Description: Ahmya Shiki goes to a place she's never been to keep an appointment she didn't make, and tells a stranger a story she'd never before imagined.
A FEW DAYS AGO
It's quite late in Southtown. So late that the usually bustling city is quiet, only the sound of an occasional car a few streets away echoes through the silent tunnel of buildings. The only other sound is the click of bootheels on pavement. The source of the sound is a young woman, a pair of swords with rings in the hilts dangling from her fingers as she walks. Her face is expressionless, even as the moonlight seems to make her red eye glow faintly.
She stops, something catching her attention. A flier that somehow seems old and wasted and fresh and new at the same time. She peers at it, face a blank mask. She shuffles things in her hands and produces her smartphone, scanning the QR code. It inputs a date, a time and an address into her calender. She keeps walking, her footprints bloody in the moonlight.
Ahmya Shiki has been confused about the appointment in her phone's calender. She has no memory of making it. She's trieed a dozen times to delete it to no avail. In a moment of rare courage and frustration, she's decided to keep the appointment.
Thusly, the girl has arrived to the designated location, at the precise time. She tries to put on a brave front, but she's nervous. She has no idea what this is about, or why she's here.
The designated location was a warehouse, once upon a time-- still is, technically, but for the lack of any wares to house but rotting wood.
And dark, purple velvet carpeting.
And cobwebs hung just so, lending to an air of the lost and forbidden rather than mere neglect.
And candles flickering with green and purple flames, enough for dim light and long shadows.
The door isn't just unlocked, it cracks open just enough to allow a peek of what's within as Ahmya approaches.
Warehouse or no, one thing this place emphatically isn't is abandoned: the soft, wordless melody trickling through the crack is crystal clear, utterly without mechanical artifacts.
Ahmya starts slightly as the warehouse door seems to crack open on its own. She blinks a few times before peering in. She's quiet for a moment until she hears the music.
"H-hello? Is somebody in there?"
She hesitates, drawing a deep, steadying breath before she pushes the door open and makes her way inside. The decor is ... not what she expected as she slowly creeps further in, eyes wide and body language guarded as she seeks whatever's inside, deeper within.
Inside, there are flowers trapped on the edge between alive and not, full and black and drooping and spindly in their vases, their vines sprawling along the walls.
Inside, there are strings. The strings weren't audible from outside; they weren't audible until the moment the threshold was crossed, as if hidden harpists were waiting for /just/ the right moment to add their accompaniment.
Inside, a grand desk made from dark wood and fresh white bone waits on the far end of the shadows which simultaneously billow around the edges of Ahmya's perception and unfurl before her eyes, leading inwards.
Inside, a voice as rich and dark as finely aged chocolate wine winds through the air, rising just above the music to take its rightful place on top.
"... a conflicted heart swept up by red tides," the woman seated behind the desk concludes. Dressed in an elegant black and ash-white gown with a diamond cut-out over the chest, dark purple heels, and black lace stockings, she's practically reclined with one leg crossed over the other. A black veil hides her face, but not the intermittent wisps of purple energy swirling beneath.
"I sense a whisper waiting to be replaced by a scream."
"I sense Ahmya Shiki, pale and red," reverberates through the space.
"Tell me your story, Ahmya Shiki."
Walking into this place is like walking into some horror/romance anime. If Ahmya wasn't so on edge, the thought might amuse her. Instead it just ... doesn't make this any easier.
As she comes around into sight of the desk and the woman behind it, her heart feels like it's seizing. She feels like she's in danger. She probably is, but it's not a physical one.
"My ... My story?" She's hesitant, almost quailing from the thought. "I don't have a story, I don't think. I go to Gedo High, I play golf. I like shojo manga and tonkatsu." She rambles through the disgustingly mundane, but a wordless voice from within prods her.
"I...I black out sometimes. I wake up in unfamiliar places with my great grandmother's swords in my hand. I'm covered in blood, and there's a fading snake tattoo on my thigh. ... I don't know what's wrong with me."
The stranger behind the desk softly purrs with palpable interest. Her fingers steeple; black and gray tresses billow gently in stale air.
"It's a complicated question, isn't it?"
There's one chair besides hers, across from her. No arms; tall back; plush, violet upholstery for the spine and seat set in dark, brown wood with sigils carved down its sides. She sweeps a hand forward, towards the chair once Ahmya's close enough, head canting curiously.
"'What's wrong with me?'"
Fingers resteeple; her eyes are hidden, but the sense of being studied is unmistakable.
"How do you feel in these unfamiliar places, in the aftermath of these stolen moments-- in your baptism of strange blood, marred by a strange scar?" she wonders, adding another complex question to the stack.
"How do her swords feel in your hands?"
Still as timid as a mouse, Ahmya freezes as the chair is gestured to before she takes the halting handful of steps towards it, sitting primly and smoothing her skirt. She is silent for a moment, almost flinching as her own words are returned to her. There has to be something wrong. No normal person wakes up with blood on their hands.
"They feel," she starts, her lips pressing into a line as she thinks. "Right. Like they were meant for me. Like no matter how long they've been in a box, handed down through my mother's family, that...fate says they're for me and me alone."
"And how do you feel," she asks, legs uncrossing so she can draw her chair -- herself -- closer to the girl across the desk,
"Knowing that you've lost time to violence beyond memory, armed with a piece of legacy which is unmistakably /yours/?"
This is a difficult question. Ahmya almost draws back as the mysterious woman, the Revenant Queen, leans closer. Something feels off, and at this point, she's not sure if it's the Queen or if it's her. She clutches a hand into a fist in her lap and closes her eyes, mulling the question.
"Part of me hates it. Part of me just wants to be like everyone else. I want to go to school, get a job, fall in love. That kind of thing."
Her eyes open. Her left, in the odd dancing light, seems to flash red for an instant.
"The rest of me wants to find out why this happens. If I can control it. I know, I ''feel'' there's power in me, but I don't know where it's from. What it's for."
She doesn't seek to intrude on Ahmya's space, really; it's more a matter of communicating more interest than the remove of her previous posture might've.
Of letting the girl who's a stranger even to herself know that she is seen as much as she's heard.
"And if you could," control it.
She's still there after Ahmya's eyes open, right where she was when they closed-- close enough to clock strange lights.
"If you did," understand it.
"What would you DO with it, Ahmya Shiki?"
The smile beneath the veil's audible. It is a warm and gentle thing amidst the otherwise firm, smoky certainty of her tone-- amidst shadows peeling back no more than they must for a semblance of invitation.
"What would you do, once you were no longer able to imagine yourself to be like everyone else?"
These are very complex and difficult questions for a seventeen year old girl to be answering. Sure, she's thought about her future, but a ''mundane'' one. A future of University, the work force. Relationships and hobbies and pets and everyday little things that are not earthshaking, but yet are still the core of most peoples' worlds. The first instant she awoke drenched in blood, she knew in her secret heart that that world had been stolen from her by the wheel of fate.
"I don't...I don't know. Help people? Though I don't know how the power to kill can help anyone." She pauses. "See if it can take a few strokes from my golf game?" She laughs, but it sounds forced.
"Maybe ... Maybe just see how far it goes. Follow that winding path to see what I become with it."
"It really does depend on who you kill," the Queen evenly posits, "doesn't it?"
She doesn't laugh -- not at the idea of selective murder; not at the joke preceding it. Though, there was definitely a moment just after the joke, a pause for the Queen to study the seventeen year old anew swinging like a blade over their heads.
"It's a skill; an art. A talent... and there are few talents indeed which can be usefully honed in the dark."
Her arms fall into draping over the sides of her chair, tipped with carvings of forlorn women in billowing robes clutching crystal orbs; several purple sparks briefly arc through the orbs.
"Learning is always an option; one only needs the will to seek knowledge, the courage to absorb it... and the humility to integrate it." Drawing back into the comfort of her throne, the Queen slips one leg over the other.
"And so," she declares with just a hint of mirth, "we return:"
"What is wrong with you, Ahmya Shiki?"
Golf jokes are her fallback, mostly to try and cut through her own nerves. They never land. It's fine, despite how weird this is, it's fine. The question, though, remains. What's wrong with her? The truth is, well, simpler and far more complex than she was thinking.
"I guess ... Nothing, really. Just a ... situation to figure out. It's a mystery, not a fault."
She takes another breath and nods. "It's my great grandmother's legacy. Whatever it is isn't ''wrong'', it just ... It just ''is''. I just have to have the courage to face it."
"Some legacies have roots which run through depths best left unrevealed, so long as one desires mundanity."
The Queen cants her head rightwards.
"Mediocrity," she adds -- states, plainly and devoid of judgment.
"To simply shamble happily through the endless twilight of a life lived firmly within one's margins requires a certain level of comfortable ignorance, after all."
Silent, darkly radiant with witchlight which curls like smoke from a hidden bonfire, the Revenant Queen allows Ahmya a moment or two for absorption before--
"Ahmya Shiki, who inherited old blades and older power," thrums through the warehouse.
"Ahmya Shiki, who staggers through the moonlit strip between mouse-dreams and serpentine hunger," multiplies and melts into itself, shuffling together into a chorus of one.
"Ahmya Shiki, who seeks to seize knowledge from the darkness and wrest it into the light:" swells far, /far/ beyond the strings, the persistent melody--
"Tell me your story."
Ahmya closes her eyes, listening to the Revenant Queen speak. It's oddly encouraging. Part of her still feels like she shouldn't be here. That, whatever this is, isn't wholesome. Even so, she feels heartened. Like she can take control of herself and ... be whole. Bring the girl who just wants to be normal together with the secret part that wants to wallow in blood.
"I am Ahmya Shiki. I am seventeen years old and a Third Year student at Gedo High. I want to be average, but that's no longer an option. These heirlooms have awakened a power in me, a power I want to learn to use and control to better myself and to see how far it will go. I guess I'm here, in this room, because that's what the secret side of me, the one who takes over that I can't remember, wants. I think she, I, wants us to be whole and complete. If this ... event will help me do so, I won't walk away."
"Ahmya Shiki, the Wanderer in Red."
Her proclamation fills the room, doubling, tripling on itself until the air's nothing but an echoing chorus of the lost girl and her appellation. Throughout it all, the Queen rises-- lifts, quite literally, from her seat. Black and gray hair whips wildly around her-- ALL of her, as inch after nigh-endless inch of lustrous locks are revealed by her ascent.
(The shadows, the perspective-- they must've hidden the absurd extent of her shrouding mane.)
Those orbs set in her chair crackle and fulminate with captured power--
The eldritch wisps trickly from beneath the veil course and swell--
Countless scintillating violet threads knit together, forming something like a frame--
-- a writhing image--
-- a screaming echo of the Queen, straining-- REACHING fruitlessly from her body, inches short of a brush with mysteriously empowered life and ancient blood.
"As you Descend -- as you seek the answer to your inner mysteries in the blood-limned haze -- I want you to remember this story, because it is YOURS."
Swirling witchlight fills palms held out to either side of her for a second, two-- and then she draws them inwards, pressing both hands over her heart. The light doesn't so much as peek through the cracks, it's GONE--
-- and a tiny bead of radiance blooms before Ahmya's eyes, just shy of a brush with her nose.
"Hold it close, let it resonate with the truth of You..." falls /right/ in Ahmya's ear, an unmistakable whisper in a thundering sea of sound.
"... and once you've survived the fall... perhaps you'll find a path to the knowledge you seek waiting for you at the bottom."
Eldritch and arcane things happen, and Ahmya's eyes widen. It really shouldn't surprise her, given her situation, but it's her first conscious encounter with magic. A tiny thought in her mind tells her that she is not as surprised as she should be. This is truly, maddeningly, otherworldly, and yet her eyes just widen. She doesn't even ''flinch''. Something inside her exalts in the familiarity of the dark magic.
As the bead of light blooms before her face, her blood, her soul, resonates with the magic, her left eye shifting from ocean blue to blood red. She holds one hand out, the glowing bead descending into her palm. As the light fades, Ahmya blinks. In her hand is a stylized blue serpent, coiling around itself. It's head rises, tiny red eyes glinting, and upon it's 'shoulders' are wings. One white and one black.
She stares at it with her now mismatched eyes, tilting her head slightly. It matches the snake mark. It's the same color, the same kind of coiling.
"Thank you," she says. "I think."
"You may thank me," she replies through whipping tresses and swirling energies, flaring candles and rushing shadows, "by waking at the bottom."
"Until then: I wish you good luck and good fortune in your fall."
The shadows billow and multiply until Ahmya's surrounded by them, alone in the shrieking void with nothing but stern well-wishes for warmth or light. The last words echo fiercely in the darkness for what may well feel like an agonizing durance--
-- only for the shadows to part, the supernatural currents to cease, and pale, steady moonlight to touch Ahmya's cheeks once more.
The designated location was a warehouse, once upon a time-- still is, technically, but for the lack of any wares to house but rotting wood.
And the Tale of the Red Wanderer.
And the forbidding promise of answers lurking in the darkness.
Log created on 21:38:41 06/14/2022 by Sindel, and last modified on 09:03:04 07/16/2022.