There is a law, which states that to every action there is a reaction.
There is a theory, that should a butterfly flap it's wings in California, a tsunami will, as a result, strike the shores of Japan with terrible force.
There is also a matter involving a dead cat in a box, which may or may not actually be dead despite the fact that it was dead before it was actually put in the box.
While these can be widely accepted by millions of people, there is always that slice of reality that leaves room for doubts. Does it really happen? Could it happen? Should one try and find the truth? How?
What certainty is there to these claims and theories of those bizarre people in the business of science and physics?
But all that aside, there is generally one law of the world that cannot be disputed.
Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
The Elders had always been called such; a collective group of near-ancient humans that always were and always would be. Three, wise and deadly, with powers of the mind that could bring a man to his knees with a breath. They were terrible and power hungry, with dreams of immortality to be given by a fading god. They had to be power hungry, to create their army of school children assassins and teachers turned tyrants. Ruthless, indestructible, the beginning and the end of so many lives.
Then the Elders had been killed.
And the next line up rushed in to fill the vacuum left in their wake. A new set of three, not Elders yet but simply They. And They had such grand dreams.
"We'll take them back into the fold. This team managed to plan a coup d'Ã©tat, plans that undoubtedly took years to fine tune, without any of our agents taking notice."
"They could be most useful in the future."
"But they betrayed the Elders. They could easily betray, could they even be persuaded to join. They are snakes."
"They are powerful."
"They are still human, are they not? As were the Elders. If we control the board..."
"They will not notice they are merely pieces, moved by our will."
"We just need to make them obedient. To catch them at a certain point in time, before this rather obsurd group grow too proud. Too independent."
"Are our scientists working on this?"
"Of course. It is only a matter of time."
"And then Schwarz will be our dogs."
"My, this is all very exciting. The pieces are virtually connecting themselves for us. Would anyone like a cup of tea, before we inspect the laboratories and their progress?"
"But of course."
Nii was an intelligent man. No one could dispute that; say what they would of his slippers and stuffed bunnies. It was the line between brilliance and madness, the quirky dangerous edge that had won him such a wonderful job, puttering around with the latest technology-creating to create and creating to destroy. So many toys lined up to play with and piece together, so long as he remembered to work on awakening Gyumao while he was at it.
It was very important, his work.
He didn't particularly care about the whole affair in comparison to all the other scripts he had written out, but stepping up to the same pedestal as God was a rush.
Not to mention Lady Koshu was great in bed.
He had so many plans. There was the Soul Freezer, to leave a person comatose. The new binding ropes, that would inject the captive with a powerful drug when the struggled against it. He could probably fiddle with it, make the victim obey commands...
Nii sighed around his unlit yet rumpled cigarette and refocused on the task at hand. A contraption to literally pause whoever was hit by the sound blast from it, regardless of how strong they are in body or will; it could prove handy in retrieving the Scriptures, providing it would work on any race-human, demon, half-blood, heretic. Quite a group of specimens to consider.
Picking up a screwdriver, he twisted a few bolts, avoiding and working around the wires of the machine.
"He he he..." he chuckled to himself, "this could be entertaining."
Standing, he shuffled to the other workbench, lazily searching for a small torch, some spare metal to fuse onto the existing pieces. With luck, and the skill he already had, the device would be finished by the night's end.
Most likely he'd let the rentboy-Prince, rather, but who could tell the difference with those clothes?-take his new baby out for a test drive. The Sanzo bunch would easily be found, and would likely win giving past records, but Nii wasn't worried. It would let him know what to fix, what to improve, and how much force was needed.
Nii had as much time as he wanted.
Even if no one else realized that.
The screams echoed throughout the halls of the main Sohma house, imperious bellows of a ruler demanding attention. The walls did not quite shake, the floor did not tremble, but the screams were enough to make most members of the family shuffle into shadows or avert their eyes from the implications in that sound.
"HATORI! Where are you?!"
It was this temperament, this attitude of their family leader, that had driven members away from safe courtyards and knowing faces.
There came a time when you chose between ducking away from the fist that falls or merely standing there and letting the bruises bloom.
Hatori didn't think of himself as brave or patient or anything extraordinary. He would never quite comprehend the reasons why Ayame looked at him with worship in his eyes and claims that he was the kindest of them all. He couldn't understand the younger one's, and sometimes the older one's, looks of awe and respect as he dealt with the god of their family.
Hatori didn't think about those things much.
He just walked calmly, from his office to Akito's main chamber, in slow steady steps that sounded hollow on the plain wooden floors. Slid open the paper doors, driving away silhouettes, and stepped into the dark room.
"Hatori! /Hatori/, where have you been? Why did you take so long? Didn't you hear me /calling/? I'm sick."
Akito was always sick. As often as he was angry, and jealous, and vindictive. Tantrums were there own sort of medicine to this Sohma, with sleek black hair and too-big kimonos.
"I assure you that I left as soon as I heard your calls," Hatori said flatly, turning briefly to slide the door closed behind him before he returned his attention to the purple clad figure seated at a low table.
Akito narrowed his eyes. "Do you think I'm a fool?"
The dragon-zodiac blinked once. "Of course not."
"Do you think a fool would know how to deal with this? With everything I am because of this curse, with everything I give and give up for /you/," Akito spat, and you became plural somehow, with the venom in that statement.
It wasn't easy, being a member of the Zodiac.
Holding back a tired sigh, Hatori moved to kneel across from the other man. "What's wrong, Akito? Are you feeling all right? Headaches? Dizziness?"
Akito laughed, pointed nails scraping along the tabletop. "Am I /all right/? While things fall apart because of that bitch?"
Hatori bit the side of his cheek. He knew Akito didn't like Tohru-kun. It wasn't even a guess, but a flat out fact. But the girl was special in a way that few people were, full of sun and smiles and flowers through frost. He looked down and was surprised to see his hands clenched in fists.
Then Akito flipped that internal switch of his and smiled, lounging halfway across the table in a careless sprawl. A pale thin shoulder struck out from beneath rich material. "I think, Hatori, that we should do something about this."
Hadn't they already been through this? Tohru would continue to live with Shigure, all her memories intact, for the time being. That was the decision reached not too long ago, because Akito had something to prove now and Hatori wanted nothing to do with destroying that girl's memories.
He didn't want to erase anything ever again.
"I think," Akito continued, "that we should erase-"
"But.." Hatori started.
"Don't interrupt me, Hatori, it's very rude." Akito seemed to slide into an upright position, looking more like a snake in human form than Ayame ever did. "I think that to hurt her we should do nothing to her."
But if not to her, then...
"We'll take away something she loves and will remember losing. Kyo, wretched cat, has grown close to her, hasn't he? And he'll be going into solitude soon enough, I suppose. There last moments together would be cherished by both of them, I imagine."
Hatori's mind raced. Akito was rewriting his own plans, taking a plot twist the doctor hadn't expected. This wasn't good, could only end with too many shattered pieces.
He cleared his throat. "Akito, should you erase Kyo's memories of Honda-kun, would that not work against your plan to have, as you said, both of them lose something?"
Akito stood, fluid movements of skin and bone, and took shaky steps towards Hatori's kneeling form. It was one of his bad spells, where the body was weaker than the mind it held.
In a sharp movement, the Sohma clan's leader twisted his fingers into Hatori's hair and wrenched backwards. "Why don't you listen, Hatori? This is all I want! I'm burdened more than any of you and you would deny me this one small thing? The cat's thoughts don't matter. I'm doing him a favor."
Akito released his hold and fell backwards in a terrible spill of mad elegance. "A favor. He'd have no shining memories of outside to cling to, hopelessly and uselessly. Am I not kind?"
Hatori sighed and wished he was all of those wonderful things people seemed to think he was.
They had waited months to get to this point, Their goals finally within reach. It would only take a bush of a button, a flip of the switch, and Schwarz's day of reckoning would come. It would be sweet to the tongue and mind, to have those fools heel at Their command, as they should have from the very beginning.
They simply had to get within range. Then the...
"What do you call it?"
A nervous looking man in a lab coat clutched his clipboard. "Pardon, your...excellencies?" He stammered.
"This machine, the leash with which we will drag in Schwarz. What do you call it?"
"You see, it doesn't quite have a name yet," the scientist explained, crisp British accent cutting through the dreary lab and humming of machines at work. A lab assistant, standing behind the braver scientist, took another step back.
They were displeased by this and it was apparent in their expressions.
"What have you been referring to it as?"
The scientist coughed. "Serve, actually, now that you ask. It isn't the official name, of course, because we thought that perhaps Your Powers would want to name it."
"It lacks glamour."
"Our machine is grand, and thus should its name be."
"So, what would your undoubtedly magnificent suggestion be?" the scientist asked, quite sincerely and quite terrified by Them.
There was a thoughtful pause, as They glanced at each other. The control device lay on the table, patiently waiting for its time to rise in that quiet way that most machines have.
"We shall name it Seinsvergessenheit."
"Great! Wonderful!" the scientist exclaimed as They nodded in satisfaction. He wondered if he'd be able to fit that on the nameplate. "And, erm, that is, when precisely will Seinsvergessenheit," he stopped for a breath, "be put to use?"
"In two days, the targets will be within range."
"An agent will be sent."
"We shall win."
"Erm, right. Well, the thing is, you see, it will take time to train someone on the operations of Seins....it." He hastily flipped his clipboard around so They could see the impressive pie charts. "A month, at least."
"We have not the time."
"We've waited long enough."
"You shall go instead."
The scientist croaked a bit, wondering why he hadn't become a psychiatrist, empath powers or not. "Jolly good," he said, instead of resigning.
"Yes, please," three voices responded.
The demon beside him cackled, wire cables stretching from brain to the dark oblivion of the ceiling. Talon-bearing fingers danced across keyboards and dials, tools of being precise as much as tools of peeling skin from muscle. The man was clever, hideous, crude, and hated most of everything.
He was the only one Nii could stand to work with.
And work they had. All other projects had been passed on to subordinates, fickle things that came with How-To plans, written out by Nii himself ages ago. Inventions that he could likely finish in hours if he felt like it but would take the others days.
They weren't as important as this though.
"I think," Nii drawled, "that it's almost finished. Imagine that, done already. Where does the time go?"
"Some moments seem to last forever," the demon chortled.
Nii's lips twitched into a half-smirk in appreciation, the bunny in his arms nodding his head as if it found that particularly amusing. "Ah, got that right." He sat, rightly expecting a seat to be waiting for him, and rolled back a few inches before his heels stopped the chair's wheels. "Now, now, what next? Hmm?"
There wasn't much left to be done.
In fact, it just needed to be-
The lab's door was slammed open and a slender figure gracefully stomped his way in. "What do you want, Nii?"
The scientist regarded the redhead in front of him in bemusement. "Prince Kougaiji, an honor as always," he gushed, tone oily and vaguely sarcastic. "Where's your ever loyal bodyguard and the buxom beauty?"
Kougaiji's eyes narrowed. "You summoned me. Why?"
"Ah, well." Nii stopped, leaning back in his chair with arms crossed behind his head. "We just finished something of interest, here in our humble little office. You'll have the honor of testing it."
"Not interested." The demon prince turned, red hair flicking like cat's tail. A particularly haughty cat.
"I think you would be," Nii said. "Of course, I can suggest that your she-demon be the one to take it on a test ride. It isn't dangerous, or anything, for the user. Rather, it shouldn't be." Nii grinned. "You know how these prototypes are. Click...click...sometimes /boom/."
His bunny waves its arms in emphasis.
"None of us are interested in your toys, Nii," Kougaiji told him, coldly, but he wasn't leaving yet and they both knew who pulled the strings around here.
And Nii was closer to her than the prince was. Funny, that.
"Oh, ho, I think this one may give you...pause."
Claws hovered over keys as the demon cackled, dry rasps of stale air.
"Especially, when it could be an ample opportunity to beat Sanzo and his crew of, shall we say, unaffected demons."
The redhead turned fully around, staring into glinting glasses. "What do you mean?"
"Don't you know? You must have some brains."
"I know they're demons. For the most part, anyway. What are you talking about though?"
"Obviously, the Minus Wave hasn't had any affect on them. Pity. But spilt milk and all that. If we can't turn them to our side or dispose of them in a fair fight, we slow them down. They won't know what hit them. Or killed them, for that matter. My, how clever."
He gestured towards the gun-shaped device, resting innocently on the table.
"It just needs to be aimed and fired. But if the Prince doesn't feel like it..."
"Fine. I'll do it. But the others will not be involved." Kougaiji walked to the table, picking up the sleek metal gun. "Show me how it works."
"If you insist," Nii drawled.
It was fun, being him. How lucky he was.
"If we put the cat in a house and close him inside, never looking at him again, is he alive or dead?" Akito wondered out loud, pointed chin resting on the palm of one slim hand. Everything about him was frail, breakable, and nearly always frightening.
"You're talking of theories," Hatori murmured, glancing over papers without actually taking anything in.
Nothing but the word 'end'.
"It makes so much sense though, doesn't it? Yes, yes it does. It isn't there, we can't be certain, and the cat is nothing to begin with. In that boxed house, it ceases to be. Alive or dead, it doesn't matter, it is not there."
"If that's what you believe."
"Hatori, I know you're worried," Akito said, cooed really, and traced the line of a pillow with his free hand. "Poor Kyo, poor wretched Kyo, with nothing to make him happy when he's alive and dead. I'm trying to tell you, Hatori, that it's for the best."
It was always for the best.
"It's for the best. I say it is. No memories of that girl to make him happy. No memories of that girl to make him miserable. Just the sad excuse his life was before."
It hadn't been though, not Kyo's whole life, because Shishou had been kind. Hatori knew the dojo master had taken care of the motherless boy when no one else would pay him any notice.
"It doesn't matter, anyway, because you're going to do what I say," Akito hissed.
"If the circumstances do indeed call for it, I suppose I must." There was still time though, to change it, to save two-no, /far more than that/--people's lives. Because Hatori knew they were close, so very close, to a solution.
And Tohru was the key.
All he needed was a few more days, hours even, to just-
A polite knock on the door made them both turn their attention to it.
"Yes?" Hatori asked, half-afraid for some reason.
The door slid open and one of the Sohma maids peered in. "Umm, excuse me, but the guest is waiting outside. Should I bring him in or...?"
"I won't have him in my rooms," Akito sneered and stood, ink robes unfurling in a dark river until it settled in smooth lines along the lithe body. "It will happen in your office, Hatori. Come tell me how it went, afterwards." He waved his hand, dismissing them.
Hatori choked, inclined his head, then walked out of the room, letting the maid close the door for him. He didn't pause. Just walked out to the front courtyard, where he spotted a familiar orange mop of hair.
"Yo, Hatori," Kyo greeted, raising one hand half-heartedly. The boy wasn't the smartest of the zodiac, but even he could tell something was wrong. He'd never been invited here for a reason other than 'bad'.
Hatori wounded if Kyo wished he'd never hear from the main house again, when all it brought him was grief. But he already knew the answer. Kyo would do anything to be accepted, integrated in and repaid for a lifetime of cold shoulders and hateful sneers.
Tohru was changing that, moment by moment.
And Hatori was going to rewind time.
I am not God, but his right hand.
He wanted to stand back, wash his hands of the situation, and continue on with life. Wanted the comfort of truly believing he could.
This world is a cruel one, as much as it is kind. Perhaps more so.
"Kyo, follow me. I'll make some tea for us, in my office. We have something to discuss."
Brown eyes looked wary and tired and ready to take the next punch. "Ah. Sure thing."
I am his right hand, and thus that with which he punishes.
Morris wondered why he was here.
It wasn't his job to be doing this sort of thing; there were specialized people who handled these affairs. Trained for years, prepared for anything, being all that they could be. He was a scientist with a collection of rare Clash of the Titans lunchboxes and a cat named Lynus. Or, rather, he would have a cat named Lynus if Esset let any of Their workers have pets.
He wanted a cat named Lynus someday.
He probably would never get one if his latest creation failed. Whether by machine or by man, if something went wrong his life was going to be considerably shorter than he'd hoped for.
And he really didn't want to be attacking these people. One of them was a /kid/, for Pete's sake, with baby fat barely gone from his cheeks and a school uniform on.
And the redhead was fairly attractive, he supposed, if you were into that kind of thing.
Schwarz, he had been informed, was a vicious bunch of traitorous cutthroats with no remorse or pity or feelings whatsoever. They were supposed to be monsters.
Schwarz was currently sitting in a park, having some sort of bizarre ice cream war, laughing (or at least grinning) as people gave them a wide berth.
They looked so happy and at ease, it was ridiculous.
His finger paused on Seinsvergessenheit's switch.
Brilliant blue eyes darted towards him, widened than narrowed. The rest of Schwarz started to turn towards him as well, the American running forward a half-second later-gun out and shouting an order to his team.
/Oh, hell/, thought Morris and in his panic, flipped the switch.
Just as two psi powers, a bullet, and an Irishman's knife plunged towards him.
Kougaiji felt slightly bitter about being tricked into this job. He was a prince, he had a mission and a mother to save, and he was practically playing errand boy to a perverted slightly-off-balance scientist with a rabbit fetish.
It was, he had to admit to himself, pretty low.
Never mind that he had agreed to try the latest plan out. If it worked, he'd have what he needed. He couldn't risk Nii or the bitch getting their hands on the scriptures before he did. They were the only things he had left to barter.
His mother's only hope.
And he certainly wouldn't have Doku or Yaone be the ones getting roped into Nii's experiments. He owed them that much, no matter what they thought.
He landed his dragon beside a tall tree, tying it to a strong branch. It wouldn't do to be stranded for any amount of time if he had to make a run for it.
Not that he would run from Sanzo and his mutts. He just didn't trust things to turn in his favor, all things considered.
Lifting Nii's pet onto his shoulder, he dashed through the woods. The Sanzo crew should be not too far up ahead, fighting with the minions Kougaiji had sent before him. They were fodder, regretfully, but what's done is done.
Just a little further.
Maybe this time it would work.
If it did...if it /did/...
Leaping into a tree, he ran forward from branch to branch until he heard the sound of fighting. Blades, gunshots, screams, laughter.
One of them always laughed. Made a joke of the whole thing.
The prince envied them the ability to do that.
There. There were next to no demons left, the majority obliterated-less than dust and never to be mourned. If this worked...
He jumped down, the force of landing sending a slight jolt through his right knee. He was unused to carrying any extra weight.
"Sanzo!" he shouted, gun aimed and holding their attention. "I'm here for the scriptures!"
The taboo-child had the audacity to mouth the words along with him. The demon prince growled and made a note to do something particularly nasty to that one.
"Tough shit," was all Sanzo said, cigarette carton in hand.
"For you, maybe," Kougaiji snarled and tightened his finger on the trigger mechanism.
But then, so did Cho Hakkai.
Kyo was looking around the office curiously, probably noting pictures and books. It occurred to Hatori that Kyo hadn't been in his office for a long time, if he ever had been while Hatori was House doctor. It was difficult to picture a small bright-haired child wandering around this room.
Hatori had always made house calls when necessary, especially for the Cat.
"Have a seat, Kyo. Anywhere is fine. Would you like something to drink?"
Kyo shuffled over to the couch, hands curled up in his pockets, and flopped back onto the cushions in a graceful-yet-not sprawl. "I thought you were making tea," Kyo muttered, eyes darting around.
He knew, he knew, something in Hatori's mind screamed.
But how could he?
"I thought I'd double check. Give me a moment," Hatori said as he headed towards the small adjoining kitchen; if it could be called that. He was normally a coffee drinker during what he considered work hours, but tea seemed like the sort of thing that should be offered in a situation like this, so he had a kettle boiling within a minute.
Leaving that to it's own business, the doctor made his way back into the main office. Before he could take more than a step in, Kyo said, quietly, "I don't really want tea, yanno."
"I see. That's why I double-checked. You should make yourself clearer, sometimes, Kyo."
The carrot-top grinned a bit. "Yeah, yeah, after everyone telling me to calm down and shut up?" He snorted.
The boy had changed.
Two steps retraced and Hatori had the aborted tea attempt cooling on the counter. When he returned to the office this time, Kyo wasn't sitting on the couch. The Cat stood near the open door, staring out at the garden with a wistful expression.
Hatori didn't speak. It wasn't his right to interrupt the quiet.
Then Kyo did.
"Are you going to hypnotize me or something, Hatori?" he asked. "I figure I got invited here for a reason. Maybe that bastard decided to store me away already or something. It'd be too much for him to keep a crappy bargain anyways. And he knows I wouldn't go easily before I'd had a chance to..."
Hatori blinked, startled, voice chanting He knows! He knows! but merely said, "No, Kyo, that's not why you were asked here." /Not exactly/.
The boy's shoulders visibly relaxed. Kyo turned away from the view and walked to the couch again, in that strong but hunched up way he had. When he was seated, Hatori sat in the chair opposite him, rolling it forwards a bit.
Brown eyes stared back at him, blank and unsuspecting. Trust?
"But you are here for a reason.'
The look snapped, broken in a heartbeat and Hatori thought it was one of the most tragic things he'd ever seen. Because how many times had someone else watched those same eyes go through the exact same change of emotion?
"But you won't remember why."
He started to erase. Rewrite.
Then a blur oF blue and brown tackled him, and he felt the pull-tug of his body changing, felt his mass explode in a puff of smoke.
To every action there is a reaction.
To good there is bad, to light there is dark, to right there is wrong.
Sometimes it's for the better. Sometimes for the worse.
Pause. Erase, Rewrite.
Pause. Erase. Rewrite.
Sometimes you're not sure which is which.
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