Heir to the Empire

Elegy had a rough day.

The straight, blue haired girl donning a tie and school uniform sat between two vending machines located within the underpass of Harajuku, sipping on a grape juice box. A red haired girl approached from the east, wearing a matching, more feminine school uniform, determined to have her coiffure measure up to the girls from Magical DoReMi, emergency supplies of Shimi Choco Corn from Lawson in hand.

Elegy’s shadow rose swiftly behind her as she stood up slowly, at the assistance of her self-appointed guardian’s chocolates. The light came back to her eyes as she was scarfing them down.

Mirai wasn’t the best at handling delicate matters. That didn’t stop her. “Is this the first time that you lost to Setsuna?”

The queen of Harajuku High School growled in between bites. “I’m FINE.”

“That’s not like you! You’re always sure to beat his ass something fierce.” Mirai pouted a bit, as her smile faded to real concern.

Setsuna wasn’t weak, at least in terms of raw strength: he was shredded, with finely toned abs. He kept shyly trying to hide them behind a jacket — and failing: he never buttoned them up right, and half the girls in Harajuku had probably snuck a peek by now.

From the first day in the Kendo Club, Mirai took that as an open invitation to clobber Setsuna during sparring matches. Elegy, not being one to accept that someone else could beat Setsuna faster than she could, took that as something of a friendly rivalry between the two.

This time was different. Setsuna gained the upper hand with a thrust to the throat of his sister.

“I was DISTRACTED. I’ll get him next time.”

The Kai siblings were hot blooded and quick on their feet. Setsuna was momentarily grief-stricken for what he did, until Elegy jumped back on her feet and slammed his torso in retaliation.

That was then, this is now. Elegy looked off in the distance. “What’s that wench’s deal?”

“You mean the girl from Monzen-Nakacho?” Mirai was quick to sense that there was bad blood between those two.

“Karen, yeah.” Elegy’s eyes narrowed. “She’s too perfect.”

Karen was visiting on a transfer program from the popular cram school Toshin High School. Her grey hair was parted in front like a certain Final Fantasy VII flower girl but otherwise remained long and straight in the back. She gave the presence of a refined woman who often spoke to upper-classmates and teachers for guidance on getting good grades and being more popular in her class. That wasn’t all, Karen often took jobs on the side and excelled in multiple clubs. She was a miracle machine.

“She must be the work of a demon!” Mirai struck a confident pointing pose with determined force. “No way she can be that perfect.”

“Right? No way.”

“Are you going to challenge her?” Mirai slyly smiled with a wink.

“It’s good. I’ve been working out every day with my Devil's Gibbs training gear and I've got enough money for 12 muscle drinks.” Elegy flexed her biceps and legs. “NOBODY, but nobody, is gonna stop the Queen of Harajuku.”

“Wait.” Mirai thought for a moment about how likely Elegy was to survive an encounter with a real demon. “If she’s the real deal… do you have any supernatural powers?”

“Brains and brawn, my dear.” Elegy tapped her forehead with a long, manicured fingernail. “I earned what I got.”

Mirai had some awareness of supernatural arts through the Kaname blood line, a dynasty of Shinto practitioners, including her mother Ringo.

Elegy had the backing of a protective brother, who had the blessings of quick recovery and poor fortune. On one occasion, Elegy swore he saw her brother without his jacket, donning a pair of black bat wings and unusually pointy ears. She loved that look, a shame that Setsuna didn’t know how to make it happen again.

But Elegy was adopted at a young age, and did not have the mark of Kai. She grew into the Kai family as Tsubomi’s only daughter. A demon in temperament. Not a demon in any other sense.

“Come on, let’s light shit up.” Elegy was tired of reflecting on what was. If there was another contender for the throne of Harajuku, she had to know what she was up against.

“Hold it, I have a feeling we’re going to need a lot more than muscle drinks…”

At sunset, the Harajuku Moon Rabbits were closing out softball practice at the Meiji Jingu Gaien Rubber-ball Baseball Ground with a huddle to share their accomplishments. Nominations were based on which player each of the girls felt did the best out of their group, represented by stars placed on each player’s jersey.

Mirai started at the Ball Club reasonably early for her age. She stopped playing when umpires felt the need to enforce upon her that kicking the ball to constant home runs was not a legitimate move. The door remained open for her to return to the team if she was willing to play “normally” rather than engage in showy moves.

Elegy didn’t care for commoner sports. As players left the grounds, she was content to stand under a tree and fan herself beside Mirai.

As players left to go home to their families, Mirai noticed that Karen wasn’t quick to leave for a bus or car.

“Very suspicious!” Mirai put a hand under her chin. “It doesn’t look like she’s got anywhere to go.”

Elegy snapped her fan shut. “I hate waiting. Let’s introduce ourselves.”

Mirai nodded. “Right!”

Up close Karen was wearing a visor, catcher’s mitt, spats and a form fitting jersey. Only one star was visible on her jersey. Mirai and Elegy stood out a bit from the crowd, still dispersing, in their school uniforms.

Mirai whispered to Elegy, “I’ll handle this. Please try to calm down.” Elegy kept her mouth shut.

Approaching the one starred-girl, Mirai reached out a hand to introduce herself. “Hey, are you Karen?”

Karen seemed ill at ease, not helped by Elegy staring holes through her. “…I am, yes. What brings you all the way out here?”

“My name’s Mirai Kaname, high school heroine for hire! And this is Elegy Kai, Queen of Harajuku High.” Elegy remained silent.

“Oh, very impressive.” Karen curtsied, to the degree one could in a jersey and spats. “I am Karen, Karen Nanase. Visiting honor student, and child of the stars.”

Elegy unfurled her fan over her mouth, gaze unrelenting. “Seems you’re short a few. Rough day at practice?”

“No, not at all.” Slightly confused by the question, Karen took a moment to check her jersey. “Oh, the ornamentation?”

Elegy nodded.

“You see, the other players were happy to give me honorary stars. That made most of the girls feel left out.” Karen gestured towards a smaller player swimming in jersey stars. “I demanded the coach change the rules to favor underrated players. Now every month, each player who had been awarded stars before couldn’t award the same player twice. The distribution is fair, and we get to praise players who wouldn’t hear praise otherwise.”

Elegy whispered to Mirai behind the fan, “See? She’s too perfect.”

Undeterred, Mirai continued, “Would you like to come with us for a—”

“Challenge.” interrupted Elegy.

Karen and Mirai’s eyes grew wide at once.

Elegy flicked her hair and proceeded to reason, “Mirai and I are regulars at the Harajuku Kendo Club. While the rules of Kendo don’t allow for us to actively compete with outsiders, we are well prepared to fight on any other terms.”

Karen was still puzzled. “Why must we fight?”

Mirai rose to attention. “Because the Queen has decided! You are an interesting person and a worthy rival.“ Elegy nodded. “And she won’t settle down until she knows what you’re made of!”

Elegy continues, “Mixed-martial arts without limits. Just remember that this is friendly competition and we are not fighting for our lives.”

Karen quickly sized up her competition, taking off her glove, visor and softball in a single motion. With her pride at stake, she stood up with arms crossed, feet shoulder width apart, scowl of determination on her face. “Accepted. Where shall we duel?”

Mirai and Elegy knew the place. Elegy was first to speak. “At the entrance of Meiji Shrine. Be there at 9 pm, if you still have the nerve.”

At night, the Meiji Shrine was closed to the public. Mirai’s family had taken responsibility to tend to it from nearly the day it first opened, making it a convenient place for shrine members to sneak off to when they needed solitude.

Mirai and Elegy had memories of dueling in front of the Meiji Shrine, making it something of a bonding ritual for them. If there was anything special about Karen, it was reasoned, they’d find out here and now when no one else was watching.

Both girls were standing in front of the shrine doors awaiting their duel. Karen appeared promptly at 9:59 pm, still in softball clothes.

“Too excited to take a shower?” Elegy smiled. She was not much better, in her school outfit.

“I am prepared.” Karen stepped forward, nose to nose with Elegy.

“Fine.” Elegy’s icy glare did not cease, she did not even blink. “You go first.”

Karen began with two strikes to the head with her fists, boxing style.

Elegy ducked left, right, and followed up with a chassé lateral kick on her leg followed by a coup de pied bas on the base of Karen’s shin, causing Karen to lose her balance and fall over.

“Gonna cry?” taunted Elegy, backing off for a moment to give her opponent space to recover.

“Never!” Karen returned with a high kick aimed at Elegy’s chin, which she elected to stagger backward before the potential knockout could connect. The force of which left Elegy on the defensive as Karen followed up with a series of low kicks on her shins.

Elegy proceeded to décalage and punch Karen in the jaw, leaving her open in a wide position as Karen returned with a roundhouse kick that Elegy caught with one hand clasped on her ankle in mid-air. Nails were digging in to Karen’s leg as she tried to struggle free from Elegy’s grip, back on the ground.

“Give up?” Elegy steadied one hand on her hip in a show of confidence, the other holding Karen upside down with her back on the ground.

Karen calmed down, closed her eyes, breathed in to return focus. When her eyes opened up, they were alight with newfound power, and changes. Her entire body became like water, freeing itself by sheer lack of solid form.

Karen was now donning a one piece swimsuit, earrings, and portions of a kimono threaded together by a chain belt in a combat ready suit worthy of royalty.

And summoned by her hand, a Mizuchi coiled around Karen’s body for protection.

Elegy was taken aback. “Fuck off, you’re a devil child?”

Karen responded with a voice that echoed through the forest far beyond the shrine. “I am a star child, Elegy Kai. Allow me to show you.”

Karen struck Elegy with Ice Blade, which Elegy did not roll out of the way in time to dodge. Her lips moved as if to express more colorful language as her voice had been momentarily disabled by magic.

Reaching into her shirt pocket, Elegy ignited a smoke bomb before leaning forward to return volley in a more bent guard, Lecour method, delivering a le chasse bas extremely quickly before the Mizuchi or Karen could react to what they couldn’t see. To Elegy’s satisfaction, this one hit solid matter.

Mirai called out to her idol and protect-ee. “Elegy, do you need a hand?” Elegy mouthed more colorful language as Mirai realized verbal confirmation wasn’t coming.

Elegy pitched a drake fang from her array of items. The Mizuchi span in a defensive formation causing the fire spell to reflect its trajectory straight back at Elegy, as she had to immediately stop, drop and roll out the embers.

Karen was now at ease. Elegy was breathing heavily. Karen calmly raised a hand to indicate pause, as her Mizuchi remained at defensive posture.

Elegy moved her lips again, no voice.

Mirai applied a Soma to Elegy—

“MOTHERFUCKER, you expect a school girl to fight demons and magic bare handed?” scowled Elegy.

Karen responded, “You wanted a duel, and I responded with a consummate level of force.”

“Bullshit! If we’re going to fight, don’t fight like you’re going to send your opponent to Deep fucking Hole!” Elegy got out her hand fan, addressing the tiny embers still stuck on her.

This little outburst made Karen develop a quizzical gaze, one cheek puffed out as her eyes looked concerned. “This puzzles me. You lack the aura of a demon, no magical powers at all. Yet you have knowledge of Makai, remain intensely competitive, and rule over your subjects like a tyrant. If you are not an assassin sent to slay members of my bloodline, what are you?”

Mirai and Elegy looked at each other with shock, as if the answer sheet for finals just happened to land at their feet.

Serenading, Mirai inquired, “You're actual royalty?”

Elegy wrinkled her nose at Mirai as the proclamation didn't flatter her, prompting an immediate apology from Mirai. “I-I didn't mean it like that!”

Karen decreed, “It shouldn’t be of concern to you. Know that I have spent much of my life training to be the Princess of Makai and the lands beyond.”

“We might have some previous experience in that, you know.” a plucky Mirai chirped. If Karen was a star child then it stood to reason that she might know of their past dealing with a star god, Hoshigami.

“How... how is that possible? You would be the most ill behaved members of high society I have ever spoken to.”

“Do manners really fucking matter when you have power?” inquired Elegy, clicking her tongue. Silence followed. Karen really was worlds apart.

“Mirai, I sense that you have the mark of a Devil Child, the powers of a demon and the powers of a human. But what are you, Elegy?”

Elegy just smiled with smug satisfaction.

After a pause, Elegy explained. “My father, the Fake Daimaou, once wished to become a human, dissatisfied with the body and soul of a demon. When his body was disintegrated by the Light of Hoshigami, his wish passed down to me, his estranged daughter. Not a Devil Child, or a Devil. Now a fully human aberration.”

Elegy exhaled as Mirai wore an expression of over the top grief that screamed you never told me this! Her eyes looked to the side, at Mirai, savoring her expression. “Well, I guess you had to know eventually.”

Karen was now intensely curious. “You awakened Hoshigami?”

“You're looking to do the same?” shot back Elegy.

Mirai followed, “Then we might have to stop you, after all!” Mirai forcefully took Elegy's hand as the two stared down Karen.

Karen gestured to settle down. “This is all a bit much for me, really. It is very late. I'm going to go back to see mother.”

“Heel, Karen. Your mother has been here this whole time.”

Mirai and Elegy turned towards the voice in the darkness, as it unfurled from the shadows. With giant fur cape, kalpak, the spines of an uncertain animal lining a combat bikini and a massive sword, a tall woman looking to be in her early 30s made herself known.

Clasping both hands and swooning, Mirai unconsciously let go of Elegy's hand. Elegy gave Mirai a small jab in the gut in return. “Please do not ogle the enemy.”

Karen's apparent mother continued. “We have had our fun. Yet it is a school night.”

With a smoke bomb and a clattering of feet, Karen and her mom vanished from the shrine, leaving Mirai and Elegy to themselves.

“Do you know what proper path the world should take?”

It was a question still on their mind, from faded memories past.

Mirai and Elegy were still at the shrine, backs on the ground, looking at the field of stars above. If every man and woman is a star, then Mirai and now Elegy were stars searching for the final destination of all life.

But they were still kids figuring these things out, while grown ups seemed to have their own ideas, good and bad.

Even now, it seemed that there was no end of adults, human, demon, or angel, who must be stopped before terrible ideas could take root.

Mirai inquired, “Does that really matter, when the journey is what brought us together?”

She took Elegy's hand again, which Elegy did not see fit to wave off after her past transgression.

Elegy returned with a sassy look and a smile, quoting a sappy, eternal optimist in her life. “As long as there's hope, we can overcome anything.”