December 17th, 1618.

Kyiahlnah never intervened, not even as Judge Asha’da’s hammer came down with the delivered verdict of “Guilty.” And then it was over.

Kana Mayoi was still in a daze as her daughter hugged her upon exiting the courtroom for the final time this case. She could hardly believe that it was over, and Kyiahlnah had never interfered, even as Robert Hoss congratulated her on the wonderful testimony.

All of the preparation and… it was over. Nothing had gone wrong. Everything was FINE.

“–u okay, Kana?”

Kana Mayoi snapped out of it as Nahgi Llewellyn placed a plate down in front of her. “Huh? What?” She blinked, and refocused on the food, which turned out to be a couple of Generic Court Cafeteria Brand sandwiches.

“I asked, are you okay?” Nahgi frowned as she sat down across from her friend.

“I just… I can’t believe nothing went wrong,” Kana shook her head. “It doesn’t make any sense. Why would…” A Pause, a glance around to make sure nobody was eavesdropping, “why would She not interfere?”

“Eat,” Nahgi nudged the plate a bit closer to Kana.

“I’m not-” she protested.

Eat,” Nahgi stressed. “You’re practically running on vapors with how much you’ve been stressing over this case. Did you even eat breakfast this morning?”

“I…” Kana Mayoi was forced to admit that no, she hadn’t. That had been a dumb thing, but she’d been too worried about- “Where’d Aya go?”

“Don’t change the subject,” Nahgi tapped at the plate with the sandwiches on it. “Eat. Chew. Swallow. Then you can worry about what’s going on. Okay?” With a sigh, Kana had to admit that Nahgi was right. She wasn’t firing on all cylinders and that was never a good thing.

Dryly eying the sandwich choices on the plate before her, Kana met her friend’s concerned gaze and asked, “Did you really have to get me pastrami on rye?”

Nahgi Llewellyn, Chief of the Mystryal Detective Agency, scoffed. “That’s what you’re trying to deflect with? Stop stalling and eat already.” She was smiling, though. Kana counted that as a win.

“They hit again,” Miri’s ears were angled backwards in annoyance as she relayed the latest developments in their case to Ayako and Tony. “But this time they didn’t torch the bank.”

“They got what they were looking for this time?” Ayako frowned, her ears tilting into an inquisitive formation. “What was it?”

“No idea yet,” Miri shook her head. “They did their escape act in the vault this time instead of the lobby- floor ‘voided’ just the same as the last ones, though.”

“What if it wasn’t just one thing they were after?” Tony asked. “What if they were looking for a bunch of different things all in the same vault?”

“Maybe,” Ayako mused on that for a few moments, then nodded, her ears leveling out into a more neutral position. “That, or they’re trying to cover what they took so well…?”

“Either way,” Miri sighed. “Lizzy’s working double time on tracking down the water residue signature. We gotta find them before they do something completely unexpected.”

“They’ve broke pattern,” Tony agreed. “That makes them dangerous now. More so than before.”

“So… changing subjects,” Miri smiled- though it was a half smile, brought down by the dangers of their current case. Her ears adjusted to be a bit more happy than before. “How went the trial?”

“Changeling’s going into protective isolation under the Creators’ observation,” Ayako answered. “You-know-who might decide to go after it on transit, since nothing went wrong with the trial.”

“Hopefully she’ll keep her nose out of it,” Tony smiled hopefully.

“But what does it say if she doesn’t do anything?” Ayako asked. “I know Mom’s stressed out by all this. She barely reacted when I hugged her earlier!”

“If she does nothing,” Miri began, “I’d say it’s one of two things. The first is that she’s still too weak to do anything else. The second is that she’s got bigger fish to fry.”

“She took the time to kill Aunt Muiri,” Tony countered, his smile turning to a frown. “But then again, she might have known more than a Changeling from over a thousand years ago.”

“That’s not a comforting thought, Tony,” Miri’s ears flattened against her head and her tail swished rapidly from side to side, fur bristling on its ends. “That our Aunt was more involved than a Changeling? Mizar, that’s… just… that’s just wrong!”

Truly, then, it was a shame they’d never find out the truth from their Aunt’s mouth.

“Fwuuuuhhh!” Mikari flopped backwards onto the bed in the guest room. It was technically her room, she supposed, but… It just wasn’t the room she and her sister had grown up in. Sure, old wall decorations and pieces of furniture had been moved in here, but in her mind’s eye, it just wasn’t her room like the old one had been, or her room at Mystryal currently was. There weren’t enough memories to make the room feel welcoming. There was really only one good memory Mikari had of this room, and it was that time she’d sneaked Faye in behind her parents backs before she’d left for Mystryal.

Before Lizzy had moved into her apartment, Mikari had lived alone for a few years with ease and still hadn’t had that feeling hanging over head, so it wasn’t just that she was alone right here and right now that was making this room feel weird. Without anyone else around, it was lonely in here, and not just in the ‘I’m the only one here’ sense. It wasn’t lived in, nor had any signs of recent use either. Except for when she came over for the holidays, Mikari suspected her parents just flat out forgot about the room’s existence unless it was to clean it. Clean. That was it. It was all too clean. Empty. Sanitized. Always had been. Sure, she could try to relive the memory of her and Faye, but…

‘There’s no time for that,’ Mikari sighed, and got up to start unpacking her backpack’s contents into a dresser. She hadn’t brought much. Just a few homework assignment books for other, much more enjoyable classes, and a spare copy of her Mystryal uniform along side some casual clothes and a somewhat fancy dress for the dinner night during the… The Years End Celebration Dinner.

Aikari’s death had hit their mother hard- hard enough that friends and family even so much as saying they were ‘sorry’ for their ‘loss’ would set Madoka into a depressive, denial fueled fit that fogged up Madoka’s memory of where she was in time; fits could last for hours, or days.

While Mikari and Takeru had emotionally moved on in their own ways, the physical move was to help Madoka with her own recovery. And it had worked, or so it had seemed at first. The change of scenery had been great for keeping her from relapsing into any more fits. But, even if the absence of people who triggered such depressing moods was a boon, that same absence would be the prime example of why support systems and familiar places were important to recovery in some cases. Well, that was just one reason why they never had the large scale family dinners after they moved.

As Mikari was changing out of her travel clothes into something casual, she heard a dinner plate crashing to the floor rather loudly, making her heart rate jump rapidly. Her mother’s rapid fire swearing emerged a second later. Her father’s worried inquiries could barely be heard before the yelling turned towards him.

“NO! EVERYTHING IS NOT ALRIGHT!” Madoka yelled, followed by a softer, almost impossible to hear, “She looks so much like her… I just… I almost thought she was… ”

Mikari closed her eyes and tried to tune it out. She knew where this conversation was going. She couldn’t blame her mother. The worst part about all of this was the total and complete awareness her Mother had of these fits when she was lucid, and how much it pained her to remember the moments of her simply Not Remembering. Another reason for moving out here had been to talk with a therapist, who honestly had no idea where to even begin with something like this.

The fact that Mikari’s own face was now a trigger for these fits of… it wasn’t fancy, and it wasn’t like other Memory altering diseases that could be treated with healing magic under certain conditions.

‘It wasn’t anything that could really be put down to any actual medical terms yet,’ said the Therapist, ‘except that cases like this are starting to become more common than not, and oddly enough, almost always between Soul Bonded individuals among the cases that have surfaced thus far. But whether that’s due to anything inherent about the Bond, or whether it’s just coincidence of the first cases…?’ Nobody could say, not even other experts in the field of the mind.

It hadn’t been a problem when Mikari had still been living with her parents. Constant exposure and reminders that Mikari wasn’t her sister had kept her from being the cause of one, but once she’d left for Mystryal, they’d found that like the move, her time away had just caused more problems than solved when she came back for some other holiday.

After that disastrous first holiday, Mikari skipped most of the other holidays following it, along with most other excuses to come visit after that (“Sorry, Dad, school’s just… too busy right now. Happy Birthday, though!”). Depending on how this year went, the Glitter Festival was probably going to become one of those holidays that she would be skipping now too.

“I KNOW SHE’S NOT HER!” Her mother’s voice suddenly intruded again, breaking into a choked sob before continuing on, “I know… I just can’t…”

Mikari sighed as she heard another wracked sob, and honestly mouthed along with the next words that would follow, “I Miss her so much.”

Maybe she should go for a walk, instead.

“So, the second trial’s tomorrow!” Kendal Kaie smiled at her dad as they walked out of Beetle’s Donuts with their respective lunches in paper bags. “Gonna be glad to have everything back to normal?”

“Of course,” Ranagi Kaie nodded. “But I’ll be happier with a jail cell full of bank robbers and murderers.”

“Yeah, me too,” Kendal frowned. “What the heck do they even want- do you think?”

“Obviously it’s something that one bank had and none of the others did,” Kaie reasoned, “something that wasn’t public knowledge- or else they’d have just gone for it first. Something… something rare, and likely expensive.”

“Maybe they’re after some ancient artifact?” Kendal offered. “Could be an inside job and someone from the bank network knew they got something suuuuper powerful!”

“With their technology?” Kaie shook his head. “No way. It’s got to be money. They’re being funded to track something down.”

“You think so?” Kendal asked, her ears twitching as she thought about it.

“I know so,” Kaie decided instantly.

Kendal listened to her father’s words, then smirked, “Wanna place a bet on it?”

“Oh?” Kaie asked, raising an eyebrow. “What kind of bet?”

“If I’m right you gotta buy…” Kendal pretended to think for a moment, then turned her smirk into a grin, “A wedding ring, and propose to Nahgi!!”

“W-WHAT?” Her father nearly tripped upon hearing that declaration, but to his credit, managed to keep his balance. “What did you just–?”

Kendal’s ears wriggled in obvious delight. “C’mon, Dad! You and Nahgi have been together since even before she became Mystryal’s Chief. She’s practically my Mom in all but title at this point! Just give her a ring and make it official already!”

“Wouldn’t you rather have a pet or something?” Kaie asked of his daughter. “I could get you a Rakutor or-”

“Fiiiine,” Kendal fixed a flat gaze his way. “If you’re right, you get me a pet. But if I’m Right…!” And then she began to wriggle her eyebrows up and down, and her tail began swishing side to side rather rapidly.

“I’m not making any bets, Kendal,” Kaie answered.

“I’m holding you to it even if you won’t say you’re in!” Kendal started laughing as she began to sprint away.

He sighed, and begrudgingly followed his daughter with his own quickened pace. Not for the first time, Ranagi Kaie wondered what had spawned his friends and family’ fascination with meddling with his private love life. It was starting to get old, honestly.

December 18th, 1618.

This time, it was her father, Alata Mayoi, that was getting his tie adjusted. “Kana, I think any tighter and it starts becoming a noose!”

“Sorry, sorry,” Kana sighed, pulling her hands away. “I’m just, really, really worried.”

“I know,” Alata smiled at his daughter. “I know, it’s really scary, but if we get this done right then she won’t bother us anymore!”

“Hopefully not for another ten to twenty years,” she tried to joke, but the only thing that cracked was her voice. “…Damn it.”

“Kana?” Alata asked “Are you okay?”

“Yes,” Kana couldn’t say it with the confidence she wanted to. “No. Alcor Damn it. I just… I’ve had four months to visualize today and- and it’s-”

“Overwhelming?” Alata asked.

“Something like that.” Mayoi sighed. “Thing is… Four months ago I was so certain I wanted this. I wanted to send her to jail for wanting to hurt you and… and now I’m just not sure if I want to really go that far.” She sat down on a chair in the waiting room, and put her face in her hands. “Is that wrong of me? I know she’s been nothing but horrible to me my entire life yet I can’t shake the feeling that I’m the one in the wrong here…”

“Kana,” Alata began as he sat down next to his daughter. “I don’t know what to say.” He took a moment to think. “Except that she was a horrible mother to you, and a horrible wife to me. When I filed for divorce, I was feeling just as conflicted as you are about all this.”

Father and Daughter looked each other in the eyes- blue met green and silence passed between them for several moments, no words really needing to be said.

Kana sighed, breaking the silence first, and looked up at the clock. Ten minutes until they were called in.

“She doesn’t act like it, but she is your mother by blood.” Alata decided to continue. “I think, it’s okay to want to love her as your Mother, and hate the way she’s acted. But…” He smiled, fully, at his daughter, “That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to feel conflicted. It just means that your feelings have a bit more merit to them.”

Kana thought over those words for a few moments, internalizing the startlingly wise words her daughter had spoken, and…. “Yeah,” She decided, “You’re right.” And then she pulled her Father into a hug. He hugged her back immediately. They sat like that for a few moments before Mayoi chuckled, “How’d you get to be so wise, Dad?”

“I’d say I got it from my parents, buuuut,” Alata smiled, “honestly, I think it just comes with time, and hearing other people say it better, sometimes.”

“Only sometimes?” Mayoi asked as they pulled out of the hug. “No! Surely you jest!” A genuine smile was showing on his daughter’s face.

Alata counted that as a win.


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