Mai-HiME Fan Fiction ❯ One Crazy Dream ❯ One Crazy Dream ( Chapter 1 )

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-Author's note-

Before anybody says, "that's way too concise for a dream" (which somebody could) I did take the liberty of filling in a few holes and drawing a few connections. Anybody who has had a crazy dream knows that there are certain things that can't be described in words, so you could say I had to translate from "dream thought" to "story speak" and as with any translation, it's not going to be perfect. I tried to do as little as possible, though, and didn't add anything to "make it better", it was interesting enough as it was.

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The sun shone high in the sky in the city, bringing the grimy dull reds and browns of the closely packed brick buildings into stark reality. I didn't like it here, I never had liked it here. In the busier parts of the day and city, the visibly polluted air always stung my eyes, and bothered my throat and lungs, and I always felt a little sick whenever I went out for very long. But Mai was the one who wanted to move here, so I didn't complain too much. I never wanted Mai to be troubled by me.

Which is why I hope I'm not doing anything bad now. There's one place in this city I like to go, but I'm pretty sure Mai wouldn't like it. But even though I don't want Mai to be troubled, I can't help but go there every now and again. It reminds me of the caves back home, except for the smell. I can live with that, because I have friends there and it's fun exploring.

Finally, a break in the monotony of crooked brick building stretching up above signals that I'm getting close. I came out of the buildings to the large canal that ran through the length of the city, splitting it in half. In either direction there are small, stonework foot bridges spanning the gap about every fifty yards, but the bridges are not what I'm looking for. I walk to the edge of the canal and look down.

About eight or nine feet that way, there's another level. The city level, and then the sewer level, and then the water, like a giant staircase of two stairs. The water that ran through it fed the sewer system, but wasn't part of the sewer system, and somehow was the only part of this city that managed to be clean. It was a surreal sight in the soot and smog, that clean sparkling expanse.

I made the easy leap down to the next section of pavement, and looked around. About every fifty yards as well, but every one inbetwixt the bridges, there were huge circular covers for the city's seweres. Big enough for me to lay in the middle and stretch all out, and still not touch the edges. I don't think Mai could have either. But these were different than other covers, instead of just being a lid for a hole, every cover was actually in grooves inside the wall, and there was a little gap of a few inches on either side to push the cover to the side in its little tracks inside the wall.

I couldn't help myself after looking at that nice water, so I decided to get into the sewers from the other side of the canal today. There was no more than a light current in the concrete canal, and it was only perhaps fourty feet wide, so it didn't last quite as long as I would have liked. I reached the far side and pulled myself dripping from the water before shaking my head vigorously. The wet clothes didn't bother me, but I didn't like water running into my eyes. I shook my hair until the fun thwap-thwapping of my braids was lighter and they didn't swing as fast and fun anymore. Then I walked over to the nearest sewer cover, put my fingers in the small gap, set me feet, and pulled. My wiry little muscles barely had to strain against the stone disk; I was strong and they were very well made. I just opened it enough to slid my small frame in, and then closed it behind me. Mai was always telling me to leave things the proper way I found them. I had fun stepping wide over the small channel of water that came in the door from the canal, one foot on either side of the three-foot little trickle. The doors led me to a pretty wide tunnel that went as far as my eyes could see to the left and the right, the little water trickle splitting in two as well.

I was curious about these, and looked it up in the library at the school Mai had me signed up for. It was still the only useful thing I think I ever learned there. The little stream from the canal split to the sides after going forward from the door, then each one traveled left or right, then angled back forward, then split in two to go left and right again. Not where I could see, but I knew that happened farther into the sewers, I could see where the stream angled back forward and disappeared into new smaller tunnels in the far tunnel wall. There were other, smaller canals in the city, but they were underground, beneat the walkways and streets. They had split up the really big river outside of the city into the one big canal and many little ones, and they provided water and sewer for the city. I thought that was a pretty smart thing to do, especially because they tried really hard not to let yucky city stuff back into the water, even if that was only for the farms miles and miles downstream. I've wanted to go visit those farms, but Mai is always busy, especially now that she's trying to get us out of here.

I was just walking through the big main tunnel, wondering what to do today or when I would see my first friend, when I heard a person breathing, hard and irregular. Now, except for the occasional workman I saw down here and avoided, I was the only person I ever knew to come down here. And this definitely wasn't a workman, it sounded like... like somebody crying. I took a few steps to the branching tunnel I heard it coming from, but while walking carefully down my foot slipped on a slimy patch of the stone floor. I caught myself easily in what I would have thought was a barely audible smack of my other foot on the floor, but I heard the crying sound cutoff. I kept walking, thinking that whoever was there couldn't be a threat if they were crying. I poked my head out, glancing swiftly to the sides, but right after I had I heard a sigh of relief from the shadows here. There wasn't much light, except for what spilled in from the gap in the entrance behind me, and the occasional electric light that they kept on down here.

From one of those darkest areas stepped a woman. Her tawny hair was matted and a little dirty, but the rest of her was shining clean as if just scrubbed vigorously. I say "the rest of her" because I could see it all, she wasn't wearing a stitch of clothing. Even more surprising, I recognized her! The tawny hair, the full figure, gentle face-- though now it carried one of those weird smiles that came from heady relief and still-present worry than happiness, and especially those dark crimson eyes. She had been somebody important at the school Mai and me went to before, but I didn't know too much about her except that she was a friend of Mai's friend Natsuki.

"Shizuru! Hi, what are you doing here?"

Shizuru smiled in a way that seemed a little more happy, though I don't know at what.

"Hello to you too, Minagi-san. I came with Natsuki to see your friend Tokiha-san. We were on Natsuki's motorcycle, but some bad men through something at it and we crashed. We weren't hurt from that, but then the men came after us and we had to run, and we finally ran down here to get away from them." She didn't voice the rest of that yet, how they'd actually fallen through the floor in a half-finished building they had thought to duck into without looking, and how that had an opening to the sewer below.

"Natsuki?" I asked, looking around.

"Yes, she's back here Minagi-san." Shizuru turned around and walked through a dark little tunnel further into the sewer system. In a little cranny on the close wall after we came to he next chamber lay Natsuki bathed in the glow from an electric light. She too, was absent any clothing. Also strangely, there was a little rabbit nuzzled up against her.

"I wanted to be able to see her well. So I could monitor her health." I thought I heard some defensiveness in Shizuru's words, but I didn't think about it too much.

"Is she sick? She should probably be wearing clothes to keep her warm then. Where are your clothes, Shizuru?" She pointed away, to the opposite side of the tunnel-chamber and I saw a repulsive pile of... what I think Shizuru meant to say used to be their clothes.

"We fell into the really dirty water, and I had to get the clothes off of us after we got away. I couldn't leave Natsuki like that. I cleaned us off, anyway, in the good water back where we just met. I couldn't just leave Natsuki all dirty, right? It was fine to clean her." She sounded uncomfortable.

"Yup. Me and Mai take baths all of the time, its easier to get all the way clean if she can get my back."

"Right, Minagi-san, just like a little bath."

"But what's wrong with Natsuki, why don't you go up and get her help?"

"I think she hit her head in that crash, or sometime down here. She was fine for a little bit, but then she was very tired and fell asleep, and I couldn't wake her up. I wanted to get help, but our phones got broken, and I didn't know if I would find help or harm up there, especially with how we're dressed."

"Mmm..." I said thoughtfully, "Yes, there are many strange men like Nao told me about in the city." At last, I couldn't help myself from asking any longer.

"Is that your bunny, Shizuru?"

"No, Minagi-san. It came bouncing over just a few minutes before you got here, actually. I think some little child may have gotten tired of their pet."

"Can I have it?"

"Of course."

But first I thought it would be a good idea to get Natsuki to help first, so I put my arms under her and started to lift her up.

"Wait!" Shizuru said sharply. I turned to her, and a momentary expression of... anger, jealousy? It was suppressed,

"Now now, Minagi-san. There's no worth in just taking what you want, try through prayer. It's only real if you wait for her to come to you."

I couldn't tell out what she was talking about, she almost seemed to be talking to herself, but I figured that it must have been about the bunny, not Natsuki.

"Right, you have to be patient with animals." I replied.

"Ah, of course you do. Also, why don't you leave Natsuki there for now until we have a plan. A small girl carrying a larger unclothed one wouldn't attract much less attention than me going to help, no? Do you have a phone, Minagi-san?"

I was busy settling myself down cross-legged, and regarding my new pet-- if Mai let me keep it, before answering.

"Yes, I do, Mai got me one for emergencies. But I left it back at the apartment." The little bunny looked over at me from the few yards separating us, and wiggled it's nose. I tried to do the same back, but my nose didn't work like that. It seemed scared, but I just sat really still and held out my hand, making soft noises and being really still. Shizuru had stopped talking for a moment just to watch me, and the bunny took a few tentative hops in my direction. I kept on, and so did it, but when it was just a few feet away, I saw a matching pair of glints out of the corner of my eye. Caution forgotten, I instinctually leapt forward the best I could from my position and wrapped up my pet with outstretched arms just as a clawing blur flew past and scraped over my back. I stayed stretched out on the ground, hugging the bunny in the crook of one elbow while I shielded its with my other hand. I wanted to make sure nothing could get it before I looked around for what almost had.

It was one of my friends! A dull, rangy, orange cat, standing with its hair raised up and tail lashing. He hissed, in a tone that I knew to mean, "My food, my kill, you leave." I shook my head vigorously at it, and felt a sharp rake on my arm opposite him. A female cat this time, hoping to surprise me and snatch a meal while I wasn't looking. I shook my head at her too and growled to tell them that this one was mine.

"Minagi-san..." I heard Shizuru from behind me, and listening close I could hear footsteps. Silent paddings taken individually, but combined an ominous whisper formed from the many paddings of the various sewer-dwelling stray cats. I thought to raise myself up, but the moment I did the orange tomcat raced under me and tried to get at my pet. I twisted the bunny away and fell down onto my shoulder, freeing my shielding hand for a moment to lift and push the cat away. I fell back down into my shielding position, then, to keep the female tabby from trying the same thing. She tried anyway, lashing at my arm, while I couldn't do anything because I knew if I uncovered the bunny with one hand the tom would get it. Speaking of him, he lashed my other arm. I heard Shizuru stepping over now, probably going to try and help, but then that ominous whispering became a layered staccato of padded footsteps and they were here. I had no idea that so many cats lived in the sewers, and no idea that they would all converge on prey like this. Likely whenever the first one had ever found anything to eat there wasn't enough time for everybody to gather before it was eaten, but now...

Whirlwinds of fur, rains of claws, and the thunder of countless growls came upon me in a sudden wave. For a moment I panicked, thinking surely I'd be cut to ribbons in this, though most of the claws aimed for my arms and shoulders, trying to get at the real prize. I panicked even more thinking about what might happen if they all together realized I was edible as well, but soon it became apparent that most of them were becoming interested in claiming this meal from the others, and my harms lessened as they began fighting amongst themselves. Shizuru was at my side in an instant, and was able to almost pick me up without my unshielding my pet.

"Minagi-san, let's get out of here. I'm not sure if moving Natsuki is okay, but I know that getting eaten by alley cats would surely not be okay." I nodded.

"Here, can you carry him?" Shizuru nodded, and I gave her the bunny, and was pleased to see she covered him with her arms, and I picked up Natsuki. She was heavy, but I was a lot stronger than most girls my age. We started off, and a good deal of the cats found reason to follow their meal instead of proving who owned it. They blocked off the way I'd come in, so we just ducked through the first clear side-passage we saw. I knew the general layout of the area, so even through the twists and turns that I was pretty sure were confusing Shizuru, I knew which way we needed to go to get back to the surface. The cats at our heels and clawing at our feet didn't help matters, but eventually I had us going to an entrance, or exit now. There was something wrong about it, but I didn't care in our haste. I sat Natsuki down gently at the side, and pulled open the door frantically. Now I found what seemed wrong about it, there was no light pouring through because it let out to face a brick wall. Before I dispaired, however, I noticed that the hole wasn't walled up, but there was a wall a few inches before it. Peering in the darkness, of to one side of the opening appeared to be metal. This was a building, and they'd made a raising gate-door for if it ever became necessary to get to this entrance! I started pounding on the door, and yelling.

"Hey, open up!" I shouted a few times, then went back in to pick up Natsuki. When I'd gotten back in the passage, they'd opened the door and Shizuru and I were face-to-face with what looked to be a very surprised, and very large, family in a tenement. We rushed in, Shizuru doing her best to ignore the looks she got from the males, and I just remembered to turn around to tell them to close the door, but the rush of cats started running through. It was the most bizarre and unlikely thing I'd ever seen, all these cats together like that. So instead of talking to the yelling family, we just ran on. Through another room we ran into a clothesline, and while the family was busy with our pursuers Shizuru pulled on an oversized white shirt and wrapped a sheet around herself for good measure, and we draped another sheet over Natsuki as well, not wanting to bother with trying to dress her. I yelled at Shizuru to follow me, and I headed outside, looking around and trying to get my bearings so that we could hurry back to Mai's house. I didn't feel comfortable at all carrying an unclothed Natsuki around the city, there really were many not nice men out here. I found the way to go and we hurried off, not running now as we didn't want to attract any more attention than we could, and I kept us to sparsely populated paths, though I avoided the alleys where undesirables might be lurking.

We came to a large building that stretched off far in either direction, and I knew this was the right direction. They had been building this for a few weeks now, and one half of the building was mostly complete, walls and all. The other half or so was mostly still steel girders. Now, it would be a long way around with all of the closed roads and just how big the building was, but I knew a better way. I motioned to Shizuru to follow me, and we walked up the fire escape of a nearby building and onto the roof. It was either a sign of trust or utter cluelessness, but Shizuru didn't utter so much as a reluctant squeak as I led her up there. I knew from there we could easily step onto the half-finished building and walk along the fairly thick wall, and even take a few more rooftops to where we wanted to go.

Unfortunately, when we got to the top we had a surprise waiting.

"So Philip gave it a thumbs up, can you believe that? What did he see there?" One large man in a hardhat and layered metallic armour-like suit said conversationally. Another man, he also in a hardhat but with a close-fitting vividly coloured jumpsuit, jumped from a precarious perch atop a steel girder as the first fellow swung what appeared to be a large sword made from purple lightning at that girder.

"I know, it couldn't have been technical merit, that's for sure. I don't know, I never saw the series, but the plot sure did feel kinda shallow and rushed to me." He punctuated the sentence by firing a stream of bolts of red flame from an oversized bow as he flew through the air. He landed on a horizontal girder.

"I saw some of the series, and even the beginning seemed more in-depth than that rushed coupling. I think the foundation of the fic was good, but maybe the writer should have taken more time."

"Perhaps, but most stories do have some potenti-- Hey, who's that over there?" The sword-wielding worker looked over to me, "You're not supposed to be up here!"

"Shizuru, trade." I said quickly, and I laid Natsuki down on top of the wall and took my bunny from Shizuru. I sprinted off across the wall, hoping (successfully) to draw their attention away.

"My my, she's feisty! I think she wants to join us." The bowman crowed. To my surprise, he started lofting those flame-arrows in my direction. I thought we might be in trouble, but I didn't think we were going to get killed. I bobbed and weaved, and ducked and dodged along that wall, every arrow coming close but never hitting me. Until I tripped and fell in a crumbling spot of the wall, where somebody must have dropped something heavy. The resulting loose gravel slipped under my feet and I fell in a rain of arrows, expecting one to pierce my body any moment. But it never did. I opened my eyes and verified that all the flames I heard bursting around me weren't from damaged ears-- they were still falling all around. Every one missing me by inches.

"Die intruder!" He roared as he loosed arrow after arrow. I sat there dumbly, and slowly climbed back to my feet. Scarlet trails flew around and past me, never touching. At one point, I shot my arm out to catch one, but drew it back quickly as I was rewarded with a shiny burn on my wrist.

"Oh, I'm sorry! Are you okay?" He yelled over to me, looking concerned. I nodded, and his face twisted in rage.

"Then feel my flaming fury!" He started back up, every arrow missing. Suddenly it dawned on me, these were choreographed fighters! They must never have gotten written a scene in which they actually hit somebody. And usually, if you never got written in to a fight as a winner... I stepped to the gravel pile I'd slipped on and picked up a chunk of concrete. I threw it at him, hard, but I knew that the unerring accuracy and velocity of the stone had nothing to do with me when it struck him in the forehead and he fell with a despairing yell to the ground below, landing with a sickening thud and grotesque cracking sounds. About ten seconds later-- perhaps when a camera might have turned back to a more active character, he got up and dusted off. I looked back over to the first worker and leapt nimbly down onto a girder, taking off towards him. He jumped onto a steel platform and I met him there. I stood there, and he struck above and to my sides in wide, dramatic slashes.

"You know, I can't make these swings look realistic unless you dodge, I'm just trying to do my job here." He said, annoyed. I obliged him and ducked, avoiding a swing he aimed over my head. At just about the time a thought entered my mind, and I let him have a little kick too, doing what I could to support his employment. He fell easily as his partner. I got back over to Shizuru and we trades loads again.

A short time later, we arrived at mine and Mai's apartment. I let us in.

"Hey, Mikoto. What have you been up to?" Mai said from the kitchen. I heard water running and knew she was doing the dishes. Now that we were shielded from public eyes, I went ahead and took the sheet off of Natsuki so she could get some fresh air. Well, as fresh as it got here.

"I got a pet bunny!" I cried while I worked.

"Did you now?" She called back, and I heard the water stop followed by footsteps. I picked Natsuki back up, intending to go lay her down on the bed. Mai met me on the way, and I wondered what had happened to her while I was gone, she was white as a ghost.

"What's wrong Mai? Are you okay?" Suddenly it dawned on me, "Oh, don't worry, it's just your friend Natsuki and her friend Shizuru, you didn't have to prepare anything special for company." I beamed at her, hoping she wouldn't be worried, but also hoping that she did have something yummy waiting for me at least.

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By the way, if there's anybody reading this who follows my Tea Leaves fic, I have *not* abandoned it or anything. In fact, I'm just about done with it. My editor is still working on chapter 8, while I've almost got 10 finished. 10 is more like an epilogue, so I've got the plot finished out for the most part. Enshi (editor) has been busy though. I should know, I just moved 1,300 miles to move in with her (well, sort of, it's a 19-bedroom house with 12 people, so I didn't exactly move in 'with her'). The point is, I can personally vouch for it being very busy around here. Won't be too much longer, and it *will* be finished. Sorry for the time, and thanks for reading!