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Kieran
March 16th, 2011, 11:47 AM
Prologue: An Unlikely Matchmaker






Summer passed, as it always did. The hazy, golden days and warm, enchanting nights slipped away like the grains of a sand in an hourglass. Time moved on, as it always would, gradually bringing autumn along in its wake. The leaves withered and died, surrendering their lives in one last, brief, burst of glory, falling lightly, inevitably, to the ground. The wind no longer carried the warmth and scents of life, but a sharp chill that heralded the coming winter, recalling, in its way, the eventual cold of the grave. But the moon . . .the moon shone as brightly as it always did. Casting a cold, indifferent light that brought no warmth to the body, but an exhilaration to the soul. It hinted, as it always did, of mysteries and magic.

Therefore, it was perhaps no surprise that the wizard was waiting for her under the moonlight.

"It's been a while," he greeted casually, as though they were close friends instead of the barest acquaintances. "What brings you out tonight?"

". . . " She stared wordlessly at him, as though the answer should be obvious. And indeed, it was.

"Boy troubles, hm?" the wizard answered his own question with a chuckle. "Or perhaps it might be more accurate to say, 'girl troubles?'" He laughed outright, this time. "Who was it tonight? The Princess again? His sister? The clergywoman playing schoolgirl? Perhaps, just for a change of pace, my favourite student? Or has he somehow managed to catch the attention of someone new?"

". . . " The look of utter horror that crossed her face at the last suggestion was enough to make the wizard take pity and leave off the teasing . . . for now.

"To be fair, it's not as though you weren't aware of what you were getting into," he pointed out. "Though I admit, it's been a while since I've seen a situation like this. Outside one of those fantastical Asian cartoons, anyway." The wizard shrugged. "In any case, what brings you here? If you really wanted a quiet place, you could have found one elsewhere . . . And I sincerely doubt that you came to listen to the ramblings of an old man."

The answer surprised the wizard. "You're really resigned to the idea of sharing him, aren't you?" he remarked after a moment's contemplation.

Her nod was reluctant, but final.

"Uncommonly wise of you. If the boy could think as clearly, he wouldn't have half the problems he does." He paused. "You do understand that I'm not an oracle? The worlds will be only reflections of the truth, possibly warped and distorted through a thousand facets of possibility. The worlds we'll view aren't even the most likely of outcomes, only 'might-bes,' or even 'might-have-beens.'"

She cocked her head questioningly, with a faint tinkling of bells. "?"

"Yes, 'we,'" the wizard replied. He grinned. "I get easily bored in my old age, after all, and this promises to be very interesting, indeed."

He withdrew a small, spherical gem, as clear as glass and as faceted as a honeycomb. Holding it up to the moon, he smiled as it shattered the pure silver radiance into a series of broad, prismatic rays.

"Even so simple a thing as light is composed of so many varied pieces," the wizard murmured, gazing at the dancing beams. "How much more complicated, then, is the rainbow of the human heart? And yet, like light, it can be manipulated so easily . . ." He shook his head, and turned to his companion. "Where shall we begin?"

The autumn wind stirred her pale blue hair, carrying a maple leaf as it passed. Gazing at the deep red of the dancing glider, she knew where to begin.

With the one whose heart, like her own, beat in time with his . . .

Kieran
March 16th, 2011, 11:49 AM
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Tsukihime or any related characters or concepts. This is not being written with the intention of making a profit. All rights to Tsukihime as regards creation, ownership, and monies made belong to Type-Moon, and possibly anyone who's legimately licensed them.



Red - A Different Gambit (Akiha's Story)






If people who knew her were asked about her, they would say many things about Akiha Tohno. That she was cold, or often, heartless. That she was determined, and ruthless in her actions. That she was a staunch traditionalist, and overzealous about her privacy, yet had an undeniable air of elegance. Those who desired a painful death might also add that she was flat-chested, and perhaps there might be one being in all the world courageous enough to name her a "dark queen of cruelty." That said, those people who thought they knew her would no doubt be surprised to see what Akiha Tohno, elegant and traditional Japanese ice queen, was doing at this moment. She was contemplating a chessboard.

It was, admittedly, an unusual thing for her to own. And yet, while Japan had its own set of strategic games, equally as complex and challenging as those of the West, something about this particular set, which pitted the traditional white pieces against red ones instead of the common black, had struck a chord in her. Particularly now, as her own Red pieces were surrounded on all sides by White, and her king was in grave danger of being taken from her. Yes, Akiha felt a very strong sympathy in regards to this board.

Where did I go wrong? she asked herself. It was a common enough question for chess players to ask, but her mind was no longer on the game.

It had seemed so wonderfully simple at the beginning. Her father was dead, and she now wielded the family authority. At long last, it would be safe for her older brother to come home, back to her, and they could be together again. The idyllic days of her childhood could come back again -- would come back again, when the first love of that childhood returned.

But when he did return, it all went wrong. Everything she'd wanted to forget had come bubbling back up again from the depths of her past, and in her efforts to hold on to what remained, she'd pushed him away. And the way things were now, he might stay away, and leave her alone again.

Where had she gone wrong? They'd been so happy together, as children . . .

As children . . .

Akiha's eyes widened involuntarily as the concept struck her. All she knew of Shiki, all her memories and responses, were geared to Shiki as a child. She had no understanding of, nor a way to relate to, Shiki as a young man. That had been her mistake. Yes, she had grown and changed over the years of their separation and was intellectually aware that he had as well, but Akiha had failed to comprehend that emotionally, and it had thrown all her plans off. She still had an advantage, in their mutual familiarity, but it was being overtaken by the more mature dealings he had with the others.

It was still possible to win - she certainly did not intend to lose - but she would have to change tactics, quickly.

Akiha considered. To begin with, she believed, it was necessary to find a way to spend more time with him. Yes, she could order him into activities, as his sister and head of household, but she'd been overly strong in her approach already to no avail. Using that route might make it seem a burden on him, and deepen his resentment. That upperclassman had a monopoly of sorts on his time at school - and the blonde foreigner came and went as she would. She needed a lure of her own, an enticement that would catch his interest.

She needed, she decided at length, more information. Some idea of what Shiki liked now, what ways she might be able to tighten the bonds between them. And for impartial information, Akiha only knew of one real source that she could use . . .

Queen to pawn.






Arihiko Inui could best be summed up by three words: typical teenaged male. He had the normal reactions that could be expected of a boy his age to pretty females, schoolwork, pretty females, housework, pretty females, planning for his future, and pretty females. Therefore, although the request could definitely be termed "abnormal," he hadn't hesitated in accepting Akiha's invitation to tea.

"Wow," he mused appreciatively, gazing at the obvious opulence of the mansion. "Tohno sure is lucky to be surrounded by all this beauty."

Akiha frowned mildly, sensing that he included more than just the house in his assessment. However, he hadn't been rude, yet - and she needed his input.

Inui caught the chill in those turquoise eyes, and reminded himself that it went against the Code to hit on one's best buddy's little sister without permission. Still, she was good-looking, as were the two maids. He'd bet she had a killer smile, if she'd use it.

Akiha, for her part, cleared her throat. "Be that as it may, I get the sense that my brother is not entirely comfortable here, Inui-san. I wish to rectify that, and ask your assistance." She gazed at him levelly. "Tell me about my brother, Inui-san. What can I do to make this place not simply his house, but his home?"

Inui scratched the back of his head. "Well, I'm not much of an interior decorator . . ." he answered.

Warring expressions of impatience and pleading clashed on Akiha's face. "But you are my brother's childhood friend, are you not? You must have some idea of what he enjoys."

"Well, he always seemed to like being outdoors," he recalled. "Didn't think much of the tents, or the three-mile hikes, but he always came along when I went camping. I guess, even despite how sick he was, he hated being cooped up indoors."

Akiha flinched at the mention of "poor health," and again at the remark about being "cooped up," but recovered herself before Inui noticed. She took a sip of tea to hide her expression.

"I'd figure he'd get enough nature with the forest around this place, though - it looks huge," Inui continued.

Akiha suddenly began choking on her tea.

"Are you all right?" Inui asked in sudden concern.

"Fine," Akiha assured him weakly. "A . . . momentary lapse in judgement."

Inui nodded. "Well, about all I can suggest is maybe you should put in a pool somewhere? He liked to swim in the lakes we visited, and it's supposed to be good exercise. Throw in a hot tub or sauna, and it'd be real relaxing for him."

Akiha considered what she'd been told, and had a thought about how to go about improving on the suggestions she'd been given. She smiled at the possibilities.

"Thank you, Inui-san. You've been most helpful. But please, say nothing of this to my brother - I wish to surprise him."

Inui, for his part, was attempting to restart his heartbeat after seeing the way Akiha's smile lit up her face. "Sure, sure. Wow, Tohno must have to beat the guys off with a stick."

She blinked. "I beg your pardon?"

Inui flushed. "Well, if you don't mind my saying so, Akiha-san, you're going to make someone a beautiful wife someday."

Her eyes gleamed. "I certainly hope so."

After her guest had left, she turned to Hisui. "Would you please begin preparations to pack, Hisui? We'll be leaving the mansion for a short holiday."

"Yes, Akiha-sama," Hisui said obediently, then paused. "Where will we be going?"

"The Tohno Group owns an exclusive hot springs resort," she answered. "I believe a week or so there will do us all a great deal of good."

Akiha considered the possibilities. A quiet holiday, where they could enjoy an atmosphere unoppressed by the history of the mansion and its grounds. A place where they could speak freely - and wear swimsuits. She pictured the two of them, relaxing together in a pool of naturally heated water . . .

"Shall I send invitations to Shiki-san's friends, Akiha-sama?" Kohaku asked.

. . . As the blonde foreigner cannonballed into the spring with a "Yahoo!" while wearing a scandalously skimpy outfit to tease him with. Followed by the glasses-wearing churchwoman trying to sneak him away as Akiha responded to the blonde's intrusion. No. That wouldn't do at all.

"No, Kohaku," she said, already beginning to plan the steps necessary to sneak her brother out of town and not have her two rivals follow until she'd at least had a chance to press her own suit. "I will handle them myself."

What, Akiha wondered, was the best way to delay both of them at once - and then she had it. A smile graced her lips as she pictured the simplicity of her next move.

Queen to bishop.






"What can you tell me about vampires?" Akiha asked bluntly.

Ciel tilted her head inquiringly. "Why the sudden interest, Akiha-san?" She emphasised sudden. Pretending that neither of them understood exactly why Akiha would be interested was simply stupid.

"My brother has been very tired and listless of late," Akiha answered honestly. He had been out late often. "I suspect Arcueid-san has something to do with it, but I'm not entirely certain of her actions." Also true.

"Has Tohno-kun shown any signs of injury?" Ciel asked seriously. "Something like pinpricks, perhaps -- on his neck or wrist?" Most bloodsuckers were savage in their eating habits, but Arcueid was cannier than most, and if she was trying to be subtle . . .

"Not that I've noticed, but I admit I have not been looking," Akiha admitted. "Do you believe Arcueid-san is responsible for his condition, then?"

Ciel was mentally reviewing every curse word she knew, in every language she could recall, and wondering if all of them put together were sufficient in describing the True Ancestor princess. She should have tried to eliminate the threat the blonde represented long ago -- but they had been working towards similar goals, and Ciel would've had to have been blind not to recognise the potential advantage in having an ally of such power. Besides, Arcueid could be so disarmingly charming . . .

"Don't worry, Akiha-san," Ciel assured her in a flat tone. "I'll make certain that Arcueid doesn't trouble Tohno-kun again."

"Please, Ciel-san, do nothing permanent," Akiha implored her, causing Ciel to give her a look commonly known as "bug eyes." Akiha, of all people, was pleading for mercy on Arcueid's behalf?!

"It may be that this is simply an illness," the Tohno heir explained. "My brother has been prone to sickness since he was a small child. Moreover, he does consider Arcueid-san to be . . . a . . . good friend." She forced the words out. "If he were to recover from this state to find that she had been hurt over a misunderstanding . . ." Akiha didn't finish, but she didn't have to. Ciel was pretty certain of Tohno-kun's likely reaction if she killed Arcueid by "accident."

"What do you want me to do, then?"

"Keep Arcueid-san away from the house for a night, please -- let us see if he recovers from his lethargy through her absence. If he does, then it can be reasonably assumed that she is responsible. If not, then his condition falls purely within the medical realm, and I shall produce him in fromt of a doctor the following morning."

"That seems . . . reasonable," Ciel allowed.

Akiha lowered her gaze. "I realise it would be foolish to ask you to do this for my sake, Ciel-san, as we are not precisely friends. But for my brother's?"

"Of course, Akiha-san," Ciel said, managing to smile for the younger girl. "It is, after all, my duty."

"I find that very reassuring," Akiha said, smiling herself.

Ciel watched her leave. She was no fool. However much a manipulator Akiha Tohno fancied herself, Ciel had been doing too much manipulating of her own, for far too long, to be easily gulled. The girl was up to something, but for the life of her, Ciel couldn't be certain of what that was. Ah well, she could be patient. And when Akiha slipped up, as Ciel was certain she would, then she'd learn the concept of "penance."

Ciel would be pleased to teach her.

For her part, Akiha thought everything had gone perfectly. Ciel would arrive at the mansion tonight to find her brother as described, listless and weary, perhaps even deeply asleep. It would be simplicity itself for Kohaku to arrange - it wasn't as though she hadn't done it before. The churchwoman would then wait outside to intercept the blonde interloper, and while the two of them distracted each other, Kohaku and Hisui would move the Tohno family out of the mansion and into a private car waiting some distance away from the area. Akiha had no doubt that Ciel and Arcueid would be so deeply interested in battling one another that they'd fail to note the sudden emptying of the mansion - until it was too late, at least. By this time tomorrow, if all went according to plan, they would be at the hot springs resort - alone at last.

Red Rook guards Red King - castle.






Six days later






Shiki Tohno, high school student, possessor of the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception, and general weirdness magnet, sighed and sank deeper into the hot water. This vacation idea of Akiha's had really been a good one. He felt more relaxed at this specific moment than at any time in the last . . . well, since before he'd been recalled to the Tohno estate, anyway. He didn't really have any memory of actually leaving the estate, mind you. Or of arriving here. He had the vague impression, however, that they'd left during a terrible thunderstorm. He recalled flashes of bright light, punctuated by horrible, explosive crashes, and a wind so wild it sounded like screaming voices . . .

On the whole, however, he wasn't concerned. Being more than familiar with having holes in his memory, Shiki had developed a very simple philosophy: whatever conspiracy was responsible for anything he couldn't remember would eventually blow up in his face, no matter what he did or didn't do about it. Until that time, he might as well just sit back and enjoy the scenery. The fact that said scenery included three model-quality young women in swimsuits just added to the overall enjoyment. Especially given their choices in swimwear. Hisui had chosen a modest one-piece suit in dark green that looked as though it was cloth - old-fashioned, but serviceable. Kohaku's choice was a lemon yellow bikini that showed more of the maid than Shiki had ever seen before - it was surprising, but suitable, somehow. And Akiha . . .

Akiha had been a puzzle during the entire trip. She'd been quiet, solicitously attentive, and tried to draw him into all sorts of conversations and activities. The Akiha on this trip was a far cry from the silence-loving aristocrat who lived in the Tohno mansion. It seemed to Shiki as though, far away from everything they knew and anything that mattered, she'd given herself permission to let out the little girl she'd once been and let herself have fun. Her swimsuit reflected that. It was, like Hisui's, a one-piece, but made of curve-hugging spandex, and a shade of red that contrasted sharply with her alabaster skin - a hue more commonly associated with Ferraris than a strait-laced Japanese maiden of high society.

He had to admit, though, that the change seemed good for her. She was enjoying life, rather than nit-picking at its flaws and inconsistencies, and how she could, or should, hold herself to a higher standard. Certainly, she was more pleasant to be around - he'd stopped fearing for his life during every conversation about four days ago. He'd confirmed for himself that Kohaku was not drugging any of them around the day after, nor was anyone being hypnotised, and just let himself enjoy the rare opportunity to be a young brother and sister, rather than a pair of polar opposites who happened to live in the same house.

Shiki frowned. That wasn't fair, he admitted. Akiha cared about him, and he knew it. If she was at times wildly overprotective of him, it was because she feared his loss so badly. If she held him to what seemed an impossibly high standard, he supposed it was because she believed he could reach it, and wanted him to succeed. There were worse things than having such a supportive sister. And if the way she seemed to relate to him, at times, was wrong, or completely irrational, he didn't have to look far for someone to blame. After all, she'd learned virtually all she knew about personal interaction and familial relationships from her father. Masahisa Tohno, the deceiver, sadist, pedophile, and murderer - hardly an ideal father figure.

Shiki did not, in general, enjoy even the idea of killing, nor was he a particularly vindictive individual. However, there were times he wished he knew how to revive the old head of the Tohno clan just to try a few experments. Like, for example, finding out if he could cut someone's lines with the dull edge of a spoon, and how many he could cut without immediately killing someone. The problem, of course, was that the line of people who wanted to slaughter Masahisa Tohno slowly and painfully started behind Kohaku, then Akiha, then probably Hisui . . . by the time he got there, nothing would be left.

Shiki sighed. He was getting dark and brooding, and in such pleasant surroundings. Better to spend time enjoying this warm water, and a quiet solitude that, for once, was welcome, if for no other reason than it had not been forced upon him. He leaned back with another sigh, and drifted lazily in the water. He didn't hear the curtain to the men's bath opening. He didn't hear soft footsteps padding towards the bath, and with the towel over his eyes as he relaxed, he saw nothing. He did, however, hear the quiet sound of a body sliding into the water, and jerked upright in surprise, the towel falling from his face.

She was clad only in a white towel, with no hint of the straps that would hold her only swimsuit in place. The silver light of the moon and stars played on her skin as the water reflected it upwards, giving her an ethereal shine. Her hair was dark in the night, the droplets of water clinging to it sparkling like stars, as though her tresses had been cut from the night sky itself. Her eyes gleamed like polished gems, fathomless pools that drew him into their depths, whispering of ancient mysteries and the secrets civilised humans had long forgotten. Shiki stared for a moment in shock, certain for an instant that the legendary Princess Kaguya had descended from the heavens once more to walk the earth. As his eyes came into focus, however, he was again shocked as he realised who had come into the bath with him.

"Akiha . . ."

"Shiki," she replied quietly, shocking him again. Whenever she actually used his name, instead of simply calling him by his relation to her. it was something very serious. Akiha followed that surprise with the four most terrifying words in the female vocabulary. "We need to talk."






She had been nerving herself for this the entire trip. It had been difficult to relax, to let her guard down - the tradition and discipline she'd been raised with were more than just an aristocratic quirk, they were a necessary source of order to shield against the chaotic influence of her family's demonic blood. Yet it had been worth it. Each conversation, each facial expression, each moment they were together with nothing else to distract either of them, had revealed more of her brother's character to her. They had helped her understand the youth her brother was, and the man he was becoming.

The revelations had been shocking, in their way. He didn't care about the Tohno name, she knew for certain. But it wasn't an apathy born of ignorance or hatred, but simply that, to Shiki, the heart of a person mattered more than any titles or authority they might bear. He had no real ambitions, but only because he hadn't yet decided what it was that he wanted out of his life. When he knew, he would throw himself wholeheartedly into reaching those goals. He cared for her, and Kohaku, and Hisui, and the blonde foreigner, and the churchwoman, because he was caring. Yes, lust might play a role in it, but it was only that: a role, not the dominating force. If he stepped between their battles over him, it was not because he favoured one over another, but because he would not see anyone come to harm if he could prevent it.

Akiha understood, now, why the others fought her attempts to shield him from them so hard. Not entirely out of possessiveness, but because Shiki possessed both the courage to battle monsters, and the compassion to spare them. As a child, she'd seen him as an ideal brother, a prince among men. She'd seen in him the capacity for goodness. Now she saw his capacity for greatness. Properly encouraged, Shiki was a force to be reckoned with, no matter what he chose to do. Yet that force was also tempered, like a flame that could warm one - or serve as a devastating weapon.

She supposed, with a touch of black humour, that no man could've withstood the advances of so many supernatural females for so long, otherwise. And now, with the respite from the normal world and its problems nearly finished, it was time to do what she'd gone to so much trouble for. Time to play her last gambit.

"Do not interrupt what I am about to tell you," she said warningly, "because if I stop I may never find the strength to try again, and I must say this, or keeping it inside will destroy me. Please, say nothing until I am finished.

"Shiki . . . you are my brother, in all but blood. You know this, yet just as you never acknowledge that I am not truly a sister to you, neither do you seem to see what, truly, you are to me. From the time I was very small, my life has not been easy. Yet you, Shiki, helped to make it easier. For every shadow I crossed in my life, I had the memory of one shining, beautiful thing to lighten it. Knowing you existed, that you cared, warmed my heart on many cold, lonely nights. And though I am now a young woman, and as the head of the family, expected to carry on its line, every man I've met has been judged against the kindnesses of one small boy, very long ago . . . and I have found them wanting."

She crossed the pool slowly, still speaking, afraid to stop. "What I want is you, Shiki. You are the source of everything that has been good in my life, and if I lost you even Heaven would be a Hell to me. I . . .love you, Shiki, and if it is hard for me to say to you, it would be impossible to speak the words to anyone else. I want nothing less than to be with you, all the rest of my life . . . but I would like more. I could live as your sister, but . . . I would rather live as your wife. I know it is a foolish, selfish, wish. I know those others . . . they care for you. They are as beautiful as I am, more exotic and exciting, more open with their feelings. You have every reason to want them more, and find happiness with them. Yet I . . . I have to know, Shiki. Could you . . . would you . . . be . . . with me?"

Her vision blurred with tears, the only way she dared let the tension drain out of herself right now. She couldn't see Shiki's face, read his expression, but he said nothing, and the silence made her shiver with cold despite the fact that she stood in steaming water. This was the moment that would change everything between them. No matter what happened, Akiha's world would change forever.

Into the stillness, a darkly amused voice spoke. "She asked you a question, Shiki. I'd like to hear your answer."

Under the full moon she stood, pale and puissant. If Akiha had seemed a celestial creature earlier, then here and now stood the goddess of night personified. Her eyes gleamed with something omnious, and her smile, while pleasant enough, had a menacing edge.

"It's been a while," Arcueid Brunestud greeted them coolly.

White Queen to Red King - check.






"Arcueid," Shiki breathed.

Still wearing that feline smile, Arcueid's crimson gaze swept the two of them. "I have to admit that I'm impressed, little sister - I didn't think you had it in you to use Ciel against me, and sneak Shiki out from under my nose."

"Ciel?!" Shiki blinked, concern widening his eyes. "She's not - ?"

"Regretting the loss of her immortality?" Arcueid asked with a smirk. "Don't worry, Shiki, I didn't hurt her - much."

She turned her gaze fully to Akiha, adding, "After all, she was just a pawn in this one's game."

Arcueid seemed to glide more than walk, moving towards the younger Tohno. Though she moved slowly, there was an inexorability to her movements. Time and distance did not matter - Arcueid would get to where she wished to be. And nothing would stand in her way. And where she wanted to be was within arm's reach of Akiha. Her crimson eyes bored holes into Akiha's, and to her own shame, Akiha found herself taking a step back. If she was truly honest with herself, she feared Arcueid - not simply because of her power, which only an utter fool would ignore, but because of all the girls vying for Shiki's attention, Arcueid was the most likely to get it. She had started the whole chain of events that had dragged her brother away from her.

"Arcueid?" Shiki made it sound like half a question, and half a warning. It caused both girls to pause. They all knew that when it really came down to it, Shiki had only one card to play. Would he actually use his knife, use his full powers, to defend Akiha? It wouldn't be the first time . . . but there was a world of difference between blocking a deadly blow, and striking it yourself - especially against a close friend.

"She took you away, Shiki!" There was a ferocity to her tone that would have done credit to a hurricane. Arcueid's face looked, for the first time, truly angry. "She took you away, and I didn't know where you were. I went into the house and you were gone, all of you were gone! I was . . . alone."

The tone of her voice startled Akiha. She'd heard its twin before, in her own voice, so long ago. A little girl lost, and frightened.

"But . . . I heard her, just now. She loves you, and you love her, don't you?" Arcueid smiled again, a sad one this time.

Shiki froze at the sudden change of topic. Akiha suddenly found it hard to breathe.

Tears glittered in the vampire's eyes. "You're more alike than you think, Akiha - he can't say 'I love you,' easily, either. But in all the time I've known him, you're the only one who could keep him from me. So just this time - just this once. . . I'll back out gracefully, and let you win."

"What?!" Akiha choked.

"WHAT?!" Shiki cried.

"It's probably for the best, in the long run," Arcueid admitted. "At least Akiha can grow old and die with you." She sighed. "I'll leave you two alone, for now. But Akiha . . . " Her sad smile turned impish. "Even though I'm giving him to you, I will be borrowing Shiki from time to time, so take care of him for me, OK?" She giggled, and vanished.

Shiki sighed. "Well, that could have gone a lot worse."

Akiha swallowed what she'd been about to say. It was, after all, true. Instead, she said, very quietly. "You didn't answer my question."

Shiki considered. Did he love Akiha? Yes, absolutely. Did he love her that way? Maybe. It helped, in some ways, that Akiha was still a virtual stranger to him. Intellectually, he thought of her as a sibling, but it hadn't quite sunk in at the emotional level, yet. At the same time, however, he could hardly say that he loved her as a woman, either, for the same reasons. On the other hand, after all this, he could hardly doubt her love for him. And there were worse ways to begin a relationship.

"I won't marry you, Akiha," Shiki said heavily. Akiha's eyes went very wide.

"At least . . . not yet," he continued. "But Arcueid was right: I do love you, and I'd be willing to see where that leads us. Would . . . would that be enough for now?"

Her heart started hammering against her chest. All she had to do was shape a single word, but in her shock, it was proving nearly impossible.

Shiki looked at her in concern, then added lightly, "Just promise me that if we do get married, it won't be a Western wedding. Otherwise, when the minister asks for 'just cause . . .'"

Akiha couldn't help it - she laughed. And laughed, and laughed. And when she leaped into his arms, he caught her. When she looked into his eyes, she could see so many days ahead of them both, together. And when they kissed, the world was someplace wonderful . . .

Red Queen to White King - checkmate.

Kieran
March 16th, 2011, 11:50 AM
DISCLAIMER: Despite repeated attempts at long-distance mind control, the rights to the Lunar Legend Tsukihime characters and concepts have yet to be signed over to me. Said characters and concepts are the property of Type Moon and anyone else who's legitimately acquired distribution rights, like Geneon Entertainment. As for myself, I'm a non-profit fanfic writer who's looking to have fun, that's all.

CONTINUITY NOTE: This story will, at all times, attempt to follow Arcueid's Good Ending - with maybe a couple of anime references here or there.



Orange - Twilight (Arcueid's Story)






Ren frowned. While entertaining at times, her view of that "ray" hadn't been as useful as she'd hoped. In that world, Ciel had only been glanced at, and not really dealt with at all. Similarly, there was no sign of herself, and that didn't tell anything about how to resolve her difficulties with the Tohno girl - Akiha was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a cat lover. And Ren was so much more than simply a cat . . .Frankly, the existence of that world depended on far too many "ifs." If Akiha would actually change her tactics, if Shiki could feel for her as more than a little sister, and if Arcueid would be mature and sappy enough to actually give up Shiki after hearing such a heartfelt confession.

Ren shook her head, tinkling her bells again. The only reason her Arcueid would let go of Shiki was if she was about to take a chunk out of his carotid artery.

"Not quite what you were looking for, eh?" the wizard remarked. "I thought it a reasonably woven premise myself, if a tad contrived at points. Still, if it's not to your liking, perhaps we should move on to someone else."

Ren nodded. That seemed wise. It seemed equally wise, at this time, to look in on the possibilities surrounding Shiki and her biggest competition . . . her best friend.

The petite girl sought out the familiar presence of Arcueid Brunestud, and let the orange light wash over her . . .






Arcueid loved sunsets. Aside from the obvious reason, the end of the sun's daily dose of punishment for her vampiric nature, there was the concept of them. The warmth and promise of the day, faded but not quite forgotten, with the slowly encroaching potential of night unfolding before her. Even as the orange glow of that celestial orb pinked her skin, and infused her hair with the glow of flame, the soothing shadows reached out, revealing the hidden stars in the sky, beckoning her to another night of possibilities. Sunsets, to Arcueid, meant beginnings rather than endings, a time of hope.

Her most prevalent hope was that Shiki would hurry up and get to the park, so that she could start exploring some of those possibilities.

She sighed. "I showed up early, just like he asked - what's him?"






Shiki sneezed, then glanced around hurriedly. Good - none of the passersby had noticed, and there was still no sign of pursuit. He'd escaped the Tohno mansion free and clear.

It seemed to him that Akiha was getting more paranoid by the day - in addition to the security camera she'd threatened to put in so long ago, she'd recently added an electric fence. And to top it off, the master switchbox for it was in her room. He felt certain that, if she weren't so intent on her privacy, the estate would have armed guards, too. The worst of it was, they all knew very well that these "extra measures" weren't meant to keep people out of the mansion (well, maybe one or two, specifically) as much as they were meant to keep [i]him in it. It was one of those unspoken truths that lay hanging in the air around the house. Just another oppressive secret.

Shiki was tired of secrets. He was nearly graduated now, soon to be off to college, or university, assuming he could pass the entrance exams. He'd applied to a few close to town, to satisfy Akiha - and secretly, a few as far away as he could afford to post letters. Which exams he'd take, he hadn't decided When Akiha was in a pleasant mood, the Tohno mansion was a pretty comfortable place to be, but when she wasn't . . . It was sort of sad, really. Once, he'd felt bad about abandoning Akiha to the estate for so many years. Now, if he left, he'd feel worse - but more because he'd be leaving Kohaku and Hisui behind to face Akiha's temper.

He shook off the dark mood. Akiha was a concern, all right, but not one to address tonight. Tonight was a time for the immediate future, which would determine the path he'd walk down the rest of his life. Even if it meant walking away from his sister.

Taking a deep breath, he walked into the store.

"Order number 0412, please," he told the clerk, calmly enough. With the air of supreme indifference only a man in a public service job can manage, the clerk checked Shiki's receipt, retrieved the specified order, and took his payment. For his part, Shiki tucked the package unobtrusively into his inner jacket pocket, taking care to ensure no telltale bulge revealed its presence. With a polite bow of thanks, he exited the store and proceeded to his next destination. He was running late, and had to hurry.

In fact, Shiki was in so great a hurry that he neglected to see his best friend, a block or so away. That was a pity. It was a greater pity that said best friend did not neglect to see him - or the store he'd come out of . . .






Arcueid heard Shiki approach long before she saw him. The frantic pounding of footsteps on concrete, the rasping of a body which seemed to be breathing fire instead of air, punctuated by sharp gasps whose cause was a heart that seemed to be trying to burst out of its flesh and bone cage. The evening breeze brought her the scent of his sweat, which had to be soaking his shirt, mixed with the hint of a spicy wood smell. The Shinso princess raised an eyebrow - she was still trying to get used to the novelty of Shiki's aftershave. She did like it, though.

Smiling to herself, Arcueid decided to be nice and meet him halfway - it wouldn't be much of an evening if he collapsed on her, after all - and rose from her seat on the swing to go down the hill.

There he stood, hands on his knees, bent over in what was no doubt a great deal of pain. Arcueid had always been surprised by the fragility of humans, but it had taken her a while to realise that Shiki was worse than most - he tired easily at times, and got sick frequently. And yet for all the weakness in his body, his will and his heart were as strong or stronger than any she'd ever seen. If Shiki had been one of her kind, he would definitely have been a Brunestud. That strength, that drive to do what he chose to do, regardless of how hard it was, or how much it hurt, was one of the things she loved most about him.

"I can't imagine being alive for eight hundred years."

"I was only breathing . . ."

It was what had inspired her to live. It was Shiki who made her feel alive. It didn't matter to him what she was, only who. When he looked at her, the reflection she saw in his eyes was not that of the Crimson Moon, or the White Princess of the True Ancestors - only Arcueid. Arcueid was all that was important to him, and Shiki had no idea how much she loved him, and would always love him, for that.

With these thoughts in mind, she glided over to his hunched-over form, and elegantly raised his chin to her level to look into his eyes.

"You're late," she murmured.

"S . . . sorry," he wheezed. "Had . . . an errand."

She smiled. "I'll forgive you, Shiki - but only if you tell me what was so important that you were late, even when you asked me to meet you early."

Shiki held up a hand, asking for a moment to catch his breath, and gather his thoughts. Arcueid nodded indulgently. As long as she got her explanation, she didn't mind waiting a little longer - she was certain it would be good.






Shiki's lungs were burning by the time he was halfway up the hill. His legs were trembling from the effort of running full speed for as long as they could handle, and then being pushed beyond that. His heart was a raging, snarling beast, hammering against his chest in a desperate effort to escape the strain he was putting on it. Shiki was many things, and capable of far more than most people suspected - but "marathon runner" and "Olympic sprinter" were not on the list, no matter how hard he tried to fake it.

All things considered, he'd almost rather be fighting Nero again - but waiting at the end would be Arcueid. He'd done a lot of impossible things for her - believed in vampires, for starters. He'd hunted them, these creatures who far exceeded him in guile and power, at her behest, and though it had nearly killed him every time, he'd won. For Arcueid, he'd do a great many impossible things - because she'd already done so many for him. She had returned from the dead, after all, not once, but twice.

"I will make you take responsibility for killing me . . ."

She was so powerful, so beautiful - as close to a goddess as anything in this world. And yet, she retained a sense of innocence, of wonder, that usually died out in most humans. Being around Arcueid, being with her, was like being in a fairy tale - exciting, and yes, dangerous, but there was a vibrant, fantastic quality to it all that was, in the best sense of the word, enchanting. Shiki hoped to give this fairy tale what so many of the oldest ones lacked, a happy ending.

She made no sound as she approached, his first clue of her presence the gentle warmth of her fingers on his face, and then he was looking into the depths of her eyes.

"You're late," she murmured in that silk-smooth voice, but not angrily. More like an impatient, eager child.

"S . . . sorry," he wheezed, forcing the words out. "Had . . . an errand."

She smiled, and in a teasing tone, replied. "I'll forgive you, Shiki - but only if you tell me what was so important that you were late, even when you asked me to meet you early."

It was precisely the opening he'd been hoping for. Shiki held up a hand, asking for a moment to catch his breath, and gather his thoughts. When he could breathe normally, he began.

"Arcueid . . . I've been thinking a lot, lately, about my life. I've reached a point where it's time to consider my future, to grow up, and figure out what I want to accomplish. It's time I did something with my life."



Arcueid stilled. Shiki sounded even more serious than usual, and the selection of his words . . . They were all references to getting older - something she would never, could never do. For a heartbeat, hers stopped, as deeply ingrained fears came screaming up from the depths of her soul, the terror of being alone, forgotten, as the world moved around and beyond her. Was this it? Was Shiki trying to tell her that he was going to leave her, too?

"The last few years, Arcueid, have been like a very strange dream. You blew into my life with no warning, and turned my world upside down. Since I met you, nothing has ever been - or can ever be, the same. Nothing will ever be normal while you're around, Arcueid . . . "

She stared at him with wide, horrified eyes. How could he do this to her? She loved him!

Then, to her surprise, he smiled, saying, "And I accept that. I want it, Arcueid. I've taken a long, hard look at my world, and I can't imagine you not being in it."

"I want you to stay with me, Arcueid, as long as you will. I want you in my life so badly . . . that I'm willing to share it with you, completely."

Shiki reached into his pocket, and withdrew a purple, velvet-wrapped box.






Shiki felt like he was running again, his heart was hammering so hard. He was about to ask the most dangerous question in the history of humankind, a mere mortal's ridiculous demand of an incarnate deity. With a single word, Arcueid could destroy him, and never need to use her powers. He opened the box as he knelt before her, revealing the white gold band and the small diamond heart at its centre. He looked up at her, the last of the sunset still gleaming in her spun gold hair, and the ethereal moon overhead. The gentle breeze chilled the sweat running down the back of his neck.

They stayed like that for a moment, frozen in the twilight, a single, timeless moment.

Then Shiki asked softly, "Arcueid Brunestud . . . Arc . . . will you marry me?"

Kieran
March 16th, 2011, 11:51 AM
DISCLAIMER: At the risk of redundancy, the characters and concepts of "Lunar Legend Tsukihime" are not my intellectual property, nor have I officially licensed them for this work. Unfortunately, I have neither the time, money, or guts to try and requisition them from Kinoko Nasu (the creator), Type Moon (his company), or even Geneon Entertainment (who licensed them for the anime). On the other hand, this is written for fun, not profit, so I don't see why anyone should mind. Oh, yeah, I stole the title for this from Christopher Golden's novel, too. But as titles apparently can't actually be copyrighted . . . still, I think that covers everything.

CONTINUITY NOTE: This would follow the "Tohno Family Con Game" segment of the "Kagetsu Toya" game, so read that translation before going onto this, if you haven't already. Depending on how this ends up, the details might not be important - but it's a warning that if I'm not going to take this story as seriously as the others, neither should you. :)



Yellow - Of Masques and Martyrs (Kohaku's Story)






Ren startled as the scene dissolved before her, the orange ray of light fading from view. What was going on? It had just been getting interesting!

The wizard shrugged. "That scenario is, I think, closer to becoming the actual future than most - and I'm not a precognitive. As a result, I can't risk showing you any more, at least for the moment. Meddling with probabilities is always so much messier than possibilities."

A frown crossed her face. The old man was proving less helpful than she'd hoped. It had seemed such a simple idea at the time - try and figure out the identity of Shiki's best match by examining what might happen if he got involved with one of the girls. That way, she'd have a better idea of what to expect in terms of resistance, potential problems, and how well she herself would get along with whoever it was. Unfortunately, through either a quirk of the old man's, or the magic itself, so far all she'd seen was an idea of how Shiki would pair off, not what would happen when such a pairing was accomplished. Not that such things weren't instructive, and entertaining, in and of themselves, but it wasn't what she was looking for.

The familiar's sigh was all but inaudible. Given the choice, Ren would have preferred to share her master with no one. She had lived alone with her creator for all her life, until the old mage's death, and was perfectly comfortable with only a single companion by her side throughout her days and nights. Her relationship with Arcueid, in fact, had not been so different - the Princess was often asleep for decades at a time, and that had left Ren, as before, to her own devices. It was the presence she found solace in, not the quality of contact.

To have Shiki with her, throughout his life, would be enough for her. But, if Ren were honest with herself, it would not be enough for him. The mage had been old, and nearing the end of his life. Solitude had suited him, because he had already had his experiences, fought his battles, left his marks. He had lived his life, and had no need for anything more but the peace and comfort of his own home. Arcueid was similar in that -- or perhaps, more accurately, she had grown accustomed to solitude. She was resigned to, if not precisely content with, withdrawing from the world and let it spin on without the need for it.

Shiki, however, was a young man - and contrary to her appearance, a very young man, by comparison. He possessed the drive of youth, to go out and do things in the world, to try new things and learn from his successes or failures. There was still much he wished to experience, and so, being cloistered away would not suit him as it would her. And as much as Ren could help him in his experiments, there was one area in which she lacked the physical capacity to do so -- that of raising a family. Despite her inherently sexual nature as a succubus, as a construct of dead flesh animated by magic, bearing children was simply beyond her.

So, in order to completely experience life, she'd realised, Shiki would, at least at some point, need another companion. Not that Ren had thought it likely that any of the females chasing him now would simply give up if she'd taken him away, anyways, but that fact turned an unpleasant possibility into an even less pleasant certainty. Ren had to allow at least one of them to win through. However, she wouldn't allow just anyone to take her master's affections from her. Ren would share Shiki if she had to, but he'd get no one less than the best to take care of him.

Speaking of taking care of, what about that one? Divining the one she wanted, Ren stepped into the golden light that matched the eyes of her alternate food and lap provider . . .






"A costume ball?" Shiki asked in surprise.

Kohaku nodded, replying, "It's part of the big convention in town this weekend. There will lots of exciting things to see and do, and the masquerade ball is the finale to the opening night. The prizes for the winners include a cameo role in a new anime."

"What kind of anime?"

"An epic story about sorcerers summoning the spirits of ancient warriors and battling for the Holy Grail. It has a very dedicated fanbase."

"I see," Shiki mused. " wouldn't be one of those 'dedicated' fans, would you, Kohaku?"

Her amber-brown eyes were utterly innocent. "Me, Shiki-san? I'm simply calling the debt I'm owed. I want to spend the day at the convention in Shiki-san's company. That's all."

"That seems innocent enough," he remarked to himself. To Kohaku, he added, "Will Akiha be all right with our going?"

Kohaku smiled. "I'm sure she will. She did agree to the rules of the tag game, after all. The honour of the Tohno clan demands that she abide by them."

Shiki privately thought that while Akiha might agree to letting them go, they wouldn't necessarily be free.

"Besides," she added blithely, "I'll leave snacks Akiha-sama can eat while we're gone, so she shouldn't feel too deprived." She tilted her head, considering. "Then again, I suppose Hisui-chan could always make something for her."

Shiki felt a chill run down his spine. Akiha could be stubborn, but she wasn't stupid. She'd agree to let Kohaku take him, if that was the alternative. The prospect of Hisui's cooking was the ultimate deterrent, proof that the true power in the Tohno household lay in she who ruled the kitchen.

"Please come with me, Shiki-san," Kohaku said suddenly. "I need to fit you for your costume."

They departed just seconds before Hisui entered the hallway, feeling an inexplicable sense of outrage. Finding no discernable source for her wrath, she shrugged and went outside to resume hanging the laundry.






"So," Shiki said in a not-quite-casual tone, "what sort of costume did you have in mind for me to wear?"

"Well, I'm not sure," the maid admitted, as she rummaged through a storage closet for materials. "There are so many options to choose from. I could dress Shiki-san as a character from a popular anime, but some of the fans take that kind of cosplay very seriously. You might be hurt if you were someone in particular."

For no apparent reason, the vision of himself dressed as Keitaro Urashima from "Love Hina" sprang to mind. Followed by images of Akiha as Naru Narusegawa, a Black Key-wielding Ciel as Motoko Aoyama, a shy-looking Hisui as Shinobu Maehara, a laughing Arcueid as Kaolla Su, and Kohaku herself, with an appropriately foxy smirk, as Mitsune "Kitsune" Konno. All of them were dressed in towels and, upon noticing him, quite angry-looking. Shiki's mind then shut down to avoid the graphic scenes of violence that were certain to follow.

"That might be best," he agreed weakly.

"So perhaps something more traditional," Kohaku continued. She reached in to a grab a bundle that Shiki couldn't quite make out, hidden as it was by her body.

"Perhaps Shiki-san would like to try out a servant's role?" she asked curiously.

Shiki considered himself in a butler's uniform to complement Hisui's French maid outfit, then said, "If Akiha saw me in that kind of costume, though, she'd probably never let me live it down. Please choose another, Kohaku-san."

Kohaku giggled. "Pity." With a sigh, she put the bullwhip and dominatrix outfit back in its corner, and continued rummaging through the closet.

Shiki wondered what exactly Kohaku would come up with, and how she'd dress herself, accordingly. Would she wear an entirely different outfit from his own, or something to complement it? Or would he be dressed to complement her costume? He knew from experience that her normally pleasant demeanour hid a cunning and devious mind, with more than a streak of black humour in it. It depended, he supposed, on what was most important to Kohaku - winning the contest, having a joke at his expense, or - was there a third option?

The possibility brought to mind another thought he hadn't considered. Was he so nervous because he didn't trust Kohaku, because he was afraid of the other girls' reactions . . . or was it because this convention would allow him to spend some personal quality time with her?

His train of thought was derailed when Kohaku exclaimed in victory. "This will be perfect for Shiki-san's costume!"

Shiki blinked. "This," it seemed, was . . .

"You want me to wear that?"






Her steps were light, barely seeming to touch the ground, as she walked through the convention hall. The ribbon that entwined her hair flowed easily behind her - a shadow of scarlet, like a trail of blood to mark her passage for just an instant before vanishing. The kimono she wore, in contrast, was as pale as death, and it seemed to pale her skin as well to a unhealthy shade. Her golden eyes were bright, but cold, like harvest moons, as she took in the seething tide of humanity around her. A small, almost contemptuous smile graced her lips.

Miyu the Vampire had arrived.

Trailing in her wake was her guardian, Larva the Western Shinma. Garbed head to toe in a black cloak, and carrying a wicked-looking scythe, he resembled the Western incarnation of Death, save for his face - which was covered by a white mask that owed more to a Kabuki design than a death's head. The taller figure was nearly always silent, and he remained so now. Hidden behind his mask and cloak, he followed Miyu almost timidly, making not a sound.

Mainly, however, this was because he was terrified of somehow being recognised. Kohaku-san looked very good, Shiki admitted to himself - she could play Miyu as both human and vampire, given that the hue of her eyes changed depending on the light from human brown to supernatural gold. Her experiences, too, allowed her to play Miyu in both her childishly playful and cool, world-weary moods. He had no problem at all with the choice of costume for her. However, Shiki had argued long and hard against garbing himself as Larva. Something about his playing the eternal blood-servant to a vampire, he felt, would set a bad precedent. To say nothing of what Akiha or Ciel might make of it. That was another of those possibilities that had his mind shutting down for its own protection.

Had he been arguing against Akiha or Ciel, he might have won - they were amenable to reason and logic. Had he gone against Hisui, Yumitsuka or possibly even Arcueid, they likely would've unleashed the Mystic Eyes of the Sad Puppy to win. Kohaku, however, had merely taken in all his concerns with a sunny smile - and to completely ignore them. Shiki had no concept of how to handle an opponent with that kind of capability. Quiet and pleasant Kohaku-san was, in her own way, as unstoppable a force of nature as any of the others - more subtle about it, but just as inevitable.

She might never match Arcueid in raw power, or Ciel in fighting prowess, or Akiha's skills in intrigue - but neither would she falter, even in the face of all those things combined. Kohaku would survive any challenge through sheer determination. For some reason, understanding her strength of character pleased him.

And, for the moment, it seemed the convention pleased Kohaku. She wandered through the crowds, careful to stay within range of the cloak of her "guardian" - though whether she was simply playing the role to the hilt or attempting to avoid being separated, he wasn't certain. She would stop, every now and then, to see a display of the latest manga, anime, or other souvenir, but she seemed to do it more for the sight of such things than out of any impulse to buy. The experience mattered more than the material, and Shiki, in all honesty, couldn't begrudge her that.

As they stopped at a booth that sold promotional memorabillia for the anime that was part of the masquerade's prize - Kohaku was gazing at a poster of a character that seemed to bear a remarkable resemblance to Arcueid - it happened. A skin-crawlingly familiar sensation that made the scar along his chest hurt. Shiki immediately began scanning the crowd, icy claws raking his innards.

"Shikisan?" Kohaku asked, noting his sudden distraction. "What is it?"

They locked eyes at the same time - a black-haired boy in a red flight suit, with visibly crimson eyes even across the distance. Cautiously, Shiki tilted his head to peer over the top of his glasses - and saw the red lines that belonged to those of the living world, rather than the black lines of one who had passed beyond it. Not one of the Dead, not Roa. He sighed in relief.

"That's Shinn Asuka," Kohaku said, following his gaze. "The nominal hero of the new Gundam series - a mercurial hothead to contrast the prior protagonist's reluctant hero persona. Although maybe he's always angry because they gave him such a ridiculous name - 'new and bright future'? I find him rather shallow and self-centred - though his second mecha has a nice design."

Shiki stared at her for a moment, then settled on what he thought was a safe comment. "You sure seem to know a lot about it."

"You really think so, Shiki-san?"

"Yeah," Shiki replied, then paused. "Which, when you think about it, is kind of odd. Since Akiha doesn't allow a TV in the mansion, and all . . ."

"That's true," Kohaku responded, her eyes once again showing that innocent gleam which Shiki was beginning to suspect meant, Of course I'm guilty, but you'll never prove it, and I'm not dumb enough to admit it.

"Oh my," she said, obviously changing the subject, but not in such a way that Shiki could complain, "the masquerade ball is about to start. We'd better hurry, Shiki-san. I don't want to miss the first dance."

Somehow, up until this moment, the purpose behind a masquerade ball had completely escaped him. Shiki's body went along with Kohaku's gentle tugging, but his mind had crashed to a dead stop.

"Dance?!"






"Something wrong?" his companion asked.

The convention-goer dressed as Shinn Asuka shook his head, remembering the guy in the black robes. "I must have been in character too long. I'd swear I just had a Newtype flash."






The lineup was longer they'd anticipated, and they were late getting in. Both of them were taken aback by the sheer size of the dance hall. It was massive, large enough to accommodate hundreds of people. Unlike a traditional masquerade contest, this was not open to the public - only those in costume were eligible, and the judges were intermingled, also costumed, with the competitors. The raised stage was home only to the Master of Ceremonies, who orchestrated the various musical selections that the contestants would dance to. They arrived only moments before the last song was to be played.

"And now, ladies and gentleman, our last song, performed live by none other than Miss Orikasa Fumiko," the Master of Ceremonies announced quietly. The lights dimmed, and as the singer took her place, those present caught what sounded like subvocal muttering from the famous voice actress and singer.

"First I get one scene as a self-righteous, violent zealot, and I get upstaged offstage by the prissy princess. Last time I didn't even get mentioned, and now this ridiculous cameo! I'm the second lead - he can't do this to me! When I get my hands on that boy . . ." Anything else Miss Orikasa might have said, in truth or imagination, was lost in a momentary feedback squeal.

The crowd was nearly as bad as in the whole of the convention hall itself. In many ways it was worse, because they were all moving in rhythmic patterns within a far more confined space. Shiki, who'd ridden the subway through Tokyo once or twice, thought the auditorium wasn't quite as packed, but it was close. Kohaku, for her part, was having a worse time. Having grown up in a single empty room, then the open spaces of the Tohno mansion, the dark, crowded room was a little frightening. Shiki noticed that her eyes were a little wider, and whiter, than normal.

"It's all right, Kohaku-san," he murmured. "Remember why we're here. Just close your eyes - ACK!"

He'd meant to add "and dance," but the effect was spoiled as he suddenly tripped on his robes, and nearly sprawled to the floor. Kohaku did forget her nervousness, however, as she fought off an attack of the giggles at the comical expression on his face.

"Thank you, Shiki-san," she said seriously. "I feel much more at ease, now."

"I'm glad," he said, rubbing the back of his neck. "I'm not sure how to dance in this outfit, though - I'm not used to wearing anything this long."

Kohaku smiled. "Just play in character, Shiki-san."

"Huh?"

Kohaku stopped, and halted him as well. "Larva took pity on Miyu, shackled to her lonely fate, and consented to bind himself to her by blood. He serves her, is devoted to her, and obeys her completely. Miyu, in turn, trusts him as she trusts no other. They have a bargain, that when and if she is truly weary of her destiny, it is Larva who will bring her end. She trusts him with her life . . . and more importantly, with her death."

Shiki blinked. "I'm not sure I understand. What is it you want me to do, Kohaku-san?"

She embraced him suddenly, and gazed up at him with those shining, serious eyes.

"Do as Larva does, Shiki-san." Kohaku smiled. "Give yourself to me, to this moment, and I promise: we won't dance - we'll fly."

She was asking him to trust her, completely, Shiki realised. He looked at her, then nodded. For this one brief time, for Kohaku-san's sake, Shiki found it within himself to just let go.

Soft piano music began to play, haunting and wistful. Moving hesitantly at first, then with growing confidence and synergy, the pair began to dance.







[i]I know this will not remain forever,
However it's beautiful.
Your hands, eyes, and your warm smile,
They're my treasure.

It's hard to forget.
I wish there was a solution,
Don't spend your time in confusion,
I'll turn back now and spread . . .

My broken wings
Still strong enough to cross the ocean with
My broken wings
How far should I go, drifting in the wind?
Higher and higher, into the light.



"Look there," murmured one of the judges, gesturing slightly to a waltzing pair.

"We've already got our winners," protested his compatriot.

"Yes, but look," the first insisted.

He did, and saw a vampire girl and her servant gliding with ease across the floor. She clung to him as though he was the last solid certainty in all the world, and he enfolded her as though to shield her from all harm. They moved like wisps of smoke, curling and swirling through a pattern that seemed constructed for just the two of them. Lost in their movements, in the moment, it was plain for all to see they danced knowing that their time was brief, and might never come again, but that it didn't matter. Though they might be gone in the blink of an eye, this time, for them, would last forever.

"It's beautiful," the second judge murmured.

"It's what we need to remember, this time," his elder advised him. "Remember that moments like this are what the fans love, are what matter. Moments of the soul."







My broken wings
Still strong enough to cross the ocean with
My broken wings
How far should I go, drifting in the wind?
Across the sky, just keep on flying . . .

That's not rain, falling from the sky . . .






As the last whispered line reached his ears, Shiki was aware of what felt like a sudden dampness spreading from his shoulder.

"Are you all right?" he whispered

Kohaku raised her face to his, and in the darkness, he could not say for certain she'd been crying.

"I'm fine, Shiki . . . Shiki-san," she replied, seeming a little out of breath. "It's been . . . a long day. But wonderful. Thank you."

Shiki considered. By and large, he'd had a wonderful time himself. He'd gotten out of the house, and seen sights he'd rarely, if ever, seen before. Including, he thought, a glimpse behind the mask Kohaku wore. Not the identity of Miyu, but that of the pleasant, cheerful, and almost dull maid of the Tohno mansion. It had been an enlightening experience. What Kohaku might look like, if he could entice her to dispense with her mask entirely? What kind of person had the lonely little girl who'd risked so much to give a virtual stranger her ribbon grown up to be? He couldn't help but wonder.

It wouldn't be easy to find out - she'd lost so much that the mask was very much a part of her, for the protection of what little she had left of herself. And the other girls wouldn't take kindly to his efforts. But for the first time, Shiki understood that the reward might be worth the risk.

Kieran
March 16th, 2011, 11:51 AM
DISCLAIMER: What, again? (Sigh.) OK, I still don't own Tsukihime, or anything else you see here. I'm a writer, not an author (the difference being that the latter gets paid in money), and the sole profit generated is in the form of my and others' amusement. Neither Type-Moon nor Geneon has any idea I'm borrowing their characters (as far as I know), and I don't plan to tell them, since I probably can't afford the licensing fees. That said, can I get on with it?

CONTINUITY NOTE: This follows the anime, largely, with a few of the unmentioned game concepts brought in. This is also set some years after the events of the anime.



Green - The Truest Love (Hisui's Story)






Ren glared at the old mage. If she'd had the proper form for it, her tail would've cleaved the air like a bullwhip stuck in a blender set to "puree." This was getting her nowhere - she'd only seen Shiki begin to show interest in the last one! The familiar had thought her request would be an easy one to meet, for someone as powerful as the old wizard was reputed to be. Perhaps he was getting senile?

The wizard, for his part, merely grunted in acknowledgement. "Humph. I said the human heart was complicated, didn't I? The complexity of reality is equally so. Do you have any idea how frequently possibilities are altered by the minute choices and chances of everyday life? Would you believe that from the instant you made your request, hundreds of new potentials have spun off from this time - and a nearly equal number have died away? What I gathered were only the closest possibilites at the time, instants frozen by the power of my magic - even now, the circumstances have changed, by the interplay of a thousand minor details. Your viewing these chances is changing their likelihood, as well as that of God-only-knows how many others. And the possibility of more change still exists - whether you leave now, disgusted by what's occurred, whether you continue in the hopes of learning something useful . . . you could even ask me to gather a completely new set of paths." He sighed. "It's not as easy as people make it out to be, this following of the warps and weaves of Freedom and Fate. My advice is to take what you can get."


Ren could have argued, had she been inclined. Being primarily feline, however, it was more in her nature to win arguments out of sheer indifference to any other opinion. That tactic would be difficult to employ here - how did one outlast another immortal? She could have shown her contempt and left, but that would have foolish, given how little she'd learned thus far - and the old mage was not someone to annoy lightly. In the end, therefore, her choice seemed simple enough. She decided to continue watching, sparing only a moment's thought as to which avenues of possibility were now closed to her, and which might have opened up.

Now, which ray to enter next? Given that she'd been following the rainbow pattern thus far, Ren made another choice. She walked into the verdant light before her, sensing that this chance was connected with the other who called her Master by his proper title . . .






Behind the curtains, the sun rose, filling the pale purple cloth with a warm, golden heart that cast a muted light over the room. In the centre of that room stood a bed, currently occupied, and overtop of that bed . . .

Garbed as she almost always was, in a traditional Western maid's outfit, Hisui watched her master sleep. From the time she'd been a small child, her mornings had started just like this - watching the new boy in the household sleep, and waking him from it. The rooms had changed, the reasons had changed, and the routine itself had been halted for several years by the boy's enforced absence. Yet it always came back to this simple ritual. Hisui began her day by beginning his.

Yet today, she hesitated. In his sleep, Shiki-sama's face looked so peaceful, away from the cares and trials of the waking world. Away from the pain and the burdens he faced on a daily basis. Was it not also her job to shield him from such things? On that basis, should she not let him sleep a while longer, and enjoy his tranquility?

"Shiki-sama," Hisui whispered. "It's time to get up."

The boy made no response. Smiling shyly to herself, Hisui permitted herself a liberty she'd never have dared to take had her master been awake, or if she'd thought anyone had been around to see. She leaned down a little further, and brushed her lips against his hair.

He stirred in his sleep, causing an instant's panic, but did not wake. Hisui closed the door quietly behind her as she left.






After a long and fruitless night of searching for the answers to questions no one else would think to ask, Ren pawed open the window with the ease of long practice and dropped all-but-silently into the room. Quickly and easily, she padded across the floor, and leaped up to claim her bed - the chest of one Shiki Tohno. Upon getting within paw's reach, however, the familiar paused, her ears flattening in response to a particular scent.

She had been here. Not the one who smelled frequently of fish and other, often strange things - inasmuch as such things interested Ren, anyway. No, this was the other one, the one who made warm basket beds of soft cloth and treated her master properly, if not always submissively. Although, why she should think cats in general needed regular baths, much less her specifically, was beyond Ren's understanding. She had come into her master's room - yet still, he slept. This was strange.

Curiously, Ren stepped carefully onto her accustomed spot. Her scent was very strong near her master's face, radiating from his very skin. She suspected liberties had been taken that she would not have allowed, had she been sleeping here instead of out hunting. With a put-upon sigh, the cat curled up to soak luxuriantly in body heat.

This time, Ren would let it pass. She had allowed her master time to rest, after all, and Ren herself was very tired.

And there was so little time left . . . before . . .






"When will Shiki-san be to breakfast?" Kohaku asked her sister quietly.

"Not for a while," Hisui answered. "And Akiha-sama?"

"I didn't have the heart to wake her," Kohaku replied. "No matter what she says, she needs her rest."

Hisui nodded. It was a not-quite-discussed fact that neither of the Tohno siblings was in the bloom of health, and that was especially true lately. But whereas Shiki acknowledged it, and did his best to work within the limitations of his failings, Akiha did her best to bulldoze over or ignore her problems. It was not that she was stupid, but rather, too stubborn to admit that she was as prone to weakness and sickness as any other human being until she practically collapsed. As such, the maids took it upon themselves to subtly work around their charges, and try to see that they didn't overexert or endanger themselves. This, too, was part of their duties.

Hisui understood duty. She'd been performing hers for a very long time. Her duty was to Shiki-sama's well-being and comfort, and to ensure those things, she had always been prepared to perform acts others might condemn. Acts such as lies . . .

"Hisui, do you know where my brother is?"

"I believe he's gone to bed, Akiha-sama," she answered with a straight face, knowing full well her master had just left the grounds.

"To bed?" Akiha asked quizzically.

Hisui knew this would be her last chance to tell the truth. "Yes, ma'am."

. . . subterfuge . . .

"My sister will be out shopping for groceries, Shiki-sama, and I'll be doing chores in the other parts of the mansion," she said carefully, "so I won't have any idea what you're doing."

"What are you saying?"

She resisted the urge to sigh at the apparent density of his skull. "I can't say it directly, or I could lose my job. I'm saying that if you want to explore the mansion, there will be no one around to stop you."

. . . and even outright confrontation.

"If we don't do something, who will? I know what I'm doing will hurt Akiha-sama, but Shiki-sama is the only one who can save her."

Whatever was called for, Hisui would do it, so long as it served Shiki-sama. That was her creed, and always would be.

"We'll let them sleep a while longer," Kohaku decided. "Care to join me for some tea, Hisui-chan?"






After breakfast, Hisui accompanied her master on a rare walk across the Tohno grounds. Neither of them noted, or at least acknowledged, a certain cat trailing behind. For the cat's part, she didn't deign to make herself known.

"Hisui?" Shiki asked.

"Yes, Shiki-sama?"

Whatever he'd been about to ask for was momentarily derailed by a chuckle. "I'm never going to break you of that, am I?"

"No, Shiki-sama."

His tone turned sombre. "I don't suppose it matters much, anymore, does it?"

Hisui was silent. She didn't want to answer the question, but it had been asked. In a very quiet tone, she said, "No, Shiki[/i]-sama. I don't think it does."

"Have you thought about . . ." He trailed off, hesitating on the choice of words. "About your future?"

Another question she did not want to answer. "No, Shiki-sama. My duty is here."

He smiled, and that brightened her own outlook somewhat. "As expected, Hisui is always reliable. Still, think about it, OK? You don't deserve to be tied down to the mansion forever."

"As long as you are here, Shiki-sama, this is where I must be."

He looked at her for a long moment. "Ciel was the one who said it, but the one who's always been on my side is you, isn't it, Hisui? Arcueid left, Ciel left . . . Yumitsuka loved me, but I didn't love her . . . Akiha loves me, and I do love her - but I can't trust her . . . and I can trust you."

Hisui could feel her cheeks reddening.

"It's the truth, Hisui." A gentler smile now, a softer tone. "No need to be embarrassed about the truth, remember?"

Hisui nodded, remembering.

He sighed. "The truth is, I wish I'd learned to appreciate you sooner, Hisui. You've worked so hard, for so long . . . you deserve some happiness."

Hisui's blush, impossibly, intensified. "Shiki . . . Shiki-sama's satisfaction is all the happiness I can ask for."

"I can promise you that I'll never be dissatisfied with you, Hisui," he responded. "Unless you fall into the same mistake the rest of us have, and live in the past. Enjoy your life while it lasts, Hisui, and live it for as long as you can. Promise me that?"

"I . . . I promise, Shiki-sama."

Unexpectedly, his hand reached out to brush her cheek.

"If only I'd learned sooner, maybe . . ." He sighed again. "We'd better head back, Hisui. I'm tired."

"Of course, Shiki-sama." She positioned herself so that he could lean against her for support.

She knew her duty.

Under a nearby tree, a black cat watched. So little time . . .






Not long after that, the progression of illness and weakness Shiki had suffered his entire life reached its natural conclusion. The funeral was held properly, and though a number of people among Shiki's classmates and acquaintances sent condolences, it was very much a private affair. That was not to say there were not guests from outside the household - Dr. Jinan attended, as did one of Akiha's classmates, much to the apparent discomfort of both girls. The event of Shiki's death was not widely circulated, so they were surprised when Ciel appeared, garbed in full mourning regalia. Akiha might have let her temper overcome her good manners, and forbidden the young woman entrance, but Ciel's companion forestalled that by politely requesting to say her farewells in a tone that pleasantly promised dire consequences to any who disobeyed. Hisui didn't recognise the tall woman with the luxurious red hair, but it was obvious that her proximity made Ciel . . . uncomfortable. Akiha-sama gave no sign of her own observations on the matter, but graciously acquiesced to both ladies' attendance.

Perhaps it was simply that, with her brother gone, she lacked the conviction to put up a fight any longer. Certainly, she lingered only a little time more before following Shiki - time enough to finish setting her affairs in order as head of the Tohno family, and see that the twins were taken care of. The title passed to another relative, but the ancestral estate had gone to them. Apparently, Akiha had seen no purpose in evicting the two from what had been their home since childhood, nor in binding them to the service of a stranger.

Kohaku used the trust fund set aside for her to open a shop selling herbal remedies and baked goods. In time, she began studying medicine in order to practice legally. And as for Hisui . . . she offered her services privately as a housekeeper, coming into other people's home to perform the services she knew so well, and enjoyed some success at it. She even managed to make a few friends among her employers and competitors. She'd promised Shiki-sama, after all, not to let the past drag her down, and she would always perform her duty.

But every morning she appeared at the cemetery to be greeted by a black cat, which would accompany her across the grounds. Garbed in her maid's outfit, combining the traditional mourning colours of both East and West, she would tidy his grave site, light incense, and set fresh flowers there.

"Sleep well, Shiki-sama," she prayed to him, and bowed before leaving to begin her day.

The cat would remain in the cemetery, curled on the gravestone in the morning sun, and reflect silently on the truth that they both understood so well.

The truest love is loyalty.

Kieran
March 16th, 2011, 11:52 AM
DISCLAIMER: Don't own Tsukihime. Didn't create Tsukihime. Not personally affliliated with Kinoko Nasu, Type-Moon, Geneon Entertainment, or anyone who meets the criteria of the first two statements. Not making money off this. Deal with it.

CONTINUITY NOTES: Before the Epilogue of the Tsukihime game, with reference to the Prologue, dialogue from which is borrowed from a translation on The Moonlit World website.

Though the odds are all but impossible that she'll ever read this, much less realise who wrote it, I nonetheless dedicate this story to Sarah - the redhead who haunts my childhood memories.




Blue - Waiting for You (Aoko's Story)






Ren was silent a long time. In all honesty, she was nearly always silent, but this was more than simply the absence of making noise. It was a stillness of the soul that gripped her now, a state very like death, born of fear. Her Shiki - dying? Not, as she'd assumed, in decades, or even centuries, but a handful of years or less?

Ren was, to all intents and purposes, immortal. So long as her energy held out, and nothing killed her, she would continue to exist. She had already outlived one master by several human lifetimes, because she used what energy remained to her so effectively. It had been entirely possible that she would outlive another one - though given the lesser amounts of energy Shiki provided her, not for long. She'd lost too much in the intervening time to rebuild her reserves to their former level with the available resources. She might outlive her master, but she wouldn't be long in joining him.

That, she could have accepted - had accepted, once she'd considered it. But this . . . Shiki was young. Truly young. He'd barely tasted life, and had no idea of the experiences that awaited him. His wonder at such things was part of why she loved him. But to fade away at such an age - that was not acceptable. Ren would not allow her master to die again, so soon. Shiki had to survive, even if . . . even if she had to prevail on Arcueid to do what was anathema to her.

The wizard spoke, interrupting a dangerous train of thought - perhaps on purpose. "Forewarned is forearmed, they say. Be content in knowing that these are only shadows of what may be, and that the path of one's life is not ended until it is fully walked. There is time, yet, to change what may be into what we wish it to be. For your own sake, will you end your walking here? Or will you continue down the path you have chosen?"

He gestured, and Ren saw the rainbow light still waiting for her. All dark colours now, their brighter kin having faded with her viewing. Ren hoped, privately, that it wasn't an omen as to their outcomes. She moved, slowly, towards the next - and froze. All the hues so far had been indicative of the person they represented. Red, for the shade Akiha's hair could become. Orange bespoke the dual colours of Arcueid's eyes. Yellow, for the name of one maid, green for her similarly named sister. If the pattern continued, Ren trembled to consider who she would behold in the next ray of light.

Because although blue was the colour of her own hair, Ren knew that she was not the spell's intended subject . . .






My wounds are mostly healed, but they still ache enough to slow me down. I arrive just in time for the sunset. The golden orb that I've seen precious little of recently is darkening. First, it turns orange, deepening to a red hue that paints the sky around it, and shines through the leaves of the tree I'm sitting against. A beautiful, brilliant red. Like your hair. Then it's gone, and I sit here to watch the moon rise, full and bright.

I haven't been here in a while, but it hasn't changed. Still an endless sea of green grass, soft and deep. A meadow out of a fairy tale, where time itself seems to stand still. Here, I believe the old legends of hollow hills, where a hundred years in the world outside vanishes in a single night. Such is the price humans pay to taste enchantment. All I'm missing is a fairy queen . . . but that's not true, is it? I have you.

I wonder where you are right now, what you're doing. I wonder if you even remember a scared nine-year old boy, who woke in a hospital with no memory of his life, into a fragile, patchwork world. Can anyone who hasn't experienced it truly understand how terrifying that is? Not knowing anything about who you are, or were, only that the world in which you live now can be broken, so easily destroyed, by as small a thing as a child with a pocket knife? Knowing this as an undeniable truth, but one that seems invisible to everyone but you?

It's a nightmare, and one that I couldn't wake from. And then, when everything seemed bleakest, I met an angel. Someone who understood, who believed in me - although our first conversation was hardly the stuff of Shakespeare.

"Hey you, it's dangerous if you're crouching down at a place like this."

"Huh?"

"Not 'huh'. You're already small as you are so if you're squatting down on the grass, people won't see you. Be careful, you almost got kicked over."

"Kicked over by who?"

"Are you stupid? That's obvious. There's only you and me here so how could it be anyone else but me?"

No, I can't imagine epic romances including dialogue like that. But at the time, romance was the furthest thing from either of our minds, wasn't it? I was trying to preserve my sanity, and you . . . Well, who am I to presume?

I wonder, from time to time, how much of this is real, and how much of what I remember is blurred by the passage of time, or simply something I want to believe. I'm human, after all, and one of our greatest talents is self-deception. I can't say for certain whether what I remember of you is the way you truly were, or an idealised view that I want to believe is you. But I know that you saved me, then. You listened when no one else would, believed what no one else did, and didn't mock me for being a child who didn't understand. And you taught me a very important lesson.

"You don't need to apologize. It's true you did something you needed to be scolded, but it's not your fault. But Shiki, if someone doesn't scold you now, it will be irrecoverable. The only thing I want you to know is that never cut those lines just out of curiosity. Because your eyes will make life of 'things' seem too trivial."

You told me to hate you, if I wanted, when you had to know what I might have been capable of. You believed in my better nature even then, when it would have been so much easier to be afraid of me, or make use of me. Surely even a magician has enemies that someone like me could handle for them. But you didn't do any of those things. You did what any one who values life should do - you tried to help me. I owe you more than I can ever repay. You did more than save me, you shaped me into who I am. I have always been, and will always be grateful to you for that. Yet I wonder when, exactly, that gratitude and respect turned to love? Or was it always there?

I've had some lessons in basic psychology, and they tell me that first love is always a powerful thing. It sets the template for what someone believes a partner should be, and every future encounter is judged, however unconsciously, against that standard. I can't say, exactly, when I realised that it was you who set my standard, but I know it's the truth. I look at other girls, of course - I'm hardly blind, and certainly not dead - but I don't let myself get deeply attached, because they aren't you. And it's you that I want.

It's ridiculous, really. I know almost nothing about you. I have no idea of what you really do, or what your life is like. What do you hope for, what do you fear? What do you cherish, what do you despise? What's your favourite food? What do you like to do on rainy days? What keeps you awake at night? I know what my answer is for the last one.

Yet you keep staying in my mind. You're the purest, clearest thing I can recall - the first one, of all my memories, that I can really trust. A tall, statuesque lady, regal in bearing, but remarkably relaxed in attitude. Skin as white as alabaster, with lapis lazuli eyes and long, luxurious hair - so red, like a pouring of fresh blood. Heart's blood. I remember that best, the way it tickled my nose when you hugged me, the swish it made as you moved. For the sake of your memory alone, red hair will always attract me.

I'm being the most pathetic sort of fool, I know. The odds of our meeting again are astronomical, and even if we did, what then? Should I expect you to have cherished my memory the way I have yours? That's hardly likely. It's far more likely that you've forgotten all about me, and grown past me. You're your own person, with your own life. There's no reason in the world for you to care about my feelings, much less return them. It's better for us both if the past remains buried where it belongs. I will live on with the shining memory that brightens my days, and you will continue to do whatever it is you do, with no thought for me at all. It's the rational thing to do, the expected thing. To believe otherwise is only a fool's dream.

And yet, when I want to be alone, I come here, to the place we met. I lie in the deep green grass and watch the leaves of the tree sway in the wind. And I remember what else you said.

"It looks like it was a link in fate that I met you."

If our fates are linked, that it's possible that we might meet again. It's believing in that possibility that keeps me coming here, through the years. Because though it's foolish, and childish, I want to see you again. I want to show you who I've become, and I want to see more of who you are. The reality might be disappointing, but even if you aren't as I remember you, the memory will still be there. And whoever it is I meet again will be precious, too, because it will be the real you. Not an angel or a saint, perhaps - maybe even bossier and flawed than I remember. But however you really are, you'll be my sensei, Aoko Aozaki, and I love you for what you chose to do for me, rather than who I think you were.

And so I'll keep returning. As often as I can, for as long as I can, I'll be here. Waiting for you.

It's gotten pretty late. I suppose I should go home. But this place is so comfortable . . . and I'm so tired . . .






"Hey you, it's dangerous if you're laying down at a place like this."

"Huh?"

"Not, 'huh'. You must be really bored to be sleeping in the bushes so late at night. Be careful, you almost got kicked over."

"Oh. Kicked over by who?"

"Are you stupid? That's obvious. There's only you and me here so how could it be anyone else but me?"

Kieran
March 16th, 2011, 11:53 AM
DISCLAIMER: Don't own Tsukihime or anything remotely like it, never have or will. Didn't create it, either. The credit there goes to Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon. No profit is made by my unauthorised usage of this setting. Furthermore, no characters were harmed in the making of this fanfic - unless I found it entertaining.

CONTINUITY NOTES: This takes place following Ciel's Good Ending . . . funny how I never use the True ones, eh?



Indigo - Legacies (Ciel's Story)






Ren blinked. That had been surprising. Immortals were not unaccustomed to walking away from a lover, and holding only fond memories for decades or centuries. But was it really possible for a mortal to carry such intense feelings, for so long, with no hope of reciprocation? Wouldn't it be a tragic waste of their short lifespans?

"The heart will do what it will," the wizard commented heavily. "It believes what it wants, and leads where it wishes to go. More often than not, we're just along for the ride."

Ren bowed to his greater expertise. He, at least, had the advantage of having once been human. It no doubt helped him understand them better than she would.

For a long moment, nothing was said between them, as the familiar pondered all she'd seen and heard so far, and the wizard withdrew into himself, perhaps remembering the long past callings of his own heart.

Finally, he seemed to shake himself awake, and gazed steadily at the girl. "Are you ready to continue?"

She nodded, and stepped towards the last two streams of light. They pulsed silently, slowly, fraught with potential as yet unseen, concealed within the darkness of their respective hues. After a moment's hesitation, she walked into the one that was lighter in colour, though only just.

The light washed over her, and she saw . . .






The Christmas season had come and passed, and as New Year's approached rapidly on its heels, Shiki wondered at the wisdom of attending school. While Christmas wasn't a recognised holiday in Japan, surely there was enough activity during the season, in addition to the national New Year's festivities, to warrant just taking the whole week off? Why give them a couple of days, only to drag them back and give them another day off barely a week later?

With a sigh, he chalked it up to the idiocy of school bureaucracy and a general conspiracy against teenagers. . . And then he stopped.

"I," he announced to no one in particular, "have been hanging around Arihiko for far too long."

"Then why don't you come spend the day with me?" Arcueid offered cheerily. "We can have lots of fun."

Shiki tried not to jump at the unexpected sound. He succeeded only in that he managed not to fall over. "A-A-A-Arcueid!"

The blonde girl grinned and bowed slightly, making the bells on her Santa outfit jingle. "That's me," she agreed.

"Uh, Arcueid? Why are you wearing that outfit?" Shiki asked, deciding that was a safer topic than where she'd come from, or how long she'd been following him, or why. "Christmas is over."

"I like it," she explained simply. She spread her arms to show off the red jacket and pouted prettily. "Don't you think it looks nice?"

That question definitely got marked as "unsafe." If he said yes, she'd likely wear it all the time - and happily explain why the next time someone, like Ciel-sempai, asked. Depending on who it was, that would get him in some degree of trouble, starting with "deep" and going downhill from there. If he said "no," however, making it to class on time would be the least of his worries. He needed a dodge, and fast. Mentally scrambling, he found one.

"That reminds me," Shiki said. "Akiha's given me permission to throw a New Year's Eve party, and invite some of my school friends. Did . . . did you want to come?"

It had surprised him, but Shiki suspected that his sister was trying to close the rift opened by the events of two months ago. The discovery of his real identity had pushed their relationship to the point where "strained" was an understatement. He stayed at the Tohno mansion because for the moment he had nowhere else to go, but neither he nor Akiha was happy with the situation. To that end, she'd relaxed a lot of her usual restrictions - as an enticement, he suspected - to the point of allowing a "small" affair at the mansion. That suited him - he didn't have too many schoolmates he'd care to have over, anyway. But as long as the opportunity was there, why not seize it?

Arcueid's expression would not have looked out of place on a child who realised everything she'd wanted was under the Christmas tree. "You really want me to come?"

Having a sense that he'd saved himself from the frying pan by jumping into the blast furnace, Shiki nonetheless nodded. Arcueid was pleasant enough company - and it wasn't like she had a circle of friends and admirers to support her. Nobody should be entirely alone during the holidays, he reasoned.

"All right then, I'll be there!" Arcueid smiled so widely her lower jaw should have fallen off. "Do I bring presents?"

"No," Shiki reassured her. "Just yourself."

"OK!" she chirped, then paused as she noticed they were nearing the school gate. "Are you sure you don't want to spend the day with me instead of being in school?"

"Well, I kind of have to . . ." Shiki apologised. "You know - laws, and all that sort of stuff."

Arcueid frowned. "I think you just want to see Ciel. Honestly, why you let that woman hang around you, Shiki . . ." Her eyes focussed on something behind him. "Oops, Wrath of God at one o'clock." She sighed, then smiled again. "Well, I'll see you later, Shiki. Next time, I'll make sure we really enjoy ourselves. Bye."

He blinked, and she was gone. He had just enough time to breathe a sigh of relief before . . .

"Tohno-kun! What did she want?"

Shiki groaned inwardly. A new challenger had arrived . . .






Later, as the pair sat in the tea room . . .

"A New Year's Eve party?" Ciel asked curiously. "Western or Eastern style?" She didn't particularly prefer one over the other, but there were certain rules of conduct specific to each type.

"I'm skipping a lot of the usual traditions just to keep things quiet, so say a mix of the two," Shiki responded. He debated mentioning Arcueid's invitation. Would it be safer to forewarn her, or smarter to "forget" until the pair were together?

If Shiki was perfectly honest with himself, he wasn't too worried. It wasn't as if the girls were anime characters, after all - they were both capable of being civilised, if not necessarily civil, in each other's presence. No, he was using this as an excuse to distract himself from Ciel.

The memory of her was enough to send his pulse racing. For days after their battle with Roa/Shiki, that one bright thing had kept him going - the knowledge that one good thing had come out of the whole mess. But though she was certainly kind to him, still, Ciel's inner self remained remote, locked away somewhere he couldn't quite reach. It was as if, having allowed him to glimpse her heart once, she was afraid to do it again. But he remembered the soft warmth of her pressed against him, and the smell of her hair, and the taste of . . .

"Are you all right, Tohno-kun?" Ciel's voice broke into his thoughts suddenly.

"I'm fine," he assured her hastily, then paused. "Are you all right, Sempai?"

Now that he thought to look, Ciel seemed much paler than usual, with a hint of green in her features, and black circles under her eyes. Faint traces of sweat were visible on her forehead, and she sipped her tea gingerly, hugging herself as she set down the cup.

"A consequence of being purely human again," she assured him. "I've got the stomach flu going around. It's been bothering me the last few days."

Shiki nodded sympathetically. A few of the students had been out over the last month or so because of it. "It's terrible to be sick around the holidays - but why not take a day or two off and get some rest? You don't have to come to school if you're that ill."

"Especially when you've gotten used to not getting ill," she admitted. "Maybe I should . . . But I'll be well enough for your party, Tohno-kun, I promise. If I don't shake this off soon, I'm seeing a doctor - I'm so sick to my stomach I don't dare eat curry, and it's driving me crazy."

The indignant expression on her face made him laugh.






The rest of the week passed smoothly. Arihiko and Yumitsuka accepted their party invitations easily enough, and Akiha was kind enough, after hearing there would be only four guests, not to inquire too deeply into the group's makeup. Shiki suspected her reaction might have been different, had she known three strange girls were going to be entering her home - and now that he knew the truth about himself and his family, her reactions were perhaps more understandable, if no less troubling.

Kohaku and Hisui went about preparations with the usual efficiency and enthusiasm. It would be confined to one room, with easy access to the kitchen and the plumbing - and equipped with a hastily-bought television set so they could watch the international ceremonies. Shiki, knowing Akiha's attitude about them, wondered about what would happen to it afterwards, but a smiling Kohaku assured him she would take care of it.

The only worry was Ciel's absence for the two days prior to New Year's Eve day, but Shiki decided there was little he could do about it. He hoped she was resting up and getting well, and if she couldn't make the party - well, her health was more important, obviously. There would be other times.

As he walked home from school, Shiki hummed quietly to himself. It was pleasant, for winter - mild sun and no discernable wind chill. The snow was clean and powdery. Even the weather seemed to be cooperating with his plans today. He hoped the evening would go as well.

He stopped when he saw who was waiting for him at the corner of the block the mansion sat on. She looked worse than she ever had. Ghostly pale, the circles under her eyes were prominently visible. She trembled in the mild winter air as though it was freezing her bone marrow. There was a look in her eyes that he could only describe as "haunted," and she seemed as if she might be violently ill at any moment.

"Ciel-sempai?" Shiki asked uncertainly, because this seemed so unlike her usual self he was half-convinced he was mistaken.

"Tohno-kun . . ." she whispered.

"What's wrong?" he asked. "Are you . . ." It was a stupid question, but he had to ask. "Are you all right?"

She shook her head violently. "No . . . No . . ."

"Are you hurt?" he continued, stepping cautiously toward her. "What happened?"

She stared at him for a long time, and seemed to regain some of her self-possession. "I . . . I didn't get better, so I went to a doctor," she said, still half-whispering. "He ran some tests, and he told me . . . He told me . . ."

She stopped, as if saying what the doctor had told her would strike her dead on the spot. Shiki, by this point, was frantic. When facing down Arcueid, or even Roa, Ciel hadn't shown the slightest hesitation. Now she seemed so frightened that a loud noise would sent her into a screaming fit. He didn't want to know what was terrifying her so badly, but at the same time, he had to.

"What is it, Ciel?" he asked - no, begged. "What's wrong?"

She looked at him in silence, tears glimmering in her eyes. Finally, bowing her head, she answered.

"Tohno-kun, I . . . Shiki . . . I'm pregnant."






The coffee shop was a place of quiet and warmth. Nestled in a corner of town where it could be easily overlooked, the booths were nonetheless spacious, and enclosed to ensure privacy. Sound seemed almost foreign here, the music that played to drown conversations so faint that you didn't realise it was running unless you listened for it. The lights were soft, the staff attentive but not intrusive - this was a place where anyone could come in and be sheltered from the pains and pressures of the outside world. Here, for a time, you could be at peace. Certainly, Ciel seemed much calmer and more relaxed once they were sitting down. She sipped her drink - a mug of cocoa flavoured delicately with French vanilla - and gazed pensively into its depths.

"I don't know what to do," she admitted to him quietly.

Shiki had no immediate answer. She'd had a day or two to consider the ramifications, but he'd been hit with the bombshell twenty minutes ago, and was currently a wreck on par with Hiroshima. He sipped his own hot chocolate - this one with a touch of hazelnut - and considered.

"There's an easy answer," he tried tentatively, "but it's against your faith, right?"

Ciel's eyes flashed in response. "There are some lines even a heretic can't cross, Tohno-kun," she warned in a hard voice.

"I didn't say it was the right answer," he defended himself, "just that it was the easy one. I'm not sure I agree with it, either," he added darkly. "But if not that, then what?"

"I don't know," she repeated. "I never expected . . . Tohno-kun, I don't exist. Ciel is a shadow, a ghost that haunts those the Church commands her to. Who she was before that died years ago, and I couldn't resurrect that girl now if I tried. But there are no records of me otherwise, nothing to prove that I'm a real person, with a real life. What kind of life can I give a child?"

She sat there, looking every inch the young, vulnerable sixteen-year old, until you saw her eyes. Her eyes were older than the rest of her, cups that held every drop of horror they'd seen, every day of travail, and the wisdom gained from them. It was her eyes, more than anything, that had allowed her to pass as an adult - the only flaw in her disguise. They were wide and sorrowful now.

"All I wanted was to die for my crimes," she murmured. "I deserve to. I hunted Roa as penance, to try and atone, but in the end I really just wanted to finish it all and take the judgement I'd earned. And now . . ."

"Isn't suicide a mortal sin?" Shiki asked gently.

Her eyes went hard. "One more wouldn't have made a difference. You think you saw Roa in action, but you have no real concept of his capacity for cruelty. I slaughtered so many . . . My family, my friends, total strangers - children and their pets, newborn babies . . . It didn't matter. They were alive, and innocent - but I could smell their blood . . . And I was hungry."

Her voice broke on the last word, tears spilling anew. "And then she came. The only one he hated in the world, because even after she spurned him, she was the only one he desired. I hate her for what she is, Tohno-kun - her kind created Roa, and worse than Roa . . . but I owe her, because she released me. And then I woke again, this time in a different kind of cage. And now, when I thought it was finally over, that I was finally free . . . now this!"

Shiki said nothing for a long time. He'd learned, over the years, that occasionally the best way to be helpful was simply to listen, and let someone articulate their feelings out loud to another living person. It wasn't much, and it was certainly less than Ciel deserved, but what could he have said in response? In the end, only Ciel knew how she felt, and arguing was sheer folly.

It was especially dangerous, noted a corner of his mind, to argue with a pregnant woman in the grip of a hormonal mood swing. Particularly when you were the one ultimately responsible for it.

And responsibility was, really, what this was all about, wasn't it?

"Is it really so bad?" he asked quietly. "You have another chance now - and a reason to live a normal life . . ."

Ciel stared at him in flat disbelief. "Normal?! I haven't been normal in almost a decade, Tohno - and you don't just walk away from what I do. Even if I could . . ." She paused. "Even if it was so . . . Neither you nor I qualifies as 'normal,' Tohno-kun. No child of ours could be. Twenty years from now there might be a monster worse than Roa ever could have been in this world, and it would be my fault."

"Or someone who can fight those kinds of monsters," Shiki countered. "Someone who can help where no else could, or would - like an ordinary high school student who just happens to be able to cut lines no one else can see." His expression softened, and a half-hearted smile graced his face. "A wise woman once told me that God doesn't hand out gifts without a purpose - and who are we to argue? Maybe this is the atonement you were seeking."

Now it was Ciel's turn to be silent. The waiter silently refilled their cups, and left a basket of fresh cinnamon rolls whose warmth gradually filled the air. Almost unconsciously, the blue-haired girl reached out and began to nibble.

"You really believe that, don't you, Tohno-kun?" she asked softly.

"I believe that who or what our child becomes depends as much on the parents we'll be as on the people we are," he said firmly. "And I believe in you, Ciel.You saved me, after all."

She asked in a hard tone, "And you're really ready to become a father so young?"

Shiki blushed. "I'd be lying if I said I was - but whether I expected it or not, it's my responsibility to do my best. And I will."

Ciel was quiet again. Then she arched an eyebrow. "Even if that means facing Arcueid? Or your sister?"

He winced. Those confrontations were inevitable, and would be far from pleasant, but . . .

"I have a duty to my family," he answered. " . . . And to the woman I love. I won't run away from that, Ciel."

" . . . Then . . . Neither will I," Ciel responded. "All right, Tohno-kun, I surrender. I'll accept it if you will. I'll be the best mother I can, for as long as I can."

Shiki chuckled. "Ciel . . . I think at this point, you can use my given name."

She smiled, her first true smile in a very long time. "All right . . . Shiki. I suppose I may as well go on being Ciel for now - I'm used to her."

"The party guests should be arriving soon," Shiki realised. "Did you still want to go to the party?"

Ciel considered before answering. "Yes. But can I have another cinnamon bun before we go? They're really tasty."

Shiki laughed. "See, you're already realising that living isn't so bad."

Ciel looked at him wordlessly. It wasn't as though everything was solved. They still had a number of problems in their path, and none of them would be easy to solve. Arcueid and Akiha would hardly take the new developments in Shiki's life calmly. And the Burial Agency was not likely to just shrug and let her go. To say nothing of what awaited them as young parents-to-be . . . but they'd face anything that came together. And in their child, she might find a better legacy to leave behind her.

"Maybe so," she agreed.






Around four months later, Ciel paused in mid-stride to gaze through the window of that same coffee shop, umbrella in hand. The reason was as much because she needed the breather as nostalgia - the child within her had swelled visibly, straining her back and forcing her to adopt a pronounced waddle when moving. She was more easily tired these days, and her pregnancy was far from over - it was only April, and the current estimates placed her due date near the end of July at the earliest. And then recently, there were the cravings . . . Not that they'd hindered her desire for her true culinary love.

Shiki seems to be getting used to running out for chocolate ice cream and a can of curry powder at four o'clock in the morning, she mused, smiling. Her new husband certainly was adaptable. But then, he'd had to be. A lot of changes had taken place since then, and she was hardly the least of them.

Breaking the news to Akiha had gone about as well as predicted. Ciel had, at Shiki's insistence, been in another room of the mansion entirely - but despite the sheer space between them, some of the argument had still carried. More specifically, Shiki's closing argument.

"I love you as my own sister Akiha, but if you harm her, then so help me God, I will dedicate my life to wiping the Tohno clan from the face of the earth - and you'll live just long enough to see it happen!"

Ciel still wasn't sure how much of that had been serious. How much had been bluster, or remnants of Arcueid's blood directing his mind, or some other influence she couldn't guess at. She believed it completely, just the same. Through the grace of God, Shiki had been gifted with the ability of the ultimate assassin - and the gentleness to temper it. If he ever chose to unleash it . . . It was, she supposed, a measure of just how much of his own mental health was invested in her well-being. Somehow, she'd become a touchstone, the fulcrum on which his world turned. Other girls might consider it romantic, but Ciel was too surprised - after all she'd put him through, he still believed in her that much?

It seemed so. Enough to give up his entire life, just to be with her. It made something in her throat tighten, knowing that there was someone who cared whether she lived or died. More than that - that she was happy. And she was, most days. Even discounting the odd mood swing, she still had nightmares about Roa, and unleashing that kind of horror again. She was still concerned about what her superiors would decide to do - and there was always Arcueid . . .

But she had new memories to cling to as well. Sharing a quiet cup with her husband in the tea ceremony room, away from the noise and disapproving looks of the school. Snuggling on their apartment couch, reading baby name books together. Going shopping for nursery things with her sisters-in-law had been fun, especially when they got to arguing - Shiki had managed to get himself adopted into an interesting new family, to say the least. And if these things were not enough to banish the shadows from her heart, they were bright enough to hold them at bay. And their futures promised more to come - Ciel was thinking about what kind of profession she'd like to pursue - maybe teaching. And Shiki had scheduled a meeting with an art dealer this morning to discuss selling a painting he'd done - "A World of Patches." If the deal went through, he might have a career of his own there.

It wasn't quite a normal life, but it was a good one. A mostly happy one. Ciel thought it was a life worth living.

She stepped away from the corner of the building and back into the flow of foot traffic. The weather was cold, dark, wet and miserable. But she knew there was a place not far away, where a warm light would be burning and someone she loved would be waiting, just for her.

With a smile on her face, Ciel Aozaki headed home.

Kieran
March 16th, 2011, 11:54 AM
DISCLAIMER: If you haven't gotten it by now, you never will, but I'm allergic to being sued. All characters and concepts contained herein are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu, Type-Moon and Geneon Entertainment, not me. They are being unlawfully borrowed for a non-profit fanfic, and thus nobody should mind . . . unless they find out. That's all.

CONTINUITY NOTES: I honestly have no idea where this will come from, or where it will go. Place it where you wish. More than any other, this is a "what if?" story.



Violet - Ordinary (Satsuki's Story)






On one forepaw, Ren was pleased. She'd finally gotten her wish, and seen some of the likely results of Shiki's courting a particular girl. It even involved exactly what she'd wanted her master to have out of the relationship - offspring of his own. On the other forepaw, she hadn't seen much - and it was, of all people, the churchwoman. Any of the others, including Akiha, she could have worked around - but that one had a particular dislike of creatures like her, and the firepower to enforce her beliefs. That made any dealings with her problematic, to say the least.

She frowned, considering how likely the scenario she'd just seen actually was. Deciding it was a future possibility, and not a current problem - the nasty woman would have been showing signs by now if it was the latter - the familiar asked a question of the wizard.

"A more detailed look at that one?" he repeated. "It's possible, of course - but I'd have to release my concentration on the current spell to focus properly. You'd lose the last one. Perhaps afterward?"

Ren turned to regard the last shimmering ray of light, a deep, royal violet. Curious. They'd gone through all the females of Shiki's acquaintance than Ren was aware of - at least the ones who actively showed an interest in him. The other two she knew of, the doctor's daughter and that schoolmate of Akiha's, were either seemingly immune to his charms (a first), or too afraid of Akiha to try attracting his attention. Had they been involved in this, however, there should have been two rays, and there was only one. One single girl who might yet hold the key to his heart. Who could it be?

As she stepped into the light, Ren tried not to cling to the possibility that, despite her original intent, the future within this ray was meant for only herself . . .






Satsuki Yumitsuka had never considered herself unlucky. She might not be pretty enough to attract boys like Ciel-sempai, or brave enough to confess her feelings, and she might occasionally get into real trouble, like the time she'd gotten locked in the storage locker. Still, she wasn't unlucky, she told herself. She had loving parents, got good grades, and she had good friends in Inui, Ciel-sempai, and Tohno-kun - even if she wished that Tohno-kun would be more than her friend.

No, she wasn't unlucky, just ordinary. An ordinary girl, so plain in so many ways that she never got noticed. Nothing really bad ever happened to her, and nothing really good, either. She was a living, breathing average. At least, until that night . . .

Even now, she didn't really think about it. She didn't want to. It was dark, and painful, and she shied away from examining the memories of it too closely - she was still human enough for that. But now, human wasn't all she was. It was in her now, too - the need for that rich, red nectar that flowed through the bodies of everyone else around her. She wanted it now, wanted to make it flow hot and fresh, and wrap that soothing heat around the chill in her heart . . . The chill of the grave.

She wanted, for a little while, to feel alive again. The way she'd felt around . . . Him.

Tohno-kun - even in her own mind, she could never bring herself to say his given name. She'd wanted him for so long . . . There were other boys more handsome, more athletic, smarter. There were wealthier, more fashionable boys, and boys with the souls of artists, who could transport a girl to ecstasy through fragments of poetry or music. Tohno-kun was none of these. What he was, was kind, and thoughtful. He might look a little spacey, but Satsuki had always thought that his expression was more dreamy - like someone who was too busy enjoying the mere presence of the things around him to truly take notice of them. Things like her.

Was she angry with him? She wasn't human now, a bloodsucking monster condemned for all eternity. He might have saved her - she'd believed he would save her - but he hadn't come. And now, she was . . .She was . . .

A killer. A monster. Not human. Not alive.

Not . . . Ordinary.

Satsuki smiled. No, she wasn't ordinary, not anymore. She was stronger now, faster, and more exciting. And if Tohno-kun hadn't noticed her before, she could make him notice her now. Maybe he wouldn't love her, but she could make him desire her, for certain, until she was all he could see. Until he'd do for her what he hadn't when she was alive - look at her, and no one else. Be with her, if only for a little while.

"And if I can't make you love me, Tohno-kun," she whispered. "I will kill you with my own two hands. When I do that, you'll be mine and no one else's. For a hundred years, or a thousand years, living only in my heart - because I love you."

With a small, hungry smile, Satsuki vanished into the night.






His world was reduced to a blank, filmy canvas of white, the air so thick he could barely breathe.The mist seemed like a living thing, enshrouding him in an icy grip, seeking a way to invade and rend his body through his nose, eyes, his mouth. The noise and bustle of the world had drained away to dim echoes he could barely hear, and the damp cold made each breath painful. Even his oh-so-lethal vision couldn't seem to penetrate the fog that had bound itself to the town of Misaki.

Shiki cursed and held his knife ready anyway. For his first sixteen years, his life had been virtually ordinary. He'd gone to school, lived with an average family, and pursued life the way any other normal boy would. Then he turned seventeen, moved back home, and all the unearthly karma he'd escaped had come back to haunt him. More, it persisted in haunting him, with a new weird twist to shake things up every few months or so. It was as almost as though some outside force was doing it for its own amusement. Most people, he supposed, might pay a great deal to have the adventures he did. Personally, he'd much rather go back to being ordinary.

"All right, Shiki," he whispered to himself, "let's review what we know. About ten minutes ago, you had a dream of Arcueid pleading for your help, just before some strange guy killed her. Five minutes after that, this fog showed up, and the entire town seemed to disappear. - and ever since, you've been wandering around looking for some answers."

"When you should know perfectly well that patience will bring answers to you," mocked a new voice. "It's been a while."

"Roa . . ." Shiki whispered. "But . . . How?"

"How?" the dead man repeated. "Such things would be beyond your limited comprehension. You need only know that I find myself reborn to a level of strength I have never known. For that, I must thank both you and the dreaming Princess."

"What are you talking about?" Shiki demanded. "What have you done to Arcueid?" His grip on his knife tightened. His last encounter with Roa had been one of the worst nights of his life, without question - but he had beaten the monster then, and he could now.

"Such ferocity, Shiki," Roa taunted. "Are you concerned about her, she who is so far beyond your feeble human limits? How touching. You needn't worry - she's being well taken care of. In fact, all your worries should be at an end - right now!"

Only Shiki's vast experience of people in love with the sound of their own voices enabled him to predict Roa's attack in time to dodge it. Despite the vampire's superior speed, by the time he'd flicked the blood-drop shuriken from his hand in Shiki's direction, the latter was already in motion. The projectiles hit the concrete ground with a series of pops, and Shiki sprang forward, noting several lines of immediate interest. Unfortunately, there was no one here to help distract or hold Roa this time, and Shiki was finding it much harder to pin him down long enough to graze a line.

"What's the matter?" the vampire sneered, shifting his position just in time to avoid Shiki's thrusts, with a contemptuous ease. "Having trouble? The most powerful weapon in the world is useless unless you can bring it to bear, boy." He punctuated his point with a right hook to the jaw which sent Shiki sprawling, his knife clattering to the pavement some yards away.

Before he could draw a breath, Roa was on him, iron-hard fingers clamped around Shiki's throat, lifting him with a single hand.

"I told you - my power far exceeds what it was," he laughed. "And I no longer have that foolish mortal's mind to cloud my own. And so here you are, as you should be - helpless before me. Even if you can see the lines, it doesn't mean a thing if you can't cut them!"

He opened his mouth to bare razor fangs, and Shiki thrust his hand forward. His fingers plunged into Roa's forehead, bisecting the vampire's skull. A thrust downward and to the right tore open his heart, and as Shiki dropped to the ground, he sliced the hand off his throat.

"I don't - need my knife . . ." he rasped to the dissolving corpse. "It's - just . . . Easier." He inhaled sharply. "But how did you come back? You said Arcueid had something to do with it - but why?"

"Because she feared him, Tohno," answered his own voice. Shiki whirled to find himself confronting - himself, with his own knife in hand.

Shiki Nanaya added, "Just like you fear me. It's been a while, Tohno." He smirked. "Ready to die?"






Satsuki was lost in a fog - literally. She'd walked into Misaki's borders, and become engulfed in a featureless world of white.

"What on earth . . .?" she asked aloud. This was no natural weather, she was sure - her newborn vampire senses were screaming "powerful magic at work." The question was, whose, and why?

"They'd better not be after Tohno-kun," she muttered. "He's mine."

"Are you so sure of that?" sneered a voice.

Satsuki whirled. How had she managed to be surprised? Where had she come from?

Despite the damp, the newcomer didn't shiver in her school uniform's sweater. No mist clung to the lenses of her glasses as she gazed coldly at the vampire girl.

"Ciel-sempai?" Satsuki asked in confusion.

"After all, he's never given you more than the time of day, has he?" Ciel continued. "Why should he? Plain little Yumitsuka - you're so boring, you're practically two-dimensional." She smiled haughtily. "Tohno-kun would no doubt prefer a real woman, like me."

Satsuki's fangs pressed deep into her bottom lip. "He's mine," she repeated warningly.

Ciel laughed. "What makes you think you can compete with me, little girl?"

Satsuki glared at her with vermillion eyes, just before tearing the older girl's throat out. Ciel collapsed with a poleaxed look on her face.

"You'd be surprised," Satsuki informed the corpse.

Ciel's body dissolved into the mist, and she blinked in surprise. So Ciel hadn't been real after all, however alive she'd seemed. But how could that be? Who could've created such an elaborate illusion, and why?

"Tohno-kun's somewhere in the middle of all this," she sighed. Somehow, Satsuki believed in that fact as firmly as she believed in the wetness of water.

"I suppose I'd better go make sure nothing's happened to him," she decided aloud.

After all, one way or another, his life belonged to her.






"Wh - who are you?" Shiki demanded.

His doppleganger raised an eyebrow. "You don't know? Maybe you are as dense as everybody says. But here's a hint." He snapped the knife in his right hand into a guard position, so that the family crest could be easily seen.

"You . . . You can't be real," Shiki protested

"'Real?' That's an interesting concept. From my perspective, you are the illusion here."

Shock gave way to anger. "What are talking about?"

The knife-wielder smirked, an evil light glinting in his midnight blue eyes. "Who are you, exactly? Nanaya Shiki, who died in battle against the scion of his family's murderers? Tohno Shiki, who became an inhuman monster and spent half his life locked in a dungeon cell? An ordinary high school student? All or none of the above?"

Shiki relaxed slightly, assuming this was another ranting one, and thus was taken by surprise when the knife-wielder suddenly blurred, lunging forward to inflict a series of cuts on his chest - crimson lines no deeper than paper cuts that seeped through massive rents in his shirt.

His other self laughed. "I can hear your question from here - does he have the Mystic Eyes, or not? It is, after all, the one thing I suppose you can truly claim as yours. The rest of your life means nothing, because you don't really exist."

"You're wrong!"

"Am I? What do you remember about your life, Shiki? Waking up in a hospital - and an identity you were given that was never really yours. Faces of a family that's not related to you, and a past that is beyond your reach. Even the memories you've gained since then have been tampered with, haven't they? Your entire life is founded on a collection of half-truths, and more often outright lies - a fabrication of deceptions that you never even thought to question until recently."

"That doesn't mean -" Shiki began.

The knife-wielder silenced him with another, slower series of slashes - slow enough for Shiki to dodge this time, but enough to drive him back against a - tree? Where had that come from?

"I remember everything. Every lie we were ever told, every truth that was ever covered up - every dirty little act we did that you couldn't bring yourself to remember. Whether I want them or not, care about them or not, they're my memories, the proof that I exist. I am what you would be if you refused to let this false life shackle you, if you admitted to yourself what you were really capable of. I am what you should be, and I'm sick of hiding in the background, buried under your denials and your precious 'morality,' until you run into something you can't bring yourself to handle."

"You're . . . You'tr wrong," Shiki said, but his voice lacked conviction.

The other snarled, snapping the knife into an attack position. "I'm wrong, am I? Then go ahead, kill me if you can - or call me up to do it for you, and prove me right. Either way, there only needs to be one of us here, and the pretender will fade away like a bad dream. So let's dance, you and I. Let's find out, once and for all, which one of us is 'real.'"

Then he attacked.






Satsuki frowned, peering into the fog. Even her vampire eyes couldn't fully penetrate the gloom, much to her dismay. In fact, all her senses seemed muted . . . No, it was more like her mind was having a hard time understanding what they were telling her - like she was dreaming.

She shook herself. Dream or not, Tohno-kun was in here, she knew it. And she knew, too, that this place was dangerous.

"I hope he's all right," she murmured. Whether that was because she wanted him to be safe, or wanted to do any damage to him with her own two hands, she hadn't quite decided yet. Tohno-kun was her property, though, that much was absolute. And anyone who damaged or took what was hers would regret it for the rest of their lives - which wouldn't be all that long.

Wandering through the mists, her ears caught the sounds of . . . Movement. Metal striking metal, and the occasional cry of pain. She could smell blood, too, fresh and flowing, but faint. It made her teeth ache, and if her stomach had still been part of her digestive process, it would have been growling. Satsuki was so entranced by the tantalising scent that it took her a moment to realise that she recognised the voice crying in pain.

"Tohno-kun!"

"I don't think that's a good idea," said a voice tentatively, and Satsuki whirled, furious at being surprised again - but what she saw stopped her cold.

Like the simulcram of Ciel-sempai before her, the girl was dressed in a school uniform. Her hair, however, was a light chestnut to Ciel's blue-black, bound in twin ponytails and with long bangs that framed her face. Her face was uncertain and meek, and her eyes were deep pools of brown that warmed anyone they drew in. Her entire appearance said "cute," in a demure kind of way. She gazed pensively at Satsuki.

"I don't think Tohno-kun would like us to bother him right now," Satsuki Yumitsuka informed her vampiric self.






"Another illusion," Satsuki growled. "If Ciel-sempai couldn't stop me, what makes you think you can?"

The schoolgirl's smile was sad. "I probably can't. After all, I'm just an ordinary girl. I have no really special qualities, nothing to recommend myself over any other girls . . ."

"Glad we agree - now get out of my way!"

" . . . But at least I was Tohno-kun's friend," her human self finished. "He knew me, liked me - not the way I wanted, but he did. He'd be glad to see me . . . But what about you?"

"Of . . . Of course he will!"

"Really? You won't scare him with your new appearance? You won't take your anger over what happened out on him? You won't be tempted to drink his blood?"

Satsuki lowered her eyes. She didn't really look like herself now - she was so pale, and her eyes were so red . . . she was angry, and still held Tohno-kun, however irrationally, to be partly at fault. And if she was tempted, even by this faint aroma, to drink, then how much worse would it be when she finally found him?

To her dismay, Satsuki found she couldn't really refute any of her former self's charges.

For her part, the human Yumitsuka merely shrugged. Her next words were gentle, almost sympathetic. "It's no surprise. Everyone acts according to their nature - and now, yours tells you to kill. You're a monster, after all - it's to be expected. But do you really think Tohno-kun will be OK with that? Do you think he'll let you - or himself - exist with that kind of attitude? Of course not. He'll die trying to kill you first . . . and is that really what you want?"

Was it? She was angry, yes, and that anger could push her to kill, easily - as she had done with "Ciel-sempai." She wanted Tohno-kun to regret that he hadn't saved her, and she could practically taste the sweetness of his blood. She could fill herself with him, feel warm and content like never before, and ensure that she would be the last thing he ever saw . . .

. . . And then that dreamy look, that friendly smile she so rarely managed to get directed her way, would be gone forever. She would remember it, but she'd never really see it again. And it would never exist in the world, anywhere, ever.

"You don't, do you?" the human girl asked. "Not really. So it's better not to see him, Satsuki. Better to be remembered as being just ordinary, than as a monster. You should just disappear from his life forever . . ."

A tremor ran through her, and her throat tightened. Satsuki wanted to cry, but though her eyes burned, her tear ducts wouldn't work. She didn't know what to do. Was her former self right? She could only terrify Tohno-kun now, as she was. He'd never love her like this . . . And underneath it all, that was what she'd always wanted. To wrap herself in his arms and kiss him, not tear his throat out. But now, she could never get close enough to hear his heartbeat without desiring the blood it pumped.

The blood . . . She could still smell his blood!

"If you don't go away, you'll end up killing him," the other Yumitsuka said softly.

"And if I go," Satsuki snarled in realisation, "I'll let him die!"

"Then you'll have your revenge, too," the schoolgirl said in satisfaction. "All you need to do is give up, and walk away."

"NO! No matter what I am now - I'm still his friend!"






Shiki screamed as his twin's knife pinned his own knife arm to the tree. The thin cuts from before had been widened, dug a little deeper with every slash, every move. Every time he tried to focus his vision, to use the lines against his opponent, a quick strike would send more pain through his nerves, throwing off his concentration. And the blood loss was getting to him - he felt colder, slower. Consciousness was blurring in and out without warning.

Shiki had made a critical mistake in the beginning, and allowed his opponent to throw him psychologically off-balance. Normally, this would be devastating - but against an enemy who knew his every move, could anticipate his every strategy, and wielded his own abilities at their maximum potential, it was quickly proving lethal. He'd have died already, but the other - Nanaya - had wanted too much to play with him, give him the illusion of having a chance at survival. He had, in short, wanted to break Shiki in every sense of the word, and he'd more or less succeeded. All that was left was the killing stroke.

If he'd been like one of the girls, he'd have had some supernatural edge that allowed him to avoid or endure the attacks. If he'd trained himself to use his abilities better, he might still have won despite the early disadvantage. But all he'd ever wanted to be was an ordinary high school student, and now he was going to die because of it.

"I like your screams, Shiki," the other chuckled. "Got enough in you for one more? It's time for the big finish!"

He removed the knife casually from the tree, and as Shiki crumpled, Nanaya raised it high, tiny rubies dripping from the blade's surface to the ground.

"I managed to cut Arcueid into seventeen pieces," he remarked casually. "But you're a lot bigger - I wonder how many I can make out of you?"

A sakura petal drifted across his vision, landing gently on the ground before Shiki's face.

"Eh?" Nanaya blinked, glancing up. The tree before him was now in full bloom, a cloud of pink flowers - and it hadn't been a sakura tree to start with. In fact, he found himself in a forest of such trees, and a veritable blizzard of softly drifting petals, under a blanket of stars and a golden moon.

"What the hell is this?" he demanded.

Vermillion flames pierced the night, the eyes of a slightly built girl, staring at Nanaya as though will alone would strike him down. When she spoke, her voice was soft and delicate, but underlaced with a growl like crumbling stone as she said only five words.

"You hurt my friend . . . Die."






The battle lines had been drawn. Shiki Nanaya was the last of his bloodline, born of a clan of assassins whose chosen prey were creatures other than human - and which far exceeded any human in physical capability. More, the Nanaya clan fought these creatures on their own terms, in hand-to-hand or melee combat. In order to do that effectively, the level of skill and conditioning each member possessed was nothing short of legendary. The potential for this status was so deeply woven into the Nanaya family that it was bred into into their very blood, and though untrained, Shiki was no less a warrior than his ancestors. Satsuki Yumitsuka had been a high school student, gentle, kind, and peaceable. She had only recently become a vampire, and while she was undeniably powerful, she lacked both the combat training to use that power effectively, and the time needed to grow into her full potential. In battle, she relied mostly on instinct and rage to carry her through. On the face of it, the match seemed woefully uneven.

However, the circumstances were far from ordinary.

"Are you serious, little girl?" Nanaya sneered. "Have you ever heard of the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception? Do you have any concept of how fast I can take you apart? You have no idea who or what you're dealing with."

Satsuki bared her fangs, focussing all her concentration on her target. Her world was reduced to the two of them, and the flow of energies between them. She could almost . . .

Nanaya shrugged. "If you're so eager, all the better. Time to die."

He darted forward, faster than any human eye could follow, aiming for the line across her right cheek. With the cool precision and furious strength that made him what he was, Nanaya plunged it into her face . . .

. . . And froze, as the knife stopped dead against her skin, all the power of the blow suddenly negated.

Satsuki shivered as she absorbed the energy he imparted to her, drawing strength from its presence. She weathered a half-dozen such attacks, each time robbing the strikes of all their kinetic energy on contact. And then, locking eyes with him, she smiled.

"You're right . . ." she murmured. "It's time to die . . . Your time."

Without understanding the "how" of it, Satsuki scattered the energy contained within her enemy, and called it to herself. As the man dissolved into white mist, it enveloped her, infusing her with new strength and power. She was like the centre of a drain, as all energies within this forest were drawn inexorably toward her. Including a badly ebbing one.

"Tohno-kun . . ."

She dashed towards him, seeming to glide more than run. He was in bad shape. Blood flowed - so slowly - from at least a dozen nasty cuts all over his body. Where he hadn't been cut, he'd been bruised, or broken, as a couple of cracked ribs attested. His breathing was shallow, and his skin was an unhealthy shade of gray. His heartbeat was slowing as she listened to it. There was perhaps a minute left, no more.

Satsuki trembled, torn between three options. The first was to give him her blood, make him like her. It would save him, and they could be together . . . but if she was having trouble adjusting to this life, if she hating being what she was so badly, did she have the right to drag Tohno-kun into the dark with her, just so she wouldn't be alone? The second choice was simply to wait, and let him die in peace. It wasn't what she wanted to do, but compared to what she could do, it might be better. It was something she owed him, as a friend. The third option was a gamble. She'd never tried it, only just thought of it now, and had no idea whether or not it would work. It might be nothing more than a silly girl's fervent wish - but it might be his best hope.

As a friend, she could give him a clean death, and she was his friend. But as someone who wanted to be more than that - wanted to watch the stars by his side, and hold him through the long nights . . . There really was only one choice.

Satsuki pressed her lips against his, dismayed to find that hers were warmer, and concentrated. Shaping the mystic and kinetic force she'd absorbed, Satsuki exhaled all the energy she'd taken, all the power she could find in this place, in an effort to fan the spark of Tohno-kun's life into flame again. She refused to let him die.

Gradually, he got warmer. His breathing evened out. His cuts closed. In a moment or two, she suspected he'd regain consciousness.

Reluctantly, Satsuki let go. If tonight had taught her nothing else, it was that she wasn't ready to face him, not yet. Not until she better understood herself - how much of her human self she really retained, and how strong a hold the vampire's bloodlust had on her. Already it was stirring, being so close to Tohno-kun, and having expended so much of her strength.

"My home is in a different direction than yours, Tohno-kun," she whispered, "so we have to part ways here. But I'll see you again, you can count on it. After all, you owe me for giving up my first kiss."

With a giggle, she walked away into the darkness, as much in love as any ordinary girl.

Kieran
March 16th, 2011, 11:55 AM
DISCLAIMER: For the last time - I do not own Tsukihime, its characters, or concepts. I did not create them - Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon did. I have not legally licensed them, but as no monies are being generated by this work (nor wanted), I don't think it should matter. This is all in fun.



Epilogue - At Rainbow's End







The view dissolved into violet light, which faded like morning mist into the deep purple of an early morning sky. The stars were vanishing from view, and the once-brilliant moon had waned to a ghost of itself. The long night had passed, and dawn was close upon its heels. Soon, the ordinary world would stir and awaken, relegating the creatures and concepts of the fantastic to their realm of shadows and dreams once more. But in this twilight, there was still a little time yet for contemplation.

"And so we come to the end of this path," the wizard remarked. "Have you found the knowledge you sought, child? Have you gained wisdom in this watching that you did not know to search for? What have you learned from this night of reflections?"

Ren pondered. What had she learned? That it was possible for even the most stubborn of characters find the courage to do the unexpected, if the need and gain was great enough. That true love would battle any obstacle, even if it might not win. That even the most unlikely of people could still win her master's heart. That love and devotion might not overcome death, but could endure beyond it. That first loves, even when gone, are never truly forgotten. That happiness was within reach, even for the most tortured souls. And that redemption was possible for even the most terrible of monsters, so long as they had the capacity to love.

She had come seeking the best possible match for Shiki, and discovered that he was capable of falling in love with any of them - and more importantly, that all of them were capable of loving him. Was there a "best match?" It was difficult to say. Any of the potential relationships would have their share of problems, and even outright dangers. There was no guarantee that, however perfect it seemed, a particular pairing would end happily. But he could be happy, with any of them, and to Ren's mind, that was the most important thing of all.

True love was a complex thing that knew no barriers between age, gender, race, or even species. Its forms and expressions were as varied as the colours of the rainbow, and beautiful and brilliant though it was, finding happiness in it could be as elusive as a true rainbow's pot of gold. Still, with all the beauty it held, even a lifetime spent chasing it could not be considered a wasted one.

"I must be going," the wizard said to her. "You have my thanks for a most - entertaining - evening."

Ren nodded, as he faded away, still considering all she'd seen. Perhaps, she considered, the best thing to do was not to meddle, and simply let time and events take their course. Shiki had the right to choose his own companions, and make his own mistakes. She might serve him best by simply being there to aid and advise where she could, but allowing him the freedom to make his own decisions. It was what she was for, after all - to act as his support and guide, not his master.

Yes, Ren decided, walking into the autumn dawn. She would do her best to help Shiki make his choice, but in the end, it would be his choice, and she would accept it, and the girl who loved him, whoever she was. It was exactly what she should do.

After all . . . She loved him, too.









Fin.

Kieran
March 16th, 2011, 11:57 AM
OMAKE OMAKE OMAKE OMAKE - Rainbow's "Bad" Ending






Ciel tilted her head so that her glasses turned opaque in the light, and asked, "So we're agreed?"

Hisui nodded firmly. "Yes. He must die for what he did to Shiki-sama."

Arcueid smirked. "You're taking this much too seriously, Ciel. It wasn't all that bad, though I still say he should have made my story longer."

Akiha nodded. "Much as it pains me, I must agree with Arcueid-san. My sole complaint is that he should have stopped with me."

There was a brief crackle, as of sparks passing between the girls, as they traded glares.

Kohaku bowed. "With respect, Akiha-sama, I must disagree. I got treated as an otaku and closet dominatrix."

"You mean, you aren't?" Ciel murmured under her breath.

"Besides," Kohaku continued, "he made Hisui-chan cry."

"You girls are way too high-strung," Aoko commented. "They were just stories."

"Stay out of this, Blue," Ciel warned. "You hardly appeared in your own story."

"And I'm not complaining, though I probably should be."

"Why? Because you remind him of that childhood crush, you got a glowing tale of adoration. What did I get? Abused, ignored, humilated, and finally, knocked up!"

"And it was the best-rated one of the whole series," Arcueid said sourly. "So why are you complaining?"

Ciel glared at the girl who, as the author's personal favourite, had gotten more screen time than any of them, and was generally handled with kid gloves. That she'd been allowed to beat Ciel in a fight that was completely off-camera had nothing to do with her ire, of course.

"While I'm thankful for the high opinions of all my fans, and pleased that even the ones who aren't enjoyed my performance, the utter indignity of it all is infuriating."

Satsuki shivered. "You girls should all be thankful. I had to spend a full six months in his head, waiting my turn. The muck that flows in his brain . . ."

"Such as?" Kohaku prompted curiously.

"Well, in addition to a full version of Ciel's story," Satsuki answered, "and a possible direct sequel to 'Rainbow,' he's also got an idea for a self-insert story."

"I thought he considered himself too unworthy to dare," Akiha commented. "Not to mention that since everyone would probably want to do one, he assumed nobody would be interested in reading it."

Satsuki grimaced. "Blame that 'Mr. Tags.' Given the general success of his self-insert, it's being considered now."

Aoko sighed. "You'd better give us the details, just so we're forewarned if he goes through with it. How much overweening power would the guy have, and which of us does he sweep off our feet?"

Satsuki frowned. "Actually, he has no specific plans to romance anyone, and his character's advantages would be negligible - even Miss Akiha could defeat him easily."

The tips of her hair going crimson, Akiha grated, "Are you implying that I'm weak?"

Kohaku murmured, "Akiha-sama, we need to hear this."

Satsuki continued, "The main thing is that it would take place in an alternate universe -"

"Of course," everyone said along with her.

" - where Roa possessed Nanaya Shiki instead," she finished.

Dead silence greeted this pronouncement.

"You mean . . ." Arcueid began.

" . . . That we have to deal with . . ." Ciel choked.

" . . . The real Shiki Tohno?" Akiha gasped.

"That's it, I vote we kill him," Aoko stated.

"That's ridiculous! With a different Shiki in the main role, it means the whole storyline gets changed!" Akiha protested. "Who knows what might happen then? We can't let him! All right, I agree - for my brother's sake, he must die!"

Arcueid looked at the younger girl. "He'd really write something like that?"

Satsuki nodded. "He's even trying to think of a way not to involve you, Arcueid-san, just so you won't have to kill Tohno-kun."

Arcueid smiled suddenly. "How sweet. Just for that, I'll make his death quick and painless."

"Not if I get to him first," replied every other girl in eerie unison.

Ren held up a sign which said [DEATH TO THE HERETIC - BUT NOT BEFORE HE WRITES ME A LEMON SCENE!]

They all stared at her, and she flipped the sign over defiantly. [YOU CAN COMPLAIN ALL YOU LIKE - BUT I HAD TO STAND SILENTLY AND WATCH WHILE YOU ALL HAD PRIVATE MOMENTS WITH SHIKI. I DEMAND RIGHTFUL COMPENSATION!!]




End of "Bad" Ending




Writer's Notes: I honestly can't remember who drew the picture - sad, 'cause it's my first-ever piece of fanart . . . Sorry to the artist, and thank you again, just the same. I also, apparently, can't seem to import it properly - sorry to my readers.

Inugami
March 21st, 2011, 03:46 PM
We never did get that Len lemon fic. Tho' we at least got that HILARIOUS fanart picture of the scene.


As for me, I'm busy. The old forum disappearing (and what was THAT about?) and the new one coming up caught me at a bad time.

Kratosirving
March 21st, 2011, 04:53 PM
I'm not 100% sure of all the details, but basically Proboards decided that the old board had become an infestation pit of adult activities (Because of the Lemon fics and certain other threads) and struck it down with the almighty Banhammer. Altima or one of the other admins can explain this better, so you can drop them a line as well, Inu.

Also, welcome back to you as well! Gotta love our 'Uruuuuuuuuyn~' horsie.

Inugami
March 28th, 2011, 12:24 AM
Primate Murder is a canine, dammit. I know it looks like a horse, but it's not.

Ugh, I'm just going to use a different avatar.

RanmaBushiko
March 28th, 2011, 01:03 AM
Thank you for posting this!

And... from what I found... post it online somewhere, like on a google sites page... then link it to here.

Kieran
March 28th, 2011, 07:11 AM
I'll have to play around with my files, then - but for the moment, it's in the Fan Art album on my profile.

Kratosirving
March 28th, 2011, 08:05 AM
Primate Murder is a canine, dammit. I know it looks like a horse, but it's not.

Ugh, I'm just going to use a different avatar.

...That was Primate Murder? Holy crap I feel like DUR.

TheAbsolutistsCreed
December 13th, 2011, 01:31 AM
And Tsukihime, I actually need to get around to reading that VN...

warellis
December 13th, 2011, 04:15 AM
This is quite a necro. It's been almost 9 months since the last post.

TheAbsolutistsCreed
December 13th, 2011, 05:44 AM
Never underestimate the sheer boredom of a single individual... At least I will be soon enough... during the holidays

walrus
December 13th, 2011, 01:23 PM
This is quite a necro. It's been almost 9 months since the last post.
But this thread is nice anyway.
Thank you, Kieran.

Kieran
December 13th, 2011, 01:52 PM
You're welcome.