Splintered Worlds

Chapter One

Much as Yuri wished otherwise, he was already mostly awake when his phone started bleating its obnoxious, trilling alarm on his bedside table. A weary hand slunk out from beneath the cover of his blankets, blearily groping around the tabletop for his phone for a moment, before he finally latched his fingers around its edges and dragged it back under the sheets. Longing for nothing more than a few more hours of sleep – hells, even an exhausted doze would have been enough – Yuri squirmed onto his side, peered through mussed locks of dark hair and heavy, groggy lids at the screen of his phone, and petulantly swiped aside the alarm before regarding the time with squinted eyes.

Too early… A breathy hybrid of a sigh and a groan leaked out of him, and he dropped his phone face-down on his bed before his body promptly followed suit. Way, way too early. Normally it wouldn't have bothered him – after all, the Izanese school system had a way of conditioning its students to wake up early, no matter how little sleep they'd gotten – but between the move from his hometown of Shikichouji and the frantic preparations for his departure to Seikyo Academy, he was bloody exhausted. It was his own fault, of course. He'd been fretting over the transition to Seikyo and going through the process of the six-hour trip to get there, as well as what remained of his personal belongings, like an obsessive-compulsive, ensuring that everything would be in order before he left. It hadn't made for a particularly restful night – and that wasn't even taking his already tumultuous state of mind into consideration.

A yawn rudely pried his jaws apart and feebly prodded the rest of his mind into wakefulness. Readjusting his head on his pillow and staring blindly at the tent of sheets he'd pulled over himself sometime during the night, Yuri sucked a long, unenthused breath in through his nose before allowing it to trickle out into the warm, humid confines of his fabric cocoon. But you might as well get up, Yu… He managed a sleepy blink, choppy locks of hair still scattered haphazardly across his eyes. Preferably before Mami-san decides to kick your door in.

Flinging his sheets back before he could succumb to the temptation to let his eyes rest for just five more minutes – because when did that ever not backfire? – he propped himself up on his elbows and lethargically scrubbed a hand over his face, raking his bangs back out of his eyes. He felt like he'd hardly slept at all, even though he'd made a concerted effort the night before to go to bed at a decent time, but the nauseating mixture of anxiety and eagerness and lingering sorrow had kept his mind racing frantically in circles despite his best attempts to calm himself.

Pacing hadn't eased his restive legs; reading and listening to music hadn't soothed his uneasy mind. Hell, not even masturbating had helped to expel the restlessness that had plagued him. The only thing he had to show for all his exertions was the musky smell of sweat and semen that had dominated the air in his little cocoon, clinging to his skin.

Right. Well. He gave a leisurely full-body stretch to wring the lethargy from his muscles. First order of business is a shower, I guess. Yawning again as he dragged himself out of bed, Yuri lurched onto his feet and shuffled around his small bedroom to gather a set of street clothes. Most of the things he'd need while he was away at Seikyo Academy had already been sent ahead, but a significant portion of the trappings from his life before he and his family had moved remained sequestered away in the boxes pushed into the corners of his room, waiting patiently for him to unpack them. However, considering the condensed window of opportunity he'd had between the time they'd moved and the beginning of his third year in high school, Yuri simply hadn't bothered. He'd had other things on his mind, and if he was being brutally honest with himself, he didn't think he was ready to face all the memories that would accompany those belongings. Not yet, anyways.

As a result, with the exception of the necessary furniture, his new room was mostly barren. The one allowance he'd deigned to make was a framed photo that he'd delicately situated on his desk, and it was this same photo that he faltered to stare at in the morning light, his arms full of the clothes he'd gathered for after his shower.

Lured in by the magnetism of happier memories, he padded across his room and – shifting his clothes into the crook of his left arm – gingerly lifted the frame from his desk, warmly regarding the faces grinning behind the glass one by one. All of his closest friends from his old high school were there, joking and laughing as they'd crammed themselves together so that they would all fit, wrapped in their jackets and scarves and all kinds of hats during their winter holidays. And there, right in the middle of them all, was Zenji, flashing his charming, lopsided grin for the camera, tongue stuck out, one arm hooked around Yuri's neck while his free hand proudly displayed devil horns. The choppy bleach-blonde hair that had so vexed the teachers – his sides and back kept shaved short and left their natural inky brown – had been left down, brushing over an eyebrow with ragged tips catching in his lashes.

As Yuri's gaze wandered to the ugly bruise and its accompanying abrasion on his friend's high, sculpted cheekbone, however, fingers tracing the marks with a feather-light touch, the warm glow in his heart dampened until it was snuffed out beneath the weight of the grief that came crashing in. After an entire year of persistent absences and concerning injuries that he'd always tried to just brush off – after all his uncharacteristic reticence and the pervasive sense that he was hiding something from his friends, from even Yuri – Zenji had been so like his old self that day, so full of life and vivacity…

And now, he was dead.

Jaw gritting, eyes wincing shut against the memories that erupted through his mind – the chaos and the screams and the sheer maddening inexplicability of everything that had culminated in one world-shattering moment of tragedy – Yuri slowly, carefully, set the frame back on his desk, unable to even look at it as he eased the picture face-down on the scuffed wooden surface. Only then did he dare drag his eyes open again to stare down at the back of the picture frame. I'm sorry, Zen… Gods, he could feel his heart breaking all over again – as though his friend was lying limp in his arms as the life bled out of him all over again. But I can't. I'm not ready yet.

Choking back the knot of emotion that had tied itself in his throat, Yuri marched out of his room, hating the moisture gathering in the corners of his eyes as he hurried into the bathroom before either his father or stepmother could realize he was awake and wander upstairs to take notice.

It had been exactly two months since his best friend had been murdered before his very eyes. And not just murdered – butchered by something that shouldn't exist, something that couldn't exist. Something that defied all logic and human comprehension, broke every law that dictated the realistic functions and limitations of the human world…

Exactly like the things who'd taken Yuri's mother from him as a child.

Shunting the thought from his mind while he quietly eased the bathroom door shut behind him, Yuri remained there, leaning heavily on the steady surface for a moment longer as he drew in a protracted breath to calm himself, and rubbed the wetness from his eyes. It took everything he had to try and focus himself on something more innocuous, and in the end, he wound up forcing himself to consider the day ahead of him. He'd pulled a heavy curtain of iron chainmail shut around himself, isolating himself from all thought of those… things and the trauma they'd brought with them.

Focus, Yu, c'mon. Clothes stuffed under an arm, he briskly slapped his cheeks, the sensation helping to ground him yet further in the present.

He and his family had already moved away from the life they'd built in Shikichouji after the disappearance of his mother, but now Yuri was about to move residences once again – this time, without his parents – as he started his third year of high school at the prestigious Seikyo Academy. Starting today – after his six-hour train ride – he'd be residing in the student dorms there, and would likely only come home to visit his family during the lengthier breaks throughout the school year.

A new city. A new school. New students with whom to acquaint himself, who knew neither his history or his family. A completely new environment, a fresh start to some degree – and all of it far, far away from the tragedy that had nearly broken him beyond repair. Hopefully that would be time and distance enough for him to come to terms with what had happened in peace.

Sucking in another stuttering breath and permitting it to trickle out through his lips, Yuri gathered his thoughts and finally hung his clothes for the day on the pegs of the bathroom door. He kept his mind carefully blank as he stripped out of his boxers, and wandered across the open bathing space – both the floor and walls tiled, as was custom in Izanese homes, with a separate area set aside for washing one's body before and after soaking in the deep bathtub. Drains formed a ring around the tub's base to take care of any overflow from the bath as well as the water from showers. The toilet was kept in a different room entirely, with special slippers waiting just inside the doorway for anyone who sought to use it.

Cleanliness is next to godliness, and all that.

He couldn't help but internally cringe a little every time he saw Americans enter homes – regardless of whether it was in movies or reality – with their shoes still on. Did they not realize how much filth they were willingly tracking into their living space? Just thinking about it made his skin crawl, and Mami-san would have actively gone after the intruder with a baseball bat – especially now, in their new home.

Although, he supposed he couldn't really blame her. It was a nice house, he idly mused, peering at his surroundings while he settled himself on the little plastic stool before the wall-mounted showerhead and the shelving installed for housing the necessary bathing products. Between the main floor – for living areas, such as the den, kitchen, and dining room, as well as the washing room, and a second toilet – and the second storey which housed their bedrooms, an office, and the bathroom, it was larger than the apartment they'd once resided in, providing ample room by Izanese standards for a family of three. And as expensive as it had been, his father and Mameha had considered it well worth the investment, proudly declaring it their forever home.

Well… Mami-san had called it their forever home. His father, now retired after a long career as a highly decorated and respected lawman, had referred to it as their "old folks'" home with a wry grin.

To be honest, Yuri still felt the lingering remnants of guilt that his father and stepmother had uprooted their lives to move here for him, but he knew better than anyone that if he voiced those concerns any more than he already had, Mameha was sure to cuff him upside the back of his head and scold him for making yet more apologies. He was grateful that they'd understood why he could no longer stomach residing in Shikichouji, and why his nights had been plagued with terrors that left him exhausted and hollow-eyed during the day, stalked by depression and anxiety, but even so…

Heaving a sigh as he finally turned on the faucet, scooting his stool back with a hand poised under the rushing water pouring from the showerhead and waiting until it had warmed up somewhat, Yuri felt his thoughts drifting once more into that problematic warzone that had torn his life apart.

So, eyes and lips clenched, he abruptly thrust his head under the flow of water and stiffened immediately, biting back a shudder as the still-cool deluge forcibly wrenched him back into the present. It soaked his hair and carved shiver-inducing paths over his naked skin, still flushed with the warmth from his probably wasn't the best way he'd ever thought of grounding his wandering thoughts, but there was no denying its efficacy – especially when it continued to find all of the warm nooks and crannies yet untouched, giving rise to a blanket of gooseflesh that soon covered his entire body. Bloody hells that's cold!

He wasted no more time before he started scrubbing his fingers through his dark hair, ensuring it was drenched from root to tip before he turned his attention to rubbing some soap into a lather between his hands while the water slowly warmed.

First day of a new year, Yu, his mind murmured to itself while he worked. New friends, new teacher, new life. He could only hope that the tragedy that had been dogging him at his previous school wouldn't follow him to Seikyo, and found himself wondering if perhaps he should stop at a shrine on their way to the train station to pray for good luck. Surely his parents wouldn't mind such a tiny detour, and he felt like he was going to need all the luck he could possibly get his hands on. Ever since he was a child, he'd been a magnet for… strange, inexplicable things.

Bizarre visions that had been chalked up first as imaginary friends, and then, as he grew older, hallucinations brought on by trauma-induced mental illness. The mystery surrounding the circumstances of his mother's disappearance, and his recollections of the event that people had always dismissed as the fancies of a child. The indescribable, ethereal things that no amount of therapy or medication had been able to eliminate entirely – and then there was the case of the monster that had attacked their school in Shikichouji, and everything Zenji had done, the things he'd summoned, the way he'd moved with inhuman speed and dexterity throughout that entire conflict in a desperate bid to save his friends…

And yet, for all his impossible feats, in the end, none of it had been enough. Their mutual friends had survived, true, and although several dozen students had been injured in the damage caused to the school building – an incident that had been written off as a lack of structural integrity, an earthquake, anything and everything but what Yuri had seen with his own two eyes – there had been no fatalities.

No fatalities, that was, except for…

His mouth felt plastered with muddy particles of debris, his voice choked as he stared blindly into the clouds of dust where his friend's body had been flung, and from which it had yet to surface. The name was a hoarse croak on his lips, and then he was scrambling unsteadily to his feet, joints reduced to jelly by everything he'd just witnessed as his friend's name escaped a second time in a cry, while his ungainly body lurched into a run. And then, when the clouds began to settle, and his friend failed to reappear, it turned into a ragged scream.

A soft tap at the bathroom window abruptly pulled Yuri from the brume of his thoughts. Perched on his stool before the wall-mounted showerhead, soapy cloth still adhered to where he had been industriously scrubbing it over his arm and shoulder – his body operating on a level entirely separate from the dark maw in which his mind had abruptly lost itself – Yuri peered across the bathroom to the rippled glass of the window above the empty bath, staring long and hard at it with a curious frown.

Bird, maybe? After all, it wouldn't have been the first time a bird had dashed itself against one of his windows, and it took him a moment longer to recall the precise details of the sound, puzzling over something – anything – he may have missed while he'd been torturing himself with his memories. But that was way too soft, even for something really tiny. Unless, of course, it had merely grazed the window with a foot or part of its wing before it flew off again. That was always a possibility.

He'd seen plenty of birds who'd been deceived by a clear pane of glass only to suffer the consequences – of course, to them, it probably didn't seem like a barrier at all until they actually crashed into it… But that was where things stopped making sense. The glass of this particular window was frosted as well as rippled to ensure the privacy of bathers, so the bird should have been able to see it clear as day.

He huffed a soft "huh" into the silence. Weird. Dismissing the lingering curiosity with a shrug of his brows, Yuri gave a brisk shake of his head to rid the cobwebs from his mind as he returned to the task of washing himself, scrubbing under his arm and across his chest and savoring the welcoming warmth of the water. He glided through his morning ablutions with practised efficiency, occupying his mind with idle thoughts of his new school, but it was when he'd begun rinsing the shampoo out of his dark, thick hair with the hand-held shower wand that he felt it – a strange fist gently, almost tauntingly closing itself around something in his chest. The inexplicable, but undeniable certainty rising in his mind and languidly rolling over in his stomach that something – some nebulous, unknowable thing – had… changed.

With warm water still sluicing over his naked skin, steam rising in the air around him, Yuri's movements crawled to a halt, oblivious to the suds drifting down his body like freshly fallen leaves on an autumnal creek. His hands remained where they were, one frozen in the act of scrubbing its fingers through his sodden hair, dark tendrils dangling around his bent countenance, while the other was still poised with the hose over his head.

Thickly lashed lids crept open, carefully blinking the trickling water from his eyes. He stared blankly down at the fluids washing down the drain just beyond his naked feet. Bubbles of soap and clouds of suds whisked themselves towards the void on the tides of water streaming off of his body. He remained fixed, precisely as he was, as he tried to make sense of the thing blooming inside of him.

Keen hazel eyes were watching, watching, staring long and intently enough at the space just before the drain that the world began to slip out of focus the deeper his mind retreated into his thoughts. Straining to comprehend the source of the feeling that had gripped him so suddenly, his eyes never left the drain, or the water circling it before slipping down, through the grate, and into the darkness.

It was that intense, unfocused haze that first allowed him to glimpse it – a movement, tiny and delicate against the tile – subtle enough that he doubted what his own eyes had shown him. His vision snapped back into focus, peering harder now at the water washing down the drain, watching the swirl and flow, body drawn by the gravity of curiosity to lean in for a better look. Everything seemed to drop away when he saw it again, even while the world immediately around him came into crystalline focus, like nothing outside the span of his arms suddenly mattered anymore.

An utterly unnatural ribbon of translucent perfection was undulating beneath the coursing water's surface. It didn't move with the water, but independently, and the faintest shift of opalescent color glimmered over its surface as it lethargically squirmed against the tile, minute filaments along its tiny body groping about as though in search of something to seek purchase on.

Gods, it couldn't have been any longer than the span between the last knuckle and the very tip of his little finger, and it was only a sliver of its width.

What is that…?

Pale hazel eyes squinted, brow furrowing in concentration as he cocked his head to get a better look at the thing. He could feel memories seething at the very edges of his awareness, beyond a veil of darkness imposed by both time and trauma. It was… familiar, somehow; reminiscent of the imaginary friends he'd had as a boy, but-

Even the suffocating clouds of dust couldn't obscure the sheer size of that shadowy monstrosity swatting with all the speed permitted by its lumbering frame at the white-clad figure dancing around its feet, distracted only partially from the second figure – Zenji's figure – as his friend darted with impossible dexterity about its head and shoulders. But it kept making that horrible, nerve-grating sound, roaring and screeching at the same time, loud enough, harsh enough to leave him doubled over on the ground clutching at his ears. He couldn't do anything but watch from behind a veil of tears as enormous, viciously sharp teeth bared themselves in a translucent, featureless black face, and the shapeless, shifting tendril of its hand loomed up and seized that tiny nuisance from its shoulder…

"Yu-kun?" His stepmother's voice and the knock on the door shattered both the silence as well as the reverie he'd so suddenly lost himself in, and he found himself gasping for breath, the sting in his eyes far removed from the soap that had seeped into them. "Yu-kun, are you almost done in there?"

Abandoning the showerhead on the bathroom floor, Yuri scrubbed viciously at his wet, burning eyes as Mameha continued to call through the door.

"I have some breakfast almost ready for you if you want it, so you'd better hurry it up or it'll get cold!"

Brusquely sniffling back a breath, Yuri quietly attempted to clear his throat before he called back to her, hating how the distress was still so obvious in the hitch of his voice. "I'll be down in a minute!"

When only silence had the decency to answer him, he sagged forward over his knees, fingers clawed and buried in his sodden hair as he clutched at his head, eyes squeezed shut, breaths hissing through his nose as he tried to calm himself. Don't, Yu… Don't… It wasn't real, it couldn't have been real…

But then, what had Zenji been fighting? What had destroyed their school? What had killed his best friend, left him gasping for breaths, choking on his own blood as he'd died in Yuri's arms?

Yu, stop, his mind begged, already crumbling beneath the weight of the questions that would never be answered. Just like his mother's disappearance. Just stop, please…

After a long, excruciating moment, his heaving breaths steadied themselves, the panic calming to a pervasive tremble. His fingers woodenly relaxed, and trickled down to clutch at the nape of his neck, breathing through parted, quivering lips until he could force himself to pry his lids open. They immediately flitted up to the drain… but the thing was gone. Even when he reached forward to tentatively run quivering fingers over the tiles surrounding the drain, he felt nothing but tile and water.

His fingers weakly curled in on themselves, and Yuri straightened on his little plastic stool, hand retreating to press a loose fist against his chest, and the small pearl that dangled there, ever present, within its delicate teardrop cage on a sturdy box chain necklace.

See? His thoughts attempted a frail chuckle. Not real. Probably just a trick of the light.

Even so, he pulled in a tremulous breath, raked his fingers back through his drenched hair, and tried to ignore the way his hands continued to shake while he hastily finished washing himself and reattached the shower head to the wall. He was only partially dry when he wrapped himself in a towel and hurried out of the bathroom with his clothes in his arms, desperate to put the ominous sighting behind him.


By the time Yuri jogged downstairs, he'd managed to stymie the encroaching panic attack he could feel clawing its way up from his chest and dampened it down to a lurking sense of disquiet. He'd taken his pills – the ones meant to stop the hallucinations without ever really doing so – and dressed himself, mindfully redirecting his thoughts every time he found them wandering. He'd managed to shroud himself in a cocoon of nothingness, keeping his mind quiet and empty as every therapist had taught him. Even as he greeted his stepmother as he wandered into their kitchen, however, it only took her the most fleeting of glances – and then another, in quick succession – for a wrinkle of concern to crease her brow.

"Holy hell, are you okay? You're white as a sheet." She finished setting his plate on the kitchen table – an omelette neatly folded with a drizzle of tomato paste – before hastily wiping her hands on her apron and hurrying over to press the backs of her cool fingers to his cheeks and forehead. "You're not feverish or anything," she murmured to herself. Bright hazel eyes, their lashes long and dark with expertly-applied mascara, flicked up to him as she slid the back of her hand under his bangs again to feel his forehead. "Is it the new prescription? Have you been feeling nauseous or anemic or anything?"

Acutely aware of the way his father – already seated at the table, his morning coffee and newspaper in hand – was quietly observing him, Yuri gave a gentle shake of his head, a wan smile on his lips. "I'm just tired, that's all. But thanks, Mami-san."

Slender and ageless with looks an aspiring idol would kill for, her long, soft brown hair pulled up into a ponytail that fell in loose curls against the back of her neck, Mameha's petite shoulders sagged only slightly as she nodded with a sad, understanding smile. "Well, go eat, okay?" Her grin twitched a fraction of an inch wider as she gave him one last pat on the cheek before she returned to the counter to reclaim her own cup of coffee, her tone dry. "I even managed not to burn it this time and everything."

Yuri huffed out a tiny chuckle as he took his seat at the table, where Mameha joined him shortly thereafter. "Looks like Dad'll make a proper housewife out of you yet," he joked with a half-hearted smile, sending his stepmother a teasing sidelong glance as he gathered up his chopsticks.

She slouched forward onto the elbow she'd propped on the table's polished wooden surface, her pretty countenance flattened into an unimpressed scowl that would have been perfectly at home on the face of a low-level gangster as she leveled a warning finger at him. "You watch your mouth, you li'l punk. The day he starts expecting me to be housewifey is the day I start cutting fingers off at the knuckle." Wagging her extended little finger to emphasize her point while his father chuckled, she settled back into her seat, the thuggish look smoothing itself away and seemingly reducing her to that which she'd just railed against a moment prior. She slung an elbow over the back of her seat, reclaimed her cup of coffee, and cocked her head at him with a motherly smile. "So? You excited? Big day today."

Yuri neatly severed a piece of omelette with his chopsticks, dabbing it absently in the tomato paste while the faintest hint of a grin touched at the corner of his mouth. "More nervous, if I'm being totally honest." Popping the morsel into his mouth – the eggs were light and fluffy as he chewed, sprinkled with herbs and complimented perfectly by the crisp taste of tomatoes – Yuri hummed appreciatively and flashed his stepmother a more genuine smile. "This is really good, Mami-san."

"Why thank you!" She girlishly chirped, beaming as she cocked her head momentarily on the web of her interlaced fingers. A moment later, however, the expression faded, her cheek tilted against her fingers. "But are you sure you're okay? You're so pale…"

Gaze downcast as he worked at systematically dismantling his omelette, snipping off piece after piece, Yuri managed a tiny nod. "Yeah. I just…" His encounter with the tiny, worm-like thing in the washroom screamed through his thoughts again, and Yuri sucked in a stuttering breath as his hand stilled. It took everything he had to prevent himself from poking and prodding his food around on his plate – and once again, he could feel his father's dark, shrewd eyes observing him from over the lip of his newspaper. It was hard not to feel like his dad always saw straight through him – what with him having been a detective and all, and still fully equipped with the keen mind and innumerable skills he'd acquired over the course of his career – but Yuri had been convincing himself his whole life that he had nothing to hide. You couldn't hide that which didn't exist, after all. Even so, he felt like a guilty child as he softly admitted, "I didn't sleep very well last night, that's all."

At this, his father finally abandoned his pretense of reading the paper, allowing it to sag in his hands as he peered at him from over the rims of his reading glasses. "You're having those nightmares again, aren't you?"

Yuri snorted out a wry huff of laughter. "Amazingly enough, no." His voice dampened itself in the abrupt hush that began swelling within the kitchen. Without even looking, he knew Mameha and his father had shared a lingering glance with one another, always silently conferring over the likelihood that he might not be telling them the entire truth. "I just couldn't sleep. Honest." A weak smile hooked itself in one corner of his mouth as he flicked a pale hazel glance up at his parents. "Like I said… Nerves, y'know? Had the jitters all night, and I just… couldn't seem to get myself to settle down."

"Well," Mameha sighed, still not wholly convinced, "as long as that's all it is."

A plastic smile stretched his mouth in a fashion that felt uncomfortably unnatural as he fixed his stepmother with a reassuring look. "That's it. Promise." He fought the nervous impulse to finger the pearl hiding beneath his shirt, and instead allowed his mind to take solace from the simple knowledge that it was there, warm against the skin of his chest, offering a strange kind of comfort nothing else did. It made him feel… safe. Protected. Like someone, somewhere out there, was watching over him with the warmth and benevolence of a guardian spirit.

Or maybe all of that was nothing more than a delusion born of a sick, suffering mind… just like the lingering conviction that he could see things other people couldn't. As much as he tried to convince himself that those things weren't real – as much as he struggled to find a more rational explanation in spite of everything screaming the contrary – this was a delusion he was more than willing to allow himself to believe in.

As simple as it was, his pearl had to mean something. When Yuri woke up on the riverbank as a child, half-drowned, surrounded by concerned bystanders while his mother was nowhere to be found, that pearl had been clenched in his pudgy little fist like his life depended on it, and while his eyes had been wandering through the groves of legs in stunned confusion, he'd seen crouched amongst them – for only the most fleeting of moments – a boy. A boy who'd been soaked to the bone, as he was. A boy no older than Yuri himself who'd been squatted down on his haunches, sitting there, hands on his knees, shaggy hair plastered to his face in white ropes, while impossibly blue eyes had waited for him to meet them.

A boy who'd graced him with a friendly, secretive smile before Yuri had sluggishly blinked the water out of his eyes, and then, when he'd opened them next, the boy had disappeared.

But the pearl – warm in his fist, perfectly round, and as white as the water-matted hair on the boy's head with a delicate opalescent sheen – had remained, and even now, fourteen interminably long years later, it meant more to Yuri than he could possibly comprehend. It was, perhaps, the only mystery in his life that he was content to leave unsolved, both a secret and a promise that he'd worn around his neck since the first grade.

Beyond the feeling of strength and comfort, however, it had begun to develop a curious sense of significance, and more so since Zenji's death. Yuri couldn't count the number of times he'd woken from a nightmare, only to end up simply lying in bed, watching that caged pearl spin on its chain in the darkness, and wondering.

Never really expecting answers, but always, always wondering…

What really happened that day?


To Be Continued…


Like it? Hate it? Wish it would spontaneously combust? Leave a review and tell me all about it! C'mon, I wanna hear everything!

Surprise surprise! I'm alive! I know, I'm sorry, it's not SKoS or Redux, but this is an idea that has been plaguing me for years, and I've finally managed to get enough of the details figured out to actually do something with it. It's a little bit different from what I normally do, but… I've been itching for something different. And this was really the only thing that apparently felt like cooperating while I was going through my first semester in college. (Well, this and another idea I've been toying with. I'm… uncertain whether or not I want to proceed with that one, since there's a lot of material that hits maybe a little too close to home for me. On the one hand, I like the characters, and it's something I want to write. On the other… I dunno. Like I said, I have mixed feelings.)

But this was pretty much writing itself whether I liked it or not… even when I had massive projects that I probably should have been working on. The plot bunnies submitted a list of demands and threatened me with extensive psychological harm and/or distraction if I did not comply. Not even kidding. Within a span of about a month, I managed to write almost twenty pages in size 7.5 Calibri font, and when I actually stopped and looked at the page/word count, I was more than a little floored. Like… "How the FUCK did that happen?" kind of floored. So… I'll go with it for now, and maybe that will get the pipes unclogged so I can get some work done on SKoS and Redux. (I've been kind of stuck idea-wise for SKoS, and Redux… Well, that just hasn't been cooperating in general. I blame Rachel.)