Teach Me Legendary Assassin!
There are times in life where one is reminded of the beauty of nature. Truly, it is nothing short of breathtaking to take a walk through the green of the earth and see the forest for the trees, so to speak.
Miku Hatsune was experiencing one such occasion. Surrounded as she was by sunlight, soil, and foliage it was nigh on impossible not to be struck by the absolute tranquility of it all. This forest was a wonder, and the path she currently walked offered an unimpeded panorama of nature’s grandeur.
It was wondrous, pristine, glorious. One might even say it was…
“Booooring...” the girl sighed as she trudged yet another tiresome step through the unending trees. “Why am I doing this again?”
“Because” her friend Gumi answered from the other end of the phone call, “you went on for weeks and weeks about how you’re going to be the greatest fighter in history and absolutely nothing else would do but being trained by the ‘Legendary Assassin’ who apparently lives in that forest.”
Gumi leaned back in her desk chair, brushing some of her green hair aside. “Protip, he doesn’t exist.”
“Yes he does. I can feel it.” Miku replied, casting a critical eye about the trees around her. “I’m going to find him and he’s going to teach me. Then I’m going to-”
“Surpass him and become even greater, cementing your legacy as the most powerful Vocaloid who ever lived.” Gumi recited in deadpan. “The plan hasn’t changed since the last hundred times you told me.”
Alright, so perhaps nature’s grandeur wasn’t exactly Miku’s main focus at the moment. It was understandable. She was a sixteen year old girl with a lot on her mind.
Though “a lot” may not exactly be the best descriptor. When one imagines a teenage girl with a lot on her mind they might picture… well, any teenage girl, really. Miku was not just any teenage girl.
Whereas most girls her age might be stressing over boys, makeup, and pop bands, Miku was interested in rather another subject. Namely, fighting.
It may not, of course, have been the most rational or believable thing for a sixteen year old girl to be in a forest looking for a fighting instructor. Then again, Miku didn’t find physics to be particularly rational or believable but it seemed to happen anyways. This probably evened it out somehow, she reasoned.
At first glance, the rather unintimidating-looking teenager would not strike one as the fighting type. She would, however, have absolutely no problem striking someone if they pissed her off.
Because Miku was indeed the fighting type. She was so much the fighting type that there was nothing else in the world that she would rather do. It was a rather difficult thing to describe. She was fond of explaining it as having the urge to just go out and punch something. Not out of anger, of course, but because it just felt right. Perfectly understandable, really.
For whatever inscrutable reason, however, no one she’d ever asked had really agreed with her that some things just needed to be punched. She couldn’t fathom why.
It wasn’t really something she could put into words anyways. Either you’re born a fighter or you aren’t, and if her fiery disposition and occasionally confrontational personality were any indication Miku had definitely been born a fighter.
“Geez, it feels like I’ve been walking forever” Miku complained. Her feet ached and her back was none too happy with her at the moment.
“Well it has been two months” Gumi reminded her. “Kudos on that, by the way. I really thought you’d be back inside a week.”
“Wow, glad to know my best friend has so much faith in me” Miku replied sarcastically.
“Oh, please don’t mistake that for faith. I lost a bet with my dad over that.”
“Well at least somebody thinks a little higher of me.”
“You’re misunderstanding. We both lost. He thought you’d only last three days.”
“Whatever happened to family support?” Miku asked.
“They’re my family, not yours” said Gumi, with the hint of a smile. “You’re just a moocher who lives off my parents good graces.”
“Hey, I can’t help being an orphan. It’s not my fault if my winning personality convinced your folks to take me in. We’re practically sisters.”
“Heaven forbid” Gumi said with an eye-roll. “If we were sisters I might have to live with you. Oh wait…”
“Keep talking. You know you love sharing a room with me.”
“Speak for yourself. I’m doing wonders with all this extra space.”
Their friendly bickering aside, the two girls really were like sisters to one another. Miku may have been an orphan, but the fact did little to discourage her. On the contrary, Miku was quite certain that she preferred the life she had gotten.
This was most likely due to the fact that she wasn’t an orphan in the sense that she was put up for adoption by parents without the means to raise her so much as she was abandoned in the streets of a small suburban town at a young age.
How young? That was always everyone’s question. The opinions varied, but Miku was always partial to ‘somewhere younger than a toddler yet older than the classic ‘infant on a doorstep’ scenario.’
Her exact age notwithstanding, it was remarkable that she had survived at all. Apparently, however, fate had other plans. The old adage “it takes a town to raise a child” may not be so far off where this young lady is concerned. A town is indeed what raised the girl. Found in the streets by a newlywed couple, it sounds at first like a cookie cutter ‘happily ever after.’
Miku never had liked fairy tales. After all, how many people could really just find a child on the street and have the means and knowledge to care for it?
Fortunately for the blue-haired youngster word got around about a poor, helpless little girl left to fend for herself, and a most peculiar thing happened. One after another, in a series of unlikely acts of kindness, families and individuals alike stepped forward to offer their support.
Perhaps it started with a few meals here or a bed to sleep in there, but as time went on it seemed less like the the town was shouldering a temporary burden and more like it had adopted a new daughter.
Who were the parents? It hardly mattered. No one asked and no one really cared. Miku could go her whole life without meeting them for all it concerned her. She had all the family she could ever want.
With so many good Samaritans coming together to lend a hand, one would imagine that it would have been downright easy to do something as simple as raise a child.
Well, it would have been, if not for one small detail:
Miku is a Vocaloid.
“So what exactly does a ‘Legendary Assassin’ do?” asked Gumi. “I mean aside from the obvious, of course.”
“How should I know?” Miku replied, popping her neck as she walked along. “He’s a super powerful Vocaloid, he probably does… super powerful Vocaloid type stuff.”
Gumi gave another eye roll. “But how ‘super powerful’ could he be, really? I mean, I’ve seen you punch trees over and crush rocks… and destroy personal property, come to think of it.” She cast a sad look at a pile of scrap in the corner of her room. “I still can’t believe you did that to Scrappy.”
“What, you mean that gardening robot thing you tried to build? He was asking for it!”
“Yes, well, I suppose his voice module wasn’t exactly supposed to curse that emphatically or in so many colorful ways but he was a work in progress!”
There are many answers to the question: “What is a Vocaloid?” A scientific thesis on the subject (and there have been many) may put it into such words as: “Containing a special protein in their cell membranes, Vocaloids are capable of rapid energy transfer from one cell body to the next. This phenomenon originates from the brain’s prefrontal cortex, and quickly spreads to…”
And that was where Miku would have completely lost interest. She never had much use for fancy sciency words like “membrane” and “prefrontal.”
The general consensus, in any case, is that Vocaloids are just normal people. They just have a more… complete control over the natural forces present inside themselves. Simply put, everyone has energy within them. It’s the same with Vocaloids, they just use it for things other than metabolism or bodily functions, given the proper control, of course. To accomplish this, a Vocaloid uses music.
That’s where most people got lost. How can one really describe seeing a song? It requires the throwing out of any preconceived notions about what ‘music’ is right at the start, for it is not music in the same sense that a normal person would comprehend. No, for a Vocaloid music is something simpler, more fundamental… more primal.
Miku imagined that it was very similar to having a song stuck in your head. It might linger there for minutes, hours, days. Some people believe that’s just your brain trying to tell you something. If that was indeed the case, then Vocaloids were the people who were receiving that message.
Many Vocaloids would recommend that a person should think of it as whistling a tune to themselves. A mundane task, provided you can whistle. For a Vocaloid, though, it means nearly unlimited potential. The music they imagine can be used, controlled, and applied. Simply think of a sound, any sound at all, and a Vocaloid can turn it into something amazing, putting the simplest melodies to the greatest of uses.
And that was where Miku usually lost anyone else who was still listening. She couldn’t blame them. The process was hardly intuitive after all. As much as science had dissected and studied Vocaloidism, the reasoning behind one of its most fundamental processes remained a complete mystery. While any Vocaloid asked will confirm that all it takes is a song for them to make use of their abilities, one would be hard pressed to find anyone on earth who could tell them why.
Still, in spite of the need for a certain suspension of disbelief, few would argue that it is regardless quite a complicated and beautiful art to master. But words alone cannot do it justice. After all, music is not merely something that is heard, but something that is felt. It can show you things you’ve never dreamed of, or make you feel things that you could never put into speech. It can bring you to the utmost peak of happiness, or cast you into the deepest well of despair. It can take you places you didn’t think were real, or let you do things that you never imagined were possible; quite literally, in a Vocaloid’s case.
Yes, in order to fully and truly understand music’s grace, beauty, ferocity, and power as a Vocaloid does, one must hear it with a Vocaloid’s ears or perhaps, in some cases, see it through their eyes.
As far as grace, beauty, power and whatever else were concerned, however, Miku didn’t really care. She knew she could do it, and that was all that mattered to her. She didn’t see the need to over think something that felt as natural as walking, which, come to think of it, she had been doing a lot of lately.
“All I’m saying is that just because a few people think there may be a dangerous person living in those woods it isn’t a reason to go looking for him” Gumi said, resting her head on the desk in front of her. “Urban legends get started all the time. It doesn’t mean you have to take it as gospel.”
“Look, obviously there has to be some truth to it” Miku argued back. “How else would so many people know about him?”
“Because people like to blow things out of proportion” Gumi countered. “He’s probably not even real, or worse, he is real and is actually just a murderer or something!”
“You worry too much” Miku replied. “How am I supposed to finish my epic journey of self-discovery if I don’t find him?”
She had come to realize that self-discovery is rarely kind to one’s legs.
When it had become clear to her that there was no one around that could possibly teach her anything she didn’t already know, she had set out to find someone who could. She had heard rumors that a powerful Vocaloid known only as “The Legendary Assassin” lived far away in the very woods that she found herself in now.
She had to admit that the whole thing sounded fishy. It was like something out of a movie. The fact was that in real life there were unfortunately few actual assassins, let alone ones that would be known as ‘legendary’. However, Miku had nothing else to go on, and no other plan besides. She knew it was a long shot, but she had tried everything else already.
She groaned inwardly as she reminded herself that it really had been everything. The list of her failed endeavors was a long one.
She had tried being a mercenary for hire at the age of twelve. Even she admitted that had been a ridiculous idea. Having never killed anything more than a spider, she was ill-suited for the position, to say the least. Never mind the fact that absolutely no one took her seriously, though they had made no secret of how adorable they all thought it was. That had been the worst part.
There was a period of time where she had attempted work as a private eye. After three weeks had passed and no criminals had been caught, she gave up. It had probably been better in the long run, anyways. She had never gotten the whole hard-boiled detective thing down.
When she was fourteen she had tried to join the army’s special ops division. They had turned her away for being too young, telling her to come back when she was older. But waiting until she was eighteen was far too long for Miku and at sixteen years of age she had set out on her own to find herself a teacher worthy of her apprenticeship.
The people back home had begged her not to go. Having stayed with nearly every family on one occasion or another, Miku had become somewhat of a fixture in the community’s social structure. Even now, she recalled the tragic look upon Gumi’s face when she proposed the idea.
“What!?!? But why!?!?” the girl had whined, her ever-present goggles bouncing atop her mop of vibrant green hair. “If you leave I won’t have anyone to spend time with! This town will be so boring without you around to stir up trouble!” Funny, Gumi had always told Miku that her penchant for mischief was more of a curse than a blessing, but Miku knew that she wouldn’t want to be anywhere else than perpetrating that mischief right alongside her.
Gumi was a Vocaloid too, albeit one with no interest in fighting. Her natural abilities were rather weak, and as such she wasn’t exactly combat-ready. Not that she wanted to fight, of course. Gumi was the most peaceful person Miku had ever met.
Fortunately for the green-haired teen there is far more than just one use for a Vocaloid’s unique abilities. She used her powers for other things. Gumi was the most technically inclined person around, a prodigy of all things electrical, a verifiable genius.
Miku had lost count of the times Gumi had pulled her along to see some new invention or other. It could be a little scary at times, honestly. The girl would forget to eat if she was particularly engrossed in something, and at least once a week Miku would have to practically drag her away from her workbench.
Still, Miku couldn’t deny she had talent. The small bursts of energy Gumi produced may not have been very powerful, but they were very precise. When she was in a good mood, Miku had seen her weld circuits together with nothing more than her hand, a song, and a spark. It was a common sight to find Gumi sitting in the back room of her parent’s house, humming quietly to herself while tinkering away at something.
The two of them had been friends since they were both very little, and the thought of not seeing her for any extended period was very hard to bear. Apparently Gumi had felt the same way, and she had wasted no time in engineering a solution.
“Take this with you” she had said, pressing something vaguely phone-shaped into Miku’s hands. “It’s a walkie-talkie that can call this one directly” She held up an identical device. “But be careful, it takes a lot of power and the battery is only good for about three hours per charge.”
Here she had paused for a moment, chewing her bottom lip. “Also, don’t… uh… don’t let too many people see you using it. I didn’t exactly get permission from any of the companies whose signals I jacked to make it work.”
Miku was amazed that Gumi had even been able to make it at all, let alone make it work. If she hadn’t known better, she would have assumed it was a piece of trash at first glance. The entire device was an unholy amalgamation of circuit boards, exposed wiring, and a liberal amount of duct tape.
The sound it made was less akin to a ring and more like an angry monkey covered in pots and pans. Every time it rang it was all Miku could do to stop herself from throwing it away.
Still, she couldn’t deny the thing worked, and that amazed her to no end. If she’d had a proper facility and the right materials, Miku was reasonably certain that Gumi could create a phone that was better than any of the ones currently on the market. She would make a great engineer some day. That was for sure.
“This thing hurts my face” Miku complained as she held the glorified walkie-talkie slightly away from her cheek. “It’s got pokey bits all over it. I’m going to put my eye out one of these days.”
“Complain a little more, why don’t you?” Gumi huffed. “You try building a working long range communicator without easy access to commercial grade electronics. Do you know how many cell phones I had to tear apart to find everything I needed? No, that isn’t a rhetorical question! Twelve of them! I’m pretty sure Jenny from school is still looking for her tablet, too!”
“Meh, Jenny’s a jerk” said Miku. “I’m sure her parents will get her another one eventually.”
The device had made the trip a bit more bearable, but only just. Miku had been on the road for nearly two months, and had run the battery dry more times than she could count while talking to Gumi.
She had been traveling through towns and cities for most of the way, and she hadn’t had any trouble charging the thing at a stray outlet now and again. However, for the past few days she had been traveling through this stupid forest with its stupid trees that didn’t have any stupid electricity, so it made sense that she had not been able to recharge in a while. She silently wished that rocks had power cells.
“You know, we’ve been talking for a while now” said Gumi. “You should probably put the walkie away for a while if you want to have any charge left later. At this rate it’s probably going to-”
The device chose that exact moment to shut off.
Gumi sighed, letting her head plunk down on the desktop. “Case in point…”
“Gumi? Hello?” Miku asked, shaking the device a little. When it failed to make any sort of indication that it was still working, Miku shrugged and slid the thing back into her pocket. Oh well, looked like it was going to be a boring couple of days. That was ok. Miku had been on the road this long, a little more couldn’t hurt.
Gumi had asked her multiple times why exactly it was taking her so long to find anything. The fact of the matter was that It had only taken her so long to make it as far as she had because she had, in her usual fashion, neglected to formulate anything even remotely resembling a plan before setting out.
Maps? Maps are for chumps. Traveling is an adventure and it should be treated like one. She had gotten her directions from anyone she could ask, which had predictably resulted in occasionally being given the wrong directions. An entire week went by as she backtracked from just north of Medley’s Vale, which was ridiculously far out of her way to the east. Then again, perhaps it hadn’t been the directions at all but the fact that she had followed them incorrectly.
Whatever. Not the point. She was here now, and that’s what mattered. Even so this forest was beginning to become unbearable. She was getting seriously fed up with the whole “sleeping outside” thing. Miku was willing to classify a few nights under the stars as a “pleasant deviation from the norm”, but was becoming genuinely tired of waking up to ants in her sleeping bag.
The fact that there were no formal restrooms in the forest was also very annoying, as well as the lack of restaurants and the general absence of air conditioning. The whole trip was becoming an ordeal, and she was really starting to hope that she would find this mysterious “assassin” soon, if he even existed.
As she walked along, she pondered the possibility that she may never find the Legendary Assassin at all. What if she was just left wandering this forest forever? Frankly, she could not imagine a worse fate.
“Worst. Vacation. Ever.” she intoned quietly to no one in particular.
She came to a small stream and decided to rest for a while. Setting her things on the ground nearby, she lay down on the bank of the small body of water. Maybe it’s not all bad, she thought. The weather was nice, and the atmosphere was very peaceful. Being able to have some time to herself was pretty cool too. Out here, she could sing as loud as she wanted to without having to worry about who was going to hear her, or complain that two AM was not an appropriate time for belting out a power ballad.
Not that she had ever really cared who heard her. Being a Vocaloid she had a natural talent for music, and her voice was nothing to scoff at. She had been complimented on it more times than she could count (when it wasn’t causing domestic disturbances), and indeed singing was one of her favorite things.
As she lay there thinking she began singing absentmindedly to herself. It wasn’t anything special, just a little song with nonsense words. It had a bouncy polka-like feel to it, and she often found herself humming it under her breath . As she sang she picked up a rock and held it.
With a smile she felt the familiar warmth of the melody spreading through her head and neck, down through her shoulder and into her arm. When it reached her hand she gave it the smallest push and released it from her upturned palm. Slowly, the small stone rose several inches into the air and hovered, as though supported by an invisible spout of water.
Miku loved her powers. She loved the way each note caused the little stone to bob and bounce along with her internal song. The thrill of being able to affect the world around her was a novel experience that she hoped would never lose its charm.
The melody filling her head grew in strength and the volume of her voice rose accordingly, serenading the trees and tranquility surrounding her. It was times like these that made her appreciate the fact that she was alive and free. With no one around, just her voice and her thoughts to occupy her mind, she was at peace.
“That’s a lovely voice you have.”
She nearly jumped out of her skin at the unexpected sound of someone else’s voice, however. Her power surged in surprise, and the rock exploded. She flinched as several small pebbles bounced off of her face. Quickly jumping to her feet, she dusted herself off and turned to find the source of the disturbance.
Before her stood a woman who looked to be approaching middle age, but had retained her youth well. Miku immediately made to yell at her, but pulled up short as she fully noticed the woman’s appearance.
A mass of long, luxurious, light pink hair reached down past her waist, lending her a definite air of grace. Her hair, however, was not the first thing Miku noticed. Her clothes drew far more attention. Her gaze immediately locked onto the fact that she seemed to be wearing headphones. An odd fashion choice, to be sure, but this particular pair looked incredibly expensive, the band accented with an intricate golden weave. The rest of her outfit was no less eye-catching.
She had on a long black skirt, slit up one side to her hip, and a tight-fitting vest that was simultaneously modest yet form-hugging enough that it left little of her figure to the imagination. Both items were trimmed with gold accents and lent the woman a vaguely foreign aura. The vest was cinched at her breast with an elaborate knot of gold colored ribbon topped with a large jewel.
She wore no sleeves, but had what appeared to be matching gold-trimmed armbands over each bicep. A pair of extensively laced heeled boots reached up to her knees. The whole ensemble was much too fancy considering their surroundings as far as Miku was concerned.
What was more, Miku hadn’t heard her coming. Maybe she had been lost in her daydreaming, but it was a rare occurrence that she did not notice someone approaching. She decided to file that away for later and focused instead on her impromptu guest.
“Who are you?” she asked, eyeing the well-dressed new arrival suspiciously. “Why’d you sneak up on me?”
The woman quirked an eyebrow, looking slightly amused. “Sneak up on you? It was impossible not to walk past you, being this close to the path.”
Miku looked and sure enough, the woman was standing on the paved path that she herself had been walking along for the better part of that day.
The girl huffed. “Yeah, well, I didn’t exactly ask you for a rating on my performance, did I?”
The stranger smiled gently. “I’m sorry, I meant no offense. I was just surprised to see another person here of all places. In my experience this isn’t a place where one usually meets new people. What would bring a girl as young as you here all on her lonesome?”
The woman’s voice was smooth and well-mannered, with just a hint of some unplaceable accent. Something in her tone suggested sincerity in her words and Miku answered her, albeit still slightly annoyed.
“I’m looking for someone, if you have to know” she said, crossing her arms. “I heard there was a strong Vocaloid living in this forest and I was hoping that maybe he’d teach me” said Miku. “Maybe you’ve seen him. Everyone calls him the ‘Legendary Assassin’ but I think that’s kind of weird. Why would someone that famous live out in the middle of nowhere where there’s no people to impress?”
The woman frowned a bit at this. She ignored Miku’s question, instead posing one of her own.
“You’re a Vocaloid out on your own looking for an… assassin? Forgive me if I’m… ah… slightly skeptical. You can’t be more than fifteen! Aren’t you a bit young to be travelling alone?”
“I’m sixteen, actually, and I think I can handle myself just fine” said Miku, a bit ruffled over the fact that this woman clearly didn’t think she had much potential. The woman smiled, however.
“Well then, little Vocaloid, how about you walk with me for a while? I just happen to be traveling through these woods on my way to the next town over, and I could use a little company” said the woman.
Her straightforwardness took Miku off guard. Having met her a scant two minutes previously, she had no reason to believe this woman was trustworthy in any way. Then again… Miku looked her over. She doubted she’d be in any danger from someone this… fancy. There were enough gold accents and frou-frou accessories on her person to open a jewelry store.
“My name’s Luka, by the way. Luka Megurine” said the woman, extending her hand.
“Miku...” she replied, accepting the handshake awkwardly.
“I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Miku” Luka said with a smile.
Forty-five minutes later the two were walking side by side. As it turned out, Luka was actually a very friendly and interesting person. She had a lot to talk about, it seemed. Her strange appearance apparently went hand in hand with a rather unique set of life experiences. Where at first Miku had been a bit tentative about the strange woman that had approached her, she was now genuinely enjoying her company.
“You mentioned earlier that you were looking for someone? A strong Vocaloid, if I recall?” asked Luka, shaking Miku out of her contemplation.
“Oh, yeah, I want to find him and make him train me to be stronger” Miku replied bluntly.
“Make him? Sounds a bit forceful, doesn’t it?” said Luka.
“I’ve been traveling for a while now. I haven’t seen my friends, slept in a bed, or listened to any music other than my own voice for almost two months. If I find this guy, if he even exists, he’s becoming my teacher” she replied, her voice resolute.
“If you find him?” Luka inquired, cocking her head to the side. “You mean you don’t even know where he is? How on earth do you expect to find him when you aren’t even sure he lives here to begin with?” Luka asked, clearly at a loss as to why someone would make such a long journey just to find something that might not even exist.
“I’m just going off of what I’ve heard from other people. Everyone seems to think that he’s somewhere in this stupid forest. And if he’s not, then I’ll look somewhere else” said Miku nonchalantly.
“Yes, well, a modicum of common sense can go a long way you know” said Luka, rolling her eyes at Miku’s youthful optimism. “Urban myths can be dreadfully interesting, but rarely true. If you’re deadset on a fighting instructor a reputable martial arts academy would be a more sound decision, certainly.”
Miku didn’t know what a ‘modicum’ was, but she got the gist of Luka’s concern. “Meh. Maybe. But it wouldn’t be even close to as awesome.” Miku beamed, stars in her eyes. “Can you imagine how cool it would be to be able to tell someone that I was trained by a legendary assassin? I’d be like… I dunno, a celebrity or something!”
“Well I certainly admire your persistence. I can’t imagine that there are many sixteen-year-olds who would work this hard to find someone who might not even exist” said Luka, a smile on her lips.
They continued walking and making small talk, when it occurred to Miku that while they had exhausted the conversation behind her own reasoning for being in such an out of the way location, she hadn’t inquired as to why Luka happened to be in these woods.
It seemed a little odd that a woman like her would be traveling alone in a potentially dangerous area. Miku knew from her asking around that these woods weren’t exactly the safest place. Such a locale was a natural draw for those of a less than reputable persuasion. There could be bandits or highwaymen (were bandits and highwaymen even still a thing that existed? She wasn’t sure, but the terms seemed a little outdated to be entirely plausible). Miku would be fine with her powers, probably, but Luka must’ve had a very important reason for putting herself in such obvious danger.
“Hey Luka, why are you out here? You said you’re heading for the next town over, right?” she asked.
Luke sighed heavily. “To be honest, I wish that our meeting was taking place under happier circumstances. My mother is rather ill, you see, and I’m going to take care of her” she replied, taking on a wistful look. “Ever since father died she’s been having more and more trouble doing things on her own.”
“Oh… I’m uh… sorry to hear that” said Miku, slightly embarrassed at accidentally broaching such a personal subject.
“Well, life happens I suppose. What can you do?” said Luka with a melancholy smile.
They approached a fork in the road. An aged green metal sign in the middle read:
· Kuroki Town, 5 miles >>>
· Clonderwell City, 30 miles <<<
“It looks like this is where we part ways” said Luka, holding out her hand to Miku. “A pity. I was very much enjoying your company, young Miss.”
“It was nice having someone to talk to, at least for a while” agreed Miku, returning the woman’s handshake.
“Farewell, Miku. May fortune see fit to cross our paths again” said Luka as she turned and began to walk towards Kuroki Town, “Good luck finding who you’re looking for!”
“Thank you! I hope your mother gets well soon!” Miku yelled back as Luka rounded a corner and disappeared from sight.
Several seconds of silence passed in which Miku stood watching the place where Luka had vanished. She let out a breath. “Man... that lady was weird” she intoned to no one in particular.
Still, Miku was happy she had met her. It was a nice change to have someone in person to talk to while she walked rather than a voice on a walkie. She turned and looked down the other path that led deeper into the woods. Thirty miles was a long way to walk, but she had come this far. She blew a stray lock of hair out of her face.
“Great, more walking. Just what I was hoping for…”
Self discovery really isn’t kind to one’s legs.
When it started to get dark, Miku looked up at the evening sky and sighed. It looked like she would have to spend another night in this place. She figured she might as well stop here and set up camp.
She had never really checked to make sure that it was entirely legal to be camping in these woods. There was a very good chance that what she was doing could be considered vagrancy. However, her usual ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ mentality had won out in the end and she had decided to risk it. Who would care anyways?
As she started making preparations for a fire (almost definitely illegal, she reminded herself) she thought about Luka. She couldn’t shake the feeling that there had been something off about her. Call her paranoid but she still couldn’t help but wonder that there was something she had missed.
She would have liked to get Gumi’s opinion on the day’s events, but with the walkie out of power it wasn’t an option. She sighed. At least she’d be able to charge it the next day when she reached Clonderwell. Eventually she dismissed the line of thought entirely. Luka had been odd, sure, but hardly suspicious.
Not like I’ll be seeing her again anyways.
It was dark. The fire had long since died down to embers and there was no noise, save for Miku’s quiet breathing. She had chosen the most suitable spot she could find near the main path to set up camp. She didn’t much like the idea of trekking further into the untamed foliage. Besides, who was going to come along a dark forest path in the middle of the night?
As it turned out, Murphy’s law had something to say about that.
It should have come as no surprise when she was rudely awoken by hands roughly shaking her and a knife at her throat. Miku had never much cared for irony but the fact that she had just that day wondered if highwaymen still existed was not lost even on her. She sighed.
There were five large men standing around her in a semicircle, one of which was directly in front of her, holding a large and particularly dangerous looking blade in his meaty fist. Oh joy.
She was embarrassed more than anything. One light-footed woman managing to sneak up on her while she was daydreaming was one thing, but five large men? This was just too much.
It was at this point that Miku became fully awake and noticed a sixth man… who currently had her arms pinned behind her back. Wow, she was really batting a thousand today.
It occurred to her that with her arms being held, fighting back would be very difficult, Vocaloid powers or no. This brought up an interesting point: She was in serious trouble, a fact which didn’t particularly bother her so much as annoy her and, if she made it through this, she would never admit to anyone.
“Well what do we have here?” said the man with the knife, “A pretty little girl all alone in the woods? Didn’t your parents teach you that it’s dangerous to go wandering off by yourself at night?”
Though she was in a great deal of danger, Miku was not the kind of person to abide being looked down upon. It should therefore come as no surprise that she chose that moment to do something incredibly stupid.
“No… actually they didn’t… My parents abandoned me when I was a child…” she said, heaving a theatrical sigh. Some of the men actually deflated slightly at that. “I never had anyone to love me. When you woke me up just now, it was just from yet another nightmare of being alone. I guess I deserve this, in the end. I must be worthless, to be captured by such an incompetent band of fools.”
It took a moment for the men to realize exactly what she had just said. Several looked momentarily confused.
“I guess this is the end for me. Who would have thought I’d die at the hands of such ugly people?” she continued, her tone slowly slipping from one of depression to something more derisive.
“What was that!?!?” yelled the man with the knife, his face reddening.
“Oh sorry, I should have spoken up. I was just saying how fat and stupid you all look!” she yelled back, all pretense lost.
“Looks like this little one likes to run her mouth!” the man said to others, “What do you think we should do with her?”
“Teach her some manners!” shouted one of the other men, brandishing a large club. Miku scoffed in disgust. What a cliché. He didn’t even have the decency to threaten someone with a gun like a real modern criminal. Seriously, what self-respecting mugger even owned a club in this day and age? It looked like he had picked a branch up off the ground just to have something to threaten her with.
“Sounds good to me!” said the first man.
With that he took two steps forward and slapped Miku hard across the face. Her eyes watered from the pain, but she didn’t make a sound. Slowly, menacingly, she turned her gaze back to face the man who had slapped her, eyes inquisitive, as if asking if that was really the hardest he could manage.
The man grabbed her face in one hand and leaned in close. Ugh, his breath even smelled terrible. Seriously, bad guys had no class nowadays.
“How’s that Missy? Ready to be a little more respectful of your elders?” he asked, his face inches away from hers.
“Respect this, asshole!” Miku bit the hand holding her face. The man reeled away, clutching his finger, which was now bleeding rather heavily. The man holding her, surprised at her actions, and looking a bit concerned for his friend, loosened his grip just the tiniest bit. Miku smiled.
In an instant, a powerful melody filled her head and a pleasant tingle of energy infused every inch of her body. Using the bit of leverage she had been afforded, she maneuvered her hand into a fist and sent every bit of power she could muster drilling straight into the man’s stomach.
He fell to his knees in pain, the wind knocked out of him. Wasting no time Miku spun around and delivered a swift kick to the side of the man’s head before rounding on his buddies, who all looked appropriately shocked. However, it only took them a moment to get over their initial surprise, and they began advancing on Miku menacingly, with weapons in hand.
“Oy! You’ve got some nerve girl! You just made this a whole lot worse for yourself! We just wanted your money but now it looks like we’ll have to beat some sense into ya’!” yelled one of the men.
Miku’s eye twitched. Taking her money was second on her list of things that made her mad. How unfortunate for this man that he hadn’t thought first to just ask her for it. She still would have said no, of course, but it would have saved him and his buddies the savage beating she was now about to deliver.
“I am going to enjoy this WAY more than I should!” she shouted, hands beginning to glow.
The man with the bleeding finger rushed at her with his knife. She sidestepped the blade easily and tripped the man, landing a heavy fist into his gut as he fell. He went down hard, wheezing.
Pointing her glowing hands at the man with the club (branch?) she fired a powerful blast of energy directly into his midsection. It bowled him over completely and the others started backing away, clearly scared and confused by the fact that a teenage girl was somehow knocking them around. Miku glared as she advanced menacingly.
But as she stepped forward, she felt a hand grasp her ankle. A hard pull and a swift descent and she was on her face. With a mental groan she realized that she had underestimated the man who had been holding her. That boot to the head should have left him out cold, but it seemed he was made of slightly tougher stuff than she had thought.
There was no doubt in her mind now that she was really going to have to work on being more conscious of her surroundings. Well, provided that she got out of this alive, that is.
The man with the knife was on top of her in a flash, pinning her down and panting as he recovered from his earlier tumble.
“That really hurt, kid” breathed the man, his mouth next to her ear, “Let’s see how you like it.”
With a snarl he grabbed a handful of Miku’s hair and viciously drove her face into the ground. Sparks of pain danced across her vision as a bruise blossomed across her cheek and her nose began to bleed.
This was definitely not going as she had planned. In her arrogance Miku had neglected to consider that perhaps a full grown man might not take as much punishment from a teenager’s foot as she had intended.
She didn’t have time to dwell on the matter as the man pulled her head back and slammed her face into the ground a second time. Miku yelled in pain, her nose making a cracking noise as blood began to pour from it. The man raised her head a third time, grinning like a fool.
Several things happened very quickly.
Just as the man made to drive her face home for a third time, Miku felt a sudden rush of air as a great force lifted the man completely off of her and blew him into a nearby tree. He slammed into the truck face first. The sound of splintering bark rent the air. Miku twisted around from her position on the forest floor and was struck speechless by the sight that greeted her.
Luka stood undaunted in the midst of the hulking men, her posture relaxed, hands and eyes glowing brightly with barely contained energy. She smirked.
Three of the men rushed her, swinging their weapons with murderous intent, clearly having had enough. A teenager had tripped up their boss and now this woman was trying to make fools out of them. Unfortunately for them, they were fools and Luka appeared to be in no mood to tolerate their shenanigans.
As they reached her, Luka bent her knees and vaulted into the air, jumping clean over all three. Behind them, she loosed three bursts of energy from her hands in quick succession, knocking the men on their faces. The man with the club(no, it really was just a branch, Miku decided) attempted to bludgeon her while her back was turned. Without even looking behind her she caught the weapon as it came down, gripping it tightly.
Alarmed, the man tried to pull back, but found that he couldn’t so much as budge the makeshift bludgeon from Luka’s iron grip. A devilish grin spread across her features and she chuckled darkly.
“Didn’t anyone ever teach you about walking through the forest at night?”
A splintering crack echoed through the air as Luka squeezed hard enough to snap the branch completely in two.
She spun impossibly fast and hugged the man around his midsection. Her energy flared as she bent her legs and jumped backwards, taking the man with her. In the air she leaned back and threw him behind her, suplexing him on top of his three cohorts. Catching herself on one hand, she pirouetted gracefully before flipping back onto her feet.
Nonchalantly tossing her hair out of her face, she looked down at the pitiful pile of bodies that constituted the remains of her erstwhile opponents.
“Now are you gentlemen going to leave or do I have to get serious?” she cracked her knuckles and her eyes glowed a bright pink as her energy flared up around her once again.
The men may have been fools, but they could take a hint. Grabbing their boss and hoisting him between two of them, they turned tail and ran as fast as they could in the opposite direction. Needless to say, it would be a considerable amount of time before they attempted to rob anyone again..
As quickly as it had appeared, Luka’s intimidation factor vanished as soon as the men were gone. She spun around and rushed over to Miku, who was sitting up but still bleeding heavily from her nose.
"Are you alright?" Luka asked, worry etched all over her face as she examined Miku’s injuries.
Miku said nothing, opting instead to let her jaw hang slack and her eyes bug out in amazement at what she had just witnessed. She sputtered: "Wha... how did you... but they were..."
“Wow, you’re pretty banged up, aren’t you?” said Luka, ignoring Miku’s astonishment. “I suppose I could try to fix it… but I have to warn you, I haven’t done this in a while and I was always more the type to cause injuries rather than fix them”.
Having said that, Luka placed her hand over Miku’s face and closed her eyes. Her hand glowed briefly and Miku felt a sharp, quick pain followed by a muffled snap. She yelped and her hand leapt instantly to her face.
“OUCH! Hey what gives!?! What did you do… to…?” she trailed off as she felt her nose. It didn’t hurt at all anymore. In fact, it felt perfectly normal. The bleeding had stopped too. Whatever Luka had done, it had healed her.
“You… fixed my nose…?” asked Miku, dumbfounded.
“Vocal energy can be used for a lot more than fighting, you know. It’s a shame that more Vocaloids don’t practice medicine, really” she replied, “But I digress…”
With that Luka walked a few paces away from Miku, turned around and yelled:
“WHAT ON EARTH WERE YOU THINKING? Trying to take on six fully grown men by yourself!?!?!? That’s insane! Oniigasen a napermo, You’re lucky you weren’t killed! If I hadn’t been passing by, what would have happened to you?”
Under different circumstances, Miku probably would have stopped to wonder what the hell a napermo was, but she really couldn't be bothered just then.
“I… you… what… I don’t even…” Miku sputtered, entirely at a loss for words. She took a moment to compose herself and then said: "I'm sorry, but what the hell just happened!?!? I thought you were going to see your sick mother and then you just show up and go all ninja on those creeps!"
"Don't try to change the subject" said Luka, looking stern.
"Change the subject!?!?" said Miku, gesturing wildly behind her. "You just suplexed that guy!!! And you were glowing! Glowing! Who cares what I was thinking? You're like some kind of super hero, or... or secret agent or something!" Miku stopped a moment, clearly following a train of thought. "Like an assassin..."
And then it dawned on her.
Luka didn’t like the look of burgeoning comprehension slowly spreading over Miku’s face.
“Oh my God! You're the ‘Legendary Assassin'!?!?"
To say that Luka looked unhappy about Miku’s revelation would have been an understatement. The cat was out of the bag, it seemed. Perhaps she should have taken a bit more subtle approach to dealing with those men than her preferred strategy of overwhelming force.
In hindsight, however, the glowing probably had been a little much.
She had to hand it to Miku though. It had been quite a few years since anyone had realized who she was. Not that she had made it particularly difficult for her to figure out, of course, but still...
It really didn't matter. This girl was undoubtedly the same as everyone else, asking her for her autograph, or begging for a demonstration, or, God forbid, asking Luka to teach her. Wait a second... come to think of it, hadn’t Miku been going on about something earlier? Something about… teaching...
Luka was barely able to suppress the urge to facepalm.
Ok, no big deal Luka thought to herself, attempting to stay calm. I’ll just… play up my reputation a bit, yeah. Maybe sign an autograph and swear her to secrecy. No need to panic.
“You have a discerning eye! I am indeed the one that everyone calls the ‘Legendary Assassin’” she said, her voice booming, “I have defeated countless opponents and my powers are unmatched anywhere in the world! Those who seek to challenge me are swiftly dispatched without mercy or remorse!”
Nothing works like a good intimidation factor, thought Luka, satisfied that this girl would undoubtedly be speechless with awe.
To put it simply, her little declaration did not have the intended effect (and sounded downright silly in retrospect). Miku’s eyes grew round and her face lit up.
“YES!!! I finally found you!” she yelled, dramatically dropping to one knee. “I, Miku Hatsune, humbly request the opportunity to become your apprentice. Please teach me to be a fighter.”
Oh no. No no no. It was all coming back. ALL of it. It was people like this that had contributed to her decision to live a life of seclusion in the first place. The publicity was hell. There was hardly a moment when there wasn’t some misguided fan that thought they could become a legend too. This was rapidly escalating out of control. She needed to get a grasp on the situation and she needed to do it fast.
Later, she would look back and realize what a terrible course of action her next few decisions had been.
She could have said no. She could have told Miku that she didn’t take apprentices. She could have tried to bluff her way out of it. Anything else would probably have been a better idea.
“Foolish girl! You think that someone as weak as you is qualified to be the apprentice of the Legendary Assassin? I only take on the strongest of Vocaloids to be my students! Someone such as you could never hope to…”
There was a loud crash as a nearby tree fell over. The remaining splinters smoked slightly from Miku's overly enthusiastic blast of energy.
“How’s that for power? Those guys were just a fluke, I swear! I just got distracted is all!” said Miku, still with the same hopeful demeanor she’d had moments ago.
Well that was certainly... impressive. It wasn’t every day you met a sixteen year old girl that could blow down trees with her hands. Still, it didn’t mean anything. She could still feasibly just tell this girl that the answer was-
“You think that’s enough to qualify you to be my apprentice? I could fell this entire forest in a matter of minutes! A single tree is nothing!” Oh God, she kept opening her mouth and all that would come out was stupidity!
Almost as if karma was mocking her, there were several more crashing sounds as eight additional trees fell down.
“As I was saying, this entire forest would be no problem at all for me to…”
Miku jumped up in the air and then punched the ground when she landed. A sizeable crater formed beneath her fist, sending large cracks snaking outwards.
“That’s, impressive but…”
A log flew over Luka’s head and smashed into a clump of bushes on the other side of the road.
“I didn’t mean…”
A nearby boulder was reduced to rubble.
A few birds squawked indignantly as the tree they were perching in was entirely uprooted.
“Ok! Enough! You’ve made your point!” shouted Luka.
Miku stopped terrorizing the local environment and faced Luka, breathing heavily. Ok then, it was obvious that she couldn’t say this girl didn’t have enough raw strength. Alright, a different approach then. Maybe some force was necessary.
“Of course, pure strength can only take you so far. A true warrior must be agile as well. Let’s see if you can dodge… this!”
Inside Luka was repeatedly punching herself for even thinking this was a good idea. She was fairly certain that she had never looked this stupid in her life.
Nevertheless she still sent a blast of energy straight at Miku. Nothing too strong, she didn’t want to really hurt her after all, just scare her a bit.
It therefore came as quite a shock when Miku easily sidestepped the blast.
“Agile my ass! If you're going to do that you have to at least try to hit me!" Miku said with a roll of her eyes. "I saw that coming from a mile away!"
She had actually dodged it? Oh come on! What was the deal today!?!? She must be slipping. At what point had she gotten so out of practice that a teenage girl could avoid her?
Wait… seen it coming? Did she just say that she had seen the blast coming? Impossible! There was no way that someone so young could possess the ability to see uncondensed vocal energy. It took years of training and discipline, and this girl was obviously lacking a little in the discipline department.
Luka frowned. She herself had taken fifteen years before she could do it properly.
“Are you meaning to tell me that you actually saw that?” asked Luka, astounded, “Are you telling me that you, a sixteen year old girl with no formal Vocaloid training, are able to use perfect vocal vision?”
“Vocal what-now? What’s that?” replied Miku, “If you mean can I see you glowing, then yeah, can’t everyone? I mean, it’s so bright and pink. Kinda hard to look at, actually."
So she didn’t even know the extent of her own abilities… It sounded to Luka like this seemingly ordinary girl, or as ordinary as the situation permitted, possessed perfect vocal vision. She could even tell that Luka’s own aura was colored pink (Oh, right… glowing…). Unbelievable. Luka had never witnessed natural talent like this. It was remarkable.
Miku didn’t even seem to know what vocal vision was, let alone that it was anything special. If that was the case, then this girl had grown up with the ability to know a person’s vocal energy just by looking at them. For her, it was as normal to see vocal auras as it was for a regular person not to see them.
Furthermore, it also looked like Miku didn’t even have to put forth any conscious effort to do it, completely independent of the usual technique. She could just take a glance at someone and instantly know the level of their power as long as they weren't consciously hiding it
But really, that was neither here nor there. There weren’t many Vocaloids of that caliber anywhere. All that aside, Luka was beginning to think that maybe there was more to this girl than was readily apparent. Just maybe, she wasn’t just another wannabe. Perhaps there was a slight chance that she could actually become a legend herself one day… or not. Best not to get carried away with her thoughts.
“So let me see if I understand this” said Luka, “You are able to see my vocal energy, right?”
“Yeah…. Didn’t I just say that?” Miku replied, a bit confused.
“Interesting… what about now?” said Luka. She suppressed her energy, lowering her output until it was almost non-existent.
“Whoa! Wait, what did you just do? That’s what you were doing when we met, isn’t it? That’s why I didn’t notice you!” said MIku excitedly, “Can you teach me how to do that?”
“I don't recall saying that I was going to teach you anything” said Luka, “…however, in light of your abilities, I must admit that you are more qualified than I thought you were…”
Luka thought hard for a moment. Was she actually considering this? Could she actually be considering this? This was exactly what she hated about publicity. Could she really be letting herself embrace one of the things that had driven her to a life of solitude in the first place?
More than that, she wondered, could she really take on an apprentice? What authority did she have to teach someone? She had never done it before. What was to say that she would even be good at it? Granted, when it came to knowledge of Vocaloid ability, there were few with more practical experience than her, if any. Still...
“Hey, anybody home?” said Miku, looking at Luka inquisitively. Absorbed as she was in her musings, she had nearly forgotten that Miku was still awaiting an answer.
“Oh, sorry, yes, well… “ said Luka, once again at a loss for words. She composed herself, almost not able to believe what she was about to do.
"I concede” she said, taking on a serious tone, “You may have what it takes to be my apprentice.”
Miku’s eyes lit up and grew as big as dinner plates. Luka noticed this and quickly continued.
“BUT! I’m still not completely convinced!” she said, giving Miku a hard stare, “There are a few more tests I want to put you through before I make my final decision. If you can pass them to my standards, then..." she sighed, nearly having to force the words out. "Then I’ll make you my apprentice. If you think you’re up for it, then pick up your things and follow me.”
Unfortunately for Miku, Luka had no intention of actually becoming her teacher. Sure, this girl had amazing talent, but Luka had seen talent before, and that didn’t make the outcome any different. Just because she was making the worst decisions in history today didn’t mean she had to let it end with this girl as her student.
After all, she assured herself, in all likelihood she was just another hopeful that didn’t have what it took. Luka didn’t even see herself as the kind of person that had the right to teach someone. But since she had gone and spoken without thinking, she was going to have to scramble for a way out.
Looking back, Luka would remember how strange the whole situation seemed. What had possessed her to have so much interest in this one girl? She didn’t really know. All she knew at the time was that she had gotten herself into quite a mess…
Oh, and that she had better think up some tests before they got back to her house.