2019-04-06 - TIMELINE X: Shopping
Nori and Rei look for the future together.
| OOC - IC Date:|
04-06-2019 - Everywhen
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SY7h4VEd_Wk - Astronomy
Two hands collide on the edge of a row of books in the Ohtori library.
One head, with black ringlets, leans out. This head's eyes are blue.
The other head, with sleek black hair, leans out. This head's eyes are purple.
"If you want it, you take it," Rei Hino says.
"Ah... but you reached for it first," Nori Ankou says.
"Tch. It's a library book, isn't it? I'll get it the next time."
"Still... it's alright. I'm not in any hurry."
"Ha ha... I'm annoying you a little, aren't I?"
The seed is planted.
It is the fifth time they have gone shopping together. Outside it is a clammy and unpleasant winter, with gray skies. In the train, it's a little crowded, but hardly packed.
As the rails go clicker-clack beneath them, there is a companionable silence. A feeling of intermediate fatigue and closeness. Nori had been leaning back with her eyes closed; Rei had been investigating something on her phone. So it is that Nori speaks.
"... Hino," she says, with the soft fondness in her voice.
"Ankou," is the reply, with a certain rough-silk to it.
"You remember when we started talking, right...?"
"When I chipped your nail in the library, yes."
Nori's eyes open and she looks up at the roof of the train car. She takes a deep breath. "You were reaching for the same book I was, right?"
The phone clicking stops. "Mm."
"The one about the future," Nori says. "The one with the essays about it... from that series, for the high school kids."
"... What about it?"
"Do you think the future is fixed, or that it's mutable...?"
The crackling heat of the sacred flame washes over Nori Ankou. Nori is seated in a plain robe, as befits a guest in this holy place. Her ringlets are gone; but she wears her hair in a simple part rather than with bangs. Her hair is flatter, glossier than Rei's. They don't look that similar, if you see them move.
"I don't think I see it," Nori says.
"You don't have to see anything. Not everyone has visions... it's good for your spirit to sit like this, no matter what!" Rei replies.
"Mm," Nori says.
Moments pass. Nori thinks back to other memories. To a solitary life, or something near solitary. To that boy with the guitar and the frosted tips in his hair. He disappeared one day, and Nori never knew why. It was a nine days' wonder, but it was the kind of thing they don't encourage you to dwell on. Perhaps he had moved away.
Perhaps he had never been there at all. It certainly felt like that.
Rei says, "I suppose you're wondering why we should look at all."
Rei closes her eyes with a momentary smile of a certain kind of triumph. "If the future is mutable, what good is it to look ahead, hmm? All you'll do is see a few things... yet I keep coming here, and reading the fire. Why do you think that is, Ankou?"
"Oh, that's easy?"
Rei opens one eye. "Iiiis that so?"
"Of course," Nori says. "It's because,"
"The past is mutable, too," la Sirene des Etoiles says, as she sets the broken pieces of the sack of old teacups in the sand of the beach.
The fall-time wind is gray and heavy.
Sailor Mars complains as she walks in with a heavy bucket of sea water, "I don't get this superstition of yours, and none of this makes any sense. How can the past be mutable? Things have happened! They're over. Maybe you could go into the future, but -"
And then she pauses, and she thinks of a singular counter example, and la Sirene des Etoiles smiles.
La Sirene des Etoiles doesn't know about Chibi-usa. In fact, la Sirene des Etoiles hasn't spoken to Sailor Mars in months. Nori Ankou hasn't said much either. They shared no clubs and no other activities. Shopping is a bond, but it can only go so far.
"They aren't even past," la Sirene says.
"Right now," she says, "you're upset with me because I helped the Outer Soldiers, aren't you?"
"You could have killed her," Sailor Mars snaps. "You could have killed all of them."
"But I didn't," la Sirene says - "but your memory says maybe I did."
"Ugh! Stop it. And what is with this ladder, anyway," Sailor Mars says.
"Many years ago," la Sirene says - and pauses - "Are you rolling your eyes?"
Sailor Mars's jaw tightens. Then she thinks of her missing friend. And then she says, quietly, "Go on."
"Many years ago," la Sirene says, "something happened, but there were almost no witnesses. We knew, in the far off Sea, that two died... and five were banished, never-ever to return. And that most of us, all of us in fact save one, had fled in their battle. But none of us were there to see it happen. When we did return, though, we could see the city laying out there, before us, spread and smashed. And we could see the patterns of our old lives, now drowned."
"Ugh!," Sailor Mars complains: "Oh, please, you're not as fancy as you think you are. Do you think you're smarter than everyone else when you go on like you're reciting feudal poetry? I can't stand the way you -- you --"
Sailor Mars doesn't finish the sentence. Her heart won't quite let her.
"There," la Sirene says.
She walks over; draws up the ladder; extends it to its utmost. Then she sets it in the sand, carefully.
"So which of us goes up it?" Sailor Mars asks.
"We both do."
Somehow they managed to climb the six meter ladder. At the top of it, both of them stood very still, hip to hip, as they had to be. The bucket of sea water sat on the little shelf that was meant to hold cans of paint.
It was growing dark.
"When do we pour the water?"
"Soon," la Sirene said, her eyes closed.
"Is there going to be some kind of a signal or... or... You're not even looking! Why are your eyes shut like that?! Are you just trying to mess with me? My friend is in their hands! This is urgent!! You're the only hope I had, and if you're just wasting my time, then-"
La Sirene des Etoiles shoved the bucket forwards, abruptly. Sailor Mars was startled enough to leap off the ladder, which swayed in counterpoint. La Sirene did not let go even as it fell on her direction. Sailor Mars landed en pointe; la Sirene was less graceful, hitting the sand.
The water fell like a fist and smashed into the carefully arrayed pieces of glass, and the singular plastic figurine that had been set in the center of the fragments. Blue hair, a white jumpsuit... it was a close enough approximation.
Sailor Mars shouted something, which la Sirene did not hear, stunned by the fall. When Sailor Mars looked at the scattered scraps of crockery, she felt an eerie tension in her spine, though: for the sand had a suggestion of a shape, and a loose outline that suggested a road, and three square pieces in different shades of blue surrounded where the tiny figurine had ended up.
In the center of a little rise... surrounded, by some trick of the sand's density, by water. An island, as sure as sin.
To make it worse there was a numeral from the bottom of a particular tea-cup. Sailor Mars raised it carefully. 13.
Sailor Mars looked towards la Sirene, bit her lip, and departed. Soon enough she told her friends where Sailor Mercury had been taken.
It was the last time that la Sirene and Sailor Mars spoke, or met, for time was very short, though neither suspected.
The tears on her cheek had wetted grains of sand. Soon enough, they had become a crust.
It was nearly midnight, la Sirene knew. She had struggled to do this, and even now she had doubted its wisdom. She had stood with Sailor Neptune that once because of those so-persuasive words. The Silence was coming. What good was honor in the face of a world? There may be other worlds than this, la Sirene thought, but this is the one where I was born. Where all my friends lived. Where the boy with the frosted hair is, somewhere.
Was he real or did I dream him, she thought, as she rose to her knees, shivering violently. She could taste salt in her mouth, and cold in her bones.
Like an old woman, she shuffled forwards to the space of the Luxor game.
"I thought" la Sirene said, "that if we all remembered the past differently, it would change. That even if it wasn't perfect, we could forget... or change what we remembered. That we could find what was, again, and reach for what we'd hoped for, at that time. That it wouldn't all be - wouldn't - uugh - Hinoooooo," and the tears came, and when they had passed, it really was after midnight.
La Sirene got out her phone, and turned on the light, to look at her results.
The pattern she read was much smaller, simpler, than the one that Sailor Mars had cast down with her inundation. A simple one, one she could have done in the bathtub or a kitchen sink with only a stepstool.
The fragments formed eight Xes. Impossible - Impossible - Impossibility beyond impossibility.
The past could not be changed.
La Sirene felt misery settle on her shoulders. She raised her eyes across the bay - but then she turned her head, to look up the shore.
Something on the bay side was on fire - but, la Sirene thought, what was that strange light?