Chapter 20:

The Warriors Who Smash the Darkness: Part 2

Yu-Gi-Oh! :Another story

         “Okay, so, picking back up with my powers,” Hanoa continued, folding her hands in her lap as an empty bowl and chopsticks rested next to her.
         "I guess I should explain some of what you saw earlier. I can transform, I guess you would call it. I can summon different outfits, armors, weapons…a lot of different stuff. Most Seitachi can do it if they try hard enough. That outfit you saw me in…” She blushed bashfully. Hanoa knew that the dress was frilly and cute, but a tad bit short; it was a little shorter than her oversized school skirt. She also knew that with the gloves, boots, stockings, hair, and cape, looked like poorly done cosplay. That wasn’t even mentioning the fact that, many times, she also had on a girly, garter-like strap on her thigh that held her ipod. 
       “Well…I know I looked weird and stupid, but I love it! It’s so cute and frilly! And it obviously helps with all the fighting and stuff. have to move around a lot, and it’s modest enough, but still gives me a full range of movement.” “Umm…Hanoa?” Bakura shyly raised his hand as if they were still at school. “What is it, Bakura-Chan?” Hanoa asked. “ I-I-I was just wondering…ummm…does that jewelry you always wear mean anything? Just because they look unusual and old, like from a horror movie, and you never take them off.” Hanoa smiled. “Yes! I knew you of all people would probably pick up on it!” Hanoa giggled. 
       “These bracelets were a gift from my biological older sister. They are really old. I think she said that they were Norse or Viking in origin. They are actually small shields.” She raised her thumb to her mouth. “All I have to do-“ she bit down hard, until she could taste the metallic tang of blood. “And then do this..” she swept her thumb down over the silver disk on her right bracelet. “And then I’m done!” The silver disk spun out until it was a Frisbee-sized disk attached to her wrist.
      The shield was utterly beautiful, with raised and etched decorations  all over it. There was an outer circle lining the perimeter of the disk, with a string of etched symbols in the middle of the strip that wound around the entire edge. They looked like some sort of runes or hieroglyphs. The raised designs in the center were of delicate roses blossoms and vines. Despite looking worn, the shields were still glimmering and were clearly well cared for. 
       “The other one looks the exact same.” Hanoa explained. “But to activate their shield form, I need to smear some of my blood on them. It's an enchantment. They will only respond to me; my sister wanted to make sure that only I could use them. It sounds worse than it really is,” she added quickly, realizing that Anzu was staring in horror at the blood on the silver disk. “I promise. I’ve gotten used to this.” She flicked her thumb, already healed, in their direction.                 “And that was probably an excessive amount to use, anyway. I only really need a tiny drop the size of a pinhead. To get my bracelets back, I just need to rub the blood off.” She did just that, and the shield disappeared. ”My swords are something that I can summon, as well.” She reached out, and a glimmering sword materialized in her hand.
       It was made of the purest silver possible and gave off a soft, unearthly glow, almost as if it was made of light. The blade was long and sharp, but thin. Not as thin as a katana, but smaller than the average sword blade. The handle was a slightly darker hue of silver, more near a shimmering gray, and there was a shining decoration, a cluster of feather shaped silver and glass pieces, over the area where the blade met the handle. Hanoa swished her hand and her weapon disappeared. “It’s no big deal…um…” She rested her finger on her chin. “What else should I share…? Oh, yes.”
       “Hey.” Jonouchi interrupted emotionlessly. “ You knew what you were doing when you fixed us up. You have repeatedly come to school injured, but even your broken bones would heal within a few days. Your finger healed almost instantly right now. Can you heal yourself? Is that a power that you have?
      ” Hanoa jumped slightly then quickly nodded enthusiastically. She didn’t want Jono-Chan to stay angry at her; she wanted to earn his trust back as soon as possible.
        “Ye-yes! Well…all Seitachi have rapid healing powers. I mean, depending on the type of injury, we can get seriously injured because were aren’t immortal or anything, but we heal faster than normal people. How fast depends on the individual and their circumstances. But, as for me…” Hanoa inhaled a large breath. 
       “I-I-I have actually healing powers. None of the others have it. I can heal injuries and illnesses. Like with my natural healing factor, there are a lot of variables involved in what I can or can not do, but I can heal the majority of most common health problems and bodily injuries. Actually,” Hanoa shrank back shyly. “I used a bit of my power on you and Honda-Chan. I wanted to help you heal quickly without any scaring, but I knew that you two wouldn’t like that, so I just used a little power to speed things up instead of doing a flat-out healing.” Jonouchi frowned. “I’m also just very good with taking care of injuries.” Hanoa tried to be casual and upbeat; she was worried she was only making the situation worse. “ I may heal fast, but I can’t use my powers on myself and I don’t want to use my powers unless it’s absolutely needed.
       “Hey, Hanoa?” Yugi suddenly asked. “You keep saying ‘we’ and ‘like us’, so I have to ask.” He took a deep breath, like he was bracing himself for an answer that he wouldn’t like. “Your siblings. They are Seitachi’s too, aren’t they?” Hanoa felt sick in her stomach. 'Shoot!', She thought. 'Why did I keep referring to 'us' plural ? I wasn't even thinking about that! I could have lead them away from thinking about the others and what they know!' “Yes.” She whispered. “All of us, every single one.”
       “Wait, then…the vigilantes!” Honda exclaimed. “Yes, those were all us. As Seitachi, it is our job to fight against evil, primarily the supernatural and demonic kind, but we fight a lot of human monsters, as well.” “You were the one who saved us that night in the alley, weren’t you?” Jonouchi asked flatly. “You lied to us.” “Not technically, Jono-Chan,” Hanoa corrected gently. 
      “You never asked specifically if I was one of the vigilantes. I answered that part honestly, I just omitted some stuff. There have been lots of sightings of me and the others. I admit I did lie about the monster, at least partially. It wasn’t an experiment from the Maru-tech labs that got lose, but we are tracking that company because we think that they are doing something shady. We think they had something to do with the thing that attack you guys, but that is beside the point. Please forgive me. I never wanted to lie, I just wanted to protect the kids and myself. I had to lie so that you wouldn’t find out what we are. Fat lot of good my abuse of your kindness did me.”
        Hanoa stared at the floor with tears in her eyes. It felt as though she was being cornered and forced to choose between the kids and her dear friends, and Hanoa hated it with a burning passion.
      “It’s just…well…it’s not easy being a Seitachi. Being a Seitachi means an eternity looked in battle with the darkness. A destiny of fighting. The kids…” Hanoa trailed off. “They’re just kids; they shouldn’t be forced to deal with this. What I told you about my family isn’t a total lie, but it wasn’t really the whole truth, either. I really don’t want to get into it, but the gist is that my biological sister and I were Seitachi’s. She couldn’t handle caring for me, so she gave me over to a woman who was the head of a Seitachi clan that took in Earthbound Saints who needed somewhere to stay and sent them out on missions. Mama Junko-Sama, she was…pretty harsh.” Hanoa’s throat burned with the pain of the past.
       “She trained everyone to fight. To her, us Seitachi were basically the equivalent of war ship or something. We were just weapons to her. She viewed the world in black and white and, to her mind, the whole world was black, so the war we waged against the darkness was an oppressive, never-ending fight to be fought using whatever means necessary. She thought that we were supposed to protect the world, but that the world and all of humanity were corrupted beyond being worth saving. She saw us as nothing more than created tools to fight a meaningless, winner-less fight. The way she thought and lead us… she created a lot of collateral damage.”
      'Oh, it was far worse than mere collateral damage!' She thought mournfully to herself. But Hanoa couldn’t tell them that, couldn’t bring herself to acknowledge it. Many of her memories were buried far back in her mind, aside from a few fragmented wisps of recollections. She knew what most of had happened, of course, but she had forcefully buried or forgot many specific events. She didn’t want to remember what life was like back then. Even the minor little events she remembered…even just one of those was already far too much. Her mind flashed through horrible images. Mutilated bodies. Fields piled high with victims of a massacre. A sick child who had turned cold and purple in their sleep. Suicide victims. A mocking woman slitting a young woman’s throat and rejoicing in the flood of red; laughter like a demon as she licked the liquid from the knife. Blood. Rivers, no, oceans, of blood. The red liquid permeated Hanoa’s thoughts, memories, and dreams, until she felt as though she was being drowned in a flood of the thick, heavy liquid. She felt as though it was oozing from her pores, on her breath, filling her lungs, dragging her down, killing her… Hanoa shook her head violently to scatter the nightmarish images.
       “Then…she died. Not only that, her bad choices that led her to her end took most of our family to the afterlife with her.” Hanoa said shakily, her hands trembling as she strangled the hem of her skirt to death. One of the other girls, my Onii-Chan, had left earlier to get away from Ju-Sama. She came and rescued the few of us left alive. She was going to take over as our leader and guardian but…me and her… we got in a fight over what to do next, so she left me with the kids. We had different ideologies, and neither of us were willing to give up any ground. She had two girls of her own who she’d adopted, and she just took them and left in the middle of the night. They were all long gone by the time we woke up and realized that we’d been abandoned. There were only a couple of us then, but then we picked up the others as we went. Me, Kalin, Yuki, Tamura. Mei was only two or three weeks old. This was seven years ago, when I was ten.” She forced herself to smooth out her skirt and sit on her hands.
      “As you could imagine, being... the way we are… with our powers…a lot of the kids, their parents didn’t want them. They were terrified of their “demon” children. Some of them even tried to murder their poor children! Some of the poor kids have no clue who their biological parents even were. Some can only remember the inside of a medical lab or torture chamber. Quite a few of them spent the majority of their lives alone on the street That’s part of why we hide. Not only would people shun us if they knew what we truly were, lots of people would be all too happy to take us and experiment on us…dissect us to see how we can do things that defy all the known scientific laws in the universe. Not only that, there are lots of people like us. Not necessarily all Seitachi, but…different…people with different…unnatural…supernatural…needs.” She stumbled. This was so hard to explain. To her, all this was simple and matter-of-facts, but she didn’t know if normal people like them could ever understand any of it. She hoped they could at least grasp the gist of what she was telling them.
         “It’s basically an underground layer of life, the magical underworld, if you will,” She suggested. “People who, for example, have powers, mutations, diseases, or cravings that cannot be explained or controlled by natural means. Even though they are fully human, unlike us, they can’t exactly get the items they need to help them. There is a whole hidden network to help them. Priests who do exorcisms and keep their inner demons at bay. People who hunt and use otherworldly items and ingredients to help them. Doctors who secretly cater to their medical needs and handle emergency situations without asking any questions or keeping official, registered records. But…there is a lot of shady stuff, too. People who use supernatural powers to bend the world to their wishes. People who steal and traffic magic items…dangerous items. People who hunt other item hunters and people who are different, both for money and the joy of it. Some humans are awful; they will do anything to hurt people or get their own way, even turn to evil and immortal means. Human life means nothing to powerful occultists like them. There would be plenty of people willing to hunt us down for either the right price or the desire to stop us from potentially hurting anyone. And people do use human…parts…for spells, talismans, charms…there are a lot of people who would pay good money for the heart or lungs of someone like me.”
       “Hanoa…” Yugi whispered. He knew that this was only the surface of everything his friend had gone through. Even though she said it in her typical cheerful, matter of fact tone, he knew that what she was telling them was horrible beyond all belief. And if this was just the bare bones of what had happens…how horrible was her past as a whole? What had happened to her face? What had her foster mother really done to her? The way she was so awkward with people and scared of everyone… he was sure that not even mere child abuse or PTSD was a significant explanation on its own. Thinking back now, that things made so much more sense.
        When the tea set had exploded all over the first time they had come over…Kiro-Chan must have purposely sent it flying at them. The little boy was probably worried that they were trying to get close to Hanoa to hurt or exploit her. If he had been mistreated or abused for his own powers…he probably just wanted to protect his older sister from being hurt. 
        All the times Hanoa had came to school with cuts, scrapes, and broken bones…she probably spent most of her time outside of school fighting things like the metallic wolf that had attacked them.
          Despite her down-played attitude towards everything, what she was doing was clearly dangerous. He didn’t understand why she felt the need to keep fighting; even if her and her siblings were…different…surely it would just be better to not use their powers at all and stay hidden? Why did she say that they carried a destiny of battle? What did any of this mean? The more Hanoa explained, the more questions Yugi had, but he stayed quiet. He didn’t want to pry too much, and he could tell that this whole conversation was extremely hard for her to have.
       “So…I guess you want to leave now, I suppose?” Hanoa asked in her quiet way. “you know now…what I am…so…you have no reason to hang around anymore. I’m not going to make you be my friends, and I know that you probably never want to talk to me again. It’s okay, I won’t judge you for it. I know that someone like me is scary and dangerous. That’s probably why…that creature…” Her voice broke. “God, it was all my fault!” She dug her nails into her legs, leaving raw, red trails across her pale skin. “You hung around me so much…creatures and demons…they are drawn toward powerful people with strong life force energies, you know? You carried my scent, so it was drawn to attack you because you obviously had a connection to me. I’m sorry.” Small tears began sliding down her cheeks. “Please…if nothing else…know how truly sorry I am. I never wanted anyone to get hurt. I take full responsibility for the damage my selfishness caused you.”
        “Selfishness?” Honda asked incuriously. “ What the heck are you talking about Hanoa? You could have just let us die to protect your secret not just once, but twice, but you chose to protect us even though it put you and your family at risk. And you are making yourself sick telling us your secrets, but keep talking because you’re worried about our safety and peace of mind. Nothing you’ve done so far is selfish at all!”
        “Uh-huh”. She shook her head no. “It is. I never should have let you get so close to me. People like me…we attract evil because of our power levels and the fact that so many people would benefit from our deaths. I knew that you all would be put in the crossfire if you were my friends, but I let myself stay with you. I…wanted to tell you, so badly.” She sounded about ready to burst out sobbing. “I knew that you were in greater danger because of how you were unaware and unprepared but…I didn’t tell you. I told myself that I was protecting you mentally and emotionally by not dragging you into my mess and burdening you with this knowledge. I knew that I was really just lying to myself and making excuses, though. All I wanted…I just wanted to be friends with all of you! I’m not alone, but I’m still so lonely. You were all so kind, and everything was always so much more fun when were we together…I just wanted to stay with you all forever. I knew that I was endangering you. Why do you think I pulled away and avoided you at first? I didn’t want to hurt you. But…you all are so kind and caring…even to a monster like me…you weren’t the kind of people I could be cold to without hating myself. Lying to you killed me every single day. Don’t you get it ?” She burst out suddenly in anguish. “I’m a monster! I was willing to sacrifice you’re lives for my own pleasure! I’m the reason you nearly died twice now!”
        Bakura stared at her. “I think that you are trying to get us to hate you because you are made at yourself.” He said quietly. “ But you're wrong. None of us hate you. I wish you’d told us sooner but…” “You’re still our friend.” Anzu cut in. “So what if you can light things on fire? That doesn’t change the fact that you are still Hanoa Atsuka. If we are being honest, yes, we might doubt or mistrust you for a little bit. Yes, we will probably be scared of you at points, not understand your pain, and be totally insensitive, but we aren’t just going to turn our backs on you! You can’t help the way you were born.” She smiled at Hanoa reassuringly. “Besides, if we turned our backs on someone who was being bullied for being different just because they are…well…different…and call them a monster, then we would be the real monsters for judging them without knowing anything about them.”
        “Yeah.” Jonuchi finally said grudgingly. “I can’t say that I’m totally okay with this or that you don’t give me the creeps. And, yes, I do have a bit of a grudge for you lying to us all this time, but I don’t hate you. What else were you supposed to do? You did what you had to do to protect your sisters. You weren’t being malicious or hateful. Just the fact that you are so concerned about us and how we see you proves that you aren’t a monster. A truly bad person would never be concerned about being a bad person, they’d proudly embrace it. You ain't that sort of person at all, Hanoa”
         “Guys…” Burning tears poured in buckets from Hanoa’s eyes. Had it seriously been this easy all along to tell them the truth about herself? Their support warmed her heart. No one, not even fellow earth-bound saints, not even her foster family or birth family, had ever cared so deeply for her. “Thank you so much!” she blubbered as she picked a pillow up and used it to stifle her cries. ‘Just…” Hanoa couldn’t put her feelings into words, but they felt very warm and beautiful. “Thank you.”
            *                                                               *                                                                          *
        Everyone continued listening intently to Hanoa as she continued walking them through the basics of her life and powers. Sometimes, one of them would cut in with a question, and Hanoa would change what she was talking about to address it. They talked late into the night, until the night turned into morning and Hanoa’s five friends jumped up, realizing that their families would be worried. They all parted on very friendly terms, promising that they would see each other on Monday at school. It appeared that all her worries had been for nothing.
*                                                                                *                                                                            *
       The moon was beginning its descent in the sky when Hanoa finally threw herself onto her bed with a contented thunk. She yanked the laces on her sandals lose and kicked the shoes out into the darkness. She could feel blisters forming on her feet and the tight lacings had rubbed a painful crisscross pattern into her legs. From now on, she was going to stick with her own sandals that were lighter, shorter healed, and laced up with actual ribbons.
       Hanoa grabbed her ratty-looking stuffed elephant from the mountain of plushies on the bed and curled up on her side with her drawn legs close to her chest. Her bed was on a slightly elevated area of the large room, accessed by five small steps. It was really only about a foot or two of an elevation. The room had probably been a library at one time, with her “bedroom” being where a desk and office was supposed to be, but it was enough to give her a sense of independence and ownership of her area. 
       Of course, Hanoa wasn’t alone in the room. The room was absolutely huge, so she shared it with the two youngest girls. Mei on the left side, Yuki on the right. The littlest ones had reoccurring night-terrors and feared the dark, so they preferred to be with their big sister at all times. Actually, Mei often bordered on having extreme separation anxiety. The room was so large that they didn’t have to worry about it looking sloppy. Even with all her sisters toys, it was impossible to make the room messy; they didn’t have far near enough stuff in comparison to the total empty space in their room. This house was seriously a palace, particularly when compared to the four room house they had lived in before coming to Domino City and Junko-Sama's home where Hanoa had spent most of her childhood.
       Hanoa inclined her head to the left and heard mei’s tiny, gasping sleep-breaths. She switched to the right and heard a faint rustling sound, but didn’t sense Yuki in her bed. The girl had probably had a nightmare and tucked herself away in her closet again. Hanoa felt a slight pang of guilt for not being there for her little sister, but it was quickly passed over. God, she felt so good and free! She smiled and squeezed Mr.Elephant. having her little ones at peace in the room with her only improved her mood.
      The moon was bright tonight. Hanoa’s room, as she referred to her spot on the raised area, was an extension of the room that jutted out over the side of the house. At one point, there had apparently been an indoor greenhouse added onto the second level of the house and attached to the room, but someone had long since dismantled it and extended the roof. The three walls that were attached to the room had been left. Hanoa was literally surrounded by clear windows. The edge of her room, where the small steps were, was the boundary where the glass-paneled walls met the actual walls. Hanoa utterly adored it. There was always light on her, even at night. She felt free, like she was floating on clouds, whenever she was on her bed. At night, she could see the constellations dance across the sky.
         Hanoa basked in the silvery glow of the moon as she reflected on the evening. The moonlight glinted off of her golden hair and pale skin, making her appear angelic.
         ‘They don’t hate me! They forgive me! I still have friends!’ That knowledge beat inside her chest like a heartbeat. Nothing had ever felt so good, so freeing! Sure, things would be awkward. In the long run, only time would tell whether telling the truth would sustain or end her friendship with the others, but Hanoa knew that, for now, all was well.
         As terrified as she was of what would come next, she felt so much better after confessing the truth. Now that the truth was out there, she didn’t have to lie anymore. She’d be able to get out of sharing stuff by saying that she didn’t want to, and they would respect her right to do that. They wouldn’t worry about her or suspect her anymore, and she wouldn't be on edge, constantly awaiting a betrayal. 
        They may not have liked what she was, but they accepted it and were willing to try to understand. That was so much more than anyone had ever given her before. typically, all she and the others had ever received was seemly loving acceptance that masked a truly wicked heart and plans to exploit and use them for personal gain.  
        To be accepted and trusted with utter honesty…She could sense the purity of their intentions, they had no self-serving intentions whatsoever. She was free now from the anxiety and mistrust that had secretly characterized her friendship with her five classmates in her mind.
         With her heart and mind considerably lightened, Hanoa closed her eyes and entered into a peaceful, dreamless sleep for the first time since she was an infant.

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