Popuri 'n' Pip (amylan) wrote in redpenwriters,
Popuri 'n' Pip
amylan
redpenwriters

Chapter Seven

Title: Greyscale
Author: amylan
Beta: N/A
Rating: K+
Genre: Shoujo, Fantasy
Notes/Warnings: None
Summary: There's a reason why Magical Girls are rarely grown up.
Length: 3278



“Class!”

Selphi looked over to the front of the room, where the newest form teacher, Ms. Chiyo Wakahisa, was standing. Hopefully, she’ll last longer than the other two, the American noted to herself with some amusement.

Once she had everyone’s attention, Ms. Wakahisa began to speak again. “Class, today we have a student returning to our school,” she said. She looked over to the young girl standing beside her.

“My name is Tsukiko Morimoto,” the girl introduced herself, bowing quickly. “It’s good to be here again!”

The new girl took the seat that the teacher indicated to her and class began. For some reason, Selphi’s eyes continually strayed over to the new girl. There was just… Something about her…

Are you hitting on girls again? came a certain bored voice.

Oh, don’t you start, she responded, turning her attention back to her paper. There’s just something weird about her, that’s all.

Oh, there’s something strange about her all right, the voice cackled. Now wouldn’t you like to know what it is?

Of course I would, was the response. I just deeply doubt that you’re actually going to tell
me anything.

Touché.

If it turns out that you’re hiding something that’s going to end up killing people, then someone’s not getting fed for the next year or so.

Ignoring the scream of anger from her inner voice, Selphi focused on her schoolwork and blocked out all other distractions.

***

Since there weren’t any cases to be had, Selphi ate her lunch away from Aya. It was standard procedure – the two tried to avoid each other as much as possible when it wasn’t necessary, in an effort not to clue other people into the knowledge that they were partners.

So Selphi sat in the sunshine of the nice spring day and ate her lunch. She barely looked up when someone dropped down beside her.

“So, do you ignore everyone that comes near you?” a female’s voice asked.

“Only when I get nicer people with the people that try and make my life miserable,” Selphi responded cheerfully. She looked up. “You’re the new girl, right?”

Tsukiko nodded. “Right. And you’re the transfer student.”

“Got it in one,” the American replied with a smile. “Did you need something?”

The other girl shrugged. “Just some company is all.”

“What, you don’t have any old friends from high school or middle school or anything?” Selphi asked.

Tsukiko scratched her head, smiling nervously. “Well, I do… But they just don’t interest me any more,” she confessed.

“And I do?” The brunette raised an eyebrow. “You don’t have some darker purpose in mind, do you? It’s annoying when people come to be only to take advantage of me.”

Tsukiko just looked at the girl strangely. “…So. You’re a very weird girl, aren’t you?”

“I could same the same about you,” Selphi said. Her eyes narrowed as she noticed something. “Those are some interesting eyes of yours.” Her fingers lightly brushed against Tsukiko’s chin, lifting the girl’s face so she could see them properly. “Have you always had them?”

“Y-Yes,” Tsukiko replied, her voice shakily a bit from nervousness. “Wh-why do you ask?”

“Because it’s one thing to find a person with an unnatural hair color around here,” Selphi answered, “But it’s completely another to find someone with an unnatural eye color and silver qualifies.” She stayed silent for a moment, as though deep in thought, except for the slightly perverse grin on her face.

“So!” she said abruptly, releasing the girl’s chin and changing topics as quick as lightning. “What are you doing here and when did you leave?” She began to dig into her lunch again.

“Uh… Well… My parents’ moved to America a few years ago, and we just recently moved back,” Tsukiko responded, confused by Selphi’s manner.

“Oh, America, huh? What state?”

“Four years in the middle of nowhere.”

“That’s not specific enough.”

“Oakland, California.”

“Oh, okay.” Selphi nodded. “I didn’t think that California was so bad myself – except for the smog, obviously – but then again, I mostly spent my time around the beaches during summer vacation, so what do I know?”

“Where are you from in America?” Tsukiko asked.

“Northern Florida,” was the response. “Not a bad place as long as you don’t mind either lots of sun or hurricanes – which, since that got me out of school a couple of times, I didn’t really mind.”

“Hurricanes aren’t really anything to joke about…”

“Don’t preach to the choir. So, why don’t you and your friends get along anymore?”

“That’s sort of a personal question, don’t you think?” Tsukiko was beginning to stare into her tea thermos.

“It’s just a question,” Selphi replied with a shrug.

“…We just don’t have the same interests any more. That’s all,” Tsukiko said. She stood abruptly. “I need to go…”

“Aw, that’s a shame,” Selphi commented. “And here I thought that you had something in common with me.”

“And what would that be?”

“Arrogance, willfulness, a disregard for useless rules… Inner strength, maybe.” The American shrugged. “The simple things, you know?”

Tsukiko glowered at the other girl. “I’m not weak,” she stated, taking her seat once more.

Selphi smiled. “Good.” Things wouldn’t be interesting if you were, she continued in her head.

***

“So, you seemed to be getting along well with Miss Morimoto,” Aya commented over the phone as she worked on her homework.

“Yeah… You know, once you get under the surface, she’s really a pretty cool girl,” Selphi replied, going through the clothes hamper and dividing the contents up into different loads.

“Really.”

“Yep! She tolerates me pretty well, although her sense of humor’s a bit lacking.”

“Funny, that does not sound like the Tsukiko Morimoto that I knew a few years ago.”

“Oh, you two were friends, hm?” Selphi laughed a little. “I’ve gotta say, from what I’ve seen of her, she really doesn’t seem like the type of person you would fall in with.”

“No, we were not friends,” Aya replied impatiently. “Stop drawing insane conclusions; it is annoying.”

“So how do you know about her, then?” The brunette grimaced at the smell from some of the bedsheets. “Dammit, I should have put on rubber gloves or something fiiiiiirst.”

“Something wrong?”

“That depends on your definition of ‘wrong’.”

“…Of course it does. Anyway.” Aya scribbled down the equations to the problem. “Before she moved to America, Miss Morimoto was fairly well-known for being a model child – in social aspects, if not intellectual ones.”

“Oh, I’m sure that you outstripped her when it came to that, Aya-chan,” Selphi remarked. She finished sorting out the loads and hurried to the bathroom to scald off her skin.

“Quite. In any case, if you want to know more about it, I—“

“—Suggest that I go visit Miss Sakurai and asking her about, right?” Scrub, scrub, scrub…

“…I refuse to believe that I am that predictable,” Aya stated flatly.

“You’re not; I just know you too well,” Selphi answered. “If your hands start bleeding, is it a fair bet that your hands are clean enough?”

“…Yes. Stop it.”

***

As suggested, Selphi went to talk to Chieri the next day at lunch. “Who was it that ya wanted ta ask about now?” Chieri wondered.

“Tsukiko Morimoto.”

“Oh, Tsukiko-chan!” Chieri’s whole face lit up at the mention of the other girl.

“I… take it that you two are friends?” Selphi suggested tentatively.

“Tsukiko-chan and me? Of course!” Chieri bubbled, then quickly soberly. “Well… We used to be, anyway, but… She’s changed a lot since she left.”

“So I’ve heard.” Nibbling at a rice cake, she asked, “So what was Tsukiko like before she left?”

“Oh, she was such a nice person, ya know?” Smiling, Chieri continued, “She just had such a kind heart. She never looked down on other people, an’ she was so gentle… She was almost like a modern version of Kiritsubo-koui, ‘cept without other people hatin’ her.”

“I see… What did she like to do?”

“She really liked art. The teachers used ta talk about how she had such a great eye for color an’ shapes…” The pink-haired girl gave a little sigh. “I was really jealous, ya know? I wanted ta get some attention too, but no one can hate Tsukiko. She was just such a nice girl… But now…”

“She seems like she would have been a bit of a crybaby when she was growing up,” Selphi observed. “I mean, she sounds really sensitive.”

“Oh, she was,” Chieri agreed. “A little bit sad, too… Which is why her new personality just doesn’t make sense.”

“Because now she’s... Happy?”

“Well, not just that. She was happy before, but now it seems like she‘s always insanely cheerful like you.”

“Hey…” Selphi pouted a bit. “That’s not a bad thing, you know.”

Chieri laughed and patted Selphi’s shoulder. “Of course, it ain’t,” she soothed. “I’m just sayin’ that it was a big change.”

“She’s not really sensitive, either,” Selphi noted. “…Well, she’s kind of sensitive. Not really , though. I mean, yesterday we had a to-do about whether or not she was a strong person.”

“I’m guessin’ she said yes,” Chieri replied. “Well, ya never know. I mean, maybe America’s just different enough to make this sort of change happen.”

“I really doubt that,” Selphi said dryly.

***

Well, this sort of thing called for more information, which called for a visit to Tsukiko’s family. It was easy enough to get the girl’s address, so after school, she stopped by.

Selphi knocked on the door and waited, looking around. The apartment building was a nice one, she had to admit. Not a penthouse, but still pretty nice. It even had balconies.

Her attention was drawn back to the task at hand when the door opened. “Hello,” Selphi greeted the person on the other side of the door with a smile.

“Hello,” the woman answered, looking at the young girl strangely. “May I help you?”

“My name is Selphi Waters. I’m a friend of Tsukiko Morimoto, is she here?”

The woman she was speaking to paled suddenly. “Oh… Excuse me for a moment.” The door slammed shut fast enough that Selphi jumped.

“Well…” she said to herself. “That was… unexpected.”

As she turned to leave, the door opened again. “You’re looking for Tsukiko?” an older man asked.

“Um… Yes. I don’t suppose she’s here, is she?” Selphi asked.

“No, she isn’t. But if you see her, let her know what we’re still waiting for her.” With that, the door was slammed close again.

“I really hate it when people do that,” Selphi muttered, rubbing her ears. She made her way downstairs and, on her way out of the building, bumped into someone. “Oh, sorry,” she said, before realizing who it was. “Tsukiko-chan?”

The other girl jumped upon hearing the sound of her name. “Oh! Er, Miss Waters. I… Didn’t know that you lived here,” she said finally, looking as though she was about to bolt at any moment.

“Oh, I don’t live here,” Selphi replied easily, taking a hold of one of the girl’s sleeves with her fingertips. “I heard that you did, though, and I was meaning to talk to you about… Something or another. I forgot.”

“Well, I’ll be happy to answer whatever questions you have in school tomorrow,” Tsukiko replied, beginning to pull out of Selphi’s grip. The other girl simply used her fingertips to tug Tsukiko closer, then grab a firm hold of her wrist.

“Oh, but now I have more questions,” the American said, a small, unamused smile pulling at her lips. “But it doesn’t seem like you’re going to answer me willingly, so I suppose that I’ll have to change the situation around and just make you answer the damn questions.”

“Like hell you are,” Tsukiko snapped. Selphi was a little shocked at the other girl’s use of language, so the Japanese girl managed to wrench her wrist out of Selphi’s grip and take off running out the door.

“Hey!” Selphi called after her. “Oh, you’re not getting off that easily,” the girl mumbled before taking off herself. She could just barely make out Tsukiko threading around people on the sidewalk several hundred feet away.

Now that’s interesting, Selphi noted to herself. I don’t know too many people that can run fast enough to get that far away from me in only a short amount of time, and the ones that I do know have the benefit of superior genetics.

Superior, inferior – it depends on your point of view, doesn’t it?

I hardly think that you’d call yourself inferior, was the response. At that point, Selphi noticed that Tsukiko seemed to be picking up speed and sped up herself, blocking out everything else in her mind except the pursuit of her quarry.

The chase went on for some time and would have gone on longer except for the fact that no matter how fast Tsukiko was or how superb her stamina was, Selphi’s body and training allowed her to achieve a greater velocity. Not to mention she had become very used to dodging around people ever since she had come to this city.

So sometime later, Selphi finally managed to catch up with Tsukiko and began running alongside her, then tackled her sideways into an alleyway. The Japanese girl struggled with the American, but Selphi wrestled with her until she was face down on the ground with Selphi holding both arms behind her, sitting with most of her weight on Tsukiko’s lower back.

“Now that I have your undivided attention,” Selphi began before Tsukiko began to struggle again. “Hey, now! Stop that or I’m going to have to break your arms, or dislocate them, or whatever ends up taking a shorter amount of time,” she warned. The girl beneath her stilled. “Better.”

“Now, then,” she began again. “From what you’ve told me and from what I’ve picked up from around school, you changed a lot when you came back from America. Now, normally this wouldn’t be a huge call for concern – I mean, I’m… not entirely the same as I was when I was in middle school, and you could hardly expect to be, either – but then I go to visit your folks or whoever it was in that apartment and it sounds to me like you haven’t been home in a while.”

“Not everyone lives with their family—“ Tsukiko began to say, but her sentence ended up in a cry of pain as Selphi jerked her arms backwards.

“I’m not finished. Then there’s the matter of a certain reliable source saying that she feels someone weird about you, and I agree,” Selphi continued. “And no human can run as fast as you just did. So start talking.”

“You run quickly as well,” the Japanese girl protested.

“Yes, but I didn’t say that I was human, now did I?”

“What?!”

“Oh, calm down, I’m not going to eat you. I don’t like meat all that much and it’s not the full moon, anyway,” Selphi waved off the exclamation dismissively. “Now, if you don’t want me to remove your arm or render useless – whichever you prefer – then you better tell me what the hell you are.”

“I’m a human being,” Tsukiko snapped.

“And I’m a pyromaniac. Try again.” Selphi began to slowly twist the other girl’s arm, listening to the bones and sinews beginning to pop as she continued to stress the joints.

“Ah…”

“Oh, you know what? Hang on a tic.” She abruptly stopped the torture and, holding the arm in place with her foot and the other arm pinned with her legs, moved her arms through the gesture. “Soundproof,” she muttered in Italian.

Once the sound barrier was in place, Selphi resumed twisting the girl’s arm. “Aaaahhhhh!”

“You better tell me, or your arm is going to be pretty damn useless,” the American said in a sing-song voice, watching the other girl’s reaction with a grin on her face.

Tsukiko screamed again, then yelled something that Selphi couldn’t understand. “I’m sorry?” She stopped twisting the girl’s arm. “Repeat that?”

“…Ookamimimi…”

“Ookamimi?” Selphi thought. “Well, I know ‘ookami’ is ‘wolf’,” she said in English. “But what does… beauty have to do with it? Oh, or do you have wolf eyes?” She released the girl’s arm, but kept her weight on her body in case Tsukiko got any bright ideas about trying to run away.

“Ookamimimi,” the Japanese girl corrected. “It means a person that has parts of an animal on their body.”

“Ooh, like a catgirl! …But you don’t have any wolf parts on you,” Selphi pointed out.

“Yes, well, I’m not exactly a wolfgirl, I’m a… weee-re-wolf?” The last word was pronounced hesitantly, as though Tsukiko wasn’t sure about what she was saying.

“Oh, a werewolf? Change at the full moon and all that?” Tsukiko nodded in response. “Wow! I, um… I guess that you got that from America then, huh?” Selphi laughed a bit nervously, finally standing up off the other girl and helping Tsukiko to her feet.

“You guess right,” Tsukiko replied. “I don’t know how it happened, though.”

“I think that most people would notice if a wolf bit them and they found themselves howling at the moon after,” Selphi replied dryly. “What aren’t you telling me now?”

Tsukiko glared at the other girl. “It’s none of your damn business! Just leave me alone!”

Flicking the other girl sharply across the head, Selphi replied, “If you don’t want to tell me, that’s fine, but please keep in mind that I have other people that are going to hear about all this information, and if we decide that you’re a threat, we are going to kill you, no matter how long it takes or how difficult it is.” The lighthearted tone that Selphi used jarred with the somber note of the conversation. “So, if you want to save your own skin, you better come up with a damn good reason why we shouldn’t go hunting for you on the next full moon. I’m sure that she would like to try out wolf meat, anyway.”

“How dare you,” Tsukiko growled, actually growling like an animal. “I won’t let you threaten me! Just stay out of our business!”

Selphi leaned against a wall. “’Our’, huh? Looks like we really are going on a wolf hunt,” she commented lightly. “Don’t suppose you have any other information that you want to lend out, do you?”

The silver-eyed girl looked away. “Why can’t you just leave us in peace? If you threaten us… I swear that I’ll rip out your throat with my own teeth.”

The American just grinned widely. “Oh, if you think that a piddling little werewolf like you can take me down, you’re welcome to try it. I’ll have fun killing you, and I’m sure that she’ll enjoy skinning you and using that for a coat or a rug or something.” She rolled her eyes. “What a tacky fashion sense…”

Hey!

“I… Who are you talking about?”

“Doesn’t matter.” Selphi shook her head. “Well, if you’re not going to give any details, I suppose that we’ll just have to start hunting. And we could have been such good friends, too…” With a shrug, she stepped out of the way. “Get going. It’s no fun to hunt after easy prey like this.”

Tsukiko eyed the girl nervously as she strode past, quickly getting lost in the crowd. Selphi stretched her arms out behind her. Well, now it’s just a matter of waiting, she thought to herself. I’ll need to tell Aya about this, and then be patient – until the full moon, at least.

“…I hate being patient,” she said aloud in the alleyway.

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