[identity profile] amylan.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] redpenwriters
Title: Greyscale
Author: [livejournal.com profile] amylan
Beta: N/A
Rating: K+
Genre: Shoujo, Fantasy
Notes/Warnings: None
Summary: There's a reason why Magical Girls are rarely grown up.
Length: 3544



There was nothing that said that that faith wasn’t misplaced, though. Over the course of the next few months, Ami and Selphi – and even Hitomi, occasionally – tried to explain to Aya what had happened that day on the street. They tried to explain to her that Aya would have most likely ended up dead if she had gone with Himeko, and they even projected the thoughts that they had picked up from Himeko into Aya’s mind. Nothing worked. Aya remained firmly convinced that the two girls were out to ruin her life.

They were just jealous of how happy I had been with Himeko, she told herself. That was all. They were just jealous… Especially Miss Waters. Really, what right did she have to impose anything on me? I am not her toy to play with; I can have friends beside her.

“Aya-chan.”

Aya’s heart stopped as she heard that voice. She turned slowly. “…Himeko-chan.”

Himeko smiled at her friend and extended her hand. “My offer from before is still open. Do you want to go with me?”

Aya didn’t hesitate. She grabbed hold of the other girl’s hand firmly. Her smile widening, Himeko pulled the girl into her embrace and teleported the two of them in a ripple of air. The people around them let out cries of surprise at two girls vanishing into thin air.

Ami leaned against the wall, watching the scene from across the street. “She’s back~” she said in a sing-song voice.

“And it looks like she hasn’t given up on Aya-chan, either,” Selphi noted. She sucked on the ice pop she had bought at a nearby stand. “Looks like trouble’s on the horizon… again.”

“Think Arashi’s gonna turn traitor on us?” Ami asked amicably.

“Wouldn’t doubt it. Stubborn girl…” Selphi sighed a little. “Then again, I suppose that I’m to blame, right? For not being nice enough to her or whatever?”

“Well, bein’ nice to her might’ve kept all o’ this from happenin’,” Ami pointed out. “So, yeah, it probably is yer fault.”

“…That’s it? You’re not going to crucify me?” Selphi leaned over to look at the other girl curiously, sucking on the ice pop once more. “Are you sure that you’re feeling all right?”

Ami scowled and swatted at the other girl. “I’m not gonna crucify you unless yer not gonna clean up after yerself,” she snapped.

“And what’s that mean?”

“Simple.” The onmyouji gave a small shrug. “If Arash turns traitor, then it’s up to you to subdue her – by any means necessary.”

“You mean put her down,” Selphi said flatly.

“If that’s what it takes.” It was Ami’s turn to look at Selphi curiously. “Is that gonna be a problem?”

Selphi was silent for a long moment, keeping her mouth busy by sucking away at her icy treat until it was gone. Then she grinned, allowing the wooden stick to stick out of her teeth. “Don’t worry. I’ll do whatever it takes to keep this world safe,” she replied. “After all, that’s my job, isn’t it?”

“Right.” Ami smiled grimly. “I wonder if yer gonna be as enthusiastic when the time comes for you to do your duty.”

The American gave a shrug before pulling the popsicle stick out of her mouth. “We’ll see, won’t we?”

***

“Himeko-chan, where are we?” Aya asked, her voice shaking a little as she spoke. She spun around in place, looking everything over with wide eyes.

The place that the two girls had landed it was dark and rocky – Aya was certain that they were in a cave of some sort, one that was very far underground judging from the temperature. She may have had a higher body temperature than most people because of her element, but even here, Aya felt as though she were freezing.

Looking around more carefully, Aya realized that while they may have been underground, they didn’t seem to be in a cave. She could just make out walls, though she couldn’t see the ceiling at all – it was far too high up and there wasn’t enough lighting.

“We’re in the antechamber of my lord,” Himeko replied serenely. “Let me explain: I want you to help me release my lord from his prison. He’s been trapped in a monolith for so long…” She sighed softly. “I can’t imagine how lonely he must be. I want him to be free of it, to be able to walk about the earth once more.”

“And what do I have to do with this lord of yours?” Aya asked suspiciously, beginning to back away.

“I know how to unseal him from his cage,” Himeko explained, “But to do it, I need someone with strong magical power to serve as my lord’s avatar.” She smiled at the other girl and walked over to caress her cheek. “You’re the strongest person that I know, Aya-chan. I know that you would be perfect to help me.”

“And I am to just be sacrificed like a pawn for you and your lord,” the blonde said bitterly, jerking away from the other girl’s touch. “Miss Waters and Miss Aomori were right. You just want me to be a human sacrifice!”

“You’re so much more to me than a human sacrifice,” Himeko insisted. “I promise you that you’d become a goddess as my lord’s avatar. You would be the strongest being on the planet – able to serve justice as you saw fit, and to shape creation as you wished it.”

“What kind of person do you think I am?” Aya demanded. “Some kind of tyrant-“

“Did you know that your precious friend Selphi has been keeping secrets from you?” Himeko asked suddenly.

“…What?”

“She died a while back.” Himeko examined her nails. “Didn’t she tell you?”

“I…”

“Oh, she didn’t? My, she’s not a very good friend at all, is she?”

“…Miss Aomori told me, but… I did not think that…” Aya frowned. “Why did not she tell me…?”

“I guess that she just doesn’t care about you all that much,” Himeko replied. “I’ve never lied to you, Aya-chan. I let you know what I was doing. Won’t you please help me with this small favor?”

Aya pursed her lips. “I… Well, I…”

“You don’t need to make a decision right this moment,” Himeko told the girl, coming close again and stroking both of her cheeks. “I’m sure that you need time to think it over. But if you decide that you want to… I have a small request.”

The blonde looked at the other girl warily. “Yes?”

“I want you to kill Selphi for me,” Himeko said. “As proof of your loyalty.” With a smile, she sent the girl away from the room, back to where they had disappeared in the first place.

Is it done?

“Not long now, my lord,” Himeko replied, a dreamy smile playing across her lips as she looked at where Aya had once stood. “Not long at all.”

***

Selphi made a habit of expecting the unexpected – or, more accurately, not expecting anything and just failing to be surprised. Unfortunately, there were still times that Selphi was taken completely off-guard by events.

Case in point, a frazzled-looking Aya, still wearing her school uniform, showing up on her doorstep was not something that Selphi had thought would happen, and the older girl froze in confusion. “Aya-chan?”

“Selphi…” Aya paused, looking as though she were trying to figure out what to say. Then Selphi realized that that was exactly what the other girl was doing and that she was accidentally skimming off Aya’s thoughts.

“Selphi, I have to know…”

“What’s up?” The water witch backed out of the doorway and made a gesture with her free hand to invite the other girl into the room, but Aya shook her head and stood in place.

“Did you die?” the blonde finally blurted out.

Selphi stopped. “…Why do you ask?”

Aya’s shoulders slumped, as though Selphi had confirmed something that Aya really hadn’t wanted to know – or wanted to be true. “You did… You should have told me!” she yelled.

“This isn’t the sort of conversation that we ought to be having right outside the door-“ Selphi began to warn the other girl, but Aya abruptly cut her off.

“Fuck you, Selphi! I have a right to know this! Now why didn’t you tell me that you died?”

Selphi leaned against the door, crossing her arms. “Ami-chan already told you that I had died, didn’t she? I didn’t see a reason to tell you information you already knew.”

“You still should have told me yourself,” Aya snapped, shoving the other girl backwards. The push didn’t really affect Selphi’s balance, but she moved back regardless. Aya followed the girl inside and Selphi kicked the door closed once the blonde was clear.

“You should have told me,” Aya repeated through gritted teeth. “I had a right to know!”

“Would it have changed anything?” Selphi challenged.

“…What?”

“Think about it, Aya-chan. This whole time, Ami-chan and I have been trying to get through to you that that Himeko girl was evil, but you wouldn’t listened to us. I figured if I told you, you’d just say that I was trying to guilt-trip you into agreeing with us, or that I was lying and trying to manipulate you so you’d be more sympathetic or some other tripe like that.” Selphi turned away and entered the living room, flopping onto the couch and propping her legs up on one of the armrests.

Aya followed her. “I would not have done that.”

“Yes, you would have,” Selphi replied, far too patiently for a person that was more or less bitching out her ally. “You’re not the most reasonable of people, Aya-chan, and when you don’t want to listen, you don’t listen, no matter what anyone else says. So forgive me, but I didn’t feel like having to explain to you that yes, I had died; yes, there was medical documentation to that effect; and no, the documentation was not forged. “

The blonde was silent for a long moment, then headed for the door. Selphi winced as she heard the door slam shut. “Yep, she’s pissed,” she said to herself.

Well, can you really blame her? Even that priestess told you that you ought to tell her outright.

“Yes, yes, I’m once again paying for one of the many mistakes I’ve made,” Selphi muttered under her breath in response. “Excuse me for not wanting my head bitten off. Don’t you have anything better to do that to taunt me?”

Not really, was the voice’s response. Other than making sure that all these voices in your head don’t end up driving the both of us insane, there’s not much else for me to do in here nowadays. Don’t you have any hunts to go on or anything?

Selphi laughed at the tone of hopeful pleading. “Someone’s a little desperate, aren’t we?”

I’m boooooored, the voice whined. And I can’t have any real fun with you until you get your memories back, so I’m just stuck for right now.

“My memories back?” Selphi frowned. “What memories?”

Oops. The voice laughed. Well, I guess you’ll just have to wait and see, won’t you?

“What memories are you talking about?” Selphi demanded. There was only silence. “Dammit!”

“Selphi?” her grandmother called out from her mother’s bedroom, speaking her native Korean. “Who are you talking to?”

“Myself, grandmother,” Selphi called back, speaking Korean as well. “Just like usual…”

***

“Hello, Ami Aomori speak—“

“Okay, so, it looks like our troubles may be started a lot sooner than we thought,” Selphi started without waiting for the other girl to finish speaking. “Aya came over to my house and asked me if I died.”

“…I told her that ya did.”

“Obviously she didn’t believe you. Equally obvious is that our little problem is apparently a spin doctor from how pissed off Aya was at me.”

She heard Ami sigh. “Perfect. This is just what we need right now – Arashi goin’ nuts ‘cause she doesn’t like listenin’ to people.”

“I pointed that out to her, actually,” Selphi noted in a cheery voice. “Funnily enough, she didn’t take to that revelation too well.”

“…It’s Arashi, Waters. How else would she take it?”

“Point taken,” Selphi replied.

“Just remember what we talked about today, wouldja?” Ami asked. “About if she ends up turning traitor?”

“I haven’t forgotten. Don’t worry, I don’t forget my promises – or my duties.”

***

And once again, Selphi was taken by surprise. This time she really couldn’t be blamed, though – most girls didn’t have people suddenly appear in their bedroom after taking a shower. Especially not when they lived on the eighth story of a building.

So it was quite understandable that Selphi just stood in the doorway, gawking at the sight of Aya in her room with no evidence of conventional entry. Which meant…

“…Picked your teams, have you, Aya-chan?” the American finally said, going for a light tone despite the situation. She untied her bathrobe and hung it over the footboard of her bed. “Are you sure that you like the side that you’re on?” After a moment, she went to the door to close and lock it.

“I am on the side that supports me and does not lie to me,” Aya replied, her voice completely void of any inflection. Her gaze was just as lifeless.

“Oh, for… I don’t lie, dammit!” Selphi yelled. “I might not tell the straight truth, but I don’t lie. Quit saying that I do.”

“Regardless,” Aya began, “The side that I have chosen has always been truthful and never withheld information from me.”

“You’re going to hold that against me until we’re both dead and in the ground, aren’t you?”

“So. There is just one more thing that I need to do before my new partner will accept me,” Aya continued.

“And you’ve suddenly appeared in my bedroom, so… You have to seduce me?” She quickly ducked down to avoid the swing of the other girl’s staff toward her head. “Chill out, Aya-chan, you can hurt someone with that thing!”

“Is everything always just a joke to you?!” Aya continued to aim quick, tight swings at the other girl, destroying some of the furniture in the room in the process. Regardless, Selphi continued to dodge out of the way of each and every one of the swings.

“You’re underestimating me again,” Selphi noted. When Aya made another swing, Selphi was quick to grab the staff and refused to let the other girl pull it away from her. “I have your weapon, I know that your hand-to-hand fighting skills are crap, and you can’t use magic because we’re in a building,” she summarized her former-ally’s situation. “So what are you going to do now?”

Aya’s response was to ignite a burst of fire right in the other girl’s face. Selphi jerked away, pulling the staff away from the other girl as she did so. The staff clattered to the ground as Selphi covered her face gingerly with her hands. “Goddammit, woman, are you insane?” she yelled. “You’re going to burn down this whole building if you use that!”

“I do not care,” Aya snapped, tightening her hands into fists. Growling to herself, Selphi raised her hands into her spell-casting position, waiting for Aya’s next move in case she needed to douse out the flames.

It was at that moment that there was a loud banging at the door. “Selphi, what’s going on in there?” her mother demanded in Korean.

“Nothing, Mother!” she called back. “Just fighting for my life as usual.

“…What?!”

Aya didn’t wait another minute. She flung one of her hands forward, her fist opening and sending a wave of fire toward the American. Selphi muttered a quick incantation and quickly dropped her arms to her sides, creating a barrier of water around her. The fire that impacted the barrier hissed and created steam, but some of it struck the walls and the furniture wreckage and began to consume the fuel. Selphi cursed as she cast more spells to douse out the new fires before they went too far.

Taking advantage of the distraction, Aya traced out the shape of a triangular pyramid around in fiery red energy, chanting under her breath. By the time that Selphi was no longer occupied, it was too late for her to interrupt the casting.

“Kings’ Prison.” The pyramid around Aya flared to life, then disappeared into thin air.
Selphi waited for something to happen, but nothing did, so she tried to take a step forward. As soon as she did, though, the pyramid reappeared around her and burnt her flesh. She let out a cry of pain and sank to the floor.

“This is your punishment, Miss Waters,” Aya said softly, ignoring the sounds of banging and sounds of yelling on the other side of the door. “You deserve this for lying to me.”

“Selphi!” the door finally opened and Selphi’s mother rushed in. She was taken aback by the scene in front of her.

Aya’s eyes glinted and raised a hand toward Selphi’s mother. “No!” Selphi snapped, watching in horror as a burst of fire erupted from the girl’s hand. ‘I have to get to my mother!’

To the shock of everyone present, Selphi disappeared from her location and reappeared next time her mother, in just enough time to push her out of the way of the fierce attack. “…What did you…” Aya murmured, staring at the girl in shock.

Selphi shook her head. “Mother, get out of here and get somewhere safe,” she yelled, pushing the woman out the door. “Go!”

“Selphi, I’m not about t—“

“Leave, dammit, before I eat you!” the brunette girl snapped, her eyes lightening slightly as her split’s influence was felt. Kyung-soon faltered for a moment, then ran away. The light blue receded from her eyes and Selphi turned back to Aya. “Now for you.”

Aya was already recovering from her shock and sent another burst of flames at the other girl. Selphi cart wheeled out of the way, wincing a little as she saw the char marks on the wall. Her back to the window, she began to chant and trace out shapes at the same time as Aya, both girls working feverishly to try and completely their spells first.

“Icicle Barrage!” Selphi yelled out in Italian at the same time that Aya yelled, “Phoenix!” As the series of sharpening icicles launched themselves at the opponent, a burst of fire, bigger than the others, was released from Aya’s hands, changing into the form of a firebird.

The icicles sank deeply into Aya and she fell to the ground, rolling onto her back and letting out little mewls of pain. At the same time, the burst of fire caught Selphi full in the chest and she was blasted back, out the window, and then she was falling and falling and falling…

SPLAT.

Just seconds later, there was a ripple in the air and Himeko appeared at Aya’s side. “There, there, I’m here,” she cooed, petting the girl’s blood-stained face. She began to slowly remove the icicles inside of her body. “You did well, Aya-chan. Now here’s your reward.”She flicked her fingers out and began to cover Aya in silk, cocooning her tightly. “I promise you that once you heal, you’ll have the strength to revenge yourself on the rest of those witches.” With that, she took a firm hold of the cocoon and disappeared with it in another ripple of air.

Meanwhile, Ami looked at the splattered human that was once Selphi with mild disgust. “Ya really should have expected this, Waters,” she said to the corpse. Sighing, she lowered her hands slowly to the ground, bringing the pieces of glass levitating in the air with them. It had been lucky, she thought, that I decided to look into th’ future today, or else even more things that’d be hard to explain might have happened.

The illusion that Ami was currently casting had some ripped up pavement on the ground where Selphi was lying, with yellow caution tape all around it. Ami walked closer to the body and examined it.

For whatever reason, Selphi had managed to cast a barrier around her head and torso, Ami observed. The ground beneath those areas were cracked in a circular shape and wet with water. The onmyouji had no idea what the point was – when one is falling eight stories from the ground, protecting the brain was hardly a concern.

Shaking her head, the girl stood up and prepared to have the earth swallow the corpse up, but a sound stopped her.

“…Aaaaargh…”

Ami stared. “…Waters?”

“Gaaah….” Selphi’s head began to move side to side, as though she were saying no to something, while her face contorted into a painful grimace. There were disgusting squishing and crunching sounds suddenly filling the air – Ami looked to see that the girl’s torso, which, despite the protection, had been crushed slightly, was beginning to fill back out again. At the same time, her legs and arms were twitching.

A few moments more of this, and Selphi finally pushed herself up into a sitting position. She looked around, taking in her surroundings before looking up incredulously. “What the fuck?”

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