The Waterfall of Truth is more than just an orientation. It’s more than the blessing of Marks. It’s a dangerous, hollow land. Truth does not even accurately describe what it holds. In those empty black pools is nothing but the void, and the void does nothing but inhale what truth you have— and repeat it right back to you. That’s why it’s dangerous. No secret is safe once you fall in.
Unless you are there to be marked at the start of the prophecy— only then are those pools safe. Any other time, when the pools are no longer useful after their purpose is fulfilled...The water becomes hungry, and the truth becomes distorted. The unfortunate being becomes torn and ripped apart. They are transformed, turned upside down— inside and out. The mark becomes corrupted.
That is why despite being a Catalyst, all I could do was cause destruction. That is why without my own medication, I can rot the world, speed up time too fast to control, to the point a single touch of my skin will make the surface decay. By all merits, a Catalyst should not be able to get hurt— and unless it’s with intent, they should not be able to speed up time and hurt others.
And yet here I stand, a Catalyst corrupted; decayer of land, decayer of bones.
Memoir 33 The corruption by Tsuyuzaki Michiru
Rui raced up the hillside, her eyes darting around her in search of Michiru. It’s been already an hour, and still, she couldn’t find her. She was starting to get desperate. So desperate that a part of her wanted to scream to find her easier, but she knew if she did, the Molebear might find her. Even if it was injured, she wouldn’t be able to survive it. Sure maybe she could kill it, maybe she can fight back and win— but at what cost?
Will she lose her humanity? Will this moment push her over the edge? Everything she was taught, will that all crumble away? Was she going to be the monster she always feared?
The sky ahead of her was darkening; the clouds were drawing close. Only minutes ago was the sky a light grey, overcast with the faint hints of sun. She wasn’t an idiot. Michiru raised her. She knew something big was happening, and even if she didn’t, the sensation of her back burning her skin screamed everything.
Something was playing out, a scene that needed the presence of a Villain.
The thought terrified her. Her brain reacted in response, reminding her in such cruel kindness- why said fear was justified. It was enough that it halted Rui in her running, skidding to a crumble, her knees dirty and her mouth covered with the fabric of Yachiyo’s gift.
It did not calm her this time.
“What did you do!” Rui remembered screaming, her voice a guttural sensation made from millions of screams at once. There was so much fire. There was so much heat. She could barely see from the dark clouds surrounding her, the fog that only darkened the further she stepped in.
There was rain, quiet and stubborn. It was not enough to douse the flames sprouting from Rui’s lips, nor did it smother any of the anger that dwelled within her. She remembered repeating the question again, the ache of her teeth elongating forgotten in the overwhelming sensation of deep primordial fear.
“I don’t know,” Ichie cried back. Otonashi Ichie, her friend— the closest friend. The answer she gave didn’t satisfy her, and Rui remembered screaming again, slashing something— something strong, deadly, and there was more than one blade. Ichie screamed, arm bleeding. She knew what she did. She knew what she did to the woman they both looked up to.
“Tell me what you did to her, Ichie.”
“I didn’t do—”
“LIES!” There was another scream, and there was the sound of skin tearing apart. This time, the sound was sharper, piercing through the burning and the rain. It was raw, reminiscent of a way beasts would tear through prey.
“Yachiyo….” Ichie gasped with her eyes wide, unable to tear away. Rui, in turn, froze— the weight on her hands, on her claws, was heavy from the blood that dripped down in cascades. Yachiyo’s left cheek was ripped apart, and yet she didn’t care. One hand was raised, holding Ichie back, protecting her and the other hand held a dagger. The grip was steady as her green eyes, gearing up for slaughter.
“Stay the hell away from her, you monster.”
“Stop,” Rui begged to herself, to the parts of her that relished in her own agony. She was struggling to breathe, her hands were on the edge of the scarf, but there was no strength in her grip if she ever tried to pull it away. How cruel was fate to make the source of constant comfort suffocate her.
Something fell on Rui’s shoulder. It was wet, cold and it quickly multiplied from one to several. Rui looked up, her knees now drenched in mud, her hands clutching the hem of the scarf. Her lips moved, frantic, and her breathing was shallow. The dark clouds circled the sky as the rain continued to pour, narrowing the once mid morning sun to a single beam. It almost looked like a desperate prayer to an indifferent God.
“She looked ready to kill!” Rui barked back. “She wants to kill me and she doesn’t even know what I’m supposed to be for her.”
“She’s her mother’s daughter—”
“I see it in her eyes, Michiru,” Rui snapped, biting back a feral growl. She flexed her hands, tearing more of her gloves just a bit more. “I don’t care-- I don’t know!” She yelled, “--How you think otherwise just because you met her when she was a baby but she’s not whoever you thought she was! She’s the Hero now so stop being blinded by nostalgia!”
“Do you see it in her eyes?” Michiru said calmly, her age showing off the wisdom it harboured as she stared down Rui. She did not care for the anger, the held back snarl or the way Rui’s claws sharpened on natural instinct. She just stared, the light intensifying the dark crimson colour of Michiru’s iris. “Or do you see your own thoughts reflected in hers?”
Rui clenched her fist, understanding the unspoken words but refusing to believe them. “We have different irises.”
Michiru didn’t change her expression. “But her eyes are similar to Yachiyo’s.”
Rui backed away, turning away from Michiru. The fire snapped from her fingertips. Smoke snarled its way out of her lips, slipping past her fangs and her gritted teeth. “Don’t!”
It was the distinct echo of fabric tearing itself that snapped Rui out of it. Then it was her laboured breath, the lack of cotton against her lips. Slowly, steadily, like the build-up of water on a leaf before it fell, Rui gathered her breath. And in the following exhalation, she shut her eyes. She knew what she did. She could feel the tethers and the stray threads looping around her extended nails. She can feel the taste of string on the tip of her fangs.
She knew what she did. She knew what she repeated. This time as she stuffed the broken scarf deep into her pockets, she will give herself the mercy to deny it. Just for now, just for the prophecy. She stuffed it far down, enough that it wrapped the fragile regeneration potion like a cocoon.
“I’m so sorry Yachiyo,” Rui whimpered. The tears on her cheeks blended too well with the rain. She was so cold, even when the back of her neck, the tip of her spine was burning up. “I did it again. I had hurt you.”
“You didn’t hurt her.”
Rui’s head snapped up, and the whimpers increased tenfold. “Michiru…”
Michiru stepped into the space, her hand buried into Rui’s hair as Rui wrapped her arms around her waist. Michiru hummed, kissing the dark tresses. “It’s okay, you did really well Rui.”
“I know, I know….” Michiru leaned back, edging her thumbs around Rui’s glowing red eyes. She wiped the tears with a delicate intimacy that made Rui crumble. “I’m sorry I couldn’t find you in time to stop you. But I’m here now.”
“Can be fixed in due time…” Michiru answered, her words gentle and understanding. She knew more than anyone else how much Rui needed that scarf to stay calm, the way she Rui would always remove it from a fight when she could. To remind herself that once upon a time, someone saw her and called her beautiful, both inside and out. “But right now, I need to make sure you’re safe, okay?”
When Rui nodded and rose to her feet, Michiru smiled at her softly. “That’s my girl.” And for a moment, Rui felt nothing like the Villain she could’ve been, just a child needing comfort in her mother’s arms.
The camp was empty. Shiori was gone, and there were no ruins from a mole bear. Rain fell, and yet all of the water slid off the surface of the pot like it was oil. But no, the second Michiru glanced at the misshapen, black concoction, it was simply just acid. Strong, brutal and corrupt acid. It didn’t take long to identify what Shiori was trying to make. It almost made Michiru throw up from the recognition.
“She tried to make a death potion.”
Rui snapped her head at Michiru, peeking from the cave entrance, her eyes blown out and wide. “A what?”
“A potion made only to kill,” Michiru explained as she stuck her staff on the handle of the cauldron. Carefully she lifted up the pot as splatters of acid fell as it moved. Whatever concoction that existed hissed upon collision with the dirt and forced it to crumble and crack. Michiru winced and tightened her grip, slowly moving it to the side, against the wall of the cave.
“It’s a potion she wouldn’t know about,” Michiru sighed as she carefully moved her staff out of the way. This place, exposed to the wind and rain, wasn’t the safest, but they had worse things to prioritise about. “Let alone attempt to make and fail, unless they’re a master at the craft.” She looked at Rui with a grave expression. “We ran out of time.”
Rui’s eyes hardened, and she stepped out from the cave. Her scarf was tucked away in a bag, and her clawed hands were exposed. She was no longer hiding, and the sight relieved and also worried Michiru. “What does that mean?”
Michiru looked away, a heavy burden on her throat. “Shiori needs to die today—”
“She’s already possessed by the Eternal Seer,” Michiru justified. Across the sky, something flashed stark white, and Michiru froze. She came back a second later, her hands shaking despite being still. A second later, the late call of thunder roared around them.
“And…” Michiru continued, her heart staggering as she looked up at Rui. She hoped that Rui could see the kindness in her eyes, the deep consideration that Michiru still listened to her. “I won’t force you to make the blow. But—”
Rui shook her head, striding fast to Michiru and towering over her. “Don’t you dare ask.”
Michiru grabbed her suspenders, tugging Rui down enough that they reached eye level. “I dare, Rui.” And in the brief moment, Michiru stared into Rui’s red eyes, remembered everything they went through and steeled herself. “If anything were to happen, take Shiori and run.”
It was a miracle that she did not break, asking this favour from her. This close, Michiru saw every aspect of Rui’s lips quivering, the way her eyes shuddered and saw the face move as she exhaled. She did so well trying to hide how much she hated this, but Michiru knew her. She raised her.
“I’m not leaving you behind Michiru.” Damn her and her loyal, stubborn heart. The response was as exactly as Michiru expected.
“You won’t.” The word came out instinctively, the need to comfort spitting faster than her rational mind could comprehend. If the worst was to happen, like Michiru anticipated, there is little chance she would come out of the exchange unscathed, let alone alive.
“Rui…” Michiru whispered, her voice getting heavier as the pressure of what was to come clogged her throat. “You’re—” Rui shook her head and jerked away from Michiru, her hands falling away from the suspenders it held.
“Don’t say those words,” Rui gasped, already knowing what dire words Michiru would’ve said. “Because you’re not saying goodbye.” Her voice broke, staggering in haggard pauses. She sounded so small, Michiru wanted to do nothing but hold her close. “Don’t. You’re not dying today— tell me you’re not dying today.”
“Rui…” Michiru whispered, reaching out her hand. Rui stepped back, her face hardening at the gesture.
Michiru paused. Lightning flashed, and the thunder roared, but Michiru didn’t hear them. She ignored the explicit triggers that gave her nightmares or reminded her of her cruelty that she never deserved. None of that was important as she stared at Rui.
Here was the child, now aged in her 20s— the same age Michiru was when she was thrust out to a world to a now tragic prophecy. Here she stood, towering above her with eyes. Red and sharp and full of kindness, and conflict and desire to be nothing more than a good person.
Here stood the child she abandoned before she returned with the responsibility to raise her right. Here was the Villain, who was nothing like a Villain. Here was the girl who wanted nothing but fantasy, even if that naivety would make her a more vulnerable creature.
Here was Akikaze Rui, a person Michiru loved only second to her own wife.
With a heavy but full heart, Michiru swallowed down the lump in her throat and smiled at Rui, her lie as explicit as the endearment of her grin. “I won’t die today.”
A harsh sound interrupted the scene. It was louder than the thunder, yet it pricked Michiru’s skin like it was lightning.
Michiru turned her body to the noise; the smile went within a blink of an eye. In front of them, unfazed by the rain, was Shiori, her eyes a violent shade of dark green. The tattoo of the temple was alight like a torch against the skin. To make matters more transparent, Shiori had her hair up, twin tails— too similar to the curve of a banana.
“Awww,” Shiori grinned in a voice that was too cruel to be her own. “So you two do love each other~.”
From the corner of Michiru’s vision, she saw Rui’s eyes flare up in anger, and she stuck her hand out to stop her. Their eyes locked briefly before Rui relaxed. Michiru turned her head back to Shiori, or what was left of her.
“What are you doing here?”
Shiori gave her a cruel smirk, further cementing the belief that whilst Shiori was talking, Nana was the one in control of her actions, influenced too much by the Seer’s touch. “Well, I wondered what took you so long so like a good hero, I saved you the trip.”
Michiru took a cautious step forward, her feet automatically drawn to a guard stance. She adjusted the grip of her staff as she continued to glare at Shiori and the person behind those green eyes. “Down there was the mole bear.”
“Exactly!” Shiori laughed, the tone too sickly sweet for it to be genuine. “We don’t have time,” she sighed, almost sad despite the wind starting to pick up around her eagerly. “It can smell us the longer we speak.”
“Alright,” Michiru growled, picking up the pace as she gripped tightly to the staff. “Let’s get this over with, Shiori.”
“Finally,” Shiori laughed, “You’re showing Villain colours Michiru.”
And with those words, Shiori descended onto Michiru, the wind blasting dirt into her eyes. Michiru grunted from the surprise, the dirt decaying as she raised her arm. However, the attack blinded her enough for Shiori to close the distance.
Shiori jabbed left with a knife, then right. Michiru, despite the dust in her eyes and the rapid beat of her heart, deflected both attacks, blocking them with her staff. She swung her staff at Shiori’s legs, and Shiori jumped, the wind helping her to avoid it before she lunged at Michiru again.
This time Michiru countered the swing of the knife, the blade digging hard to the wood. Yet Michiru’s eyes widened, a sudden elbow connected to her face, and Michiru grunted, letting go of her staff. Within the next breath, Shiori grabbed it— laughing with glee before Michiru held the centre of the staff and jerked it. She didn’t jerk it towards herself, however, but to Shiori, making the girl hit herself in the face.
In the slight distraction, Michiru made her move and disarmed Shiori of the staff. Shiori reached out to grab it again, but Michiru grunted, jabbing her fast in the liver. Shiori stumbled, a groan hissing her lips. In the next blink, Michiru attacked her limbs as she spun around behind Shiori, looped her arms around her neck and forced her into a chokehold, the wooden staff pressed hard underneath her chin.
Shiori dug her nails deep into Michiru’s skin with a snarl trying hard to break free. Above them, the thunder roared, yet there was no flash of lightning.
“I am— I’m a cruel, horrible person.” Michiru huffed, out of breath already, as she pulled out the knife still lodged to the staff. “To some, a monster—” She angled it towards the tattoo, and in her hold, she could hear Shiori go quiet as she eyed the weapon warily. “But for you? I was the wrong blonde to fear.”
Michiru stabbed the shoulder, treating the tattoo like a bullseye. She ignored the howl of agony before Michiru let go of one end of the staff and pressed her hand over the mark. Shiori thrashed in her grip, struggling to get free as her skin darkened into a black bruise-like colour. There it continued to decay and decay until there was nothing but sudden heat— and Michiru’s vision was blinded with white.
When Michiru returned, it was to the sound of ringing. She was on the floor, and Rui’s shadow towered over her. Her back was facing her, and her eyes were too busy glaring at a figure in front of them. In her arms, much to Michiru’s own surprise, was an unconscious Shiori, her hair no longer in ponytails and with her shoulder already bandaged up.
Michiru let out some noise, a slight groan to indicate her being well, and Rui’s tense figure immediately relaxed a bit at the sound.
“Michiru,” Rui whispered under her breath. “We have some company.”
Immediately, Michiru tensed and stood up, adjusting her foot subtly to get used to the rotten ground below her. It appeared that she used her decay too much. Though as her eyes narrowed in disgust and hatred at the person in front of them, she had a deep feeling that this sort of extreme use of her powers was just the beginning.
“So,” Nana hummed, a thumb pressing the bottom of her chin. “That’s how you removed your waypoint all those years ago, Cataclyst— countering me with your own powers.” She then sighed as the thunder crashed behind her. “I guess I still have a lot to go through, if a broken catalyst can counter a Seer such as I.”
Nana grinned, lightning flashing harsh and bright that for a moment, Michiru was a little child being forced to count the spaces between each flash out loud before the lightning struck her body again. Then she was back, the next second with her fragile heart quivering.
“Hello little dreamer,” Nana laughed, cold and cruel as Michiru always heard in her nightmares. “I hope you last longer this time.”