Everyone said when you were coughing really badly, long after the sneezing and sniffling part of the deal, you weren't contagious anymore. You just looked it because everyone relied on how you looked.
Little Yagami Hikari hoped that was true because she looked awful. In fact, right now, she looked so under the weather that she was allowed to take a hot morning shower after the one from last night and no one was normally allowed to do that. (If everyone did it it would be much too expensive.) She rubbed her drooping eyes in the mirror as the steam wafted through the room.
"Mrrmmmm," she grumbled as she got into the shower. Hikari wanted to bow out now. It really did feel like a mucus monster had made its home in her stomach and was trying to get lower. Gross. Her big brother would be relieved if she stayed home, him and their parents both.
Yet the very thought made her stomach hurt, quite a lot actually. So she forced herself under the spray and sighed in immediate relief.
I can breathe again, she thought to herself before letting out another ear splitting cough. Taichi's voice filtered through the door in concern. She called back that she was fine. Which she wasn't and being the big brother that he was he likely knew that. But she didn't care this time! She was going to go. And she wasn't going to stop until the answers came to her.
Onii-chan doesn't remember… And nobody believed her, but it was not a dream. Koromon had never been a dream. She looked at her tiny hands. She could see the nicks on her palms, old and long healed but still there. And when she went outside and looked at the television, she would see snow falling in summer or the flood of another desert with the monsters wavering in and out before her. She would watch statistics go up until there was an abrupt channel change, because her parents were afraid of her seeing it.
She loved them so much it hurt. But they just didn't understand.
She wasn't sure there was much point in trying to.
Hikari coughed and the mucus left her mouth and hit the floor of the tub and slid into the drain. She grimaced in disgust. Her brother would think it was cool. Sometimes Taichi could be just… silly.
Still, if it meant not coughing through the entirety of her camping trip she would take it.
Outside, her brother sifted through their bags, carefully slipping a bottle of cold medicine between a bag of snacks and his sister's teddy bear. With any luck, she wouldn't notice.
Taichi turned back to his own bag, grinning to himself. Sure, he was worried of his sister being stuck doing real rough camping for a week with a summer cold (that had seriously come from nowhere, what was wrong with her immune system?) But there was no real way of stopping her. She was a Yagami and Yagami took stubborn to a level unseen by most of the human population. He would just have to keep an eye on her and have fun.
So she wouldn't notice of course. His sister was perceptive.
Per her master's will, Plotmon continued her travels. The awkwardly angled sack of books dropped over both sides of her Holy Ring, the data inside threatening to seep into her fur and dye it black. That was the only reason she was able to carry it. If it weren't for the mysterious ring being her collar, the books would eat her alive.
That crazy guy did this on purpose she knew. It was to have proof she would be a loyal soldier, a powerful one. One that survived the power rush that came to be from being around forbidden materials would be able to serve him properly.
Honestly, Plotmon wasn't even sure she wanted to. But where could she have run? There was no one looking for her, even if she was looking for them. She didn't quite remember why she was looking but it was necessary to continue. To continue meant she had to live long enough.
She frowned to herself and kept walking.
Where was she even going anyway? She couldn't even remember through the
She stopped and collapsed under a tree. The bags dug into her back once more and with an irritated huff, she threw them over her head and let them smack into the opposite tree. Plotmon sagged with relief back into the grass and shut her eyes.
Stupid old vampire. Stupid books. She just wanted to find what she was looking for, not cart weird materials across a continent! Her eyes watered, full and thick globs of mucus streaming down. She stubbornly wiped them away with her paw and winced at the sting it did to the angry red mark there. She couldn't let him see her weak. That stupid master… he would laugh about it very softly, right behind her ears until the sound grew to echo into the skin beneath her fur and then trickled off. Until her guard dropped. Until she thought it was over.
Plotmon doubted that vampire could grow tired, truly. Only hibernate.
She didn't feel like getting up so she didn't. But because she didn't move. Someone moved towards her instead.
Chains rattled from where they gouged the cavern walls. Their weight rocked and strained from their source, a single flat circle that spun overhead. Well, it was more than that. Its creator could attest to such a thing.
Not that the little girl was proud of her work. There was nothing to be proud of when looking at a seal, only the expectation that it would continue to work. Because what was on the other side, as far as she was concerned, needed to bloody well stay there.
The little girl regarded the lines, then raised her hand, palm down, rough nib nails dripping with purple energy. She exhaled softly.
Being a goddess was only fun some of the time, really.
"Numerous lights in the heavens," she intoned, monotone dripping into the cavern walls. "Triad moons hidden behind the sun, cleanse the light. Make your darkness a beacon."
The word made the air tremble and the circle shrieked its fury and rattled the chains once more. Its tendrils lashed, missing the small girl by miles. She responded to none of it, as she was taught.
Hate. The word was thunder. Wrath, pain, you pay burn-
Shrieks filled the space from mouths and metal.
The girl watched the tendrils slip through and beyond her. Her eyes widened ever so slightly. Then they returned to their normal size, as if her interest had been swallowed by food.
"Not a chance, ya codger," she said in a grunt and turned away. "I'm long ahead of you."
She just had to believe that being ahead still meant something in the long game. For now, it was back to the village. She had adventures to start.
Mikagura Mirei couldn't help the mischievous smile straining her cheeks at the thought.
The king walks the earth without a crown.
The ruler holds court without a sigil.
Reality waits for no one to see it.
But magic dances in every open palm,
If only they came to grasp it.
Hikari rubbed her eyes as the Yagami car pulled to a stop. She sniffled and gave her nose a hefty blow so hard she swore she felt a blood vessel explode. Finding no evidence of the sort, she tossed the tissue into the garbage and shuffled out of the car.
She regretted that in an instant. Their school wasn't small, so six classes worth of kids, plus a few stragglers from other grades or schools with permission slips, swarmed in groups and chattered loud enough to bring back the pulsing headache from the night before. Hikari nearly turned around-
Then her brother's hands, gloved as always these days, rested palms down over her ears, muffling everything with sweet relief. Hikari exhaled and beamed up at her big brother.
"All fine?" She saw his brown eyes glitter with concern and nodded.
"Let's fly, Mr. Pilot!" She chirped, red gaze locked at his goggles. Taichi's smirk widened and he picked her up to put on his shoulders.
"Taichi, be careful!" they heard their mom say. Taichi immediately began to wilt, but Hikari latched on her hands to his hair in defiance.
"This is not Taichi!" She declared in too much joy. "This is my plane to camp and we're going to take off!"
She felt the eyes on them both and didn't care. She felt the flush on her brother's face and revelled in it. She squinted at them all, daring them to comment and care. They did not understand. The ways their lips curled and they looked like pity. Looked like disdain and fear and other things. But that was only her interpretation. It could be that they found this quite cute. But it didn't matter what they thought.
This was for Taichi and his big, kind heart.
He took a grip on her calves and raced towards the bus, making the sounds of an old propeller and echoing Hikari's shrieks of glee. Not even coughing could make it not worth it, especially when their father pinwheeled her back to the ground, making her giggle. Everything felt like the warmth of her morning shower. Then her father's arms trembled and she took her bag. She managed a more new, tremulous smile.
"See you when we get back." Taichi kept his voice as calm as possible. "We'll be safe, promise."
Hikari winced at the water in their mother's eyes, then squeaked at her father hugging them both.
Hikari smiled. "We will!"
With that, they were boarding the bus. Hikari made a beeline for the back. It was usually the most fun there and then she wouldn't get snot over a lot of people in the middle and the front would likely have all the teachers. She didn't need that level of fussing.
There were a couple people in the back already, from what she could see. As she passed others they whispered, "A kid went missing from my apartment last night."
"Another one?" The other girl practically whimpered, clasping her hands together. "They keep just vanishing! It's weird!"
"My dad says it's the government," said the first girl.
A boy behind her scoffed. "He always thinks it's the government."
"Well your mom said it was demons. So there"
"What's wrong with that?"
Hikari kept walking. It was likely they were all wrong. Her fingers curled up as her mind conjured images of shattered vending machines, fireballs shattering balconies… a collapsing bridge right-
She shut her eyes, breathed sharply, and then made it to an open seat. For a moment, it was all Hikari could do to breathe, her throat closing up with snot (and fear, if she was going to be honest, which she wasn't).
Then a high voice piped up. "Are you okay?"
Hikari made herself turn her head to see who she sat beside, a blond boy about the same size as her with big, concerned blue eyes. She squeaked with surprise.
"I'm sorry!" she was very lucky she was gripping the chair. "I-" She swallowed. "I'm fine. I didn't mean to disturb you." Her cheeks flamed with embarrassment. "I'm just getting over a cold, that's all."
"Ooh!" He smiled. "And you decided to come to camp anyway! That's awesome!" He dipped his head. "I'm Takaishi Takeru!"
Hikari felt herself relax. He hadn't even asked if she was contagious. Maybe this would be all right. "I'm Yagami Hikari. Nice to meet you."
"Un!" For a few minutes the two of them sat there watching people go by. Then Takeru asked. "Was that your big brother running around with you earlier?"
Hikari bit her lip, then nodded. "Uh-huh! Our parents were nervous about us coming along, but we wanted to show them it was okay."
Takeru nodded slowly, jerking in his seat as the bus started to roll away. HIkari didn't see her parents, but she could see her brother's hair shifting around as he waved at them. Close enough, she figured. "My brother wouldn't do that. He's too shy!"
Hikari tilted her head. "Your brother's here too?"
"Yep!" Takeru pointed. "Up there, with the turtleneck! Well, the half a turtleneck." She leaned up in the chair to see darker blond hair ducking out of sight, hiding in the seat. Well, he did seem kinda shy acting like that. She sat back in her chair and they listened to the teachers together. Her brother was in her group at least. That was good.
Maybe her feelings were wrong. Maybe this would just be a normal, brand new experience for her and she would just make some new friends.
Then a horrible chill ran down her spine. The ground creaked underneath the wheels. She gripped her seatbelt.
Someone in front of them let out a scream. Hikari almost shut her eyes and looked away, but then a horrible heat washed over the windows. She turned and just as she lifted her head, what could only be a miniature sun slammed into the bus and its occupants.
The stars were falling on them. Inevitably, it would crash into their tiny bus and kill them all. She was absolutely certain of this. And yet she found the energy to sneeze and cough as it came closer. Her mind rejected it however. No, that wasn't accurate. Her heart rejected this event.
And what the light rejected could only be scoured.