
Well, here's your next chapter. I'm getting back toward my original length, and apparently my original detail too before my vacation now that I'm writing pretty hardcore again... I hope it's worth it and everyone here enjoys. :) Thanks everyone for reading!


Chapter 31 – Onwards and Upwards

The two girls entered into an eerily silent lobby. Even though it was late, Reina knew there would normally still be plenty of people walking around; plenty of security. However, not even the receptionist was at the high front desk. Their steps seemed to echo among the columns as Reina strode purposefully across the hard floor, Sayu sticking close beside her looking all around, apparently impressed with the size of the hall.

“I see there’s more to this building than you’d think from the outside…” she eventually said in a low voice as if one any louder would be heard by unseen specters in the shadows. “But it seems as if there should be more people here.”

“This means that Miki has done her job,” Reina responded in a normal voice. Sayu stopped dead, and although noticing it, Reina took a few more steps forward before halting herself and turning casually to look at her companion. Oh yes, there was one thing she had forgotten to tell them about.

“Miki?” she asked, though disbelief barely registered in her voice now. Apparently her outlook on things had changed considerably as the evening commenced. “Was she involved in all this before she died?”

“She’s not dead,” Reina explained profoundly, and as if on cue they heard two gruff yells, and two men wielding long swords came rushing at them from those dark shadows.

Reina instantly drew her knives again, still bloodied from earlier, and adopted a preparatory stance, darting her eyes around to see what of her environment she could use in her favor. From the corner of her eye she caught Sayu hunched down as well, baring her fists and casting Reina a curious glance. Reina shook her head. The girl must really be determined to be brave enough to stand up against these men with nothing but her own two hands. Of course Reina’s own two hands would have been enough even if she didn’t have her knives, but Sayu hadn’t had the torturous training to develop that skill.

In a quick and fluid motion, Reina reached down to her ankle and pulled a short dagger from her sock. She tossed it to the girl in pink who smiled gratefully, and the two small musume resumed preparation for the men who were now bearing down on them.

However, their preparation was for naught as blasts that echoed loudly through the oppressive silence rang out to their ears, and both men stumbled and fell to the ground, swords flying, with bullet-holes in their backs. Reina casually knocked away one of the flying swords that had come their direction and subsequently clanged off the reception desk before fluidly resheathing her weapons at her sides, peering into the dark at the direction the shots came from.

One man and one woman, both likely near middle-aged, ran toward them with pistols still cocked and pointed upwards. They didn’t relax when Reina and Sayu came clearer to them, but another low female voice yelled out from behind them that it was safe. Upon hearing it, the two lowered their pistols and stuck them in holsters at their belts, crossing their arms while still looking suspiciously at the two girls before them. Reina glanced over and noticed Sayu still had her dagger raised, so she laid her hand on the girl’s arm. She jumped slightly, but with a look at Reina lowered it and stood erect. However, she gasped softly as three figures walked out from the shadows their rescuers emerged from.

“Will everyone please stop doing that when they see me?!” Miki complained, rolling her eyes. She, dressed in tight jeans below a dark leather jacket swung open to reveal a bright t-shirt, eventually came to a halt before Reina and Sayu along with Aya, who wore a tight black leather suit with her hair tied back, and Detective Kitamura in his usual trench coat and looking as relaxed as always.

Sayu was staring at the two women as if they had just come back from the dead which, Reina thought, as far as she knew they actually had. Reina herself raised an eyebrow at Aya’s outfit and looked her up and down.

“You did not wear your outfit from Sukeban Deka here, did you?”

She noticed Miki stifle a snicker, and Aya blushed, shooting her friend a glare as deadly as any she had ever infamously dished out herself. “I thought it would be appropriate for the situation,” she said in a low and dangerous voice. The girl could pout almost as well as Sayu if she tried. “Mikitty here seems to think I overdid it a little though.” Miki could help herself no longer and burst out laughing, provoking a hard jab to her side from Aya.

Apparently looking for a change in subject, she ignored the other girl’s laughter and stared into the two faces in front of her. “What happened to you two? You have blood all over your face Reina-chan, and Sayumin…” She trailed off as she looked at the bandaged face of the girl she addressed. “Why are you even here?” she finished quietly. At her words, Miki finally stopped laughing and silently peered at them herself.

“My driver attacked us after we left the limo,” Reina said. Aya’s eyes widened, though Miki didn’t look surprised. “And the story about why Sayu is here is too long to tell right now, but Eri and Risa were with us as well. Eririn got injured badly though, and Gaki-san’s taking care of her outside…”

“Do they need help?” Miki asked quickly in a business-like voice.

“Risa called 119,” Reina replied, but Miki shook her head. However, it was the detective who responded, speaking up for the first time after clearing his throat.

“They won’t come,” he said in a low, smooth voice. “Local law enforcement has orders not to come here tonight. What we are doing is rather… out-of-bounds of what would normally be called ‘legal’,” he said, glancing at the two men lying sprawled on the floor near them. “But the administration is more than willing to… overlook… activities here on a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ basis.”

“We have some medics who we can send to help them,” Miki said, giving a look to the pistol-wielding man and woman, who at it nodded and spun, heading back off into the shadows. “They can also get them to a hospital if need be.”

She turned back toward the two of them, now looking hard at Reina. “I’m sorry you got attacked already. We did our best to clear everyone out.”

Reina shook her head. “There’s nothing you could have done about this one. He was somebody I trusted.” Silence hung in the air for a moment after her words until Aya spoke again.

“I hoped we’d be more successful than we already have,” she said in disappointment. “But we’re barely able to hold onto the ground level, as you can tell.” She brandished an arm at the men on the floor.

“We can’t locate where the inner chambers are either,” Miki said in almost a growl, as if upset with their failure. “Not that we’d be able to get to them…” She glared at the two dead men as if it was all their fault.

“It’s hidden,” Reina said. “And even if you knew where to look, I doubt you’d have much luck finding it. That’s where we take over.” She gave Sayu a glance that was returned coolly, as if the girl knew what she was thinking.

“Are you sure?” Miki asked with a frown, and she looked Sayu’s pinkness up and down. “I can send some of our people with you if you’d like.”

“No,” Reina responded decisively. “You’ll need everyone down here.” That was partly true; mostly, she didn’t want to get anyone else involved. She and Ai themselves would hopefully be enough, and any more would be too many. She hoped Sayu was right in thinking she knew how to take care of herself.

Miki didn’t press the issue, though she did keep looking skeptically at Sayu. “All right,” she grudgingly agreed. “We’ll keep this area free for when you’re done.”

“If we succeed, you’ll not need to bother,” Reina said with a shadowed look to the three she addressed. Miki and Aya both returned her gaze as if they’d never see the two of them again.

“Are you sure about this?” Aya asked softly again.

Reina didn’t respond, but turned away and motioned Sayu to follow. The girl glanced at her and then looked down at the two men below them. “If you’re getting second thoughts, I don’t need…” Reina began, but she stopped speaking as Sayu moved toward the bodies. Before reaching them, she knelt down next to one of the dropped swords. She picked it up carefully, looking the blade up and down. Then she stood, and holding it tightly in her hand gave it a few swipes with flicks of her wrist. Reina watched impassively, even though the girl did surprise her. Miki and Aya were staring as if they’d never seen her before.

Sliding the blade beneath the wide belt around her skirt, she walked back and looked among the four still assembled before turning to Reina. “So are we going or not?” she said in a solemn voice that Reina wouldn’t have even thought was hers except that it was still somewhat high-pitched.

Reina nodded and turned once more toward the elevator, Sayu trailing behind. “Good luck…” the two girls behind them called out, before the sound of their retreating steps echoed through the lobby as well. Arriving at the elevator, Reina pushed the button to go up. She glanced at Sayu, whose eyebrows were narrowed in a frown.

“Are you sure we should be using an elevator for something like this?” she asked as the sound of it descending could be heard hollowly from within. “Who knows what they could do to it…”

Reina turned back forward. “If we’re going to be fighting on the way up, I’d rather do it on a flat platform rather than stairs, wouldn’t you? Plus, I’m not even sure if normal stairs would take us where we’re going.”

The two of them were quiet as the elevator descended. Reina thought they must have been holding it at the top floor. If so though, she wondered why they let it come down for them. They must have seen who it was and planned some kind of trap… Well if so, that would be the first of many Reina expected tonight. So as not to over-agitate Sayu, she slouched slightly as if bored.

Eventually they heard it slide behind the steel double doors in front of them and ding its arrival. When the doors slid open, two men stood crouched with different-sized blades brandished in both hands. They let out cries of attack when fully revealed and lunged forward, but Reina was quicker.

Taking advantage of her hands on her waist in the bored pose, she pulled her knives out and flung one at the man who lagged behind slightly and jumped out, spinning to avoid the jabs of the nearer. Almost casually to her, although it would have seemed lightning-quick to an observer such as Sayu, she chopped at his far wrist with her free hand, jerking it back and knocking the shorter blade out of his grip. His other arm and weapon were already overextended past Reina’s small body, and she shoved her own knife into his gut, driving him back slightly as he nearly bent double, but quickly withdrew since he had now been dealt with.

The other man was grunting in pain in an effort to pull his arm away from the elevator wall, which it was stuck to by a dagger through the forearm. She intended to knock the man out with a blow to the head and reclaim her weapon, but before she could get to him the blade of a sword flashed into view and lodged itself into his chest. Reina halted her movement as the man’s grunts turned into blood being coughed up, and she turned to see Sayu holding the weapon pointed straight out with both hands, one foot forward in a stance that was the impetus of her thrust. Her mouth was pursed tightly as she watched the man give his last breaths, and she didn’t withdraw her blade until he became still.

Reina reached up for her dagger, and as she took it from the wall the man fell to the ground to join the other, who was in pain that kept him from moving more than he needed to, but definitely not dead. She watched as Sayu wiped her sword on the clothes of the man she just killed and re-sheathe it beneath her belt.

“I told you I could take care of myself,” she said cooly when she caught Reina watching her.

Since this wasn’t the time to find out what was going on with her, Reina just nodded and the two of them pulled the two men out into the lobby so they could enter the elevator, which they did carefully to avoid slipping on the now blood-streaked floor. Sayu raised a quizzical eyebrow as Reina pushed the button that seemed to be attached to a blank spot between floors twelve and fourteen, and Reina gave her a meaningful look.

“So the place doesn’t even really exist, huh?” Sayu asked in a voice that wasn’t really questioning. Reina nodded as the elevator lurched upward. “No wonder Ayaya and Mikitty had trouble finding it.”

They watched as the lights ticked slowly upward along with the elevator’s movement. “Best be ready for anything,” Reina said. “Who knows what will be awaiting us when we get up there.” Sayu nodded without hesitation, clearly expecting as much at this point.

They were quiet for another moment as the slow-seeming button lights flashed upward past seven. Debating with herself before speaking, Reina said, “That man back there…” She felt Sayu glance her way. “Why did you kill him? I was about to knock him out, and we could have gotten past just as easily.”

There was a slight pause before Sayu responded in a tight voice, “One of them hurt Eririn…” Reina caught her glance to see her mouth pursed tightly again and that unfamiliar glint in her eye. “And they’re all after you, too… Nobody messes with my friends.”

Once again Reina wondered where all this was coming from, but instead commented, “Still, I do my best not to kill. I care about my friends too and I wish you’d…” She trailed off though as she caught a glance at the button panel, where a light had just flashed next to fourteen with no sign of the elevator stopping. Wary once again, she stared at it hard as it hit fifteen. Wherever it was taking them, she wanted to keep it on her terms. She hurriedly punched the emergency stop button, and the elevator screeched to a halt apparently somewhere just above floor sixteen. Sayu grabbed her arm in order to keep steady, now noticing what she was looking at as well, and didn’t release it until a few seconds after their motion stopped.

Waiting a moment to make sure they weren’t going to start up again, Reina looked around at the plain paneled surfaces of the elevator. Telling Sayu to move to the side, she reached within her vest and pulled out a short and straight knife. Sayu looked at it curiously, since it shone with a gleam much different from that of normal steel. Reina held it in front of her with the point down and smiled at her friend before dropping her knees and thrusting her hands violently downward. The blade cut straight through the floor to the hilt, and with all her strength Reina pulled. As she did, it slid almost smoothly through the hard tile as well as the steel below it, and when she had about a half-meter square cut, she pulled it back, stepped away, and kicked down at the middle. The square fell away down the shaft, leaving a hole gaping into the darkness just large enough to admit one of the small girls.

Reina peered down, lowering her head below the carriage, and saw cables at each corner of the elevator. The door to floor sixteen was just below them, softly bathed in the light shining through the hole. Sayu knelt down to peer with her, but Reina pulled her up and gestured her back to the side. “Stay there,” she said quickly, and she dug in one of her vest pockets. Pulling out a small round object about the size of a hockey puck and with a pin sticking out of the side, she pulled the pin, dropping it down the shaft. Kneeling down quickly, she dropped her arm below their carriage and waited. One… Reina counted to herself. Two… With a light flick of her wrist, she tossed it toward the door to floor sixteen and quickly rose up and back, hugging Sayu close. The girl offered a small squeak of protest, but it was quickly drowned out by the sound of a blast and the carriage shaking. Reina stood her ground hard, partially using the other girl for support. Sayu clung to her in return.

It ended almost as fast as it happened, and the elevator steadied until it only vibrated slightly. Reina pulled away, Sayu looking at her with wild eyes, but before the girl could say anything Reina bent down to look below them again. Half the door was torn away, with only charred remains along the side lit by dim light spilling from the hallway beyond. “Come on,” Reina said, and gestured Sayu down to her.

Reina took her hands tightly, looking into her once more set face. “I want you to slide slowly down through the hole,” Reina instructed her. “I’ll hang onto you, and then swing you over through the doorway when you give the signal.” She squeezed the girl’s hands tighter. “From what I’ve seen so far, your arms should be strong enough for it, right?” Sayu nodded. “Ok then, go. We don’t have much time.”

Carefully, which Reina was glad of considering how brash Sayu had been so far about most things, she dropped her legs into the hole and began sliding slowly into it until she finally dropped, hanging suspended with her hands tightly clutched to Reina’s. Reina struggled to hold the girl’s weight. She’d developed quite a bit of strength through her training, though this was testing it much more than she was used to. She was glad the girl was as thin as she was. “Okay, ready?” she asked, then without waiting for Sayu’s nod began swinging her slowly toward the door. Back and forth they went like this for a few seconds until they gathered more of an arc. “Tell me when you’re centered on the door…” Reina said through gritted teeth. Holding the girl was one thing, but swinging her weight was quite a different matter. She saw Sayu begin bending her knees as she swung.

“Ok…” Sayu began on her backswing. “Now!” she cried with a breathless voice. Reina gave one last heave and released her, hoping such a risky trick would work. She also hoped that if she missed, Sayu would have enough presence of mind to at least grasp the cable not far away. She didn’t want to lose another friend tonight. All she heard was a muffled plop and groan though, and she looked down, rubbing her hyper-extended wrists. She couldn’t see through the door, but Sayu called out that she was okay.

Sighing with relief, her muscles recovering quickly, Reina slipped one leg into the hole herself and looked beneath, where she saw a bar on the side toward the door. She reached out to grab it, and then quickly slid the rest of her body down, swinging by the hand grabbing the bar until her other hand joined it, and in one fluid motion curled her body while releasing her hold and catapulting through the blasted doorway. Unfortunately Sayu was standing right there in concern over her friend, so they both ended up on the floor in a tangle of arms and legs.

“Itai…” Sayu breathed, and upon untwining herself from the girl Reina noticed the bandage on her face was becoming redder again. The fall must have broken open her wound. She appeared to be slightly bruised in other places as well.

Reina offered her a hand, which she took, and she was pulled up. “If I keep on trying to protect you like this Reina-chan, you’ll be the death of me…” She apparently couldn’t help a smirk at the end of that, and Reina smiled.

“You’re the one who insisted in coming along, you silly girl…” Reina responded with suppressed mirth, and she poked the girl in the side.

“Because obviously you need my help…” she answered prissily, and turned to take in their surroundings.

They were now in what looked like a fairly normal office area. There were partitions separating a multitude of desks, and doors off to the sides for some of the more private offices. They were all quiet now, although papers left out on some desks and equipment whirring seemed to indicate their stewards had left quickly.

“Well,” Reina said. “Now to try and figure out how to get down three floors.” They walked through the tight lanes, keeping close together in case of any surprises, until they came to the entrance to a staircase. “Well, I guess we’re not avoiding stairs after all. Still, two or three floors are better than thirteen…”

They walked out into the well and treaded carefully but quickly down the steps. They passed exits to floors fifteen and fourteen, but where thirteen should have been there was just a plain wall. This didn’t really surprise Reina.

“You can do that thing you did with that odd dagger in the elevator again, right Reina-chan?” Sayu asked curiously. Reina scrutinized the wall. She supposed she could, but she had no idea how thick this wall would be. That dagger was a weapon after all and not designed to be used even for cutting through elevator floors or walls, but she supposed she could try.

She didn’t have time to even bend down to retrieve it though before the wall in front of them exploded from the other side, knocking both girls off their feet and throwing them into the opposite wall. They were lucky they weren’t knocked down the flight of stairs, but with bits of rubble covering them Reina still felt almost every part of her body ache. Sayu seemed unconscious beside her. She willed herself to try and rise, gently brushing debris from her stomach, but then the sound of voices came to her as if they were closing in quickly. She caught glances of hard-looking men emerging from the dim light beyond the broken wall, and she tried to rise more quickly, but for the first time in a long while her body wouldn’t listen to her, and when one of the men reached them and saw she was awake, he clubbed her hard on the side of the head and she fell into darkness.
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [31: Harsh Reality]
Post by: JFC on July 05, 2007, 04:56:14 PM
Quote
The two girls entered into an eerily silent lobby. Even though it was late, Reina knew there would normally still be plenty of people walking around; plenty of security. However, not even the receptionist was at the high front desk.
Not a good sign, not a good sign at all.  Could it be that they know of Aichan & Reina's plan?


Quote
“I see there’s more to this building than you’d think from the outside…” she eventually said in a low voice as if one any louder would be heard by unseen specters in the shadows. “But it seems as if there should be more people here.”

“This means that Miki has done her job,” Reina responded in a normal voice. Sayu stopped dead, and although noticing it, Reina took a few more steps forward before halting herself and turning casually to look at her companion. Oh yes, there was one thing she had forgotten to tell them about.
Miki? Was that her part of the plan? To provide some sort of distraction that would lure away a good chunk of/if not most of the personnel there?

But wait...Sayu still thinks Miki's dead, doesn't she?


Quote
“She’s not dead,” Reina explained profoundly, and as if on cue they heard two gruff yells, and two men wielding long swords came rushing at them from those dark shadows.

...

However, their preparation was for naught as blasts that echoed loudly through the oppressive silence rang out to their ears, and both men stumbled and fell to the ground, swords flying, with bullet-holes in their backs.

...

One man and one woman, both likely near middle-aged, ran toward them with pistols still cocked and pointed upwards. They didn’t relax when Reina and Sayu came clearer to them, but another low female voice yelled out from behind them that it was safe. Upon hearing it, the two lowered their pistols and stuck them in holsters at their belts, crossing their arms while still looking suspiciously at the two girls before them.
Police? SWAT team? Military black ops?  :?


Quote
Reina glanced over and noticed Sayu still had her dagger raised, so she laid her hand on the girl’s arm. She jumped slightly, but with a look at Reina lowered it and stood erect. However, she gasped softly as three figures walked out from the shadows their rescuers emerged from.

“Will everyone please stop doing that when they see me?!” Miki complained, rolling her eyes. She, dressed in tight jeans below a dark leather jacket swung open to reveal a bright t-shirt, eventually came to a halt before Reina and Sayu along with Aya, who wore a tight black leather suit with her hair tied back, and Detective Kitamura in his usual trench coat and looking as relaxed as always.
Miki in tight jeans and a leather jacket... :drool:

Aya's outfit...is it just me or is anyone else suddenly reminded of her Sukeban Deka battlesuit?  :D  It is also, BTW... :drool:


Quote
Sayu was staring at the two women as if they had just come back from the dead which, Reina thought, as far as she knew they actually had. Reina herself raised an eyebrow at Aya’s outfit and looked her up and down.

“You did not wear your outfit from Sukeban Deka here, did you?”

She noticed Miki stifle a snicker, and Aya blushed, shooting her friend a glare as deadly as any she had ever infamously dished out herself. “I thought it would be appropriate for the situation,” she said in a low and dangerous voice. The girl could pout almost as well as Sayu if she tried. “Mikitty here seems to think I overdid it a little though.” Miki could help herself no longer and burst out laughing, provoking a hard jab to her side from Aya.
Holy crap she DID wear the Sukeban Deka battlesuit! :on lol:


Quote
“My driver attacked us after we left the limo,” Reina said. Aya’s eyes widened, though Miki didn’t look surprised. “And the story about why Sayu is here is too long to tell right now, but Eri and Risa were with us as well. Eririn got injured badly though, and Gaki-san’s taking care of her outside…”

“Do they need help?” Miki asked quickly in a business-like voice.

“Risa called 119,” Reina replied, but Miki shook her head. However, it was the detective who responded, speaking up for the first time after clearing his throat.

“They won’t come,” he said in a low, smooth voice. “Local law enforcement has orders not to come here tonight. What we are doing is rather… out-of-bounds of what would normally be called ‘legal’,” he said, glancing at the two men lying sprawled on the floor near them. “But the administration is more than willing to… overlook… activities here on a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ basis.”

“We have some medics who we can send to help them,” Miki said, giving a look to the pistol-wielding man and woman, who at it nodded and spun, heading back off into the shadows. “They can also get them to a hospital if need be.”
Oh crap, no ambulance? Kitamura had better get those medics over there FAST!

So the plan requires plausible deniability huh? Must be a contingency plan in case the strike fails to get the desired results.


Quote
“I hoped we’d be more successful than we already have,” she said in disappointment. “But we’re barely able to hold onto the ground level, as you can tell.” She brandished an arm at the men on the floor.

“We can’t locate where the inner chambers are either,” Miki said in almost a growl, as if upset with their failure. “Not that we’d be able to get to them…” She glared at the two dead men as if it was all their fault.

“It’s hidden,” Reina said. “And even if you knew where to look, I doubt you’d have much luck finding it. That’s where we take over.” She gave Sayu a glance that was returned coolly, as if the girl knew what she was thinking.
So Miki's group is to distract them while Aichan and Reina do a surgical strike and take out the leaders. That's just so damn cool.
:cool1:


Quote
Reina didn’t respond, but turned away and motioned Sayu to follow. The girl glanced at her and then looked down at the two men below them. “If you’re getting second thoughts, I don’t need…” Reina began, but she stopped speaking as Sayu moved toward the bodies. Before reaching them, she knelt down next to one of the dropped swords. She picked it up carefully, looking the blade up and down. Then she stood, and holding it tightly in her hand gave it a few swipes with flicks of her wrist. Reina watched impassively, even though the girl did surprise her. Miki and Aya were staring as if they’d never seen her before.
Sayu got katana skillz? Never expected that.  :shocked:


Quote
Arriving at the elevator, Reina pushed the button to go up. She glanced at Sayu, whose eyebrows were narrowed in a frown.

“Are you sure we should be using an elevator for something like this?” she asked as the sound of it descending could be heard hollowly from within. “Who knows what they could do to it…”

Reina turned back forward. “If we’re going to be fighting on the way up, I’d rather do it on a flat platform rather than stairs, wouldn’t you? Plus, I’m not even sure if normal stairs would take us where we’re going.”
Hmmmmm...both make valid points here. If it weren't for Sayu tagging along, the leaders might just think that Reina was coming to help defend them (assuming that they didn't know of her part of the plan to kill them). But now...they could very easily just send the elevator car crashing to the bottom of the shaft.  On the other hand, it's never a good thing to be engaged in an UPHILL fight. You just leave yourself open too much.


Quote
The other man was grunting in pain in an effort to pull his arm away from the elevator wall, which it was stuck to by a dagger through the forearm. She intended to knock the man out with a blow to the head and reclaim her weapon, but before she could get to him the blade of a sword flashed into view and lodged itself into his chest. Reina halted her movement as the man’s grunts turned into blood being coughed up, and she turned to see Sayu holding the weapon pointed straight out with both hands, one foot forward in a stance that was the impetus of her thrust. Her mouth was pursed tightly as she watched the man give his last breaths, and she didn’t withdraw her blade until he became still.

Reina reached up for her dagger, and as she took it from the wall the man fell to the ground to join the other, who was in pain that kept him from moving more than he needed to, but definitely not dead. She watched as Sayu wiped her sword on the clothes of the man she just killed and re-sheathe it beneath her belt.

“I told you I could take care of myself,” she said cooly when she caught Reina watching her.
Okay, either Sayu used to/has been taking kendo classes, or there's more to her involvement here than would first appear.
:dunno:


Quote
Sayu raised a quizzical eyebrow as Reina pushed the button that seemed to be attached to a blank spot between floors twelve and fourteen
Well, there are a lot of high rise buildings that deliberately do NOT mark a floor as being the 13th (out of superstition if nothing else). Question here is, will this button actually lead them anywhere?


Quote
she caught a glance at the button panel, where a light had just flashed next to fourteen with no sign of the elevator stopping. Wary once again, she stared at it hard as it hit fifteen. Wherever it was taking them, she wanted to keep it on her terms. She hurriedly punched the emergency stop button, and the elevator screeched to a halt apparently somewhere just above floor sixteen. Sayu grabbed her arm in order to keep steady, now noticing what she was looking at as well, and didn’t release it until a few seconds after their motion stopped.
They know Reina's coming for them, don't they?


Quote
“I want you to slide slowly down through the hole,” Reina instructed her. “I’ll hang onto you, and then swing you over through the doorway when you give the signal.” She squeezed the girl’s hands tighter. “From what I’ve seen so far, your arms should be strong enough for it, right?” Sayu nodded. “Ok then, go. We don’t have much time.”
It's risky, but they need to get out of that elevator shaft FAST, before the car can be released and sent plummeting down to the bottom.


Quote
“Ok…” Sayu began on her backswing. “Now!” she cried with a breathless voice. Reina gave one last heave and released her, hoping such a risky trick would work. She also hoped that if she missed, Sayu would have enough presence of mind to at least grasp the cable not far away. She didn’t want to lose another friend tonight. All she heard was a muffled plop and groan though, and she looked down, rubbing her hyper-extended wrists. She couldn’t see through the door, but Sayu called out that she was okay.
Yokatta... :sweat:


Quote
“Well,” Reina said. “Now to try and figure out how to get down three floors.” They walked through the tight lanes, keeping close together in case of any surprises, until they came to the entrance to a staircase. “Well, I guess we’re not avoiding stairs after all. Still, two or three floors are better than thirteen…”
And at least they'll be going downhill instead of uphill. If they should run into any resistance in the stairwell, having the higher ground will definitely be more of an advantage.


Quote
They walked out into the well and treaded carefully but quickly down the steps. They passed exits to floors fifteen and fourteen, but where thirteen should have been there was just a plain wall. This didn’t really surprise Reina.

...

the wall in front of them exploded from the other side, knocking both girls off their feet and throwing them into the opposite wall. They were lucky they weren’t knocked down the flight of stairs, but with bits of rubble covering them Reina still felt almost every part of her body ache. Sayu seemed unconscious beside her. She willed herself to try and rise, gently brushing debris from her stomach, but then the sound of voices came to her as if they were closing in quickly. She caught glances of hard-looking men emerging from the dim light beyond the broken wall, and she tried to rise more quickly, but for the first time in a long while her body wouldn’t listen to her, and when one of the men reached them and saw she was awake, he clubbed her hard on the side of the head and she fell into darkness.
CLIFFHANGER!!!  :scolding:
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [32: Destiny]
Post by: rokun on July 12, 2007, 03:22:05 AM
How is everyone doing? I hope you all are enjoying my story since I haven't seen many comments lately... and a big "thank you" to JFC for your wonderful detail. :) For those still hanging in there, I hope this will be a treat for you... Enjoy...


Chapter 32 - Destiny

Reina felt a hard poke in her side, and she opened her eyes to see a face centimeters above her own. She thought the sight would give her a shocked fright upon suddenly waking, but she felt herself only gaze calmly into the dark eyes boring down into her own. Her bearings came to her, and she realized she was lying in her bed, her pillow soft against her flowing hair. The girl whose face she was staring at must be on top of her. Even as that thought came to her, she felt the sensation of the girl’s warmth just above her body, and legs to either side of her own.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you here,” she said as if through a fog. She didn’t know why her voice sounded like that. Was her brain working right? Was it just because she had just awoken?

“Thought you weren’t crazy after all, huh? Silly girl, you should know better than that…” With a quick kiss to Reina’s cheek, the girl rolled over to lie next to her. Reina didn’t turn her head to look, but she knew that, like herself now, the other girl was also staring up at the ceiling.

Am I crazy?” she asked in that same, faraway voice.

“Well that may be a matter of great debate, but would you call yourself that for conversing with dead people? Wait, I’m not dead anymore… And this could just be a dream, couldn’t it? Unlike those other times, you certainly hadn’t just dozed off in this quite comfy bed of yours.” Miki chuckled, and Reina could feel movement as if the girl was adjusting herself somehow, but still didn’t turn to look. She was preoccupied with her own thoughts.

“Yes,” she responded, raising her hand to feel the side of her head. “Somebody hit me.” Immediately she felt the warmth of blood soaking through her hair and leaking around her fingers. She heard the girl click her tongue and turned to face her. Miki’s face was already turned to hers, and they stared at each other not unlike in one of their previous encounters.

“You have to be careful, you know,” the girl warned. “You can’t let your mind be clouded by your heroism.”

“What are you…?”

   Arms suddenly wrapped around her and she felt herself being pulled close to the other girl. Sayu’s face, paler than usual and with blacker eyes, now stared back at her, close enough that she felt the exchange of their hot breath.

“If you keep hiding yourself from the truth,” Sayu whispered, “It’ll be much harder when you’re forced to accept it. You may also not find the comfort you’ve always been able to rely on in the past…” The girl trailed off with her eyes moving to the side as if avoiding Reina’s. There seemed an odd hint of sadness in them.

“Truth?” Reina responded in a voice well above a whisper. “I thought I already found it?”

The black eyes within the porcelain face before her began to moisten, and Reina sensed frustration that she didn’t understand. Suddenly they darted forward again. “It’s time to go back;” Sayu breathed, and Reina’s stomach buckled in sharp and searing pain. She looked down to see Sayu’s hand extended with Reina’s dagger thrust into herself. Her sight faded away, but the horrible scene was immediately replaced with blinding light.



Her body jerked, but she found she couldn’t move much except for her midsection, the burning pain in which was still fading away. As the light dimmed and her sight and sensation returned, she realized that she was stretched near a wall, her arms parted above her head and her legs spread apart and chained below. She froze, trying not to make a sound while she took in the rest of her situation.

Straight ahead of her a few meters was a large and well-lacquered cherry wood desk. Papers and unique looking statuettes and other objects sat atop it, but what caught Reina’s eye was the man sitting behind it, reading a document he held just above its surface. His face was in shadow, but his short cropped and gray-streaked hair was enough for her to identify him. She would never forget his appearance. This time she also noticed he bore gold rings on the first two fingers of both his hands. Unlike their last meeting, he now wore a black silk shirt that she could see rising just above the desk.

Tearing her eyes away from him, cold hot fury threatening to overwhelm her concentrated focus, she turned her head slowly. Pictures hung on the wall – portraits of men old and young, and works of art that nearly all seemed to depict some sort of raw violence. As her gaze swept to beside her, she saw Sayu chained just as she was, though unconscious, her head still hanging down.

Schooling herself to calmness, once more realizing that she wasn’t only responsible for herself, she looked back toward her captor. His chest rose and fell heavily with his breathing, and she thought she could hear muttering beneath it at what he was reading. She carefully tested her chains again, and with regret that she wouldn’t be able to free herself stared hard at the Chairman and cleared her throat. The man’s eyes rose to look at her, studying her closely, and he let the paper he was reviewing fall to his desk.

“Bad news?” Reina asked in a very low and slow, chiding voice. She heard stirring from beside her, but kept her heated gaze forward.

Yamagata stood slowly, revealing a well-proportioned body, obviously very strong, and billowy black pants, another change from their last meeting. He looked away from Reina as he walked around his desk, folding his hands behind his back. He walked leisurely, and Reina began to worry slightly at the lack of concern he was exuding, until he stood before her.

He raised his head slowly, but before she could catch his eyes she felt her face painfully jolted hard to the side. She couldn’t help a small gasp before pain bloomed in her cheek and jaw and her overstretched neck. Pulling herself under control though, she turned slowly back toward him, the aching not ceasing. He now held his hands below his chin, one rubbing the other that must have hit her. Reina felt blood begin to run down the side of her face, and she also noticed a red wetness on one of his rings.

“You will learn proper respect,” he threatened softly and almost emotionlessly as if a master giving instructions to a pupil. Reina spit some of the blood that had collected on her lips at his face, and his hands froze but made no movement toward her.

“Reina…?” came a groggy voice from beside them, and Reina couldn’t help darting her eyes to see Sayu awake and blearily looking around as well. Reina cursed to herself when she realized the Chairman noticed her glance, and he stepped over to the other girl, turning his attention on her.

“And who are you?” he asked in that same horribly quiet voice. “I know this one…” He glanced again at Reina. “She was another of the mistakes I made in my blind passion. But you…” He lifted a hand and grazed a ringed finger along Sayu’s cheek. She struggled in resistance, but couldn’t move any more than Reina within her chains. “You’re a pretty one… one of the best I’ve seen, and that’s quite a compliment… but I’ve learned my lesson now.” He finished by flicking her head to the side. “Still, I might have a use for you later once I’ve dealt with this rabble. Some things must not be wasted.”

Reina tried her best throughout his one-way conversation with Sayu not to shout out in defense of the girl, something she knew would not help her at all, and so relaxed slightly in relief when he turned from her to walk back behind his desk. It was unfortunate she even had to relax; she needed the utmost focus right now, and the distraction of having to worry about her friend might very well cost her.

Standing behind his desk, the Chairman looked once more at Reina. “You’ll need to be executed, of course,” he remarked casually almost as if saying it needed to rain. “I knew you would be trouble from the moment I laid eyes on you, but it seems I underestimated…” He paused for a second. “No matter. After your pathetic rebellion is destroyed, we will return to the old ways my grandfather brought this Order to glory with.” He looked between the two girls spread before him with lust-filled eyes. “Women will once again know their place,” he growled between gritted teeth.

As he said that, a loud bang brought Reina’s attention to the side of the office, where the door had been torn off its hinges and was now lying on the floor beneath the bulk of what looked like a security guard. The unconscious man had a knife still clutched in his hand, and a pistol fell out of a pocket onto the door.

From beyond, a figure stepped through the doorway that took Reina’s breath away. Reina’s eyes began at the bare feet tensed upon the floor, rising up along taut legs covered with tight dark red leather pants not unlike Aya’s Sukeban Deka suit, although these looked much more durable. Above it she wore a top also of red leather with sleeves down to the elbow, where black gloves that came to just below the joint covered hands that held a shiny and blood-reddened sword raised in a relaxed posture. Her hair was tied tightly in a single ponytail that hung down her back.

Her eyes found the Chairman immediately, who had from somewhere pulled a sword of his own that he held parallel to the ground before him. “And what place would that be?” she asked in a voice nearly as quiet as the one he had been using, but that to Reina sounded infinitely more dangerous.

The Chairman crouched slightly above his weapon, eyes narrowed in furious concentration. “Where they have always belonged,” he growled, emotion finally etching its way into his words. “Never to leave the house and always ready in bed at night.”

Reina noticed Ai’s jaw clench at his words, though fury barely escaped in her expression. By every position of her body Reina knew she existed within unwavering focus. “It always amazed me how swine such as yourself came to your position. Or did you just eliminate everyone else on your way up?”

Yamagata’s lip curled in a wicked grin. “Of necessity I did, of course. But you’ll find that there’s far more to me than my misogynism. I even tried to lay part of it aside thinking there must be better ways to do things. Obviously, I was mistaken.”

“Yes, you were,” Ai responded, strafing slowly toward Sayu. “About many things…” In a flash, she raised her sword and swiped it through the chains holding both Sayu’s and Reina’s wrists, and the two girls fell to the ground next to each other. “Keep low,” Ai warned, her eyes never wavering from the Chairman behind his desk.

Barely needing the warning Reina turned to Sayu, who had attempted to stand, and pulled her down, hugging her close as the two girls huddled against the wall, still held in the chains around their ankles. She could sense Sayu’s fear as she held her in her arms; could feel the sweat beading on her skin. She looked back up to her lover.

Ai and Yamagata were now staring at each other with weapons at the ready over the great desk, either communicating silently or with a loss for words at their long-awaited confrontation. After a time though, the man behind the desk spoke again, and as he did so Reina thought she could even see him flexing his muscles through his clothes. For his apparent age, he appeared to be in quite incredible shape.

“No one has ever defeated me, you know,” he said softly, returning to his nigh emotionless attitude. “You may have some small talent, but I ask you to think carefully about what you intend here. If you surrender your blade, I will make sure you are not punished… long…” He said that last with a twisted smile that nearly reached to the scar beneath his eye.

“Your words are meaningless,” Ai responded in a voice just as calm. “Your actions over countless years have done all the speaking necessary.” Reina could not see her eyes, but she imagined them blazing with that fiery passion that had made her lose herself to the girl. Of course, the meaning behind the fervor would be quite different focused at the man across from them.

“Have they…” he rumbled even more quietly, to where Reina could hardly hear him. Then, without warning, with shockingly amazing speed propelled by a push-off of his foot against his chair, he leaped over the desk with his sword slicing down to the small yet composed woman standing near Reina. Ai reacted instantly, meeting his blade with her own, and with a shower of sparks Reina’s mouth dropped open as they began what she could only call a perfectly executed dance, not unlike what she and Ai shared that night at the club so long ago, although immensely more refined.

Reina knew that if she hadn’t been extensively trained as she was, she’d likely be able to make nothing of the blurs in front of her. She doubted whether Sayu could make anything of it, but from the corner of her eye, since she couldn’t tear her gaze away from the two combatants, she noticed the girl watching intently as well with her mouth slightly open.

Each of their thrusts and swipes was met by the other as their bodies spun fluidly to give as much strength as possible to each attack. The Chairman, being much taller, seemed to be having trouble finding cracks in Ai’s defenses. Aside from her talent, her size allowed her quickness of movement that he couldn’t match. His superior strength offset that for a time, as Ai was forced to put increased effort into her parries that didn’t allow her the quickness she needed to gain much advantage, but still, before long the Chairman came to be on the defensive himself, focusing the greater part of his energy into keeping up with her speed and endurance. Reina could tell that he was surprised by Ai’s own strength. Reina’s mouth became set in grim satisfaction. His underestimation of women might yet lead to his undoing.

They performed their deadly dance while hardly moving from the center of the room. Reina knew from her lessons that the greatest duelists used their feet only sparingly, adjusting them for nothing other than to give extra power to jabs and lunges. This was good because of the space they were in; it was not a small office, but still hardly the place for an extended fight.

She felt Sayu shiver in her arms. Tearing her attention away from the battle for a moment, she glanced at the girl she held. Sayu’s mouth was still open. Apparently she noticed Reina’s attention though, saying, “I can’t believe it…” Her eyes were wide while watching the fight. “I can barely even see what they’re doing.” Reina pursed her lips again. No, she couldn’t catch as much detail of the duel as Reina, but it was impressive that she noticed even that much.

She turned her face to Reina. “I’m scared…”

Reina studied her face carefully. Whatever Sayu’s prior experience with fencing, she still obviously hadn’t fully appreciated the situation they were in. That is, until now, when two warriors of supreme skill battled barely meters away. Reina pulled her closer and began to stroke her hair. “It’s going to be okay. Ai-chan will prevail and everything will be okay…”

She turned back to the melee. Sweat now shone on both fighters, although the Chairman looked like he was nearing exhaustion while Ai exuded no less energy than when they began. In fact, she looked even quicker. The old man was still on the defensive, and Reina noticed his parries and counters were a fraction slower than they were at the outset. Their arms and bodies still whirled in dizzying motion, but the consternation on his brow told the truth of what even he knew what was happening. Unless he somehow got lucky, he was going to lose.

After she deduced that fact, Reina’s eyes became glued to Ai. The sweat shone on her face and beaded high on her cheeks. Strands of hair were loosed from her ponytail at the velocity of her movements. The leather she wore fit even tighter on her moistened body, and Reina noticed bloodstains on it that she hadn’t caught before. She widened her eyes upon seeing that and coming to a realization. The red leather she wore wasn’t just for fashion; it was to match the color of blood that happened to stain it. Ai had obviously expected many such stains… The poignant horror of that thought complemented the rest of what Reina took in about the girl. Right now, she was the sexiest thing she had ever seen. Unconsciously, she tightened her hold on the girl in her arms.

For a moment, waves of heat overcame her and the blur of the battle became a blur within her soul. The violence before her fueled the passion she already possessed, heightened by her own recent appreciation of violence, and she felt almost as if she had left her body until she heard a loud groan of pain and the clanging of swords and scuffle of bodies fall into silence.

She returned to her body, but the heat did not diminish. Passion still overflowing within her, she realized her mouth was pressed tightly onto another. She was locked in a very deep and passionate kiss with the girl she held desperately tightly in her arms. The taste was exquisite and the body so hot against her, but still she felt something was wrong…

Feeling a pang of regret, she broke the kiss to see Sayu’s face with her eyes shut in submissive enjoyment. Quickly though the girl’s lids fluttered open and her eyes widened. Her brain momentarily frozen, Reina turned her head to where the duel had been occurring and saw Ai leaning forward, face not far from the Chairman’s, her sword sheathed in his midsection with the point sticking slightly out of his back. Time, which had slowed as Reina broke the kiss, sped back up to reality, and the Chairman gave another groaning cough. She noticed his sword had fallen from a hand that was limp at his side. It looked like he was trying to say something the bloody cough prevented him from, but Ai spoke first.

“Your reign of terror is over…” she said in a low yet strong voice. The sound of it almost made Reina swoon, as she still felt quite hot, and she guiltily loosened her grip on the girl she held. “I want you to look into my eyes, knowing that everything you have worked so hard to build over your lifetime will be razed within the time it takes for you to be dumped into the cold, dark ground.” Now Reina almost gasped. The girl exuded hate toward her victim stronger than anything she had ever seen before. It was almost enough to frighten her…

Finally Yamagata seemed to clear his throat and, staring into her eyes as he was instructed, was able to speak himself. “Will it?” he coughed out, and Reina thought she could almost hear a wheezy laugh. “What I’ve done is more lasting than you realize… You think everything will have a new image? I can even see it now… in your eyes… My ultimate victory…” He hacked a cough again, blood spattering and immediately disappearing into the crimson of Ai’s attire. He didn’t seem to have many words left. “You are wrong…”

In a split-second burst of motion Ai jerked the sword from his stomach and swung it upward. Reina squeezed her eyes tightly shut before hearing a gasp from the girl beside her and the sound of something falling to the floor, followed by the squelch of something lighter doing the same. She held her eyes tight for a few seconds longer before opening them slowly to see Ai now standing erect with her sword sheathed on her back and the man’s body lying on the floor in an awkward position with its legs bent. It had fallen away from her, but Reina could see enough to notice blood seeping from the stump of a neck that was no longer connected to anything.

Simultaneously disgusted with both the sight and herself for being so weak to even witness the action, Reina fully released the girl beside her and wrapped her arms around her knees. Ai stared at the corpse for a time before looking over at the two girls huddled against the wall. She walked over to them and drew a short knife from her belt, which she used to cut the chains holding their ankles.

“I’m afraid we’ll have to leave these…” She gestured to the cuffs. “until later, but at least now you’ll be able to move.” As she helped the two girls to their feet, Reina carefully avoiding Sayu’s interested gaze, people of various ages dressed in fine attire began walking through the doorway that now stood completely open. A few of them gave glances at the security guard lying on the demolished door, and as they filed around the desk every one stared grimly at the headless body lying in front of it. Eventually six had entered the office, and they stood in an arc behind the desk and thus separated from the bodies.

“You’ve defeated the former Chairman in an honorable challenge..” said a middle-aged man, one of the two at the center of the formation. From the last time she was in this building, Reina remembered him speaking first at that time as well. He must be the most senior of the group. “Thus fulfilling one requisite of the right to succession,” he continued. He glanced around at the others near him. “Do any here dissent?” The Council members stayed silent as they studied Ai. She now stood very still near Reina, her jaw locked as she stared back at them. Reina felt the urge to reach up and take her arm to comfort her, but in response to the apparent formality of the situation didn’t move either.

After a moment’s pause the lone woman, looking regal and dignified with her silvery gray hair, intoned, “Then so shall it be. We greet Ai Takahashi, Eye of the Raven, and head of this Council.” All six bowed low over the desk, and this time Reina couldn’t help herself and lunged forward, wrapping her arms tightly around Ai’s waist and burying her head in the crook of her neck.
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [32: Destiny]
Post by: glcorps2002 on July 12, 2007, 04:15:59 AM
Man, let's find out in 20 years time Aika has to stop all this and becomes the new leader.
P.S.: I really thought you would say that Sayumi would be the leader's daughter.
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [32: Destiny]
Post by: JFC on July 12, 2007, 04:41:08 AM
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Reina felt a hard poke in her side, and she opened her eyes to see a face centimeters above her own. She thought the sight would give her a shocked fright upon suddenly waking, but she felt herself only gaze calmly into the dark eyes boring down into her own. Her bearings came to her, and she realized she was lying in her bed, her pillow soft against her flowing hair.
Her bed? Dude, don't tell me everything up until this point has just been a dream? :?



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“Well that may be a matter of great debate, but would you call yourself that for conversing with dead people? Wait, I’m not dead anymore… And this could just be a dream, couldn’t it? Unlike those other times, you certainly hadn’t just dozed off in this quite comfy bed of yours.” Miki chuckled, and Reina could feel movement as if the girl was adjusting herself somehow, but still didn’t turn to look. She was preoccupied with her own thoughts.
Oh, so THIS is the dream then? And she's dreaming that she's lying in bed, talking with Miki? Freud (and Aya) might have something to say about THAT. :P


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“What are you…?”

   Arms suddenly wrapped around her and she felt herself being pulled close to the other girl. Sayu’s face, paler than usual and with blacker eyes, now stared back at her, close enough that she felt the exchange of their hot breath.
Miki changed and became Sayu? Now I know this is a dream. :yep:


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“If you keep hiding yourself from the truth,” Sayu whispered, “It’ll be much harder when you’re forced to accept it. You may also not find the comfort you’ve always been able to rely on in the past…” The girl trailed off with her eyes moving to the side as if avoiding Reina’s. There seemed an odd hint of sadness in them.

“Truth?” Reina responded in a voice well above a whisper. “I thought I already found it?”
What truth is she talking about? The truth that Reina and/or Sayu and/or Aichan and/or any of the others might not make it out of this expedition alive? The possibility that Aichan is going to betray her and was actually setting a trap for Reina? (I know, I'm not sure where that last one came from either)


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Her body jerked, but she found she couldn’t move much except for her midsection, the burning pain in which was still fading away. As the light dimmed and her sight and sensation returned, she realized that she was stretched near a wall, her arms parted above her head and her legs spread apart and chained below. She froze, trying not to make a sound while she took in the rest of her situation.
Ok, so she's being restrained. Obviously this means that they think she's a pretty serious threat.

But where's Sayu? :O


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His chest rose and fell heavily with his breathing, and she thought she could hear muttering beneath it at what he was reading. She carefully tested her chains again, and with regret that she wouldn’t be able to free herself stared hard at the Chairman and cleared her throat. The man’s eyes rose to look at her, studying her closely, and he let the paper he was reviewing fall to his desk.
So she's in the actual office of the Chairman.  He must be pretty confident and/or arrogant to let her be so close to him (even with the restraints). He had better hope that those hold, and/or that he has bodyguards really close by. If Reina gets loose, he's a goner.


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“And who are you?” he asked in that same horribly quiet voice. “I know this one…” He glanced again at Reina. “She was another of the mistakes I made in my blind passion. But you…” He lifted a hand and grazed a ringed finger along Sayu’s cheek. She struggled in resistance, but couldn’t move any more than Reina within her chains. “You’re a pretty one… one of the best I’ve seen, and that’s quite a compliment… but I’ve learned my lesson now.” He finished by flicking her head to the side.
"Blind passion"? What's that mean? Is he admitting that he jumped too quickly at the prospect of being able to "recruit" Reina for his organization? Was his eagerness just because he thought Reina was cute? Did he not supervise her "training" and indoctrination enough? :dunno:


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“Still, I might have a use for you later once I’ve dealt with this rabble. Some things must not be wasted.”
Hmmmm...maybe here his already seeing Sayu as a possible "replacement" for Reina (since she's obviously shown that he can't trust her).


Gotta ask though, where the hell is Aichan???


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Reina tried her best throughout his one-way conversation with Sayu not to shout out in defense of the girl, something she knew would not help her at all, and so relaxed slightly in relief when he turned from her to walk back behind his desk. It was unfortunate she even had to relax; she needed the utmost focus right now, and the distraction of having to worry about her friend might very well cost her.
This is one of the things that Reina was worried about. If Sayu hadn't insisted on coming along, Reina might have been able to take some riskier/alternate approaches that wouldn't have let her get caught. More than that though, now that they WERE caught, the Chairman can use Sayu against Reina.


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“No matter. After your pathetic rebellion is destroyed, we will return to the old ways my grandfather brought this Order to glory with.” He looked between the two girls spread before him with lust-filled eyes. “Women will once again know their place,” he growled between gritted teeth.
And to top it all off, he's a chauvanist too. (http://i30.photobucket.com/albums/c340/J-F-C/nono.gif)


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As he said that, a loud bang brought Reina’s attention to the side of the office, where the door had been torn off its hinges and was now lying on the floor beneath the bulk of what looked like a security guard. The unconscious man had a knife still clutched in his hand, and a pistol fell out of a pocket onto the door.
Please be Aichan! :cry:


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From beyond, a figure stepped through the doorway that took Reina’s breath away. Reina’s eyes began at the bare feet tensed upon the floor, rising up along taut legs covered with tight dark red leather pants not unlike Aya’s Sukeban Deka suit, although these looked much more durable. Above it she wore a top also of red leather with sleeves down to the elbow, where black gloves that came to just below the joint covered hands that held a shiny and blood-reddened sword raised in a relaxed posture. Her hair was tied tightly in a single ponytail that hung down her back.
Damn, picturing that...that...that's just...hot. :jerk:


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In a flash, she raised her sword and swiped it through the chains holding both Sayu’s and Reina’s wrists, and the two girls fell to the ground next to each other. “Keep low,” Ai warned, her eyes never wavering from the Chairman behind his desk.
In other words "Keep out her out of the way so that you don't accidentally get sliced and diced while I'm trying to slice and dice HIM." :cool1:


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Ai and Yamagata were now staring at each other with weapons at the ready over the great desk, either communicating silently or with a loss for words at their long-awaited confrontation. After a time though, the man behind the desk spoke again, and as he did so Reina thought she could even see him flexing his muscles through his clothes. For his apparent age, he appeared to be in quite incredible shape.
Well, he woundn't have gotten to where he is if he couldn't take care of his own business.  Can't rely on bodyguards all the time, the really powerful criminals are the ones who know, and who are even willing, to get their hands dirty once in a while.


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Sweat now shone on both fighters, although the Chairman looked like he was nearing exhaustion while Ai exuded no less energy than when they began. In fact, she looked even quicker. The old man was still on the defensive, and Reina noticed his parries and counters were a fraction slower than they were at the outset. Their arms and bodies still whirled in dizzying motion, but the consternation on his brow told the truth of what even he knew what was happening.
Well, despite his skill and advantage in strength, Aichan was after all, an idol for many years.  She's just bound to have better endurance, what with all the years of touring all over the country performing at concert after concert after concert. The longer she can hold her own, the better her chances.


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Unless he somehow got lucky, he was going to lose.
Or if he used some dirty tactic like suddenly threatening Reina and Sayu to force Aichan to put up her blade.


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The leather she wore fit even tighter on her moistened body, and Reina noticed bloodstains on it that she hadn’t caught before. She widened her eyes upon seeing that and coming to a realization. The red leather she wore wasn’t just for fashion; it was to match the color of blood that happened to stain it. Ai had obviously expected many such stains…
And that right there, is both cool and sad at the same time. While everyone knew that it was highly unlikely, if not impossible for this endeavour to be bloodless, Aichan in particular realized/knew just how bad it would be.  To wear red so that the blood spatter doesn't show as much...was it for a tactical advantage, in hopes that it might cause her opponents to underestimate her if they didn't see just how bloody her outfit was?  Or was it for her own sake? Was it so that she wouldn't have to look at all that blood and remember the men that she killed? Was it her way of keeping herself from getting distracted from seeing it?


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For a moment, waves of heat overcame her and the blur of the battle became a blur within her soul. The violence before her fueled the passion she already possessed, heightened by her own recent appreciation of violence, and she felt almost as if she had left her body until she heard a loud groan of pain and the clanging of swords and scuffle of bodies fall into silence.

She returned to her body, but the heat did not diminish. Passion still overflowing within her, she realized her mouth was pressed tightly onto another. She was locked in a very deep and passionate kiss with the girl she held desperately tightly in her arms.

...

Feeling a pang of regret, she broke the kiss to see Sayu’s face with her eyes shut in submissive enjoyment. Quickly though the girl’s lids fluttered open and her eyes widened.
Uh-oh...one of those "heat of the moment" type things. :o  It sort of makes sense though, that Reina would sort of get "turned on" by this. It is, after all, a large part of what she's been constantly exposed to all this time. It would be weird if she DIDN'T feel anything during this scene.

Still though...not sure how Reina's going to handle this, nor do we know how Sayu and Aichan will react to what Reina did.


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Reina turned her head to where the duel had been occurring and saw Ai leaning forward, face not far from the Chairman’s, her sword sheathed in his midsection with the point sticking slightly out of his back. Time, which had slowed as Reina broke the kiss, sped back up to reality, and the Chairman gave another groaning cough. She noticed his sword had fallen from a hand that was limp at his side. It looked like he was trying to say something the bloody cough prevented him from, but Ai spoke first.

“Your reign of terror is over…” she said in a low yet strong voice.
WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO AICHAN!!!!! :rockon: :rockon: :rockon:


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Finally Yamagata seemed to clear his throat and, staring into her eyes as he was instructed, was able to speak himself.

...

“What I’ve done is more lasting than you realize… You think everything will have a new image? I can even see it now… in your eyes… My ultimate victory…” He hacked a cough again, blood spattering and immediately disappearing into the crimson of Ai’s attire. He didn’t seem to have many words left. “You are wrong…”
Option 1 - This could mean that the organization is even bigger and goes even deeper into the underworld of society than Aichan and Reina realize.  It's almost like he's saying "you may strike me down, but there will be another to take my place".  If this is indeed the case, then Aichan and Reina aren't out of the woods yet.

OR

Option 2 - Another possibility (and I shudder to think it), is that Aichan plans to dismantle the organization from within. To do this she would likely have to become the new Chairperson herself, and that she would use that immense power and influence that comes with that position to try and undo what Yamagata has done. However...we all know what they say about what happens when one has that type of power. 


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In a split-second burst of motion Ai jerked the sword from his stomach and swung it upward. Reina squeezed her eyes tightly shut before hearing a gasp from the girl beside her and the sound of something falling to the floor, followed by the squelch of something lighter doing the same. She held her eyes tight for a few seconds longer before opening them slowly to see Ai now standing erect with her sword sheathed on her back and the man’s body lying on the floor in an awkward position with its legs bent. It had fallen away from her, but Reina could see enough to notice blood seeping from the stump of a neck that was no longer connected to anything.
THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!!! (sorry, too easy, had to say it :rofl:)


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“You’ve defeated the former Chairman in an honorable challenge..” said a middle-aged man, one of the two at the center of the formation. From the last time she was in this building, Reina remembered him speaking first at that time as well. He must be the most senior of the group. “Thus fulfilling one requisite of the right to succession,” he continued. He glanced around at the others near him. “Do any here dissent?” The Council members stayed silent as they studied Ai. She now stood very still near Reina, her jaw locked as she stared back at them. Reina felt the urge to reach up and take her arm to comfort her, but in response to the apparent formality of the situation didn’t move either.

After a moment’s pause the lone woman, looking regal and dignified with her silvery gray hair, intoned, “Then so shall it be. We greet Ai Takahashi, Eye of the Raven, and head of this Council.” All six bowed low over the desk, and this time Reina couldn’t help herself and lunged forward, wrapping her arms tightly around Ai’s waist and burying her head in the crook of her neck.
Well then...Option 2 it is. :O 

Question now is...will Aichan have the strength of will to fix what this organization has been doing? Or will she succumb to the allure of the power, and become like the man she just killed?
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [32: Destiny]
Post by: rokun on July 12, 2007, 10:36:13 PM
Well, glad to see you guys enjoying. :) I thought I'd answer a few of your comments/questions in the hope of fostering some more discussion since I haven't really explained a lot so far and this is a pretty complex story ... XD And we do also seem to be nearing the end... *ahem*


Man, let's find out in 20 years time Aika has to stop all this and becomes the new leader.
P.S.: I really thought you would say that Sayumi would be the leader's daughter.
Hey, that's an awesome idea! I don't usually think of fictional relationships like that (I have a hard time departing too much from natural reality), but something like that would be quite interesting... Don't worry though, there's still a good bit of Sayu to come. :)


Quote from: JFC
Oh, so THIS is the dream then? And she's dreaming that she's lying in bed, talking with Miki? Freud (and Aya) might have something to say about THAT. :P
Haha, remember all those other times she was with Miki in bed too though? :lol: Since Miki was alive all that time those were apparently dreams or hallucinations too... It's part of Reina's... er... delusion. ;) Or perhaps it's just her sub-conscious noticing things that her awareness doesn't. Either way, her mind looks a little fucked up. ;) There are other signs of that, too...


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What truth is she talking about? The truth that Reina and/or Sayu and/or Aichan and/or any of the others might not make it out of this expedition alive? The possibility that Aichan is going to betray her and was actually setting a trap for Reina? (I know, I'm not sure where that last one came from either)
Since I'm not sure which truth you actually mean, let me answer this two-fold. ;) The truth Reina thought she already found out was that Miki wasn't actually dead. Remember her dreaming/hallucinatory encounters with Miki in the past? They talked about a truth then too... What Miki is talking about now though... well... That isn't fully revealed yet. :) There are just hints so far of what it might be.

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"Blind passion"? What's that mean? Is he admitting that he jumped too quickly at the prospect of being able to "recruit" Reina for his organization? Was his eagerness just because he thought Reina was cute? Did he not supervise her "training" and indoctrination enough? :dunno:
The bolded part is where it began. Well, in a way. Remember, he and Ai had some sort of history (that darkens Ai's face every time she thinks of it). He was "blinded" by his desire for her and let her become too powerful. Something that he now regrets...

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Hmmmm...maybe here his already seeing Sayu as a possible "replacement" for Reina (since she's obviously shown that he can't trust her).
Replacement, yes. But more for Ai as I mentioned above than for Reina... Remember he thought Sayu was pretty... *cough* And he'd never have trusted girls with that much power again.

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To wear red so that the blood spatter doesn't show as much...was it for a tactical advantage, in hopes that it might cause her opponents to underestimate her if they didn't see just how bloody her outfit was?  Or was it for her own sake? Was it so that she wouldn't have to look at all that blood and remember the men that she killed? Was it her way of keeping herself from getting distracted from seeing it?
This I'll leave up to your own imaginations. :)

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Uh-oh...one of those "heat of the moment" type things. :o  It sort of makes sense though, that Reina would sort of get "turned on" by this. It is, after all, a large part of what she's been constantly exposed to all this time. It would be weird if she DIDN'T feel anything during this scene.
Thank you! :D You were spot on there. I'm glad to see the stuff that I've tried to do with her character has come out at least somewhat. It's definitely more than just "Reina randomly kissing Sayu" (yuu know who I'm responding to there :P). Exactly how much more we haven't been able to see yet since Reina's done her best to avoid Sayu since it happened. And her embracing Ai like she did at the end makes things even more uncomfortable. ;) ergo the next quote, which won't be followed by another comment, though remember, Ai was "distracted" by the little matter of someone trying to kill her:

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Still though...not sure how Reina's going to handle this, nor do we know how Sayu and Aichan will react to what Reina did.

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Well then...Option 2 it is. :O 
:)
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [32: Destiny]
Post by: JFC on July 13, 2007, 03:49:59 AM
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Either way, her mind looks a little fucked up.  There are other signs of that, too...
Yeah, all that training (both physically and mentally) that she went through must have really pushed her to her limits.


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He was "blinded" by his desire for her and let her become too powerful. Something that he now regrets...
Well, technically he can't regret it "now".

The guy IS dead, after all. :lol:


Looks like Option 2 is gonna be VEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERY interesting, yes? (http://i30.photobucket.com/albums/c340/J-F-C/eyebrow.gif)
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [32: Destiny]
Post by: iacus on July 17, 2007, 08:10:42 AM
I'm still reading! I just haven't had time to read for the past two weeks that's all.

Boy Sayu is interesting, she was apparently expecting something (what with the band-aids) and when it became obvious how bad it might be (the lobby) she just went in both arms one sword swinging. Risa and Eri (poor Eri! :'() were in a similar situation but weren't forced to go to the extreme that Sayu did. Actually, Sayu wasn't forced either as for the most part she did it all of her own free will.

And boy, Reina getting turned on by Blood Splattered! Aichan, while perfectly understandable, is a little screwed up.  I guess that's what you get when you take the fear out of violence. 

And God, leave us on a bigger cliffhanger why don't ya? JFC's option 2 is pretty much the only reasonable outcome I can think of at this moment; though I'm not as good at pulling things out of my ass as he his, so I may be missing something. And I don't even want to speculate about what's going to happen to the other side of the story. (the rest of the musume, etc.)
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [33: Respite]
Post by: rokun on July 20, 2007, 10:07:15 PM
Well, this is probably easily the longest chapter I've ever written. I wasn't planning on posting anything else so soon, but certain things that happened this week just made me want to write this. Also, posting this tonight I'll get in just before Harry Potter and other things take over my life. While writing this I realized something about what this story is. I suppose it's an experiment of sorts for me. It's my first dive into serious writing, and you'll see certain things in here that are, well, apart from the story. I know not everyone who comes here will like it, but I hope those who do are pulled into it as deeply as I while writing it. Well, now that I've made my token philosophical statement, onto the story. Please enjoy the ride Reina is taking...


Chapter 33 - Respite

Walking through bright halls, Reina looked from side to side. She didn’t feel very out of place, although the outfit she now wore was a bit tamer and considerably less expensive than what she displayed the night before during the raid. She wore the same leather skirt, white tank and vest that she had the night before, but the accessories were not quite as extravagant. For example, her belt was now just plain leather. She was surprised how easy it had been to find one before she left in the morning.

Still peering down side passages and into rooms with open doors, she slowed as she passed an open crossing with a desk stretching across a corner of it. Walking up to the counter, she looked around until she found the short woman sitting behind a computer on the other side. The woman looked up at her, but apparently didn’t recognize her as she spoke in a tired voice, “Visitation hours are nearly over for the afternoon and our rooms are all full. Is there something I may help you with?”

Reina considered a moment before responding. “You sound tired. Was it a rough morning?”

The woman hesitated, clearly surprised at the unusual comment and question. “We had… an unexpectedly large number of admits late in the evening into early morning. Some have passed on, but the ones who survived have meant plenty of work for all of us.” She looked into Reina’s eyes, apparently seeing her sympathy in them, before continuing, “I was called in early myself to help out. Some of those wounds…” She shivered before freezing and widening her eyes as if thinking she’d said too much.

“I’m sorry,” Reina apologized, though she knew the woman didn’t realize how genuine it really was. Her overwork today was in a large part Reina’s fault, after all. The woman waved it away like it was nothing. “I know visiting hours are up soon…”

“I’m afraid we cannot allow anyone in,” the woman politely interrupted. “Once the last guests leave, we will close the ward.”

Reina continued almost as if the woman hadn’t spoken. “...But I was hoping to see a friend of mine here. I understand…” she commented idly, looking at her fingernails as if examining them, “that many of the injuries were accomplished by clean cuts. That’s most unusual here, isn’t it?”

The woman now scrutinized her closely. After awhile, she apparently decided to respond. “We get the odd one from incidents that involve certain… parties.” The woman peered at Reina, looking her up and down, and frowned as she took in her age. “Though I’ve not seen a group like this in my nine years working in this wing.”

“Parties, you say…” Reina said, tapping a finger to her chin as if in thought. She looked around to see two men with tattoos visible from just beneath the cuffs of their suits coming toward the exit to the ward in hushed conversation. The woman noticed her look and followed it to the men, visibly catching her breath while staring at them as if hoping to shrink out of sight so they’d pass her by quietly. However, Reina noticed them glance toward her and the woman. When they kept their eyes on the two without returning to their conversation, the woman shrank back further.

With an air of some formality, the men paused as they passed Reina and bowed deeply. With narrowed eyes, Reina held their gaze for a second before giving them a slight nod. “Do you have a friend in there?” she asked them in a quiet voice.

The two men looked at each other before the shorter one responded, “We have a comrade who has taken ill, honored one.” Reina knew the nurse behind the table wasn’t fooled for a second by the intimation that the grievous wounds that must have been suffered by their friend were due to a sudden illness, but they must keep up appearances.

“How is he?” Reina asked honestly. The men apparently weren’t used to such an expression, and obviously didn’t believe her intent, and looked at each other again before the same one replied.

“He will survive, honored one,” he said plainly.

Reina held her breath for a second. She definitely wasn’t yet used to all this “honored one” language everyone involved with the Council now used to refer to her with apparent necessity in every comment they directed her way, and chose at the moment not to dwell on the reason behind it. “I’m happy to hear of it,” she said with a smile. She thought the corner of the taller man’s mouth flickered in the same, but only for a split second. “Please take my best regards for a full and speedy recovery.”

The two bowed deeply once more, fists to their chests, and mumbled deepest gratitude for her concern before heading away stoically and no longer in conversation. Reina smiled though as she thought they walked with a lighter step and could almost feel them keeping themselves from turning back to look at her in confusion and wonder. She would take people calling her “honored one” in every sentence if it meant the new way she hoped things would be had already spread among the ranks.

She turned back to the nurse, who was now staring wide-eyed at her, her fingers on her computer completely ignored in her amazement and apparent fear. Reina could have done without the fear, but she knew some things took time. “As I said before, I was hoping to see a friend of mine in here. I believe some other friends are already with her. Do you mind if I catch up with them?” She didn’t wait for the woman’s slow nod before striding in the direction the two men had come.

As she passed doors which in this private ward were nearly all open, she looked in to see men and women lying on beds, most with wide bandages covering various parts of their bodies. Some were missing portions of their limbs, but none appeared the least bit desperate. From the hardened men of the Council they could trust to the less able but perhaps more dedicated men and women Miki and Aya had brought along, they all knew the worth of their injuries. Miki’s companions held themselves proudly and usually gave a smile to Reina as she passed if they were alert, while the other men had generally experienced much worse and knew they likely would again in the future. Their eyes caught Reina’s when she passed, and though they did not smile, they quickly lowered the gaze in humility at her recognition. Reina didn’t like causing such people to humble themselves before her, but she supposed it was her responsibility now to act the role she had claimed. The problem was, she disagreed with it in large part and wished she had no such “honor”. However, considering the situation, she had a feeling even then it might not matter.

Finally she reached a door from which she heard hushed conversation in high, youthful voices, much different from that in any other room she passed. She paused at the door and stood in it a moment, just looking within. Four girls stood around a bed, two on each side, where a fifth was lying with her hands laid lightly on her stomach. The attention of all four was on her, and she had her eyes closed, so nobody noticed Reina at first.

“…why you didn’t ever tell me anything about this. I was your senpai, you know!” Reina heard the end of that statement spoken by a girl in a black polo shirt and checkered seifuku skirt. The girl beside her was kneeling at the side of the bed, clasping the hand of the girl lying on the bed within her own. The standing one in seifuku was apparently speaking to the taller of the girls on the opposite side.

“What exactly was I supposed to tell you?” said the apparent addressee in an almost harsh, frustrated voice. “That Takahashi-san was my Mistress and that she would kick your butt if you mistreated me? Of course Mistress would have, but I didn’t really want to see you poked with a sword either…”

“First of all,” the first girl responded, and Reina smiled, noticing heat now in her voice. Her impression of Sayu had completely changed since the night before. “I’m not so sure anyone would have been poking any swords in me. And another thing…” She didn’t continue however as Risa took one of her hands from Eri’s to place it on her arm.

“Please don’t,” she requested gently. “I don’t want Eririn to hear you two squabbling again if she happens to wake up.” Sayu turned her glare to the girl, still fired up in her scolding of Koharu, but it softened immediately at whatever she found in Risa’s face.

Reina thought it flashed into a pout before she made her expression straight again and responded softly, “I’m sorry. I… I guess I’m still heated up a bit from last night…” Reina smiled again at the girl’s completely abashed expression. She was pretty sure the girl didn’t know as much about Risa as herself, but apparently whatever Sayu had seen in her face expressed it enough. If anyone deserved to be upset for many reasons…

“Rei… Reina-chan…” she heard Eri breathe from the bed, and she looked to see the girl lifting her head up slightly with a smile and looking straight into Reina’s face. The other girls quickly looked her way too, most with eyes widened in surprise as Reina finally stepped in to make her entrance.

“Hey Eririn,” Reina said warmly, and after giving her an expressionless look Sayu stepped back so she could kneel next to Risa. Eri lifted her other hand across to take Reina’s. Risa looked at her also, giving her a small smile, and in return Reina hugged her comfortingly before they shared a look in which Reina let her know she wouldn’t interfere. She looked back to Eri, who was bleary-eyed but smiling up at her.

“How did you get back here?” Aika asked from the other side, a puzzled look on her face. “They said I was the last one they’d allow in since visiting hours were almost over…” Koharu gave her a hard pinch, and the girl yelped as the taller rolled her eyes at her as if to say “Think!” They were all quiet a moment after that.

“How are you feeling?” Reina asked Eri, softly rubbing her thumb over the girl’s palm.

“I’m all right,” Eri breathed. She didn’t seem to have much in the way of a voice at the moment. Right after she spoke, with a hiss of breath she clutched her stomach tighter. Reina noticed Risa squeeze her hand and almost rise up as if to see what the matter was. After she relaxed again though Eri continued, “I guess my stomach hurts a little, but they say I’ll be all right. I have to stay here for now though, and they didn’t say how long…” She trailed off as if contemplating on that thought.

“Yes you should,” Reina said, clenching her jaw as she felt the corners of her eyes moisten. “You need to get some rest before you can go back to singing and dancing again! I know I’ll miss your energy until then.” Eri smiled, but it seemed she was drifting off again into sleep as her eyes fluttered closed.

Reina suddenly noticed she was holding the girl’s hand as tightly as Risa was and relaxed her grip, though still reluctant to part from it. She looked over at Risa, who was also looking into Eri’s face but had apparently noticed Reina’s glance.

“They have her on a high dose of morphine,” she said in a tight voice. “Apparently the pain’s really bad. They took her into surgery almost right when she got here, although they won’t tell me what they did. They said I have to be family…” Risa was now rubbing Eri’s hand between hers as if trying to give the girl some of her own warmth. “Her parents are supposed to be coming down from Tokyo this afternoon. I guess we’ll have to wait until then... They’ve apparently stitched her up pretty well though, and there are bandages covering the wound.” One hand parted from Eri’s and stretched out a little toward the spot she just mentioned, shaking as it hovered in the air. Reaching out, Reina took it, and as if that was a signal Risa fell into her, sobbing and clutching her tightly. “Oh Reina… I thought things couldn’t be much worse than what happened to me, but something like this happening to her…” Reina just held her, soothingly shushing the girl as she cried into her shoulder.

“I know,” she whispered. “It’s not right. Eri could hardly be more innocent. She didn’t deserve it.”

“No, she didn’t,” came a voice across from them that seemed like it spoke through clenched teeth. “If it wasn’t for you, nothing would have happened to –“

She cut off as Risa tore away from Reina and stood up, glaring at the girl so hard that Koharu fell back almost as if she’d actually been hit. “It’s not Reina’s fault!” she said in a broken half-shout through her tears. Reina thought she would have yelled herself hoarse at the girl except that she didn’t want to wake Eri again. “We made the choice to come with her because we’re her friends! We weren’t forced to! In fact, Reina even tried to stop us from coming but we wouldn’t have anything of it! Of course, you wouldn’t understand that because you have no idea what that kind of friendship is about!”

Koharu staggered at each of Risa’s exclamations almost as if she was physically being assaulted, and Aika stared wide-mouthed between the two. Reina felt such a surge of affection for the girl beside her that it almost drove her to tears again. She felt hands from behind clutch her arms and pull her back slightly until she stood as well, and then she felt warmth up and down her body as Sayu pressed against her from behind, hugging her tightly. She could feel the girl’s own tears leak against her neck as she nestled her face into it. Reina didn’t move, letting the girl embrace her, surprised that she’d touch her after what happened last night.

“In fact,” Risa said in a much quieter and calmer voice, “I’m not even sure why you came here today. So far you’ve done almost nothing but argue with all three of us…”

Aika now focused on Risa and made as if to speak, but Risa spoke first. “I know you don’t think that way, Aika-chan,” she said in a warmer voice. “But I just wish your senpai could grow up a little…” She trailed off and Koharu hugged herself in apparent shame, although she also glared at the girl who scolded her.

“I… I’m sorry, Gaki-san,” she eventually said in a tight voice, looking down at Eri again. She didn’t speak for a moment before continuing, “Maybe I’ll just leave…” With that, she tore her eyes from the girl lying on the bed and quickly walked past Aika and out the door. Aika looked desperately from the three girls across from her to where Koharu had disappeared beyond the door before with a slight shrug and apology in her eyes set off after her senpai.

Reina could still feel Sayu hugging her tightly, her eyes apparently no drier, and Risa closed her own before kneeling back down beside Eri. “I’m sorry,” she said to no one in particular, though Reina thought it was likely most directed to Eri. “I shouldn’t have yelled at her. She did come to visit you, after all. I’d hoped more would but I guess… They’re the only others that knew something about what was going on...”

As she began stroking Eri’s hair, Reina noticed that she was becoming very warm pressed up against the girl behind her. Slowly she turned, pulling Sayu’s hands away from her waist, and looked into the pretty girl’s face. She couldn’t glean much from it aside from the sadness that had been making her cry. “Don’t cry…” she said, and almost without realizing it reached up to wipe a tear from the corner of her eye. However, she immediately noticed what she did, and stepped away from Sayu around to the foot of the bed before turning to peer back at the two still where she had left them. One thing she definitely did not want to do was complicate things more than they already were. She had cast her lot, and would not have things different for the world.

“I’m glad to see Eririn’s doing better,” she said softly. “I’m sure you’ll find out everything will be okay once her parents arrive.” Both girls turned to look at her. “Since they should know the whole story of what happened to their daughter, for example how brave and what a good friend she was, I probably shouldn’t be here when you tell them. I know what you two think, but I have a feeling they’ll have their own views about me after that.” The two girls looked at her grimly, but with understanding.

Reina looked back at Eri. “Eririn…” she said in an even softer voice. “I know you wouldn’t want to hear it, but I’m sorry for everything. Thank you though, for…” She couldn’t finish, but walked around the side the two younger ones had just vacated and leaned down to kiss the sleeping girl’s cheek tenderly. As she did so, Eri shifted slightly and rolled her head to the side. Reina smiled and returned to the foot of the bed.

“I also need to go for other reasons. Ai-chan will be expecting me, and we have much to do.” She carefully avoided the two girls’ faces as she spoke, but she didn’t even know if they were looking at her anymore. “You two take care of her.”

She turned and headed for the door, but before she reached it she heard Sayu call out in a surprisingly strong and insistent voice, “We’ll see you soon!” Without turning around, Reina smiled again and left the room.

The trip back through the hallways seemed much longer than on the way in, and she didn’t even bother to check if the nurse she spoke to earlier was still at her station. Stepping outside, she waved a taxi down after a few minutes and stepped into it. She no longer trusted having a driver of her own, and she had always thought there was a certain sense of romance to riding around the city in taxis and trains, so she’d decided that would be her mode of transportation once again, and from now on. Granted, it would make her much more visible to the public eye, but she felt she really had nothing to fear about that here in Kobe, and as for anywhere else… Well, she hoped that before long Reina Tanaka wouldn’t have the need to hide herself from the public anymore.

The taxi arrived at the nondescript building near the center of town and she departed, sparing glances through the early evening twilight at the traces of blood still near the curb that were unable to be totally cleaned away, just as she did when she left a few hours ago. Only allowing herself a moment though, she pulled her vest tighter and walked toward the entrance, which was now flanked by one man and one woman leaning up against the walls as if just happening to be there by chance. They were not, of course. The woman was from Miki’s group, and the man was part of the Council’s security. When she passed, the latter bowed to Reina as low as the ones in the hospital had, but the woman just nodded her head with a pleased expression. She was no “honorable one” to Miki’s group, but they knew her place and still treated her with a large amount of respect. There were very few people the woman at the door would even give as much as a nod to.

Walking through the entrance hall, which was once again filled with well-dressed people walking to and fro, she saw one of the others the woman would nod to standing behind the tall reception desk. As she neared it, the people around her gave her a wide berth; the lower echelons of the Council’s guard and the actual businessmen that worked here did not know what exactly went on last night aside from the fact that the Chairman was dead and another had taken his place. She was sure rumors had spread though throughout the day, and she caught many more than one look as she passed. Each was calculating, as borne from the personalities of those around her, but there was usually another expression as well: of curiosity, or awe, or even fear. Any of those emotions were quite reasonable of course, as she could easily understand a well-respected businessman or guard who heard that their new supreme leader was a very young woman being frightened of the strangeness of such a concept. And, in Reina’s case, having heard she had a very close companion that shared her offices and chambers, was even younger, and was even more mysterious just for being largely unknown and yet attaining such a position. In fact, those that knew anything about her were probably only those that were close in the Chairman’s confidences, and they were all… being dealt with.

She didn’t continue that thought though as she arrived at the high reception desk. “How is she?” asked one of the girls behind it in a quiet and concerned voice.

Reina gave one last glance around her before focusing her eyes on Miki. “Not too good…” she said slowly and with a slight shake of her head. “They’re saying she’ll be all right, but apparently she had some kind of surgery this morning. She’s so weak…”

The two girls must have caught her looking off into space, because after a moment Aya spoke up. “Reina, can I talk to you?” Reina looked at her. The girl stared back sympathetically. She gestured her head to the side and walked around the desk to head off in that direction. Reina looked at Miki again, who nodded at her grimly, and followed.

Catching up to Aya, she matched her slow pace as they walked down the hall. There were less people here, but still some passed them by, many giving Reina slightly wide-eyed or careful glances.

“Do you suppose you’ll ever get used to that?” Aya asked, looking around.

“What?” Reina asked distractedly.

“I mean,” Aya explained. “Everybody looking at you like that… If it was me, I’d be so self-conscious I’d have to check my hair all the time and I’m sure I’d hide whenever I got the chance. You act like you don’t even notice anything…”

“Do I?” Reina asked. For some reason, she felt a twinge of sadness. She stopped and leaned back against a wall, looking at her companion. She decided this was a subject she didn’t want to talk about right now. “Did you have something to tell me? I can’t imagine that was it…” The other girl looked slightly abashed. “I’m sorry,” Reina said quickly. “I guess I just don’t think about it anymore.”

Seeming to feel a bit better, Aya considered her a moment before speaking. “You’ve changed a lot from the girl who was there for me when I… thought Mikitty was dead. And I don’t just mean because you were sent to kill me.”

Despite herself, Reina broke into a short giggle. She was going to apologize, but Aya smiled too. “Well I’m glad to see you laughing. You must not be too worried about Eririn.”

Reina stopped giggling but kept the smile on her face. “Well, she’s not dead yet,” she said optimistically.

“Still…” Aya said. “Even though Mikitty turned out all right, I had a few months to experience what it was like when someone close to you dies. I hope you know that…” She stepped a bit closer to Reina. “if anything happens to anyone, please feel like you can come and talk to me…” She lowered her chin to give Reina a level and serious look. “It’s the least I owe you for everything you’ve done for me.”

Reina tried to hide a blush at the girl’s words by retreating into her own thoughts. She thought of the time what seemed like so long ago when she talked to her mother about death. She definitely had a different opinion of it after all that had happened since, and she was no longer frightened of it. Still, it wasn’t something she wished on anyone. The paired faces of Daisuke and the Chairman floated through her mind and she kept a sigh from escaping her lips. No, not even on them.

“Reina…?” she heard Aya ask, and returned to the present to see the girl looking at her with concern. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” Reina responded. “I was just thinking. I hope Eririn will be all right.” Aya nodded solemnly. Pulling away from the wall, Reina hugged the older girl. “It’s going to be all right.” The other girl didn’t move for a moment before patting her back and hugging her tighter. Reina released her quickly after though, and pulled back to see that the girl’s eyes had moistened a little. “Miki’s waiting for you,” Reina said with a smile. Aya nodded, though seemed unsure if she should go. “I have things to do anyway,” she assured the girl. “I need to see Ai-chan.”

“Of course you do,” Aya choked, and with a pat to Reina’s shoulder walked back toward the desk. Miki being back or not, Reina was afraid the girl was still rather unstable. She supposed months of thinking her best friend was dead before being told she herself was marked to be assassinated and not long after that finding out the friend was not dead at all would of necessity leave a mark…

Grimacing ruefully, Reina turned and walked the opposite direction down the hall. She still ignored the looks of those that passed her, as well as a few that seemed to want to address her as she walked quickly past. Without a doubt they would have liked to shed some light for themselves about the mystery girl that took up residence on the thirteenth floor, but Reina figured being even more mysterious by seeming as if she didn’t notice them wouldn’t hurt anything.

Actually, she guessed as she walked, strolling about her business apparently as mechanically and obliviously as the multitude that surrounded her wasn’t all that different from on the streets outside where salarymen passed each other in the street without even a glance, oblivious as to whether the person passing them was the lowly mail clerk in a dingy factory or the governor of the prefecture.

Sometimes she wondered what they must think though. Whatever their ties, many of these people were likely parents who have learned in recent times that the younger generation are not to be trusted and regarded them with a certain amount of fear borne of tales heard from their acquaintances who had children in schools where even junior high students rose up violently against those in authority. What they must think, now that a girl who to them was as good as one of the dangerous high school students they’d heard so much about now led one of the most inherently violent organizations in Japan? Even more the unknown menace of the girl closer to her than anyone who really was a high school student and played on their worst fears of youthful degenerated morality in an atmosphere of the most degenerately amoral?

Reina looked again at the faces that turned to her. She thought she saw in their eyes some of the fear she imagined. The Chairman used fear as a powerful tool to control and dominate, and no matter how powerful these people were in their own circles fear still drove them from above. Now Yamagata was no more and the youth in his place bred a different type of fear in them, but it was fear nonetheless. Reina hoped it didn’t sink too deeply; she was convinced there must be chance to alter the stars. Reina passed her hand in front of a scanner on a door near the end of the hall, which opened to reveal a small and secret elevator. She was determined to find that chance!

The elevator slid open and she entered it as the previous door closed behind her. Nobody passed it, since they all knew well to avoid the way to the upper offices. The carriage was barely large enough for four men, but ascended so smoothly Reina could hardly tell she was moving. This was one of the perks of her new residence she didn’t at all mind. It rose without her pushing a button because there was only one floor this elevator stopped at. Before long it dinged and the doors slid open onto that floor – into an antechamber with torches along the sides to give light. Well-muscled men stepped out from the shadows at her arrival, but once they recognized her face retreated with short bows. These elite guard had much higher status than those from the hospital and the lobby, so half the gesture of respect her position required of those men was sufficient for them. Reina couldn’t have cared whether they all fell prostrate before her or ignored her as if she didn’t even exist.

Giving them slight acknowledgments, she strode across the room and through the door into another circular area. In this one, three ornamented doors graced the walls on each side. Another, larger and much more heavily ornamented than the others, stood across from her at the other end. It was to this one she strode, and she pushed it open easily to reveal a small but still quite lavish office where a middle-aged woman sat at a desk in front of a computer and another heavily-built man sat as if lounging next to a door beyond the desk. Both looked up as she entered, but the man returned immediately to his slouch while the woman’s gaze lasted slightly longer before returning to her screen. Reina scrutinized her for a moment. She used to be the assistant to one of the Council members before being “promoted” to her position in this office. Reina could tell she still wasn’t quite used to a young girl coming and going freely to the chambers of the one whom she assisted. Of course, young women frequently went to Yamagata’s chambers, but they had passed through in far from the relaxed way Reina did.

Nodding to both woman and guard, Reina crossed to the final door and took a breath before entering. This office was not much different from when she first came to in it the night before, but she was glad to see some of the portraits had been removed from the walls. The expensive-looking statues of various gods and exotic animals still stood on the desk, though Reina supposed she couldn’t even find any fault with them herself.

Ai sat back in the chair behind the desk, her legs crossed and hands folded in her lap as she listened to the two men addressing her from before it. Her hair was still pulled back in the ponytail, but this evening she wore what looked almost like white sweats with a black belt fastened around her waist and a dark navy blue robe around it all that billowed out onto the chair at her sides.

The conversation cut off as they noticed her arrive in the room, and Ai looked at her and smiled while the two men turned and gave tentative bows. The Council members still weren’t accustomed to how they should act around Reina, although Ai had been quite explicit that she be treated as if she was her equal in command. The Councilmen apparently couldn’t bring themselves to go quite that far, but still they showed Reina more respect than anyone but Ai herself. The fact that Ai even was honored so much still was odd to Reina, but the Council members seemed to take it in stride. Apparently she had met all the rites of tradition and in their minds was the undisputed leader they claimed her as. Reina had no misconceptions that at least some of them were plotting how best to overthrow her and take the power for themselves, but apparently that was the case no matter who the head was as it had been throughout history. She supposed that was their way of making sure the strongest of them all constantly held the place of honor.

“Reina!” Ai exclaimed as she rose and walked toward her. When she arrived, the two girls hugged and kissed. As they parted they stayed in each others’ arms, and Reina couldn’t help a dreamy smile. That always seemed to happen when Ai kissed her.

“Greetings, Honored One,” the Councilmen intoned stiffly, giving additional nods. As uncomfortable with Reina herself they might be, they were much more so with the relationship the two girls shared. Apparently the “Eye of the Raven” wasn’t far shy of a holy figure, and the idea of someone in an equal romantic relationship with her, especially another woman, was a lot for them to handle even with all that happened lately.

Ai turned to them. “Are we finished discussing our business?” she asked. “If so, I’d like to retire for the night. It’s been a long first day and I still have much energy to recover from last night.” That was true; she seemed almost inhuman in her fight with Yamagata, but Reina knew it was much more draining than it appeared. She’d put all her energy into his defeat. Yet, despite that, they had been in bed for only a few hours before Ai woke and left Reina to begin the day. Reina had wanted to go with her, but Ai told her to stay in bed because she needed the rest. Ai of course needed it too, but she wouldn’t let Reina argue the point, and Reina fell asleep again too quickly to make much of it anyway. By the time in mid-morning when she finally left bed herself Ai was gone, and so she took a while absorbing her new surroundings before descending and finding Miki, who told her that Eri was in the hospital.

“Yes, I think everything is settled,” one of the men responded. Tokuyama, she thought he was called. His nod seemed suitably submissive, and the other shared the expression. Reina looked carefully at them. Perhaps they weren’t scheming against Ai. She prided herself at her intuition as of late, and she detected no hint of dishonesty against Ai from these men.

“By the dawn, then?” Ai asked in a hard voice. Reina looked up at her face.

“By the dawn, the traitors will be extinguished,” Tokuyama confirmed. Extinguished? Reina thought Yamagata’s remaining loyalists would be imprisoned, but the man’s words sounded somewhat more final…

“All will be well, then,” Ai responded, and she bowed with them before they proceeded out.

Once the door shut behind the men, Ai walked over to the door opposite where Reina entered. “Are you coming?” she asked in a tired but warm voice, much unlike that which she just used with the Councilmen. Reina nodded and followed her into her chambers.

The domed sitting room they passed through first had two huge plasma televisions along the walls, which Reina imagined Yamagata used to keep tabs on his organization, as well as perhaps for some entertainment. It also contained comfortable-looking designer couches and recliners, but the two girls hadn’t tried them out yet. Deciding she would now, Reina walked over to one of the couches, and after removing her vest and draping it over the back plopped down in it. It really was quite as comfortable as it looked.

Ai had walked on into the bedroom, so Reina looked around and saw a remote control on an end table beside where she sat. Picking it up, she clicked the power button and the larger of the televisions in front of her flared to life. The brightness was so sudden she involuntarily squinted her eyes. Once adjusted, she watched the scene in front of her with great interest.

The grand lobby spread out across the television screen, and she could see the fine detail on each person who passed by. Much better than an average security camera, this would obviously be perfect for keeping an eye on every person who walked through the front doors. Reina knew it was used for horrible reasons, but she still couldn’t help being slightly impressed at the expense and effort the Chairman had obviously put into it all.

“Anything good on?” came a voice from behind her. She turned quickly to see Ai smiling at her from the bedroom doorway. Her face darkened though when she looked at the screen. “I see he needed the best toys he could find to do jobs that are done so much better by people with the right skills. Too bad he despised the lot of them.” From her voice, it sure didn’t sound to Reina as if it was too bad at all.

Reina began to feel slightly nervous. She hoped with Yamagata’s death Ai would be able to shed some of the ghosts that haunted her, but apparently they had not all gone. In fact, she hoped more had not taken their place with the blood she spilled last night.

Ai seemed to shake the shadow quickly though and turned back to Reina. “How was Eririn?” she asked softly and sympathetically.

Reina licked her lips before responding. Of course the girl would know where she had gone. “I’m not sure… She looked all right, but she was still recovering from some kind of surgery.”

“I’m sorry that happened to her. I should have known about your driver,” Ai continued. Reina wondered how the girl could keep so much heat in her gaze, as tired as she must be. “I won’t miss something like that again though,” she continued in a steely voice.

Reina now began to feel concerned. Ai could obviously barely stand; she was leaning heavily against the door frame, but still her knees looked as if they were about to buckle beneath her. “Come here,” Reina ordered, shifting over and gesturing to an obvious place next to her on the couch. “You need to relax.”

Ai gave her a hollow smile before making herself stand erect and walk over. When she sat down beside her, Reina immediately took the girl into her arms and held her close. Ai seemed reluctant at first, but soon relaxed into her, laying her head on Reina’s chest. “I could have you executed for ordering me around like that, you know,” she said with a wry smile, playing with a strand of Reina’s hair.

“Then execute me,” Reina said offhandedly. “You’re going to have a nice long rest first, though.” Ai chuckled a little at that. They held each other silently for a time, and despite the warm contentment Reina felt at their embrace, she eventually let out what had been bothering her since she entered their office. “Ai-chan…” she began carefully.

“Mmm?” the girl responded in a sleepy voice as if she was about to doze off.

“Those two Councilmen you were with when I arrived…” Reina continued. “You were talking about extinguishing people. By traitors I take it you meant Yamagata’s loyalists?”

“Yes,” Ai responded, this time bracingly and as if not sleepy at all.

“What… exactly… are you doing with them?” Reina asked the question she wanted desperately to avoid, and the girl’s response was exactly what she feared.

“They will be executed,” Ai said plainly.

“Oh,” Reina said in a voice barely above a breath.

Ai pulled her head from Reina’s chest to look closely into her face. “They had a choice, and all of them knew who they were working for. It’s the fate…” she seemed to hesitate for a second before continuing, “…they deserve.”

Staring back into the deep black eyes before her, Reina’s mouth dried, but she nodded ever so slightly. Her own beliefs were clear to her, but perhaps an exception could be made in this unusual circumstance. The conviction of the girl’s words, and the love in her eyes, were at the moment too real. “Come here,” Reina whispered, and she reached a hand behind Ai’s neck to pull her into a long, loving, and even sweet, kiss. The silent television showing people nearly life-sized before them was quickly forgotten as they began their night together.
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [33: Respite]
Post by: glcorps2002 on July 20, 2007, 11:08:02 PM
Reina must stop her from going down that dark path before it's too late!!!
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [33: Respite]
Post by: JFC on July 21, 2007, 02:35:29 AM
Quote
Walking up to the counter, she looked around until she found the short woman sitting behind a computer on the other side. The woman looked up at her, but apparently didn’t recognize her as she spoke in a tired voice, “Visitation hours are nearly over for the afternoon and our rooms are all full. Is there something I may help you with?”
Reina's at the hospital? Must be there to check up on Eri.


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“I’m afraid we cannot allow anyone in,” the woman politely interrupted. “Once the last guests leave, we will close the ward.”

...

“...But I was hoping to see a friend of mine here. I understand…” she commented idly, looking at her fingernails as if examining them, “that many of the injuries were accomplished by clean cuts. That’s most unusual here, isn’t it?”

The woman now scrutinized her closely. After awhile, she apparently decided to respond. “We get the odd one from incidents that involve certain… parties.” The woman peered at Reina, looking her up and down, and frowned as she took in her age. “Though I’ve not seen a group like this in my nine years working in this wing.”
The nurse must know that at least some of the patients that were admitted here were the result of the Organization and/or other gang-type activities.  After a few years, she probably just put 2 and 2 together.   :O


Quote
“…why you didn’t ever tell me anything about this. I was your senpai, you know!”

...

“What exactly was I supposed to tell you?” said the apparent addressee in an almost harsh, frustrated voice. “That Takahashi-san was my Mistress and that she would kick your butt if you mistreated me? Of course Mistress would have, but I didn’t really want to see you poked with a sword either…”
Koharu DOES have a point here (pun not intended). She was also probably scared at having her own butt kicked if she blabbed to anyone about it. :yep:


Quote
“First of all,” the first girl responded, and Reina smiled, noticing heat now in her voice. Her impression of Sayu had completely changed since the night before. “I’m not so sure anyone would have been poking any swords in me. And another thing…”
Oh Sayu...:lol: Guess that means that she thinks she's too cute to get poked, huh? :lol:


Quote
“Hey Eririn,” Reina said warmly, and after giving her an expressionless look Sayu stepped back so she could kneel next to Risa. Eri lifted her other hand across to take Reina’s. Risa looked at her also, giving her a small smile, and in return Reina hugged her comfortingly before they shared a look in which Reina let her know she wouldn’t interfere.
Shit, that must be really hard for Reina to do. She obviously still cares a lot for and misses being with Eri. :(


Quote
Eri could hardly be more innocent. She didn’t deserve it.”

“No, she didn’t,” came a voice across from them that seemed like it spoke through clenched teeth. “If it wasn’t for you, nothing would have happened to –“

She cut off as Risa tore away from Reina and stood up, glaring at the girl so hard that Koharu fell back almost as if she’d actually been hit. “It’s not Reina’s fault!” she said in a broken half-shout through her tears. Reina thought she would have yelled herself hoarse at the girl except that she didn’t want to wake Eri again. “We made the choice to come with her because we’re her friends! We weren’t forced to! In fact, Reina even tried to stop us from coming but we wouldn’t have anything of it! Of course, you wouldn’t understand that because you have no idea what that kind of friendship is about!”
Both Koharu and Risa have valid points here. Koharu's right in that if the others had not come with Reina, none of them would be here now in this situation. Reina could have (and some might say should have) tried harder to convince them to not come along. She could have even had them detained somewhere or somehow found a way to prevent them from coming.

However, we all know that at that time, nothing less than some actual type of confinement would have kept them from coming along. And given the circumstances/timing at the time, that was very unlikely to happen.  Reina did her best to warn the girls of how dangerous it could get, and they still chose to risk it and come along.  When your friend is willing to put his/her life in jeopardy like that, it's not that hard of a decision to stand with him/her.


Quote
“I’m glad to see Eririn’s doing better,” she said softly. “I’m sure you’ll find out everything will be okay once her parents arrive.” Both girls turned to look at her. “Since they should know the whole story of what happened to their daughter, for example how brave and what a good friend she was, I probably shouldn’t be here when you tell them. I know what you two think, but I have a feeling they’ll have their own views about me after that.” The two girls looked at her grimly, but with understanding.
Unfortunately all Eri's parents will remember in all likelihood is that Eri was hurt because of something big that Reina was involved in.  It's unlikely that they'll be understanding of the circumstances of the situation. Actually, for their own safety it's probably better that they DON'T find out a lot about the circumstances of the situation.  In any case, they'll be feeling helpless and they'll be looking for someone to blame, and regrettably it's most likely that once they find out the details, it will probably end up being Reina and Aichan that get targeted.


Quote
“I also need to go for other reasons. Ai-chan will be expecting me, and we have much to do.” She carefully avoided the two girls’ faces as she spoke, but she didn’t even know if they were looking at her anymore. “You two take care of her.”

She turned and headed for the door, but before she reached it she heard Sayu call out in a surprisingly strong and insistent voice, “We’ll see you soon!” Without turning around, Reina smiled again and left the room.
I suppose this is Sayu's way of telling Reina that they WANT to see her soon. It was probably hard enough for them when Reina and Aichan disappeared the first time. They don't want them to disappear again.


Quote
She was sure rumors had spread though throughout the day, and she caught many more than one look as she passed. Each was calculating, as borne from the personalities of those around her, but there was usually another expression as well: of curiosity, or awe, or even fear. Any of those emotions were quite reasonable of course, as she could easily understand a well-respected businessman or guard who heard that their new supreme leader was a very young woman being frightened of the strangeness of such a concept. And, in Reina’s case, having heard she had a very close companion that shared her offices and chambers, was even younger, and was even more mysterious just for being largely unknown and yet attaining such a position.
Well, this situation is probably one that was completely unexpected and likely has no precedence whatsoever. A change in leadership is one thing, but to suddenly have a young, obviously powerful and deadly pair of girls as their new leaders...it's enough to cause anyone to be uneasy. No one here knows how Aichan and Reina will deal with things, how they'll handle things, how they'll run the organization, etc.  No one here knows if they might be on the "chopping block" so to speak (both figuratively as well as literally).


Quote
In fact, those that knew anything about her were probably only those that were close in the Chairman’s confidences, and they were all… being dealt with.
A necessary evil, I'm afraid. There are bound to be hard-nosed people within the organization that are still fiercely loyal to the former Chairman. If they're not taken care of, they'd be a danger to Aichan and Reina, as they'd likely be plotting something along the lines of an act of vengeance.


Quote
Reina looked again at the faces that turned to her. She thought she saw in their eyes some of the fear she imagined. The Chairman used fear as a powerful tool to control and dominate, and no matter how powerful these people were in their own circles fear still drove them from above. Now Yamagata was no more and the youth in his place bred a different type of fear in them, but it was fear nonetheless. Reina hoped it didn’t sink too deeply; she was convinced there must be chance to alter the stars.
In comparison to what lies ahead for them, getting rid of the former Chairman was the easy part. While the man is gone, the legacy that he left behind...his "stamp" on this organization still remains, and it's going to be a hard one to change. There are undoubtedly others within the organization that capitalized on and/or otherwise used the fear the Chairman used to run it.  People working for the organization have lived with this cloud of fear hanging over their heads for a long time, and it's something that they can't just forget.


Quote
The Council members still weren’t accustomed to how they should act around Reina, although Ai had been quite explicit that she be treated as if she was her equal in command.
Well, up until this point, the Council has likely been used to the thought of having just one, single leader. That way, any and all decisions were final. There would be no dispute, since it would be the call of one single person.  To suddenly hear that their new leader (Aichan) has decreed that Reina has authority and power equal to her own is just...different, and something that they're still not used to.  If one of them thinks "A" and the other disagrees and thinks "B" instead, what are they to do?


Quote
“By the dawn, then?” Ai asked in a hard voice. Reina looked up at her face.

“By the dawn, the traitors will be extinguished,” Tokuyama confirmed. Extinguished? Reina thought Yamagata’s remaining loyalists would be imprisoned, but the man’s words sounded somewhat more final…

“All will be well, then,” Ai responded, and she bowed with them before they proceeded out.
It would be nice if they could just be imprisoned, however so long as they remain alive, they remain a threat.  Under the circumstances, there's only one way to deal with that thread in a manner effective enough to make it CLEAR about who was now in command.  What's scary though, is that Aichan came up with this "solution" so quickly and, on first impression, seemingly without hesitation.


Quote
Reina began to feel slightly nervous. She hoped with Yamagata’s death Ai would be able to shed some of the ghosts that haunted her, but apparently they had not all gone. In fact, she hoped more had not taken their place with the blood she spilled last night.
Aichan won't admit it (assuming that she's even aware of it), but it's very traumatizing to actually kill someone and watch the life drain from their eyes.  She might think that she's dealt with it, but chances are that subconsciously, she's still trying to sort through it all. Doing that, while now assuming a position of such power and influence, it's easy to "take the easy way out" sometimes.  She has done it by ordering the executions of Yamagata's loyalists, and even though she (hopefully) is joking, she shows signs that she's capable of it when, after Reina tells her to come sit beside her, she says:
Quote
“I could have you executed for ordering me around like that, you know,”



Quote
“They will be executed,” Ai said plainly.

“Oh,” Reina said in a voice barely above a breath.

Ai pulled her head from Reina’s chest to look closely into her face. “They had a choice, and all of them knew who they were working for. It’s the fate…” she seemed to hesitate for a second before continuing, “…they deserve.”
The fact that she says this with no hesitation, as if it's the most normal thing in the world...it's a sign, and it's a bad one.  As I've said before, in Aichan's eyes, it's probably a "necessary evil" that has to be done if she's to make the changes that she said she wanted to make.  If she's not careful though, the only thing that's going to change is Aichan herself. She'll change into what she despised and what, or rather who she killed. 

Reina needs to be Aichan's conscience here, or at the very least a voice of reason, a second opinion to show Aichan and to remind her that her goal was to get rid of Yamagata, not to become him.





Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [33: Respite]
Post by: iacus on July 22, 2007, 05:29:39 AM
Necessary evil is, by definition, evil. And even if Reina and Ai don't want to, or are doing it with the best of intentions, it's kind of sad to see them go down that path and do evil.
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [34: Love and Loyalty]
Post by: rokun on September 08, 2007, 03:17:04 PM
Hello again! I know I'm not doing a great job of keeping two stories updated, but I've felt a little inspiration lately and I thought it was about time to work toward ending this one. :) I don't know how many of you read this, but I hope those that do are enjoying it. Now, for the beginning of the rest of Reina's tale...


Chapter 34 – Home Is Where the Heart Is

Reina read the lines off the top sheet of paper in a stack that sat on her desk for what must have been the fifth time. She didn’t like reading through dry reports, but such administrative details were expected of her position. Her position…

She looked up at the near-rustic wood-paneled walls that surrounded her desk. Various pictures and awards hung on those walls, and she looked among them. There was a large calendar advertising what had had appeared at the time to be the 2007 version of Morning Musume. That was something that definitely didn’t happen. She wondered if it would become a collector’s item since it was probably going to end up the last one of its like. There were also wide pictures from concerts she sang in. Not telling them where she was of course, but saying she was happy and doing well, she’d asked her parents to send her some of her old memorabilia when she found she was going to have her own office. Wanting to do anything to help their prodigal daughter, they eagerly obliged.

She didn’t really feel like she needed an office of her own, and didn’t for the first week or two, but as things developed both she and Ai had too much going on to be sharing workspace any longer. About a week after the coup, one of the council members had gotten himself arrested and jailed. Although they hadn’t formally charged him yet, it looked like he would be gone for a long time. Everyone thought this was a great chance to provide Reina with an office of her own. Conveniently, it was right next to Ai’s as well, and they had a door put in connecting the two so she could still easily reach the chambers they co-habited.

Looking back down onto her sheaf of papers she still didn’t feel like she needed an office of her own, especially since after she moved in, her workload had somehow magically increased. Council members for some reason seemed more than eager to “escalate” much of their tedious paperwork to Ai’s level, and Ai of course didn’t have the time to do much of it, so most of it ended up in Reina’s hands. Ai apologized often for it of course, especially during their time together late at night, but Reina knew she was under quite a lot of stress herself, so really didn’t mind helping her out. Still, there had to be better ways of living than spending long hours staring at approval forms and activities reports like she had been for the past several weeks. She looked up at the calendar. Somehow, those weeks were already turning into months.

However, right now a particular report had caught her attention. It was vague on many points, but if she was reading it right, it talked about new girls being recruited into the company. She hadn’t had much time to visit Tokyo lately, but she still governed activities in that area in general since she already had the contacts, and this bit of news from Roppongi disturbed her. She’d had suspicions for quite a while now – ever since that first night when Ai told her about the executions of Yamagata’s loyalists in fact – but nothing hit quite so close to home as this. If these things were going on again even in her territory…

Dropping the sheets back on the desk, she rose and walked toward her calendar in her high stiletto heels, black beneath black lace hose with a short black skirt and her traditional red frilly blouse. She looked up at the poster picture hanging on the wall next to the calendar. The season was now spiraling toward summer, so the first two months this poster represented were obsolete. However, she kept it as a reminder of her past life. She was on the poster, together with Risa and Eri. Yossi was there too as if she was gazing down and protecting them. “What do you suppose you can do to help now…?” Reina asked herself. She wondered sometimes what the girl, as well as the others, was up to, but aside from hearing random news about her graduation there wasn’t really much she knew.

Sighing, realizing she was putting this off yet again, she committed herself as best she could and headed to her outer door. Peeking her head through, she told her assistant she would be meeting with Ai, and if anyone asked for her to leave her a message. Her assistant, a severe-looking but actually quite pleasant middle-aged woman, nodded her understanding, and Reina ducked back into her office to head to another door.

When she opened this one, she found Ai in a meeting with one of the councilmen and two others who, nervous-looking and too-sharply dressed, were likely his underlings. Ai was frowning at them while sitting in a quite relaxed posture with her hands set on top of crossed legs, and the councilman himself was nearly glaring at them. When Reina walked in and closed the door, the councilman’s eyes darted toward her, and Ai looked up calmly, the frown disappearing.

“Ahh, Reina,” she said. “I’m sorry, the councilman has a problem he asked me to review. I’d push it off, but I have a feeling if I did so these two would run away by the time I summoned them back.” Her lips drew into a lopsided grin as she finished her tease.

Reina said nothing in response though, and just walked to the side of Ai’s desk, glancing into her slightly furrowed eyes before turning to the three men. “Leave,” she ordered. “Now.” The men stared at her. “I have business with Takahashi-sama. You may return when you see me leave.”

The councilman rose, first as if in anger, but when he opened his mouth to speak the look in Reina’s eye made him hesitate. Reina saw him glance past her to Ai, and apparently whatever he saw there was enough too, and he quickly gathered his bowing subordinates and bowed his own way out of the office more formally than was necessary.

When the door closed, Reina spun back to face Ai, who was now looking intently back at her. “Yes, Reina?” she asked in a concerned voice. “What’s the matter?”

Reina rounded the desk to its front and grazed the back of the chair the councilman had just occupied before sitting down in it herself. She didn’t cross her legs, but held herself somewhat stiffly. Ai still looked at her with great interest. “Ai-chan…” she began, still unwilling to say what had been bugging her for ages. Instead, to begin with, she looked back into the girl’s eyes. “Do you remember our Morning Musume days?”

“Of course,” Ai said, and she sat back, relaxing at the casual question. “It wasn’t really that long ago.”

“Wasn’t it…” Reina said dreamily, staring off at a point somewhere past Ai. “It seems to me anymore that it was only a dream. It was hard a lot of the time, but I was also happy…” After losing herself a second, she looked squarely back into Ai’s face. “Do you ever wish to have those days back again?”

Ai shifted a little uncomfortably, and furrowed her brow in thought before responding. “They were good days…” she began, looking a little wistful herself, but only for a split second. “But it seems like a long time ago for me too. It’s been a long time ago since that was all I truly had to worry about. And…” She stared hard at Reina now. “What I do now gives me purpose, and it gives me strength. I can say I’ve done something in the world, and had an effect on many people.” She studied Reina a moment, but she didn’t try to betray a reaction. “Why the sudden nostalgia?”

“I don’t know,” Reina said. “It’s silly, I suppose…”

“You didn’t come in here and shoo one of the most powerful men in Japan out to talk about the good old times,” Ai said, still studying her.

“You’re right,” Reina said, “I didn’t.” Like she’d hoped though, starting the discussion like this had made it easier. She knew Ai’s true feelings, and now couldn’t help in questioning her. “Ai-chan, I read a report talking about the recruitment of new girls in Roppongi.”

Ai’s face hardened a bit at this, and she folded her hands above her knee. “Yes, recruitment is a constant process. Are there methods or something you have a problem with?”

Reina ducked her head a little. “Well, I got the impression these girls weren’t recruited normally. They seemed a bit more… random… and not as if it was through an arranged meeting.” Ai looked closely at her, and she looked fervently back. “I also have it on good authority that the police officer who was killed a few weeks back was just about to bust Takamoto-san’s laundry operation. It was awfully convenient that all trace of his case disappeared with his life.” She spoke quickly, but now that she’d started, there was no going back. “There are also the reports of recruitment of girls from Osaka and Nara. And also, Yamagata’s loyalists…” As she knew it would, Ai’s face darkened at the mention of that name. It probably hadn’t been uttered around her since the last time Reina asked her on that night.

Ai stayed silent before rising from her chair and walking around the desk to stop before Reina, looking down into her eyes. “I’m sure you’ve learned lately, Reina,” she said gently. “But there are costs to doing business. Sometimes we must do things that we’d rather not.”

“I think I know more than a little about business,” Reina said, “but since when is that what this is about?” she asked, rising to her feet as well to look earnestly into her lover’s eyes. “I thought it was to rid the world of Yamagata’s evil.”

“It was,” Ai said simply. “And he is gone.”

“But the evil that he created is still here…” Reina said insistently. The next thing she knew, her face was flung to the side at a hard slap from the girl in front of her. She looked back, acting as if the growing sting in her cheek didn’t bother her at all.

“Don’t ever compare me to him!” Ai growled, the fire Reina usually loved and lusted after so much back in her eyes. “You of all people should know… should understand…” She grabbed Reina’s shoulders. “I’ve loved you!”

Reina stared back with her jaw clenched tight as cement. “You may have loved me…” she began, and at a flicker in Ai’s look corrected herself. “You do love me, just like I love you…” she continued, and some of the fire died down. “But I don’t think you love anyone else…”

Ai stared at her hard for a moment before releasing her and walking around her desk, her back to Reina as she peered at one of the pieces of artwork on the wall, this of a stag trying to keep its footing at the bottom of a cliff while a dark shadow seemed to loom upon it from above. Reina lifted her hand to rub her shoulder, which was slightly sore from the clenching of Ai’s fingers. It wasn’t quite as painful as the mark on her cheek though.

“What makes you think anyone else is worth loving?” Ai asked in a quiet and smooth voice. Reina felt something cold grab onto her insides. Just as her heart wanted to reach out, she held it back even more tightly. Things couldn’t go on like this.

“What makes me so special…?” Reina asked with a hoarse delivery.

Ai turned around and stared at her in surprise. Instead of saying anything though, she eventually circled the desk and grabbed Reina’s shoulders again, giving her an intense look before pulling her in tightly for a hard and desperate kiss. Reina couldn’t help but respond at first before her mind returned to her, and then she stuck her arms in front of her to push the girl away, staggering back slightly.

“What is that supposed to mean?!” she cried. “You just kiss me, and everything makes perfect sense? You kiss me, and you can forget about all the other people in the world - people you’ve killed, people you’ve violated? Well it doesn’t all make sense, Ai-chan! Even though you don’t do it directly, you’re still the one responsible for all of that! And to think I…” Reina staggered further back, inching toward the door. “I can’t even kiss someone like that!”

Ai’s face grew darker with each new blow from Reina, and at the end she jumped toward her, brandishing a knife from somewhere hidden in her clothes and slicing it toward Reina’s neck before Reina’s own hand darted up and grabbed her wrist centimeters from her neck. She held her posture and now no longer appeared to be staggering at all.

Reina looked into eyes that flared back at her. “Now I know,” she said.

Ai’s eyes widened slightly, and she used the distraction to kick her leg out as fast as she could. The precise strike hit Ai in the stomach, and the knife flew from her hand as she herself flew back halfway toward the desk. Reina didn’t bother to see how she recovered from it, and darted through two doors so quickly Ai’s assistant barely even noticed her before sliding into the elevator whose doors were made to shut as efficiently as possible.

Within a minute she was running through the lobby, disregarding looks from startled and amazed businessmen around her, and out the door, stopping only when she had reached a point several blocks away. Breathing heavily, she kept her stiff legs walking until after another several blocks she reached the train station. Waving her pass at the ticket master, she made her way through the turnstile and onto the train that was bound for Tokyo. Sitting down in a vacant row, she finally caught her breath and thought about what had just happened.

She didn’t think Ai would really have hurt her. Would she? She did love her after all… However, what she’d suspected about the girl’s tainted spirit had been made abundantly clear by their encounter. The girl truly did not, and maybe even could not, love anyone anymore… except Reina. And the only conclusion that could come of that was… there was no way she could love Reina herself. Reina was probably nothing more to her than a plaything; a convenience to let her avoid some of the less desirable aspects of her job, avoided aspects that apparently did not include ordering murders and forced prostitution.

She leaned her head next to the window as the train began rolling and fought back tears. What was it all for? She had worked so hard to bring some respectability back to the streets in Tokyo, and what she thought might be Japan in general in all the time since the coup. However, nothing really changed. Sure Ai didn’t rape any pretty young girl she could find or torture anyone who put the littlest toe out of line herself, but that stuff was still being done. It was no different… Especially, Reina thought, since she hadn’t even realized she really was the one being raped all along. Tears began coming to her eyes now, and she didn’t stop them anymore. She had tried so hard, tried to make things better, tried to make the girl love her…

“I’m sorry, is this seat taken?” an older-sounding woman asked from the aisle. Reina didn’t look away from the window, but shook her head ‘no’. She wondered why she did that; she’d gotten used to having a certain respect and privacy lately, and this certainly wasn’t a time she wanted anyone near her.

She felt pressure as the woman sat down in the seat next to her, but still didn’t turn around. The chances that she would actually care about her were very slim, anyway. Still, Reina tried her best to stop crying. That effort didn’t seem to work very well, though.

“Are you okay, my dear?” she heard the woman ask from beside her. Despite herself, she turned her head to look at her in surprise.

The woman looked back at her with big eyes behind smallish wire-framed glasses. She was indeed older; Reina thought she must be at least fifty or sixty. When she saw Reina’s tear-streaked face, she dug into her purse and pulled out a tissue. “Here you go,” she insisted. “I’m sure there’s no need to be crying. Poor thing, you look like the weight of the world rests on your shoulders.”

Reina stared at the tissue a moment, but eventually took it out of politeness if nothing else. She bowed her head slightly. “Thank you,” she said before using it to dab at her face.

“I know how it goes…” the lady went on. “When I was your age, I felt like I was responsible for everything too. It nearly drove me crazy.”

“But I am responsible for a lot,” Reina said. “Too much…”

The lady glanced at her. “Well, of course I don’t know your story, but there are plenty of other people in this world too who are doing their best to take care of themselves and others. Even those with the greatest power really just use it to assist the rest. They don’t try to control their lives, because those lives aren’t theirs to control. Everybody has her own life, and makes her own choices about what happens to her.”

Reina looked up at the woman after she’d cleared her face up somewhat. Wasn’t that similar to what she was just talking about with Ai? She accused Ai of not loving anyone, but did she herself love any more? Apparently she thought of people the same way. They were her responsibility. They weren’t separate enough to take care of themselves, much less be worthy to love. She thought about Eri. She did love, didn’t she? No… they weren’t equal in her eyes. She didn’t think them capable of anything.

“So why are you going to Tokyo, my dear?” the lady asked. “It’s a long way. Are you returning home? It doesn’t look like you’ve packed much.”

“Yeah…” Reina said, her eyes unfocused ahead of her. “I’m returning home.”



A few hours later saw Reina walking down a Shinjuku street, still carrying nothing but her cell phone and a small wallet that contained all the access to money she needed. Her cell phone was turned off. When she turned a corner, she saw the UFA building appear amidst the many tall ones around it, just as it had so long ago after she’d heard Miki died and this adventure began. Funny, this was the first time she even recollected that taxi ride. This time though, the building looked much more unfamiliar.

As she passed down the street amidst the throng of salarymen, she thought she caught several glimpses of people looking at her, though she didn’t pay them any attention. Eventually she reached the doors of the building she sought, and entering, walked toward the receptionist.

“Welcome,” the receptionist said automatically, barely looking up. “May I ask…?” She trailed off, staring into Reina’s face.

“Is Matsuura Aya in today?” Reina asked hollowly. The woman just stared back at her. After a moment, Reina gave up. “All right then, I’ll just check at her dressing room.” Then she walked away in silence, and although she didn’t look back, knew the receptionist was still staring after her.

After a short trip up an elevator and down a hall, she found herself facing the door proclaiming “松浦亜弥”. Taking a breath, she rapped on it softly. After a few seconds the door swung open. “Yes?” Aya said, and her eyes widened when she caught who it was. “Reina!” she exclaimed, astonished. “Um… please come in!”

Reina bowed slightly and entered the room. It was relatively small, with a counter along one end adorned with various makeup and skin care products. A small couch also sat against one wall. Aya herself was just in a light plain dress, apparently in transition between outfits for one thing or another.

“Have a seat,” Aya said, gesturing to the couch. She studied Reina closely as she accepted her offer. Aya pulled up a chair and sat across from her. “What are you doing here?” she said in an unnecessary high whisper.

“You told me I could always talk to you about… about anything,” Reina said, finding her voice.

“Of course, Reina,” Aya asked, and now concern etched her features. If there was something Reina needed to talk about so badly that she came all the way to Tokyo on a whim for it, and to the UFA building where she could even be seen, it must be something very important. And knowing Reina as Aya did, very important to her could mean disastrous to them as well as the country at large.

Reina looked around again at the room. There were colorful outfits hanging on racks along one side, and it even looked quite lived-in. “You’re really back into it, aren’t you?” she asked.

Aya hesitated at the randomness, but joined Reina in looking around after a moment. “Well, I’m hopefully on my way. They’re trying their best to integrate me back into things, but I’m still not to the point of making public appearances. They’ve even done a good job of shielding me from the papers until the day they want to make the announcement. I’m sure I’ll be back to performing soon though.” She smiled. “I know I could have done a lot to be successful in NDI, but I just love music too much to leave it behind… And guess what! If everything goes well with my return, they’re even thinking about trying to bring Mikitty back too! It was quite an ordeal when we first re-introduced her to them, that’s for sure. They almost threw us out for being impersonators…” She giggled. “Mikitty of course convinced them of her authenticity though…” As her giggling trailed off, she looked into Reina’s eyes again. “You’re not thinking of trying to come back too, are you? I know you liked your career, but you have the opportunity for such a beautiful life with Ai-chan! I wouldn’t think you’d want to pass that up.”

Reina looked down a moment before speaking again. “I had the opportunity for a life, yeah,” Reina said. “Anything I wanted I could have gotten, and I may have been able to stay with Ai forever. But…” She looked back up to Aya’s face intensely, and Aya drew back slightly. Maybe she’d gained a few things from Ai and her time in power. “Ayaya, it’s all wrong. Ai-chan is leading them, but they’re still… They still kill. Their crime hasn’t changed. That was my whole purpose behind it, but something has made her a part of it all. She’s now the willing figurehead on the mast of evil…”

As she felt tears come to her eyes again, Aya leaned forward and hugged her tightly. “I’m sorry, Reina. I… I don’t know what to say. Well, aside from being impressed at your metaphor usage.” She smiled at Reina as she said that, but when it was returned with a desperate and painful look, she just returned to hugging her.

When Reina calmed down a little, Aya drew back again. “So, what do you plan to do now?” she asked tentatively.

Reina sniffed. “Well, I’m not going back to Kobe. Maybe I’ll just restart my own business here. Or maybe…”

Her thought was interrupted by the door across from them flying open, causing Aya to jump and turn her head, while Reina instinctively adopted a stance she could easily attack from while sitting on the couch. Aya relaxed a little when she saw who it was, but Reina stayed frozen.

“It is you!” Eri said from the doorway. She ran into the room, followed by Risa and Sayu, and all three pounced on Reina despite all her preparation, hugging her tightly.

Eventually Eri and Risa pulled back, but Sayu didn’t seem to want to let go. “We’ve missed you so much!” Sayu cried into her shoulder.

“But…” Risa began. “Why are you back here? We’re glad to see you, but… I didn’t think you’d ever come here again.”

Aya now stepped forward and pried Sayu away from Reina. For some reason, Reina felt a pang of regret at that, but the pink girl sat right back down close next to her. “While it’s nice to see you guys here…” Aya said, “I’m not sure if Reina needs to have this much attention right now…”

“It’s all over the building!” Eri piped. “Apparently Yamada-san saw you in the lobby, and she placed a call directly to Tsunku before telling everyone she met that she’d seen Reina Tanaka! She told Tsunku you had requested to see Aya, and we overheard her since we were in a rehearsal with him, so the second we heard that we ran down here. I imagine Tsunku will be here before long too.”

“Will he…?” Reina asked. Before she could continue though, a rapid knock came from the door. All the girls looked at it, and Aya started toward it before Reina jumped up and extended an arm to stop her. “No,” She said. “I’ll get it.”

After a nod from Aya, she walked to the door and opened it to see Tsunku and several staff members surrounding him. The staff members gasped, but Tsunku gave her a hard stare, as if trying to ascertain if it was really her. “Tanaka-san…?” he asked. Then the staff members parted as if something knifed through a wave, and Reina staggered as a woman hugged her tightly.

“Reina-chan!” Yuko said. “You’re alive! Oh, I’m so happy to see you…”

Forcing herself to breathe, Reina did her best to pry the woman off her, and eventually she returned to a position next to Tsunku. Reina adopted her best and most confident look, which considering her experiences lately was quite intimidating. The staff members widened their eyes further. They obviously thought that since she’d been missing for these past months, she was probably starved and mistreated somewhere in some wota’s basement. This stunning woman who looked as self-assured as if she had authority over all Japan was far from what expectations they might have had.

“I’m sorry Tsunku-san, Nee-san,” she said in a strong voice. “I have some things I need to discuss with my friends. I promise I’ll come up to talk with you all later, but can you please let us be alone for a little while?”

Some of the staff already began walking away at the stern dismissal, still seeming surprised they were honoring it. Yuko looked back at her intently, but apparently discovered from Reina’s return look that she meant what she said, and with a nod, headed off after the rest. Tsunku held his ground for the moment, though.

“So it must be true what I’ve heard…” he said. He now looked imploringly yet unflinchingly into her eyes. “Have you heard from Takahashi-san?”

Reina felt a jolt through her when he mentioned Ai’s name, but she did her best to hide the expression from coming to her face. “I promise, Tsunku-san. I’ll talk to you about it later. But please, I need to speak with my friends. Okay?” This time Tsunku nodded, and as he walked away Reina turned back to her friends within the room, who had apparently been watching the exchanges with interest.

“I think we just saw the 'Honored One' in her full command…” Aya said lightly. Risa and Eri stared at her as if they’d never seen her before, while Sayu gave her an intense look she couldn’t decipher.

“Sorry about that,” Reina said. “I just had to get them off my back for a while.”

“It’s no problem,” Eri breathed as Reina walked back to sit on the couch. Sayu joined her just as quickly as she did before, and now kept herself close to her as if she was giving her some type of protection.

“So what’s going on?” Sayu asked from beside her.

Reina looked at the girls surrounding her and smiled. No, she wasn’t alone. She wasn’t sure what these girls could do to help her, but their dedication to their friend if nothing else made Reina feel they had a right to know. Looking last at Sayu, who was gazing at her fervently, she felt as if she really had come home.
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [34: Love and Loyalty]
Post by: glcorps2002 on September 08, 2007, 05:23:45 PM
Reina, you and the other girls must free Ai from that loveless prison she's keeping herself in or she might kill you all to somehow keep her power.
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [34: Love and Loyalty]
Post by: JFC on September 08, 2007, 09:28:40 PM
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Not telling them where she was of course, but saying she was happy and doing well, she’d asked her parents to send her some of her old memorabilia when she found she was going to have her own office. Wanting to do anything to help their prodigal daughter, they eagerly obliged.
Reina's parents must really be trusting to not be all wondering about why she's no longer in MM and/or where she is and what she's doing now.  For their own protection, it's probably better that they know as little as possible.  Reina will also need to try and minimize how much contact she has with them, or arrange for some type of security/protection to secretly keep an eye on them, lest some rival group start getting some ideas about using them against her.  The latter is something Reina should do herself, as we still don't know how far Aichan is willing to go in her new position.



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About a week after the coup, one of the council members had gotten himself arrested and jailed. Although they hadn’t formally charged him yet, it looked like he would be gone for a long time.
Two questions here (actually 3, but the first two kind of tie-in to each other):
1. (a) What was this guy busted for? (b) Does it have anything to do with the Organization? and
2. Is this guy a "security risk"? (if he is, they'll likely have to silence him)



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Council members for some reason seemed more than eager to “escalate” much of their tedious paperwork to Ai’s level, and Ai of course didn’t have the time to do much of it, so most of it ended up in Reina’s hands. Ai apologized often for it of course, especially during their time together late at night, but Reina knew she was under quite a lot of stress herself, so really didn’t mind helping her out. Still, there had to be better ways of living than spending long hours staring at approval forms and activities reports like she had been for the past several weeks.
All that stress day in and day out can't be good. Without some time off to relax and to get away from it, all that work will start getting to them and make them irritable and short-tempered. That's not the best thing to happen to Aichan and Reina if they want to reverse some of the things that the Organization has done.



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“Do you remember our Morning Musume days?”

“Of course,” Ai said, and she sat back, relaxing at the casual question. “It wasn’t really that long ago.”

“Wasn’t it…” Reina said dreamily, staring off at a point somewhere past Ai. “It seems to me anymore that it was only a dream. It was hard a lot of the time, but I was also happy…” After losing herself a second, she looked squarely back into Ai’s face. “Do you ever wish to have those days back again?”
Funny thing, last night they were showing THE MATRIX on television. Reading this part reminds me a bit of the scene where Sypher makes that deal with Agent Smith, specifically when he says "Ignorance is bliss."  It might be that Reina's wondering what life would have been like if she and Aichan had never gotten involved in this whole thing that has since turned their lives upside-down.  What if they never found out about the Council? What if they had continued to be in MM instead? She remembers them both being all happy then, and now, having learned what they've learned, seeing what they've seen, and doing what they've done, they've really changed (especially Aichan).  Their no longer the same people that they were before this all happened. Would they have been better off if they had remained ignorant of all of this?



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“Ai-chan, I read a report talking about the recruitment of new girls in Roppongi.”

Ai’s face hardened a bit at this, and she folded her hands above her knee. “Yes, recruitment is a constant process. Are there methods or something you have a problem with?”

Reina ducked her head a little. “Well, I got the impression these girls weren’t recruited normally. They seemed a bit more… random… and not as if it was through an arranged meeting.”
So in other words, these new recruits were being brought in against their will, or we're being deceived and/or not being told what they were really getting into? 



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“I also have it on good authority that the police officer who was killed a few weeks back was just about to bust Takamoto-san’s laundry operation. It was awfully convenient that all trace of his case disappeared with his life.” She spoke quickly, but now that she’d started, there was no going back.
If I was in Reina's position, I'd be beginning to worry about how much Aichan knows about all of this.  To be honest though, I'm not sure what would be more disconcerting, whether Aichan knows very little about it, or if she knows a LOT about it.  If it's the former it could signify that there's still a problem within the Organization as someone may be doing all of this without permission and/or that there may be some hidden agenda behind it all. If it's the latter...then Aichan likely gave the approval for them to happen, which means she's starting to become more like the man she ousted and replaced.



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“I’m sure you’ve learned lately, Reina,” she said gently. “But there are costs to doing business. Sometimes we must do things that we’d rather not.”
Fuck, it's the latter.



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“I thought it was to rid the world of Yamagata’s evil.”

“It was,” Ai said simply. “And he is gone.”

“But the evil that he created is still here…” Reina said insistently.
Reina's right, Aichan may have removed the agent of evil but that does not remove the evil itself. Rather, in the actions she's been taking to get rid of the old remnants of evil, she herself is continuing the same behaviour and actions she was trying to stop in the first place.  It's the same routine, just a different person doing it and thus she (Aichan) doesn't see it as being similar.



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“Don’t ever compare me to him!” Ai growled, the fire Reina usually loved and lusted after so much back in her eyes. “You of all people should know… should understand…” She grabbed Reina’s shoulders. “I’ve loved you!”
Of course Aichan doesn't realize that she's beginning to do a lot of the same things that Yamagata was doing when he was still there. To be compared to him is shocking and hurtful, to say the least. However, it's the truth. Reina can see that, since she's not the one who's actually making the choices and issuing these orders.

Just because Aichan has Reina and loved her (why'd she say it in the past tense?), that does not mean that she's not capable of doing and being evil like Yamagata was.  The line between being good and evil is razor thin. Quite often people have been known to be straddling the line and be both at the same time.



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“You may have loved me…” she began, and at a flicker in Ai’s look corrected herself. “You do love me, just like I love you…” she continued, and some of the fire died down. “But I don’t think you love anyone else…”

...

“What makes you think anyone else is worth loving?” Ai asked in a quiet and smooth voice. Reina felt something cold grab onto her insides. Just as her heart wanted to reach out, she held it back even more tightly. Things couldn’t go on like this.
That's a damn big thing for Aichan to say.  To think that Reina's the only one she can care for...what brought that on? Is it because of her new position as leader of the Council? She's being asked to do some really big things, and so perhaps to give her the strength to deal with it all, Aichan's trying to make herself cold/emotionless as much as she possibly can. The less she cares about things and/or people, the easier it is for her to make those hard decisions and, at least in her mind, do what is necessary to achieve her goal (which, remember, is to eliminate the evil legacy left behind by Yamagata).



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What makes me so special…?” Reina asked with a hoarse delivery.

Ai turned around and stared at her in surprise. Instead of saying anything though, she eventually circled the desk and grabbed Reina’s shoulders again, giving her an intense look before pulling her in tightly for a hard and desperate kiss. Reina couldn’t help but respond at first before her mind returned to her, and then she stuck her arms in front of her to push the girl away, staggering back slightly.

“What is that supposed to mean?!” she cried. “You just kiss me, and everything makes perfect sense? You kiss me, and you can forget about all the other people in the world - people you’ve killed, people you’ve violated? Well it doesn’t all make sense, Ai-chan! Even though you don’t do it directly, you’re still the one responsible for all of that! And to think I…” Reina staggered further back, inching toward the door. “I can’t even kiss someone like that!”

Ai’s face grew darker with each new blow from Reina, and at the end she jumped toward her, brandishing a knife from somewhere hidden in her clothes and slicing it toward Reina’s neck before Reina’s own hand darted up and grabbed her wrist centimeters from her neck. She held her posture and now no longer appeared to be staggering at all.

Reina looked into eyes that flared back at her. “Now I know,” she said.
So that's it. Even if Aichan thought she loved Reina, even if she really DID love Reina, she was just using her as an escape from what she's done. That means that deep down inside, Aichan KNOWS (hopefully) that what she's doing is wrong, however for some reason she feels that she has to continue this way, doing what she's doing. She might be thinking, "short-term pain for long-term gain", but in the end Reina's right, Aichan is causing the same pain to people that Yamagata was causing. Aichan needs to hear this if there's going to be any chance of her snapping out of it. When Reina rejected her, Aichan is going to be forced to face the evil that she's done.  She's going to have to see that what she's doing isn't different from what she was trying to stop.



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She accused Ai of not loving anyone, but did she herself love any more? Apparently she thought of people the same way. They were her responsibility. They weren’t separate enough to take care of themselves, much less be worthy to love. She thought about Eri. She did love, didn’t she? No… they weren’t equal in her eyes. She didn’t think them capable of anything.
Part of the reason why having so much power is so dangerous is that you start to NOT think of the people being affected as being PEOPLE. They just become nameless faces (or faceless names), which psychologically, makes it easier to make decisions that will affect them significantly.  When you don't actually know them, when you don't actually have to see them and watch how their lives are affected, when you don't have to take their feelings into consideration, it's no longer that big of a deal for you.  The problem with THAT way of thinking, is that it's like the snowball effect. Once you start thinking about people that way, even if it's just once, gradually it all gets bigger and bigger and thus becomes harder to stop. Eventually it gets to the point where it's just natural to think that way, and where you can't remember thinking any other way.  Aichan's snowball is getting bigger, and it's happening fast. If something doesn't happen fast, it'll soon be too big to stop.



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A few hours later saw Reina walking down a Shinjuku street, still carrying nothing but her cell phone and a small wallet that contained all the access to money she needed. Her cell phone was turned off. When she turned a corner, she saw the UFA building appear amidst the many tall ones around it, just as it had so long ago after she’d heard Miki died and this adventure began. Funny, this was the first time she even recollected that taxi ride. This time though, the building looked much more unfamiliar.
The UFA building? If Reina goes there, she's bound to get recognized by someone. This could be bad if they start asking questions about where she's been and what not (especially if word of it gets back to Aichan).



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Eventually she reached the doors of the building she sought, and entering, walked toward the receptionist.

“Welcome,” the receptionist said automatically, barely looking up. “May I ask…?” She trailed off, staring into Reina’s face.

“Is Matsuura Aya in today?” Reina asked hollowly. The woman just stared back at her. After a moment, Reina gave up. “All right then, I’ll just check at her dressing room.” Then she walked away in silence, and although she didn’t look back, knew the receptionist was still staring after her.
The receptionist recognized her?



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“You told me I could always talk to you about… about anything,” Reina said, finding her voice.

“Of course, Reina,” Aya asked, and now concern etched her features. If there was something Reina needed to talk about so badly that she came all the way to Tokyo on a whim for it, and to the UFA building where she could even be seen, it must be something very important. And knowing Reina as Aya did, very important to her could mean disastrous to them as well as the country at large.
More importantly, since Aya knows what the Council/Organization is capable of, and knowing Reina's rank within it, she realizes that if it's bothering HER, then it is definitely something to be taken seriously.



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“Ayaya, it’s all wrong. Ai-chan is leading them, but they’re still… They still kill. Their crime hasn’t changed. That was my whole purpose behind it, but something has made her a part of it all. She’s now the willing figurehead on the mast of evil…”

...

When Reina calmed down a little, Aya drew back again. “So, what do you plan to do now?” she asked tentatively.

Reina sniffed. “Well, I’m not going back to Kobe. Maybe I’ll just restart my own business here. Or maybe…”
What, she's declaring Aichan a lost cause or something? Surely she must know that Aichan's on a path to self-destruction. If she continues, sooner or later someone else will come to do to her what she did to Yamagata. Instead of breaking the cycle, Aichan has become a knowing and willing participant in it. Is Reina just going to leave things like that?



Quote
“It is you!” Eri said from the doorway. She ran into the room, followed by Risa and Sayu, and all three pounced on Reina despite all her preparation, hugging her tightly.

...

“It’s all over the building!” Eri piped. “Apparently Yamada-san saw you in the lobby, and she placed a call directly to Tsunku before telling everyone she met that she’d seen Reina Tanaka! She told Tsunku you had requested to see Aya, and we overheard her since we were in a rehearsal with him, so the second we heard that we ran down here. I imagine Tsunku will be here before long too.”
Uh-oh. While the reunion is nice and whatnot, all of this attention is something that they DON'T really need right now. If Tsunku doesn't get control of this soon, it won't be long before the media is swarming all over the building trying to get the scoop on the NEXT H!P girl to "return from the dead".

Gotta admit though, I'm curious as to how Tsunku will react when he first sees her.



Quote
“So it must be true what I’ve heard…” he said. He now looked imploringly yet unflinchingly into her eyes. “Have you heard from Takahashi-san?”
WTF he knew??? :o



Quote
Reina looked at the girls surrounding her and smiled. No, she wasn’t alone. She wasn’t sure what these girls could do to help her, but their dedication to their friend if nothing else made Reina feel they had a right to know. Looking last at Sayu, who was gazing at her fervently, she felt as if she really had come home.
Home is...home. You can't beat that.



Reina, you and the other girls must free Ai from that loveless prison she's keeping herself in or she might kill you all to somehow keep her power.
QFT!!!  Begin plans for OPERATION: SAVE AI-CHAN! :cool1:
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [35: One Day More]
Post by: rokun on September 20, 2007, 01:07:57 AM
Well here it is. Reina's Odyssey is finally and definitely winding toward a close. This chapter may again be the longest I've written, as I've pieced it together over the last couple days, but I feel more proud of it and where it's pointing toward than I think I have about anything else. If anyone who doesn't normally post in this thread has been keeping up a little, this might be a great time to catch up with it all. Of course, it's nearly 400 pages long in my Word so it might take a little while to catch up with, but I'd love to see others sharing in the culmination of the work and enjoyment I've put into it over the past year plus some. ^_^

This story began very humbly. I was disappointed about killing off Reina in my first story, and so I just wanted to write something else with her as the main character. I also wanted to do it completely from her point of view - inspiration I took from one of the other greatly respected writers around here. The 10 pages of notes for this story began with a draft title of "Domestic Musume" :lol:, so you see it even deviated completely from its original intent. Next thing, I decided to "kill off" Miki, and the story began. I hope anyone who's still reading it after such long hiatuses (hiati? XD) has enjoyed it, and I'm trying to give it a fitting climax. :) So without further digression on my part, here is the first of what are probably the last two or three chapters of it. Since it's something I thought fit perfectly and so I wanted to mention it here, the title of this chapter is taken from one of the great songs of Les Miserables. Soshite, hajimarimasu...


Chapter 35 – One Day More

The next few weeks seemed to pass quickly in the frenzy of activity Reina found herself enmeshed in. She hadn’t realized how calm her mostly administrative and office lifestyle had been ever since she left Eri and Sayu those months ago. It was really quite cushy compared to her Hello! Project lifestyle. Of course, the training she constantly had to practice to retain her skills wasn’t exactly relaxing, but since such things had become second nature to her she’d hardly thought of that effort as work.

Tsunku wanted to know all about what had been going on with her of course. Apparently through his own underworld connections he’d learned a bit about her activities, at least enough to know she wasn’t really “missing and presumed dead” as the official line went. Still, he expressed to Reina how worried he’d been. He knew what kind of people revolved in those circles.

For herself, Reina kept her lips sealed over most things, hesitating to even confirm that she knew what was going on with Ai. Tsunku had a good guess at that, but since the rumors of her taking over complete leadership seemed so unbelievable, he sought any information he could from her. However, seeing her unwillingness to speak too much, he didn’t press too far.

“So what do you intend to do now?” he asked with a serious tone Reina couldn’t remember if he’d ever used with her before. It was almost as if he was addressing her as an equal adult.

“I’m not sure,” she responded, although plans had already begun forming in her mind. The desire to have a positive effect on her world still held strong within her, and she fully believed she still had the influence and ability to achieve something.

“So why have you come back here?” Tsunku retorted sharply. Reina’s attention snapped back to him.

“I… needed to talk with someone who was uninitiated,” she answered carefully. This time when Tsunku looked at her, she could see unasked questions forming within his eyes.

“So that’s why you found Matsuura-san?” he asked shrewdly. “She’d been missing for a long while too, and claimed she was kidnapped…”

“I know,” Reina responded easily. “I’ve seen the articles.” Tsunku seemed to know there was much left unsaid around her words.

After a few minutes of just staring at her, he finally spoke up in an exasperated voice, “Will somebody please tell me what’s going on here?!” As he spoke his hands fell to his desk, pushing him up to where he leered over it. “I’ve had girls missing, girls dead, girls reappearing out of thin air, and above all girls mixing in with the Yakuza! Just tell me, have I been the recipient of a case of extraordinarily bad and morbid luck, or have you all just gone crazy? I’m starting to lean toward the latter the more you girls keep returning from who knows where. First Matsuura and Fujimoto, and now you. From all I hear, I can glean that Takahashi isn’t dead at least, but because of the same I also couldn’t imagine her returning to this building. But then again, I had begun to think the same of you…”

Throughout his tirade, Reina peered calmly up at him. She hadn’t realized it before, but he was really a rather diminutive man. Flamboyant of course, and very protective of his assets, but now she took a good look at him… She supposed it started at her audition years ago when she wanted nothing more than to impress the judges and of course him in particular, since he had the final say. To her at that time, he was the leader and deliverer; the one that would set her on the path to the fame and success she dearly desired. That continued with her Morning Musume career, where he still managed them and provided them with the largest portion of their creative inspiration.

However, as she now looked at the man who, leaning over the desk as he was, normally would have intimidated her into almost any sort of submission, she saw only an average, if still flamboyant, person trying to do the best for who and what he cared about most. She felt no fear or even guilt at all, and Tsunku must have noticed that, because after a time he sighed and fell back down into his seat.

“I don’t think you’ll see Ai-chan back in here again,” Reina said quietly, causing him to study her closely once more. “As to anyone else…” she continued, “I sincerely hope the best for Matsuura-san and Fujimoto-san, more than you would guess. However, I still have a job and responsibilities that I’m afraid will keep me from performing for some time at least.”

“You know you’ll be all over the news by tomorrow,” Tsunku replied. “Since Yamada-san recognized you and started telling everybody she knew – to the detriment of her job I might add; I don’t know how many calls she missed and customers she irritated by being absent from the front desk – the information is bound to leak to the outside. They’ve been keeping hawk’s eyes on us lately because of Matsuura and Fujimoto, and have already been asking questions about what really happened to you and Takahashi, so they’ll jump on it the first chance they get. I’d be careful leaving the building, if I were you.”

In response, Reina gave Tsunku a smile that didn’t reach her eyes. “I think I can handle the press,” she said in a slightly amused voice.

Tsunku held his tongue a moment as he studied her eyes, and then sighed in resignation. “You really have changed,” he admitted, seemingly grudgingly. “I also don’t expect your surprises for me have ended, have they?”

Reina gazed back at his no longer surprised, questioning look. “What do you mean?” she asked in slow curiosity. “I’ve been honest in letting you know I can’t tell you anything firm about myself right now.”

Tsunku absently flicked the edges to some papers littering his desk. “They’ve tried to stay subtle about it, but I’ve noticed the girls talking and thinking about you,” he said. Reina kept her face smooth as he continued. “Matsuura and Fujimoto use an odd amount of respect when talking about you, so I know something’s going on there even if none of you will say anything about it. I’ve also heard murmurs from Niigaki and Kamei. Michishige hardly seems to talk about anything else.”

He glanced up at her from time to time as if trying to catch a reaction, but Reina schooled herself to silence. It wasn’t very surprising that the girls mentioned her – after all, she had put almost all of them through rather extreme situations – but little facets of what he said caught her attention. She’d have to see what was going on with Sayu… Since the night of the coup, she’d had quite a different impression of the girl.

“Now that I’m back here, I’ll let you know if anything comes up,” Reina offered finally.

“Please do,” Tsunku said quickly, and gave a short nod of dismissal. As Reina rose and walked toward the door though, he shouted after her, “Tanaka-san!”

“Yes?” Reina responded, turning her head to look back at him.

“Nice outfit,” he said simply. “You look very mature.”

Reina smiled back at him. She was still in the clothes she came to the office in that morning – a navy knee-length pleated skirt below an obsessively ironed white blouse and olive vest. It wouldn’t have looked out of place on the highest ranking women in a large company, which Reina supposed she actually was, but the effect was tempered slightly by a ribbon that tied up front into a bow, giving a slight seifuku effect. “But I’m still cute,” she said lightly with a wink, a comment which finally brought a smile from Tsunku as well, and as he nodded sharply again before returning to his paperwork, she left the room.

Despite her desire to talk to her old friends, she spent the rest of the afternoon in a lounge while they worked and rehearsed making phone calls to test her ideas. People came in from time to time, giving her wide-eyed glances and looking as if they wanted to say something, but since she was nearly always on the phone they respectfully kept their distance and left quickly. She could imagine the stories they told their co-workers, but that was of little concern to her at the moment.

Mostly she called some of her contacts in Tokyo, nearly all of whom insisted their continued loyalty quite clearly to her. Yamada-san from Maniacal Love was one of the most extravagant in his expressions, from praising her extraordinarily insightful entrepreneurial sense to declaring undying love, of all things. Well, he was somewhat of a pimp after all… Reina chuckled at the thought of him attempting some of his wiles on her, though.

Even though the calls to people in the city generally were encouraging, others were not; specifically, those to Kobe. She knew her standing wasn’t as naturally outstanding there, especially in the apparent absence of Ai’s support of her position, but she had to see if any support could come from the Council members, because without that she would have an extremely uphill, difficult, and lonely battle. She’d been able to infer their support was nearly paramount in Ai’s coup – they were united in their hatred of the former Chairman, and so all Ai had to do was, well, turn tradition on its head and defeat the man himself. That was hardly an easy feat, but it likely would have been nigh impossible without the Council’s support.

She didn’t have an issue actually being able to talk with the Council members since almost the second their secretaries, who of course can only guess what happens further up, recognize her voice, they were more than willing to put her straight through. They didn’t know much about Reina except that she was incredibly important, and so wanted as little entanglement with her as possible. However, apparently every single one of the Council members themselves somehow knew exactly what had gone on that morning in Ai’s office. Those that spoke more than two words to her mostly with the rest formed threats warning that she should watch her step. She knew her ideal of reform was likely a lost cause since they were still some of the most hardened criminals, but she still had to try.

The one ray of light was her conversation with Ishihara-san, the only woman on the council. She was one of Ai’s staunchest supporters in her vendetta against Yamagata, primarily because she enjoyed the idea of seeing a woman at the top of the organization. Reina had a feeling she wished it was herself, but in a previous conversation had found that despite her sex, felt too old and too stuck in the trap of tradition to seek any more advancement of her own. After all, being a member of the Council was quite a high standing as it was.

Ishihara still claimed loyalty to Ai, but Reina could tell she was dissatisfied with some of the things she’d done. She always liked the woman; despite having organized a large amount of crime herself, it was never of the degrading kind Reina despised the most. For example, she was against them promoting prostitution of any kind, much less involuntary or underage. While she couldn’t convince the woman of anything in this conversation, Reina had hope she might come around.

Eventually the evening fell and Reina became hungry. She looked up from her work enough to realize it was 18:00, and thought it odd there wasn’t more activity. Stretching and stowing her notes for the day, she wandered around the building to see most workers still going strong. The girls were in fact still in rehearsal. Apparently they had a concert the coming weekend, and were doing final preparations late into the night. Deciding she needed some real food, she headed down to the lobby.

When she appeared, whispers broke out from others passing through, and she saw the receptionist, Yamada-san, staring over at her. Nobody bothered her though, and she passed through the doors out into the street. Outside was an entirely different matter.

Upon leaving the building she saw a small crowd gathered to one side, and it didn’t take long to firmly identify them as the journalists and reporters she expected they’d be. At first they only glanced at her as they likely had anyone else who’d walked out those doors, but when a few realized who she was, the floodgate opened and soon she was surrounded.

“Tanaka-san, where have you been all this time?”

“The official story was only that you were ‘missing’. What about the rumors you were kidnapped by a crazed fan?”

“You look in pretty good health. Did you just take a break to get away from the stress?”

“Ai Takahashi disappeared at virtually the same time as you. Did you both experience the same situation?”

“How about the rumors that you’ve been secretly doing adult video?”

“I have quite a substantiated report here saying you’ve become tangled in a Yakuza organization.”

She ignored the comments and questions as if she wasn’t surrounded by a mob, although she became slightly angry at the one about her doing adult video. That was all too close to the truth. Or at least, what had started it all. The one who brought up the “substantiated” Yakuza report was laughed at by his peers, and Reina even joined in with a smile, though of course for a completely different reason.

A few tailed her as she walked down the street, but they dropped away quickly when they realized she was giving them about as much attention as she would rocks. Eventually she made it to a bakery a few blocks away, and when she entered the only sign of them was a few photographers hanging outside to snap paparazzi shots of any situation they might be able to find her in. Each of course wanted the big scoop about what Reina Tanaka had been up to for half a year since her original disappearance, along with Ai’s, had been so widely publicized.

The bakery was almost a different world. No one seemed to recognize her in there, and she calmly ordered a medium sandwich with nearly every topping they possessed and paid with cash she had on hand. Earlier in the day she’d stopped at an ATM in UFA’s building to check her accounts. She already had enough cash to get her by for quite some time, but curiosity about her accounts tugged at her. Interestingly, they hadn’t been frozen yet. Then again her authority, at least in Tokyo, was probably good enough to not only keep her accounts open but “influence” certain parties to deposit large sums in them if she desired. The thought nearly disgusted her. And then of course, there were her overseas accounts…

After a very enjoyable meal she noticed it was nearly 20:00. Deciding that either the girls were still in rehearsal or already gone home, she looked up a nearby hotel and checked herself in. Flashing her gold-lettered NDI business card got her one of the Hyatt’s finest suites, as well as a very sincere promise of privacy.

A while later, once settled in and lying on her bed watching television and drinking hot tea in a complimentary sleeping gown, she was reminded of New Year’s Eve. True it was months ago, but it nearly seemed like ages. It had been a fateful night – what began to firmly set her along the path to the Chairman and her partnership with Ai.

Partnership? she pondered. The two had worked together and accomplished so much, yet there was always that separation of Ai as the teacher and her as the pupil… When their romantic relationship started they had been equal emotionally and sexually, but professionally Ai generally maintained her privacy. It was true she was eager to listen whenever Reina had anything to share, and she followed her consultation regularly, but if anything conflicted with Ai’s personal beliefs she would withdraw and dig in her heels.

Reina had no problem with this at first – she’d fallen in love with the girl after all for her opinions and the integrity of those beliefs as Reina saw them, as well as of course for her special skills... As Reina’s teacher, even once Reina reached a level far beyond nearly everyone else, she was still one step ahead because she not only taught but constantly improved herself as well. Those skills she paid dearly for had been proven in her organization of the coup and her own personal fight with Yamagata. Reina might be in love, but that instance had been the climax of her lust for the girl. Now she was afraid it might have blinded her from seeing the reality of what was festering inside her.

With her foe defeated and the rewards she earned by it, that dark nature Reina always feared yet was inescapably attracted to rose up, and with the shield of righteous fury and vengeance against Yamagata shed, possessed the girl she loved.

She hugged herself, feeling a sudden and stark loneliness she’d not experienced in so long. Even though Ai had been with her nearly every night, recently Reina began to wonder if at those times she wasn’t becoming more alone. Ai was far from Yamagata’s evil, but she had a view of life that was so jaded by her experiences since Miki’s first accident that Reina wondered sometimes if the girl even felt anything when they were together. She did, Reina supposed, but it felt like only a private release for the passion she acquired in her daily life, not the love and care that two partners should share for each other. In this respect she was maybe not so different from the Chairman. For his satisfaction, the Chairman almost every night brought in girls sometimes kicking and screaming, and although Ai had just one lover she stayed completely faithful to in the semblance of a proper relationship, Reina still fulfilled the role of providing her with the emotional and physical satisfaction she needed.

Suddenly she barked a laugh. Alone… Thinking of that night back at New Year’s, she wondered if she really knew alone anymore. True, she was by herself in the hotel room tonight, but completely by her own choice. She imagined there were still many members of the press who dearly wanted to speak with her. Her friends had been so excited to see her, and were disappointed that they had to return for rehearsal. They’d surely be wondering where she was once they finished tonight. And she also knew that if she wished it and could forget her own beliefs, she could be back in Kobe with Ai tonight…

At that thought, she flipped the channel to one that showed some type of drama. Well, tonight she was enjoying being a regular seventeen-year-old for once. Albeit, one who stayed by herself in a hotel’s Imperial Suite that was larger than most houses she’d been in, and many times more lavish. She especially enjoyed the engraved marble deep soaking tub, although Ai had a nicer one in her chambers… Oh yes, it was exactly like New Year’s.

After the pleasant night, which turned into several over the weekend as the girls travelled to give their concerts, Reina became impatient at how little progress was being made toward her goals. She’d heard absolutely no word from Ai, which troubled her since it indicated nothing was likely to change, but she was hardly surprised. She decided to give the Council members some time to cool their heels after her departure, so waited until Monday to contact them again. However, this time she didn’t even get past the secretaries until she got to Ishihara-san, who after a longer conversation she believed might really support her. She said it might be an old woman’s fantasy, but she’d thought about her life and now began to wish she was able to see better days.

Days were definitely in need of some improvement in Reina’s mind as well. News about violent bullying at schools now seemed almost daily occurrences as children saw their futures collapse while crime syndicates still flourished. There was even a story about a high school girl who donned all black before hacking her father, who was a policeman, into pieces. More and more girls such as her were being drawn into the sex business as the society around them shook seemingly with every tremor that hit their too-small islands.

On an even larger scale, widespread corruption had brought chaos to the country’s political system, with high-ranking members resigning or committing seppuku after their careers spiraled into disaster with their failing policies. Through the reports that had passed through Reina’s hands, she knew about what fed some of the corruption, and also knew it hadn’t changed in the past several months despite her best efforts. The Council, and Ai at its head, still held absolute power over the facets of it all that Nippon Dai Ichi controlled.

Then there was the news that had begun spreading in the weeklies over the weekend. Headlines in many different issues as well as eventually the national news pronounced shock and amazement with the fact that Reina Tanaka of Morning Musume had mysteriously reappeared, and a plethora of reports came to light linking her with underworld organizations. Knowing at the news of a seventeen-year-old idol being with the yakuza they might be even less likely to be taken seriously than usual, they made sure to provide plenty of quite clear evidence from first-hand interviews of “anonymous” members of Nippon Dai Ichi to specific links with recent crime. Reina was quite impressed with the detail they came up with in so short of time, and when she thought back to the reporter asking about yakuza being laughed down, it left her with quite a different impression than she’d had then.

All of this of course affected her life out of the hotel. She held enough clout and respect, as well as fear, that there were no complaints in letting her rent out the suite as long as she needed to. However, whenever she went down to the lobby and outside she was no longer unrecognized; nearly everyone walking down the street or making a reservation gave her furtive glances they thought she couldn’t see and whispered behind hands they used to cover their mouths. Reina began to take to ordering room service for nearly every meal.

All of this led her to when, on Monday evening in her suite, she sat with the people who mattered most to her. For obvious reasons this was much easier than her going back to the UFA building, but it didn’t stop her visitors from drawing the glances normally only reserved for her. Eri was there, no longer in bandages although still quite tender after the price she’d paid for her nearly insignificant part in the coup, after which it now seemed nobody had won anything.

Risa was there as well, hand-in-hand with Eri. The sight might have troubled Reina months ago, and in fact greatly contributed to her isolation at New Year’s, but now all she could do while looking at the two of them was smile. Since her return, Risa had seemed genuinely happy for the first time in what might have been years. Ever since, Reina thought grimly, Ai had begun distancing herself from her.

Miki and Aya were there too. Reina hadn’t wanted to bother them yet again with troubles she considered her own, but they insisted with insurmountable obstinacy that they had already been involved, at first unwillingly for both of them, but then of their own accord in a desire for a better world. They also pointed out that Reina was the same way, but she found it difficult to see that point of view any longer. The desire that blazed in her had always been there; it had only lacked direction.

Tsunku sat close to Miki and Aya. Reina was reluctant to involve him, since in his case he never actually had been involved in the first place, but she felt bound to keep to her vow of no longer keeping him in the dark. Gazing levelly at his eyes, which gazed back just as strongly, she thought that through it all, he deserved at least that.

Finally, Sayu did her best to stay as close as possible to Reina. Reina was grateful she didn’t try to get any closer, or the girl would have been in her lap. As it was, they shared the loveseat that faced the couches and recliners the others resided on. Ever since coming into her room Reina thought Sayu had something she wanted to say to her, but she still hadn’t said two words since their initial hug and greeting.

While Reina watched some of the other girls still looking around in awe at the amenities of Reina’s suite, and Sayu still looked like a frog had caught in her throat, she thought about the assembly. Definitely no need to be alone anymore… she thought with a smile, and rose. The wandering attentions of those around her snapped sharply back into focus at her movement, and she thought she could cut the silence with one of the knives she still had stowed at various points around her body.

“I want to bring Ai-chan home,” she pronounced firmly, and the bluntness caused some of the girls to give each other covert glances.

Tsunku cleared his throat. “I may not know as much as you all,” he said with a nod of his head, “But I have a feeling this is something much more easily said than done, no?” Reina nodded in response.

“Are you sure about this?” quipped Miki. “I left Kobe for various reasons. One was that Ayaya wanted to sing again. The other was that even with her as its head, I didn’t feel a place in that organization. I’m not sure she’d be thrilled about turning her back on it.” Reina knew that in her words, she wasn’t just talking about the company.

“She may not be,” Reina admitted hollowly.

“She’s done lots of horrible things, Reina…” Aya said in her ever-sweet voice, and Reina saw in her eyes a question about what exactly her part was in the things she’d heard about as well.

“That’s why we need to stop her,” Reina said simply.

“And you don’t want to kill her,” Sayu said from beside her in a voice that left no hint of a question. Reina brought her gaze to the girl’s eyes. What she saw in there reminded her of something, but she couldn’t pinpoint what. “But that’s the way they do it after all, isn’t it?” she pressed. “I take it you want to take over leadership from her. That’s how she dealt with… the last Chairman.” In her hesitation toward the end, Reina knew she was remembering what happened in his office that day.

“No I don’t, Sayu,” she said. “However…” She hesitated herself. “Things must change, and I’ll take the best option that’s available to me.” Her only response this time was silence. Everyone seemed to understand the meaning of her words.

However, after Sayu stared at her a bit longer, she broke the silence in a soft voice of her own. “You saw her fight, Reina. If… if it comes to that, do you think you can pull it off?” This time Reina was silent, and looked away from the other girl. She knew all too well how Ai fought. Her hope was that it wouldn’t come to that. The woman had to listen to reason if it was presented to her under the right circumstances.

“We want to support you as much as we can, Reina,” Eri expressed, staring hard at her. “But…”

“It’s okay,” Reina said. “This will be much more dangerous than last time. I would ask though… Would you go to Kobe with me? You’re all my friends,” she said, this time to the entire gathering. “I’d like you there with me. However, you won’t need to leave the car.”

Tsunku cleared his throat again. “I take it you don’t include me in that group?” he asked with a lopsided grin.

Reina smiled at him. “I wasn’t planning to…” she said. “Unless of course you’d like to come along.”

“No thank you,” he responded, still with the silly grin. “I’ll feel much more comfortable in my office down the street here.”

“By all means,” Reina replied gently.

“We want to help however we can,” Aya spoke up sincerely, and Miki nodded from beside her.

“Thank you for the offer,” Reina said with a smile, “But this is something I can’t bring even a small army in for. I won’t be storming the place like the last time. I just want to… take care of what I need to and be done with it.”

“I’m going wherever you go,” Sayu demanded suddenly.

Reina turned to her again, and her smile threw off the other girl’s glare slightly. “I expected that,” she said quietly. “And you’ll be right there at my side. In fact, I’m counting on your help in the end.” As the girl stared surprised at her, the shrill digital ring of Reina’s phone broke the tension. “Excuse me,” she said politely, and reached in her pocket to pick it up. “Yes?” she asked into it, and listened to the response. “Right… right. Thank you very much. I’m under your care.” She listened again. “I… see,” she said, a bit more hesitantly, though her eyes steeled with determination. “Tomorrow then,” she said, and slid her phone shut.

When she returned to her audience, everyone was staring at her, the tension at its highest peak yet. “The plans have been finalized,” she said. “There is… a slight change, but I believe it will also be necessary.” She then broke into what she hoped was a relaxed smile. “Are we ready to change the world?” She looked into each face individually, each burning with affirmation, and held the longest at Sayu’s, which burned with something else as well. She now recognized that look.

“Well,” she began again, “We’ll meet tomorrow morning for the trip to Kobe. Tsunku-san,” she said with a slight bow. “May I take them away from rehearsals for a while?”

Tsunku smiled. “I don’t know. They’ve spent up a lot of holiday time lately… especially Fujimoto and Matsuura!” Reina joined him in his smile as the two named girls gave him glares, and he nodded. “I suppose so…” he said, with a grudgingly reluctant tone that was quite obviously fake.

“All right then,” Reina said. “Thank you,” she told Tsunku, and bowed to him again. “You’re too good to us.”

“I know, I know…” he responded, rising from his recliner. As if at a cue, the girls rose as well – one GakiKame pair and one GAM one.

“Until tomorrow then,” Miki said brusquely, and Aya smiled and nodded at Reina as they followed Tsunku to the door.

Eri and Risa held their positions a bit longer though. “I hope you know what you’re doing…” Eri said, concern etched in her voice.

Reina caught Risa watching her calmly as she spoke. “Of course she does,” the older girl assured, and Eri looked up at her. “Go on, Eririn, I’ll catch up with you.” Eri seemed reluctant at first, but with the steady look she received pouted and headed for the door too. Once she was out of earshot, Risa turned to Reina. “I want to thank you… for everything,” she said. “And apologize…”

“For what?” Reina asked politely.

The other girl looked hard at her. “I’ve been in your care so much… You’ve always been the one with and helping Ai-chan. You were there for me when I felt there was nobody I could turn to, and I only repaid you by taking Eririn…”

Reina gazed searchingly at the girl for a moment. “You know, for all the ‘help’ I gave Ai-chan, I also took her away from you.”

Risa’s eyes widened in understanding, and there was a small strangled squeak from behind Reina, but she didn’t look back. After the initial news though, Risa lowered her eyes and shook her head. “No you didn’t,” she said. “I’d already lost her long before that.” She looked up to see Reina gazing back with sadness in her eyes, and quickly raised her hand and shook it beneath her chin. “No no,” she denied, “I’m long past that. With what happened with that guy, that was definitely a low point, but… then Eri and I came together.” The emotion in her eyes strengthened as she shared Reina’s look. “Help Ai-chan, and I couldn’t ask for anything more,” she said firmly, leaving no room for doubt.

Reina looked back a moment before nodding. “I’ll do my best,” she promised. With that, Risa nodded too, her eyes moistening, and turned quickly for the door. Reina watched her leave with a heavy weight on her heart, and soon she was out the door and gone.

“They’ve been really happy,” Sayu said quietly from behind her, and Reina turned her attention in her direction. At the look, she saw Sayu, who had been peering up at her intently, blush and lower her head. Today the girl wore a white shirt with pink sleeves and a picture of a frog in its center, and a semi-short pleated black skirt. Reina walked her way and resumed her seat on the loveseat next to her.

“Yeah, they seem like it,” Reina said, looking down at her folded hands herself.

“At first it was kind of strange, you know. It was always just the three of us. But after finding out that you and Gaki-san both…” She trailed off before continuing, “It was no longer the same, you know? It was as if we’d suddenly grown, and were like adults. Then we went to Kobe, and Eri… There wasn’t any more doubt at all then.” Reina now directed a sympathetic expression over at her friend, who still had her eyes lowered. “I felt I was left behind, so I tried to follow your lead there, and we were almost killed, and then…” Finally she looked up into Reina’s face. “Is it true? Have you been with Ai-chan?”

Reina looked back a moment before nodding. Sayu’s face was expressionless a second before she smiled and lowered her head again. “That’s good. You two had so much in common.”

“You’re right to say that like it’s past,” Reina said, still looking hard at what she could see of the girls face. “With what she’s done lately…” Reina lowered her own head again. “It was wonderful what we had, so it was no mistake, but how it turned out couldn’t have been more wrong.” She sensed the other girl’s eyes back on her, but didn’t look up. “I go to her again with the hope it’s not too late to save her humanity, and I do it out of love. But as she is now I think she’s incapable of understanding love, and I can’t accept that. Who knows what might happen in the future, but I can’t count on her to change.”

She looked up tentatively to see Sayu gazing calmly at her, her lips slightly pursed. It seemed to her the girl was trying to decide something in her mind. “Reina-chan…” she said, and Reina blinked. It had been a long time since she was called that. “Do you remember what happened when Ai-chan was fighting that Chairman?” Reina nodded slowly. She’d been half-expecting this, but strangely she felt relief that it was happening. “You were protecting me, but then…” Her voice softened further. “You kissed me…” Reina nodded again. “Was that just because of her, or was part of you kissing… me?” she asked, her voice nearly deteriorating to a whisper by the end.

Reina licked her lips, her mouth suddenly dry. “I knew it was you,” she responded slowly and simply.

At that, Sayu gave a light smile and stretched back a little in her seat, taking a long deep breath before speaking again. “Do you remember back at Miki’s… memorial?” she said in a much more energetic and Sayu-like voice. She giggled. “It’s funny talking about that now, isn’t it?”

“I suppose so…” Reina responded, unsure where this was going. The girl still smiled, but was carefully watching for Reina’s responses out of the corners of her eyes.

“There was one time when you had been staring off into space, and when you came back and saw me standing next to you, you screamed.” Sayu laughed gaily as she related her story.

Reina blushed slightly. Yes, she did remember that now. It had to do with a certain girl in pink… “I remember,” she said, not wanting to dwell on the memory.

“Well,” Sayu said, “After that, I told you we were best friends and asked what was going on with you and Eririn… And it’s all the funnier now I do know what was going on with you two! You were really quite a cute pair at the time…” Reina felt herself blushing more. What was wrong with her? “But…” she continued, now sounding more serious. “At that time I also felt something else… I thought it was anger that you weren’t telling me something, but now I know it was something different.” Her voice was completely serious now, and Reina looked back up at her, her blush fading. Sayu looked intently back. “It was jealousy…”

“What would you have been jealous of?” Reina asked, trying to adopt some manner of innocence. Unfortunately, she thought she totally failed at that any longer.

“I was jealous that you two had something special I wasn’t a part of,” Sayu responded. “I of course had no idea it was romantic, but I still felt left out. I thought of you as my best friend after all, and part of me wanted you to myself. Funny how kids think of things, isn’t it?” She attempted a half-hearted laugh. “But since then so much has happened, and my way of thinking of things has changed so much…”

Reina noticed Sayu’s finger twitch, and the girl looked down at it. After a few seconds she reached out and grabbed Reina’s hand, pulling it slightly away from her lap. Reina looked down at the joined hands too before looking tentatively back up into the girl’s face. “Since then…” Sayu began. “Since we fought together in Kobe… Since you kissed me… I’ve realized…” She swallowed, hesitating. “Reina, I… I think I’m in love with you.”

Reina stared back at her for a time. She finally realized what she’d been doing the whole conversation. She was leading the girl, starting with talking about how she could no longer see herself with Ai, and then with all her subtle reactions since then. She actually had hoped to hear the girl say those words. She had a feeling with all the experiences they shared lately that it was hardly a surprise, but still, she hadn’t expected to actually hear this declaration.

Looking back into the girl’s expectant and highly anxious face, she thought for a minute. What was she doing? It wasn’t long ago that she spent every night with Ai. But then, she’d just been fooling herself that whole time, hadn’t she? She didn’t accept it until Ai proved it with a blade, but the woman hadn’t truly loved her. Looking back into the youthful eyes before her, though they had been tarnished by her harsh experiences lately, she saw something she never saw when she looked into Ai’s. Then warmth began to fill her, and she could no longer even summon the other woman’s face; it was being shut out by another. She realized what was meant to be and what was not. She made her decision.

Suddenly she leaned forward, and wrapping her arms around the girl’s slim waist pressed her lips against soft ones that had opened to utter a sound of surprise. It never escaped, and the two young girls spent the next minutes exploring and enjoying each other.

Eventually they sat cuddled together, one arm around each other’s waist and the other joined by their hands. Sayu lightly drew in Reina’s palm with her forefinger as she looked around the room with a small smile on her face. “Nice place you’ve got here,” she said casually. “It must not be too bad a thing, being one of the most powerful women in Japan.”

“It has its perks,” Reina said, and Sayu turned to see her grin. “But it has its drawbacks too…” she continued, the grin fading.

“Tomorrow…” Sayu breathed, and Reina nodded. “It’ll go well,” she continued insistently. “I know you can do it.”

Reina smiled at the girl’s firmness. “Thanks,” she said gratefully. She had little hope herself. It would be a greater test of her skills than she’d ever imagined before. “But before I take you along with me, I need to know something…”

“Yes?” Sayu asked curiously.

“Where’d you learn to use a sword like that?”

Sayu broke into a giggle. “Why Reina, didn’t I ever tell you I’ve taken fencing since I was a little girl? My dad says my family is descended from samurai, and so every generation is made to learn swordsmanship. I wasn’t very good for a long time though…”

“Must have slipped your mind,” Reina said with a smirk.

With the hand on the other side of Reina’s waist, Sayu poked her in the side and hugged her closer. “I’m sorry,” she said playfully. “I’ll be sure to try and remember other things I should have told you years ago.”

“That’d be helpful,” Reina said in an over exaggerated hopeful expression. “Best friends, huh?” she asked sardonically.

Sayu hugged her closer. “No...” she whispered into her neck. “Partners.” This time Reina didn’t try to stop the flush that suffused her body. She’d thought of that word a lot lately, but this was the first time it rang with complete truth to her. This time, she wasn’t the one using it.
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [35: One Day More]
Post by: JFC on September 20, 2007, 05:17:39 AM
Quote
Tsunku wanted to know all about what had been going on with her of course. Apparently through his own underworld connections he’d learned a bit about her activities, at least enough to know she wasn’t really “missing and presumed dead” as the official line went. Still, he expressed to Reina how worried he’d been. He knew what kind of people revolved in those circles.
Tsunku has underworld connections???  :shocked:



Quote
Reina peered calmly up at him. She hadn’t realized it before, but he was really a rather diminutive man. Flamboyant of course, and very protective of his assets, but now she took a good look at him… She supposed it started at her audition years ago when she wanted nothing more than to impress the judges and of course him in particular, since he had the final say. To her at that time, he was the leader and deliverer;

...

However, as she now looked at the man who, leaning over the desk as he was, normally would have intimidated her into almost any sort of submission, she saw only an average, if still flamboyant, person trying to do the best for who and what he cared about most.
Well, Reina's seen a lot of things, as well as done a lot of things during the past few months that she's been gone.  These were things that forces one to grow up, and grow up fast.  What was once larger than life, now seems "normal", if not "average".  Tsunku, while indeed flamboyant, has never tried to portray himself as "the almighty" to any of the H!P girls nor did he treat them like they were his subjects.  He never wanted their praise nor worship, he just wanted their trust in him.  He always just did his best to bring out their best.



Quote
As Reina rose and walked toward the door though, he shouted after her, “Tanaka-san!”

“Yes?” Reina responded, turning her head to look back at him.

“Nice outfit,” he said simply. “You look very mature.”

Reina smiled back at him.

...

“But I’m still cute,” she said lightly with a wink
But of course...after all, how could she not be? :D



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Even though the calls to people in the city generally were encouraging, others were not; specifically, those to Kobe. She knew her standing wasn’t as naturally outstanding there, especially in the apparent absence of Ai’s support of her position, but she had to see if any support could come from the Council members, because without that she would have an extremely uphill, difficult, and lonely battle. She’d been able to infer their support was nearly paramount in Ai’s coup – they were united in their hatred of the former Chairman, and so all Ai had to do was, well, turn tradition on its head and defeat the man himself. That was hardly an easy feat, but it likely would have been nigh impossible without the Council’s support.
So there were members of the Council who already knew that Aichan was going to overthrow and take out the Chairman?  In a way it makes sense. The other council members could have had a hand in distracting the Chairman and/or minimizing the amount of security/resistance they would have faced on their way to his office.  Question now is, are they as observant as Reina? Do the Council members see that Aichan is continuing her predecessor's policies, instead of stopping them like she had originally set out to do?  If so, what actions are they willing to take, if any, to remedy the situation?



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Upon leaving the building she saw a small crowd gathered to one side, and it didn’t take long to firmly identify them as the journalists and reporters she expected they’d be. At first they only glanced at her as they likely had anyone else who’d walked out those doors, but when a few realized who she was, the floodgate opened and soon she was surrounded.
And behold, the circus begins. If Reina thought the press was nosey when she was still in MM, they're going to be practically invasive now that she's "reappeared".



Quote
Earlier in the day she’d stopped at an ATM in UFA’s building to check her accounts. She already had enough cash to get her by for quite some time, but curiosity about her accounts tugged at her. Interestingly, they hadn’t been frozen yet. Then again her authority, at least in Tokyo, was probably good enough to not only keep her accounts open but “influence” certain parties to deposit large sums in them if she desired. The thought nearly disgusted her. And then of course, there were her overseas accounts…
Well, if Aichan had wanted to keep track of Reina and what she was doing, it would be a smart move to leave her accounts untouched, because then she could monitor Reina's withdrawals and purchases.  So long as Reina doesn't start withdrawing shitloads of money or buying weapons, Aichan likely wouldn't get suspicious or see her as a threat.



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With her foe defeated and the rewards she earned by it, that dark nature Reina always feared yet was inescapably attracted to rose up, and with the shield of righteous fury and vengeance against Yamagata shed, possessed the girl she loved.
Once again it all boils down to that old saying about absolute power.



Quote
She decided to give the Council members some time to cool their heels after her departure, so waited until Monday to contact them again. However, this time she didn’t even get past the secretaries until she got to Ishihara-san, who after a longer conversation she believed might really support her. She said it might be an old woman’s fantasy, but she’d thought about her life and now began to wish she was able to see better days.
As much as one would like to believe that Ishihara-san is sincere in what she's telling Reina, it's still hard to shake that little bit of doubt that wonders if this isn't some setup to get Reina back or to eliminate her from the picture.



Quote
All of this led her to when, on Monday evening in her suite, she sat with the people who mattered most to her. For obvious reasons this was much easier than her going back to the UFA building, but it didn’t stop her visitors from drawing the glances normally only reserved for her.  Eri was there,

...

Risa was there as well, hand-in-hand with Eri.

...

Miki and Aya were there too.

...

Tsunku sat close to Miki and Aya. Reina was reluctant to involve him, since in his case he never actually had been involved in the first place, but she felt bound to keep to her vow of no longer keeping him in the dark. Gazing levelly at his eyes, which gazed back just as strongly, she thought that through it all, he deserved at least that.

Finally, Sayu did her best to stay as close as possible to Reina.
So she's brought in the others...but for what purpose? Granted, they're the only ones that actually know where Reina's really been and what she's been up to (to varying degrees), but it's unlikely that any of them have any idea of how deep this goes or how Aichan has changed.  Will Reina tell them what she's been up to? If so, how will they react when they find out?


Quote
“I want to bring Ai-chan home,” she pronounced firmly, and the bluntness caused some of the girls to give each other covert glances.
:stunned:

...

Considering how much she's changed, is that even possible?



Quote
“Are you sure about this?” quipped Miki. “I left Kobe for various reasons. One was that Ayaya wanted to sing again. The other was that even with her as its head, I didn’t feel a place in that organization. I’m not sure she’d be thrilled about turning her back on it.” Reina knew that in her words, she wasn’t just talking about the company.
The company and the money are just the tip of the iceberg. What Miki's really talking about is the stature that comes with the position, and of course, the power.  After having achieved so much, and having tasted what comes with it, if Aichan were to leave it to "come back", she'd be giving up a LOT, even more than what Reina did.



Quote
“You saw her fight, Reina. If… if it comes to that, do you think you can pull it off?” This time Reina was silent, and looked away from the other girl. She knew all too well how Ai fought. Her hope was that it wouldn’t come to that. The woman had to listen to reason if it was presented to her under the right circumstances.
Reina's hoping that there's still some part of Aichan that truly cares enough for her that it won't come down to a one-on-one confrontation.  However, considering how quickly Aichan got sucked into it, and how comfortable she seemed to be in her new position, it's somewhat naive to think that no blood will be shed, one way or another.



Quote
“I’m going wherever you go,” Sayu demanded suddenly.

Reina turned to her again, and her smile threw off the other girl’s glare slightly. “I expected that,” she said quietly. “And you’ll be right there at my side. In fact, I’m counting on your help in the end.”
Now THIS was a surprise, but not for what Sayu said, but instead for Reina not turning her down.  Granted, Sayu was also there in the room when Aichan deposed her predecessor, so if stuff starts to get a little hairy, Sayu won't be completely surprised/shocked by it.  Just not sure, however, what exactly Reina thinks Sayu can do to help out.



Quote
As the girl stared surprised at her, the shrill digital ring of Reina’s phone broke the tension. “Excuse me,” she said politely, and reached in her pocket to pick it up. “Yes?” she asked into it, and listened to the response. “Right… right. Thank you very much. I’m under your care.” She listened again. “I… see,” she said, a bit more hesitantly, though her eyes steeled with determination. “Tomorrow then,” she said, and slid her phone shut.
So that's why Reina's been calling the Council members.  She's planning on returning to Kobe and seeing Aichan, and like before when Aichan was the one planning it, Reina needs some help in actually making it up to Aichan's office. My bet is that it was Ishihara-san that called her, to let her know that whatever arrangements she needed had been taken care of. Hopefully it's not a trap.



Quote
“The plans have been finalized,” she said. “There is… a slight change, but I believe it will also be necessary.” She then broke into what she hoped was a relaxed smile.
Change? What exactly has been changed?



Quote
She looked into each face individually, each burning with affirmation, and held the longest at Sayu’s, which burned with something else as well. She now recognized that look.
It was how Reina looked at Aichan when she asked her a similar question the night before they took down the Chairman.



Quote
“Reina, I… I think I’m in love with you.”
I'd be lying if I said I didn't see this coming.

Still though...whoa.



Quote
“Where’d you learn to use a sword like that?”

Sayu broke into a giggle. “Why Reina, didn’t I ever tell you I’ve taken fencing since I was a little girl? My dad says my family is descended from samurai, and so every generation is made to learn swordsmanship.
Well I'll be damned...cool!



I can't help but see the current thing with Reina and Sayu closely mirroring what happened between Reina and Aichan (only Reina wasn't the one instigating the plan with the latter).  If Reina's not careful, she's liable to follow in Aichan's footsteps the same way Aichan followed her predecessor's.  Reina has to stay focused and remember always that her goal is to save Aichan, not to "bring her down".

Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [35: One Day More]
Post by: Sukoshi on September 20, 2007, 06:04:36 AM
Thanks for the new chapter!  :heart:

Wow....where to start....after reading the whole chapter my brain has the after movie feeling (after watching a very good movie feeling to be more exact). 

First off, I love Reina's return to Tokyo and hanging out with the old gang.  You really do get the feeling that a lot of time has passed and if it were not for Reina reminding us that it's only been a sort while, I would have easily thought otherwise.  Once again I must say that you really have a knack extremely immersive worlds. 

I'm glad that it looks like gaki and kamei are staying together...somehow I've always wanted Reina and Eri to get back together...*sigh* but it just wouldn't fit, especially if that means leaving Risa alone again.  The Sayu part at the end was very surprising!  I feel happy for the two but I can't help but be sad at the lost love between Ai chan and Reina.  They seemed like the golden pair for so long in the story...hopefully Ai chan will be able to find some happiness in the end.  I don't know if this story can end happily but I'm certainly hoping for it  :farofflook:
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [35: One Day More]
Post by: iacus on September 20, 2007, 09:46:37 AM
This really is one of the best chapters yet. I really like the way you bring the wider world into the picture. Most fics here are about the personal lives of the H!P girls and not much else. And understandably so, doing otherwise is hard. But this fic (and Berry Beautiful as well. Speaking of which I haven't commented on that lately, sorry) seem to be about that and different issues that effect the wider world. And you still manage to bring it all together and make it very entertaining. I can't tell what you have planned for the ending, but I look forward to reading it.
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [35: One Day More]
Post by: rokun on September 21, 2007, 05:47:02 PM
I'm happy to see that it seems I'm conveying the kinds of things I want to in this story. ^_^ Everybody's responses so far have hit on many of these things.

@JFC: This is very familiar, isn't it? Except Reina's roles have now switched. First she was the apprentice and Ai was the master, to use Star Wars lingo XD, but now... she is the master. Now that the entire country thinks she's one of the worst juvenile delinquents and a celebrity gone bad, will she be able to pull through it all and become a true hero?

@Sukoshi: Nice to see you back here! I'm sorry it took so long for me to update. I'm glad this seems like a good movie to you, and hopefully the ending will top it all. The only story I've finished so far had a rather tragic ending, although there always is some sort of twist... The twist here won't be anything (like Sayu/Reina) that couldn't have been guessed at so far since it's all in the characters and their relationships, but I have a feeling it'll still be a bit surprising. Yuuyami never posts here, but has told me what she thinks might happen. Let me just say to her if she's reading this... Not exactly... ;)

@iacus: Thank you for staying loyal to my story. :) Fitting the outside world in is something I'm really only experimenting with in here, though with my interests as they are I try to inject that hopefully still entertaining social commentary. I think it still seems pretty disjointed so far, but I hope to improve it as I write more and more. Look for it to be a larger theme in my next story. :)

I think I might have two chapters left, though of course I can't hold myself to anything. However, I have pretty clear ideas where I want each of them to begin and end, so if what's in-between gets to be long, they'll just be long chapters. :) I don't see them being too long now, but when I actually start writing I've found anything goes... Thank you again and stay tuned!  :D
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [36: The Path of Daggers]
Post by: rokun on September 26, 2007, 04:31:30 PM
Minna genki? XD I decided to open this the way the head of one of my Japanese clubs does in all her emails. As I thought, this chapter ended up longer than I envisioned it, and there will be one more after this to finish this story off. I'll save my longer spiel for then, so now I'll just say I hope you all enjoy the penultimate chapter and final climax to Reina's Odyssey. I'm sure some will be disappointed and some will hate me, but this is completely how I wanted this to end. Expect the final chapter in the coming days...

One other note: The title for this chapter, although also appropriate to the context, is a tribute to the late Robert Jordan, who despite all his criticism was a great influence on the way I view books, literature, and writing. If you know the reference, I hope you can connect the contexts and come to a better understanding of my vision of the story. If you don't know the reference, I have a feeling the context is still somewhat self-explanatory. :) Thank you all for your support...


Chapter 36 - The Path of Daggers

Early the next morning, Reina led a small group of Sayu, Eri and Risa through the hotel lobby to the front desk. The hotel workers, by this time all aware that Reina Tanaka was staying in their Imperial Suite, glanced over at her from time to time as they went about their duties. They gave a careful eye to her companions as well. Reina would have bet almost anything that most of them had no clue who the three with her were, or even who she was before she checked in here last week. That was likely all for the best though, since the more time it took for people to realize others from Morning Musume were involved, the better. If it leaked out that half of the group was participating in a raid on a Yakuza fortress, they’d be lucky to ever be respectable again. Of course everyone would find out eventually, but if Reina had her way the effect would end up being almost completely opposite.

“I’m leaving for the day,” Reina told the clerk, who was nervously bowing at her as she approached the counter. “I may not be back, but I’d like to keep the suite just in case.”

“As you wish, Tanaka-san,” he said, still practicing jerking bows. “I have reserved it for the week in your name. Shall I extend it in case…?” he offered, clearing hoping Reina would refuse.

Reina looked up as if thinking. “No,” she said finally. “I’ll be back by then if I need it. By all means, if I don’t return please feel free to rent it out to someone else,” she said with a sly grin.

The clerk bowed quicker in his visible relief. “Yes, Tanaka-san. As you say, Tanaka-san.”

“Thank you,” Reina said with a small bow of her own, and turned to leave. When she did though, she saw three faces looking grimly at her. “What?” she said innocently. “It’s best to be prepared no matter what.” Not waiting for a response, she headed for the doors. She smiled when she sensed the other girls scurrying along behind her.

After barely seconds, Sayu caught up to her side. “You’ll come back,” she said resolutely. “I’ll make sure of it.”

Reina gave her a sideways glance. “You know, even if things go well today I may not be coming back to this hotel. I believe I still have a condo in Harajuku…”

She felt Sayu give her a level look. “You’re not still going to keep that, are you?”

“It’s paid for and the deed’s in my name,” Reina said with a shrug. “It’s just a house after all Sayumin, and if I’m still alive I’ll need some place to live, because who knows what kind of job I’ll be able to get afterward…” She smiled suddenly. “Besides, maybe I’ll even invite you to come live with me…” A blush now infused the taller girl’s face and she cast her eyes down, though she couldn’t hide a faint smile. Reina also caught Eri and Risa sharing a look out of the corner of her eye.

“That’s right,” Sayu said, her eyes upraised again and face still red, but now not likely with just her blush. “I’m her girlfriend now,” she said proudly.

Reina carefully glanced out of the corner of her eye again at Eri’s and Risa’s reactions to this as the doorman opened the hotel’s front doors for them. They both looked at each other again, but after it, Eri lowered her head with a small smile of her own. Reina felt relieved at that. All seemed well among them. She just hoped that wouldn’t change with the day’s events.

As they walked down the sidewalk, a girl suddenly stepped out from a doorway to face them. Reina heard Risa hiss. Eri froze, and Sayu started to lunge forward before Reina flung out her arms to hold the other three back. After a short angry glance at Reina, Sayu looked back at the girl and growled, “Why are you here?”

Koharu stared back calmly, though with intensity in her eyes, a long knife of some kind held in her hand before her. The sidewalk around them began to clear quickly as people started to recognize Reina and obviously didn’t want to get involved with people brandishing knives around her, even if they were young girls. Reina sighed. Well, this would be all the confirmation everyone needed that she really had gotten mixed up in a “bad group”. She could just imagine the paparazzi hiding out of sight in nearby allies clicking away madly.

“You’re going to see Takahashi-sama,” the girl said simply. Her outfit was quite different from how Reina had seen her last. She now wore tight jeans with a black leather vest, and displayed various signs in elaborate patches on it, some of which Reina recognized as insignia of various groups governed by NDI. She also had her hair in a ponytail that hung forward over her shoulder, and ribbons tied everywhere. Could the girl be more flamboyant? Well, apparently she’s gotten her wish, Reina thought, feeling grim.

Koharu took a leisurely step toward them and began spinning her knife as if she was showing off a new trick. “I’ve heard how you ran out on her,” she continued, “So I know you’re also not up to any good going back. You should have just stayed hidden in your hole.”

Despite herself, at the girl’s comment Eri burst out into a giggle. When everybody turned to her in shock, she stared around at them all innocently and a little scared. “What?” she said defensively, and then to Koharu, “You’ve apparently not heard about where she’s been living…”

After a blank stare, Koharu shook herself and apparently decided to ignore the girl. “Anyway,” she resumed. “I don’t know what your plans with Takahashi-sama are, but I’m here to stop you before anyone gets the chance to find out.” As she finished, her knife stopped spinning and she gripped it tightly.

At the threat, Reina felt tension rise again from the girls beside her, but she continued to hold them back as she frowned at the girl who was now just a few steps away. “You can’t be serious,” Reina warned in a low and dangerous voice.

Koharu stood her ground and jutted her lower lip in what was almost a sullen pout. “Yes I am!” she nearly yelled. “You may think you’re big and bad after whatever you’ve been doing the past year, but I’ve learned a few things too!” As if to prove her point, she began spinning her knife again. “And if you’re good, maybe I’ll even show you wh—“

To Reina’s utmost disappointment the girl didn’t get to say what she intended to show her, because at that moment an object came flying over her shoulder and clubbed her on the side of her head, causing her knife to fly at Reina, who calmly caught it out of the air, and the girl herself to collapse in a bundle of ribbons and patches in front of them.

When she collapsed, she revealed a wide-eyed girl who stood behind her with her knees slightly bent and legs spread in a firm stance, clutching her retrieved handbag tightly in her hands while she stared at the fallen Musume. “I knocked out Koha-chan!” she said breathlessly as she nearly began swaying on the spot. “I killed my senpai!”

Suddenly grinning, Reina stepped forward and bent down to the girl. Seeing obvious signs of breath and pulse, she rose up to look at the youngest Musume. “She’s alive,” she said, still grinning. “I imagine she’ll have a pretty good headache when she wakes up though.” Her face turning to a frown, she glanced back down. “Maybe she’ll finally learn the meaning of humility,” she pondered, then looked back up to Aika. “Run back to UFW and ask them to send someone to help carry her back there. I have a feeling Tsunku will be pleased to have a word with her in her current state…”

Seeing the girl’s still-worried expression, she smiled reassuringly. “Don’t worry,” she said. “Whether she likes it or not, everything will be back to normal by the end of the day today. I’m sure Tsunku will be able to take good care of her in the meantime… and you also of course,” she praised, and the girl lowered her head in embarrassment. She walked up and patted the girl on the shoulder, who at the touch looked up. Seeing Reina smile, she did the same. “By the way,” Reina began. “What do you have in your purse?”

Aika blushed. “Um… just my dance shoes… a bunch of makeup… a can of pepper spray… a —”

“I think I get the picture,” Reina interrupted, grinning.

The girl kept blushing a second before peering back up into Reina’s face. “Is it true what she said?” the girl asked curiously. “Are you going to see Ai-chan?”

Reina nodded. “Speaking of which, we need to get going.” She nodded back to the three girls who were still staring at their junior, and they snapped out of their respective trances and followed as Reina led the way forward again.

“Reina-chan!” Aika called from behind, causing Reina to glance back, though she didn’t stop walking. “Good luck!” she said, and quickly turned to run down the street as Reina instructed, people now beginning to fill the sidewalk again, some peering curiously at the girl lying unconscious in the middle of it.

“It’s about time!” Miki called out from the cab of a stretch hummer before they even reached the end of the block.

The four girls stopped, surprised, and looked at what was apparently their ride. “Well you surely don’t disappoint,” Risa said slowly.

Reina grinned. “A tank for our army…” she said with a smirk, and walked up to the cab where Miki stared impatiently out at them. “If you were right here the whole time, why didn’t you do something about Koharu? You had to have seen her even before she jumped out at us.”

Miki shrugged. “I figured you had it covered,” she said lazily. “You being big and bad and all,” she smirked. “I wasn’t expecting that from the shrimp though. She might have some potential,” she finished, now adopting a thoughtful tone. If Reina hadn’t known how brilliant Miki could be, the sight of how hard she seemed to work at being thoughtful would have completely convinced her otherwise. She almost giggled at the glare Aya was giving Miki from the passenger’s seat.

“Hey, Ayaya,” Reina said, and the girl smiled at her. “You sure you can drive this thing?” she asked Miki, looking the long, large vehicle back and forth. The other three girls, and Eri especially, were beginning to look nervous.

“Piece of cake,” Miki said dismissively. “Hop in,” she said, pointing her thumb toward the back as a door popped open. “We don’t want to be late, do we?” This time when Reina looked into the girl’s serious face, the depth of her thought was most certainly not forced. Looking across her, Aya reflected it as well, though of course it was not unusual for her. Nodding at both of them, she headed for the door, herding the anxious girls in with her, and once they were all settled in, the vehicle rumbled to life and sped on its way.

...

A few hours later saw the girls riding into Kobe, and more than one of them was clutching her seat as if for dear life. Reina had done her best to keep herself calm amid all the bouncing and swerving Miki did for whatever reasons, but when the hummer finally pulled to a stop next to a familiar tall building she couldn’t help giving a small sigh of relief along with the others.

As she began to open the door, Eri grabbed hold of her vest. “Don’t leave us here to drive around any more with her!” the girl cried, her eyes big and pleading. Risa, however, calmly pulled the girl back to her seat.

Reina smiled at both of them. “Don’t worry. I’ll tell Miki not to drive off. I’d like you guys to stay out here for the time being anyway. At least, unless something goes wrong.” She exited the car gratefully and looked up and down it again. “Although… I can’t imagine you being much safer than you’d be in here even if they did come after you.”

As Sayu scrambled out after her, smoothing her skirt, Reina walked up to the cab to see Miki grinning out at her. “Thank you for the ride,” she said softly with a smile. “It was a nice way to break the tension.”

“Don’t mention it,” Miki said, though Reina caught Aya’s pale face behind her.

“Did you think that was on purpose?” she breathed, still holding her mouth tight as if she’d have issues with opening it.

Miki shrugged with a toothy smile before becoming serious again. “Are you sure you’ll be okay?” she asked Reina.

“No,” she responded, looking above the hood at the building before them, before which now stood four guards, all looking stockier than before and none any longer from the group Miki brought in. “But it’s something I need to do. I have to try…” she said earnestly, and Miki nodded grimly.

Sayu finally seemed to compose herself and walked up to Reina, now carrying the long sword she’d obtained in the first coup and sheathing it at her belt. Reina smiled. Sayu definitely demonstrated today why Reina found her quite attractive. She’d gotten rid of her vest to reveal long white gloves that stretched up nearly to her shoulders. Those along with a bright red leather sports bra were all she wore on her upper body that was capped off with pigtails contrasting with the rest of her mature look. Reina had tried to talk her out of those, but she would have none of it. “If I’m going to fight and maybe kill today, I need to look cute, you know?” A short thick black and white striped skirt above knee-length hard leather boots completed her outfit.

Reina wore similar boots, but she stuck with her black leather skirt below a formal dull-colored blouse and jacket. In an unusual move for her however, she carried two weapons visible at her belt – one a normal, if sharp, wakizashi, and the other a reinforced obsidian katana she’d acquired over the course of her stay in Kobe. The sword had taken the smith nearly her whole tenure to forge, and she hadn’t had an opportunity to put it to use yet. That would likely change today. In fact, there was no escape from it to at least some extent if things went as planned. Her face hardened as she thought of the duty ahead of her.

“Mikitty…” Sayu said in a warning tone. “If I make it out of today alive, I might just have one more target to deal with…”

Miki smiled innocently again. “Why whatever do you mean?” she asked the younger girl before turning to Aya and sticking her tongue out. Reina smiled at that, but she was thankful Sayu hadn’t appeared to notice. She didn’t want to start having to rein in the girl’s feistiness already. Instead, with just a huff at the response she walked around the car toward the building.

“I guess that’s my cue,” Reina told Miki and Aya.

“Take care of yourself,” both girls told her at the same time. “And that other girl too, I suppose…” Miki grudgingly added, although Reina could tell deep inside she really meant it.

“We’ll do our best,” Reina responded, and with a slight nod of her head followed Sayu around the cab.

After a few steps Sayu halted, looking at the guards and then up at the building. “Are you sure this is a good idea…?” she asked uncertainly. “Just the two of us going into this… fortress…”

“Remember,” Reina reminded her, “I lived and worked here for months.”

“But you don’t anymore,” Sayu responded, looking down at her with concern.

Reina looked at the doors ahead of them herself. “We’ll see,” she said simply, and walked forward.

As they neared the doors the guards scrutinized them closely, paying special attention to the weapons at their sides. Reina was sure they recognized her, but none gave her the look of awe she’d normally received when walking in and out of this building. However, they didn’t stop them, and they entered the lobby to find an entirely different situation.

Here men and women scurried about their busy tasks as always, and although nobody noticed the two young girls at first, once they made their way further within nearly every head turned toward them in a wave that seemed to emanate from their path. In a similar wave, the crowds parted around them to leave quite a clear bubble in which they walked. Reina expected a reaction of this sort, but what she didn’t expect was that once most of them had maneuvered out of their way, they stood still to stare at them as they passed. Had the Council alerted the whole building to their arrival?

This of course did not go unnoticed by Sayu either, who looked back and forth among the throngs, uneasiness rising seemingly with every step they took. “Um… Reina? Why are they all just staring at us?”

“I don’t know,” Reina responded casually, trying to keep such thoughts from clouding the focus she had to maintain while she walked deeper into the building.

As they passed the reception desk, a gruff-looking man Reina didn’t know standing at it, he seemed about to question the two of them before apparently thinking better of it and standing down, just staring along with all the others as they walked by. By the time they reached the elevator, Reina looked back to see the entire lobby the stillest she’d ever seen it. Hardly anyone still walked around, and most just stood to watch the two girls solemnly, and apparently until they were out of sight.

“Reina...” Sayu whispered into her ear. “It looks like they expect you to say something.”

Her focus becoming unavoidably shaken, Reina looked back at the crowd. They wanted her to say something? She couldn’t imagine what that would be. Sayu must be imagining things, she thought. It wouldn’t be the first time. However, when nobody made any further sign of movement she cleared her throat, and she could almost feel a collective exhalation of breath. What the hell… she decided.

“I couldn’t say if all of you know me…” she began in the loudest voice she could muster that didn’t seem like she was shouting. When nobody seemed to contradict that statement she went on, Sayu giving her a funny look. “All of you must have been so surprised when two young girls came to lead you.” She could see quite a few of the assembly turn to each other to whisper something or other at these words. “From what I can gather, because of his cruelty Chairman Yamagata was not very popular. However, you still flourished under his reign.” A few scattered nods met her statement, but most just continued staring at her.

“Ai Takahashi was one of the women he was cruelest to, but he also didn’t expect any of them to have the thought or ability to rise against him.” At the mention of Ai’s name, a few of the scattered murmurs became nervous to Reina’s ears. “As you know, on that night months ago she proved him wrong, and your Council unanimously selected her as his successor.”

She was starting to get on a roll here, but what she’d decided to say next would be what was truly important. Apparently the businessmen and criminals gathered around her knew that as well, because they seemed to become all the more intent to her. Their attention gave her hope. Her luck with the Council was less than stellar, but could it be just that their power had corrupted them? Well, it was time to throw out her hook. “At first I took a place at her side, and together we tried our best to help everyone succeed. However, as time went on I found that we had very different ideas of what success truly meant. She was happy to continue the ways of Yamagata, if not to the shamelessly cruel extent he prosecuted. I on the other hand have a view of life and success that I suppose is more positive. Perhaps our government’s laws are not the best, and there are times when they must be questioned. However, that won’t happen through further corruption, nor through a society that promotes corruption, at the top of which Nippon Dai Ichi fights for control and most often succeeds. This is something I cannot accept, and I invite anyone who disagrees to state his case, and we can settle this before I ascend to the Council.”

She didn’t know what to expect after her speech, and perhaps she was laying herself out on a line, but especially with Sayu standing firm and just as intense as herself next to her, she felt a young girl’s foolish confidence. However, nobody came forward, and instead someone yelled out from the middle of the crowd, “My brother in Tokyo says things have never been better than when you were at the top there.” Another one yelled after him, “I just want my business to succeed. I’ve vowed to do whatever it takes, but whatever your ideas, I know your record.” However, it was the third comment that really caught Reina’s attention. It seemed to only be given through confidence gained after hearing what others said first. “We’ve been too long under the old system, and there’s no need for crime if things are just done right to begin with! We need a change!”

Varied grumbling and shouting broke out at the revolutionary comment, some agreeing with it, but some just the opposite. “Enough of change!” she heard one man shout. “It’s been nothing but trouble. There’s a reason Takahashi was selected over this child. She still lives in her own fantasy.”

Reina kept quiet through all this, but eventually the talk died down. Some of the assembled salarymen began going back about their business, giving sharp glances at everyone else around. Well it was no use to expect everyone to agree with her, and actually it seemed only the minority did. Well, her battle wasn’t going to be won here anyway. For all their talk these people would follow whoever was in authority over them. Yamagata’s tenure surely proved that. “Come on,” she said, turning to Sayu, and pushed the button for the elevator. She paused at Sayu’s look after doing so, though.

She couldn’t tell exactly what the girl was thinking, but her eyes were fixed on Reina’s face. After a moment though, she blushed and lowered her head slightly. “You’re very brave,” she said softly. Reina smiled, and when the elevator doors opened a second later, they stepped in.

It seemed like a long, quiet ride up after Reina pushed the button next to the unmarked floor between twelve and fourteen. Sayu looked at the button panel nervously, but let out a breath when the elevator ground to a stop when the light disappeared where it would normally have lit up floor thirteen.

The doors slid open, and Reina stepped out into a torch lit hallway. She’d been in this area many times over the past months, but the current situation reminded her only of her first visit here alongside Ai. Only this time, she was leading a resolved but unsure girl down the hall.

“Torches?” Sayu asked as if astounded. “A bit overdramatic, don’t you think?”

Renia shrugged. “They like their tradition.” Walking down the hall she tried to regain her focus, which was much easier in the current atmosphere than among the crowd below.

Before long they came to a nondescript door, and Reina reached out and knocked at it with a black-gloved hand. “When did you put those gloves on?” Sayu asked, puzzled. Reina just smiled. Then the door opened.

“Remember,” Reina said to her companion in a harsh whisper. “Be on your toes, and do whatever I tell you.” She gave a meaningful glance to the two muscled guards that came into view beyond the door, and Sayu nodded, swallowing.

With Sayu at her heels, Reina walked into the dim chamber lit primarily by two beady red lights on the back wall. After a few steps Reina stopped casually, Sayu a pace behind and to her side. She looked around at who was present in the room, holding her head high. As always, the two tables forming a half-moon stood at each side, but only five figures sat behind them. On the left sat what appeared to be a woman – Ishihara-san – and on her right one of the other Council members. The three remaining sat behind the other table. A sixth hadn’t yet been appointed, and there had been no rush since the place had in all practicality been taken by Reina, one of the Council’s small attempts to retain some of their old form to the new order.

She needed the glance to orient herself, but since she’d walked in she only had eyes for the woman sitting at a high podium beneath the red lights. Ai sat there, with apparently some sort of robe on her shoulders, her face as intense as always, and once Reina looked into it their connected gaze barely wavered. Then she spoke.

“Reina Tanaka,” she said formally, if a bit tight. “You’ve been granted audience here to present your case for pardon and potential re-admittance to the Council. However, I don’t recall permission being given to bring another with you – even one who performed honorably during the Succession.”

“I assure you, oh Honored One,” Reina said, and she couldn’t keep a slight bite out of her words. “She is only my assistant, whom I bring with me everywhere.”

“Insolence!” shouted one of the men from the right.

“She’s very well-armed for an assistant,” another growled scathingly. Their comments showed very well where she stood in the eyes of the Councilmen.

Reina shrugged. “Her presence is included in my terms,” she said casually. “I suggest you deal with it.”

One of the men began to bark out something else, but at a quickly raised hand from Ai stayed quiet. “I see you don’t want to continue this formally,” she said, dropping formality herself, although her voice was not any softer.

“I guess not,” Reina said offhandedly. “I mean, that isn’t the way we really run things anymore, is it?”

“You have no right –” the Councilman next to Ishihara-san began, but Reina interrupted him coldly.

“Don’t I? I have much more right than you to be in this place.”

The Councilmen now all began to shout, although Ishihara-san still sat very placid and silent, but Ai again raised her hand. “Silence!” she ordered, and the men complied. They appeared to want to glare at her, but knowing they couldn’t, ended up directing them to nowhere in particular. Reina almost felt like laughing at the spectacle. Ai’s gaze still held strong on Reina’s face though, as it had this whole time. “What are you trying to do here?” she growled warningly. “If you’ve come to apologize to me…”

“I’ve come to do no such thing,” Reina said, though her voice was no longer casual. She pulled her focus and concentration as tightly around her as she could, and with her increased sensation felt Sayu notice her new attitude and tense up as well. “On the contrary,” she continued loudly, “I have come for your apology, Ai-chan.”

The Council members had apparently had enough of their ceremony and tradition being stood on its head, and several of them rose from their chairs as if it would help their objections be heard more loudly. It’s time… Reina thought grimly, and reached up her sleeves while at the same time turning quickly to Sayu.

“The guards,” she told her in a hoarse whisper, and the girl nodded, determined. Drawing her own sword, she spun and flew at the intimidating door guards, who had apparently been quite tense at the heated exchanges but still unprepared for a young girl to come flying at them with a large sword.

Reina couldn’t spare time to see how Sayu did though, and, trusting her at her back, pulled knives she’d hidden beneath her sleeves and hurled them at the two Council members who had stood behind the right table. Each found its mark true, and the men fell back, clutching at gutted throats as their lives bled out of them.

The man in the center, who had not stood, now began to rise as his comrades fell to either side of him. He darted his hand to his belt where he surely had a weapon hidden as he snarled at Reina, but his snarl soon twisted into a look of shock as Reina dove at him before he’d even risen halfway from his seat, unsheathing the swords at her sides and, upon reaching the man, crossing them before her where unfortunately his thick neck existed. Having no hope against one of the sharpest weapons ever created, when Reina’s swords crossed completely, the Councilman’s head fell off his shoulders, his lifeless body falling atop it.

Planting her feet atop the table, Reina adopted her most focused and intense stance, and spun to take in the rest of the room. At the other table, Ishihara-san faced the Councilman beside her, who stared at her with a mouth that drooled blood as she held a dagger of her own in his chest. “Your foulness has sat beside me for too long, Yanagizawa,” she said through gritted teeth. “This girl may be young, but she has a good head on her shoulders. It’s time for a change…” With that, she twisted her dagger and pulled it out of the man, who crumpled at her side.

Wiping her weapon on her shawl she looked at Reina, who nodded, and with a grim smile left her seat and fled through the hidden door behind it. Reina gave a quick glance at the door, but it was vacant, the door itself appearing as if it were blasted off its hinges. There were no guards standing sentinel there any longer, but there was no Sayu either. Offering a silent prayer for the girl she hoped to one day love, she turned her attention back to the red lights and the figure who still sat below them, her swords held slightly tilted and parallel out in front of her.

Ai sat calmly as if nearly the entire population of the chamber hadn’t just been murdered, and gazed around at the devastation before finding Reina’s eyes again. “I should have expected you to try something like this today,” she said softly and regretfully. “I’m impressed though,” she said, her voice gaining strength as she went on. “I never took you for such a cold killer. It was always one of your flaws.”

Reina felt a pang of guilt and regret in her stomach before she stamped it out. “It couldn’t be helped,” she said in a very tight voice. She knew those men deserved death, and so much more. She still didn’t feel that was her judgment to make, but it was a late-added condition of Ishihara-san’s help, an offer which she couldn’t turn down. Ishihara-san had been the recipient of much more of their cruelty and machinations than she ever was.

“Of course,” Ai said, and she finally rose to walk around the podium. Reina’s breath almost caught at seeing her former lover completely again. She did indeed wear a black robe that was tied with a simple sash around her waist, and below it she seemed to wear the same red outfit she used when she killed Yamagata. “So,” she said finally. “Are you going to fight me?”

Reina gazed at her calmly a moment. “You knew this was going to happen the whole time,” she stated. “Why all the foreplay?”

Ai smiled at her choice of words. “I had to make my Council happy, of course,” she responded. “Although, I must say it does also feel rather grand to be talking that way, don’t you think? It’s as if I were the Emperor.”

“Is that what you think of yourself as?” Reina asked quietly.

“No,” Ai said. “But it sounds nice, doesn’t it?” Finally making it to the center of the room, she flung her robe back to the podium and drew the long sword from her belt with a flourish, holding it in front of her with both hands and letting the tip fall toward Reina. “Shall we dance?” she asked.

“Ai-chan,” Reina said, rapidly losing hope. “We don’t have to do this. You’re their leader. You have the ability to end this… to make a difference.”

Ai clicked her tongue. “So little you know of the world, my dear Reina,” she said, and began walking back and forth across the center of the room, her attention still completely focused on Reina. “People thrive on dishonesty and hatred. If there isn’t violence and crime, they think something’s wrong, that they’re somehow less human. It’s the only thing still allowing people in this country to hope that there’s something… more.”

“No…” Reina said, feeling her jaw tighten as emotion welled up within her. “There are other options… There are other ways for people to feel human… There is love…”

“Love?” Ai asked loudly, and as if tasting a strange and unfamiliar word. “Is there…” she continued quietly. “And anyhow,” she interjected, seeming to ignore that topic for the moment. “I thought you wanted to fight me. It’s what you’ve been after all along, isn’t it? It just turns you on, doesn’t it? Don’t tell me my innocent little Reina isn’t drawn to violence like every… single… other... human… being.

Reina swallowed, feeling her eyes really beginning to moisten now. “No…” she breathed. “I’m not…”

“You’re not?” Ai repeated, and her voice suddenly became dangerous again in that deadly tone Reina had heard so often from her. “You see, I thought that might explain it.”

“What are you talking about?” Reina asked exasperatedly.

“You don’t remember?” Ai asked. “Let me remind you. While I was fighting for my life against that bastard, you got so into the moment you just couldn’t keep your hands… or your lips… off Michishige.” Reina felt her body freeze. “I was a little troubled, but then I thought well, you got into the moment. It was a tense situation. Anything could happen. But if violence doesn’t turn you on, then there was something else… Was that it?”

“No…” Reina said in a hoarse whisper.

Was it, Reina?!” Ai asked again, this time almost shouting at her.

“No!” Reina shouted back, and without thinking she jumped down at the girl.

As their swords clanged together, Ai looked hotly into her face. “Then you have no right to tell me how the world works!” she growled, and breaking their parry, began to dance.

At first, Reina did her best just to keep Ai’s sword from slicing something off of her, parrying and blocking with both her weapons as frantically as she could. The sound of clashing metal echoed off the stone walls surrounding them as the two girls who’ve shared so much and learned so much from each other now fought each other to the highest extent of those shared skills. However, it was more than that. It was a fight between competing visions of the world – one of necessary violence and one of peace, one of love and one of hate.

As Reina remembered what was at stake, as she moved beyond the temptation Ai gave her to simply attribute it all to a shattered romance that might never even have been, she felt the certainty of her cause concentrate her focus, and before long she was able to do more than parry and block the woman’s thrusts and swipes.

Ai was stronger than her; that much was obvious from her being the more athletic if nothing else. However, especially in her chosen two-weapon fighting style, and in ironic contrast to Ai’s own fight with the former Chairman, Reina was quicker. Ai could make her daikatana move with a speed that would amaze literally everyone, but Reina with her shorter swords and similar skills, even though she had trouble with a straight-out block, could deflect Ai’s own every time. In fact, as she became more accustomed to Ai’s style, which the girl used in a much more creative way than she ever had in their training sessions, she was able to deflect her sword for long enough to lunge and thrust her wakizashi in for a short, quick jab and slash riposte.

As this continued, and as Reina began to lose track of time as well as anything in their immediate surroundings that didn’t matter for the fight at hand, she managed to get quite a few of those swipes in at the older girl, whose outfit was now slashed in several places, and whose face was now supremely focused in concentration. Reina had marks of her own of course – Ai had nicked her thigh with a low attack, for example – but she was giving out at least as well as she took. Both girls seemed to have the youthful energy to keep the fight up for hours, but after she sliced past Ai’s sword with another riposte, Reina noticed something that astonished her so much she missed a parry that resulted in a cut on her collar that left it hanging down over her shoulder. She realized she could win.

As she fought on she came to grips with that fact, since she had basically accepted that if it came to a fight between the two of them, she would die. Now that the opposite possibility was most likely, she didn’t know what to make of it. She could kill the Councilmen because she knew they deserved a dire fate, but she could never convince herself, despite whatever she might have done, that Ai deserved the same. There was a girl she loved somewhere beneath that serious and grim exterior, and that girl deserved to see what could still be made of her life.

Quickly coming to a decision, hoping desperately that she was right yet no longer afraid of what would happen if she wasn’t, she set her face in determination and changed her tactics. She began adopting defensive moves only, and when Ai noticed this, grim satisfaction appeared on her face at the assumption that she was driving Reina back. After letting Ai think about this for a few moves, Reina dropped her katana as if in a badly calculated feint, and Ai kicked out at her chest, dropping her to the floor where her breath was knocked out of her. Then, before she could react, Ai drove her tilted sword point toward Reina’s neck, but halted just before piercing it, a smile no longer on her face. Instead, she breathed hard as she stared into Reina’s accepting eyes as if confused at what she saw in there.

Reina just stared back at her, hoping to find somewhere deep within those black pools the girl that she used to be… hoping to find Ai-chan. Reina kept waiting for the finishing blow, but it never came. The two girls just continued to stare at each other as if in unspoken communication. Then finally, the silence was broken.

“Stay away from her!” cried a voice from behind Reina. She heard a rush behind her, and saw Ai look up, but neither of them could react before the point of a sword flashed into view and drove through Ai’s midsection.

“No!” Reina cried in her own breathless voice as she saw blood-streaked white gloves appear behind the sword. The only reaction though was from Ai, who glanced back down at her with wide eyes before her sword clanged down beside her, followed by her warm leather-clad body falling down onto Reina.
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [36: The Path of Daggers]
Post by: Sukoshi on September 27, 2007, 12:56:44 AM
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  *shakes fist*  :grr: 

this can't be!  darn that cute bunny girl !  UGH!  it can't end like this..................but since this isn't the last chapter there is still hope in my heart!   :cool2:  *pouts at Rokun* (hehe you knew this kind of reaction was coming  XD ) *goes back to pouting*
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [36: The Path of Daggers]
Post by: JFC on September 27, 2007, 03:48:56 AM
Maaaaaaaaaaaan...you and your freakishly long, addictive chapters. XD

Well...here goes nothin'.   OSSU!



Quote
Early the next morning, Reina led a small group of Sayu, Eri and Risa through the hotel lobby to the front desk. The hotel workers, by this time all aware that Reina Tanaka was staying in their Imperial Suite, glanced over at her from time to time as they went about their duties. They gave a careful eye to her companions as well. Reina would have bet almost anything that most of them had no clue who the three with her were, or even who she was before she checked in here last week. That was likely all for the best though, since the more time it took for people to realize others from Morning Musume were involved, the better. If it leaked out that half of the group was participating in a raid on a Yakuza fortress, they’d be lucky to ever be respectable again. Of course everyone would find out eventually, but if Reina had her way the effect would end up being almost completely opposite.
I'm actually wondering if any of the hotel workers might be moles/spies working for Aichan and/or the Council. If just one of them are...then Reina's secret raid might not be as secret as she thinks it is.



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“I’m leaving for the day,” Reina told the clerk, who was nervously bowing at her as she approached the counter. “I may not be back, but I’d like to keep the suite just in case.”

“As you wish, Tanaka-san,” he said, still practicing jerking bows. “I have reserved it for the week in your name. Shall I extend it in case…?” he offered, clearing hoping Reina would refuse.

Reina looked up as if thinking. “No,” she said finally. “I’ll be back by then if I need it. By all means, if I don’t return please feel free to rent it out to someone else,” she said with a sly grin.
One way or the other, Reina probably knows that she's not going to be returning to the hotel. If her plan is successful, then she'll have no need to come back as she'll either have replaced Aichan as head of the Council and thus will remain in Kobe, or she'll just leave them altogether and go wherever she wants. If her plan fails...well...dead people don't need hotel rooms, now, do they?



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Sayu caught up to her side. “You’ll come back,” she said resolutely. “I’ll make sure of it.”
Awwwwww... :oops:



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I still have a condo in Harajuku…”

She felt Sayu give her a level look. “You’re not still going to keep that, are you?”

“It’s paid for and the deed’s in my name,” Reina said with a shrug. “It’s just a house after all Sayumin, and if I’m still alive I’ll need some place to live, because who knows what kind of job I’ll be able to get afterward…”
Reina's being quite practical here. Besides, why shouldn't she keep it? Since it's already paid for she might as well make use of it. It'll be one less thing that she has to worry about.



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“Besides, maybe I’ll even invite you to come live with me…” A blush now infused the taller girl’s face and she cast her eyes down, though she couldn’t hide a faint smile.
TanaShige rabu-rabu desu!  :heart:



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Reina also caught Eri and Risa sharing a look out of the corner of her eye.

“That’s right,” Sayu said, her eyes upraised again and face still red, but now not likely with just her blush. “I’m her girlfriend now,” she said proudly.
Well, Risa and Eri were bound to find out sooner or later. :P  Better to hear it from the happy couple themselves than from some tabloid or from the way that Reina found out about the two of them. :mon sweat:



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As they walked down the sidewalk, a girl suddenly stepped out from a doorway to face them.

...

“Why are you here?”

Koharu stared back calmly, though with intensity in her eyes, a long knife of some kind held in her hand before her.
Oooooooooooooo...the girls by now must know that Koharu's mixed up in this too. She's still bound to be pissed off that Aichan chose Reina over her; and then to hear that Reina walked out on her, to Koharu (who desperately wanted to be the one to become Aichan's pupil/right hand) that would be seen as a MAJOR act of ungratefulness and betrayal. 



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“You’re going to see Takahashi-sama,” the girl said simply. Her outfit was quite different from how Reina had seen her last. She now wore tight jeans with a black leather vest, and displayed various signs in elaborate patches on it, some of which Reina recognized as insignia of various groups governed by NDI. She also had her hair in a ponytail that hung forward over her shoulder, and ribbons tied everywhere. Could the girl be more flamboyant? Well, apparently she’s gotten her wish, Reina thought, feeling grim.
Looks like Aichan found herself a new protogé (or she might be working for one of the other Council members).  Question now is, what is Koharu planning to do with that knife and how far is she willing to go? Another important thing to ask...how good is she with it? Reina and Aichan both were able to learn how to fight quickly and are very, VERY good at it. But what type of training, if any, has Koharu been doing?



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“You can’t be serious,” Reina warned in a low and dangerous voice.

Koharu stood her ground and jutted her lower lip in what was almost a sullen pout. “Yes I am!” she nearly yelled. “You may think you’re big and bad after whatever you’ve been doing the past year, but I’ve learned a few things too!” As if to prove her point, she began spinning her knife again.
Shit Koharu, are you really going to start something out in public like this? :O



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To Reina’s utmost disappointment the girl didn’t get to say what she intended to show her, because at that moment an object came flying over her shoulder and clubbed her on the side of her head, causing her knife to fly at Reina, who calmly caught it out of the air, and the girl herself to collapse in a bundle of ribbons and patches in front of them.
Well...I guess Koharu hasn't gotten to the part of training where she learns how to be aware of her surroundings yet. :lol:



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When she collapsed, she revealed a wide-eyed girl who stood behind her with her knees slightly bent and legs spread in a firm stance, clutching her retrieved handbag tightly in her hands while she stared at the fallen Musume. “I knocked out Koha-chan!” she said breathlessly as she nearly began swaying on the spot. “I killed my senpai!”

Suddenly grinning, Reina stepped forward and bent down to the girl. Seeing obvious signs of breath and pulse, she rose up to look at the youngest Musume. “She’s alive,” she said, still grinning. “I imagine she’ll have a pretty good headache when she wakes up though.” Her face turning to a frown, she glanced back down. “Maybe she’ll finally learn the meaning of humility,” she pondered, then looked back up to Aika. “Run back to UFW and ask them to send someone to help carry her back there. I have a feeling Tsunku will be pleased to have a word with her in her current state…”
YAY Aika! :w00t:   Wonder if her being there is a coincidence or not? ;D



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“By the way,” Reina began. “What do you have in your purse?”

Aika blushed. “Um… just my dance shoes… a bunch of makeup… a can of pepper spray… a —”

“I think I get the picture,” Reina interrupted, grinning.
Nice. XD



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“It’s about time!” Miki called out from the cab of a stretch hummer before they even reached the end of the block.

The four girls stopped, surprised, and looked at what was apparently their ride. “Well you surely don’t disappoint,” Risa said slowly.
Is it the same one from the "Find Miki-sama a Hobby" episode of Haro! Morning? :hee:



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A few hours later saw the girls riding into Kobe, and more than one of them was clutching her seat as if for dear life. Reina had done her best to keep herself calm amid all the bouncing and swerving Miki did for whatever reasons, but when the hummer finally pulled to a stop next to a familiar tall building she couldn’t help giving a small sigh of relief along with the others.

As she began to open the door, Eri grabbed hold of her vest. “Don’t leave us here to drive around any more with her!” the girl cried, her eyes big and pleading. Risa, however, calmly pulled the girl back to her seat.
Miki-sama brakes for NO ONE! :wahaha:

Hmmmm...that'd make a great bumper sticker. :P



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“Are you sure you’ll be okay?” she asked Reina.

“No,” she responded, looking above the hood at the building before them, before which now stood four guards, all looking stockier than before and none any longer from the group Miki brought in. “But it’s something I need to do. I have to try…” she said earnestly, and Miki nodded grimly.
One way or another, Aichan cannot be allowed to continue running things the way she has been doing so. She's strayed from the path she intended to walk when she initially deposed her predecessor, so now she must either be put back on the right path, or be removed from it completely.



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Sayu definitely demonstrated today why Reina found her quite attractive. She’d gotten rid of her vest to reveal long white gloves that stretched up nearly to her shoulders. Those along with a bright red leather sports bra were all she wore on her upper body that was capped off with pigtails contrasting with the rest of her mature look.

...

A short thick black and white striped skirt above knee-length hard leather boots completed her outfit.
/me composes a mental picture

...

Damn, that's pretty hot. :drool:



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After a few steps Sayu halted, looking at the guards and then up at the building. “Are you sure this is a good idea…?” she asked uncertainly. “Just the two of us going into this… fortress…”

“Remember,” Reina reminded her, “I lived and worked here for months.”

“But you don’t anymore,” Sayu responded, looking down at her with concern.
That's true. Aichan could have very easily changed the security layout/protocols during the time that Reina's been away. There's also the question about how many guards they'll have to deal with.



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Here men and women scurried about their busy tasks as always, and although nobody noticed the two young girls at first, once they made their way further within nearly every head turned toward them in a wave that seemed to emanate from their path. In a similar wave, the crowds parted around them to leave quite a clear bubble in which they walked. Reina expected a reaction of this sort, but what she didn’t expect was that once most of them had maneuvered out of their way, they stood still to stare at them as they passed. Had the Council alerted the whole building to their arrival?
This is definitely strange, and it makes it look more and more likely that Reina's "visit" was expected. If that's the case, were the people here told to not interfere with her and to let her go, unhindered, to wherever she wanted to go?



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“Reina...” Sayu whispered into her ear. “It looks like they expect you to say something.”

*REINA'S SPEECH*
Interesting strategy here that Reina's trying to take. Most of the employees of Nippon Dai Ichi are just that, employees. They just come in and do their jobs as they're told to do them.  While they aren't all in the loop in regards to what happens amongst the upper echelons of the company, some of them at least, are bound to know of the more questionable/corrupt things that the company does.  Chances are many of these employees are still decent, moral people who don't agree with the actions the Council takes.  If Reina can get support from them, they might be able to effect some real changes in the company from within it's own ranks.



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Well it was no use to expect everyone to agree with her, and actually it seemed only the minority did. Well, her battle wasn’t going to be won here anyway. For all their talk these people would follow whoever was in authority over them. Yamagata’s tenure surely proved that.
But at least now they know that: A) there ARE people within the company that are both capable of speaking out/speaking up, and B) there ARE people who disagree with the old, corrupt ways and who want things to change for the better.

The support may be only from a few, but it's still support nonetheless.



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Before long they came to a nondescript door, and Reina reached out and knocked at it with a black-gloved hand.

...

“Remember,” Reina said to her companion in a harsh whisper. “Be on your toes, and do whatever I tell you.” She gave a meaningful glance to the two muscled guards that came into view beyond the door, and Sayu nodded, swallowing.
It's been strangely quiet up until this point. But now that they've come this far and are at THIS point...that's likely to change.



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With Sayu at her heels, Reina walked into the dim chamber lit primarily by two beady red lights on the back wall. After a few steps Reina stopped casually, Sayu a pace behind and to her side. She looked around at who was present in the room, holding her head high. As always, the two tables forming a half-moon stood at each side, but only five figures sat behind them. On the left sat what appeared to be a woman – Ishihara-san – and on her right one of the other Council members. The three remaining sat behind the other table.
So the whole Council is present? Must be to ensure that none of them can dispute whatever is going to happen within the next few moments.



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“Reina Tanaka,” she said formally, if a bit tight. “You’ve been granted audience here to present your case for pardon and potential re-admittance to the Council. However, I don’t recall permission being given to bring another with you – even one who performed honorably during the Succession.”
Might it be that Ishihara-san's job was to arrange this "audience" for Reina?  If so, the ruse of it being because she was asking for re-admittance would definitely have gotten Aichan's attention, and made it more likely that Reina would make it up to this point unscathed.



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“What are you trying to do here?” she growled warningly. “If you’ve come to apologize to me…”

“I’ve come to do no such thing,” Reina said, though her voice was no longer casual. She pulled her focus and concentration as tightly around her as she could, and with her increased sensation felt Sayu notice her new attitude and tense up as well. “On the contrary,” she continued loudly, “I have come for your apology, Ai-chan.”

The Council members had apparently had enough of their ceremony and tradition being stood on its head, and several of them rose from their chairs as if it would help their objections be heard more loudly.
Oh crap...here we go. :scared:



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Reina couldn’t spare time to see how Sayu did though, and, trusting her at her back, pulled knives she’d hidden beneath her sleeves and hurled them at the two Council members who had stood behind the right table. Each found its mark true, and the men fell back, clutching at gutted throats as their lives bled out of them.
Whoa, she's attacking the other Council members!

Makes sense when you think about it. Even if the head of the Council changes, if the rest of the Council remains the same, then it's not likely that the company's policies and practices will change. While the head of the Council makes the final decisions, the Council members also have a lot of power themselves which they undoubtedly abuse.  Reina didn't come just for Aichan, she came to take out the people who have been ensuring that Nippon Dai Ichi continued in it's dark, corrupt ways.



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At the other table, Ishihara-san faced the Councilman beside her, who stared at her with a mouth that drooled blood as she held a dagger of her own in his chest. “Your foulness has sat beside me for too long, Yanagizawa,” she said through gritted teeth. “This girl may be young, but she has a good head on her shoulders. It’s time for a change…” With that, she twisted her dagger and pulled it out of the man, who crumpled at her side.
So now Ishihara-san is the only Council member left alive? If she is, and if the rest of Reina's plan works, then she'll be able to help Reina re-shape Nippon Dai Ichi and set it on a new path.



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Ai sat calmly as if nearly the entire population of the chamber hadn’t just been murdered, and gazed around at the devastation before finding Reina’s eyes again. “I should have expected you to try something like this today,” she said softly and regretfully. “I’m impressed though,” she said, her voice gaining strength as she went on. “I never took you for such a cold killer. It was always one of your flaws.”

Reina felt a pang of guilt and regret in her stomach before she stamped it out. “It couldn’t be helped,” she said in a very tight voice. She knew those men deserved death, and so much more.
Again, we're seeing a replay of sorts here. In confronting Aichan, Reina is now doing what Aichan did when she confronted Yamagata. She dealt with those that were in her way quickly and ruthlessly. There was no way that the Council members would change their ways had they been allowed to live, so to see that the final goal is met, they had to be eliminated.



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“So,” she said finally. “Are you going to fight me?”

Reina gazed at her calmly a moment. “You knew this was going to happen the whole time,” she stated. “Why all the foreplay?”
If Aichan knew that Reina would try this, then shouldn't she be able to see that she's doing it because she's becoming the same as Yamagata was?



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Ai clicked her tongue. “So little you know of the world, my dear Reina,” she said, and began walking back and forth across the center of the room, her attention still completely focused on Reina. “People thrive on dishonesty and hatred. If there isn’t violence and crime, they think something’s wrong, that they’re somehow less human. It’s the only thing still allowing people in this country to hope that there’s something… more.”
The sad thing is...Aichan is at least partially right. Human beings are emotional creatures, and as much as we would like for the world to be a utopia, we know that it's not possible at all.  Thus, we become desensitized, and perhaps even EXPECT there to be evil and darkness in the world.



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“Let me remind you. While I was fighting for my life against that bastard, you got so into the moment you just couldn’t keep your hands… or your lips… off Michishige.” Reina felt her body freeze. “I was a little troubled, but then I thought well, you got into the moment. It was a tense situation. Anything could happen. But if violence doesn’t turn you on, then there was something else… Was that it?”
Oh shit Aichan saw that? The previous night she had told Reina that she loved her...then to see that, WHILE she's fighting for her life...you can't help but wonder if that moment might have darkened Aichan's heart just enough to set her on the path she's currently on.



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Both girls seemed to have the youthful energy to keep the fight up for hours, but after she sliced past Ai’s sword with another riposte, Reina noticed something that astonished her so much she missed a parry that resulted in a cut on her collar that left it hanging down over her shoulder. She realized she could win.
Now when it says that she realizes that she can "win" here, it means she knows that she has the ability to beat (i.e. kill) Aichan.   But, will she actually go that far, and can she actually bring herself to do it if it's necessary?



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Quickly coming to a decision, hoping desperately that she was right yet no longer afraid of what would happen if she wasn’t, she set her face in determination and changed her tactics. She began adopting defensive moves only, and when Ai noticed this, grim satisfaction appeared on her face at the assumption that she was driving Reina back. After letting Ai think about this for a few moves, Reina dropped her katana as if in a badly calculated feint, and Ai kicked out at her chest, dropping her to the floor where her breath was knocked out of her.
She intentionally allowed herself to be disarmed...why? Is Reina gambling that Aichan still has some goodness left in her?  If so, then she knows that this must be the last chance for Aichan to "come back".  If she doesn't do it now, then there's no chance of saving her at all.



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before she could react, Ai drove her tilted sword point toward Reina’s neck, but halted just before piercing it, a smile no longer on her face. Instead, she breathed hard as she stared into Reina’s accepting eyes as if confused at what she saw in there.
Aichan has fought Reina enough times to realize that something is not right. Reina couldn't have been beaten so easily like this. She knows that Reina allowed this to happen, and like the rest of us, she's wondering why.



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“Stay away from her!” cried a voice from behind Reina. She heard a rush behind her, and saw Ai look up, but neither of them could react before the point of a sword flashed into view and drove through Ai’s midsection.

“No!” Reina cried in her own breathless voice as she saw blood-streaked white gloves appear behind the sword. The only reaction though was from Ai, who glanced back down at her with wide eyes before her sword clanged down beside her, followed by her warm leather-clad body falling down onto Reina.
OH CRAP, SAYU!!! :OMG: :OMG: :OMG:
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [37: Shiawase Desu ka?]
Post by: rokun on October 05, 2007, 10:18:00 PM
First off, thank you everyone for reading this throughout the past year or so I've been posting here. ^_^ This has taken about a year and a half of my life I'll never get back and is definitely the most intensive work I've ever completed, and I hope it wasn't terrible. If this ending seems a little different from what you expected, well, then I succeeded in always trying to offer what you don't expect, no? :) Anyway, for this story I just couldn't imagine ending it any other way. I hope everyone has the same feeling I do when you're finished reading. It's been such a roller coaster, and I wanted to end it on a high note. So, one last time, without further ado, the conclusion to Reina's Odyssey...


Chapter 37 – Shiawase Desu ka?

Missing Musume Makes Mark: Politicians and underworld bigwigs around Japan scramble for cover as petite princess Tanaka Reina, formerly of Morning Musume, formerly considered dead until suddenly appearing in downtown Tokyo, takes the reins of the top Yakuza organization she was rumored to have joined. Tanaka dropped the veil of secrecy surrounding Nippon Dai Ichi, allowing names and deeds to be revealed to the media as well as police, who after an initially lukewarm reception surreptitiously warmed up to the information after discovering that many sergeants and several chiefs across the nation were incriminated by its contents.

Tsunku laid the edition of Sunday Mainichi he was reading from on his desk and folded his hands, looking over them with a small smile and curious eyes to Reina, who sat beyond the desk in a chair smiling innocently in return.

“My boss was fired, you know,” Tsunku said after a moment. “Something about… washing clothes, and supplementing UFW’s profit numbers. The good thing about that…” he began to continue, and leaned back in his chair, stretching his arms out to the sides. “Is I’ve been promoted, and thus have full authority over what to do with you. The bad thing…” His grin widened. “I’ve had to do some scrambling of my own to disavow any knowledge of certain… acquaintances. That I was successful would explain how you and I are both here at this moment.”

“Is that so?” Reina asked ambiguously. “I’m sure I have no idea what you’re talking about.” She smiled mischievously herself.

“Ahh, Reina, Reina…” Tsunku said. “If I’d known how capable you were, I would have hired you for a completely different job to begin with. I would guess my sense for talent doesn’t normally apply to that arena, though… So,” he said, letting his hands fall to his desk as if he was getting to business. “What can I do for the girl that just triumphed over Japan’s most powerful and corrupt? I hear the Prime Minister himself was called in for questioning. I’m afraid we may see our first change in ruling party since before even I was born…” Talk about being afraid as he might, he didn’t sound the least bit troubled by that idea. Quite the opposite, in fact.

“Well you know,” Reina began slowly. “I wanted to join Morning Musume because I wanted to be famous…”

“That’s something you won’t have to worry about anymore,” Tsunku replied, still grinning. “I’m surprised I didn’t see you with more of an entourage. You came with only Michishige, yes?” Reina nodded, and Tsunku studied her closely. “I’d give a lot to know what’s going on there,” he said finally in a quieter and more serious voice.

“She’s my most trusted ally,” Reina responded simply, though Tsunku didn’t seem at all satisfied with the response. “Anyway, that’s why I joined Morning Musume. All the singing and dancing were just steps on the way toward other things I wanted. But…” She paused a moment, thinking wistfully. “Since being away from it for not far shy of a year now, I’ve realized how much I really miss those things. I have plenty of… other… job possibilities now, but I’d be grateful if I could still perform to some extent.”

Tsunku blew out a low whistle between his teeth as his eyes seemed to glaze over in whatever vision he was seeing. “‘The return of ex-Yakuza queen Tanaka Reina to Morning Musume.’ I can just imagine the publicity writing itself.” His eyes refocused onto Reina, and he seemed to adopt a serious tone again. “What makes you think we’d have you back? I hear the NPA has issued a specific warrant for your arrest on dozens of counts… as well as for Takahashi-san.” He looked at her quizzically as he finished.

“I wouldn’t worry about that,” Reina continued with a smile. “I’ve had a little necessary contact with members of their bureaucracy, and I believe we’ve worked out agreements beneficial to us all.”

Tsunku continued studying her before completely changing his expression to one much lighter. “Well! That’s that then, I take it. Besides, nothing like a little crime and scandal to put spice into our celebrities.” He became suddenly grim again, although Reina could tell he was doing his best not to crack a laugh. “Though you know, the wotas may not be able to keep embracing your whole idol image any longer. I think it’s safe to say that’s gone quite by the by.” Reina didn’t disagree. “Still, I have a feeling other factors may more than compensate for that. You’re going to make me learn a new way to do business, Tanaka-chan,” he finished as if reprovingly.

“I’m sorry,” Reina said with a small smile, bowing her head. “Thank you.” And she stood as if preparing to leave.

“I don’t suppose you’d know if Takahashi-san might make the same request as you, do you? Having the both of you back would be quite the boon, even though it’s you that’s received most of the public attention.”

Reina paused as she was turning. “I couldn’t say…” she said without looking into Tsunku’s face.

“…You did say you’d promise to keep me in the loop on things in the future,” he said quietly, trying not to sound aggressive.

Reina nodded. “I know. I’m just… not ready to talk about that yet. Things with her are… much more complicated.”

Tsunku looked at her, the emotion in his eyes betraying that he obviously was expecting the worst. This was the first time she spoke to him since leaving for Kobe weeks ago, and as far as she knew, no one knew exactly what happened there except those that were present, and maybe a few others not at all connected to Tsunku. While she’d made a business lately of revealing secrets, this was one she wasn’t quite ready to let out of her heart yet, and thankfully the others involved felt the same.

“Are you and Michishige involved?” Tsunku asked suddenly, catching Reina slightly off-guard at the subject change.

“Um…” she responded, oddly not knowing what to say.

“You know if you come back, you two will have to be careful,” he continued. She hesitated a moment before nodding slowly, deciding in this case to be honest. “Niigaki and Kamei have been doing the same. People may be able to accept you joining the underworld, assassinating its leaders, and then bringing nearly the entire Japanese system into chaos, but I have a feeling that might be a bit too much for them to handle.” Reina finally looked over to him to see a not-so-small smile on his face.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” she responded with a smile of her own, and headed out the door at his nod.

Outside, Sayu was standing waiting for her, apparently a bit impatient. Reina thought the girl was going to attack her in excitement when she appeared, but instead she kept herself to unnecessarily tidying up Reina’s vest before asking nonchalantly, “So how’d it go? I told you not to get your hopes up too high, Panda-chan…”

Reina scrunched up her nose. “Don’t call me that,” she said for what must have been the hundredth time since Kobe. Couldn’t there have been another pet name for the girl to come up with? Whenever Reina asked about it though, Sayu just responded with, “But you’re so cute as a panda! And that’s what you are – my cute Reina-panda.” Reina sighed. How could she argue with that? “It sounds like he’ll have me back, so you’re gonna have to deal with me at work as well as home again from now on,” she continued with a poke to the other girl’s shoulder.

Sayu froze as she was picking at imaginary fuzz on Reina’s collar, but couldn’t say anything before girls burst from seemingly all around her.

“Really?!?!” Eri beamed from one side.

“Yay! Reina-chan is back!” Aika said, and gave her a hug, much to Sayu’s disgruntlement.

“Nice going, squirt,” Miki said with a smirk next to Aya.

“Good,” Yossi said, and Reina looked to her for the first time in what seemed ages. For some reason she appeared far more mature than she remembered. “Niigaki needs some more members to give her better leadership experience.”

“Hey, I’m doing quite well as it is!” Risa interjected from her side. At a glance at Reina, she bowed her head in a blush. Reina guessed after their recent experiences that Risa might feel slightly uncomfortable about being Reina’s “leader”. Of course, Reina thought to herself, All of that might be different, if only… She didn’t get much time to her thoughts though as the girls continued their excitement at her seeming return.

“You know though,” Yossi said after it calmed down. “They might just have to rename you Evening Musume,” she said with a grin. “You all don’t have the brightest reputations anymore, you know.”

“That’s not true,” came a young voice from down the hall, and the gathering hushed as another girl walked up to them. “While there might be…” She lowered her head in a blush. “Some of us who haven’t done anything to redeem ourselves, Eririn, Sayu, Gaki-san, and especially Reina-chan here have done far better things than anyone else I know. In fact, when Tsunku had me on house arrest and I thought about lots of things…” A couple of the other girls chuckled slightly at that comment, and the young girl glared at Miki. “My parents couldn’t stop admiring Reina.” She now looked up and beamed at Reina with fervor much different than what Reina had last seen on her face. “You’re definitely still Morning Musume, even if no one else is.”

Reina smiled as she looked back at the girl amid skeptical looks from the others. “Thank you, Koha-chan,” she said. As if her words broke some kind of spell over them all, Koharu’s tense face eased in a smile and the other girls pulled her in to join the celebration. Ah… Reina thought. It was good to have everybody back together again. Well… almost everybody…



A short time later, after escaping the girls momentarily with the prospect of many parties on the weekend’s horizon, as well as dodging the media attention that still accompanied her nearly everywhere she went, she rose out of a taxi along with Sayu and walked up a short grassy hill.

As they walked, Sayu brushed at her skirts. “I still don’t understand why you insist on taking taxis everywhere…” she grumbled. “They’re so dirty. Plus, we have enough money to even buy our own limo and driver.”

Reina smiled at her treatment of the two of them as one unit now. After a few rocky moments, especially dealing with the aftermath of Kobe, the two had settled in at Reina’s Harajuku condo. Reina couldn’t be happier, and for all of Sayu’s random grumbling, she had yet to hear a real complaint. “No more personal drivers,” Reina stated simply yet unequivocally.

Sayu was quiet at that. She knew better than to argue with Reina on this point. Argue they did on a great many small things due to each of their quite intractable personalities, but their fundamental beliefs were the same, and Reina in her newfound sadomasochistic fondness actually looked forward to those fights, because the two of them inevitably ended them by making up in a correspondingly enjoyable way. “Still,” Sayu said though, pouting, “You’ve gotten all those millions of yen in compensation and royalties from NDI, and we’ve got to use it on something.”

“We’ll go shopping and I’ll buy you new clothes tomorrow. How about that?” Reina said, patting her girlfriend’s shoulder. Sayu’s pout turned grouchier.

They were silent a while as they walked further on past headstones and small vaults for urns until Sayu spoke up again. “I don’t know why you still insist on coming here. The last thing this grave deserves is a flower…”

Reina clutched her hand tighter around the flower she held. She knew Sayu didn’t have a relationship before her. Neither of them had really had the chance since they came into the celebrity world so young. Reina couldn’t deny her nature, though. At times like these Reina just did her best to be patient with the girl’s understanding. She looked over at Sayu, who was looking down at her feet as she picked her way across the short grass. She hoped that Sayu could discover things like this with her in the future… and also that they both would discover much more, since Reina knew she hardly knew it all herself.

They saw another girl at the grave as they neared it, and although Reina was slightly surprised, she stayed silent as she left Sayu slightly behind to walk up to it and kneel down to lay the flower atop the relatively freshly dug mound, bowing her head slightly for a short prayer. Then, opening her eyes but not looking up, she asked the girl standing there, “I wouldn’t have expected to see you here.” Looking at the grave, Reina almost couldn’t bear to look up at the one she addressed.

The girl didn’t respond for a moment before saying softly, “I’ve made it a point to visit everyone who died in this war, no matter what side they were on.” Reina looked up at the carving on the headstone as the girl spoke, and tears came to her eyes. “I can’t say I’m not surprised to see you here too,” the girl continued.

“I can’t help my emotions,” Reina responded. “Like you said, no matter how things turn out in the end, it doesn’t change what people mean to you.”

There was silence for a minute again. “You were always much wiser than me,” the girl responded finally, and Reina felt her kneel beside her. “A snapdragon?” she asked. “Odd choice for a gravesite…”

Reina still refused to look at the girl beside her, but when her eyes became so watery that tears began to fall, she turned and threw her arms around her, causing her to give a sharp intake of breath and tense up, but Reina didn’t care. “Oh, Ai-chan…” she said. “Please tell me it’s all over. It is, isn’t it? I’ve tried to stay strong for so long, but it’s been so hard…”

Recovering from the initial pain at Reina’s tight embrace, since she still hadn’t fully recovered from being impaled through her stomach, she patted Reina’s back somewhat awkwardly. With their history and Reina’s new relationship with Sayu, the relationship between the two of them had changed considerably. Ai had apparently gotten used to the idea after her weeks in the hospital, and had accepted her own responsibility in dooming whatever the two of them had. However, loneliness had also sunk in, and Reina knew that recently she’d realized the true meaning of what she felt. She also understood how much she’d damaged Reina’s trust in her, and by observation on their visits just how well she and Sayu got along in contrast. This was the first time since then Reina had made such an affectionate gesture toward Ai – in fact, the two rarely even touched – and Reina knew it must be hard for her, but she also didn’t want them to be completely separated for good. Eventually Ai seemed to relax, and hugged her lightly back in a friendly manner.

“You know much better than I whether it’s over,” Ai said in response to Reina’s plea. “Not in small measure by your own advice, I’ve left that far behind, though it seems like you’re doing a much better job than I ever tried to.”

Reina pulled back slightly to look into Ai’s face. She knew that of course, and she knew that through her actions things would be quite changed for all of them from now on. But… “Ai-chan, I just need to hear it.”

Ai looked back at her seriously, and after a moment responded, “It’s over, Reina-chan.” Reina smiled and bent in to hug her again, this time being more careful of her stomach.

The connection between the two former lovers, the former senpai and kouhai, the former master and apprentice, was brought back to reality at the sound of someone clearing her throat behind them. “Um… excuse me?” Sayu said. “Should I be getting jealous?”

Reina pulled back from Ai and smiled to her girlfriend, tears still glistening on her face. When Sayu saw them, her eyes softened in concern. Then she turned back to Ai, who smiled and nodded, and she rose up to walk over to the other girl. “Sorry,” she said guiltily and with a smirk. “I don’t know why you’d feel that way though.” Sayu stared back at her, unamused. Reina giggled and kissed her cheek before turning back to the grave. Ai was just rising slowly to her feet herself, holding her tender midsection as she did so.

As they looked at the grave, Reina wrapped her arm around Sayu’s waist. “I’m sorry,” the girl beside her said after a time, and Reina glanced over at her. She was looking at Ai with a pained face.

Ai turned back, unsure if she was the one being addressed, but when she saw she was she responded, “Don’t worry about it. You apologized quite enough in the hospital.” The corner of her mouth drew back in a slight smirk. “I’ll live.”

“No thanks to me…” Sayu said, dropping her eyes and grumbling.

Reina felt like giggling again, and wrapped both her arms around the girl to hug her tightly. “My hero…” she said softly, and felt Sayu blush. She turned to the grave to see Ai look back at them, smiling softly.

“A snapdragon is a funny flower to put on a grave…” Sayu said, apparently trying to change the subject.

“I know,” Reina said, looking back at the headstone with a sad smile. “But it’s something I felt I had to do. He was good to me for a long time…” Apparently not being able to give a response to that, the other girls stayed silent as they looked on.
“Well,” Reina said after a time. “Shall we go? I’ve got a taxi waiting if you’d like to join us, Ai-chan.”

“No thanks,” Ai said as they walked back through the graves. “I think I’ll just walk to the station.” It was funny, Reina thought. They passed through all these cold stone tablets to mark the dead, but they stood also among so much life in the well-kept lawn and amid the bustling city around them. Was everything she encountered in life going to be a paradox?

Once they reached the street, Reina and Sayu still hand-in-hand and Ai walking with them as they headed toward their taxi, Reina heard a small voice from the other side.

“Mommy! Mommy! That’s Reina Tanaka! She’s from Morning Musume, and the one you’ve been talking about from all the papers! Do you know who the other two girls are? Are they famous, too?”

Reina glanced over and saw a mother and daughter stopped across from them, the daughter staring wide-eyed and the mother just now squinting her eyes as she also looked at the three girls.

“Yuri dear, of course that’s not Reina Tanaka. She’s too young. Besides, what would someone like that be doing just walking down the street with friends?”

“But mommy…” Yuri apparently wasn’t convinced.

“However, since you know about Reina Tanaka, you should learn everything you can about her. She did some very great things, and made the world a better place. She’d be a wonderful role model for you.”

Now Yuri jumped up and down and shouted over at the three girls, who had now stopped to watch; Sayu and Ai with grins on their faces and Reina trying to disappear into her taller girlfriend’s side. “Did you hear that, Reina! My mommy said I should be like you! I’ll do my best, and maybe I can even join Morning Musume someday!” After that, Yuri’s mother gathered her up and they continued on their way, Yuri looking back as much as she could at the three girls who stayed still as they watched the pair leave.

Reina looked back and forth at the two grinning girls she stood between and gave a pout of her own. “Let’s go. The taxi’s right here…”

“Whatever you say, my hero…” Sayu said teasingly, but when Reina looked at her she saw pride in her eyes. Looking at Ai, through the darkness her own eyes still contained she saw pride as well. Until her and Sayu entered the taxi, she couldn’t look away.

~ fin ~
___________________________________________

I hope you enjoyed my little story. ^_^ This is also the time if anyone has questions about anything. Time for this thread to make the slow journey through the pages. :) Jaa~ mata de~
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Epilogue ~COMPLETE~]
Post by: JFC on October 06, 2007, 04:09:32 AM
Quote
“Missing Musume Makes Mark: Politicians and underworld bigwigs around Japan scramble for cover as petite princess Tanaka Reina, formerly of Morning Musume, formerly considered dead until suddenly appearing in downtown Tokyo, takes the reins of the top Yakuza organization she was rumored to have joined. Tanaka dropped the veil of secrecy surrounding Nippon Dai Ichi, allowing names and deeds to be revealed to the media as well as police, who after an initially lukewarm reception surreptitiously warmed up to the information after discovering that many sergeants and several chiefs across the nation were incriminated by its contents.”
Well, that's definitely one way to start changing things in the organization. The main reason why it has been able to do what it's been doing for so long is because it's been able to maintain it's veil of secrecy.  They had always worked from the shadows, where most people were not aware of their existence. Not only has Reina brought them out from the shadows, she's put them in the spotlight.  Everything that they do, have done, and may potentially be doing will now be subject to public scrutiny.

But enough about that...what happened to Aichan!?!?!?  :?



Quote
“My boss was fired, you know,” Tsunku said after a moment. “Something about… washing clothes, and supplementing UFW’s profit numbers. The good thing about that…” he began to continue, and leaned back in his chair, stretching his arms out to the sides. “Is I’ve been promoted, and thus have full authority over what to do with you.
Well, this could explain the "underworld connections" that he had mentioned in one of the previous chapters.



Quote
His grin widened. “I’ve had to do some scrambling of my own to disavow any knowledge of certain… acquaintances. That I was successful would explain how you and I are both here at this moment.”

“Is that so?” Reina asked ambiguously. “I’m sure I have no idea what you’re talking about.” She smiled mischievously herself.
But of course she doesn't. ;D



Quote
She paused a moment, thinking wistfully. “Since being away from it for not far shy of a year now, I’ve realized how much I really miss those things. I have plenty of… other… job possibilities now, but I’d be grateful if I could still perform to some extent.”
It's amazing that a lot of people don't often realize the good things that they have in life until they no longer have them.  More often than not people in similar situations as Reina is in wouldn't have a problem with "going back in time" so to speak and having that experience once again.



Quote
“What makes you think we’d have you back? I hear the NPA has issued a specific warrant for your arrest on dozens of counts… as well as for Takahashi-san.” He looked at her quizzically as he finished.
Okay, the fact that warrant was issued for Aichan implies that she might still be alive. Question is though, what kind of condition (mentally, emotionally, physically) is she in? Is she still "the Chairperson" of Nippon Dai Ichi, or is she back to being "Aichan"? :O



Quote
“I don’t suppose you’d know if Takahashi-san might make the same request as you, do you? Having the both of you back would be quite the boon, even though it’s you that’s received most of the public attention.”

Reina paused as she was turning. “I couldn’t say…” she said without looking into Tsunku’s face.

“…You did say you’d promise to keep me in the loop on things in the future,” he said quietly, trying not to sound aggressive.

Reina nodded. “I know. I’m just… not ready to talk about that yet. Things with her are… much more complicated.”
Oh crap, Aichan hasn't been keeping in contact with Tsunku? That's not a good sign, nor is Reina's response. When you boil right down to it, it could mean 2 things, either Aichan is alive, but Reina doesn't keep in contact with her, or Aichan died that day by Sayu's blade. :cry:



Quote
Sayu was standing waiting for her, apparently a bit impatient. Reina thought the girl was going to attack her in excitement when she appeared, but instead she kept herself to unnecessarily tidying up Reina’s vest before asking nonchalantly, “So how’d it go? I told you not to get your hopes up too high, Panda-chan…”

Reina scrunched up her nose. “Don’t call me that,” she said for what must have been the hundredth time since Kobe. Couldn’t there have been another pet name for the girl to come up with? Whenever Reina asked about it though, Sayu just responded with, “But you’re so cute as a panda! And that’s what you are – my cute Reina-panda.”
Awwwwwwwwwwwwwww...Ya gotta admit, Sayu calling Reina "panda-chan" IS damn cute. :luvluv2: 



Quote
“It sounds like he’ll have me back, so you’re gonna have to deal with me at work as well as home again from now on,” she continued with a poke to the other girl’s shoulder.

...

“Good,” Yossi said, and Reina looked to her for the first time in what seemed ages. For some reason she appeared far more mature than she remembered. “Niigaki needs some more members to give her better leadership experience.”
Starting to look less and less likely that Aichan is coming back, if she's even still alive.



Quote
A short time later, after escaping the girls momentarily with the prospect of many parties on the weekend’s horizon, as well as dodging the media attention that still accompanied her nearly everywhere she went, she rose out of a taxi along with Sayu and walked up a short grassy hill.
Something tells me their going to visit someone. :k-sad:



Quote
“I don’t know why you still insist on coming here. The last thing this grave deserves is a flower…”
Curse you for dragging this out like this.



Quote
They saw another girl at the grave as they neared it, and although Reina was slightly surprised, she stayed silent as she left Sayu slightly behind to walk up to it and kneel down to lay the flower atop the relatively freshly dug mound, bowing her head slightly for a short prayer. Then, opening her eyes but not looking up, she asked the girl standing there, “I wouldn’t have expected to see you here.”
What the...it's not Aichan's grave that they're visiting? But then, who's grave IS this?



Quote
The girl didn’t respond for a moment before saying softly, “I’ve made it a point to visit everyone who died in this war, no matter what side they were on.”
These sound like words that would be spoken by someone who was in a position of responsibility, and who is making an effort to atone for his/her role in whatever tragedy they were a part of.

The girl HAS to be Aichan, but if so, it still doesn't answer the question of who's buried here.



Quote
Reina still refused to look at the girl beside her, but when her eyes became so watery that tears began to fall, she turned and threw her arms around her, causing her to give a sharp intake of breath and tense up, but Reina didn’t care. “Oh, Ai-chan…” she said. “Please tell me it’s all over. It is, isn’t it? I’ve tried to stay strong for so long, but it’s been so hard…”
IT IS AICHAN!  :shocked:



Quote
Recovering from the initial pain at Reina’s tight embrace, since she still hadn’t fully recovered from being impaled through her stomach, she patted Reina’s back somewhat awkwardly. With their history and Reina’s new relationship with Sayu, the relationship between the two of them had changed considerably. Ai had apparently gotten used to the idea after her weeks in the hospital, and had accepted her own responsibility in dooming whatever the two of them had. However, loneliness had also sunk in, and Reina knew that recently she’d realized the true meaning of what she felt. She also understood how much she’d damaged Reina’s trust in her, and by observation on their visits just how well she and Sayu got along in contrast. This was the first time since then Reina had made such an affectionate gesture toward Ai – in fact, the two rarely even touched – and Reina knew it must be hard for her, but she also didn’t want them to be completely separated for good. Eventually Ai seemed to relax, and hugged her lightly back in a friendly manner.
It's quite possible that at one point in time, Aichan really DID honestly love Reina, but taking on the responsibilities of being Chairperson twisted that all and ruined something special that they had. By the looks of it, facing death in the face finally got Aichan to take a good, long hard look at herself and what she had been doing, and it looks like she's choosing to take responsibility for it.  The sad thing is, it also looks like she's sort of punishing herself for it by isolating herself. Tsunku has said that she had made no requests as of yet to return to H!P and MM, and considering the gravity of what she had done, the shame that Aichan feels over what she did is probably too much for her to overcome right now.



Quote
“A snapdragon is a funny flower to put on a grave…” Sayu said, apparently trying to change the subject.

“I know,” Reina said, looking back at the headstone with a sad smile. “But it’s something I felt I had to do. He was good to me for a long time…” Apparently not being able to give a response to that, the other girls stayed silent as they looked on.
Sunnovabitch...it's Daisuke, isn't it? I KNEW I had heard a reference to "snapdragons" somewhere before. They were the type of flower that he brought to Reina's trailer when she first met him on that photoshoot in the first chapter! (yes, I cheated and looked :P ).

Out of all the death that's happened in this story, his is probably the only one that was truly tragic.  His death wasn't caused by hatred or by ambition or revenge or anything like that, it was caused by his sense of loyalty...which was unfortunately directed to the wrong side at the time.



Quote
~ fin ~
Epic dude. Simply epic. :bow:
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [37: Shiawase Desu ka?]
Post by: iacus on October 06, 2007, 09:04:16 AM
*applause*
That was an awesome end to an awesome story. I honestly feel the same way about the ending: Any happier or sadder and it wouldn't have fit the rest of the story. I don't have anything interesting to say or ask but I would like to say thank you for writing this story. I enjoyed it so much.
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Epilogue ~COMPLETE~]
Post by: Sukoshi on October 07, 2007, 10:25:29 AM
I too would like to thank you for writing such a beautiful and moving story.  The ending was quite fitting and a lot lighter than I thought it would be...maybe even the lightest it's been in the story.  I think the change in mood was refreshing to have in the end.  It felt like the story took a 360 since it went all the way back to the snapdragon but that really added closure.  I also like how the couples seem to be in it for the long haul.   It's still sad to think that Ai chan's in a dark place...though I'm glad there's hope for the girl that we all love so much.  I'm not sure if you're interested in devoting possibly yet another year to writing another epic but I'm glad that you shared so much of your creativity with us in all your stories  :nya:
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Epilogue ~COMPLETE~]
Post by: rokun on October 08, 2007, 07:45:52 PM
Thanks for your comments guys. :) It's nice to hear some people like what I do. That's just it - it's what I do. I write this stuff because it's fun to me (and because it's great at preventing me from being bored and making time go quickly on some long workdays XD). I couldn't have imagined this story would turn out this long - it came to be a medium-length novel - when like I said, I just wanted to write something out of :heart: for Reina. This was rather a role reversal of Curse of the Dragons, but I also didn't want to end it the same way. It easily could have, but the point of this story to me is the hope of a better life.

Even though I'd begun a sequel to CotD, I don't feel any need for a continuation of this story, so this as it is should likely be finished. However, you know I won't be able to forget Reina, and so one of these days when the longing takes me, I'll start putting into words one of the ideas that have been floating around in my mind the past several months. :) While Berry Beautiful is meant to be like a soap opera, I'd love to write another more epic story too that also involves Morning Musume. However, after looking at the seemingly quite disparate audiences for my two stories, I'd like to write something that everybody might enjoy. While my writing might be a bit too complex or serious for those that read these for some light fun, I'd like to appeal to as many people as I can.

So, even though there are only a few of you that have been posting here, what kinds of things interest you? JFC, you seem to read everything around here, but I've yet to see you in Berry Beautiful's thread. ;) How about the rest? Is there anyone else that has been loyally reading but has never really commented here? I'd love to hear from you too, because you're my target audience! I want something that will pull you in and engage you. :) Let me know!

In the meantime, I'll think about things and try to get back into writing regularly (I've had a busy schedule the last couple weeks that's finally slowing down a bit). And for those who like it, enjoy Berry Beautiful for now. :)

Cheers!
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Epilogue ~COMPLETE~]
Post by: JFC on October 08, 2007, 08:56:47 PM
It never even occurred to me that you had reversed the roles Aichan and Reina had from CotD. Nicely done. :)

JFC, you seem to read everything around here, but I've yet to see you in Berry Beautiful's thread. ;)
I don't know why, but for some reason I just can't get into Berryz-centric fics. /me shrugs


So long as a fic is comprehensible, I'm personally willing to reading almost anything. :)
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Epilogue ~COMPLETE~]
Post by: g4rfield on October 27, 2007, 11:10:34 PM
Thank you for writing such a captivating story. My appreciation of how much of a wonderful writer you are after I was enthralled and sat for hours in front of my monitor, leaky eyes and all, eager to read this til the end, have went up a couple or more notch.  :P I have to say it's definitely the most 10 hours of my life spent not uselessly.  :grin: You've piqued my interest from Berry Beautiful and thought since you commented you liked to write epic and epics are usually pretty long, I start digging through this forum to find more stories by you.

One final note: :kneelbow: This is for not killing any H!P girls!  The waterworks have burst ever since that first chapter revealing Miki to be dead and later, on Ayaya presumed to be dead. I'm not sure if  can handle Eri, or Ai to be killed off as well.  :yep:

Now I'm off to read Curse of the Dragons. I expect nothing less than great reading material coming from it as it does on this one and the current on going Berry Beautiful. Since I don't have an LJ account I think I'll put my comment on CotD thead.  :D

PS: Are there other fics you would like to recommend me reading wrote by you or other people that you like?
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Epilogue ~COMPLETE~]
Post by: rokun on October 27, 2007, 11:40:13 PM
Wow, I didn't expect anyone else to post here! Thank you so much for your kind words. :)  :shy1: :kneelbow: I can't imagine someone just reading my stories for hours on end! I hope this had some cohesion, lol. If you go off to read CotD, I can't make any guarantees to its quality since it was my first fic (of any kind, ever except for one or two very short (maybe 6,000 words) beginnings to stories that never coalesced. And that was like 10 years ago even), and I've not really read through it for a long time myself. ^^;; If nothing else though, I'm glad you've enjoyed what you've read so far.

You're right, I've had a hard time killing off any H!P girls lol. I really need to do that in one or two of my fics... Maybe that'll happen in Circle, but with how I have the plot planned out it wouldn't be any of the major characters at least - at least until the end. I think my problem is I spend so much time developing characters that I just can't bear to kill any off because it robs me of the joy of writing them any longer. :lol:  Hmm, I was almost going to spoil something here if you haven't read CotD yet (although I think I did already in some earlier post), so upon another read-through I deleted it. ^^ Suffice to say, your idea on this might change a little after reading through CotD...

Wow, recommendations, lol. I've not written any other stories than what you seem to have found, so nothing to worry about there. And if I say too much about other writers the ones I don't mention will get mad at me. >.> I already have too few friends around here, lol. Anyway, I'm actually a pretty bad reader here (too much involved in writing and my actual career...), so I haven't read a whole lot of other stories... but Wordsworth's material is very enjoyable to me. He actually got me hooked with a short perv fic from way back when lol, but then I really liked "Too Young". It's what really got me thinking about Berryz & co. as far as fanfics. Detonator M is also good, although the genre isn't a favorite of mine. :lol: Otherwise... "OTN" has great characters, and everyone else here seems to love her writing. My own has kind of mirrored hers in a way. ^_^ We both like character over all else I think... However, I've also not read everything of hers because I can only take so much GAM, and she's such a GAM groupie. :P

Well, thank you again, and I'm glad I've not wasted hours of your life! ^^;;;
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Epilogue ~COMPLETE~]
Post by: JFC on October 28, 2007, 05:47:46 AM
Wait...OTN1's a "she"??? :OMG:


...


/me faints
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Epilogue ~COMPLETE~]
Post by: g4rfield on October 28, 2007, 03:19:34 PM
Uuummmm...yeah? I thought so too from her writing style. Why JFC you got fooled?  :lol:
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Epilogue ~COMPLETE~]
Post by: JFC on October 28, 2007, 06:54:07 PM
^ Well, I kept saying "dude" and she never said "ummm...I'm a girl". If she did I either missed it or totally forgot it. :on lol:
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Epilogue ~COMPLETE~]
Post by: rokun on October 28, 2007, 07:14:02 PM
Lol she's just kinda err... spastic. XD It seems a lot of people get to thinking the same as you do though...
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Epilogue ~COMPLETE~]
Post by: g4rfield on October 28, 2007, 07:45:54 PM
 :lol: :lol: Well.....I dunno, I mean I said 'dude' all the time to my girl friends and they've said the same to me and I don't react at all. I'll react more if they suddenly change it to 'dudette' I guess...oh I dunno!  :on lol:

I'm still on Chapter 10 with CotD. I've been slow reading that, prolly cuz of the way the Chapters are put. *Looks accusingly at rokun*  :grin: The search of next chapter def. chips away the efficient time it needed to finish the story quick.
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Epilogue ~COMPLETE~]
Post by: OTN1 on October 29, 2007, 11:25:45 AM
Lol she's just kinda err... spastic. XD
Out of all the words out there to describe me, you use "spastic"?  :lol:

(Is it just me, or is this not a weird topic of conversation for Rokun's story?  I don't know what possessed me to click on the last page of the thread since I haven't read through the whole thing yet.  I guess I just had a premonition.)

Carry on...

An edit: Please excuse my lack of manners.  Thank you, Rokun, for the kind words.  We do seem to be 2 peas in a pod.  Er, or at least 2 peas in an I-love-portrayal-of-character pod.

And by the way, to avoid any confusion, Rokun's a GUY.  Hahaha!
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Epilogue ~COMPLETE~]
Post by: rokun on October 29, 2007, 11:37:28 AM
Out of all the words out there to describe me, you use "spastic"?  :lol:
LoL of course there are many, many, many words to describe you, dear. That's just something I thought fit that occasion. :lol: And wow! I wondered about you browsing around here while this conversation was going on, but I never thought you'd actually click on this story either. :lol: Glad to see you're still alive 'n' kickin'...

Maybe I should bug you with another email. :P

And hey, any more face time for my story is good as far as I'm concerned... :) Although I do feel I'm taking up a lot of space right now. >.> Well, maybe it'll give a little disruption to the flow of GAM. ;)
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Epilogue ~COMPLETE~]
Post by: JFC on October 29, 2007, 02:26:49 PM
Quote
And by the way, to avoid any confusion, Rokun's a GUY.  Hahaha!
NO....WAY! :o



[bgcolor=#000000]Kidding. THAT I actually knew already. =P[/bgcolor]
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Epilogue ~COMPLETE~]
Post by: g4rfield on October 29, 2007, 04:29:14 PM
Quote
And by the way, to avoid any confusion, Rokun's a GUY.  Hahaha!

Actually....if I didn't do a certain snooping around recently I would be surprised too.  :grin:
Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Epilogue ~COMPLETE~]
Post by: coachie on October 29, 2007, 04:58:11 PM
Wait...OTN1's a "she"??? :OMG:
Uuummmm...yeah? I thought so too from her writing style. Why JFC you got fooled?  :lol:

I gotta out myself and confess that I too thought OTN was a guy! And my sad excuse is: I live the life of a hermit (even on the internets) and I lack any knowledge of the human nature!  XD

But what I actually wanted to say: Thank you rokun for this awesome fic! Loved it from start to end. Though, like someone mentioned before, a few paragraphs here and there would have increased the readability 100% ^^


Title: Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Epilo