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"Morpheus, the Reaper"
« on: October 29, 2012, 09:22:10 AM »


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I figure, what the hell, I'm a whore for reviews and I've posted this everywhere else I've been that's even SLIGHTLY Tenchi related, so here we go, my re-written original Tenchi Muyo! Fanfic.  Enjoy!

Or don't whatever  :P
Thought the path is paved with jagged stones and I cannot see its end, I shall strive ever onward, for one day my bleeding feet will heal and the free air is too sweet in my lungs for any other to suffice.

Re: "Morpheus, the Reaper"
« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2012, 09:24:53 AM »


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Morpheus the Reaper

To Dream an Endless Dream...

All characters, settings, and trademarks are owned by Pioneer and not by the author

The autumn sun shone down brightly upon the Masaki family shrine, the wide stone courtyard and Shinto honden worn with age and weather. A young man swept aside leaves from the ancient holy grounds, his brown tunic stark against the grey. He paused a moment and wiped the sweat from his brow as he leaned on the broomstick, a pleased smile across his face. Birds chirped sweetly in the trees surrounding the serene mountainside as Tenchi Masaki admired the work he had done. A gust of wind rustled through the branches, sending a fresh flurry of golden brown leaves cascading across the worn flagstones. The teenager shook his head in amused frustration and began his chore once more.

At the base of the mountain sat a sprawling structure, the Masaki household, home to Tenchi and his father, but more recently a bevy of rather unexpected visitors had taken residence therein. His home had been empty for almost a week, what with the alien princesses Sasami and Ayeka of planet Jurai having recently left for an important council meeting. The ex-space-pirate Ryoko and her mother, the self-proclaimed 'number-one-genius-in-the-universe' Washu were off performing a series of endurance experiments with their living, shape shifting spaceship Ryo-Ohki. Their bumbling blonde-haired room-mate Mihoshi, a galactic detective, had been called back to headquarters on tribunal to do something about her mounting damage claims.

The rhythmic, hollow 'chock' of a bamboo water fountain cut through the air as he worked, the monotonous peace of physical labor easing his mind. He kept the easy, steady pace of one who had performed the same task over and over, the pendulous motion of the broom falling into the subconscious tempo of muscle memory. Over the gentle sounds of the forest and the seclusion of the mountainside shrine, the soft impact of footfalls sounded from the timeworn granite staircase that cut through the trees.

He paused, the sudden presence of an unexpected visitor breaking his rhythm. He shouldered his broom and walked towards the staircase, curious about who would go so far out of their way to visit the tiny shrine. Leaning against the hand-smoothed stone railing, he peered down the stair, squinting as he tried to pierce the gloom through the overhanging trees below.

Much to his surprise, the ancient staircase was empty save a swallow that pecked at the grasses that grew between the travel-worn steps. He let out a derisive chuckle and scratched at the back of his head. "I guess with the house so quiet recently I'm starting to hear things. Heh, I must miss everyone running around and getting into trouble more than I thought."

He sighed and turned around to resume his work. With a yelp, he fell backward roughly onto his rump, the broom falling to the stonework with a clatter.

Before him stood a towering person wearing an odd, ornate robe, their white-gloved hands held to their sides as they loomed over him. The fabric of the robe was impeccably white, almost painful to look at, and shifted against the afternoon breeze. Light blue chasing traced along its edges, and a deep cowl hid their face in deep shadows. Tenchi found it hard to look at them as they seemed to not be entirely there. Their body jerked and shifted in place, but never actually moving. As the sun struck them he could see shadows of the shrine through their form, and as a cloud passed over the sun, they almost appeared to be made of a flickering, ethereal light.

"W-who are you?" He asked, slowly climbing to his feet and picking up his broom, wielding it like some kind of staff.

"You know me, Tenchi." The voice sounded like half a dozen people talking at once, seeming to yell and whisper at the same time. The youth pulled back, wincing at the sound.

After a moment the figure reached up with white gloved hands and grasped the edges of its cowl, pulling it back to fall over its shoulders. A cold sweat broke out over Tenchi's forehead, his eyes wide with fear and an odd sense of recognition. The face revealed could hardly even be called as such. It faded in and out of focus as a shifting, vague suggestion of features and tone. Like something filmed on ancient cellulite tape, the edges seeming to phase in and out, jerking into sharp lines before fading back to normal, only to become blurred once again.

"Tenchi… you need… to WAKE UP."

Tenchi jerked awake, eyes wide, lying half-off of his bed. He slowly relaxed as he realized that he was home he and let out a slow sigh, coughing into his fist as he pulled himself slowly into a sitting position. He sat there for a moment, knees bent with his face in his hands, rubbing at his bleary eyes. He slid his hands away to pull gently at his face, stretching the aged skin around his eyes.

That dream again… He let out another sigh and wiped his hand down his face to pull at his chin. He sat there a moment longer, looking around his cramped, dingy apartment as he scratched at the stubble that darkened his cheek.

Almost fifteen years since he'd seen that place. Almost fifteen years since he'd been anywhere near Japan. He shifted to sit at the edge of the bed and stood slowly, letting out a groan as he stretched, his back and shoulders still tense from the vivid dream. Carefully picking his way across the cluttered floor, past old laundry and stacks of books, he shuffled to the single window in his loft and opened the heavy curtains. With a sad chuckle he leaned his forehead against the cold glass, looking out over the city.

Raining again…

The sky had not been anything but that terrible, soul draining grey for as long as he could remember. Rolling, slate-colored clouds hung pregnant in an impenetrable dome above the humid city streets. He idly traced the lingering tracks of raindrops as they rolled down the chilly windowpane, staring out beyond the glass. The buildings beyond rose up at what seemed to be helter-skelter angles, warped by the film of water and filth on the window, looking like the crooked black teeth of some unspeakable monster.

When had he moved to this city of shadows? It was almost half a lifetime ago for him, and try as he might the reasons still didn't seem to fit together right. He sighed again and ran his fingers through his thinning, messy salt and pepper hair. His breath fogged against the window in cloudy blossoms as he thought back.

He had been nineteen, a scant month away from his twentieth birthday when he made a choice. He smirked ruefully as he recalled that it was the only one he thought he had at the time. From the cobwebbed corners of his barely conscious mind a snippet of music bubbled to the surface…

"I wish that I knew what I know now…"

Shaking his head and rubbing the sleep from the corners of his eyes, he glanced at the glaringly bright numbers displayed on his alarm clock. Piercing through the half-light that filtered through the window from the sleeping city beyond, it flashed the passage of time in buzzing heart-beat intervals.

Four A-M. Two hours before he should be even consider being awake.

His shoulders slumped and his mouth drew into a tight, disappointed line. Not even enough time to get a decent nap in… I suppose I might as well get ready for work… He thought, running a hand over his face as he stumbled back to his bedside and turned on the low-watt lamp that sat on his nightstand. After a moment of flickering uncertainty, the bulb came to life, the sickly glow only serving to throw the shadows that stretched across the tiny living space into greater contrast.

He straightened his tie, pulling it snug around his neck, unable to shake the sensation of a noose against his throat. Shrugging on his smoke-colored blazer jacket, he took a swig of his quickly cooling coffee and checked his wrist watch, mentally nodding at the time. He lifted his battered briefcase and poured the rest of the thin, bitter drink out into the sink as he passed through his kitchenette and headed for the door.

The hallway of his building was deathly quiet as he checked the lock on his flimsy door, rattling the knob a third time to make sure the decrepit tumblers slid into place. The walls that stretched away in either direction were plastered in some once-hip and chic wallpapering, the patterns long since faded into obscurity, and the thin padded carpet was alternately worn through and sticky against the soles of his loafers.

He stepped out into the twisting stairwell, the dingy walls dripping with humidity and the smell of mildew thick in the air as he trudged down the poured concrete steps, the constant draw of employee obligation pulling him forward like a leash. He reached the final landing and pushed the heavy black door open onto the streets of the city. As he stepped out into the incessant rain he pulled his jacket closer around his body and adjusted his grip on his briefcase, his footsteps leaving tiny ripples in the water as he walked quickly down the soaked sidewalk.

The walk from his apartment building to the rail station took about five minutes most mornings, but in this city of ash and shadows five minutes could seem like an eternity. He walked down the street hunched against the drizzling rain as other pedestrians joined his morning schlep to the train station. Faceless corporate automatons so set into their daily routine of "wake-work-sleep-wake-work-sleep" that the entire pack made their way towards the subway with barely a glance forward. In the center of the crowd of suits, ties and somber skirts, Tenchi stopped, pausing at the lip of the staircase leading down to the station. He tilted his head up, sighing heavily as the raindrops struck his face and trickled down to soak into his shirt.

A single drop struck his lips and he licked it away, surprised at how sweet it tasted. He stared up at the dreary clouds that boiled above as his mind wandered against his will, memories of emerald leaves and sparkling waters echoed through the alleys of his dark mind. His face split into a half-smile as his eyes prickled with ancient feelings. He stood a moment longer, relishing the brief moment of emotion as somber businessmen and women parted around him as water before the stone. With a shake of his head, he brought himself back to the present and started the long descent towards the platform.

Heavy stone arches curved over the train tracks underground and the thick concrete slabs that made up the floor of the station vibrated slightly as a train went rocketing past, its roar filling the rail station. The sound of it muted the sparse conversations of the few others awaiting the number 5 for downtown and the wind of its passing sent an abandoned newspaper tumbling through the air. Standing off to one side of the staircase, Tenchi yawned and shook his head as he tried to focus on the workday ahead of him. His eyelids felt thick and heavy as he blinked the subway into clarity once again.

That dream is still messing with my head… He groaned, running his fingers through his hair as a flashing light announced the arrival of the next train. What the hell is wrong with me? The same thing whenever I dream, and now it's affecting me while I'm awake? A light filled the tunnel beyond, and the blat of a horn echoed into the station. The northbound train shot through the station and Tenchi looked up, watching the passengers flashing past him through the windows and briefly wondered what their day held in store.

As the final car passed through the rail station his eyelids grew heavy and his mind felt thick, but he could swear a figure was sitting amongst the somberly dressed business folk. A spot of brilliant white against a sea of charcoal and slate, dressed in a white robe with light blue chasing…


Tenchi's eyes snapped open, his head swimming with after-images of half formed dreams as he jumped in his seat, his heart pounding against his ribs. Shit, I dozed off! What is happening to me? He rubbed his eyes as his surroundings came into focus, and his reflection stared back at him from his dark computer screen. Another wave of panic washed over him as he realized where he sat. I'm at work? When did I get here? I hope I wasn't snoring…

A cursory glance around his cubicle revealed it to not be occupied by the expansive girth of Gregory Murdock. A shiver of relief washed over him as he leaned back, glancing down the row of grey-walled corporate prisons to see the door set into the far wall of the office open, a plume of bluish-grey smoke rolling from within. "Er, yes sir?" Tenchi called back as his fluttering stomach slowly settled.

"Masaki! What the hell is taking so long with those numbers? I need those Jackson reports on my desk by the end of the day!" The gravelly voice rumbled from within the office, followed by another gale-force cloud of cigar smoke.

"Yes sir, Mr. Murdock!" Tenchi replied, shaking his head with a sight as he redoubled his efforts on his computer terminal. He twisted his mouth into a disgruntled grimace as his fingers flew across the keyboard, transferring the latest quarter's numbers into the already expansive Jackson portfolio. That rotten old bastard didn't even come out of his office to bawl me out and he's getting on ME for being slow. Taskmaster… He sighed and let his hands slip from the well-worn keys and set his elbows on the desk before him, resting his head in his hands. He lifted his eyes to his monitor and let his hands slip up to run his fingers through his thinning hair.

His eyes unfocused and Tenchi saw himself in the shadow of his computer screen, the columns of numbers and arcane formulae fading into the constant hum of the cathode-ray screen. His once youthful face had grown haggard and bore the lines of stress and age. Bags hung beneath his tired eyes and his flesh fell slack against his aging bones. He hadn't been eating as well as he should have been, and exercise was more or less non-existent. The trim, strong body he once had was lost to years of quick meals and hours of sitting in front of a computer, his muscles slack and unused, and his waist slowly expanding into a middle-aged paunch. His hair had grown thinner as well, grey hair bled from his temples to streak into his black, short-cropped hair. His hand moved back nostalgically to pull at the ends of his hair, his ponytail long gone to abide the office dress code.

The years had not been kind, replacing the hope and eager vitality he once exuded with the air of lost dreams and hard times. Even now, as his tired eyes took in the reflection that stared back at him from the computer screen, Tenchi hardly recognized the older man he saw within. The computers power-saving feature kicked in and the screen went black, making the face in the glass snap into sharp focus. He cringed at his reflection and wiggled his mouse to make the screen fade back to life. He turned thirty-three this year, but to see him on the street he looked no less than a hard-edged forty.

Tenchi shook his head, trying to clear out these thoughts and forced himself to focus on the work ahead. He poured himself into the spreadsheets, fingers hammering the keyboard as he crunched data and fit it into bills and claims and sales. Endless invoices filled his day from eight thirty A-M till five P-M, the glorious life of a chartered accountant in this city that never seemed to sleep. Again, his mind began to wander, and halfway between reconciling an overseas account and hiding untaxed profits in charitable acts, Tenchi's eyes turned from his computer screen and roamed the tiny office.

Set somewhere between the boiler room and janitor's closet on the basement floor of a hundred story office-building, the cramped room held half a dozen cubicles, but only two were ever occupied at any one time. The feeble furnishings consisted of a threadbare couch in the corner near the door and a dinged end table with year old magazines fading on the unpolished surface. Even the cubicles barely held a trace of personality. No family photos smiled from frames on the shallow shelves, and the singular attempt to bring a potted plant into the office to 'liven it up' resulted in a desiccated, browning fern quietly shedding fronds onto an empty desktop.

A single 'Hang in there, baby!' poster was pinned to the cork and fabric of one of the empty cubicle, displaying a frightened looking kitten holding onto a branch as it stood defiant in the gloom. Every once in a while Tenchi almost swore the kitten's eyes followed him when he walked past it, and even once he had to blink away the image of a brown, long-eared feline clinging to the branch. The walls of the office had obviously been painted white once upon a time, but the constant cigar smoke that poured from Gregory Murdock's office had stained them to a dusty, yellowish grey.

With a dejected sigh, he turned his gaze back to his computer screen, watching the flickering numbers of the clock on his computers taskbar crunch away towards five o'clock. Numbers, numbers, numbers. Hours, exemptions, minutes, profit margins, seconds, tax-deductible donations. A familiar whistle from the adjacent cubicle made him jump slightly, stirred from his trance. A young, smiling face peered around the corner as Trent Horrace leaned back in his chair, eyes bright behind his horn rimmed glasses.

Trent hadn't been with the company for more than a year or two, not long enough for the gloom of the hum-drum day to day monotony of office work to tarnish his good humor. He smiled often and wide, the warmth of them still always reaching his eyes, and his light-colored hair was often playfully tousled, riding that fine line between messy and stylish. He'd never asked, but Tenchi placed Trent somewhere in his mid to late twenties. Still young enough to get carded but old enough to know life wasn't always sunshine and rainbows. The thought made Tenchi snort in amusement and shake his head, only causing Trent to grin wider.

"What's so funny over there?" Trent quipped, his eyes sparkling as he laced his fingers behind his head.

With a half-smile Tenchi rubbed the tip of his nose and slid his uncomfortable office chair backwards to see his officemate better. "Just an odd thought. So, what's up?"

Trent grinned so wide it seemed his head was in danger of falling off backwards. "I'm heading over to the Silver Hog tonight, thought you might want to meet up? Throw some darts, maybe grab a brew or two?"

Tenchi's smile faded momentarily as he remembering the events of the morning and the haunting remnants of the dream that lurked in the corners of his mind. He forced himself to smile again and shook his head. "I don't know, Trent, I'm not feeling so hot today."

Trent's eyebrow rose in a sharp arch above his dark frames as his lips twisted into a wry smirk. "Come on man, when was the last time you had any fun?" He stretched, groaning softly as he leaned dangerously back in his chair. "I've hardly ever heard you talk about anything other than work. This city and that kind of life has a way of sucking a man dry if he's not careful." Another mischievous grin split his face as he added "And you look pretty dried up to me." Tenchi let out a little chuckle and shook his head, returning to the work in front of him.

He stopped a moment later and leaned back to see Trent still waiting, a hopeful smile on his face. He couldn't help but to smile back, chuckling again as he rolled his eyes. "We'll see, alright?" Trent pumped a fist as he spun in his wheeled chair and stopped himself so he faced his desk.

"Awesome, I'm heading over around seven or so. See you then." With a wink and a quick shove of his feet his chair wheeled out of sight, the clacking of keys resuming as the young man dug into his work with fervor. Tenchi sat stunned for a moment before smirking and shaking his head, pushing himself back towards his own glowing screen.

The Silver Hog was nestled between an ancient warehouse and a dilapidated gas station, only in marginally better repair than either. Tiny, filthy windows looked out onto the street, the large sign that was bolted to the roof had blown half of its bulbs, now reading "Th- S—l-er Ho-". The single sodium lamp that hung above the door revealed cracked paint and the faded posters of a dozen bands that once played within, buzzing like an angry bee in the steady drizzle of the night. Tenchi huddled on the sidewalk opposite under the scant protection of a half awning, staring at the tiny, dingy dive. Light leaked out of the dirty windows set into the walls and the faint sound of music broke the otherwise silent night. He frowned as he pulled his jacket closer around his shoulders, knowing it would be one of those horrible little hole-in-the-wall bars where you know the liquor is watered down, the beer is warm and it's bud light too.

He hunched his shoulders and pulled up the collar of his jacket, trying to decide what to do. He'd come all this way, and it wasn't as if he had anything else to do this evening. 'Besides stand outside and get wet, obviously…' He thought with an inward grimace. The steady downpour of mist fell in a silken sheet so dense that it wearing a jacket was simply delaying the inevitable clingy shirt he'd have to face before the nights end. He nodded slightly and popped his jacket to shake the dewdrops of rain from it, only serving to release the water through its surface to soak into his shirt, drawing a defeated sigh from his throat as he stepped quickly across the street and pulled on the tarnished handle.

The inside of the bar didn't offer much more than the exterior promised. Florescent lights hummed softly overhead, the hardwood flooring was stained and warped off of its nails, bowing up to catch toes and chair legs. A bar rose in the center of the room, wrapping in a horseshoe shape, stools speckled around it at random intervals. A portly 'gentleman' stood behind the sticky surface, wearing a yellowing dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up as he wiped off a pint glass with a dingy rag before placing it into the cooler tucked under the counter. Several tables were spread around the bar, though few were occupied that night. What patrons were sitting at the tables stared intently at their drinks, as if asking themselves if they really needed that next one.

A billiards table, the felt surface worn thin and shiny, took up a corner of the bar and a pair of well perforated corkboard bullseyes hung against the far wall. A trio of televisions hung above the barstools, two showing white noise, the third alternately crackling between the monotonous announcing of a baseball game and the sharp quips of a trendy gameshow host.

Trent was sitting at the bar, his head tilted back to stare awkwardly up at the flickering television set as he nursed a pint of beer so light it was almost clear. As the door creaked closed behind Tenchi, the bartender looked up from his work and the few depressed patrons barely glanced up from their drinks before wallowing back into their inebriation. Trent turned to look as well, his face brightening up suddenly. "Hey, Tenchi!" He lifted his glass in a toast to his co-worker and took another drink, gesturing to the stool beside him. Tenchi popped his jacket, trying to shake the water off before submitting and just shedding the layer altogether. He took a seat beside his friend and glanced around the nearly empty bar.

"Is this place always so lively?" Tenchi asked, gesturing to the bartender as he pulled his wallet from his back pocket.

"Oh yeah, it gets crazy on the weekends." Trent replied with a smirk. "It's quite the little hot-spot for those hip and with it kids we keep hearing about." He rolled his eyes and took another sip of beer. "Glad you could make it man, I didn't think you were going to come." He smiled, as the bartender set a pint of beer in front of Tenchi, the foamy head sloshing over the brim of the glass to splatter against the sticky counter.

Tenchi regarded the amber liquid in his glass, wiping a stream of bubbles from it with his thumb, a thin smile across his lips. "Well to be honest, I almost didn't." He took a sip of the beer, the first hit of alcohol rolling around his mouth and sending a flood of warmth into his veins. Lowering his glass, he looked over at his bespectacled friend and shook his head slightly. "I mean, I haven't really felt up to doing much of anything for quite some time." He set his glass down onto the sticky bar, back into the puddle of thin beer. A feeling of ease and relaxation washed over him as he turned his glass back and forth and watched as the beads of condensation joined to streak down its side.

Trent clapped a hand onto his shoulder, grinning wide. "Well I'm sure glad you did, man." He waved the bartender over, pointed to a bottle of whiskey that was set under the counter opposite the pair and held up two fingers. "A man's got to wind down every now and again, am I right?" He chuckled, looking back and taking a drink from his beer as a pair of shot glasses were plopped onto the wooden counter, a vague amount of whisky slopped into each as the bartender walked away. Tenchi smirked as Trent picked up the uneven shots and handed one to him, clinking the tiny glasses together and throwing them back, the sudden heat of the liquor scorched their throats and burned its way into their stomachs. Tenchi felt himself smile, somewhat more heartfelt this time, as he tipped his glass up and chased the shot with a large swallow of cool amber.

A queer feeling washed over Tenchi as he felt the beer settle in his stomach, a light-headedness that had nothing to do with the alchohol beginning to course through his veins. He blinked a few times and shook his head, trying the quell the sudden reeling behind his eyes. Buzzing filled his ears and he leaned back carefully to glare up at the television above the seats he and Trent occupied, blaming the white noise for his sudden vertigo. A black, mirror-like screen stared back at him, his own reflection returning the sneer and look of confusion, daring him to look away first. The whining that rattled around his skull grew louder, resolving into a succession of whispers and voices, echoes of something he once held dear and yet sickened him to his core. He winced and turned away from Trent, the fair-haired man oblivious to his plight, his mouth moving without sound as he stared into his beer. The voices grew in volume, noise without meaning, words without sound, reaching a climax as he felt his head would explode from the sheer cacophony of silence.

As suddenly as it came over him, the feeling was gone, leaving him lucid again save the slight tickle of alcohol at the base of his skull. "…And that's when I knew I just had to get out of that relationship, just drop that crazy bitch by the wayside, you know?" Trent finished his anecdote, laughing as he shook his head, tilting up his glass. Tenchi offered an awkward chuckle, shrugging and lifting his own glass.

"W-women, what can you do, huh?" He said lamely as he shrugged and took a deep draught of beer, still shaken by the experience. He gulped down the lasts of his beer in three throat straining swallows and let out a shuddering breath into his glass, making the suds that still clung to the glass dance across the smooth surface. Through the warped bottom of the pint, the bar looked quite different. The walls were scrubbed and neatly painted, a couple sitting in the corner sipped vividly colored drinks as they laughed together, and the elderly woman seated across the bar from him appeared vibrant and genuinely happy.

The effect was shattered as the glass hit the sticky surface of the bar, the walls once again stained with questionable smears of grime, the couple quietly fumed at each other and slammed a handful of bills on the table before storming out. The momentarily enchanting woman across from him now once again was hunched over a tumbler filled to the brim with some corrosive libation or another, ever so slowly pouring her life away one dram at a time.

Tenchi felt a shiver of depression wash over him as he looked longingly at the bottom of his glass, only seeing the aged wooden bar through it. He felt the corner of his mouth twitch in a smirk tinged with melancholy. A hand clapped on his shoulder, making him jump and look around wildly. "W-what?"

Trent's grinning face filled his vision. "I said, what made you want to become an accountant? I know I haven't been with the firm very long, but I think we've kind of connected. You talk about your past sometimes, but you're still a seriously closed up book." He grinned wider, showing probably altogether too much tooth for reasonable friendship, slapping his hands together and holding them tight.

As his mouth hung open slightly, it was all Tenchi could do not to burst into a similar grin, but finally settled on a smile and a shake of his head. "Well to be perfectly honest, when I first moved here, it was a pretty rough time in my life…" He hunched over the bar, playing with his empty glass. "Honestly everything from back then was so hectic I can barely remember it…" He furrowed his brow and sat up straight for a moment before he relaxed again. "So, after doing odd-jobs for a while I got this job offer and before I knew it, it was just me in the office crunching numbers for Mr. Murdock." He shook his head again and pushed his glass to the rear of the bar. "I couldn't complain really, it was the only regular job I could find. I mean, I had to do something and I was always pretty good at math, so it fit." He smirked, coughing out a soft laugh. "I couldn't just be a beggar, and when I was younger all I really knew was farming."

A good-humored smile on his lips, Trent gestured for the bartender to fill Tenchi's glass again. "Yeah, you'd have a solid three hour commute if you wanted to muck in the dirt for a living around here." The young man leaned back easily and laced his fingers behind his head, relaxed and seemingly content against the matte toned background of the shadowy bar. The smile on his face was so genuine that Tenchi couldn't help but return it.

"Trent…" He began as the rotund bartender haphazardly dropped 'fresh' pints of beer onto the counter in front of them with a grunt, sending another cascade of foam down the slightly dingy sides of the glasses. "I've got to ask, I mean it can't be just me… this city just seems so dead, you know?" He sighed and took up his glass to slurp at the thin layer of foam that still clung to the pale liquid. "Empty streets, empty people, the same damned grey sky every single day, I can't be the only person who thinks that this place is just sucking the life out of us, can I?"

His companion laughed and shook his head before he took a healthy gulp of beer and set the glass down, gesturing with his free hand. "Tenchi, that's how it always is in big cities." He wove his fingers together and scrunched up his face, pretending that his digits were vying for space in the grip. "You take a lot of buildings and smash them together and eventually even the neon signs of the red-light district can't shine through the muck." He untwined his fingers and shrugged at Tenchi, a warm smile on his face. "That's why you've got to be bright enough to light your own way."

Tenchi smirked and looked over at his friend. "That was rather profound, Trent." He said with a smile and nudged the young man with his elbow.

Trent nodded and lifted his beer with a grin. "Wait till I really get hammered, you'll want to get some paper and a pencil." He took another large drink and smacked his lips with a contented sigh, his face growing somber. "I think I know what you mean though, this place is dying, little by little…" He looked down into the foam that clung to the sides of his glass, then quirked an eyebrow and glanced over at Tenchi. "But anyways, what's going on man? You're talking dark and you look like you've been through the ringer, just drawn out." He leaned towards Tenchi, a smirk on his lips. "Lady troubles?"

Tenchi poorly tried to suppress a grin as he lifted his glass and swallowed a mouthful of beer. "I don't think I'll have those kind of problems anytime soon… I just had a weird dream last night. It seriously feels as if I hardly slept at all…"

Trent chuckled and gave him a bump with his elbow. "Are you sure this isn't girl troubles? Were you dreaming about your old life and those, what was it, eight women who all wanted your body?" Trent grinned lecherously as he sat back up. "That's the kind of thing I wouldn't mind giving up a few nights of sleep for…" He offered Tenchi a wink as he finished his beer with another series of loud gulps and a hearty sigh.

"No…" Tenchi chuckled and smiled wryly. "Or, well, not really…" He shook his head and shrugged the question away. "I think I'm just feeling homesick or something." He looked into his glass and watched the bubbles slowly rise up to break at the surface and thought back. Over the course of their friendship Tenchi had mentioned his previous life to Trent, but never really expounded upon the situation or how his odd, mismatched family had come to be. He supposed it had to be healthy to talk about it every now and again, and it even sometimes felt good to talk about it, but nostalgia was an emotion that never ended well for him, always leaving him with a faint ache behind his eyes and a tightness in his chest.

He cleared his throat as he realized that he'd been staring into his beer for a good half minute. "It was really just a weird dream was all. You know, one of those that are just real enough to make you wonder if you're actually awake when you finally open your eyes?" He mustered a smile as he lifted his glass and drained the remaining swallow of amber liquid, happy to have it join the whiskey that already coursed warmly through his veins and fogged his mind.

Trent nodded and offered him a faint smile. "I've had a few of those, sure." His smile split into a grin and he punched Tenchi playfully on the arm. "In any case, you sure seem to have perked up a good bit since this morning." He turned on his stool to face the older man, one arm leaning on the bar. "I'm telling you, you need to come out with me more often. It'll do you a world of good! You'll feel like a young man again and you won't be so troubled at night." He clicked his tongue, winking at him again.

A laugh bubbled out of Tenchi's chest, one of the first serious laughs he'd had in almost as long as he could remember. Wiping his eye exaggeratedly he shifted and pulled out his wallet, opening it and fishing out a few bills, counting them as he fingered the paper. "Yeah, what you really mean is that I'll have too many beers under my belt to worry about dreaming."

Trent laughed back and nodded. "That's exactly my point!"

Tenchi shook his head and got up from his stool with a slight grunt placing the bills on the counter. The sudden movement caused him to feel somewhat unsteady on his feet, the alcohol in his blood making itself known. His mouth pulled up at the corner in a half-smile and he nodded as he pulled his jacket on over his shoulders. "I'll certainly think about it, this has been nice. But it's getting on, so I'm going to head home. I'll see you tomorrow at work, alright?"

Trent nodded and extended his hand, shaking Tenchi's as they clasped together. "Yep, I'll be there. You have a good night, okay?" Tenchi nodded back and released his hand, turning to take a step towards the door before he stopped and looked back.

"Thanks." He said, an honest smile warm on his face. Trent waved him away with a smirk and a shake of his head, leaving Tenchi to chuckle and head for the door, opening it onto the night. Rain steadily drizzled down outside, falling to drum on his shoulders as the warmth of alcohol burned in his veins. He paused momentarily under a sodium lamp and watched it fizzle and spit, its sickly yellow light flickering against the sidewalk. As it faded to the barest hinting of light, Tenchi squared his shoulders and felt a smile form on his face as he walked on.

"…Be bright enough to light your own way."

Thought the path is paved with jagged stones and I cannot see its end, I shall strive ever onward, for one day my bleeding feet will heal and the free air is too sweet in my lungs for any other to suffice.

Re: "Morpheus, the Reaper"
« Reply #2 on: October 29, 2012, 09:26:29 AM »


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Through the night, the rain slowed and then stopped, leaving the mornings sand-colored sidewalk dark with moisture as the grey light of dawn filtered weakly through the ever present clouds.

As he straightened his jacket over his shoulders, Tenchi looked up and felt a glimmer of hope burning deep in his chest, his briefcase held over his shoulder as he walked towards the train station. Trent was right he thought as he felt a smile split his lips, he felt great today. No dreams had kept him awake the night before, and he even found that the sun was shining just a little brighter today, hidden behind the slate colored clouds though it was. He hummed softly to himself as he walked towards the rail station, and descended the stairs two at a time towards the platform.

The smattering of people already waiting at the bottom of the staircase, made Tenchi slow down and check his watch, his mouth twisted into a confused frown. The platform was fairly deserted this morning, what few people dressed for the office either huddled together into high-school-esqe clicks, others almost distant enough to imply acute haphephobia as they poured themselves into their morning papers or plugged their ears with cellular phones and headphones.

He shook his watch and listened to its rhythmic heartbeat click, his mouth pulled tight. No…I can't be that early… He looked around, mentally taking a morning roll call on the perhaps two dozen regulars he recognized in varying degrees of business attire. Under normal circumstances the platform would be packed elbow to elbow with severe suits and business casual clones, the noise of their conversations humming into the vaulted ceiling of the train station. He shook his head as he let out a sigh as he glanced again at his watch, wondering just what had kept so many from their morning commute.

Finally he resigned himself to the scarce population of the rail station this morning and looked around, wondering if he had time to slip back to street level and pick up a cup of coffee from the vendor cart that usually sat just outside the station. As he nodded to himself and turned to go, a sudden movement on the opposite platform caught his eye. A small troupe of hoodlums slumped against the molded wall and passed a brown-bagged bottle amongst themselves, grumbled snippets of their conversation drifting across the open space. He crinkled his nose and he snorted derisively as one of the crew pulled a crumpled paper packet from their tattered hoodie and smacked a cigarette free and lipped it.

As the vagrant lifted their head and cupped a dainty hand to block the flame that crackled against its tip, he felt a cold sweat break out under his clothes, his eyes wide. Thin blue smoke drifted up from the glowing red cherry, the beautiful face behind the cigarette tightening slightly as if in recognition, rosy lips pursing slightly around the filter as she inhaled the acrid smoke. Tenchi's chest grew tight, his breath coming in shallow, sharp inhales as those shockingly amber eyes pierced into and through him, the shock of hair poking from under her tattered hooded sweater a disquieting shade of cyan.

His throat became thick with emotion and unspoken words, his mouth trying to work with no sound coming forth. Looking into that hauntingly familiar face, he found himself drawn forward as if in some kind of horrible dream you wish would end but never want to leave. The miscreant was looked directly at him, taking another slow drag on her cigarette and standing from her place against the wall. She reached up, taking hold of her hood and pulling it back slowly, revealing a head full of messy cyan hair and slightly pointed ears. Her eyes flashed briefly in the fluorescent lights of the station as he stumbled forward, the rushing of his blood in his ears making him deaf to the sounds of the train station.

R…Ryo…Tenchi felt himself drawn towards her, pulled into those large, striking eyes, and took another halting step forward.

The train horn blared as it shot past scant inches from his face, close to five hundred tons of metal screaming down the track at forty miles an hour shocked him out of his reverie and making him stumble back from the edge of the platform and fall back onto his rear.

A few people looked up, but most just continued talking on their cellular phones or reading the morning paper, oblivious to his near brush with death. His heart thundering against his ribs, Tenchi stood a bit unsteadily, his breath coming in panting gasps and his body covered with a fine layer of cold sweat. The breeze from the passing train chilled him further, making him shiver violently. He looked up and searched for the woman on the other side of the track, but the passing train made it impossible to see the far platform. By the time the train passed she was gone. Only the butt of her cigarette still smoldering and lying on the cracked tile floor assured him that the entire ordeal hadn't been the product of an overactive imagination.

Eventually Tenchi managed to calm his shocked body and boarded his proper train, his hand wrapped tightly around the support bar of the seat in front of him as he rode the shaking subway car. His mind raced, spinning the events of the morning around time and time again, the image of the young woman seared into the back of his eyelids. He ran a hand through his thinning hair and let out a shuddering sigh. First I start having these vivid dreams…now I see Ryoko…No, I saw someone who LOOKED like Ryoko…There's no way… He rubbed at his eyes, picking up his briefcase without even thinking about it, lost in his thoughts. I mean, it couldn't have been… He barely recalled hearing the automated voice announcing his stop, but he exited the car and walked along the sidewalk like a sleeping man, eyes forward but unseeing and his steps shuffling.

Again and again he was walking towards the edge of the platform, the tracks dwindling and shrinking to bring the two halves together again, putting Tenchi face to face with the haunting image of a life he once knew. The woman angrily drew on her cigarette and hissed smoke out of her nostrils as he took another step forward, hands outstretched. "R-Ryoko…" He stammered and wet his lips, his mouth moving in a feeble attempt to find the words to express how he felt, to ask her what she was doing and why she was here.

As he stumbled over his words, she stared coldly at him, the cigarette dangling from her lips. "Tenchi." It might as well have been a punch as he stumbled back and swallowed hard. Her voice was icy and terse, echoing like the command of a goddess in the rail station of his mind. She took a step forward and pulled the cigarette from her lips, her eyebrows furrowing as she advanced on him.


"Hey, Tenchi, are you still with us man?" Trent's voice finally got through as Tenchi jumped, his thoughts drifting away into the ether. Trent had rolled his office chair over to the table that Tenchi stood at, a querulous look on his face. As he came back to the present, Tenchi realized that he held a stack of invoices and that at some point during his reverie he had hole punched, bound and stapled the various jobs together.

He let out a sigh and then chuckled half-heartedly as he shook his head. "Christ, I'm sorry man, I'm miles away." He smirked lamely as he scratched the back of his head. "This morning I thought I saw…someone I used to know. At the train station. It's just been picking at my head all morning." He sighed and leaned against the table the reports were spread upon. "Hey, thanks again for last night. I really had a good time."

Trent shrugged with a grin and waved Tenchi's remark away. "Please, that was nothing. I'm just glad you got out of that shitty little apartment of yours. But tell me about this person you saw, was it a lady?" He grinned lecherously from ear to ear, his eyes sparkling. "Was she hot?"

Tenchi rolled his eyes but let out a sigh and crossed his arms as Ryoko's face danced once again behind his eyes. "Yeah, it was a woman, and she was… beautiful…" He said it in almost a whisper, reverently. "I mean, just stunning." He grinned and shrugged his shoulders as he spread his hands, taking a self-depreciating tone. "Honestly, whether it was who I thought it was or not, she was so enchanting that I almost walked right into an oncoming train."

Trent whistled and shook his head, sitting back in his chair, his fingers weaved behind his head. "Damn, you're a lucky son of a bitch, first you see a gorgeous woman and then you almost get out of having to come into work ever again." He grinned back at Tenchi and unclasped his hands, playfully punching his arm. "I wish I'd seen something so nice as that this morning."

A loud slam from the room at the rear of the office made them both jump. "I don't pay you two stupid sons of bitches to prattle on like a pair of old ninnies! Get to work instead of jabbering all day and we MIGHT make some money around here!" The bellowing voice of Mr. Murdock echoed in the small office, each harshly emphasized word making Tenchi and Trent flinch, each immediately returning to their current task. As he gently tapped the invoice pages into a neat stack, a soft hiss made Tenchi turn to see Trent shoot him a goofy grin before he rolled back into his cubicle, leaving Tenchi to shake his head and smile.

As the days began to once again blend into each other once again and blur the lines of time, the hauntingly enchanting face of Ryoko faded from his memory. Tenchi poured himself into his work and let numbers and forms fill the space the lucid dreams occupied, returning to the Silver Hog as an added measure to ensure deep and uninterrupted sleep. Deep in their cups, he found himself opening up more and more to Trent, though he was careful not to divulge the more incredible elements of his youth. He did however, one night when a bottle of whiskey was shared between the two, tell him about his lost mother, the mood appropriately somber as they drank in silence.

"So, wait a second and let me get this straight…" Trent laughed as he leaned awkwardly on the greasy bar, trying to hold his seventh beer and point with the same hand, a goofy sort of smirk on his ruddy face. "You're trying to tell me that you know, like, kung-fu or something?" Trent asked, mimicking the lazy drawl of a Canadian actor.

Tenchi snickered into the back of his hand and shook his head as he reached for his own drink. "No no no, not like that." He took a long drink, his head already feeling thick and fuzzy as the warmth of the alcohol drifted through his veins. "It… it was more like sword play than actual martial arts, you know?" He grinned and made a feeble attempt at striking a muscular pose. "Don't get me wrong though, I know how to fight with the toughest of them... WHOA!" He overbalanced and tipped his stool over and spilled onto the floor in a laughing heap.

Trent did his best to muffle his own laughter under his fist as he got up unsteadily from his own seat and helped his friend from the sticky bar floor. "Oh, watch out there killer, somebody is going to get hurt." He grinned as Tenchi grabbed onto his proffered hand and pulled himself up, brushing the dirt from his backside as he stood.

The clatter of bottles drew their attention to the back of the bar, the portly bartender standing beside a stack of boxes on a hand-cart, a clip-board held under his sweat-stained armpit. The top box was opened and he peered into it, scowling as he gave the bespeckled young man holding the handles of the cart a hateful stare. "What tha' fuck is this then?" He snarled, plucking the clipboard from under his arm and jabbing it at the youth. "Did you order this? I know I sure as shit didn't." He flipped the pages on the order form, grumbling as he searched for the elusive entry. "Gawddamnit…" He growled and threw the clip-board down onto the floor sending it bouncing across the wooden surface as he dug into the open box and pulled out an oddly shaped bottle.

His mouth twisted into an angry frown as he turned it around and around in his thick, meaty hands, shooting the young man another glare. The youth lifted his hands in innocence and took a nervous step back from the cart, his voice cracking as he spoke. "Honest, I don't know what happened, boss. It just came with the shipment I swear!"

The bartender rolled his eyes and shook the round, bumpy bottle by its rope cord, yelling something at the young man that Tenchi's ears refused to register. He stood, stuck to the spot as his eyes grew wide in recognition. The well-worn rope, the wide, round cork, the gourd-like round belly of the bottle… Before he realized what he was doing, Tenchi had pushed away from Trent and in half a dozen long steps snatched the bottle from the ranting owner's grasp.

Shocked, the barrel man stammered and spluttered as he shook a sausage-thick finger under Tenchi's nose. "Hey, you watch what the fuck you're doing son! Just who do you think you are?"

The words fell on ears that while not deaf, had no time for the fury of a single foolish man. "Where did you find this…?" Tenchi managed as he tenderly handled the bottle, letting his fingers roam over its well-handled surface, a distant and haunting smile across his lips.

His anger diffused by Tenchi's oblivious manner, the bartender fumed quietly, his trunk-thick arms crossed over his chest. "Like this idiot just said…" He jabbed his thumb at the pock-faced man, the youth's face falling into a frown. "…It just came in with the shipment. No P.O., no record of it, hell, there's not even a label on it anywhere." He furrowed his brow and gave Tenchi a hard stare. "Why are you so damned interested, anyways?"

"Ryoko….?" He whispered, barely hearing his own voice as he stared at the bottle, the fraying rope hanging against the back of his hand as he traced the textured ridges of the bottle. The more he stared the more certain he felt that this was indeed the same sake bottle. He could almost smell her on it, that odd mixture of fresh, clean earth and crisp autumn leaves, warm and feeling of home.

The bartender picked up the clip-board with a grunt as he bent at the waist and sighed as he stood again. He exhaled hard as he flipped through the pages again. "There must have been a mix-up at the distribution center... I guess it just wound up in with our order." He tossed the clip-board into the box, the pressboard clattering against the bottles. "Don't ask me how the heck it got in there; it looks like some kind of crazy foreign stuff…"

"…How much…?" Tenchi turned to the owner, his voice far-off and detached from the men that stood before him.

Quirking his eyebrow up, the burly man twisted his mouth into a confused smirk. "What was that?"

The pair locked eyes, making the bartender step back slightly at Tenchi's intensity. "How much do you want for it?" He asked, his voice finding its strength again.

The owner stood back and looked at the bottle as he rubbed his stubbly chin with one thick hand, the stiff hairs scratching loudly against his palm. "Well when you put it that way I don't rightly know…" His mouth turned up into a greedy smile. "I mean just look at it, it's obviously high quality stuff, and there's no way it isn't imported…"

Tenchi felt his eyes prick as he smiled sadly and gave the bottle a slight shake, feeling as much as hearing the liquid within slosh against the smooth walls inside the jug. "She did always insist on good wine…" Looking from the owner to his young associate and back again, he reached back and pulled his wallet from his back pocket, counting out three bills for the owner and one for the young man, pressing the paper into their hands. "Look, you didn't order it, you didn't pay for it, and now you've made a profit. Let's call it a night, shall we?"

All but trembling with nervous excitement, he turned away the bottle hugged tight to his chest as he walked towards the door, his mind buzzing with the possibilities. This was Ryoko's bottle, he had no doubts about that, but how did it get here? And why now? The questions shooting through his brain almost drowned out Trent as he called after him.

"H-hey, where are you off to?" Trent called out as he stood up from the bar and started after his companion. Tenchi turned quickly, almost tripping over his own feet as he held a hand out to Trent, keeping his distance as he walked backwards to the heavy metal door. The hurt look that strained his bespectacled face made Tenchi sigh, an awful feeling churning in his gut as he saw the betrayal on his friends face.

He lowered his hand and offered him a half-hearted smile. "Look, I…I'm sorry, I've got to go…" He threw his thumb over his shoulder, begging off the drinking session this evening. "I'll see you tomorrow though, alright?" He shrugged slightly and reached back, turned the handle on the poster-laden door and stepped out into the streets, the drumming of rain playing a staccato rhythm on the door as it closed behind him.

His mind raced as he plodded down the city streets, his teeth working against the corner of his mouth furiously enough to fill his mouth with the taste of blood. Rain fell in sheets as he tucked his head down, his jacket closed around the heavy bottle, the slosh of liquid within it feeling like a heartbeat in every step. Ryoko… Her name echoed in his head as he took refuge under an awning and looked up at the feeble starlight filtering down between the buildings. She can't be here, why would she follow...

He closed his eyes tight, feeling them prick and burn as heartache swelled in his chest, furious and raw as that day fourteen years ago. No, she's gone. I made sure of that…

Tenchi leaned back against the cold brick wall below the awning and shivered as his soaking clothes settled onto his body, the warm buzzing in his head long gone. Rain pelted the street and gurgled in the gutters and rain-traps at the edge of the road. He let out a shuddering sigh and rubbed at his eyelids for a moment before steadied himself and unzipped his jacket to pull the bottle free. It was still warm from having been hugged so close to his chest, its weight comfortable in his cupped hands, almost natural in its contour.

He turned it over in his hands, the heavy ceramic ridges textured with tiny bumps that he found himself tenderly tracing as his vision blurred slightly. He bit his lip and closed his eyes for a moment as he took a slow, steadying breath and tipped the bottle upside down. He choked back a sob as he saw the brush strokes, long faded and chipped away from the passage of time but still readable. 白眉涼子. Ryoko Hakubi.

His hands began to tremble violently, nearly losing their grip on the bottle itself as he slipped down the wall to sit on the sidewalk, his back against the brick walled building behind him. He put the bottle down as carefully as he could as he sucked in air in shuddering gasps, his lower lip tight between his teeth. He placed a hand over his eyes as he felt stinging tears leak past his tightly shut eyelids to mix with the rain and trickle down his cheeks.

His shoulders began to shake and he moved his arms to his knees, hugging himself as he sobbed quietly, his chest pulled tight with old sorrow. The machine-gun fire of the rain against the awning faded into a white noise as he heard a whisper that seemed to ride on the wind itself.

"It tastes best right from the bottle…"

He sat straight up, his eyes red-rimmed and his head pounding, but the echoes of the voice remained. He choked back his tears and lifted the bottle, letting out a grunt as wrenched the cork from the stumpy neck of the bottle. Suddenly, the sweetly sour smell of rice wine exploding into the night, overpowering the faintly putrid smell of open sewers and hot asphalt that pervaded the streets.

He lifted the ceramic bottle slowly, his tears flowing freely as he took a deep breath and brought it up to his lips.

"I got it…so we could drink it together…Tenchi…"

A tilt of the bottle sent a mouthful of rice wine flooding into his mouth and he started to swallow, slowly at first and then fiercely, gulping down the sweet, slightly bitter wine. His breath came in gasping, ragged sobs every few gulps. Before long the bottle began to grow light, his head spinning as he gasped for air. As he tilted the jug almost vertical he could barely stop his shoulders shaking, his lips trembling, eyes bloodshot and dry, his body beyond tears as alcohol flooded his system and numbed his pain.

He slumped against the wall, sitting on the freezing sidewalk as he let the bottle fall to the ground. The taste of sake suffused his mouth, and as he closed he eyes, the smell of Ryoko filled his nose. A faint, alcohol-hazed smile spread across his face as he reached for the fallen jug, eager for one last sip. His fingers grazed the edge of the bottle and sent it skittering across the sidewalk, a faint tinkling sound coming from within. Blinking his blurred perception into focus, he fumbled forward, pawing at the jug as heat suffused his body. Tenchi managed to grab the bottle on the third try and curiously gave it a shake, the tinkling sound coming again.

He slumped back against the wall with a grunt, and tipped the bottle up over his hand. The last dregs of the sake poured into his curled fingers and pooled in the palm of his hand, followed by the sound of a marble bouncing across a tile floor as a small, black ball fell from the jug with a plop. Blearily he tried to focus on the ball, clumsily trying to maneuver his numb fingers over it. Finally capturing it between his index and thumb, he pressed and rolled it, keeping one eye closed as he stared at it with one squinted eye. A soft crackling sound came from the ball as the sooty black substance began to flake off. Turning it and scraping with the fingernail of his free hand, he slowly exposed a small, ruby sphere in the palm of his hand. The glistening crimson overtook his eyesight, staining the grey night red before darkness closed its cold fingers around him.

Brilliant sunlight burned red through Tenchi's eyelids, making him wince and lift a hand to shade his eyes as he awoke. He looked around as his eyes adjusted to the sudden light, rows of crops and emerald-leaved trees came slowly into focus as he shook his head. The bark of the ancient tree he rested against cut into his back, and he made a face as he sat up and stretched with a groan. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and chuckled softly, slowly climbing to his feet and dusted off the back of his pants. "Wow… I actually dozed off in the sunshine." He scratched the back of his head in embarrassment and smirked derisively. "It looks like Mihoshi's bad habits are starting to rub off on me…." He sighed and picked up his hoe from where it had fallen turning to return to his fields. He found his last mark and planted his feet, stretched back and struck the soil, tilling the warm soil into rows.

"Teeeennnnnchiiii!" A sweet, high-pitched voice rang over the fields and he looked up to see a young teal haired girl skipping up the path. A carrot-shaped backpack hung from her shoulders, a fluffy brown creature bounding after her. He smiled and ran the back of his hand across his forehead as he leaned on the end of his hoe and waved to her as she drew close.

"Good afternoon, Sasami! How are you today?" He called as he set down the hoe and walked to meet her halfway. As she got closer he stumbled back suddenly, his blood running cold as he saw her round face as a blank and featureless plane beneath her light blue bangs. She too stopped and leaned back, her arm lifted in alarmed defense, wary of his sudden change in expression.

"T-Tenchi? Are you okay?" He shook his head and turned away from her and rubbed his eyes with clenched fists till star-fields of light and color burst through his vision. Blinking away the drifting haze he looked back and let out a sigh of relief. Her face had returned, her young features wrinkled with worry.

"Y-yeah…" He stammered with a faint smile, waving away her concern. "I guess the heat is just getting to me this afternoon." He planted his fists on his hips and offered her a genuine smile, the presence of the young Juraian princess always brightened his day. "What can I do for you Sasami?"

Her worries assuaged for the time being, her face split into a huge grin as she slipped off her pack and unzipped it. "No, it's what I can do for you!" She beamed as she reached into the backpack and pulled out a small box wrapped tightly in a handkerchief. "I brought some lunch for you!"

His eyes lit up as he gratefully took the box and turned to climb onto the stacked-stone wall that marked the perimeter of the field. "Oh, thank you Sasami! How did you know that I was starving?" He set the box on his lap and started to untie the knotted handkerchief. As he opened the lacquered box he smiled at the young girl and patted the warm stone beside him. "Will you sit and talk with me while I eat? I'd hate to send you back to slave in the kitchen so soon."

The little girl nodded and giggled as she hopped up onto the ledge herself. "Oh, it's no bother, it's a pleasure to cook for you all, and you just enjoy it so much." She smoothed out her dress and laid her hands in her lap as he took a pair of chopsticks from the bundle and set into the boxed lunch. They both started as with a jump and a soft MYAAA a small brown, floppy-eared creature pulled herself up onto the young girl's shoulder. The cabbit Ryo-Ohki took a moment to get her balance and nuzzled against the girl's cheek. The princess reached up and scratched under her chin, a bright smile on her face. "Hee hee, Ryo-ohki wants to sit with us too."

Tenchi smirked around a mouthful of rice and fried pork and felt as though he couldn't remember experiencing such a moment of peace. The sun beamed down, warm and clear through the azure sky and a gentle breeze brought the scent of apple blossoms and sweet grass from the meadow. He watched as Sasami played with Ryo-Ohki, and felt his heart swell. His eyes began to prickle and he quickly looked away, setting his chopsticks down across the box as he brought the back of his hand to his eyes.

"Tenchi?" The sweet voice brought him back around as he rubbed his eyes, her cheerful face once again worried. "Is something wrong? Do you not like your lunch?" Her voice so full of worry it almost made him laugh.

"No, not at all, I just… got a bit of dirt in my eye." He replied as he inwardly rolled his eyes, sounding foolish even to himself. He offered her a warm smile as he picked up the chopsticks again and nodded. "It's delicious, thank you." She nodded back, her smile returning and the lines of worry fading away. He took another bite, working it into his cheek so he could talk as he used his chopsticks to play with his rice. "You know, not too long ago I caught myself napping up here. I have got to be spending too much time around Mihoshi. Before you all came to stay with us if grandpa had caught me slacking off he would have had me up by my ear in a flash." He chewed slowly and swallowed, then chuckled as he shook his head. "I had such a strange dream too… and you know, the funny thing is, I don't even remember sitting down… Isn't that weird?" He smirked and turned to look at the young princess beside him.

With a clatter the box fell to the ground, rice and pork cutlet scattering across the grass as he jolted up. His foot caught a stray rock and he stumbled back into the shadow of a nearby oak, the sunlight winking through the swaying leaves disorienting him even further than the specter that loomed over him.

Where the princess had just been, the hooded figure now sat, its white and blue robes fluttering slightly in the breeze. He half crawled, half crab-walked further away from it and deeper into the shadow of the oak as a cold sweat trickled down his face to sting his eyes. He blinked these away, furiously rubbing at his eyes as he scrambled to his feet, his breath coming in huge gulps as terror screamed up his spine. As his vision cleared he let out a yelp before his throat closed up. The world had become a mirror image and his scrambled crawl had brought him closer to the seated figure. He turned to run but once again faced the stacked stone wall and the hooded ghoul, its featureless face somehow smug in the scintillating sunlight.

In an instant, it was standing before him, no motion between the two positions as if a frame had been snipped from its shift to its feet. It was larger now, head and shoulders above him as it drifted forward in a stuttering float, remaining motionless as it suddenly occupied a new space. In his horror, Tenchi noticed that while the flat plain of its face remained still and featureless, faint hints of expressions seemed to rush past and rise from within it, like faces in the window of a speeding car or bubbles in a boiling pot. A glimpse of amber, the shadow of magenta, the curve of a lip and the tip of a nose flashed by in an instant as he stared transfixed. The flesh too began to shift in hue as it faded from porcelain to deep tan and several shades between continuously melding together yet never actually resolving as any of them.

Tenchi swallowed hard and steeled his nerves, fighting his body as it screamed for him to flee as he began to tremble uncontrollably. "Y… you can't… I don't know you… w-why are you here?" He stammered his mouth dry and a metallic taste at the back of his tongue. "What do you want from me?"

The blank face focused on him, causing his insides to roil as he automatically flinched. The warped face seemed to pinch as if smiling. "I want YOU, Tenchi." The myriad of voices echoed faintly across the field, coming from all directions at once. "I want you back. Back with us…"

He shook his head as cold sweat streamed down his face and back to seep into his clothes. "N-no… I… I don't want that… I can't…" He clenched and unclenched his fists as he continued to retreat, his teeth bared in a grimace. "Don't you know I can't?"

The figure went out of focus for a brief instant before coalescing into super-real lines and edges, suddenly upon him. "Then why am I here?" The voices took a sing-song tone as it lifted white-gloved hands and began to sway gently with the breeze as if dancing to some unheard music. "I wouldn't be if you didn't call to us." The figure daintily began to pull one of its gloves off and let it drop to the grass where it faded into mist. The revealed hand shifted like water as it continued to dance towards him, the shimmering fingertips leaving trails of skin-toned mercury in the air as it moved before condensing again.

"Come back, Tenchi," It cooed as it twisted and beckoned to him. "Join us. Don't you miss us at all?" The figure spun towards him, hand outstretched, welcoming him into its surreal dance.

"I… it's not that…" He closed his eyes tight as he clenched his fists, his knuckles going white as his fingernails dug into his palm. "I can't." He said softly as he shook his head. "I can't do it again… I won't!" It came out as a shout, echoing across the field with the same unnatural cadence of the spirit, making that blank face tighten just enough to imply a mischievous smirk. A weight suddenly dug into his upper back and seemed to flow in a warm pressure to his shoulder. His instincts began screaming in his head to run, don't look just run. Slowly, he opened his eyes.

Draped across his shoulder was a brown mass, flowing like some kind of over-sized amoeba up his back to swell and bunch and shift to form a football sized carbuncle. It burst a pair of long antennae that bulged upward, forming rabbit-like ears that dripped the viscous ichor down the front of his shirt. With a wet squelching sound it pinched near the front to make a kind of head that turned as jet black hollows dug themselves into the ooze. These seemingly bottomless pits focused on him as a tear opening across its 'head' just below the eyes like a gaping wound, strands of the brown sludge hanging from the top half.


The sound was not so much a meow as an enunciated exhalation of breath, far too much for the small form to hold.

With a cry, he flailed and tried to tear the horror from his shoulder, but it grew blackened nails that dug into his shirt and held fast, tearing the fabric as it began to engulf his prying hands. The figure was upon him then, its shadow wrapping around him and turning the air to ice as it brought its liquid-like hand up to caress his face. "She likes you…you can tell, right?" The amalgamation of voices seemed to laugh at him from the branches of the trees, bouncing off his skin and hammering into his skull. "Tenchi…you don't know what you've done…" The voices pleading now as the hand left rivulets of fleshy ooze on his cheek, the streams creeping over his brow and down his neck to worm into his shirt. "Come back… Come home…"

Tenchi struggled to free himself from the shadow but his feet wouldn't move. He twisted his head away from the hand on his cheek, gritting his teeth as it spread over his face in an opaque sheet. The fingers and palm spilling out to wind through his hair and flow against his body like a second skin. "I…Just…" He struggled again as it covered one of his eyes. "WHY WON'T YOU JUST LET ME BE…"

Thought the path is paved with jagged stones and I cannot see its end, I shall strive ever onward, for one day my bleeding feet will heal and the free air is too sweet in my lungs for any other to suffice.

Re: "Morpheus, the Reaper"
« Reply #3 on: October 29, 2012, 09:26:57 AM »


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Tenchi jerked bolt upright in his bed, his eyes wide and his body dripping with sweat as the silence of his apartment swallowed his cry. His heart slammed against his ribs as he ran his fingers through his soaked hair as he tried to unravel the tangled sheets that had wrapped themselves around his legs and clung to his sweat-beaded skin. He turned to sit over the edge of his bed and cradled his pounding head in his hands as the digital clock was blared its flashing red into the darkness of his room. His mouth felt as if it were lined with shag carpeting and a pair of sewing needles were slowly being spun into his temples to meet at a red-hot point just behind his eyes.

As the dregs of the nightmare drifted into his already tattered subconscious, the events of the night before came back in a flash. He leapt to his feet and immediately regretted it as his stomach lurched and the room spun, making him reel and force back the bile that threatened to rise in his gullet. As his stomach calmed he began to search the cluttered space in a panic as he tore the bedclothes from his mattress and kicked the clothes from the floor in great plumes that fluttered down like frightened birds. He grabbed handfuls of his hair and pulled as he let out a pained groan. Try to find a bottle in the middle of the city against some random building? Good luck. He sighed as he ran his hands down his face, pulling at his slack skin as he looked towards his front-door. His breath caught in his throat as his eyes widened slowly.

Sitting peacefully on the counter of his tiny kitchenette was the bottle. He swallowed hard and stepped through the wake of his panicked thrashing, his hands trembled as they came to rest on either side of the textured bottle. Taking a slow, steady breath he placed a trembling hand on the side of it, the ceramic surprisingly warm in the relative chill of his flat. He closed his eyes and gasped softly as an electric thrill rushed through his body and set his hair on end. His senses seemed to explode with pent-up memories that forced their way through the emotional walls he had built over the years. The fresh, hot, humid air of the onsen, the slightly antiseptic, chemical smell of Washu's lab, the feather-soft feel of Ayeka's hair, the blossoming rose petals and cinnamon that was Mihoshi's perfume, the slight smell of ozone when Ryoko teleported…

Through his forced reverie he heard the uncanny sound of molecular teleportation, the chime-like tinkling of atoms moving through a vacuum. Turning swift enough to set his head spinning again, his heart pounding in his ears and his chest heaving, Tenchi scanned his apartment.

Only dingy walls and his sparse furnishings returned his stare.

He leaned back against the counter and took a slow, shuddering breath as he tried to calm himself. It's just old memories…' He looked down at the bottle with a pang of nostalgia and a despondent half-smile. 'I can't go back, and they won't come for me.' He sighed and hugged the bottle to his naked chest, banging his wrist against it as he shifted causing sudden pain to shoot up his arm. He cried out and winced from the intensely sharp and unexpected pain as he set the bottle on the counter behind him, his eyes locked on the rather sizable lump on his inner wrist, angry red even in the gloom of his darkened loft.

"What the…" He flicked on the feeble light in the kitchenette and looked at his lump, gently pulling at it with his free hand, grimacing at the nerve twitching ache this incised. An inch or two down the inside of his forearm the bulge pushed up from his flesh, vibrantly red and hot to the touch. Steeling himself, he touched it and bit his lip to keep from crying out as his arm seemed to catch fire. The lump was incredibly hard, like a stone or some awkwardly huge cyst in his arm. It rolled slightly as he pushed at it and a slight tearing sensation as he pushed it too far made stars burst in his vision.

He slumped against the counter and took slow easy breaths to control the pain as he stared at the alien growth. 'What the hell is this…' His mind raced as he tried to make sense of the situation. 'First I find this bottle, and then' He paused, his mouth suddenly dry. He gently pressed the hard bulge again, grimacing as he measured it with his thumb. 'Like a marble… or a … No…' He shook his head and stumbled to his bed-side table and opened the drawer to take out his pen knife. He flipped open the blade, the faint light flashing off of the razor-thin blade as he dazedly walked to his cramped bathroom and flicked on the dim overhead light. Trembling slightly he stood over the sink and after a moment of hesitation he steeled himself and drug the razor over the swell of the bulge, his breath coming in a hiss as fresh blood trickled down his arm. The pressure relieved, his flesh parted in a nasty gash as crimson dripped and splattered into the porcelain bowl.

He set down the blade with a trembling hand and swallowed hard as he pulled on either side of the cut and forced it open slowly as he gasped in pain. Through the sheared skin and slightly white fatty tissue, an alien glimmer greeted him. His face pale and coated with a thin sheen of sweat, he put his thumb against the swelling and as he held his breath, pushed hard. Stars burst in his vision again and his head felt hot and thick as his skin stretched and tore against the hard object. He gritted his teeth and gave a final push, the fire in his arm flaring suddenly before relief washed over him and he felt the bulge give as something hard and round shot forcefully from the gash with a small squirt of blood. It skittered around the bowl of the sink, leaving blots of thick dark blood as it headed towards the drain before he quickly slammed his hand over it as he panted in pain and panic.

As he curled his fingers around it and lifted his hand he shook his head. 'It's a cyst, or cancer or a bone spur or something. It's not… that. No way' He took a slow, calming breath as he opened his hand and in a small pool of his blood that traced the lines of his palm, sat a scarlet gemstone; perfectly round and very recognizable. The tiny bathroom reeled and the blood that pounded in his ears muted the sound of him falling to his knees to retch and loose what little was in his stomach.

He ran the back of his hand across his chin as he spat bitter bile into the toilet bowl, the gemstone held tight in his fist. He sat back on his heels as he took another slow breath and tried to prepare himself. His fingers parted once again and he saw the gemstone shining brightly in his palm, crystal clear and glistening as if lit from within. He tilted his hand back and forth, letting the stone roll across his palm as he finally allowed himself to think what frightened him so. 'One of the gems from the master key…'

In his alcohol hazed memory, he remembered finding the soot-covered gemstone at the bottom of the sake bottle from the night prior, but for it now to appear in his arm was beyond comprehension. The last thing he remembered getting lost in the rain and then the horror of the nightmare. He clenched his fist around it once more as he shakily stood and stumbled from the bathroom, leaving the sink splattered with vital red and the stench of bile hanging in the air. His mind raced as he shuffled towards the window and pulled back the curtain. Why the gem come to him and what was it doing in Ryoko's bottle? What was the connection between these visions and daydreams and his nightmares? He shook his head and tried to calm these thoughts, his knuckles white as he gripped the stone in his fist. Outside the grey city was slowly waking up to the off-beat melody of blood trickling down his arm to drip off of his fingertips.

He pushed his way through the crowd that flooded towards the subway entrance as he lifted his wrist to check his watch and swore under his breath. 'Late… Again.' He let out a heavy sigh as he looked up at the lines of skyscrapers that stretched into the grey, sunless sky, a forest of concrete and steel, a single hive-mind of commerce that had assimilated him into its suit-and-tie enclave. He shook his head and started forward again into the rush slate and grey but a businesswoman shoved her way past him and sent him stumbling back towards the dark asphalt.

He shot her an ugly look and then redoubled his efforts to squeeze through the crowd of people heading down into the steep staircase. He hesitated at the lip of the stair as suits and skirts parted around him, a slight smile crossing his haggard face as he looked down into the dark arched tunnel that yawned before him. It reminded him of some great underground monster, luring people in to their doom and swallowing rows of single-minded business-folk down one set of stairs as it vomited them up a second. Maybe that was just what the big city did to you, he mused, made you see monsters everywhere as it sucked away the life and color from everything and everyone that dwelled within it.

His body suddenly felt hot and heavy, exhausted from the night before and the events of the morning. He stepped out of the river of worker-ants to lean against the molded concrete railing that stretched around the staircase and took several slow breaths. He stared up at the sky again and felt a single drop of rain fall on his cheek, the droplet trickling down the side of his face to drip from his chin. He smiled sadly and for a moment he stood still just outside of that sea of ties and charcoal business suits, thinking of himself as a point of dwindling light in this shadow city.

The sad smile broke as quickly as it formed and shook his head, the ache deep down in his heart reminding him that what light he once held had died long ago. His head cleared, he turned and tried to squeeze his way back down the stairs when a glimpse of brilliant teal flashed in his peripheral vision, making him stop and turn suddenly. In his moment of distraction the edge of a briefcase struck his arm as its owner pushed past and sent a shiver of pain rush up his arm, the bandage under his dress-shirt growing wet against his skin. He hissed in breath as he once again stepped out of the flood, his hand wrapped tightly around his forearm as he tried to staunch the fresh trickle of blood from his wrist. He looked around frantically, searching for whatever had caught his eye as he tried to quell the throbbing in his arm, the pain-killers he had taken that morning only barely dulling the edge of the sharp ache.

The streets were filled with blank faces and severe suits, any hint of color washed into the same desperate monotone. He let out a slow, heavy breath and ran his hand across his forehead, wiping away the thin sheen of sweat that had sprung up, feeling rather silly. 'I've got to get a grip. With everything going on I must be starting to lose it…' He ran his hand up to run through his thin hair as he closed his eyes and slowly sat down against the railing, breathing slowly as he tried to calm the whispering rush of his blood in his ears. As he slumped against the concrete and cool, damp sidewalk he felt something shift in his pocket and begin to grow warm against his thigh.

He opened his eyes slowly, a confused look on his face as he slipped his hand into his pocket and felt the smooth surface of the gemstone throb against his fingertips. An electric thrill ran up his arm that set his hair on end and made the open wound at his wrist seem to catch fire. He squeezed his eyes closed and leaned his head back against the railing as he closed his hand over the gemstone and held it tightly as sweat trickled from his brow. As his fingers closed over the smooth stone the pain suddenly faded away, so suddenly that for a fleeting moment he missed it as he pulled his clenched hand from his pocket. The sudden numbness began to creep up from his hand to flood his entire being and make his head spin as it felt as though he was floating in a monochromatic sea, the only light in sight being the crimson sheen that trickled through his clenched fingers. Slowly he opened his fist, staring at the sphere of brilliant scarlet as it pulsed like a miniature heart against his palm and shed an ebbing red glow.

After a moment of daydreaming he blinked rapidly and realized that he was sitting in the middle of a crowded sidewalk, dressed in a suit and tie and holding a shimmering gemstone of questionable origin. He cleared his throat and closed his fingers again as he looked around as nonchalantly as he could muster as he stood. He brushed the rear of his pants off and pocketed the gem before retrieving his briefcase and striding confidently through the crowd, away from the subway and into a nearby alleyway between two shops. He looked around quickly before he dashed down the trash strewn passageway and ducked behind an overflowing dumpster.

He peered out around the metal box, checking to see if he was followed, then leaned against the brick wall behind him as he pulled the gemstone from his pocket again. The shiver of sensation and burst of pain from before missing as he opened his hand and gazed into the perfect stone. It was an opaque garnet color but seemed to exude its own light from within, the crimson flashes making dark shadows across his palm and over his face as he stared closely at it. Tentatively he turned towards the mouth of the alleyway and watched as the flashing light grew fainter and less frequent. He twisted his mouth into a wry smirk as he turned towards the end of the alleyway and had to squeeze his eyes shut as it suddenly flared and sent after-shadows dancing across his vision.

He clapped his hand over the shimmering gem and felt it throb against his palms as he slowly walked towards the end of the alley. The narrow gap between the buildings split away in a 'T', each direction leading deeper into the network of back-streets that crisscrossed the city. He began to take the right passage but felt the sphere in his hands throb sharply and his slashed arm sent a spear of pain up his body. Still wincing he turned on his heel and took the left fork, the gemstone returning to its steady and rhythmic pulse.

He followed the labyrinth of alleyways from crossroad to intersection to cut-through, occasionally glancing up at the slate grey sky. Tucked between the tightly packed buildings, time began to lose its meaning. He hadn't glanced at his watch in what felt like forever, his lateness pushed aside and his briefcase left behind long ago as he followed the directions from the gem held in his fist. How long had he been wandering the forgotten byways of the city? An hour? Two? Five? The sun hid behind the clouds, barely a nimbus of light through the overcast sky.

The only sensation of passing time that managed to get through to him was the tight grumbling in his gut that made his brow furrow as he put a hand to his abdomen. 'Lunchtime? I've been out here that long?' He looked around and felt his heart drop. Any part of the city that was familiar to him had been left behind long ago and only damp asphalt stretched out in either direction, dwindling into the distance. He sighed heavily and opened his hand as he smirked at the gem. "Well, you got me into this… What now?" He asked aloud as he arched an eyebrow at the marble sized artifact.

His stomach cramped and voiced its approval as a hauntingly familiar smell drifted down the alleyway and set fire to his sinuses. He paused a moment as he took a deep breath, his eyelids fluttering at the gorgeous smell that assaulted his senses. Spices and flavors half-forgotten came rushing back to him as he felt his body become weightless and drift towards the scent as if drawn by some undeniable command. His feet felt heavy and awkward as he splashed through a puddle and turned down a passage between two buildings that he could have sworn had not been there a moment ago. At the end of the alley hung a rather ratty curtain on a brass rod, the metal nearly choked out by verdigris and the cloth clearly patched by a rough stitch.

As he dreamily moved his hand to the cloth and pulled it aside, the glorious smell struck him like a hammer and he had to cover his eyes suddenly as brilliant light poured out from beyond the curtain. Slowly his eyesight returned and for a moment he stood amazed. Beyond the stained and torn blind a meticulously groomed courtyard stretched out, stunningly bright as a column of pure sunlight shone down from a break in the clouds above. Lush and verdant hedges bordered the area, planted into wide troughs that also sprouted a plethora of tiny multi-hued flowers around the roots of the green shrubberies. Plots of turf had been laid out to fill the area and nestle up against the growing troughs, somehow growing above the asphalt of the city, the grass thick and gently swaying despite the lack of a breeze. Small, smooth pebbles were hemmed in by wooden slats and spread over the asphalt to form a walkway up to a set of stairs attached to an elevated wooden deck.

He looked around in wonder, each step making the stones crackle musically under his shoes as he walked towards the deck, an amused grin on his face. How could something so wonderful exist in this city of the dead? It had been almost half his life since he'd seen something like this. A waft of warm, sweet wind tugged at his jacket and sent a flurry of pink and white to fly and flap against his face. He cried out suddenly and waved his hands over his face, broken from his daydream as he looked around for what had attacked him. His hands trembled slightly as he watched the pink and white flecks float on the gust of wind, slowly climbing higher into the column of light tucked between the buildings. A blossoming cherry tree sat in one corner of the garden and shed its diminutive petals into the fading breeze. A sad smile touched his face as he climbed the stair and stepped onto the wooden deck, his heart tightening in his chest as nostalgia gripped him.

The broad deck stretched out to run flush against the rear wall of the un-named building that formed the tiny courtyard. A pair of small, low-set tables hugged the wooden planks with thick square cushions at spaced intervals around their edges. Tucked against the edge of the platform and nestled into the corner of the two buildings sat a wide, squat shack. The top half of the exposed side opened into a makeshift awning with flaps of white cloth that hung from its edge and danced in the slow breeze. The canopy was held in place with a piece of wood that tucked in against the shallow counter that stretched across the length of the building, several stools leaning against the siding.

Tenchi stopped halfway to the shack and shook his head. 'This can't be real…' He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, wincing slightly as he pinched the back of his hand. He tentatively opened an eye, the serene garden and shed still clear as another drift of cherry blossom petals drifted by. He slammed his eyes shut again, his breath coming fast as he started to push against the bandaged gash in his arm. 'No no no no no no, this isn't real, this is a dream, a hallucination, a hunger fever…' He ground his teeth together as he pushed against his wound, making pain scorch along his nerves until he was sure he was awake and not still snuggled under his covers.

He let go of his forearm and slowly relaxed, opening his eyes slowly to the sun-drenched courtyard. He swallowed hard and took another step towards the shack, reaching out a trembling hand to run against the well-worn counter and jumped as he pressed his fingers against it. The scratched counter was smooth from the passage of hundreds of hands and was very, very much real. "W-wow…" He breathed as he started to run his hand over the wood, a smile twitching its way up his cheeks.


Tenchi stumbled back several steps with a yelp as a young woman stepped into view behind the counter. She blinked at him and then grinned and covered her mouth with a dainty hand as she giggled. He blushed hotly and scratched the back of his head as he stepped forward again.

"I'm so very sorry to have startled you," She said, her smile warm and her eyes filled with mirth as she leaned on the counter and let her hands rest on the wooden surface. "We do not get many visitors, and you seemed sort of lost…" She straightened up and dusted her hands off before she plucked a clean towel from a basket set under the counter and tossed it to hang over her shoulder. "Please have a seat, sir." She gestured to one of the stools before turning to tend to the stove that sat at the back of the shack, several large pots seething on the range all exuding glorious smells that pulled at Tenchi's heartstrings.

He took a deep whiff of the fragrant air and furrowed his brow as he tried to place the wonderful odor. 'That smells like…' His eyes went wide as a flash of memory flickered before his eyes, teal hair and bubblegum pink eyes, a smear of freckles on cream-colored skin. 'S-Sasami…?' His mouth watered as his eyes pricked, the young woman and her tidy cramped kitchen in the shack beyond blurring for a moment before he blinked away the tears that threatened to fall.

He stared at the girl as she moved expertly around the shack, each movement like some kind of well-practiced culinary dance. His eyes roamed over her as he tried to find something familiar about her. She was likely in her early twenties, perhaps five foot four and slim, but with subtle curves. It was her face however was what struck him the most. A sweet smile never seemed to leave her lips as she hummed softly, and her honey-brown eyes sparkled as she checked under the lids on each pot, obviously pleased with what she saw. She was young, but her face held a kind of ageless beauty, the kind captured by the master sculptors of ages past. Her smooth black hair was pulled tight under a white scarf she had tied over her head, but her bangs hung free over her forehead, hiding it from view. A wistful smile crossed his lips as he watched her move gracefully in the dim shack. 'If she had grown as a human does, Sasami might look like this now…'


He jumped again, snatched out of his thoughts by the young woman's voice and stood stock still, quite aware that he had been staring at her very intently, his cheeks felt as if they might start to smoke. She gave him a queer sort of look as she turned back towards the counter. "Sir, are you okay?"

He coughed into his fist and nodded a bit too quickly as he pulled out one of the stools and sat. "Ah…" He cleared his throat as his voice squeaked through his tense throat, eliciting another grin and giggle from the young woman. "Erm, yes I'm fine, you just…" He smiled softly as he rested his arms on the counter and shook his head slightly. "You just remind me of someone I used to know."

The girl's expression softened from amusement to a shy smile as her own cheeks flushed slightly "Oh?" She leaned forward over the counter as she reached under the wooden surface and pulled out a thick ceramic cup and set it in front of him. "Was this person special to you?" She asked as she tilted her head and offered him a knowing smirk.

His tried to return the smile but it faded on his lips as he nodded slightly, his voice hushed. "She was, very." Her smile faltered slightly but quickly recovered, much softer and warmer than before as she turned to take a gently whistling kettle from the eye of the stove and poured steaming light green liquid into his mug.

"It sounds like there's a story that goes along with that frown." She smiled softly and brushed a strand of hair out of her eyes as she leaned over the counter. "Think you want to talk about it? Like I said, we really don't get many visitors and I could use some company."

He sat up straight and stifled a chuckle as he gently lifted the mug and took a sip, the warmth and the mild, fragrant flavor of good green tea sending a shiver down his spine. He took another drink and sighed happily as he tilted his head to look the young woman over, offering her a sincere smile. "Trust me, I don't think it's the kind of story you would enjoy, besides…" His eyes went wide as his stomach grumbled loudly, his cheeks flushing red again as the woman grinned and shook her head as she stood back from the counter.

"I think we just found out the reason you found this place." She turned and plucked a bowl from the rack beside the stove, offering him a smirk as she loaded it with steaming rice and thick curry before she set it on a tray and retrieved a plate from a similar rack. "Don't worry, I like a man with an appetite…" She said as she continued to pile plates of food onto the tray. Nearly a dozen small plates and bowls littered the platter before she hefted it and set it before him, his mind reeling as the glorious scents assaulted his senses, making him groan out loud. Once again he stiffened and let his eyes slowly rise from the bounty before him to meet hers as she grinned.

She shook her head and laughed as she topped up his mug of tea. Her eyes sparkled as she matched his gaze and set a pair of chopsticks on the tray with a smile. "My name is Kiyo."

He slowly relaxed and returned her smile as he picked them up and fumbled awkwardly with them before they once again felt comfortable in his hand. "It…it's been a while since I've used these…" He chuckled as he clapped his hands together expectantly. "Thank you very much for the food, Kiyo." He lifted the first delicious looking dish. "I'm Tenchi by the way."

She just smiled as she leaned against the counter.

With a pained groan, Tenchi set down his chopsticks with an air of finality and wiped his mouth on a cloth napkin. He reached down and unbuckled his belt, allowing it to slip through the clasp and provide his engorged stomach some relief. Two emptied trays sat in front of him on the counter, each stacked with a wide assortment of dishes and bowls. He patted his bulging gut with a satisfied sigh and shook his head as he released another grunt as he leaned back as far as he felt he could on the stool. He offered Kiyo a strained smile as she giggled behind her hand. He flushed, embarrassed by his gluttony.

He hadn't even been that hungry, but he couldn't stop himself as dish after dish was laid before him, each lovingly crafted by the beautiful young woman. It had been fourteen years since such masterfully prepared meals had passed his way and such an opportunity was not to be missed. The first pangs of indigestion gurgled up his midsection as he laughed and scratched the back of his head. "I'm going to pay for this later…" He said as Kiyo leaned on one hand against the counter, her other hand balled into a fist at her hip.

"I'd be surprised if you didn't, you sure can pack it away!" She grinned toothily as she began gathering up the dishes and carrying them to the back. "I seriously can't believe someone as slim as you could eat half that much. You must have really liked it!" She laughed in good natured jest as she returned, the sound of it echoed up and down his spine and made him smile despite himself. "So you said you're an accountant?" She asked as she hefted the tray and the last of the dishes, turning to deposit them onto the stainless steel counter behind her.

He nodded and wiped his mouth with a napkin as he settled onto his elbows on the counter. "Yeah, that's right. I work downtown, off of 14th street?" A spark of recognition lit behind his eyes as he suddenly looked around, seeing shadows stretched across the tiny courtyard. He checked his watch anxiously and laughed dryly as he shook his head. "And I've completely missed work today…" He grinned as he ran his fingers through his thinning hair.

Kiyo frowned as she ran a bowl under the tap in the sink, rinsing the suds out of it and walking back to the counter as she wiped it with a dry towel. "Oh no, I hope you don't get in trouble…" She tilted her head and clicked her tongue. "I'd hate to cause you any problems."

A smile pulled across his face as Tenchi looked up at the concerned young woman, and laughed again, grinning wide. "You know what? I don't even care." He leaned against his palm as he smiled up at her. "I've had the best day I think I've ever had today. I had an amazing meal, a wonderful conversation with you, and…" He reached out and gently laid his hand over hers and gave it a tender squeeze. "And to be honest, if I'd only met you, it would be worth missing work."

Her cheeks flushed hotly and she smiled, locking her eyes with his for a moment before she looked away and grinned, reaching up a finger to wipe at her eyes suddenly. "Well, I tell you what, I need someone to help me balance the books here, so let's call this meal a deposit for your services?" She said, her voice somehow thicker than before. "You can be my personal accountant." She chuckled as she pulled her hand out from under his and hugged herself as she turned to face the back of her shack. "That is if you still have a job tomorrow." She sniffed as her shoulders began to shake and her fingers dug into her upper arms.

"H-hey…" Tenchi started and stood up from the stool as he reached out towards her, a confused look on his face. "Don't worry about me, I'll be fine." He chuckled and laid his hand on her shoulder, a soft smile on his face. "And I'll tell you what, I'll work for gratis. Maybe I can meet you after work sometime and we can go over your files?" He felt his heart speed up as she laid her hand over his and gave it a squeeze. "How about I meet you here tomorrow evening, say seven o' clock?" He said hopefully.

She nodded and Tenchi felt his heart jump against his rib-cage, a foolish grin across his face. "S-sure…" Kiyo said, her voice choked as she turned her head to look at him, twin tear tracks running down her cheeks as she forced a quavering smile. "So, seven o-o' clock, right? You will come back, won't you? Tenchi?"

He nodded quickly as his brow furrowed and he reached out to her. "Hey, hey… don't cry." He said as he offered her a slight smile and nodded. "Of course I will," He chuckled and tilted his head to the side slightly, trying his best sly smile at her. "I don't think I could stay away…." He stopped suddenly as she threw herself forward over the counter and wrapped her arms around his neck, burying her face against his shoulder as she sobbed out loud.

He stiffly wrapped his arms around her as she squeezed him, slowly melting against her as his body relaxed. He ran his hand up her back to cradle the back of her head as she nuzzled against his shoulder, her breath coming in gasps as she lifted her head gently to whisper into his ear. "Come back… Lord Tenchi."

A damp, chill breeze ran up Tenchi's spine as his eyes went wide and he felt his body quake against his will as a stone of terror burned hard in his gut. Shadow fell over the courtyard around him as he fought to understand what he was seeing. The ground where the shack had just stood was bare, the damp asphalt festooned with scraps of soggy newspaper and the myriad of trash left by the cities transient community. The carefully manicured garden was gone, the sweet scent of cherry blossoms replaced with the septic smell of steam from a nearby manhole, tiny drops of water clinging to every surface as the clammy air moaned through the alleyways. An empty bottle skipped and tinkled across the hard ground, propelled by some mischievous wind as the last tingling sensation of a warm, caring body pressed against him faded into a wisp of a memory. His hands trembled as he straightened up, his breath coming sharp through his nose as he looked around the open space, his eyes wild.

His jacket hung across the warped and stained remnants of a wooden crate and a scabby looking shrub clung against the mildewed brick face of the building before him and several rust-eaten drums of some unidentifiable liquid were stacked in the corner. He turned his eyes up to the rectangle of sky that hung above the tunnel between the buildings, the brilliant sunlight and cloudless sky replaced with the ever-present grey pall that choked the city. He took a step back and jumped as broken glass crunched under his heel, making him spin around as his breath came in faster gasps, his heart pounding against his ribs in horror as his vision spun.

The world turned to liquid as he stumbled forward, barely keeping his feet as he wheeled to one side, his stomach lurching and what seemed to be an endless string of heaves emptied his over-full body. Gasping in shallow, sour breaths he turned and staggered forward as he pulled at his face and his hair, his fingernails digging into his thin skin and sending sparks of pain shooting along his nerves. With a wordless scream he fell to his hands and knees as sweat dripped down his face and drool streamed from his open mouth, his eyes wide and wild as his mind raced. Swallowing hard, he finally found his breath and ran his hand across his chin, a manic laugh bubbling up his throat to become a choked sob by the time it reached his mouth.

"W-what…" He gasped as he slowly pushed himself to his feet, swaying like a drunkard as he lurched forward to lean against the cool, damp stone of the brick walled building. He pulled at his hair and tried to slow his breathing and regain his senses. "What is happening to me…?" He screwed his eyes shut and pressed his fists against his sockets as he choked back another sob and took a shuddering breath. "What the FUCK is going on? W-why is this… I…" He slid down to crouch against the wall as tears boiled hotly behind his eyelids and started their path down his cheeks.

A throb of heat from his pocket gave him pause and he slowly calmed himself as he took slow, stifled breaths, running his forearm across his eyes. Awkwardly reaching into his pocket, he closed his fingers over the marble sized gemstone and pulled it out, cringing as he shied away from its sudden flare of brilliant crimson light. As he stared at the shining stone he felt his lips twist into a furious sneer as his blood caught fire in his veins and pulled a snarl of rage from his clenched teeth.

In a single motion he leapt to his feet and flung the gemstone as hard as he could at the brick wall opposite him, his body twisting like an amateur baseball pitcher as the glimmering stone hung in the air for a moment before streaking forward like a tiny sun to slam into the wall. It struck the stone and mortar with the sound of a glass chime swinging in the wind, bouncing off of the filthy wall and suddenly blossoming into a blinding flash of light in the darkness of the courtyard.

He was lifted from his feet and thrown back against the wall, his head snapped back to smash against the old stone, stars bursting before his eyes as he crumpled to the cold damp ground. He blinked away the after images as he crawled painfully to his knees and then shakily stood, watching as steam rose form the courtyard. A perfect circle of the ground was flashed dry and the spot where the gemstone had struck the wall opposite had caved in, the old stone having been blasted away and crumpled under its own weight as a web of hairline cracks worked their way up to the second story. In the silence of the courtyard a single brick slipped free of the wreckage and fell to the ground to hit the gently smoldering gemstone, the rectangular stone splitting neatly in half and falling aside.

A tentative step forward led to another and soon Tenchi stood over the smooth sphere and he stared down at it with an expression of fear and elation. Slowly he kneeled and picked up the gem, the garnet orb cool to the touch. He rolled it across his hand as he stared between it and the ruined brick wall. His breath coming in short, guarded gasps he felt another ripple of manic terror gripped him and he clenched his fist around the stone. Almost immediately he felt his heart calm and a sensation of belonging washed over him. He shook his head and opened his fingers slightly to stare at the stone as he swallowed hard. 'So…it is real…one of Ryoko's gems…' He closed his fingers again and looked around swiftly as he shoved his hand into his pocket and stood, turning to grab his jacket and briefcase before running back down the alley, tossing the torn curtain aside.

As he stepped out into the alleyway proper, he paused and looked to one side, his heart jumping as he saw the subway station entrance. Closing his eyes tight and squeezing the gemstone, he stalked forward and into the swiftly approaching night of the city. 'It was just a dream… a crazy, fever dream...' He clutched his arm with his free hand, feeling pain and heat rush along his veins as he steadied his breathing. Even in his mind it sounded weak, but he forced Kiyo from his mind as he raced down the sidewalk.

In his rush to escape the nightmare of the courtyard failed to notice the drift of cherry blossom petals that clung to the damp asphalt. A shadow separated from the dark corners of the courtyard, resolving into a short figure that crossed its arms and huddled against the chill of the darkening city.

Thought the path is paved with jagged stones and I cannot see its end, I shall strive ever onward, for one day my bleeding feet will heal and the free air is too sweet in my lungs for any other to suffice.

Re: "Morpheus, the Reaper"
« Reply #4 on: October 29, 2012, 09:27:51 AM »


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Days passed slowly as the memory of Kiyo continued to bubble up through Tenchi's mind, coming unbidden into his thoughts as he worked. He twice had to retreat to the restroom and heave bile from an empty stomach into the stained toilet as his appetite was nearly non-existent. He snapped awake from dozing off at his desk with a folder full of invoices, ledger notes and balanced accounts for Kiyo's restaurant. His finger trembled as he tried to delete the file, ultimately copying it to a portable drive and sneaking it out of the office.

Each morning as he stared in the mirror of his tiny bathroom, Tenchi tried to forget about Kiyo, the gemstone, and the events of that night. Without fail, however, he paused before he left for work each morning and turned to the nightstand beside his bed and opened the second drawer. Nestled just inside the empty drawer sat a squat black box stuffed with cotton, the glistening gem sat on the pillowy fibers and stared up at him and dared him to doubt its presence.

He received a miserable fifteen minute haranguing by Mr. Murdock concerning his absenteeism in the workplace and how it negatively affected his position in the company, especially and very pointedly how easily he might be replaced. A little quick thinking and a bit of creative acting managed to convince Gregory that Tenchi had been very ill the day he had missed work and a hastily scrawled doctor's notation as proved that fact. Trent said he accepted the explanation, but Tenchi saw that he had his doubts, and while he didn't press the matter when Tenchi refused to explain, the secret that hung unspoken in the air was almost palatable between the two.

As one week wore on into two and led to a third, normalcy began to creep back into Tenchi's life. He woke, forged the subway rail to work, turned his reports in on time and completed his shift only to return home and have his meager dinner before his return to bed to complete the cycle. Much to his surprise he even found him sleep peaceful, bereft of hidden meanings, haunting memories or unexpected visitors. As the recent events began to slowly fade into memory, he resisted checking on the gemstone each morning and found an empty spot above his cabinets for the sake bottle. He still gazed reverently at it whenever he passed through the kitchenette, but no longer did it haunt his thoughts throughout the day. He even found himself smiling slightly when he saw it each morning, like greeting an old friend in passing.

The subway train rumbled along the tracks, swaying slightly as it sped past high-rise buildings and roared into a yawning tunnel, the staccato flash of lights on either side of the darkened passenger car making shadows dance crazily from one end of the tube to the other. He stood, clinging to a hanging loop of stitched leather as his briefcase swung lazily to smack against his thigh with each jolt of the subway car, his eyes wandering through the crowd as the light offered brief glimpses of them within the tunnel.

The next flash of light came slightly sooner than expected, the off-set rhythm making him shake his head slightly as he scanned the passengers. No-one else seemed upset by the gradually increasing speed of the lights, each person staring in a different direction or focused on something else as the lights either increased in frequency or the subway sped up significantly, or perhaps both. Soon the flash of light became strobe-like, blind from light one moment and then from darkness the next, the subway tunnel seeming to have stretched far more than usual as Tenchi swallowed and narrowed his eyes, looking for anything out of the ordinary. 'Okay… you can beat this… it's just…' He shivered as he locked eyes with someone, catching their emerald gaze for a moment before he had to close his eyes to block out the piercing intensity of their stare.

"Now arriving, Track 5, please watch your step."

He shook his head as the voice of the conductor crackled through the poorly amplified speaker set into the ceiling of the subway car and looked around. The staring passenger was gone, his usual stop beckoning beyond the open doors. He jolted as they started to close and barely squeezed through before the car began traveling once again, emitting a soft whine as it began to pick up speed. He brushed off his clothes as he turned towards the stair, trying to shake off the creeping feeling of being watched.

His empty apartment greeted him again as he opened the door, the hinges creaking their hello. He cooked and ate his meager dinner alone and a smirk crossing his face as he wondered if Kiyo was a part of his imagination why he couldn't manage to boil water without burning it. When he had finished, he got up and walked to the sink, getting ready to wash up as he felt a hot breath tickle the back of his neck, making his hair stand on end and his heart pound as he whipped around. Only his tiny kitchenette returned his gaze. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, trying to shake the feeling of being watched. 'It's just nerves…' He reminded himself and walked into the living area to switch on the small television set for a bit of background noise while he washed the dishes. He rolled his sleeves up to the elbows and started the faucet.

On the television, a middle-aged newscaster with a blatant comb-over sat primly at the news desk, straightening his notes as he continued with his report, his voice a sleepy monotone. "... Sadly the miscreant fled on the scene and escaped in an unmarked car of undetermined make. Please be advised to be on the lookout for this person and inform the local authorities if you have any information of the whereabouts of this criminal..."

Tenchi glanced over his shoulder and shook his head, scoffing as he took a close look at the somewhat fuzzy image on screen. Clearly having been taken from a security camera, the image showed a tall form dressed in a hooded sweater, the cowl pulled up to obscure any discernable features. 'Sure, ask us to identify them? Oh, right, my next door neighbor always wears deep-hooded sweaters, it's probably him! Sure, he's a bit odd, but more or less a good guy…' He thought as he rolled his eyes and rinsed off his dish, taking a dry towel and wiping away the sudsy water as he turned to lean against the counter with a slight smile.

The anchorman straightened his pages again and continued on, a dead smile on his lips. " In further news, an odd weather pattern is emerging this evening in the downtown area. Local meteorologists are baffled by the sudden front, commenting that 'This is a phenomenon that probably has not been seen for hundreds of years and may not be seen again in this lifetime.' A great many residents have taken to the streets to watch the display of what has been dubbed 'light hawk wings' by scientists, called as such due to the odd shape the lightning takes in its ion path…"

The dish slipped from Tenchi's hands to crash against the floor, scattering shards of glass across the linoleum. His knees went weak and he barely managed to catch himself on the counter as his feet went out from under him. His heart slammed against his ribs as cold sweat sprung up on his forehead and his stomach twisted in on itself. He slowly managed to push himself back up into a standing position, his body numb as the words sunk in again. "L-light hawk wings…?" The anchor continued on but his voice was muted by the pounding rush of blood in Tenchi's ears. "T-this… this can't be real." He said softly as he wiped the sweat from his forehead with the dishtowel. "I-I'm dreaming, or hallucinating or s-something…" He stammered as he turned and leaned against the counter on his elbows, cradling his head in his hands.

He stood there, his eyes shut tightly as he rocked gently, the voice of the anchorman muffled as he clamped his hands over his ears. 'It's just nerves, it's just the stress… you need to take deep breaths and just let it go away…' He shuddered and dug his fingernails into his scalp, wincing as he chanted the mantra that had coaxed him through these past few weeks. "You can't go back…" He whispered to himself. "You can't go back, you can't go back, you can't go back …"

He pressed his hands harder against his head, trying to block out all noise and calm himself and quell the furious, deafening silence of his own thoughts swirling around his skull when the sound of sliding ceramic pierced his eardrums. At first he assumed it was simply his breathing, but that stopped as soon as the scraping began. Slowly he pulled his hands away from his head and opened his eyes, not daring to blink as he looked around. The sound continued, a slow and grinding scrape, clearly audible above the monotonous drone of the newscaster. His eyes climbed up to see the weathered jug above his cabinets finally give way to gravity and teeter from the edge, falling like a meteor directly at his head.

Tenchi stumbled backwards and lost his balance on the shards of glass that littered the kitchen floor, landing hard on his rear as the jug smashed against the counter where he had just stood. He hissed in breath through his clenched teeth as he felt dozens of tiny blades dig into his hands, his pants thankfully saving his legs and ass from a similar fate. He climbed to his feet with a grimace as tiny rivulets of crimson traced the lines of his palms, his vision blurring as he looked over at the broken jug. The thick earthenware had cracked, but not shattered, hairline fractures running up from its base to meet the corked lip.

His hands trembled as he reached out to touch the cherished piece of his past, unable to stop the tear that trickled hotly down his cheek as he caressed the hand-smoothed ceramic. He jumped as it fell silently into three equal pieces, the fragments rocking gently on the countertop as he stared. A dark smear of something marred the inside of one of the pieces, and he reached out to hold it still as he stepped closer again to get a better look. He squinted, trying to make out the symbol, harsh lines painted in what looked like black ink stretched oddly across the curved surface, shining as if it were still wet. A spark of recognition sent a chill up his spine as he turned the piece towards himself and touched one of the smears. His fingertip came away wet, a drop of the black ink still clinging to it. He swallowed hard and drew the last line in the partially finished kanji symbol and stared wide eyed at it as his name stared back at him.

The anchorman's voice pierced his stasis and made him jump slightly, his body beginning to tremble violently. "Hah, you're absolutely right, Diane…" Even the man's laugh sounded manicured. "Honestly folks if you're not outside right now, you're missing a chance of a lifetime, we're getting live feed here in the studio, and man is it something." Tenchi took a slow step backwards, trying to distance himself from the shard of pottery but afraid to take his eyes from it. "So if you're in the downtown area, come on outside and take a look, don't be afraid, it's perfectly safe…TENCHI."

He heard someone scream, a deep, panicked yelp as he turned suddenly to stare at the television. The anchorman was looking over at someone just off screen, laughing as he shuffled his papers, too-too white teeth flashing in the florescent light of the studio. His breath was coming in great heaving gasps now as he realized it was his cry he had heard, his heart thudding in his chest as he hand-crawled himself along the counter and into his living space. The shards of glass bit deeper into his palms and left tiny streaks of blood on the formica surface as he went along until he reached the wall of his flat, clinging to it as if he might fall off into some bottomless pit should he let go. He walked a slow orbit around the television set, never taking his eyes from it.

'J-just go to sleep…y-you're just tired is all…' He thought as he reached down and after the third grab managed to snag the cord to the television set and jerk it from the wall. The flickering light died out suddenly, leaving his apartment cloaked in shadows. He finally managed to catch his breath and leaned against the plaster wall, trying to slow the beating of his heart when a faint glimmer of light caught his eye. He squinted against the darkness, the sliver of light barely piercing the gloom. His breath caught in his throat as he realized it was bleeding out from the edges of the second drawer in his night stand.

Steeling himself, he crept forward and reached out a trembling hand to grab the metal knob. He closed his eyes and took a breath before gently sliding the drawer out on its metal traces. He had to shield his eyes from the sudden glare of vermillion that burst from the opening, wincing as his eyes slowly adjusted to the brilliance. He blinked away the afterimages and felt his stomach drop into his feet as he saw the gemstone ablaze with light, the lid to its box torn open and the cotton strewn around the bottom of the drawer. A hiss of static sounded from the television set and it once again flickered to life. "Kkkkkzzzz…. ut I've never seen anything like this. Wow. People, get your cameras, this can't go on forever and I know I for one would want to remember this moment." The anchorman's voice rang out into the kitchenette as Tenchi's eyes traveled back along the wall to see the cord laying on the thin carpet, still out of its socket.

He choked back a sob as he fell to his knees and gripped his hair in both fists, pulling hard enough to hear it crack and strain in its follicles. He closed his eyes and kneeled there for what seemed like an eternity as his body was wracked with a mixture of choked sobs and strained giggles. Slowly he managed to calm his hysterics and let his hands fall limply at his sides, his eyes ringed red and a manic sort of grin plastered across his face. He stood in sections and climbed awkwardly to his feet, staring down at the swirling red luminance of the gemstone. He felt as though he were moving through a dream, his hand seeming to leave ripples of wake in its passing as he reached down and picked up the gemstone. He felt it pulse and throb with a heartbeat of its own as he cradled it in his palm and held it tight to his chest.

"Well ladies and gentlemen, I'm afraid it's that time of night and we've got to go. This is channel 7 news saying, 'Have a pleasant evening, be good to one another and we'll see you in the bright and early.'" The newscaster's words fell on an empty apartment and echoed dimly into the hallway beyond. The door to Tenchi's flat swung lazily on its hinges as it opened into the murky hallway. Filthy fluorescent tubes hung bare overhead, casting queer shadows along the walls. A single shadow lurched down the hallway towards the stair at the far end of the corridor, an odd crimson light haloing it as it moved. The stairwell flowed upwards for what seemed to be a near-endless tunnel of flights terminating in a single balcony high above. With barely a whisper of breath, the shadow started up the stair…

Thought the path is paved with jagged stones and I cannot see its end, I shall strive ever onward, for one day my bleeding feet will heal and the free air is too sweet in my lungs for any other to suffice.

Re: "Morpheus, the Reaper"
« Reply #5 on: October 29, 2012, 09:28:34 AM »


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The stairway tilted back and forth crazily as he lurched up the staircase, his feet drawn by an irresistible force that boiled up from somewhere deep within his heart. His breath came in groaning puffs as he counted the blessed last steps of the long walk up to the roof-level and paused on the landing a moment as he caught his breath before he pushed the release bar of the roof access door. He strained against the growling wind that whipped across the rooftop and shoved the door back against him. With a grunt, he finally managed to shove the door open, wind howling down the staircase and echoing deep into the building as he stumbled out onto the roof and into the night.

Boiling black clouds arched up overhead and the wind tugged at his shirt, threatening to lift him from his feet and send him tumbling into the night sky. He jumped as blinding light flashed overhead and then stood, mesmerized, as a bolt of furious white lightning shot down from the heavens only to arch back up towards the sky, forking and spreading out into a brilliant fan of blue and white light. The whole display took less than a second to flash before his eyes, but in that instant, the city that stretched out before him was lit up in an array of vibrant hues. The red of brick, the slate blue of steel, the charcoal black of asphalt, all shone in hyper real detail before the light faded away, leaving an echo of thunder to wash back and forth across the city.

"Fantastic, isn't it?"

Despite the howling wind, the voice came through clearly, cool and calm in the face of such splendor. He turned around and looked up to see a small figure sitting atop the slanted roof of the access, legs casually crossed and swinging gently against the wind. "You wouldn't believe what it takes to make lightning do that…" The figure said with a trace of humor as it hopped down to land softly on the rooftop between him and the door, standing slowly from its crouch. It was dressed in a long, heavy coat of some slick-looking material, the collar pulled up high against the wind, hands tucked into deep pockets. A knitted cap, the hem folded over and pulled low, neatly completed the outfit and left a scant few inches of its face exposed to the quickly worsening weather.

Another flash of lightning arced above, briefly lighting the figure. Tenchi took a step back as brilliant emerald eyes pierced him from under the cap. He pointed a trembling finger as he finally found his voice, his words lost in the wind and quavering with emotion. "Y-you wrote my name, didn't you?" he asked as he took a tentative step forward. "It's you, isn't it?" He felt the bottled up emotions that raged inside him begin to boil over and set his blood on fire. "YOU'RE the one bringing all of this back?" Hurt and ager and confusion fueled his voice as he yelled into the turbulent night.

"YOU'RE the one who sent the bottle, YOU gave me this gem, YOU are the cause of all of this, AREN'T YOU?" His vision blurred as tears ran freely down his cheeks, hot against the chill wind that whipped acros the rooftop. As if his pain had spilled over into the real world, the seething clouds above opened up and sent a silver grey sheet of rain against the city, the wall of water swallowing the rooftop and soaking them both.

His shirt clung wetly against his body and the heavy raindrops pounded the gravel roof as he clenched and unclenched his fists as he took heavy steps towards the figure. "Why are you doing this? I left all of that behind, so why, why are you tormenting me?" The figure stood silent in the torrential downpour as rain cascaded from its slicker, its face tucked into the high collar. Only those accusing eyes visible through the gloom.

His jaw clenched tight and his teeth grinding painfully, Tenchi found himself trembling with pent up rage and frustration as he advanced, his arm coiled like a spring and lashed out, his fist connecting with the figure's jaw, sending them sprawling to the rooftop in a spray of water and gravel. He cocked his fist back as he flew to their side, his vision fading into a fine red mist of fury as he prepared to beat the answers out of them. "I DO NOT WANT THIS! DON'T YOU SEE? I NEVER WANTED THIS!" He reached down and tugged the prone figure up with his free hand, his fist trembling and hungry for retribution. "AND NOW YOU COME ALONG AND DREDGE IT ALL BACK UP! THE DREAMS, THE NIGHTMARES, IT'S ALL BECAUSE OF YOU!" He blinked away the blinding rain and shook his head as he felt his teeth squeak in his jaw, wrenching his tormentor to their feet as he finally let go, giving in to the fury and pain that they had wrought.

Another flash of lightning sent him stumbling back, his eyes wide as it illuminated the figure's face. The knit cap had fallen aside when he hefted the small figure up and a shock of magenta colored hair stuck out at a rakish angle. Those emerald eyes softened slightly and the face hidden in the collar of the jacket stared back at him from across the stream of time. Washu Hakubi stood boldly before him, her small hands clenched in defiance as the rain washed down her face and sent the trickle of blood that flowed from her lip down her neck to stain the collar of the sweater she wore under her jacket.

The haze of anger fell from his eyes as Tenchi felt the strength and rage flow out of him, his knees buckling and sending him crashing to the rooftop. Exhausted and confused, he gave in, his chest heaving as he sobbed, fighting for breath. "Why…" He managed after a moment, looking up at her through the curtain of rain. "Why did you have to come back? What have I done? I can't deal with this, not again…" He choked out the words, his voice cracking.

She took a breath and slowly relaxed, lifting a hand to wipe the blood from her quickly swelling lip. Tentatively she took a step forward and sighed as Tenchi scrabbled backwards, falling back onto his hands as he kicked away from her. For the first time in fourteen years, he heard her voice clearly, her slightly nasal cadence serious above the growl and crash of thunder. "I came... because you called."

From his seat on the rooftop, he shot her a fierce look through his tears, his teeth clenched. "I NEVER called you…" He spat as he awkwardly climbed to his feet. "We both know that I made my choice a long time ago."

Washu's face stiffened as she saw his rage, keeping her distance from the unstable man. She sighed as she sucked on her swollen lower lip and spat blood to the side. "You might not have meant to call to us…" She said as she walked in a slow circle around him. "Not knowingly at least, but I felt you… heard you…" She paused, those emerald eyes flashing with a mixture of irritation and grief. "We felt it, Lord Tenchi." She spat the honorific at him, a disgusted smirk on her face.

He furrowed his brow as he stared up at her, his eyes growing wide as the reference struck home. "Lord…" His teeth ground together as he tensed and closed his eyes as he tried to hold back yet another wave of emotion. "You sent Kiyo to me, didn't you?" He bit his lip and shook his head. "All of this, these visions, these dreams, the gem, that horrible illusion… You're trying to punish me, I know it. You're trying to drive me mad." He breathed out a half-hearted laugh. "You're doing a damn good job of it too."

Despite the pain, she allowed herself a satisfied smile. The motion caused her swollen lip to split further and sent a fresh trickle of blood down her chin. "That was no illusion… And we aren't trying to drive you mad, we're trying to make you wake up and realize something." She shot him a sharp look and tilted her nose up at him. "If you can't handle the truth that's something you need to work out for yourself." She resumed her circuit around him, her hands clasped behind her back as the rain continued to fall in sheets. "No, Kiyo is real, or real enough at least…" She paused for a moment and shook her head with a sigh. "As real as any character played by an actress can be, at least."

"An actress?" Tenchi asked, a confused expression beneath the rivulets of rain that fell down his face. His hands fell slack to his sides as a shudder coursed through him. His soaked clothes were heavy with the chilly rain and clung to his body, but it was the realization that Kiyo had been real all along that made a shiver crawl up his spine.

Washu nodded, her arms crossed as she risked a step forward, the rain cascading down her jacket. "You've been calling out to us for ages it seems, and after we found you, it was only a matter of time till we were able to break in." She smirked despite herself as she quirked an eyebrow up at him. "You've got yourself locked up tight in here, and I'm not surprised." She turned and strode towards the edge of the roof and looked out into the night. One by one the lights of the city began to burn out, the darkness growing thick as before too long the single sodium lamp above the roof access door shone like a beacon in the shadows.

"If I had closed myself into a place like this I wouldn't want anyone else to see either." She said snidely as she turned back around and walked towards him. "So we tried everything we could, only finding a few weak points in your armor." Her smug smirk turned sad as she looked off to one side of the drenched man, his rage long since spent. "One of those was her." She started, her voice distant as a memory. "She didn't want to come, not at first." A cold laugh escaped her lips as she glared at Tenchi. "Your leaving hurt her too badly, and then what came next..."

Now Tenchi tensed, his gaze flashing back to her as a panic filled him, setting his heart pounding. "What? Hurt who?"

Washu's expression turned deadly serious, her eyes icy cold as she regarded him. "Sasami." She watched as he paled. "I was there then as well, I saw you with her." She tilted her head and cast him an accusatory stare. "You didn't even recognize her, did you?"

His mouth worked, no words coming out as he remembered his first thought when he met the young woman, the sense of nostalgia on smelling her wonderful cooking and the odd sense of familiarity with her. "That's not…I mean…?" He shook his head, his face falling as he flinchingly met Washu's steely gaze. "How did I hurt her? She… she left on her own?"

Washu bared her teeth, her jaw tight as her own frustration began to show through. "When you left us, when you left our world…" She took quick breaths, trying to calm herself before she continued, her voice quavering with contained emotion. "When you rejected who you were, what made you so special to the universe and all of us, you turned your back on everything that we had built together. You didn't just reject your responsibility, you also rejected us. You rejected her."

The child-like scientist's brow furrowed as she stalked towards him now, all her calm surface cracking and showing her true feelings. "She loved you… she still does, Tenchi. She loved you like a brother, like the father she never truly had, leaving home as young as she did. You were her protector for so long that when you denied what you were and tried to make it go away…it broke her heart." She turned away again and looked back out over the darkened city, trying to find the answers in that impenetrable blackness, another bolt of lightning flashed and lit the city. Illuminated by the celestial radiance, it lurked in the dark, a twisted, gnarled nest of concrete and steel beyond the edge of the roof.

Her voice dropped, barely audible above the whipping wind and pounding rain. "…When she came back, try as we might, none of us could stop her crying." She tilted her face up towards the clouds that boiled above, letting the rain streak over her face as she closed her eyes. "Honestly, I'm surprised she lasted as long as she did…poor girl." She sighed and let her head drop as she continued, her hands clenching and unclenching. "She cares for you still, after all this time."

With a huff she rounded on him and shot him a fierce glare, her brow furrowed and teeth clenched as she stalked back towards him, sending him stepping back quickly. "Your actions have warped our world, our universe to what YOU wanted." She drew in close to him, growing from a childish form to her mature adult body, her clothes growing to fit as she stared him down, fury burning in her eyes. "YOUR selfish, childish desires have caused thins and you expect there to be no consequences? That somehow no one would get hurt?"

The universe hung in tatters, torn asunder by the battle between Tenchi and Z and ruined further by the conflict of the Triad of Goddesses, the Choushin and their own battle with the Counter-reactor, a being of immense power that acted as a balance against the three divine beings. In an attempt to repair the dimensional gaps and return the universe to its natural state, the Goddesses turned back time, recreating the worlds that were destroyed and resetting the universe to before the crisis began. Everyone's memories of the events were wiped clean, save those of the Goddesses themselves and Tenchi, the boy groomed by their hands to become the most powerful being in the multiverse. He was to be a God. An Emperor. He was the crowned prince of Jurai by royal blood and ultimately was to become both the mate and father of the Goddesses that ruled this universe and others.

Two and a half years ago, he was a seventeen year old boy. He had the normal problems a young man faces in his early years; he had a normal life, normal days and normal nights, just like every other seventeen year old boy on Earth. He did his homework, he blushed when he talked to girls, he tried his best to keep fit and work hard while making time to enjoy the summer of his youth with his friends. The Tenchi two and a half years ago was embarrassed by his father, admired his grandfather, and hid girly magazines under his bed. His worst problem was trying to find time from his schoolwork to make some time to go out during the weekend.

Everything changed when he really started thinking about the stories his grandfather told him. Ancient tales of treacherous demons, vengeful spirits, brave, courageous warriors and the heroes of honor that wielded grand power. These stories were fed to Tenchi daily on his visits to the weathered shrine. If only he had known then that they were all lies, or at least modified truths. Aliens, royal families, space pirates and ancient races were the fuel for these tales, and his own foolish actions were what brought everything screaming out of those stories and into his life.

All in a rush his life was so complicated that he barely even recognized it as his own. He was brought up to be polite and always be accommodating to guests, but enough was enough. At the age of nineteen was expected to take his place among the planet Jurai's royal family and once he had served his duty to the people of his ancestral home he was to become a champion for and the mate of three all-powerful trans-dimensional beings and in turn become the progenitor of their triad.

During his fight to protect the universe against the powerful entity known as Z, he was struck a fatal blow, his blood boiling out into the vacuum of space as his life flashed before his eyes. In that singular instant between the gates of life and death he became the yang to the Choushin yin; the God at the head of the three Goddesses. In a furious and terrified rush he turned that power in on itself and used his moment of omnipotence to reject it, all of it. His bloodline, his divinity, the careful and calculated preening and pruning of time and space perpetrated by the Goddesses, all undone in the blink of an eye.

To be normal, just another teenage boy again, that was all that he wanted. Just to be a regular human again, simple and easy again. Never to have awakened this unwanted power, never to have given in to his curiosity and opened the cave sealed deep in the mountains near his grandfather's shrine. Not to have piqued the romantic interest of all-powerful super women, alien royalty, space pirates nor the police that chased them. In a single instant, with a thought, undo it all and become just some kid named Tenchi once again.

Tenchi's knees trembled slightly as he remembered how hastily he had reacted to the onset of such responsibility and power, the weight of an entire universe on the shoulders of a nineteen year old boy. The crushing burden still clung to his heart after so many years.

The fury of the storm seemed to react directly to Washu's emotions as she clenched her teeth and shook away the tears that began to form at the corners of her eyes. They both stood on the rooftop, lost in the torrent of rain and blown by the screams of wind that made the building sway and tremble in the darkened city. In a blinding flash, a bolt of lightning grounded itself on one of the antennae that stood up from the pebble strewn surface, the ear-shattering explosion making Tenchi cringe and cover his ears as feathers of electricity hung in the air, setting the hair on his arms on end. Washu stood her ground, her coat whipping in the monsoon as she was silhouetted by the sudden light.

"When you disappeared, not only did your absence create a hole in time and space and tear a schism into the very fabric of reality, you broke our hearts, Tenchi!" The thunder crashed again, accentuating her words as she started to walk slowly around him, circling him like a predator. "You broke my heart, but more than that, more than that, the rip you caused remained even if you did not!" Her voice seemed to come from all around, echoing across the rooftop like the vengeful goddess she had been so long ago. "What you fail to realize is that you remember being a God! If even for a single brief instant, but you remember. That kind of memory alone could destroy entire planes of existence, but instead it has split time and space into three different universes." She ticked off her fingers as she stopped her stalking and walked quickly up to him, seeming to grow taller with each step until she loomed over his head. "One where you accepted the responsibilities that were entrusted to and thrust upon you and performed as you were expected to. One where none of this madness ever happened." A sneer spread across her face as she lifted a third finger. "And then, at the sniveling bottom of the heap, there is you."

Tenchi's knees buckled suddenly as she railed on him and he fell sharply to the pebbled roof, but she thrust out an arm and wrenched him up by his soggy collar as she trembled with rage. He flailed for a moment as he tried to tear away from her iron grip, gagging and croaking as she lifted him from his feet, finally trying to hold himself up and bracing himself on her forearm. "You selfish man…" Her voice trembled with barely contained fury and disgust, her teeth clenched so tightly he could hear them squeak softly above the pounding rain. "You had the hearts of all of us, a blessed life of royal means and the power of the universe at your fingertips…" She blinked fast and hard as she almost seemed to vibrate, so violently was she trembling.

"You lucky fool, we all loved you." She spat the word bitterly. "My daughter the most. When I found you, I wanted you for Tsunami and Tomiki and my own sake." She smirked devilishly as she gave him a shake. "Sisters must have a father… and mothers must have a daughter." The smile melted away with the falling rain. "But then I wanted you for my own as I grew to know you, to see your true qualities and true potential, but Ryoko…" She hissed at him as she brought her face scant inches from his own, each word making him flinch and cringe. "She's always loved you! From the moment she first saw you as a child, first released her from that damned prison Yosho created, she has done nothing but adore you."

Her scowling face suddenly became a rictus of hellish, bestial fury as she snarled at him, shaking him like a rag doll as lighting flashed and arced around the building. A dozen strikes of blazing blue-white light rang out a staccato rhythm against the black sky as she bellowed into his face, spittle flying from her lip. "Are you really going to sit by and tell me she meant NOTHING to you?! MEANS nothing to you?!" The thunder washed over them in an almost physical wave and set Tenchi's ears ringing and his head spinning.

As he slowly regained his senses, his feet hanging some several inches above the tarpaper and loose stone roof, Tenchi looked down at her, this furious, ancient and divine woman and slowly let his eyes fall to the side. "No…" He started softly, the whisper almost torn away by the whipping wind. "Ryoko…she meant so much to me…" He swallowed awkwardly against the painfully tight collar and her clenched and trembling fist as he drew a gasp of breath. "A-all of you did…but I couldn't…" He let his hands fall from her forearm and gave in to her for support. "I-I mean… even for an instant, a blink of an eye… to be a God…" He weakly shook his head and swallowed again. "I was still such a boy…I couldn't take it." He croaked; his voice thick with emotion and strained by her grip. "All the thoughts and emotions and knowledge at once, it… it was too much…"

He looked back up at her, his eyes pleading as he wet his lips and continued. "I just couldn't bear the weight of it. I couldn't take it. I'm sorry."

Washu studied him for a moment, her nostrils flared as she took sharp and ragged breaths. A deep lungful seemed to calm her slightly and she let him go with a derisive snort, flicking him aside to crumple to the rooftop like a piece of trash. "I can't say I blame you for that, boy… We had not planned for your ascension so soon, and it is a lot to take in." She shook her head and glared down at him, her lips pursed. "But to act so rashly, so childishly, you have broken our timeline and warped our world."

His throat red and bruised, he held his neck as he coughed and took deep gasps of air from his place on the slowly flooding roof. He looked up at her as the rain streamed down his face through his graying hair. "Broken your…how?"

She threw her arms into the air, astonished at him. "Haven't you been listening at all?! There is a Tenchi-shaped hole in our world! There is a space where you should exist and there are events that should have happened but they don't, because you aren't there anymore! And we all know that they happened, but they haven't! We feel the shockwaves of your not existing every single day! Because you remember. You were there. You are still supposed to be there!"

She tore off her knitted cap, her magenta hair flying wildly with the wind as she leapt at him again and rode him down to splash into the water that pooled on the rooftop. He pushed against her and tried to sit back up, but the air left his lungs in a great whoosh as she knelt on his chest, leaving him to wheeze and strain weakly against her. "But no, you coward, you lock yourself away in your psyche, you hide from us, from me, and force us to hunt you down to try to put our broken world back in order and you say sorry?!" She sneered down at him, a cold fire in her eyes as she reached into her jacket and pulled a glistening shard of silver from within its folds. It didn't even register in Tenchi's mind that it was a knife in her trembling fist until it screamed through the night sky and rain, heading right for his face.

"It's too late for that… I'm ending this. Now."

Tenchi opened his eyes as he felt the falling rain slow from a stinging downpour to an almost soothing shower. A glint of metal caught his eye and he looked to the side, the mirror-like blade plunged into the rooftop a hairs breath from his cheek. Heavy, warm drops fell on his face and he turned his head to see Washu kneeling over him. Her legs still folded against his narrow chest as she hung her head, her shoulder rising and falling in jerks as hot tears traced down her cheeks. "Tenchi…oh Tenchi, my love…" She gasped softly, her words muffled by her quiet sobs. "I yearned for you, wanted you, not just to play with, but as a husband and lover…" Her glistening emerald eyes locked with his as she bit her lip, her face warped into a mask of sorrow as she slowly let her legs slip off of his ribs to straddle his torso. "I knew I could have you, seduce you any time I wanted… but to do so would break my sweet Ryoko's heart."

She let go of the knife and lifted her hands to her face, wiping away the tears that still flowed from her eyes in heavy streams. "She loved you before I ever met you, and before we all…" She sniffed wetly, and took a ragged breath. "To steal that single shred of happiness away would be too cruel." She shot him a hateful look through her red-rimmed eyes as she calmed her voice. "Crueler even than you..." She climbed awkwardly off of him and stepped aside, leaving the blade stuck into the roofing. Another shuddering breath passed her lips as she hugged herself. "We need you, Tenchi, our world needs you. When you abandoned what you were and the entity you were to become, your mind locked down. Your memories of divinity lent you extraordinary power and your body shifted into this plane of existence."

She looked out over the darkened city and took her first steady breath in several minutes, letting her hands fall to her sides. "That power fueled your mind and your soul… and built this universe around you. This city, this world, this plane, does not exist except inside your mind." With a slight flourish, she swept a hand at the sky and the rain stopped completely, almost seeming to draw back up into the midnight sky as the clouds calmed their furious roiling and smoothed out into a single grey sheet. Tenchi drew back against the roof and had to quickly shade his eyes as the clouds parted suddenly in a perfectly straight line a blindingly blue sky opened up overhead.

He lay on the roof propped up on one elbow as a tear rolled down his cheek, stunned the beauty of the second blue sky he had seen in more years than he could remember. Haloed by the soft, warm light that shone down upon them, he saw Washu smile softly, her eyes warm and inviting. "Come back to us, Tenchi…repair our world and yourself as well."

Wiping the last tears from her eyes, she walked towards him again and crouched at his side. She let out a little chuckle as he flinched back, but leaned in and placed a gentle kiss on his forehead. Her hands on her thighs, she stood and turned away from him to look out over the brightly lit city. Rough and weathered stone looked new in the soft sunlight, and the filth of years had been scrubbed away to show a raw fresh city stretching out past the rooftop. "To come back to us, you will need a show of faith." She said, her voice calm and even. "Your memories still hold the spark of the divine and can lend you their strength, and your blood still burns with the power of Jurai, if you'll only let it do so." She looked at him over her shoulder, her expression serious. "You and only you can do this. I can't bring you out of this, not by myself."

She offered him another brief, sweet smile before she turned back towards the city beyond the rooftop and walked boldly towards the edge of the building. She took a quick step up onto the raised edge and stepped out into the open air beyond as she phased out. Tenchi slowly sat up and watched as she faded from sight, leaving behind only a faintly shimmering mote of light and the faint smell of sweet anise blended with the sharp scent of chemicals. As the mote of light faded into nothing, the sky grew dark once again and the clouds boiled back in to close the gap. A crackle of distant thunder heralded the storm and the rain fell again, slower than before, but insistent. He took a deep, shuddering breath and brought a hand to his chest in an attempt to quell the throbbing ache in his heart.

Another crash brought with it a flash of lightning into the city, the bolt stretching from ground to sky in a web of forking arcs. One by one, the lights of the city once again flickered to life and spread their dirty glow across the streets. On trembling, weak legs, Tenchi slowly stood from his place on the rooftop. He reeled for a moment before he caught himself and looked around the empty roof. His heart fell when he saw no trace of the magenta-haired scientist, the crushing weight of loneliness once again falling onto his shoulders. He turned towards the roof-access door and blinked as a glint of light caught his eye again. Washu's blade still stuck in the rooftop where he had just lay, raindrops trickling down its shining face.

Soaked, his heart aching with sorrow and regret, Tenchi crouched and pulled the knife out with a slight grunt. It was almost feather light, but surprisingly long and wide, the face of the blade almost as far across as his forearm and the whole thing stretched from the crook of his elbow to his wrist. "Something to remember her by…" He mumbled faintly as he let his arms fall slack against his sides, the blade slapping his thigh gently as he walked. Dazed, exhausted and ashamed, he choked back a sob as he stumbled through the door and into the humid dark of the stairwell. His legs felt like lead weights as he slumped down the staircase and reached his floor after only three flights. He barely noticed the access door banging open in the wind above him as he trudged into his apartment.

He leaned back against the door as the nights events washed over him, sending him sliding down the door to sit wetly against its base as dry sobs wracked his body. The knife fell to the linoleum floor with a clatter as he hugged his knees, his heart slamming against his ribs with each painful gasp of breath. Slowly, his sobs died away, leaving him staring out into the gloom of his loft apartment, the dingy walls flickering with the light of the television as static crackled across its screen. His red rimmed eyes glossed over the broken dish in the kitchenette and rose slowly up the cabinets to see the earthenware jug still broken on the counter. His eyes wandered further up to an open cabinet door above the sink and caught a glimpse of something reflecting light at the back of the shelf.

He grunted softly as he hand-walked himself up the door and shuffled towards the cabinet, standing on his toes as he reached into the back. His groping fingers closed over a square bottle, warm against his frozen skin. A fine layer of dust and grime covered the bottle, the label faded slightly but readable. 'Grizzly's old fashioned mash: select blend' it said in gold block letters, the amber liquid inside sloshing against the sides of the bottle close to the neck. The memory of his twenty first birthday bubbled up from his weary mind, and wandering into a grungy liquor store, eager to taste the forbidden liquid for the first time. He'd grabbed the first bottle he saw and took it up to the gaunt cashier behind a thick layer of bulletproof glass. A wry smirk and mirthless chuckle passed his lips as he remembered trying whiskey for the first time and choking on the fiery liquor. He set it down on the counter and pulled a glass down with his free hand as he wrenched the cork from the bottle's mouth and poured himself a healthy dose of the thick golden liquid. As he brought the glass to his lips and felt the smoky burn fill his throat he knew that no restful dreams nor helpful spirits would visit him this night.
Thought the path is paved with jagged stones and I cannot see its end, I shall strive ever onward, for one day my bleeding feet will heal and the free air is too sweet in my lungs for any other to suffice.

Re: "Morpheus, the Reaper"
« Reply #6 on: October 29, 2012, 09:29:02 AM »


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Tenchi opened his eyes, blinking slowly as the landscape before him came into focus. A grove of trees lined one side of the plank walkway that stretched out before him, a lake hugged the grassy shore. Heavy clouds hung in the sky, framing the mountains that rose in the distance against a bleak, slate canvas. The Masaki residence loomed ahead, cream colored walls and maroon tile roof muted in the half-light that filtered through the clouds above. He slipped his hands into the pockets of his slacks, still dressed in his rumpled work clothes, not the boy of his youth, but still the aged man he had become over the hard years. He took a deep breath and began to walk towards the house, knowing that somehow his answers would be there, hidden in his memories. His loafers clipped noisily on the weathered planks in the heavy silence as fog began to worm its way out of the placid water of the lake.

His stride slowed as a figure formed in the mist and his breath caught in his throat as the tendrils of fog broke to reveal yet another ghost from his past. Her indigo hair was pulled into a pair of long ponytails that nearly touched the ground as she walked forward, her dress a somber and regal ordeal of flowing white and purple cloth, deep red lacquered shoulder ornaments emblazoned with overlapping golden leaves. She held herself tall and proud, her hands clasped daintily in front of her as she bowed at the waist. Her mouth moved, but no sound came out, not that Tenchi needed it. His throat tightened as he remembered her words that painful day.

"Thank you so very much for your gracious and exceptionally generous hospitality, mister Tenchi." Her voice had sounded so clipped and controlled, as if she had practiced the lines over and over before allowing herself to speak them. "Me and my sister have thoroughly enjoyed our stay with you in your lovely home, and may it forever be blessed." All of this came from waist height as she remained bowed, never once meeting his eye. "Perhaps, should we be within a reasonable distance, we shall call on you again, if you would have us." Her stiff manner told him he would never see her again, 'reasonable distance' or no. She straightened up, careful to keep her eyes squarely on his neck as she spoke. "Your hospitality has been more than we could have hoped for and I wish…" Her careful façade faltered for a moment as her voice cracked slightly before she continued. "…I wish you a life of happiness and wealth. Goodbye." She bowed again and took a few steps backwards before turning and walking back to where her father stood, a great burly man with thick black hair and a beard to match. His eyes were cold and his mouth a stern, hard line as he waited for his daughters to say their goodbyes.

The younger princess was next, dressed in similar finery as her older sister as she coalesced out of the fog to walk towards him. She barely made a sound before her soft voice cracked completely and she threw herself forward, spectral arms wrapping around Tenchi as he flinched back. She sobbed silently against his chest before her father barked out her name and she forced herself to pull away from him, rubbing her eyes with her small fists as she ran back towards the duo.

As quickly as they had appeared, the specters were gone back into the misty fog. Tears threatened his eyes as his vision blurred slightly, remembering how quickly everything had deteriorated after his brief ascension. The timelines split and his birthright denied, Tenchi felt as if he were a stranger in his own skin, an unwanted houseguest under his own roof. Ayeka and Sasami were the first to leave their mismatched family. The older princess would jump whenever she saw him, startled by his presence as if he were a ghost himself and when she did speak to him after the shift her words were clipped and her voice hushed. Sasami herself, usually very affectionate towards him, now shied from his touch and when their eyes met she grew flushed and upset, her mauve orbs glistening with unshed tears.

He shook the memories from his mind and started forward again, musing about how different their tense departure was from Mihoshi's. The blonde haired, bronze skinned detective had been reassigned to a sector on the other side of the universe, an order she tried to fight in vain using her powerful familial connections. However her transfer papers had been signed and stamped by the head of the Galaxy Police, her own Great Aunt. The sound of boots on the planks behind him broke his reverie and he turned sharply to see Mihoshi standing behind him, her back stock straight as she gave him a textbook salute. Her voice drifted across the years like a faint whisper of wind, her face gravely serious as tears rolled down her cheeks.

"I, Mihoshi Kuramitsu, detective First Class, would like to thank you for your hospitality during my stay as a Top Secret operative to the honorable family Jurai. Should you ever require our assistance, the Galaxy Police will be happy to provide another officer in my place." She clipped her heels together and shot him another salute before she relaxed slightly, offering him a sad smile as she struggled to keep her voice clear. "I'll never forget you, Tenchi. Take care of yourself, okay?" She stepped forward and leaned in to place a gentle kiss on his cheek before the fog rose up and enveloped her, leaving behind a whiff of her perfume as it flowed away in wisps and shreds.

He lifted a hand to his cheek to touch where her lips had rested as he closed his eyes and tried to remember the warmth of her, the friendly air that always hung around her like sunshine and gentle breezes. With a sigh he lowered his hand and looked around with a wry smile. "Who's next? Washu?" He said aloud, his voice muffled by the silence that hung in an almost palpable shroud around the home of his youth. She hadn't even said goodbye, leaving a note behind explaining that she was needed for a particularly exciting experiment back at the Academy and had been offered her old position as a professor. She had added that she would return, though she didn't know when, and that she would keep their ramshackle family in her heart and thoughts always until she could see them again. The note was left on the counter where they had found it, unable or unwilling to move it should the spell be broken.

Tenchi turned back to the house and started forward again. He kept his eyes on the worn and rutted planks as he forced himself to remember the worst of the lot. "Ryoko was the last to leave." His words were a whisper, a hushed summoning as he steeled himself and looked up. She stood there just as he remembered, dressed in a stark black dress with a dark red sash tied around her waist. A small suitcase sat by her feet as she looked him right in the eyes, her full lips pulled tight into a serious line and her amber eyes shining with conflicting emotions.

At first the former space pirate had used the situation to her advantage, clinging closer and closer to Tenchi as the other women left one by one until only the two of them remained. Her competition no longer an issue, she pressed herself onto him, her flirtations growing bolder until the night that she met him in his bed. She had let herself into his room, still warm and fresh from the bath, a cat-like smirk on her face as she slipped out from under the blanket on his bed and offered herself to him. He recalled her enthusiasm in the throes of passion slowly waned as the night progressed. As soon as they had unraveled themselves, she moved to sit on the edge of the bed to stare into the darkness of the room. He had reached out to touch her, comfort her somehow, but she flinched back from his touch.


That single word stuck like a blade in his heart as she grew frigid. They ate together in strained silence and when he offered her affection she would push him away. He assumed she was disinterested in her prize now that she had won it, and in a moment of frustration called her on his assumptions. She narrowed her eyes and crossed her arms as she glared down at him, no longer the clinging lovebird she had once been but now the fearsome and intimidating pirate she once was.

"You conceited little fool. I know how you really feel. About me, about all of this." She had growled as she gripped her arms in contained violence. "So I'm the one to blame am I? It all started with me, didn't it? You released me from that gods forsaken prison Yosho stuck me in and all of a sudden life is just too complicated for poor Tenchi. You stupid bastard…" Her cold eyes thawed suddenly as tears formed and she gritted her teeth in frustration before teleporting away to leave him to stand confused in the living room.

He shivered and bit his lip hard as he held back his tears and forced himself to meet her cold gaze as the last words she ever said to him rose from the graveyard of his mind. "Tenchi…you are a fool and a coward. May you live your life as you see fit, because it seems you do not find me worthy enough to be part of it. And I will not play this charade anymore."

She'd had no softness for him then, no sweet words, no gentle caress as she picked up her suitcase and turned sharply away. A small form bounded from out of the fog, the floppy long ears of the cat-rabbit hybrid standing up straight as her fur bristled and an angry hiss exploded from her tiny form.

"And then there were none…" He said quietly as a tear rolled down his cheek to catch and drip from his chin. As it fell to the planks below his feet, a quiet rumble rolled from beyond the mountains and a drop of rain splashed heavily into the lake beyond the pier. More quickly followed the first and soon Tenchi stood once again in the downpour, a sigh on his lips as he looked up at the clouded sky and let the drops run down his face. He stuffed his hands into his pockets and continued towards his old home, silently sliding the front door open and stepping inside as thunder crashed and the rain beyond the awning fell in sheets.

Inside the house was warm, almost stiflingly so, as if the walls themselves exuded the heat. His old house shoes sat right where he always left them, a pair of gold and light blue chased boots rested stoically beside them. A smirk crossed his face as he slipped off his loafers and pushed his feet into the well-worn slippers and walked into the home proper. An unseen thread pulled at his heart and urged him towards the living room, the door already opened onto the hallway. Seated on the long couch was the figure that stalked his dreams so recently, its hands folded politely in its lap. The hooded head lifted slightly as he walked into the room and sat down in the easy chair opposite.

The figure lifted its white gloved hands and pulled back its cowl, once again exposing its featureless face, its chorus of voices echoing softly in the nearly empty room. "So…you have accepted what you are, and what you were…but can you see what will be? What will become of you?"

Tired of running, tired of hurting and most of all tired of being afraid, Tenchi only smiled softly and shook his head. "No, I cannot… but I suppose I will have to find out. This is all I can be assured of."

The featureless face pinched hauntingly as it returned the smile. "I am glad to hear that, I've looked forward to seeing you again…" The figure slowly pulled off one of its gloves and leaned over the coffee table, hand outstretched. Tenchi watched the flesh swirl and warp, flowing together only to pull slowly apart in hanging threads before sloughing into the shape of a solid hand once again. His nerves screaming for him to run, instead he leaned in and offered himself to the creature or spirit, whatever it was, hoping to find an end to all of this. He shivered as the icy tendrils of flesh wormed across his cheek and began to spread across his face.

"Will this be the end of it?" He asked softly as a thread of the fluid palm worked over the bridge of his nose, the left side of his face already smothered by the opaque alien skin. "Will you show me the way to finish all of this?" His voice quavered as the thick, putty-like flesh covered his mouth and sealed over it.

Again the face pinched at him, amused. "Perhaps…"

After another moment the malleable 'flesh' had completely covered his face, closing off his breathing and sight. Strangely, he felt almost at ease, his nerves calming as he began to slip away and disassociate the figure with terror. It was as if the layer that closed him off was a warm blanket, womblike in its sense of belonging and comfort. He felt the thick layer begin to slowly recede from his face and he opened his eyes again as soon as he was able. Across from where he sat was a facsimile of himself, a mature version of himself that still clung to the handsome lines of youth.

The hard edges of middle-age were washed away, this other Tenchi's hair still a shining ebony and long enough to reach his shoulders. A neatly trimmed goatee framed his benevolent smile and the symbol of the Light Hawk shone emblazoned on his forehead. The plain white robe had shifted, now a brilliantly opulent outfit in the style of Juraian High Royalty; layers of pristine white shot through with golden thread wrapped around a heady purple tunic while a crimson lacquered mantle rested on his shoulders and covered his chest.

"Tenchi…Tenchi…Tenchi…Tenchi…" The figure before him spoke with half a dozen voices, each crystal clear as the voices of his family echoed out the words of this surreal form.

'My family…' He thought as a shiver worked its way through his body. 'I haven't thought about them like that in so long…'

"So, so… so… so…" The figure began, that calm smile spreading into a pleased grin. "You have accepted what you are, or at the least, what you would have been. Should have been. I am you. Or perhaps you are me. In either case we are each other, simply mirror images of the same picture. Picture…Picture…Picture." The other Tenchi chuckled then, as if at some clever personal joke. "Consider what power you could have wielded, a strength you simply cannot comprehend. The entire UNIVERSE at your fingertips and yet you balk at the chance to remake the worlds of the cosmos as YOU see fit. Fit…Fit…Fit…"

Tenchi found his voice then as he shook his head. "I don't want to remake the universe. It seems to work well enough for the most part or at least as much of it as I've seen. I don't think it needs much reshaping." He smiled softly as he leaned back into the cushions of the armchair and tried to relax. "Besides, if you're supposed to be this 'Spark of the Divine' that Washu was going on about, why don't you just keep it?"

The 'God' Tenchi laughed again, a rich booming sound that shook his body. "Were it mine to keep I would, but alas as they often are, things are not so simple. Simple… simple… simple." He leaned forward, offering Tenchi his outstretched hand. "All you must do is accept it and we shall be free, free from our prison, free from our grief. Besides… besides… besides… besides…" His toothy grin grew wider as he locked Tenchi's gaze with his own. "One must not use power to have it. Think of it, to have the ability to do whatever you desire if you so wish it… is this not a handsome gift? Gift…gift…gift…"

Tenchi felt his hand twitch, and nodded with a sad smile. "It is indeed a great gift, but I don't want that." He watched as the smile faded slowly from the 'God' Tenchi's face, his lips pulling tight as he listened. "I've never wanted anything like that. Not royal precedence, not limitless power. That's not the kind of thing that I want from my life." He shook his head and waved a hand dismissively at his regal doppelganger.

The 'God' Tenchi's brow furrowed suddenly, the offered hand clenching into a fist. His eyes flared suddenly with a brilliant swirl of light and color before they settled into a chocolate brown as he shot Tenchi a smoldering stare. "Want is not a factor, boy, it is what you were meant for and in the deepest part of you it is what you are. You cannot deny this. This… this… this…"

Tenchi shook his head again, his hands trembled but somehow he met the God Tenchi's furious glare. "No, I choose what I will be, not some cabal of Goddesses, not some high lord from an uppity planet, and not some power hungry pseudo-god cultivated within me against my will." Tenchi stood from the chair, his fists at his sides as he refused to balk at a figment of his imagination. "I just want to be myself, who I want to be…" He paused as an oppressing wash of nostalgia flowed through him, suddenly longing for the warmth of the life he once knew. "And I want to… to… be with… my f-family."

The 'God' Tenchi stood as well, and laughed snidely as he sneered. "Family…? Family… Family… Family…" He chuckled as he said it, fists on his hips. "Don't you remember? You rejected your 'family' when you rejected your birthright. You pushed away from them as you bled yourself dry of Juraian blood and undid the work of countless years. When you stripped me away you scraped their love from your heart. What could your family do for you when you would not take help from them? Couldn't bring yourself to borrow strength from their love? Love… Love...Love…?"

Tenchi closed his eyes and shook his head, his throat growing tight. "I loved them too… I loved them all," He pursed his lips and let out a slow breath. "But I couldn't be what they wanted me to be."

The 'God' Tenchi snorted and crossed his arms as he arched an eyebrow at his mortal alter-ego. "What exactly did they want you to be? What pressing demands did they ask of you but to love them and allow yourself to be loved? Even Washu-Kami-Sama, one of the Goddesses who groomed you to join their ranks, grew to love you not as the man who would be a God, but as her friend. Friend…Friend…Friend"

His resolve shaken, Tenchi slowly sat back down and looked up at the God Tenchi. "They… no, they wanted me to…. Even Tsunami… D-didn't they?"

The 'God' Tenchi laughed again and shook his head, his grin spreading from ear to ear with malicious amusement. "You poor fool, you tore your family apart in an attempt to have some peace, to try to run away from what you thought they all wanted… Wanted… Wanted… Wanted…" His grin faded away to a satisfied smirk as he turned and started towards the door that opened into the hallway. It's such a shame, seeing that all they ever truly wanted was you…You…You…You…" With a final glance over his shoulder, the smirking 'God' Tenchi was through the door, walking away.

In a frantic rush Tenchi scrambled out of the chair to follow the 'God' into the hallway, his breath suddenly coming in great gasps. "D-don't you tell me that! I… I know what…" His words tumbled out in a stumbling thread, his tongue suddenly thick in his mouth as he ran into the hallway as his divine twin slid open the front door. The rain outside was a solid sheet of water that obscured the world beyond the awning in a wall of grey.

The 'God' Tenchi turned again and clicked his teeth in mock disappointment. "And to think, all you had to do to be a normal, regular man once again was one little thing…Remember?" His words bounced off the walls of the foyer, echoing from all sides as he turned and walked through the open door. "Remember… Remember… Remember…Tenchi…" As the echo died away the 'God' Tenchi was gone, washed away by the pouring grey rain. As he stood gasping in the hallway, Tenchi watched as that grey rain began to trickle into the doorway and spread in a quickly growing wave of monochrome. Wherever the water touched began to crumble and turn a sickly grey, leeching all color from the paneled flooring and crawling in charcoal fingers up the plaster walls.

"Remember?! Remember what?! Tell me!" Tenchi howled as he fell to his hands and knees, watching as the grey worked its way onto the raised floor and seep into his hands to suck away the color of his flesh as it began to fill the house, draining away all color. He shivered and drew a sharp breath as the painful chill of the grave followed the devouring grey, his hands and arms turning numb as his brittle skin began to crack and crumble away.

As he felt the first tendrils of the deathly grey grip into his neck, a bloodied face pulled out of the shadows behind him, a crystalline protrusions pushing out of its forehead as a violet eye opened in the darkness of the decaying home. "Remember…" It hissed as the numbing chill of death closed over his head.

'I remember…'

Thought the path is paved with jagged stones and I cannot see its end, I shall strive ever onward, for one day my bleeding feet will heal and the free air is too sweet in my lungs for any other to suffice.

Re: "Morpheus, the Reaper"
« Reply #7 on: October 29, 2012, 09:29:09 AM »


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For the first time in quite some time, Tenchi awoke from the disturbing dream without a start. He rolled his tongue over his lips and groaned softly as he opened his eyes, lying on his bed as he stared up at the ceiling. Sometime during the course of the night he had stripped off his sodden shirt and ruined tie and had fallen into an alcohol fueled slumber in his slacks, his belt hanging from the loops.

He attempted to sit up but felt the presence of a terrifying hangover throb behind his eyes and reconsidered. His mouth felt like as though had been wrung out and washed on a sandstone board and the thought of moving made his stomach roll. He turned one rheumy eye towards his digital clock and groaned again. Three hours late for his shift. The pounding inside of his skull only amplified as he drug himself up and out of bed. He squinted against the grey light of the city that filtered in through the single window as he shuffled into the bathroom like a 'B' movie zombie.

The dim overhead light in the bathroom cast deep shadows over his haggard face, his skin pale and slack against his skull. Dark bags hung below his bloodshot eyes and he spat into the sink. He made a disgusted face at his own thick, oddly colored sputum and turned on the faucet with a squeak. He cupped his hands under the flow and caught the icy water, splashing his face several times as he fought back down the lion's share of a bottle of 92 proof whiskey. He wiped his face dry with trembling hands as his stomach knotted with something significantly heavier than alcohol induced nausea. As he turned off the light and stared into his own cold, dark eyes, he knew what he had to do.

He turned and walked slowly back to his bed as he fumbled with thick fingers to clasp his belt together. He quickly scanned the loft, but clicked his teeth in disappointment as he pushed his hands into his pockets. His eyes widened as he paused then pulled his right hand out of his pocket, the gemstone nestled in the hollow of his palm. Blinking hard at it, he saw a flicker of crimson light dance across its surface and he smiled softly as he squeezed his hand around it, a thrill rising up his spine as the light flared from between his fingers.

Tenchi walked to his nightstand and opened the top drawer, a frown on his face as he rooted through the nick-knacks and debris for his pen knife. He shut the drawer with a frustrated grunt and scanned the room for a moment before he paused and looked back at the doorway. Glistening on the floor was Washu's knife. A smirk crossed his haggard face as he walked towards the kitchenette. "Fitting…" He said, his voice gravelly after such self-abuse the night before. He toed past the shattered glass and picked up the blade, checking its edge against the hair of his arm, a half-chuckle escaping his lips as a small cloud of sheared hair drifted down to the countertop. He placed the blade carefully down on the counter and traced the tip of his finger against the faint scar where he had first extracted the gemstone. He sighed and flexed his arm as he lifted the overly large knife and steeled himself to what had to be done.

He took several deep breaths before he took a lungful and held it as he dragged the edge of the knife against his forearm, exhaling the breath in a strained grunt as the blade bit eagerly into his arm. The hot iron-tanged scent of blood filled the kitchenette as it streamed from the fresh wound, his flesh parting like soft butter against the silvery metal. He clenched his teeth against the pain as he hissed in his breath and set down the knife, suddenly worried about how deep he had cut himself. Crimson blood stained fatty tissue and flowed easily from sheared muscle as it ran down the curve of his arm to pool and trickle off of the countertop.

With a strained grunt he opened his twitching hand and took the gemstone between two fingers. As he pressed it gently against the searing wound it flared suddenly to life and pulsed with contained power. He took another few breaths to quell the churning of his stomach and ease the thick, hot feeling that flooded his already foggy mind, then pressed the sphere hard against the open wound. He cried out, his eyes closed tightly as he felt it stretch his already parted skin further. The flaring energy burned at his flesh and almost seemed to be wriggling in his grasp as if eager to dig itself into his skin.

A final hard push forced the gemstone under his skin where it bulged up like a cyst, the pain fading from searing agony to a nauseating throb. Panting heavily, he leaned against the countertop with his eyes closed and tried to ignore the pain that shot up his arm and wished he had thought ahead to have some gauze ready. The pain faded faster than he had hoped, and his eyes shot open as brilliant scarlet light shone through his eyelids. He jerked back from the counter, splattering blood across the tile as rays of vermillion energy streamed from the wound and slowly dwindled to a pinpoint against tight, newly formed flesh.

A shocked chuckle bubbled out of his throat as he flexed his arm and turned it back and forth, examining the spotless skin. The gemstone hummed softly just below his wrist, a faint red bulge just underneath his skin. He blinked rapidly as he gently touched the bulge, the stone free under his flesh rolled slightly back and forth as he played with it, painlessly sealed into his arm. He smiled wide, then winced expectantly as he waited for his hangover to reprimand him for such mirth, but no repercussions came, the toxins flushed from his bloodstream by the power of the stone, leaving his mind clear and his energy restored. Grinning, he easily leapt over the broken dish and rushed to his wardrobe to dress for the day.

He left off the tie this morning, leaving his first two buttons undone on his dress shirt as he pulled on his blazer and finished off the dregs of his cup of coffee. He made a face as the bitter drink flowed down his throat, the brew tasting almost vulgar after tasting Kiy… Sasami's tea again after so many years. He set the mug into the sink and took one last look around his drab apartment and sighed with mixed emotion. This would be the last time he saw it, one way or another.

He descended the staircase two steps at a time and thrust open the door at the bottom landing with a grin as he stepped out into the city. He blinked and shaded his eyes in confusion as he looked up at the sky like a man who had opened his eyes for the first time. The ever present grey clouds that domed and choked the city had parted, and for the first time since he had moved here so many years ago, he saw the city in sunlight. A peculiarly sad smile split his face as he looked up at the sun and stretched out his arms, letting his body grow warm in the light.

He turned in a quick circle, unable to keep himself from laughing as he saw teenagers dressed in brilliant colors and trendy outfits, beautiful women in light airy dresses and a group of casually dressed businessmen chatting and laughing down the sidewalk. Blues, greens, reds and yellows assaulted him from all sides as he was almost brought to tears by the wonder of it all. A sea of vibrant hues rose before him as he ran down the sidewalk, his heart pounding in his chest as he hopped up and landed on the brushed steel handrail that bordered the staircase down to the train station, sliding down gleefully on his rear. After all, you should enjoy your last day before you go on a long trip.

The door to the cramped office swung crazily inward and slammed against the wall behind it as Tenchi strode in, his head held high. A litany of curses boiled out of the office as the sounds of furniture scraping aside and a flurry of violently thrown paperwork fluttered in the air for a moment. The expansive girth of Gregory Murdock suddenly filled the doorway to his office as his eyes bulged. "Masaki!" His gravelly voice boomed in the small space as he passed his constantly smoldering cigar from one side of his mouth to the other, chewing it viciously.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" He demanded as he squeezed himself out of the doorway and advanced on the grinning man a sausage-like finger jabbing at the air. "Do you have any damn idea what time it is? You're four hours late and you look like shi…" The end of his sentence was cut off by the wet crunch of Tenchi's fist ramming into the bridge of his bulbous nose. The crack sounded even louder in the confined space as he Murdock stumbled back to fall roughly on his rear, his nose a mass of red ruin and quickly swelling.

Trent bolted up from his chair and rushed to Tenchi's side, grabbing him and giving him a shake. "TENCHI, man, what the hell are you doing?!" He hissed, his brow furrowed and eyes pleading as he glanced from Tenchi's face to the prone form of Mr. Murdock, the obscenely fat man trying to roll onto his side to clamber to his feet. "Are you trying to get fired?!" He asked sharply as he watched Gregory finally stand up, streams of thick dark blood trickling between his fingers as he looked at Tenchi with a terrified expression and waddled as quick as he could back to his office, slamming the door behind himself.

Tenchi laughed and grinned wide as he waved his hand dismissively, Gregory Murdock's blood still trickling from his knuckles. "No, I've quit. No need for this job." He paused, then smirked and shook his head as he clapped a hand on his companion's shoulder. "Say,Trent, I need to talk to you…" He snapped his fingers and nodded happily. "Tell you what, let's meet at to your place, say 7:00? I want you to help me with something, but I've got a lot to see before I leave." Trent nodded in a daze as he looked from Tenchi's bloodied fist to the closed door of Mr. Murdock's office and back again.

"Y-yeah, sure…" Trent replied as he pulled himself out of the fog. Tenchi smiled even wider and nodded before he slapped the shaken man on the back and turned to walk out of the office. He paused mid-step and turned back around, his head tilted slightly as he looked hard at the blond haired man.

"You know, I never noticed how blue your eyes are…" He smirked and clicked his teeth before he turned back and strutted from the office.

Trent paced his apartment, his eyes flicking to the clock every few seconds as he thought back to Tenchi's unexpected attack earlier that day. 'What has gotten into that man?' he wondered as he fidgeted with his wristwatch, a fine sheen of sweat on his forehead. 'Did he win the lotto? Or maybe just get laid? What is happ…' he jumped sharply as he heard someone knock at the door, half-running over and opening it with a shaking hand. Tenchi stood there, a grin plastered to his face and his clothes disheveled, his hands tucked into his pockets.

"Hey there Trent, thanks for having me over." He said as he slipped confidently into the apartment and took a moment to look around. Tasteful furniture was scattered about in a professionally nonchalant manner, trying very hard to seem as though no one tried at all. Fine art prints hung on the walls, and worked silver and iron ornaments sat on almost every available surface. He slipped a hand from his pocket to lift and examine a welded steel statue of a horse as he turned around, looking at it closely. "I came by because I needed some help with something…." Tenchi said, as he replaced the forged equine, altogether far more cheerful than Trent thought he should be for an unemployed possibly wanted man.

Trent nodded hesitantly as he looked his co-worker up and down. "Sure thing Tenchi... But I've got to say, you're kind of freaking me out… y-you hit our boss, man, and you look awful… I mean like you look really sick." He stepped in closer and extended a shaking hand, trying to feel the older man's temperature.

Tenchi chuckled and stepped back as he shook his head. "Trust me, I'm fine! I just had a bit too much to drink last night is all." He smirked as he hitched up his pants and slipped his hands into his pockets once more. "So, Trent, you have a gun, don't you?"

Trent's eyes went wide and he took a step back, positioning himself close to the door. "I… wait, what?! Why do you want a gun?" A terrible image flashed into his mind as he wondered, Tenchi, standing over Gregory Murdock, HIS gun smoking in Tenchi's grip as Mr. Murdock's brains were splashed across the pavement…

Tenchi laughed and waved a hand at the young man, his pale face pulling tight into a smile as he regarded his friend with an amused sigh. "I just need a gun because I have to die."

Trent stumbled back, his hands shaking almost violently now as he tried to wrap the concept around his head. He stammered for a moment before he managed to yell out. "What the FUCK are you talking about?! You want to die?! Why?!"

Tenchi shook his head and sat down on the couch in Trent's living room, chuckling as he tossed his arms over the back "No no no, I don't want to, I need to." He saw Trent's expression and sighed as he leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees. "Okay, so you see it all started back when I was living in Japan. You remember those women I lived with? They were aliens, like beyond the stars aliens. And it turns out, so was I, only I didn't know it yet. But it also turns out that two of them were actually goddesses in disguise who wanted me to become a god! And then the aliens wanted me to be their new king and the demon woman space pirate wanted me to be her husband, and the space police officer, well I don't quite know what she wanted, but the other god candidate wanted to kill me so that he could be the new god and he said it would all work out fine because the goddesses would resurrect me."

He paused for a breath, then continued his manic explanation. "The thing is when I did become a 'God', I acted like an idiot and wished it all just go away because I was scared of what it would mean for my life and you know, ultimate power corrupts ultimately… whatever."

Trent slowly inched his way closer to the door as he subtly reached into his pocket and gripped his cellphone, feeling the keypad with the pad of his thumb for a moment. After he had recognized the keys, he pressed '9-1- '. Ignorant to all of this, Tenchi continued. "So you see, when I made that choice, I accidentally broke the time stream into different paths. So, I need to die so the three goddesses can resurrect me into their plane of existence, this whole city is in my mind as it turns out, a construct of my own imagination. So if I cease to be here, then I can become part of their world again and make everything work the way it needs to again."

Tenchi sighed as he leaned back on the couch and gestured with a hand. "So you see, it's actually a very simple situation."

Trent had gone pale, the sheen of stressful sweat dripped down his face as he shook his head and pressed himself against the furthest wall from Tenchi that he could find. "What. The. Hell. Tenchi, man, you're insane… I… I can't just shoot you… and I won't let you shoot yourself either…" He swallowed hard and pulled his phone from his pocket as he pressed the final '1'. The dial tone echoed in the tense room as Trent stumbled back away from Tenchi, and put the phone to his ear. "Look,Tenchi, you need help, man… I… I'll just get you some help, okay?" He glanced towards the door , his hand shaking as he held the phone to his head.

"9-1-1 Emergency, this is Tracy, how can I assist you today?" Trent yelped and dopped the phone, scrambling for it as Tenchi slipped past him and snatched up the device with surprising speed. He looked at the faintly glowing face of the phone and sighed softly as he pressed the 'end' button, a warm smile on his face.

"Trent…" Tenchi sighed. "I'm not making it up, look at me…" He smiled toothily as he stood and spread his arms. "I'm fine! Here, take a look at this." He unbuttoned and rolled back his sleeve, showing Trent the glowing gemstone tucked under his skin. "This is a gemstone that houses the memories, powers and knowledge of the woman who wore it. It was actually a part of one of the goddesses, but to limit herself she split her powers and memories into these three gems. Pretty awesome, yeah?"

Trent paled suddenly and retched as he saw the gaping wound in Tenchi's forearm. "What… what the fuck did you do to yourself?!"

Tenchi arched and eyebrow and looked over at his shaken friend, his mouth pulling into a confused line. "What do you mean what did I…?" He looked down at his arm and started to shake. The gemstone was indeed lodged in his arm, but it sat between the gap of his ulna and radius, his right hand stained a dark red from his wrist down, the dried blood cracked and flaking off as it hung slack and useless. The white-yellow tendons that clung to his bones were loose and the muscles of his arm were bunched and frayed, stiff with dried blood. More vibrant red oozed slowly from the angry looking wound, streaks of cracked dried blood tracing a web of lines away from it.

"No… it… it was healed…" He stammered as he felt his stomach flip, bile filling his throat before he swallowed it down. "I-I put the gem in and it… I…" He saw the stone glisten between the exposed bones, both pushed awkwardly aside to allow it between them and pushed his fingers into the wound. He winced slightly as the dark, dried blood flaked away as he scratched at and dug into the wound, breaking open dozens of scabs and causing fresh blood to trickle down his forearm.

Trent rushed over and snatched his hand away as he pulled off his button-up shirt and started to tear it into strips for a makeshift bandage. "Gods man, what is wrong with you?! Here, sit back, let me see this…" He mumbled softly as he started to wrap up the gaping wound but Tenchi continued to pull back. Frustrated, Trent yelled in the small apartment. "Goddamn it, we've got to clean this and get you to a hospital!"

Tenchi pushed away quickly as Trent tried to pull his arm into a shred of cloth and tie it over the grotesque wound. He shook his head and frowned. "Look, you just don't understand… I have to do this… OK? I have to fix what I've done, and this is the only way I know how." He stood and walked around the couch, heading for the door.

Trent quickly intercepted him, his hands out in a gesture of innocence and peace and slowly stepped closer to his friend, smiling nervously. "You're right, I really don't understand what's going on, but please, just let me help you… W-we can figure this out together, man." He leaned in and offered him a hand. "Please…"

Tenchis' frown faltered slightly as he slowly raised a hand to meet Trents' own, but felt the gem embedded in his arm pulse and begin to grow hot as Trent's outstretched hand came close. He paused and licked his lips before he slowly shook his head.


Tenchi began to circle around Trent, the sandy haired man following suit as each paced the other and they slowly shifted places. "Washu told me that I had to show faith… "As they completed a circuit of the apartment, Tenchi quickly turned and dashed for the door, reaching out and wrenching the doorknob. He swung the door open and stepped quickly into the hall, a deep frown on his face. "And I will, Trent, with or without you."

Tenchi swallowed hard and flashed a sad smile to the younger man. "Goodbye, Trent." He turned down the hallway and ran as Trent rushed to chase after him.

"TENCHI! WAIT!" Trent's voice bounced off the walls and followed Tenchi as his feet pounded the smooth worn carpet down the corridor and he threw himself against the doors, shoving them open into the night.

The soft, staccato rhythm of rain on the still-warm concrete greeted him as he broke out of the apartment building and into the darkness of the city. His breath coming in great panicked gasps, he pulled up his shirt-sleeve as his legs pumped and looked at where the gash had re-appeared, running his fingers over the new, smooth skin.

'I knew it… it was an illusion…' He smiled softly as he ran through the city, the raindrops trickling slowly down his face to drip off his chin as a single thought drove him towards the one place he knew as home for all these years.

'I will make things right, Washu… I promise'.

The city seemed so small from up here. The wind tugged at his shirt as Tenchi stood atop the stone retaining wall that enclosed the roof of his apartment building. The tallest skyscrapers seemed to be but stick-thin shanties, and the buildings below were but squat, dwarfish things, mere shadows of what they once were.

'This world…' He mused, a slight smirk on his face. 'Did I really make it?' He looked around at the brilliantly lit city beyond, a sea of colors and light. Then he turned and looked down at the crowd that had gathered and stared up at him, the bustle of activity below him on the street like ants on a sugar cube. 'I made this world, and now that I'm about to leave it, it's starting to fall apart.'

The rain fell in a persistent drizzle and made the sodium lamps on the street send out halos of light to shine on the faces of those gathered below. 'Creations looking up at their creator.' Red and blue lights flashed in the shadows like distant fireworks on a crisp autumn evening.

A crash of thunder masked the sounds of someone trying to force their way through the roof-access door, but Tenchi just smiled, knowing he barricaded it quite securely. A screeching siren made its way through the night, echoing and dwindling, swelling and fading as it passed through the streets.

'In a way, I'm going to miss this place… But I'm going home…'

A bolt of lightning split the sky and the crash of thunder echoed between the buildings. Another crash sounded behind him as the access door finally gave way, aluminum screeching as it warped and bent, falling from its hinges.

Tenchi looked back and saw Trent standing beside a pair of fully-kitted police officers who held the battering ram. Behind them stood another pair of men, these in pale green jumpsuits with white jackets over them. He just smiled and chuckled as they advanced. "Tenchi! Don't do this!" Trent cried over the wind and cupped his hands as he yelled. "We can help you!"

Tenchi turned on the narrow surface to look at the men and shook his head.

"Trent…" He sighed, smiling happily to see his friend, his creation, so concerned. "Thank you. I don't think I could have stood this place without you here. I'll remember you fondly."

Trent pushed past the officers, his blue eyes sparkling behind his glasses. "Please, man… just step down… come back down here and everything will be fine, I promise."

Tenchi shook his head, stretching his arms wide. "Everything is fine… and I am coming down. And I'm going home…"

The first tilt seemed to take an eternity, falling backwards like an ancient tree, creaking and crackling in the forest. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion.

He saw Trent and the officers run forward, their feet rose and fell like men trying to wade through deep snow. He saw Trent's hand outstretched, reaching for him, his fingertips brushed against his shirt too late as he felt the wind catch him and swirl around his body. Tenchi's feet left the stone wall and for a moment he had become one with the sky.

Suddenly the world caught up, and he felt the pull of gravity as it tore him down and away from the roof. Tenchi smiled serenely as the the gemstone burn at his wrist, glowing with a terrible light through his skin. He felt the heat of the stone's power burn through his body, filling him up as he plunged through the night sky, the windows on either side of him falling quicker and quicker.

Tenchi maneuvered himself to turn over and looked at the distant ground as it shot up at him, closing his eyes and reveling in the rush of wind past his ears and through his hair. He felt his blood boil with the familiar feeling of material conversion as could almost hear his body returning to its youthful state.

His hands filled out, now free of their heavy veins and wrinkles, his body once again grew slim and muscular, his hair jet black and full, even his ponytail seemed to whistle in the wind as he fell.

"Washu…Ayeka…Mihoshi…Sasami…Noike…Ryoko…" He felt his eyes prickle as tears formed and floated up in the wind to glitter like diamonds in the night sky.

"I'm coming home…" As the ground neared and he could see the shocked faces of the gathered crowd, he felt himself slowing. He felt pairs of arms wrapping around his body, holding him tight. A warm breath caressed the back of his neck, and fingers twined themselves in his hair, holding him tight and close as he began to cry, shaking at the feeling of being loved, and the touch of those he cared for the most.

"Tenchi…" He heard the voices whisper, the words carried to his ear by sweet, warm breath.

"I… I'm so sorry… I'm sorry for everything… I… I couldn't…." A spectral finger pushed to his lips and stopped his words as the ground rose to meet him.

Blinding white light enveloped his world, and through the haze, shadowy figures slowly began to form. A voice whispered echoed in his ears as he felt something strain and break inside of him, a tenuous gossamer thread, snapping in an instant.

"We forgive you."
Thought the path is paved with jagged stones and I cannot see its end, I shall strive ever onward, for one day my bleeding feet will heal and the free air is too sweet in my lungs for any other to suffice.

Re: "Morpheus, the Reaper"
« Reply #8 on: October 29, 2012, 09:32:18 AM »


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Thanks to funky formatting from the copy-pasta, I'll upload a word file too:
Thought the path is paved with jagged stones and I cannot see its end, I shall strive ever onward, for one day my bleeding feet will heal and the free air is too sweet in my lungs for any other to suffice.