Spoilers: Oh yes. For the whole series. If you haven't seen WK yet and don't want to be spoiled, you shouldn't read it.
WARNINGS: I've taken a LOT of liberties with the story-line, its characters, and the timeline. Parts of what is cannon has been used, but twisted and screwed over to fit my plot. This story contains unabashed character-bashing, violence, gore, NC-17 content, and things that will bore you because I tend to ramble. Not for the faint of heart or those who seek sugary sweetness. I'm writing about Farfarello and Schu. 'nuff said.
Thanks: To Andi, for beta'ing. To Razzy, my shimai. And to BB, best friends in the world.
You never looked so sane
You always did prefer the drizzle to the rain
Tell me that you're still in love with that milkmaid
How's the lizzies
How's your Jesus Christ been hanging
(Tori Amos, Father Lucifer)
The girl looks at her reflection in the mirror and thinks how strange it is that nothing has changed. In the dawnhungry light that lurks amid the shadows of her bedroom, her eyes are the colour of plums short of rotting; her face, heart-shaped, has not yet lost the layers of fat eaten away by the years in older people's faces. She reaches out and traces the outline of her mouth in the glassy doppelganger that looks back at her as if it was looking at a stranger.
Her hair, bound to two thick braids that hang over her shoulders and cover the swellings of her child's chest, is the colour of her eyes with a few strands of white woven into it. She has tried to cover these white strands with dye, but they always come back, reminding her that she is old beyond all of her 23 years. When the dye jobs became too expensive, she stopped and accepted the whiteness in the plum darkness.
On the clean surface of the dressing table in front of her lays an earring. Ever so often, her hands flutter over the strip of gold as if they were trying to memorize its shape; but Aya Fujimiya has learned its shape a long time ago. There is a faint mark on the palm of her right hand, shaped in the likeness of the earring lying on the table in front of her. She has rubbed oils and crèmes into the shape a million times over, but it does not go away. When the oils and crèmes became too expensive, she stopped and accepted the scar-like mark on the whiteness of her palm.
There are times when it all becomes too much for her. She keeps a razor tucked away into the recesses of the small commode standing next to her bed; it has an ivory handle and a blade sharper than anything she has ever seen. Or touched. On her left forearm, Aya Fujimiya has even made a few shallow cuts with that blade, and she has watched her blood roll over her skin like tears.
But if there is one thing she is afraid of, then it is pain. And she is not sure if the pain of that one cut she will have to make to end the pain of her life would be worth bearing.
She keeps the razor amid neatly folded handkerchiefs and scented, frail summer tops. There are times when she cannot sleep, and then the hardness and the cold of the razor are calming her down. She only needs to open the drawer and reach inside to feel it.
Aya Fujimiya lives on the first floor of a house on a small, clean street on the backside of the large, hectic streets of Central Tokyo. On the ground floor of her house, its front decorated by a striped awning and a large, gaudily painted sign, is a flower shop. Aya Fujimiya works there, now that she has risen from her long sleep through winter; it is always spring in the shop, the air heavy with the fragrance of a thousand flowers she cannot remember names for. When a customer comes to buy a certain kind, she has to look the flower up, or ask the old woman who helps her in the shop. The old woman, Aya knows, is called Momoe-san. Aya cannot remember a time in the flower shop when there had not been Momoe.
She rises from the chair in front of the dressing table and critically looks at her body in the mirror. Flat and thin, with only a hint at bust and barely perceivable hips. She flips her braids over her shoulders, but the image does not change; reflected in the mirror is the body of a sixteen-year old. She has come to accept this, too, because an operation would be too expensive. The flower shop brings enough profit for Aya and the old woman to live a life free of financial worries, but it does not allow them luxury.
She walks out of the small bedroom and looks down the hallway. There are three more doors, but Aya does not walk through them, the rooms behind those doors empty and barren. There is dust on empty shelves and carpets, dust she does not want to disturb. The ghosts that dwell in these rooms are part of the reason why she keeps the razor in the small commode. She takes the stairs that lead down into the backroom of the flower shop and walks through the door into the main part of the small business place. As always, the smell of flowers overwhelms her for a moment. Momoe-san sits on a low chair near to the large window front, petting the old cat rolled up on her lap. She nods at Aya in greeting as the girl enters but does not speak; Aya has heard Momoe-san speak maybe ten times ever since she awoke and was brought here. The old woman is eaten by grief from the inside and tries not to show it, but Aya has learned to read the truth behind a smile while she learned to hide her own pain behind a stretching of her lips.
She ties an apron around her waist and stands behind the counter, waiting for a customer. Day in, day out, she waits. At times, Sakura joins her in waiting. Aya is not sure if she likes the girl. Sakura is so like her in appearance, sometimes Aya finds herself wondering if Sakura is not a complete, alive replica. The first time she saw her, Sakura's hair was as long as Aya's, and braided in the same way. If not for the difference in colour, they could have been twins.
Back then, when Aya had learned how much Sakura's likeness had been of help, she had been grateful. Today, she hates it. The images burned into her mind keep reminding her why Sakura let her hair grow, and it hurts to think of being used as a role model.
The small bell above the shop door rings and Aya looks up from where she has been staring at her folded hands. For a moment, she is blinded by the bright morning sunlight that falls through the open door and silhouettes the person standing on the threshold. When her eyes become accustomed to the brightness, she recognizes the woman and kindly nods at her; she does not hold great love for this one, either, but she owes her at least a kind word.
"Good morning, Aya."
"Good morning, Manx." She watches the woman close the door and walk through the shop. Manx is dressed as always, a tight short skirt, high heels, and a blazer. All in red, as if the blaring, brutal crimson of her hair was not enough to attract attention. "What brings you here this morning?"
"Oh, I wanted to see how you were..." Trailing off, Manx, whose real name Aya has never learned, nods to Momoe-san in greeting, failing to notice the hard stare the old woman gives her. But Aya notices, and in a dark corner of her heart, she is happy for a brief moment. "How's business?"
"Flowing, as usual. How's yours?"
Manx laughs, parting her perfectly painted lips for a moment before she holds her hand before it. She puts her purse onto the counter and smiles at Aya, the crow's feet in the corners of her eyes deepening.
"Busy, as usual. The underground does not sleep, if you know what I mean," Manx says, still smiling. As the head of the Central Tokyo Homicide Department and leader of Kritiker, the red-haired woman conveys self-assuredness like a cloud of cheap perfume. She has made it far, holding her ground in a business ruled by men, and strives to demonstrate her strength even in the most common situations such as walking into a flower shop on an early June morning. "While I'm here, I would like to order an arrangement of sunflowers. I have a meeting with the CEO of Kourin later on. Think you can manage in six hours? I'll send my driver over to pick it up."
Aya nods and writes the order down on a small pad that lies next to the cashier. The mention of Kourin makes her frown - it irks her to see how easily Kritiker assimilated a company they had fought so hard - and sacrificed so many people for - before the shit hit the fan.
Before the shit hit the fan. Aya has to smirk at the choice of words. Sometimes she thinks it is because a residue of him is still within the curls and nodes of her brain. More than once, she has surprised both Manx and Sakura with choice curse words and rude swearing. She likes to pretend, at times, that she comes up with them herself, but she knows it is not true.
Are you still in there, my friend, she asks herself, and then realizes Manx has asked her a question. She can see the annoyance in the older woman's eyes as she asks her to repeat.
I'm having fun right now, my friend. What about you?
"I asked, is everything all right? You seem a little distant today."
"I never move from this spot, so how can I be distant?" Aya answers the question with a question, smiling at the perplexed expression on Manx's face.
"Well, I have to get going." Manx picks her purse up and opens it to bring her wallet out. "How much for the flowers?"
"It's on the house," Aya says. Smiles. "After all, I still owe you."
The bell above the door rings loudly as Manx almost bangs the door shut. There is the staccato rhythm of high heels on the pavement outside, the opening and shutting of a car door, then the sound of an engine drifting away.
"Momoe-san, will you watch the shop for me this morning?" Aya steps out from behind the counter and pulls the apron off. The air in the shop is suddenly much too heavy for her, and there is a faint buzzing sound behind her eyes.
"Going to visit the grave again, dear?" Momoe turns on her chair and watches Aya as she slips light summer shoes on and takes a small purse from a rack next to the door leading into the backroom.
"Yes," Aya answers, finding herself surprised to have heard the old woman speak. She picks a not quite flowering rose from a large vase and wraps its stem in a paper towel. She nods again at the old woman before she opens the door and steps outside into the budding day.
It is a long way from Central Tokyo to North Tokyo, where she has buried her brother. Her destination is the Yanaka Cemetery; she has to take the Ginza line and then walk a bit of a distance, but the day is beautiful, the sky clear. During the train ride, she has sheltered the rose with her body, pressed together with too many other humans in a small, metallic compartment that smelled of sweat and cologne. Despite her best efforts, the stem is a little bent, but she does not think her brother will mind. She stops at a small shop near to the cemetery and buys a snack and something to drink; the shopkeeper, a young man, stares at her as always. For four years, she has been coming here. For four years, she has always carried a rose into the shop. His jokes and teases have given way to a feeling of distance and almost fear.
Sometimes, Aya wonders if a bit of the monster they tried to put into her did not make it in after all, hiding behind her eyes. Or, if it is another part of him that went into her. She knows she scares people when she looks at them and smiles.
Did your Irishman teach you to smile like that, my friend, she thinks to herself as she walks out of the shop and resumes her way. Or is it your smile I'm wearing now?
The cemetery is quiet and deserted at this time of the day. Aya walks through the gates and immediately feels as if peace settles over her, as if a fog lifted from around her. The gravel paths are lined with Sakura trees; pines cast their shadows over stone monuments that are kept lovingly clean. She walks along the main path until she reaches a grove shaded by two old weeping willows and knows that it's a fucking romantic, mushy setting, but also so very fitting.
There are three stones in front of her, each unmarked. She touches her palm, the unmarked one, to the two larger ones and whispers a prayer before kissing the stone. Her marked palm is for the grave of her brother. He was the one who put the mark one her; it seems only fitting to Aya that she greet him with that hand. The stone feels both rough and smooth against her skin as she slides her hands over it and sinks to her knees in front of it.
"Hello Aya," Aya says as she places the rose at the foot of the erect stone and sits back on her heels. "How are you, you little assassin? Hunting the dead now?"
Of course, no one answers, but she likes to pretend her brother is sitting in front of her. Right now, he is making one of those expressions that had always made her laugh before she went to sleep for the winter. She takes her snack out of the shopping bag the shopkeeper gave her and eats one of the choice morsels she has bought; candied cherries, her favourite. They almost melt on her tongue.
She knows, before her sleep, she hated them.
When she is done eating, she puts the snacks away and reclines on her side, keeping an ear listening for the cemetery guard. The old, stern man is not fond of her. He told her once that a young, beautiful girl like her should not be wandering around a cemetery during the day. For a while, Aya had come to the graves at night, hoping, wishing the guard would happen upon her. To her disappointment, he never had.
"What story do you wish me to tell you today, Aya?"
The silent stone does not answer. She reaches out with her marked palm and traces the surface with her fingertips, imagining that a hand would come out of the stone and grasp hers to pull her inside.
"Ah, no, not this one." She snickers, the sound trailing away on the soft breeze. "I must have told you the story behind Neu and Youji a thousand times at least! Let's see...oh! I know!"
She sits up on her knees and leans forward, wrapping her arms around the stone as if she meant to hug it. Her lips tear as she moves her mouth against the stone, whispering to it, a young girl telling her closest intimate friend a secret, and yes, it was a fucking big secret indeed.
"I never told you the whole story, did I?" She draws back a little, licking over her lips. "I told you bits and pieces, I know. But never the whole story. Ah, and I know you're dying to know it. Or is it rather that you died so I could tell it?"
Laughing about her own joke, she sits back and eats another cherry. Taps her finger against her lips after that, pondering where she should start. He had burned so much into her when he had touched her; sometimes it was hard to find a beginning and an end.
If there even is an ending.
Abruptly, Aya leans forward again, hugging the stone. "I hate you," she whispers, over and over again, "I hate you, I hate you! How could you - why - oh Aya....Ran..." Her voice lowers until she can barely understand herself, "How could you fall so low? You fucking whore..."
Silence, for a while. Afternoon shadows begin to lengthen under the canopies of the t rees, enveloping the girl and the gravestones. She keeps her arms around the stone for a very long time, until the stone itself seems to vibrate with the calm beats of her own heart. And as the wind's kiss becomes a little harder, ruffling her hair until strands of white come undone from the braids, she begins to talk in a low, calm voice.
That is how the story begins.
Part 1: Chapter 1 | Fanfiction