Plauged By The Past, Luka's Apology
Luka gently traced the cut on her cheek. Her hand shook. There was no way. Her eyes were playing tricks on her, her guilty conscience rearing its ugly head. There was no possible way that she, the one everyone called the undefeatable ‘Legendary Assassin’ had actually been hit.
She squeezed her eyes shut. This was a dream. It had to be a dream. She would close her eyes and when she opened them there would be no cut. She would NOT have a cut on her face. It simply was not possible that there would be a cut on her face when she opened her eyes. Ok, here we go. 3… 2… 1… she opened her eyes and stared at her reflection.
The cut was still there.
She slowly sank to the floor and rested on her knees. Letting out a long breath. This was too much. What on earth had she gotten herself into? She could have said no, she should have said no, but she hadn’t. She could have put a stop to this… this… whatever it was before it had even gotten started. Now she had gotten herself into a situation from which there was no escape, from which she could not extricate herself no matter what she did…
No matter what she did… unless…
She stood back up and stared at herself again. The answer was so painfully obvious. It was literally staring her in the face.
In her mind she briefly flashed back to herself healing Miku’s injured nose. It would be a simple matter, healing herself. All it would take would be a bit of power and a little concentration, and she could pretend that it had never happened.
How would Miku know the difference? It wasn’t like she would have noticed it in the first place. Luka could tell her that anything had happened while she was out. That’s right, Luka could just calmly explain to her how she had accidentally overreacted when she had been attacked. She would apologize, of course. It had been her fault, after all. She wouldn’t even mention the cut.
Then Miku, disheartened but still with her indomitable spirit, would set out to find a new teacher. Luka would see her off and wish her well and then she could go back to her quiet, peaceful life of seclusion…
That’s when it occurred to her. Was that really all that she was trying to achieve from this whole harebrained scheme? Was she so afraid of having another person near her? Had she hidden herself away for so long that the mere thought of having another person close to her for any length of time scared her that much?
When she thought about it like that she had to admit that it made her sound like a hermit. But then again, what else could she really claim at this point? After twelve years…
It couldn’t be as bad as all that. She was just berating herself. She’d been more than this, once. Someone who lived for something, who fought for something… a hero.
She cringed inwardly. No, She thought, I’m no hero, certainly.
She was afraid of having a person near her long enough to become her friend. If someone trusted her that meant that she could let them down. If she could let them down that meant that she could fail them, just like she had before.
Then again, maybe this time could be different. Who was to say that she was destined to let people down forever? Surely even she, the one least qualified to talk about trust, could make up for her mistakes, right? Maybe if she put her all into it and believed as hard as she could, then this time might be different.
It was the same tired argument she had subjected herself to countless times before, and she knew how it went. After that, how could I ever… she thought to herself, How could I ever be worthy of the right to have someone trust me ever again? I don’t deserve that. Not after what I did to her…
It wasn’t that she needed the forgiveness of others. She had shunned that forgiveness for years now. It wouldn’t make a difference, Luka could never forgive herself for what had happened all those years ago. She would never be able to reconcile her conscience over what she did to her best friend.
But at the same time she thought this, she couldn’t help but recall the obvious similarities Miku shared with her. When she looked at Miku it was as if she was looking at a carbon copy of Haku. They talked the same, acted the same...
She smiled. They even sort of dressed alike.
Luka took a moment to think, and she thought hard. Perhaps this wasn’t what she had made it out to be. Perhaps this could be the chance she had wished for and yet rejected for so many years. Maybe Miku, with her infinite similarities, was the key for Luka to redeem herself. Perhaps she could finally atone for her past sins. And maybe, just maybe, she could give Miku the chance that she had denied her friend.
Wait! Thought Luka, At what point did I accept this? I was opposed to this. I am opposed to this!
I am… aren’t I?
But she couldn’t keep up the charade. Over the past few days, she had come to like Miku in spite of herself. It wasn’t like she didn’t want to take on an apprentice. She had wondered before what it would be like to pass on her considerable knowledge. She was just never able to get over her own guilt enough to justify it.
Miku was different. This girl had talent. Real talent. If she could do all of what she could do at her age, there was no telling what she would be able to do with proper training.
Luka would teach her, but she would also make sure that Miku didn’t become like her. She wouldn’t be a killer…
Mmmm... Someone was talking…
What did they want? Miku was sleeping. That was so rude of them.
“Come on! Wake up coma girl!”
Miku grudgingly opened her eyes and found that… she was not where she expected. She was lying in Luka’s spare bedroom, certainly, or at least on the bed, but the room itself was nowhere to be seen. Everywhere she looked it was simply… black. There was nothing. No furniture, no people, no light, just… nothing.
“Down here stupid!”
Miku looked down towards the foot of the bed to find the source of the voice that had woken her. What she saw didn’t do much to clear up the situation. At the foot of the bed stood... herself? It at least sort of looked like her, a little bit.
This “Miku” (though she was loathe to call it that), was tiny, miniscule even. Standing full height the slightly creepy caricature of herself would have barely made it up to her knee. Her face lacked certain defining features as well. No nose, no pupils, a simple triangle for a mouth… it looked less like a person and more like someone had used her as the inspiration for their new modern art display.
“Ummm…. ok….” said Miku warily , not sure of how to handle this, “Who are you?”
“Can’t you tell? I’m you!” replied the strange creature, “Miku Hachune at your service!”
“Uh, it’s... Hatsune, not Hachune”, Miku corrected her.
“I think I know my own name” said Hachune indignantly.
“Alright…” said Miku slowly, still trying to shake the cobwebs out of her head. “How are you me, exactly? And where are we?”
“We’re in your head, duh” said Hachune, like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “And I mean I’m you. It’s not that hard of a concept.”
Alright then… Miku supposed this meant that she definitely wasn’t awake. Could she be dead? Nah, that couldn’t be it. She must be out of it for some reason. She’d heard of lucid dreaming before but if this was what it was going to be like…
The creepy version of herself stared up at her, blinking. Miku cringed back just slightly.
She didn’t really know why she would be unconscious. Her memory was a bit of a blur. The last thing she clearly remembered was blasting that tree at Luka during her third test. Everything else was kind of hazy. She could remember pain, a lot of jarring and bumping, and she could vaguely recall someone carrying her. Now she was here, with an imp treating her like she had suffered partial brain death.
Not the weirdest day she could recall having, in any case.
“So… you’re like my conscience?” asked Miku.
“Does this look like a movie?” Hachune replied.
“Well… I mean you sort of look like-”
“Ok, maybe that wasn’t the best comparison” interrupted Hachune, “No, I’m not your conscience. I’m just a figment of your obviously damaged imagination. Then again, can’t really blame you for being ‘damaged.’ You did get hit in the chest with the equivalent of a small amount of high-grade explosives. Also if you’re damaged and I’m you… probably better not to toot my own horn anyways.”
“Hit in the chest with…” and then it all came flooding back to her. Geez, she had flown a long way, hadn’t she? Ouch, it hurt to remember it.
“There we go” said Hachune, “finally remembered, did you?
“Luka said she wasn’t going to attack me. Why would she…”
“Isn’t it obvious?” interrupted Hachune again, “She didn’t want you to pass the test, dummy.”
“But why wouldn’t she…” and then suddenly Luka’s less than supportive attitude made sense.
All this time she’d thought Luka had been testing her, impressed with her natural abilities. She’d been giving her challenging tests to see what Miku was capable of, seeing if she fit the bill to be taught by the great ‘Legendary Assassin.’
Miku groaned. How oblivious was she? It was obvious that Luka was less than interested in the idea of teaching her. She hadn’t been giving her challenging tests, she’d been giving her tests that were supposed to be impossible to complete.
“Of all the dirty…” began Miku.
“Figured it out did you?” said Hachune, “Good job, it only took you forever and a day.”
Oh Miku was going to have a few choice words for Luka when she woke up. The verbal storm she would unleash would be the stuff of legends. Men would cry and women would faint. Somewhere, a sailor would hang his head in embarrassment.
“Now that you know, I think you know what to do next.” Hachune said suggestively.
“Give her hell?” Miku replied.
“See? We are the same person.” replied the imp, with a sly smile, “I guess that means it’s time for you to wake up, you know, for real this time. Hold on, this is going to feel a bit strange. Waking up from being knocked out usually does…”
Miku slowly opened her eyes. As before, she was lying on the same extra bed, the only difference being that the rest of the room was present as well. The animals were on their shelves, the vanity and the dresser were in their rightful places, and the afternoon sunlight filtered in through the garishly pink-curtained window.
Miku attempted sitting up and as she did so realized that her left arm was in a sling. She tried to move it and a sharp pain shot through her shoulder. She resolved to keep it still for the time being.
A small noise drew her attention: soft breathing to her right. She turned and frowned.
At least Luka had made herself easy to find.
The instant she laid eyes on the pink-haired woman her anger flared. Vengeance was forthcoming. Luka would have a rude awakening.
“HEY! Wake up!” she shouted.
Luka jumped nearly a foot in the air and crashed off the chair when she landed. Rubbing her back, she looked up at Miku.
“That was hardly very nice” she said groggily.
“Good! That’s what I was going for!” yelled Miku, revving up her engines. “Where do you get off, huh? Making me do those ‘tests’ for what? Your own amusement?”
Luka, for her part, seemed taken aback. She hadn’t known exactly what to expect upon Miku waking up, but it certainly hadn’t been this. She sputtered in response, attempting to quickly clear her head of the cobwebs of sleep.
“You were so full of yourself, sitting there watching me! Waiting for me to fail or something, right? Bad choice, jerk! You bit off more than you could chew when you messed with me! What happened? Got nervous when I finished the first two and decided to take me out? Just blast me into last week and say I failed? Screw you!”
Miku took a breath, preparing to unleash another barrage of insults, but before she could say another word Luka did something unexpected. She lunged forward, grasping Miku’s hands between her own, and pressed her face into the bedsheets.
“I’m sorry!” she sobbed, her voice slightly muffled. “I don’t know what I was thinking! You came to me and asked me to teach you. You were completely honest with your intentions and I took that honesty and threw it away. I’m so sorry!”
Miku grimaced, her anger suddenly derailed after Luka’s outburst. This wasn’t how this was supposed to go down. Luka was supposed to cross her arms and make a snide remark or two about how Miku was an idiot for ever thinking that she had a chance in the first place, not prostrate herself in front of her and beg forgiveness. Damn it she hated crying people. So awkward...
“You’re… sorry?” she asked tentatively.
“More than you could ever know” Luka replied, “I never meant to hurt you. You came in so fast that I just reacted without thinking. If you had been seriously injured I don’t know what I would have done with myself.”
Came in too fast? Seriously? Was she kidding? I actually got that close? The last of her anger fizzled out to be replaced with a small measure of pride. Forget anything else, she had actually come within inches of landing a blow on one of the greatest Vocaloids who ever lived!
“I… really came that close?” she asked, amazed at her own ability.
“Not just close Miku…” said Luka. She then lifted her head up from the carpet and pointed to her cheek. There, plain as day was a thin red mark. “You got a lot better than close.”
Miku’s mind went numb.
“You mean I passed... passed the…” she stuttered. Everything she had thought was now rendered invalid. She had actually done it. Who cared if it meant getting herself knocked out and her arm dislocated? She had done it!
“Passed the test, yes” Luka answered for her, “But I have to tell you something Miku.”
Oh you have got to be kidding me thought Miku. After all of this Luka was still going to refuse to teach her, she just knew it.
“From the start, just like you said, I was never planning on taking you on as my apprentice” said Luka, avoiding Miku’s eyes.
“YOU HAVE GOT TO BE…” started Miku, but she was interrupted.
“I wasn’t planning on it, but I changed my mind. You made me change my mind, Miku” said Luka, “It’s true. I never expected you to actually complete any of those tests, let alone all three. But you were right, I underestimated you. But even though I changed my mind, I still treated you terribly, and I think you deserve to know why.”
Luka was still avoiding meeting her gaze. Whatever was bothering her, she must really feel terrible. Miku could see a tear forming in the corner of one of her eyes. Oh geez, here we go...
“That’s ok, you don’t have to…” Miku started to say.
“Yes I do!” said Luka forcefully.
Miku shut her mouth. Obviously, Luka needed to get this off her chest.
After a several moments of silence, The pink-haired woman spoke again.
“It happened what feels like a lifetime ago and very far away from here. I had a friend. A good friend. The best a person could have. Her name was Haku. We were inseparable, her and I. We lived together, traveled together, we even trained under the same master. There was a time when we were considered to be the strongest Vocaloids alive, but she was always the one who loved the attention that being the strongest afforded her. She was the one who was always accepting challenges and signing autographs, and I was happy to let her have that. I was never the kind of person for all that popularity.”
Luka was starting to cry. There were a few tears running down her face.
“And then one day something happened, something terrible. The kind of thing that can tear two people apart. After that… I snapped. It was a dark time in my life. I didn’t want to face what had happened so I drowned myself in my fans. Everyone adored me, so I just used it as an excuse to escape. I didn’t deserve it. It should have been her getting that praise, just like always, but she let me have it. We made a promise when we were kids that we would share whatever we got, and she kept it. Even when she was in the spotlight she was always happy to shine some of it on me, and she never let it go to her head.”
The troubled look on Luka’s face intensifie, as if what she had to say next was even more difficult.
“I… broke that promise. The fame and fortune went to my head and I shoved her aside and embraced it. I had so much, anything I could ever want, but at the same time I lost something much more precious. One day we had an argument. I said several things that I shouldn’t have, and that I could never take back. I said that I didn’t need her and told her to leave and never come back… so she did. I never saw her again.”
Luka was now openly weeping, still clutching Miku’s hands like a lifeline. She wiped her eyes on her sleeve and continued.
“After that I soon realized that the fame wasn’t worth it if I didn’t have anyone to share it with. Even though so many people idolized me none of them truly knew me. I had legions of fans and not a single friend. I looked for her, but I never found her. To this day I don’t know where she is or what she’s doing. Eventually I stopped looking and just gave up. I didn’t know what to do, so I left. I wandered for a long time across most of the world and finally ended up here where I could keep away from all of the things I’d done. That was twelve years ago. I’m no ‘Legendary Assassin’ now, just someone with too many regrets.”
Miku sat and listened as Luka bared her soul to her, unsure of how to react. She really hated crying people. Awkwardly, Miku wriggled one of her hands out of Luka’s vicegrip and placed it on the woman’s shoulder. Luka finally looked up, locking eyes with her.
“And then you came along” she said, and as she did, Miku saw something new in her eyes, something almost happy. “Believe it or not, you were the first person I’ve had any meaningful contact with in twelve years. I don’t know what possessed me to talk to you, but…” Luka faltered for a moment before continuing.
“You have no idea how like her you are. When I look at you, it’s like I’m looking at a younger version of Haku. Everything about you reminds me of her. I was drawn to you. That’s probably why I didn’t just tell you no at the beginning. Even so… I was afraid to be near you. I know it sounds silly, but I felt like if I took you on as my apprentice, I would be replacing her. And what if I ended up letting you down and hurting you like I hurt her? I…” But before she could continue, Miku spoke.
“Why are you still talking?” Miku said.
Luka frowned angrily. “I’m trying to tell you that-”
Miku interrupted her. “You sound like a broken record! Look, it’s super easy. If you don’t want to let me down then just say that you’ll teach me! That’s all I wanted from the start anyways!”
Luka didn’t know what to say. It was like Haku had stepped straight out of the pages of her memory.
“Miku… Thank you…” said Luka, bowing her head once more.
“Yeah sure, no big deal” she replied. All this crying and apologizing was really starting to get to her. She was an action-oriented kind of person. These situations messed with her head. She hastily changed the subject. “Anyways, I’m pretty hungry, is there anything to eat in this house?”
“I suppose I could try to find something” said Luka with a smile. “It’s the least I could do after what happened. You must be starving. You’ve been unconscious for hours.”
Had it really been that long? On top of the three days before she realized that she hadn’t spoken to Gumi since before she’d met Luka. The girl was probably going out of her mind by now. She’d have to remember to give her a call later.
“That long, huh?” said Miku, “Could you help me up? I really need to pee.”
Luka laughed and helped Miku to her feet. Her legs were a little shaky but steadied quickly.
However, once Miku was out of the room, Luka’s gaze fell. She’d tried so hard to tell Miku everything, but it seemed that there were things she still couldn’t bring herself to face. There was more, so much more, but at least it was a start. For now, she had to start thinking about how she was going to go about teaching someone when she had never done it before.
She only hoped that she would be able to do it right. Now that she was committed, she was going to see this through to the end. Come hell or high water, she was in it for the long haul.
An hour later one wouldn’t be able to tell that anything had ever been amiss in the first place as Miku and Luka spoke and laughed with one another over dinner. They looked like old friends, and to Luka, it felt as much.
Far away, three shadowy figures stood talking. One could tell by the tone of their voices that the discussion they were having was a serious one.
“You realize, I hope, that after we do this there will be no going back, yes?” said one of the figures. A black cloak concealed most of the individual’s appearance, but a few strands of long yellow hair were visible under a hood.
“I’ve known it from the start. All of us have spent years preparing for this day. Backing down now isn’t an option” replied another hooded figure.
With that said she turned to the third of the group.
“Ritsu, it’s time” the second person said.
“I thought you’d never ask” said the one called Ritsu. The voice was quiet, wispy, like an autumn breeze, but not nearly as peaceful. It carried a sinister intent.
With that, the third hooded figure walked across the room and entered what appeared to be a large glass pod.
The yellow-haired one moved over to a large console with a glowing screen and pressed a few buttons. The console lit up and the sound of a large machine could be heard coming from another room. The pod began to glow faintly.
“By the way,” asked Ritsu, “Why exactly are we wearing these?” He lifted one sleeve of his cloak, shaking it around.
The second figure turned toward him. “You know why.”
“Yeah, but… I mean come on. We’re inside our own base of operations! Maybe if it was one of those shady meetings we had to have years ago but here?”
The second figure sighed heavily. “You have no appreciation for theatrics, you know that? Go ahead and take it off if you want, I’m leaving mine on.”
“Don’t mind if I do.”
“But you still have to call me by my title!” The voice was almost pouting.
“Don’t mind if I do, Milady” said Ritsu sarcastically.
Without fanfare the cloak was tossed aside. Beneath was an androgynous face framed by bright orange hair. The eyes, much like the voice, held traces of malice.
The second figure came to stand in front of the pod as the machine whirred to life.
“Remember the mission. Once you’ve taken him, you must be sure to act so as not to arouse suspicion. No one must know of what’s happening.”
“For the thousandth time I’ve got it, just trust me” said Ritsu, clearly annoyed at the second figure’s attitude.
With that, Ritsu closed his eyes. When they opened again, they were blank. All trace of emotion had gone from them. He gazed straight ahead with a dull stare, as if the person that had inhabited his body only moments before had somehow left and only the shell remained.
The yellow-haired one looked up from the console.
“The link has been successfully established, Milady.”
“Excellent” came the voice of the second figure. A small smile spread beneath the shadow of her hood. “So it begins.”