Can't Fight Fate
Aiko awoke. She found herself lying on a bed in the school nurse’s office. Her head hurt a bit, but other than that she felt fine. It didn’t take long for her to notice Jaycee, who was lying on the bed next to hers. Wanting desperately to know if Jaycee had experienced the same strange vision as her, Aiko decided to wake her. “Jaycee,” she said. “Jaycee, wake up.”
Jaycee opened her weary eyes and Aiko was the first thing she saw. “Aiko,” she said in a near whisper of a voice.
Any feelings of apprehension stirring within Aiko quickly gave way to delight. “Jaycee,” she exclaimed. “Is it really you? Do you remember me?”
Jaycee sat up and thought about the question just asked. “I do.”
Hikaru and Daisuke were on the roof of the school. They stood with their backs pressed against one another and were as motionless as living creatures could be.
“So, they’ve awoken,” said Daisuke, staring at the ground.
“Yes,” replied Hikaru, staring into the sky.
“Then the day draws near.”
“The day when we will be forced to fight.”
At the end of the school day an ecstatic Aiko was practically dancing on air as she led Jaycee by the hand out of school. The show of unbridled enthusiasm drew stares from more than a few students, who were surprised to find such an unlikely pairing.
“Aiko,” said Jaycee, who was having difficulty keeping up with her friend. “We were supposed to write papers for the vice principal.”
“Who cares,” said Aiko, releasing Jaycee from her grasp. “We have more important things to do. We just found each other.”
“But we’ll get in trouble,” said Jaycee.
“Well,” said Aiko, who had to take some time to ponder Jaycee’s point. “There’s so much I want to know about you and so much I want you to know about me. I think we should use this time to learn as much about each other as we can.”
Jaycee then took her own turn pondering Aiko’s point. “I guess you’re right,” she said. “I would like to catch up.”
“Of course you would,” exclaimed Aiko, once again taking Jaycee by the hand so she could lead her to their next destination.
Vice Principal Takagi was watching the girls from her office window. “So, they’ve chosen to defy me,” she said. “Very well. Then punishment shall be administered.”
Aiko led Jaycee downtown to a place where she liked to spend most of her free time, the local game center. It was filled with loud noises, flashing lights and students from various other schools. It was practically a second home to Aiko.
“What do you want to play first?” asked Aiko.
“I’m not sure,” said Jaycee. “I don’t play these kinds of games that often.”
“Don’t worry about it,” said Aiko, taking Jaycee by the hand and leading her to a nearby game. “I’ll teach you everything you need to know.” Aiko then deposited a coin and the game began. As viciously as she could, Aiko began mashing buttons and jerking the joystick. “Die, you freaks!” she exclaimed. “No, I shot that one, why is it still standing! Get back! Ha, I told you to get back!” After a prolonged tug on the joystick, Aiko’s joy turned to misery. “I can’t believe I lost again. I never beat this stupid game!”
“Why do you play these games if they make you so mad?” asked Jaycee.
“Because they help me to relax!” exclaimed Aiko. After realizing she had just yelled at her friend, Aiko’s demeanor calmed. “I mean, they help me to relax.” She then inserted another coin and motioned for Jaycee to have a turn.
Jaycee took her place and went about her business. Her button presses were gentle and her tugs on the joystick were mild. This strategy helped her to do far better than Aiko.
“How’d you do that?” asked Aiko, watching in awe. “You got another! Three at a time, incredible! You must have played this game a thousand times.”
“This is my first time,” said Jaycee.
“Really? How can you be so good if you’ve never played before?”
“Well, all you have to do is figure out the pattern the enemies move in. Even the most uncoordinated person should be able to figure that out.” Jaycee was unaware that what she had just said could be misconstrued as an insult.
Aiko took Jaycee by the hand and led her away from the game before she was finished. “Let’s see what they have over here,” said Aiko.
A crowd was gathered around the game center’s most popular attraction, a dance simulation game that had made addicts out of even the most casual of gamers. Its entrancing beats and bright colors made it difficult for anyone to avoid.
“How about that one?” asked Aiko, whose intentions were devious in nature. “You think you can figure that one out without having played it first?”
The boys using the machine finished, leaving the game open for anyone to use. As the crowd waited, a boy turned to find Jaycee and Aiko. “It’s her,” he gasped. “The dancing queen has finally returned.”
“Looks like my reputation precedes me,” said Aiko, gently nudging Jaycee in the side with her elbow. “After all, I’ve never been beaten at this game.”
A nervous laugh escaped from Jaycee as Aiko took her to her dance pad.
Once the coins had been deposited, the music began blaring and the competition was on. The girls moved their feet frantically as they tried to keep up with the arrows on the screen. Aiko was doing as well as she had expected, but it came as an utter shock to her when she took a peek at Jaycee and found she was scoring at an even higher rate.
“I can’t believe it,” thought Aiko. “Jaycee’s better than me at this, too.” Having the knowledge that Jaycee was the superior player, Aiko missed numerous steps, steps that she could usually hit even with her eyes closed.
After the final note had played, Jaycee was declared the victor, having ended the game with a near perfect score. Aiko, on the other hand, fell far below her average.
“I’ve had enough of these games for one day,” thought Aiko as she was forced to watch Jaycee humbly accept adulation from her peers.
After leaving the game center, the girls wandered around town.
“What do you want to do next, Jaycee?” asked Aiko. “And this time let’s do something you like. I wouldn’t want you to think I’m selfish.”
“How about there,” said Jaycee, focused on a nearby book store.
The girls entered and Aiko immediately went to the comic books. As was her custom every time she entered the store, Jaycee made her way to the back. It was there where they kept the books of poetry she was so fond of reading.
After flipping through a few pages of the book she had found, Jaycee came upon a short poem she had already read numerous times.
It was when we met that we did part.
A fading desperation that kept us once together.
You so yearned for night to take you away.
And so I let you go.
Aiko arrived while Jaycee was losing herself in her reading. “Hey, Jaycee, they have the new issue of Cute Energy here,” said Aiko, flipping open the comic book. “Ah, the new chapter of Magic Cat. I can’t wait to see what happens.” It was at that moment when Jaycee hid her book behind her back. “What was that?” asked Aiko.
“Nothing,” said Jaycee, sneaking her book back onto the shelf.
Aiko made her way around Jaycee and pulled the book she believed to be Jaycee’s off the shelf. “You don’t have to be embarrassed by what you like to read,” said Aiko. When she saw the title of the book, Aiko immediately blushed. “How to please your man? Why were you reading something like this?”
“How did that get mixed in with the poetry books?” thought Jaycee, whose face became even more blushed than Aiko’s.
“Jaycee,” exclaimed Aiko. “Dirty girl.”
To get better reacquainted, the girls next stop was at a café both knew well. They sat across from each other in a booth and conversed over cold drinks.
“So, tell me about yourself,” said Aiko. “I want to know everything.”
“What do you want to know?” asked Jaycee.
“I don’t know, anything,” said Aiko. “Like . . . do you have a boyfriend?”
Jaycee nervously began stirring the ice in her drink with her straw. “Why would you want to know something like that?” she asked.
“Come on, you can tell me,” said Aiko.
“I don’t,” replied Jaycee.
“That’s alright,” said Aiko. “I don’t have a boyfriend, either. See how easy it is to share things with others? Doesn’t it make you feel good to tell others about yourself?”
“I’ve never had a boyfriend,” added Jaycee.
“What?” gasped Aiko. “Never? Why not? You’re really pretty. I’m sure there are lots of boys that like you. Haven’t you ever liked a boy?”
“There have been boys that have liked me and boys that I’ve liked,” replied Jaycee. “But I’m too shy to talk to them. That’s why people think I’m stuck up.”
“You shouldn’t let something like that stand in your way, Jaycee,” said Aiko. “If you let your fear get a hold of you, then you’ll never know what’s out there waiting for you.” Aiko then let out a sigh. “My problem’s a little different from yours. Since I’m so popular, boys are afraid to ask me out. But it’s just as well, I suppose. All guys are the same. They’ll just end up hurting you. It doesn’t really matter who they are. They’re all the same.”
“That’s a pretty bleak outlook,” said Jaycee.
“Don’t get me wrong,” said Aiko. “I’d still like to have a boyfriend. I just haven’t found the right boy yet.” Aiko then took a sip of her drink. “I think that’s enough boy talk for one day, don’t you? Tell me more about yourself. Like, I don’t know, what’s your favorite color?”
“Navy blue,” answered Jaycee.
“What’s your favorite kind of food?” asked Aiko.
“Seafood,” answered Jaycee.
“What do you do in your spare time?” asked Aiko.
Jaycee’s cheeks blushed a light shade of pink, prompting her to lower her head. “There’s really not much that I like to do,” said Jaycee.
“Jaycee,” said Aiko. “I can tell you’re not being honest with me. And I’m not going to stop pestering you until you tell me what I want to know.”
“Well, when I get the chance, I like to write,” replied Jaycee.
“Really?” asked Aiko. “What do you like to write about? Zombies, how about flying cars with attitudes, or maybe something with talking animals?”
“No, nothing like that,” replied Jaycee. “I write poetry.”
“Oh, well, poetry’s nice,” said Aiko.
“How about telling me something about yourself?” insisted Jaycee.
“I’m glad you asked,” said Aiko. “Let’s see. My favorite color is anything bright. My favorite food is anything sweet. And in my spare time, I take singing lessons, piano lessons, martial arts training, and a course in gourmet cooking.”
“You do so many things in your spare time,” said Jaycee. “You must have been born with a lot of talent.”
“Not really,” said Aiko. “I’m only involved in all these activities so I don’t have to be at home. If it gets me out of the house and away from my father, then I’ll do it. It doesn’t matter what it is. I just need to get away from that man.”
“You don’t get along with your father?” asked Jaycee.
“It’s his own fault, really,” said Aiko. “It’s because he divorced my mother. But it’s not like those two were ever really in love. They both came from very prominent families. And to strengthen the companies of their families, they married each other, but only out of necessity. A marriage of convenience if I’ve ever seen one.”
Jaycee was beginning to regret asking Aiko such a personal question.
“And that’s the reason why I resent both of them,” said Aiko. “Because of the divorce, I was separated from my sister, Akiko. We’re twins, so we have a special bond. We were born together, so we’re supposed to be together. Don’t ask me why, but I miss always having to stick up for that girl.”
After a prolonged silence, Aiko continued. “I can still remember that day like it was yesterday,” she said, staring off into the distance.
Aiko and her sister were only five years old when they were separated. And the moment when it happened was something Aiko would never forget, nor forgive.
* * *
A moving van had just pulled away from Aiko’s house. Behind it was a car which contained Aiko’s mother and sister.
As hard as she tried, Aiko was unable to break free from her father’s grasp. “Akiko,” she shouted, tears streaming down her face.
Akiko was looking out the back window sobbing just as frantically as her sister. “Aiko,” she shouted as the car pulled away.
“Let go!” shouted Aiko. The young girl grew more hysterical the further away the car got. When the car had made it out of her sight, Aiko finally stopped struggling. “I hate you,” she told her father. “I will always hate you.”
* * *
“Two idiots that could never get along,” said Aiko. “They had no right getting married, let alone having children. And just to show how petty they were, they separated their daughters, just to show how much they hated each other.”
“I’m sorry,” said Jaycee. “I had no business asking you about your father.”
“It’s alright,” said Aiko. “It’s not like I have anything to be ashamed of. A child doesn’t get to choose their parents.” Wanting to lighten the mood, Aiko decided to take the attention off her past. “I’m sure you have nice parents. I mean, they can’t be worse than mine.”
“I . . . don’t have parents,” said Jaycee.
Aiko felt an immediate pain in the pit of her stomach. As poorly as Jaycee had felt for bringing up such a sensitive subject, Aiko felt far worse.
“Don’t get me wrong,” said Jaycee, who was strangely wearing a smile. “I used to have parents. It’s just that they’re dead now.”
“Jaycee,” said Aiko.
“I don’t mind talking about it,” said Jaycee. “Really, I don’t. It’s the least that I can do, seeing as it’s my fault my parents are dead.”
* * *
Jaycee was only six years old on that fated night. The sun was setting in the distance as Jaycee played outside with her favorite ball. Ominous black clouds had crept in and almost seemed to be watching her from their lofty perch.
Having searched the apartment from top to bottom, Jaycee’s mother exhausted her final option by checking outside. It was from the living room window where she found Jaycee playing in the street. “Jaycee, get back in here,” she demanded. “It’s going to start raining, so get inside so you can take your bath before your father gets home.”
“Tomorrow’s my birthday,” shouted Jaycee as she bounced her ball as high as she could. It was shortly thereafter when the sky opened up and a steady rain began to fall, though it did nothing to dampen Jaycee’s spirits.
“Look, it’s already started to rain,” exclaimed Jaycee’s mother. “Now you’re all wet. Get inside, or you’re going to catch a cold.”
Laughing gleefully as she did, Jaycee chased her ball down the street. “I’m gonna get presents and cake and all my friends are gonna be there!” she exclaimed.
“Jaycee, get in here now!” exclaimed her mother.
An hour later, Jaycee was in bed running a fever.
“Oh, Jaycee, why didn’t you listen to me when I told you to come back inside?” asked her mother, placing a cold washcloth on her daughter’s forehead.
“Am I still gonna have my party tomorrow?” asked Jaycee.
“That all depends on if you’re feeling well enough,” replied her mother, stroking Jaycee’s hair. “If not, then we’ll have your party another day.”
“No, I’ll get better by tomorrow,” said Jaycee. “I promise.”
Jaycee’s father arrived home. “What do we have here?” he asked.
“Hi, daddy,” said Jaycee.
“She was out playing in the rain and made herself sick,” said Jaycee’s mother. “The poor thing. Can you take me to the pharmacy so I can pick up some medicine for her? I’d like to go as soon as possible, before the rain gets worse than it already is.”
“Sure,” said Jaycee’s father. “Jaycee, you be a good girl while we’re gone, okay. Me and mommy are going to get you something to make you feel better.”
“Okay,” said Jaycee.
It was a short time later when the sound of sirens filled the once quiet night. The sound could be heard for blocks, but Jaycee had since fallen asleep and was completely unaware of the tragedy that had just taken place.
The police that arrived at the scene had no good news waiting for them. Jaycee’s father had lost control on the wet road and slammed into a pole, killing both he and his wife.
Still so naïve, Jaycee had no idea as to what had happened. At her parents’ wake, she was curious as to why there was a gathering of people. Finding her grandmother, Jaycee began tugging on her dress. “Where’s mommy and daddy?” she asked.
Jaycee’s grandmother crouched down to eye level with her granddaughter. “Jaycee, your mamma and papa are gone,” she said.
“Where’d they go?” asked Jaycee. “When are they coming back?”
“Jaycee, your parents can’t come back,” answered her grandmother.
“Why not?” asked Jaycee. “Is it because I was bad? I won’t be bad anymore. I promise.” Tears then began to fill Jaycee’s eyes. “If they come back, I’ll be good all the time. I’ll do whatever they tell me.”
“Jaycee,” said her grandmother, embracing her.
“Please tell them to come back,” exclaimed Jaycee, tears streaming down her face. “I want them to come back! Tell them to come back!”
* * *
“When I got a little older, they told me everything,” said Jaycee. “They told me how right before my mother died, she mentioned me. ‘Her smile’ were the two last words she spoke before she died. Since then, I’ve done my best to always have a smile on my face, but there really isn’t much for me to smile about, so I usually just fake it.”
Aiko was astonished that throughout the story Jaycee had indeed kept a smile on her face. She felt there was nothing special about when she had done so during her story, but for Jaycee to put up such a front in the midst of such a distressing story was nothing short of remarkable.
Aiko then decided both she and Jaycee needed cheering up. “Come on, Jaycee,” she said. “I know a place you’re gonna love.”
Standing in the way of the girls was the waiter who had served them. His head was down, making it impossible for the girls to see his face.
“Oh, we’re fine,” said Aiko. “We don’t need anything else. We were just leaving.”
The waiter remained standing in the girls’ way.
“What do you want?” asked Aiko. “I already paid you.”
The waiter raised his head to show his pale blue face and glowing red eyes. He then let out a roar so fierce that the windows and every glass in the cafe shattered. This prompted all the other customers and staff to run from the café as fast as their legs could take them.
“Alright,” squealed Aiko. “I’ll pay you again!”
The waiter lunged at the girls but they were able to leap out of harm’s way. But doing so left them against the wall, with no way of escape.
“Jaycee, I don’t know what’s going on,” said Aiko, “but we’re gonna have to fight if we want to make it out of here. Do you think you can do it?”
“I . . . can’t fight,” said Jaycee.
“Of course you can,” said Aiko. It was at that moment when she noticed a mop leaning against the wall behind a potted plant. Aiko retrieved the cleaning instrument and handed it to Jaycee. “There you go, it’ll be just like the old days.”
“But this is a mop,” said Jaycee.
“It’s the closest thing to a staff I could find on such short notice,” said Aiko. “Now go show that monster what you’re made of. I believe in you.”
When the waiter had made his way to within Jaycee’s striking distance, the frightened girl took action. She let out a scream and thrust the yarn end of the mop into her adversary’s face. Not at all daunted by the attack, the waiter slapped the mop out of Jaycee’s hand.
“I can’t do this,” whimpered Jaycee, making her way back to the wall. She then covered her face and began shaking uncontrollably.
“Then it’s up to me,” thought Aiko, staring down her opponent. She left Jaycee’s side and approached her target. “All that training I’ve done, all the hard work I’ve put in, let’s see what I’ve got to show for it.”
Aiko threw caution to the wind and delivered a blow to the waiter’s face. With a horrible groan, he stumbled backward a few steps.
“Oh, that felt good,” said Aiko, who wasted no time in following up with a flurry of jabs to her opponent’s face. The waiter stumbled back with each blow his face absorbed. Realizing the back wall was coming up quickly, Aiko let out a shout and kicked the waiter in the chest, sending him crashing into the wall with tremendous force. So great was the impact that an indentation of the waiter was made.
“I hope you’ve learned your lesson,” said Aiko.
Though he looked to have been soundly defeated, the waiter removed himself from the wall, then let out another deafening roar.
With another incensed shout, Aiko charged. This time, the waiter caught Aiko by the arm and used her momentum to hurl her into the wall, leaving Aiko unable to retaliate.
Acting as if Aiko meant nothing, the waiter made his way to Jaycee.
“Stay away,” said Jaycee. The closer the waiter drew, the more frightened Jaycee became. “Please don’t come any closer!” Jaycee was sure nothing could stop the waiter, so she shut her eyes tight and waited for the inevitable.
Having quickly overcome the damage done to her, Aiko sprung to her feet and jumped on the waiter’s back. “You didn’t think you were going to get rid of me that easily, did you?” asked Aiko, tightening her grip on the waiter’s throat.
Seeming only annoyed by what Aiko was doing, the waiter removed her arm from around his throat and threw her away. Immediately after hitting the ground, Aiko got back to her feet, ready to counter any following attacks. But much to her surprise, Aiko found the waiter paying her no attention. His focus was instead squarely on Jaycee.
“He’s only after Jaycee,” thought Aiko. “But why?”
The gap between the waiter and Jaycee was quickly narrowing. But before it disappeared, Aiko used a stray chair to catapult herself over the waiter and get between he and Jaycee. “I don’t know what you want with Jaycee,” said Aiko, “but as long as I’m around, you’re not gonna get it! Understand?”
When the waiter let out another roar, Aiko delivered a devastating uppercut. The waiter began staggering backward, giving Aiko the perfect opening to launch a barrage of attacks. This sent Aiko’s foe stumbling all the way into the wall again, and when he did, Aiko landed a blow to the waiter’s face that drove his head into the wall.
Unable to continue the fight, the demonic creature slid all the way down to the floor, then disappeared within a puff of black smoke.
“What the . . .” gasped Aiko. Remembering the state that Jaycee was in, Aiko made her way back to her friend. Jaycee’s head was lowered and it was evident that she was crying. “Jaycee,” said Aiko, putting her hand on her shoulder.
Jaycee gave her friend no reply and instead ran from the café.
“Jaycee, wait,” exclaimed Aiko, who immediately gave chase.
Sitting at a booth tucked away in the back corner of the café was Vice Principal Takagi. She calmly took a sip of coffee, then grinned from ear to ear.