Episode 21: Seikou

Rhade stared at Yuki in stunned silence and then back at the fluctuating figure of Akai Seikou. So this is the one man she loves. A ghost. Just my luck. He narrowed his eyes. He looks kind of like the guy in the picture attached to Kasei’s mirror back in the palace. What’s going one here?

“So we know who he is,” Rhade said slowly, wrenching his eyes away from the ghost. “Why is he a bad thing?”

“If she’s talking to him, then she’s all but given up. She doesn’t feel that she can be helped, that the damage done is permanent. It used to be that she would talk to Seikou whenever she was feeling lonely or depressed, but gradually it came to be that she would speak to him when she was either nearing the end of her life or wanting to end it. I’m sorry Rhade, but I think we’re loosing her.”

“What about that life debt she claims is so important?”

“If this damage to her system isn’t repairable, it’ll drive her insane, life debt or no. She’ll become a rogue senshi, a very dangerous loose cannon and will turn against us at the drop of a hat. Give her level of power, she’d likely try for a take over of the system and spread out from there.”

“Assuming that’s the case, there’s nothing we can do to stop it?”

Yuki shook his head. “Not really. If we can’t heal her, we’d have to kill her. Honestly, I’m trying not to think about it.”

Rhade sat and watched Kasei and Seikou talk. At the sight of tears forming at the corners of her eyes, his eyes widened. She spent so much time acting cold and tough that to see her cry was difficult to deal with. Seikou’s look of utter helplessness didn’t help either. His hands kept twitching as if he wanted to hold her, but having no real form, he’d just pass right through her.

After a while, Kasei just sank down into a heap on the floor, her shoulders shaking as she cried silently. Seikou knelt down in front of her, talking too quietly for Rhade or Yuki to hear before standing up and walking towards their hiding spot.

“It’s good to see you again, Yuki,” he said pleasantly. “Who’s your friend?”

“Telemachus Rhade, the guy who saved Kasei’s life.”

“My thanks, though she doesn’t think it’s a good thing,” Seikou said, bowing. “I would ask of you a favor.”

“Anything.”

He looked over his shoulder at Kasei. “Talk to her. Please. I don’t care what you say to her, just get her to do something other than cry. I’ve never been able to handle seeing her cry. Get her angry, make her laugh, anything.”

“It’d be fairly easy for Rhade to make her angry,” Yuki snickered.

“I’m not going to ask. Please, Rhade. I’m asking you not as the man who loves her, but as a friend.”

Rhade took a deep breath and nodded, walking towards her. She didn’t seem to notice until he sat down beside her and wrapped an arm around her shoulder. She flinched away, scrambling up to her feet.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“What do you think I was doing? You’re crying, so I was trying to comfort you. That’s all.”

She looked around frantically. “Where is he?”

“Seikou? Talking with Yuki. From the sound of things, they haven’t spoken in a while.”

Kasei’s eyes narrowed with suspicion. “Did Yuki tell you who that is?”

“Yes. He also mentioned what this could lead to, what it means.” He stood up. “Kasei, I know you hate me for saving you, but don’t give up. Your brother and your friends love you. You mother and sister aren’t the greatest people, but I’m sure that deep inside they care about you.”

She snorted. “They sure have a funny way of showing it. Yuki brings you in here and interrupts my privacy. Tenshi, Okami, and Yumeko care, but they don’t understand. They couldn’t even if I told them. Yuki understands, but he’s my twin, the other half of my soul so it’s not hard and to be expected. The rest of my family…my sister would be happy to have me out of the way so that her path to the throne is clear. My mother only cares as far as seeing me crowned as the next queen and seeing some arrogant, empty headed noble get me with child to ensure the succession. My father, well, of my parents he takes the most interest in our lives, but even then he’s largely ignorant of most of the things going on. He’s not much help and almost always sides with mother or Hihana.”

Rhade blinked. “Yuki brought me here because he was worried. You know, Kasei, maybe if you explained to the rest of us what happened to you then maybe we’d be able to help. There’s an old expression: ‘pain shared is pain halved’.”

“Oh right. As if it was that easy. If simply talking about it would make me better, then I’d be more than happy to do so, but it won’t. Yuki thinks he’s so smart. He thinks that my conversation with Seikou was because I’d given up. Well, it’s not the first time he’s been wrong and it certainly won’t be the last. Yes, Rhade, I love Seikou and I always will. Nothing can change that. If I had my way, I’d die forever and be with him but it’s never going to happen. We both know that. The conversation we were having earlier was the same one we always have. It’s almost like a ritual we go through before we get around to any other talk. We talk, we have the same pseudo-fight, I cry, I feel better, we talk about something else. ”

“So why would he have asked me to talk to you? If you two have the same fight all the time, then he’d know you only cry for a certain period of time. There’d be no real need for me to get your mind off this.”

Kasei blinked, puzzled. “What are you saying?”

“He asked me to get you to do something other than cry. Make you laugh, get you angry, anything.”

Kasei stared at him. “Why that little… Who the hell does he think he is?”

“Someone who loves you,” a feminine voice said softly. A softly glowing pillar of light appeared behind Kasei and a tall woman walked out of it. She had paler skin than Kasei and long black hair that floated around her. Looking into her eyes was like gazing into the heart of a raging fire. Her loose scarlet robe was belted at the waist by a golden chain studded with dark red stones. Her feet were bare. Kasei took one look at her and fell to her knees.

“You honor me with your presence,” she said in an awed voice.

The woman shook her head. “Do you think so little of yourself that you doubted that I would come to one of my children in her time of need? Honestly, Kasei. I thought you knew better.” She looked at Rhade. “A senshi from another world, but not of our galaxy. Interesting.”

“I am Telemachus Rhade,” he said, bowing politely.

“A friend of yours, Kasei?”

Kasei snorted. “Hardly.”

“I think perhaps you should explain everything from the time you left us. Your pain is great, but I cannot follow things beyond the outer edges of this system so I am unaware of what has happened to you.”

Kasei stood and shot a cautious look at Rhade. “My apologies, but these are things I’d rather discuss privately.”

“Why? Is there something you do not wish him to know?”

“These are things that I have only told Yuki. Rhade is aware of some of what has happened, but not all.”

“You haven’t told your teammates?” The woman looked shocked.

“I have not.”

“You had best start talking. If you wish to talk privately, I would like a good reason for it.” Kasei started to talk in Nomaien. As she spoke, the woman’s expression grew more and more concerned. “I have heard enough. Come with me, Kasei. I believe I can help, but it may require some sacrifice on your part.”

“I am a senshi and a Guardian. Sacrifice is my life. I have already lost so much that sacrificing more won’t make much difference.”

Kasei followed the woman into the pillar of light. Yuki and Seikou ran up just as the pillar vanished. “Well, that went well,” Seikou commented.

“Who was that?”

“That was the spirit of Nomaie in her humanoid form,” Yuki replied. “Her appearance is either good or bad. Hopefully, it’s good in that he can help Kasei.”

“Let’s just hope it’s not bad in the sense that she’ll end Kasei’s life to prevent her from going rogue,” Seikou added.

When Kasei finished telling her story, Nomaie nodded. “I see. So what I sensed from you and that senshi, Rhade, was indeed accurate. The cause of your pain, the reason you’re off balance, is that these Nietzscheans disrupted the natural paths in your genes, thus interrupting your inborn connection with me and the planet’s starseed. I know how much you dislike returning to Nomaie, but it’s good that you did. Had you waited much longer, I would not have been able to help you in this life. I would have had to terminate this life and heal your starseed before giving it a new body. That could take years as you understand time.”

“So you can help me?” The look of relief on Kasei’s face was almost pathetic.

“Yes, my daughter, I can help.”

“What do you wish of me as sacrifice?”

“You will understand once you’ve been returned to your normal self. First you must know that your hatred of the Nietzschean people may either dim or fade completely. I can heal more than your body, after all.”

“Nomaie, I have to ask you. Was I really reborn a Nietzschean? Was I really Valkyrie Museveni?”

“I see no reason to doubt that you were. In fact, I believe it’s most likely.”

“If that were true, then wouldn’t my DNA be identical to hers?”

“Nietzscheans and Nomaiens have a lot in common, but they are essentially human. There are bound to be basic racial differences.”

“I see.”

“It’s not the body that matters anyways.” She placed her hands on Kasei’s head for what seemed like hours. “Now then, go to the Onsenchi and soak in the hot waters for an hour.”

“Will it help me heal?”

Nomaie laughed.” No, child, but it will relax your muscles. You’re quite tense. Don’t look so dismayed, Kasei. It will help you relax.”

“So I’m better now? I don’t feel any different.”

“It will take some time for any change to be noticeable. That is the other reason for the long soak. As you relax, the changes will take effect more quickly. If you stay as tense, it could take days.”

“I see. Thank you for your help.”

“Kasei, you were once my senshi in name. Anything you need, you have but to ask.”

Kasei stripped her clothes off, placed a towel nearby, and climbed into the hot waters of the Onsenchi and sighed. She hated water, always had, but the heat felt good. I must be starting to feel better, she mused. I’m actually in the water. I haven’t been in anything more substantial than a shower since Rhade rescued me from that lake.

She leaned her head back against the rock ledge looking up at the sky. The sun would set in a few hours. We won’t get to head back tonight. We’ll head home in the morning. When I get out of here, I should go find Rhade and Yuki. She paused. How long was I with Nomaie anyways? It didn’t occur to me to stop and check the time. I just came straight here. Oh no. I didn’t even stop to get a fresh change of clothes. Great. The last thing I need is to put on sweaty clothes after a hot soak. If this was home, I could just ring a bell for a servant to bring me clothing. Oh well. It won’t be for long. Just long enough for me to get down to my packs.

Hearing footsteps behind her, she spun around and peaked over the edge of the rock ledge, seeing a pair of boots. She looked up to see Rhade leaning down with a bundle of clothing in his hands.

“Pardon the intrusion, but Nomaie asked me to bring these to you. She figured that you would have headed straight here without stopping to get clean clothes.”

Kasei simply stared at him. It felt like seeing clearly after walking through a dense fog. This is not happening. I don’t like him!

“Kasei? Is everything alright?”

“This really wasn’t necessary.”

“She was quite insistent on it, actually. Yuki offered, but she gave him this look and he backed down.”

“I’m being set up,” she muttered.

“Set up?”

“She’s testing me to see how well the healing worked.”

“You haven’t tried to kill me yet,” he said with a smile.

Kasei rolled her eyes. “That has nothing to do with my physical or mental state.”

“So this is the part where you tell me that it has to do with that life debt. Isn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“You’re starting to get predictable,” Rhade said sitting down, setting the clothing off to one side. “Oh don’t worry. I can’t see anything. The water is too dark. Besides, you’re cute when you’re blushing.”

Kasei hadn’t even been aware that she’d turned red. “You know, I’m in here to relax. It’s not all that relaxing with you around.”

“Why?”

Kasei bit her tongue, forcing herself to calm down. “I don’t like you. How many times do I need to tell you that?”

He shrugged. “I’ll leave you to your bath, then.”

Se watched him leave and turned around. That was weird. I don’t like him, but I didn’t feel any malice towards him. Was I just hallucinating the last six months? No, I have very clear memories of everything that happened. She sat and pondered that for a while.

Odd, but it doesn’t hurt as much to think about it. That part of the healing worked at least. She wrapped her arms around herself. I can’t feel anything on the senshi end of things, but I think I need to meditate on that first.

She climbed out and wrapped the towel around herself, noting that some of the scars had faded. They were still there, but they weren’t as angry looking as they had been yesterday. That’s useful, too. Let’s get these clothes on and go send the sun off to sleep with the others.