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SASO Referees ([personal profile] referees) wrote in [community profile] sportsanime2016-07-21 08:53 pm
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Bonus Round 5: Myth & Lore

Bonus Round 5: Myth & Lore


Summer's a time for swapping stories around the campfire. With that in mind, this round draws inspiration from the stories humanity have told each other over the centuries.

This round is CLOSED as of 7PM on August 4 EDT. Late fills may be posted, but they will not receive points.


RULES
  • This round does not have prompts. Instead, we ask you to draw inspiration from the wide pool of mythology, fantasy, folklore, and fable. An urban fantasy or supernatural AU? A re-imagining of your favorite folk tale? Characters swapping ghost stories or playing D&D? As long as your fill in some way incorporates the fantastical and/or supernatural, it's welcome here.
  • Your fill still has to be about a ship from one of our nominated fandoms. What ships you create work for is up to you, though.
  • To submit your fill, simply leave it as a comment as a reply to this post.
  • Remember to follow the general bonus round rules, outlined here.


FORMAT
Bonus round shenanigans all happen in the comments below. Brand-new works only, please.

Required Work Minimums:
  • 400 words (prose)
  • 400px by 400px (art)
  • 14 lines (poetry)
There is no max work cap.

Remember, this is a NO-PROMPT round. Format your fill comment in one of the following ways:

If FILLING:If FILLING as a TEAM GRANDSTAND participant:
FILL: TEAM [YOUR SHIP], [RATING]
  • Replace [YOUR SHIP] with the name of the team you belong to
  • Replace RATING with the rating of your fill (G - E)
  • Place applicable major content tags and word count before your fill (when applicable)
  • If no major content tags are applicable, make sure to state this-- even if including other additional tags
  • NSFW FILLS: Please cross-link these fills and use clear tags in your comment. Written/text fills should be hosted at AO3 ONLY as a new, unchaptered work. Art/visual fills can be hosted anywhere. You may include a small safe-for-work preview of the fill in your comment.
  • To place an image in your comment, use this code: <img src="LINK TO YOUR IMAGE" alt="DESCRIPTION OF YOUR IMAGE"/>
  • Visual example
FILL: TEAM GRANDSTAND, [RATING]
  • Replace RATING with the rating of your fill, G - E, as explained in the rules
  • Place applicable major content tags and word count before the fill, where applicable
  • If no major content tags are applicable, make sure to state this-- even if including other additional tags
  • NSFW FILLS: Please cross-link these fills and use clear tags in your comment. Written/text fills should be hosted at AO3 ONLY as a new, unchaptered work. Art/visual fills can be hosted anywhere. You may include a small safe-for-work preview of your work in your comment.
  • To place an image in your comment, use this code: <img src="LINK TO YOUR IMAGE" />
  • Visual example


Posts not using this format will be understood to be unofficial discussion posts, regardless of what they contain. They, like all comments in this community, are subject to the code of conduct.



SCORING
These numbers apply to your team as a whole, not each individual teammate. Make as many fills as you want!

For fills:

First 3 fills by any member of your team: 20 points each
Fills 4-10: 10 points each
Fills 11-20: 5 points each
Fills 21+: 2 points each

All scored content must be created new for this round.


Etc.
If you're hunting through the prompts looking for what to fill, a good trick is to view top-level comments only.

Have a question? Check The FAQ first. If you still need help, feel free to contact the mods. Happy fanworking!
elucidatedlucy: death takes me (Ah)

Fill: Team Grandstand, T (1/??)

[personal profile] elucidatedlucy 2016-08-01 11:51 pm (UTC)(link)
Tags: Major character death, Violence, Injury, Trans HC pronouns, screaming faintly to myself for being a fool
Word count: 8000
Manami Sangaku/Teshima Junta, In Which Teshima Is A Fallen Star aka Stardust influenced

"A star fell recently," Toudou said.

Manami smiled, blithe and apathetic. "What does that have to do with me?"

Staring from behind the bars of their cage, Toudou held up a key.

"Would you like to bring it back?"


---


The last time Manami had tasted air not marked by potion and smoke, they had been a different person all together. Traipsing along a path with wind at their feet, they could feel it returning, bit by bit. Mountains rose in the distance with furious rumbles to welcome them back. They went higher with every step, till it was gliding through air, gratitude and freedom keeping them alight.

A chain jingled at their ankle. They ignored that part.


---


Manami settled at a village, close to the epicenter of their destination. The crater itself, though undeniable, had left nothing at the center. As night fell, they looked up at the sky and wondered what star had fallen. They had not seen the sky in a long time.

The crater was growing grass at its own edges.

"That? Yeah, some meteor slammed down there a few weeks ago."

The closest inn found them quick information, between the strange coins Toudou had lended them and their own smile. People seemed ill at ease with cloaked strangers. Manami pulled it away to sit as open as they could. Silver and azure, wide eyes like a bird's, they could set themself at tables and invite themself to other people's meals.

"Have you seen any stars?" they asked, airy and bright.

People laughed.

They wondered how young they seemed. When people didn't know the answer to their questions - it was better like this. Steeling themself against guards and merchants who ruffled their hair, not taken seriously when that was the danger itself.

Until - "Yeah." Behind them, one of the workers paused with a jug in hand. "Every day."

Manami blinked. It seemed like a sarcastic joke.

"Pulling that again, Teshima?"

More raucous friendly laughter, and the waiter grimaced and grinned, swiping away hands and meeting others.

"How can I not?" he said. "If someone's looking for a star, I've got a bonafide one right here." And Teshima jabbed a thumb into his chest. "Broke my leg in the fall and everything."

Someone leaned close to Manami. "More like he broke it falling off his horse."

"Ah," they said - judging stare.

Black hair with a purple shine. Gold burning, however faint, under browned skin. Manami tilted their head. He didn't seem like a very good star.

Manami accepted what food was presented, picking at breads and water. And when asked to take a room, they waved a hand.

"Sorry," they said. "I'm just passing through."

The chain pulled them back, but they ignored it. There was better to find in the world. If Manami was told to find a star, they wouldn't return until they found the best candidate possible. If Manami was told they could fly until then - it didn't matter much how long it took.

Witches lived a very long time.

They took to a tree to rest. Noise still woke them too easily. Laying with closed eyes, they waited for something more - a blade. A curse. A threat of warning, or shuffling through thin leaves.

Instead, they heard, "You're looking for a star?"

Manami brushed their hair aside.

He stood at the bottom, too serious a face, too quiet for how far he was. The waiter from before - Teshima said, "I told you, didn't I? You found one."

With little more than starlight under a new moon, he could have been a dying candle through the night. They could tell well enough. It was simple to recognize stars.

"You should go home," they said. "Don't you think? It's not much fun here."

They wouldn't waste their freedom on this.

"You're looking for a star," he hissed. "We don't fall every day." His composure came off in layers.

"I know," Manami yawned.

Without any danger to consider, they fell back asleep. Morning came, and he was still there - hardly present in the rising sun, but forcing himself straight. They stared.

"Whenever you're ready," he said. "There are such things as schedules."

They climbed down and went on their way. It wasn't any business of theirs if he insisted on following.


---


"You know much about stars?" Teshima asked.

Apparently, his leg was sprained. He managed on a stolen horse, while Manami hovered meters away. He talked a lot. Most of it was for his own sake, following like he knew exactly where he was going. But words had their own way of falling out Manami's head.

"I haven't seen any before," they said. "I've heard a lot of stories." Wandering off without their body, people hovered at the edge of memory. "A friend of mine used to say stars are dead light. She said it was silly to wish on them. But always did anyway."

He chuckled. "Makes sense. There's nothing that can pull a miracle together like a star can."

"Then why are you still here?"

"Why are you?" he threw back. It was too quick - obvious, as he pulled himself together, without an answer. "Are you with royalty? Or bounty hunters. Monsters who eat every pretty thing that falls?"

There was something ahead. Distant, Manami said, "If it's dangerous, feel free to go."

"Of course not." They weren't listening. The wisp of thread and wood vibrated in their head. So long away had only made it harder to ignore. He went on, "Even if most people don't believe me, it's not so bad down here. Way more to do, even if this gravity thing is so annoying." Teshima kicked the horse, making it jolt and wander off path. They didn't pause till he yelled, "Mind telling me how you can do that hover thing?"

"It's nothing strange." Manami didn't spare a glance back. "Stars do the same all the time, don't they?"

"Not here," he muttered. "Apparently. Most of them didn't mention that part."

They were getting closer. Something waited ahead in the path. Running through spells granted, they had gifts from the witches - they had plenty for defense and attack. They blew a spell out, silence and void. It bounced off, far into the sky to land on a distant tree. Watching it fall out of existence, Manami hummed.

"This could be a problem," they said.

"What?"

The arrow came hardly a moment after they pushed him off the horse. Whinnying, the animal leapt and galloped, what little remained falling off the saddle as it ran in a fit of terror. Manami found where the shot had come from, and jumped over, landing neatly behind their marksman.

"Hello there," they said.

He looked as terrified as he should have been. Though their face had to be hidden, they still granted him a smile from the shadows.

"Who sent you out here?"

"No one," he spat.

"The king?" They laughed, gentle and - only slightly mocking. It was nothing they intended. "Or are other people interested in killing stars."

"It's more a danger to let it fall into hands like -" He froze, covering his own mouth. "No."

Manami couldn't stop it at this point.

His teeth cracked together. Eyes rolled as he plummeted from the branch, head smashing against the ground. They stared down at the corpse and sighed.

"A waste," they murmured.

Though spite like that didn't have good use. He was too smart to let them use it. Manami floated out of the tree, and back to the star - and his given glare.

"Mind telling me what that's about?"

Lying never got anyone anywhere. Manami took down their hood. "Some people don't like me very much." Half-truths, on the other hand - they didn't markedly care.

They didn't know how much a star would know of the world. When Manami hardly knew about it themself, cage-bound for years, they figured the two of them had to be about even. There were things one could learn from watching. He stood up. Much slower - not asking for a hand or aid. He still grinned, discomforted as it was.

"I could tell," he said.

A bruise was beginning to form on his cheek. He'd taken the fall poorly. "Are you satisfied?" Manami knelt on air, smiling, trying to be nice. "Your family probably misses you. You don't need to keep following me like this."

Teshima started limping down the path first. "Who said I was following you?"

They watched till he paused to look back.

If he wanted to stay so badly, they'd let him.

"Of course."


---


The only proof Teshima stood as a star was a sprained bone - the faint glow of gold in the night - for all the magic around them, he could see through and step without being touched. For better or worse. Any blessing or any curse bounced off him.

And -

"Looks like it doesn't care for you much." Smug, Teshima sat up on the unicorn.

"They don't care much for pride, either," Manami said, sing-song smile. "Be careful."

When Manami had been land-bound by their chain, they walked back to another village to steal supplies. When they arrived back, they found a star sweet-talking an unfortunate steed.

"Do any animals like you?" he asked, leaning down over the sparkling mane.

"Of course!" they said. "All kinds of birds. A lot of old friends in the mountains. Ah ..." They sniffled. "But I'm allergic to cats."

He laughed.

A long time ago, they could remember living close to one. Miyahara's pets, and cages, and well-meant safety. But Manami had crossed the wall, and she had stayed. There were cages everywhere, though. It was all a matter of perspective.

"Stop at an inn for tonight," Teshima said.

"I don't have money for that," they murmured. Every metal they had would melt after too long out of their hands. It wouldn't last till morning.

"I'll pay." Dragging them down by their foot, he said, "I didn't pull a job in that tavern for nothing."

The closest stop on the way was half-deserted, hardly a building in sight. Teshima let the unicorn off while Manami looked ahead. They sneezed.

"Oh well."

"What?" Teshima caught it.

They didn't really care if any trouble came. "Allergies."

The inn had all of one person.

"I sent home most of my staff for the night," she said. "I was so concerned about the talk of bandits and witches on the road! It's a good thing you two decided to stop here. Will you be sharing -"

"Two rooms," Teshima said.

"One," Manami interrupted. When he stared, they said, "I'm going out."

"Right," he muttered. There were more questions in that stare, but he didn't voice them. "One room. Do you have any wine around here? I've heard about good stock in this region."

He walked off with his new friend, and Manami took to the walls, as they walked out. Papers printed everywhere, as well as warnings - things in the trash, more so. Ignoring wagons and horses in the back, they walked outside, and sailed away, breathing in fresh night air.

As long as a star was in tow, they'd be free.

Toudou trusted Manami more than any of the other witches, more than any royalty. At least - Toudou trusted them to do what was within their nature, and that made the pull softer.

Through trees, they found the path Teshima was taking before, and all the traps along. Weaving steps backward, they found pitfalls. Wires and nets, rocks and spikes set beneath leaves, and hooves that managed to avoid every single one.

Wind blew through their hair and they sneezed again.

Someone had known they'd come out here.


---


The royalty had lost its own bloodline, some time ago.

"It's quite the tragedy," the innskeeper said, dabbing her eyes. "Two factions came to war, despite their alliance, and since then, we've never known a true leader."

So far above, Teshima hadn't heard quite that much. "So they died."

"Not all of them." She brushed around papers, marking out specific names. "Some of them merely disappeared. Most people assume they're dead as well, but ... we'll find them again."

Not just specific - strangely familiar. She wasn't anymore suspicious than old histories in front of him. Crocodile tears were another way around new people.

He wasn't sure how long it had been since he last bothered to look. Teshima got too envious, even that far up. When no one bothered to look at him, as though he was too dim to see, it was hard to stay.

"Maybe," he muttered, into a glass.

Red eyes fluttered as she chuckled. "We're closer than people might think."


---
elucidatedlucy: death takes me (Ah)

Re: Fill: Team Grandstand, T (2/??)

[personal profile] elucidatedlucy 2016-08-01 11:52 pm (UTC)(link)


"Excuse me!"

Manami landed, light on their feet, to the inn. Dust and webbing took to every corner and upturned table. It looked exactly as it should have.

"Yuuto!" they called out, and gave a quick whistle. "All you had to do was say you were here."

Manami's nose twitched - she hung around cats too much.

"What?" Red and black strolled down the stairs, and darkness flickered away. "You were taking a while. They got worried."

Manami leaned close - a little friendly, a little threatening. "People have been giving me a little trouble."

"That tough? You have been caged up for a while. Too bad Ashikiba wouldn't let me," she sighed, waving a hand and flickering back three steps.

Yuuto - was a trouble-maker. She didn't care as much about toeing the line as they did. No one had the same scars. They knew it well enough not to lay blame.

"More people are on the lookout for you," they shrugged. "It only made sense to pick me."

She huffed. "I can disguise myself."

"From the royal guard, too?" Serene, and honest, and Yuuto grit her teeth together in the face of their words.

"I don't care what my brother wants," she muttered.

"But he'd still catch you." Manami glanced around. The star wasn't anywhere in sight. "And even if he wouldn't let them execute you, that would take away one of our best illusionists. It would be a bit of a pain, really."

Yuuto followed their gaze, rather than their words. "You hear it too?"

"There were traps in the path."

"Up ahead?"

They were already floating up the stairs. "And behind."

The two of them shouldn't have managed to get that far. But they could already guess - watching people wander the halls, checking every room in silence. For every open door, they wandered through again, as though lost in a haze.

"Luck," they muttered.

The word turned into a gust, cutting through the guards in the hall. Manami swept away coming arrows and spells with their cloak, walking down the hall.

"We should be leaving," they said, to an open window and billowing curtains.

Through the opening, a wagon was moving.

He had too loud a mouth. As horses carried it away.

Manami stared in dead silence. Wire wove itself around their leg, trying to pull them through the path after it. When it was out of sight, they walked back down the hall, stepping on soldiers as they went, sliding down the banister.

"Are you alright?" Yuuto kept her distance.

"Oh." Manami tilted their head. "Don't worry." Head rolling to the side, they grinned. "I'm fine."

It was hardly a chase.

Sailing far above, among clouds, their chain was linked between their goal and their destination. Fire twined up around their leg the higher they went, and Manami pushed it. Even if their leg screamed - even if it managed to rip free. That would be better, they felt, flying this free.

The wagon tore through forest and brush. Mist overtook their vision in parts, but cutting through was a simple matter. They didn't have much choice at this point. The chain half-dragged them along. A reminder they didn't need or care for. They hadn't failed yet.


---


No one wore their allegiances clearly.

The innkeeper only had shadows and cats to accompany her. Soldiers running in wore blank boring armor. Not everyone could be so obviously trouble as Manami, but Teshima felt like he had a good handle on it regardless.

At least, he would if he bothered to jump into the deep end.

"The name's Teshima." Friendly conversation hadn't dug up anything yet. No names or information. Just nervous stares from him to the road. "Don't worry, I'm not going to cause you any trouble. You helped me out, didn't you?"

"The King has been looking for a star," took an hour to dig out. "But none of them heard his pleas."

It took something not to laugh at that. Listening in on something that far away - he would have been lucky if any of them heard the moon falling.

"Looks like you've found one, then," he said, stretching back - one eye open, and watching.

The soldier said nothing to that.

Teshima glanced off the side. No one back home told many stories of the surface. He trusted his own bad feelings. Looking at the sky, he could see the slight flicker of clouds. Trusting a bad feeling didn't mean listening to it.



---


The weight at their ankle was tenable.

Wire net falling over their head - Manami fell to avoid it, but only made headway further into clouds, and sails hidden within. They cut through, feeling their head start to pound. In the midst of water and fog, they couldn't see anything anymore. The rush of cloth and quiet clattering - given another circumstance, this could have been fun.

But as the ship rolled past, it was more inconvenience than not - pirates flickering past on the sky, like old stories about humans who yearned to fly.

They tried, but even Manami couldn't do much about the impossible. Netting wrapped around their legs, arms, and all they could do was plummet. It squeezed the tighter they fell away from the ship. As though that would make them stop running, a weaker version of the witches' spells. Tree boughs did little to break their fall, but they broke through - staring at the hole above them, and the faint sense of a ship above. They were skilled. That was something.

Net clung to a branch above - they reached up, blinking for a moment at nothing moving. Their arm twitched against the tree, driven deep into a broken stake sticking out the side. It didn't hurt. Strange enough. Last time they'd broken a wing, it had felt like the end of the world.

Last time, they hadn't been able to save themself.

Manami cut through their clothing, staring at the blood pooling out like oil, and the red marks still evident from the netting. Their legs twitched - remembering they were still trapped twice over, and chains. They couldn't pinpoint the direction of the star anymore. A numb fugue kept them between the ship's pull and the witches', pain pulling at every direction.

They ripped their arm up the stake and watched splotches of darkness overtake their vision. Laughing, giddy and sick, they remembered bodies did that. When it was too much. Manami felt sick. They could save themself. If Miyahara wasn't there, they had to. They needed this.

The rush of air felt a million miles away.

The stake fractured bone. They couldn't tell if it was in their arm or not any longer, could not pinpoint the body, or any wire reaching through. Bone broke, wood broke, it was the same to them, and they could feel their mind moving far away.

That star would have escaped.

Bitter bile on their tongue. He was a fool, if he'd go to the king. They'd given him a way out. Nails dug through grass and earth. Every laugh came out in a gasp, frustration and disgust coming to the surface with ever redder blood staining their skin. He deserved it, then. Deserved a cage.

"You're not looking too good."

They'd managed to move. Barely, pulling themself out of wreckage, staring up despite how their skull rang hollow.

A wagon, and a single fool sitting atop.

Manami didn't have energy left to force on a smile and force him back on his way. If there was anything left in them but hollow bones and vibrating colors bleeding from their eyes to the world.

"Please." Barely forced out. A slight remainder, too late for appropriate warning. He shouldn't have come back. "Turn around."

A ship falling to dwarf the wagon itself, finding its target and a little more.

They let their head hit the ground. They'd already lost.


---


Hopping on a stand. Staring out a metal cage, fumbling over the edge of her window sill when she'd let them out for short moments. It took their wing a long time to heal. Everything Manami did otherwise didn't much help that.

They twitched. Suddenly sick, with their wing out and open, jolting up from the ground, unsure as to how or when they could have fallen, staring through iron bars.

Their chest felt tight. Tight, and teeth clashed together, confusing and wrong in their head, before they looked down. No feathers. Little more than bandages under a shirt, and an arm half-tied to their chest. Manami fell and pressed their ear to the ground. It wasn't metal or paper. That was wood. Their eyes flickered. Vague memories, and footsteps, and it should have been her, but -

"They tried to handle your wounds," Teshima said. "But after you managed to break half their infirmary, they tossed you down here with me."

Manami steadied their breathing.

A human body. That - didn't make sense. Human bodies had never made sense. But they nodded, staring at nothing in particular. Stars falling to earth like people instead of rocks. They didn't like that much more.

"I think they just thought you had some spells that let you fly," he said. "Didn't really believe me when I said you were a bird. Though they didn't believe when I said I'm a star either, so. Two for two, I guess."

"Ah." Manami sat up. His voice was coming from another cage - cell, they reminded themself, sitting on a pirate's boat. "Ah," they said again, looking for windows.

Their body wouldn't leave the ground. But maybe if they fell this high, they could find the momentum before they hit the ground. Willingness couldn't do anything against no openings, every spot on the hull hardly showing a hint of the sky beyond.

"Guess we're stuck," he said.

Manami hummed. And remembered.

"Teshima," they said.

"What?"

He sounded appropriately harsh - pushing back. They didn't like asking questions.

"If you have to know," he said, before they could speak, "I was looking for information. I can't really have you running around and not telling me anything. ...not like those foot soldiers seem to know much themselves."

That made them laugh, however slight. It hurt their chest and they relished the feeling - if the pain was theirs, so was the body. That was enough.

"I don't know what the royals are wanting. I haven't heard anything about it up there. But ..." He trailed off, coughed. Forced strength in his voice when he rolled back. "It's not me."

"How did you know," they said.

"It's sort of obvious. ...They're looking for someone who left to come back. That's not me." A mutter. "Never me."

"No," Manami interrupted. "How did you know about me?"

"What?" He sounded like he tripped, in the next room. They pressed an ear to the wall. "Anyone could tell from looking at you."

"You said they didn't believe you."

He didn't have quick words or wit for that.

"What do you know," they said.

"Stars back home said not to fall." He fell into a quiet rhythm. "Witches eat the hearts of foolish stars, shining bright with hope and despair." And he chuckled. "People talk. What can I say. I don't know why no one else gets it. ...I've been trying to figure that out."

"I would have let you go back," they said.

"Yeah. But here's the thing, Manami. It sucks." They could see his hand flare out through the bars, bouncing against rust. "You know how many people believed me? And then the first person who catches on wants to throw me back in the lake like a minnow."

"You'll die."

He didn't say anything to that.

And Manami sat in growing curiosity and frustration. Closing their eyes to memories they'd long since lost. Wondering how they were still alive.


---
elucidatedlucy: death takes me (Ah)

Re: Fill: Team Grandstand, T (3/4)

[personal profile] elucidatedlucy 2016-08-01 11:55 pm (UTC)(link)
"A fake like you doesn't have a place on our ship."

"Now, come on," Teshima said. "I didn't push myself onto your ship!"

"If I recall," the captain said, "You insisted that we were stealing from you. Aya, isn't that true?"

"I'd say so, Miki."

"It's fine now, all squared out, I was wrong, you're right, I'll be on my way." He edged the point of swords around the edge of the ship, hands up.

A bird squawked. "The gangplank!"

"Hey!" Teshima spat.

"Didn't you say you wanted to be on your way?" Miki asked. She smiled. "I don't want to keep you any longer than we have to, sir! After all, your wagon might have been stolen by bandits."

Teshima grimaced. "Right. Thanks." He glanced behind himself, already beginning to lose balance up the steps. "And if the fall kills me?"

"Didn't you say you were a star? You'd be a pretty terrible star if you couldn't survive a fall like this."

The bird preened its feathers, and flew off, Teshima glaring after it.

"Fine," he said. "You're right. Thanks for the opportunity!" He swung up along the plank, and gave a theatrical bow. "Wait'll you see my name in lights."

The captain waved, plenty cheery, as her first mate slammed a foot into the gangplank. He fell.

Tachibana stared over the edge and sighed.

"You're too soft, Miki."


---


Their claws dug into Teshima's shoulders. They could hear the tone of complaint in his voice, but couldn't make out what he was saying well. Everything processed differently like this.

It was a free fall with a weight like that. Clicking back the other way - unfortunately, wings weren't quite strong enough alone. It was hard to remember how without.

"Any time, Manami!"

Skin instead of feathers, wrapped tight around bones, dexterity enough to hang on - deep blue sheen became a cloak, billowing around them. He grabbed their arm before they remembered what hands were for, ears still flickering back and forth with proper sound. Twisting through the air, they laughed.

"Could you -"

"No clue!"

"Listen -"

"Is this what falling was like?"

"And - what?" He had to yell. "No! Yes? Kind of!"

They couldn't make their fingers close around anything, too giddy with laughter and blood and weight flowing deep into their bones. Wind cut against flesh, so different from feathers protecting them, making their eyes burn closed. It was so different. They'd never fallen like this before.

"Are you going to bother to stop us?" he yelled.

He was the one hanging on, tight and terrified and - they could feel a hint of laughter, pressed together like this, see the hint of a terrible smile through the cracks of their eyes. Maybe that was the difference.

The shift was quick, momentum almost throwing them back over the ship - Manami stared down at the ship, not fighting gravity or anything else for that one moment. Hanging on, something hurt their eyes - glancing from the ship - that was him. Stars were supposed to shine, somehow or another. They stared, forgetting wind and gravity. The light faded and he looked like any normal terrified person forcing on a smile.

"Manami!"

They blinked.

Pausing above the tallest mast of the ship, hardly avoiding being impaled.

"Yes?" they asked.

He let go first, slamming into the crow's nest. Feeling returned to their arms. They'd forgotten they had those, from how tightly he held on, around their neck, fingers digging in. Teshima pressed his hands over his face, struggling to breathe and laugh all at once.

"You're too ..." He stopped to cough. "Way too composed." Wry grin following every word.

It was different. Not having to fall alone.


---


When the captain had introduced herself, she'd also introduced her first mate with enough endearments and titles that Tachibana had left in a huff - leaving Kanzaki to threaten the prisoners alone.

And when Manami had explained - with helpful transformations - the captain chose to believe.

Teshima didn't let that go, bitter grumbling, but it didn't stop him from grinning through his entire performance either.

"Where are the two of you heading?" Kanzaki asked.

Bad feelings were alright to trust. So he believed Manami when they said he'd die. Just as much as they chose to accept that he was a star.

"It's up to them," he said. "Not like a star would know his way around here."

It was an undeniable fact, ultimately. Teshima had hung out in the heavens, glowing as bright as he could - he had the magic, enough to see through glamours and attract magic beasts. But that didn't make a star. Years, and the brightest lights in the night sky were people who had chosen to rise. They hadn't been born into it. He couldn't figure out how to do it right.

So he was here.

"You're doing really well!" Manami laughed. They spoke like when they flew or fell, wide vibrant eyes that spiraled out into color like any birds'. "Do stars practice fencing all the time?"

"You'd be surprised!" He kept the footwork Kanzaki had shown him, jabbing where he could, constantly hit regardless. "I didn't think a bird would be so dexterous, myself. Did you steal those arms from anyone?"

Some things were insults, others weren't, but the more he said them, the more it became a fact between them. Grinning and spitting and falling all the same. When his legs wouldn't keep up, and when their healing arm failed them, Kanzaki would drag him to the navigator's table and begin running through the sky above. He knew it better than he thought, regaling absurd stories about everyone he knew.

"So all stars are like you," Manami said, one day.

"Nah," he said - stricken strangely, by the comment. "There's no one else like me."

And they answered, "That's true."

He didn't need to sleep. But sometimes he wished he could, instead of staring at the ceiling, or over knitting needles, unsure as to what they meant. He wouldn't ask.

"These stars," Kanzaki said, another day. "Are newer on our maps. You were closer to them?"

He stared over them. Kinjou. Makishima. Tadokoro. Everyone else, but they shined the brightest, leading the pack every night.

"You ever wonder where stars come from?" he asked.

She gave him an even stare in response, and he chuckled.

"I used to think they were just made. I guess you could say ... eventually I realized, some people climb up that high themselves." The maps couldn't express their beauty, but that was alright. It was just paper. "They're too bright to be anywhere else."

"I see," she murmured. "There are a lot of unknown mysteries. Our astronomers gave up on answering some things. They said magic is just like that," rolling her eyes. Kanzaki pushed books across the table, with age-old dates. "But there are some people who think that ... famous figures who disappeared became stars."

He nodded - tried to, at least.

Kanzaki pursed her lips. "My brother's researched it for years, but the king's never let much information get out. He's been on the throne for so long ... him and his family." She was the kind of person who always looked cheerful, but here - creased brow, serious glare at the papers before her - he could see why she was a captain. "There's a lot you can't find out with libraries. I know a lot more, now. Even if people disapprove."

She glanced up, and he realized from the shock on her face, how miserable his smile was.

"...I'm sorry I didn't believe you," she said. "I just didn't think ..."

"That a star would be so stupid." In her silence, he went on. "That a star would ... willingly follow someone who was going to cut out his heart? Yeah. Yeah." Teshima rubbed his eyes. "I know."

"Most stars ... get somewhere safe," she murmured. "Nowadays. There are many people who want them otherwise. And more who'd prefer them die, than let people go on as they have."

"Like Fukutomi," he said.

"Yes. ...like the king." Kanzaki closed her books. "He's looking for one specific star. Fighting to live long enough to meet it. The witches and everyone else ... they all used to be comrades, I think. There are old stories, but all the names have been blacked out."

Staring over her files, and everything she knew - Teshima felt like little more than a pawn in someone else's game. When he wandered back to his room, silent past Manami's pile on the floor, he wondered if any of them were anything more.

Kinjou had long since left Fukutomi behind. He wouldn't come back.

"It's not fair," he muttered.

"Not much is."

Teshima fell out of the chair, scrambling back up, waiting to see if they'd spoken at all. They hadn't moved in that nest. For all the voices of distant stars he could still hear, he couldn't be sure.

"That doesn't help," he said, finally.

Manami didn't open their eyes. "You do what you want though." Vague mumbling. "Don't you?"

It really shouldn't have. "Yeah."

They didn't say anything else. He laid his head down in a mess of yarn. Teshima couldn't allow himself much, but he did allow his eyes to close.


---


"I assume the two of you know your way around the city?" Kanzaki asked.

"Nope," Teshima said.

"Not a clue!" Manami said.

She raised an eyebrow before waving them off, laughing.

"Birds have a natural sense of direction, don't they?" he whispered, leaning in while the two ducked incoming cargo.

"For directions, yes! I can tell you which way is north or west. That doesn't mean I know what all is that way," they said, grinning as they hopped over a sand bag - he followed, tripping, and bounding forward too many steps.

Cities were unfamiliar territory. Manami watched Teshima haggle and chatter, glancing away toward every banner throughout. They knew where they were going. It never stopped pulling. Running out of options, they'd heard enough late night conversations to understand what was at stake.

He caught them listening more than most. If he'd believe it more often, he might have had a chance against them. As it was, this far in, there was little left to do.

"Manami?" He always forced a smile, meeting like a challenge. "Trying to run off on me now?"

"Of course not. We're almost there."


---


Manami didn't lead him to sewers or an abandoned house.

Instead, they walked straight through a park, and disappeared through a sheet of water. Staring at the rock behind, skirting around the pool, Teshima could see there was nothing beyond.

But he jumped through.

"Good to see you."

They were holding back a curtain. He turned around to a mirror and chuckled. "Don't say I never trusted you."

"Of course not," they said, already walking forward.

Their steps echoed. They didn't look back at him. Walking past familiar portraits, he recognized almost everyone - stars he'd met and known for so long. The stone felt carved into mountains itself, chilling him to the bone.

They were going to cut out his heart and eat it.

Teshima kept his hands down.

He'd always known that. From the moment he fell. If that was what it took to be a star.

At the end of the road -

"Here we are," Manami said. Short gesture, shadow in their face. He could hear the chain at their ankle, now.

"Thanks," he said.

He didn't hate that it was them.

"Not at all." The words cut through long before he felt it. "I appreciate your trust."

He saw it before he felt it. Hands shook up over the blade, bright scarlet and silver - there was no light but deep blue reflections, but it was so much brighter there. It burned. He closed his hands around it, recognizing - the same rapier. It wasn't blunted anymore.

"But I didn't say this was your stop, Teshima."

Knees hit the ground.

He couldn't look away from the blood slowly pooling at his shirt, hot on his skin. They left the blade, to the hilt, through his back, as they walked away. Shock sapped his strength. In the hollow echo of their steps, he had nothing left but the ever burning light searing its way through his chest, and the blood pouring out his gut.


---
elucidatedlucy: death takes me (Ah)

Re: Fill: Team Grandstand, T (4/4)

[personal profile] elucidatedlucy 2016-08-01 11:55 pm (UTC)(link)
Maybe Toudou had known from the start.

They made their way through the chambers, finding the remains - Yuuto long since sent away, Ashikiba's notes, Arakita's furious scribbles half-screaming across the room, and -

"Sorry I'm late," they said.

"I expected as much," Toudou managed to cough. "You fulfilled as much as I needed."

Manami tilted their head. Here, they felt so much less human - speech awkward on their tongue, past mocking repetition.

"You did not let them take the star," Toudou said. "I knew you would never let anyone ... take anything from you ..."

There was nothing they had left to say.

"Fukutomi knows we are here." A sad smile. "I wish I could have spoken to him, but I fear it is too late. ... it has been too late for many years. But I trust ... all of you."

Manami watched without blinking. There was so little they knew. Only enough. There was nothing they could do.

"Yes, Manami. Even you." A hand took theirs. "I am sorry we kept you caged for so long ... but now. Fly free. They cannot do this without you."

"Toudou," they whispered. More hoarse than they intended. "What do I do with the star?"

An ever-weaker hand against their cheek. "Are you not listening?" The only words that made it through - "I trust you."

They caught Toudou's hand as it fell. It had been too long. Manami closed their eyes.

Keeping them closed through the explosion ahead.

"Toudou's defenses finally broke." They looked up, calm, to metal and power. "...I see. Strong to the end."

"Yes," Manami said.

Fukutomi took careful steps forward. "You are all that is left of this hold. Your comrades have fled to safety. Stand down, and we will be fair."

The words made them laugh more than they should have. They stood up, ruffling feathers rising from skin, knocking away their cloak.

"There's nothing fair in this world, sir."

Birds couldn't do much against lions.

The magic Toudou granted peeled away from their skin, away from every silent word they threw. Fukutomi was stronger. He was older, he was human, and above all, he knew why he was here. It wasn't vengeance. Toudou had lived well and too long. But so had he - a dozen stars behind him, all in the search for one more.

"Toudou raised you well."

Compliments that never meant anything. They couldn't claw through armor, but they could smile and melt metal away with a touch of a spell, one more thing they had saved. Manami was good at surviving, a dozen blows and cuts. They didn't need to be human for that.

"But none of you understand what I am doing."

"How many stars did you eat?" Manami fluttered to a rafter. "How many hearts? I'm curious."

He watched, circling below. He had the upper-hand, but that was as it always was. They didn't mind.

"No more than Toudou."

A sword slammed through rock and left them falling, floating away, nails scraping down the walls.

"But Toudou is dead," they said. Nature was what they knew above all else - the inescapable facts. Almost a comfort, this far down the road.

"Toudou did not have reasons like I did."

They should have been more careful - he was, stoic and powerful at the center, enough to catch them in a foolish bound. Another flat blade cut up through their ribs. Their lungs felt hot enough to explode.

Fukutomi went on. "Where the others may have given up." It wasn't cruel. Just honest. Manami slid down the blade, holding themself up, nails digging into his face as a matter of fact. They'd lost this body. This life. He said, "I have not stopped seeking forgiveness."

"I think you just accept that you're not going to get what you want."

Manami watched Fukutomi's eyes widen.

And saw something too bright, over his shoulder.

They heard the blade break off against the armor inside, and slammed to the ground when Fukutomi lost his grip. The blade cut deeper through their ribs, slicing open their chest and coming through the side. They smiled, a little, watching Fukutomi turn to a star. It was impossible.

"How many stars again?"

Fukutomi didn't move, but to his knee, rapier buried deep into his spine. They shouldn't have left the sword with him. Manami tried to laugh, tears rolling up in the pain of a torn heart. So many mistakes this close to the end were too easy for him to use against them.

"It has been lifetimes," Fukutomi murmured. "I will accept my judgment."

Teshima let his shoulders drop, panting. He shook his head helplessly. "Stars don't grant wishes."

They saw the last sword first.

Yelling took more out of them than they thought - but this time, they were the fool. Fukutomi drove it deep into his chest and fell to the floor. Teshima lit the room enough that it was simple to see the color leave his skin - blood didn't pour from his wound. Slowly, he sank into his armor, and turned to little more than dust.

"Lifetimes," Teshima said. "Huh." He forced a chuckle. "Kinjou said it was over way back. ...I guess he couldn't let it go."

Manami nodded, however faint, before he ran over.

"Hey, there," he said. "That was pretty cool, right?"

They couldn't speak, but they could shake their head.

"Don't be like that." Fingers forcing through clothing and old bandages, they could see how pale his face was. Gold shouldn't have ever been that light. "You've dealt with worse. How far did you fall last time? This is nothing."

When they laughed, blood splattered on his face. It made them laugh harder.

"Could you just -" They could feel his shaking fingers in the wound. "This is the last -" Fingers jabbing into broken ribs, blood mixed together black and red and gold. "Damn it, Manami."

"I told you to go home," they managed.

"I kind of gave that up," he muttered. They stared at the dried blood stain on his shirt. Wondered how lucky he had to be to avoid damage to his organs. Always lucky. Stars were always like that. "I've heard that I don't actually make a very good star, you see."

"You've gotten better at it," they said, smiling. Their eyes closed, but a sharp slap made them open again. "You're making it really hard to sleep. It'll get in everyone's way ..." Bloody fingers smeared down his face. "That's why all your friends left. Sometimes it's for the best."

"Right," he muttered. "For the best." It was hard to see him, even with their eyes open. "Right. Cause that's what's fair. Right. Right? Come on, Manami." He held up something. "I know I'm an idiot, but you don't think I'm that easy to trick, do you?"

"Yes," they whispered.

"Sure. Okay," he said. "Once is your fault, though. The second time is my fault, and like hell am I letting that happen." They caught on.

"Don't."

"You said it yourself, right?" Teshima leaned in, just to show off a contradictory grin. "I can do whatever I want."

Sword driven in, he only shone brighter - and they hated it, unable to let go for how blinding it was. Carving through bone, the facsimile of what made a human, just like everything that made it so simple to cut through Manami's bone - he cut out his heart.

"I said," coughing more blood on his face - trying for his eyes, if anything could stop it. "Don't."

"It's just half," he said. Light splattering everywhere and singing their skin, their hair. "Deal with it."

"I don't want it. Keep your time to yourself," they hissed. It was no right of his.

There wasn't anything beating between them, there. They'd already died. A dozen times over, maybe, reborn once into another cage, but they were done. He didn't have to worry about that. He had the choice.

But Teshima held on and said, "If I have to be here, you do too." Hand risen high, they couldn't argue. They should have. But their nails dug into his hand. "Besides. Didn't I say as much earlier? Stars don't grant wishes."

They weren't rocks in the sky.

But a heart could have been, sharp and molten and impossible. Smoke billowed up and out their lungs, more oil pouring out their mouth, their nose. The blade made its way through torn muscle. A thousand times worse than any sword or stake. It settled in the shreds of their old heart, till he moved away his hand as though burned, catching their other side as they tried to roll away.

It was intolerable.

But skin swelled up around to cauterize. Blood burned away to flakes on their skin, until they could breathe again. Still there.

They glanced up at him.

Teshima wasn't quite so blinding, now. They could deal with it.

"What do you think?" He was grinning. "Having to share a heart with some burnt out star."

They sniffled. He'd never stop doing that. But - "Fair enough."

If that was the burden - mutual, giving half a heart to a witch's familiar - they could deal with that.


---


Manami hadn't been to the wall in a long time.

She wouldn't recognize a bird she'd let free, years ago.

But as they strolled the boundary, it was only natural. Miyahara was just that amazing.

A long stare proved she didn't know or understand. But she played along. "Sangaku," she said. Gentle and sharp, too talented for her own good. "I thought I'd asked you to visit sooner."

"Sorry." They rubbed their head. "Someone else caught me for a few years. But I never forgot! I've always been planning to. I made some friends."

She smiled. "You look ..." Many things, they could imagine. She settled on, "Well."

"I'm only sort of human," they said.

"Oh. Yes. That too. ...How?"

They shrugged. "You're the one who used to wish on stars."

"Yes, but I never ..."

"I'm kidding." They wanted to reach across, but could imagine watching their arm tear back to feather. It wouldn't be kind to her. "Stars don't actually grant wishes. It was a witch."

"Oh." Her brow furrowed. "That's something. Then do stars not do anything?"

"Oh, no, no, no." Manami smiled, thinly. "They just do whatever they want."

Miyahara started laughing and it had been far too long. It was a miracle to stand there, hardly glowing in sunlight.

"Can you fly?" she asked.

They nodded, hovering, ever so slightly.

"...That's all I wished for." She glanced away. "I'm sorry I kept you here for so long. I didn't know how to ..." Trailing off.

"It's okay," they murmured. "I don't think I could have done this without you." Inviting her over would be so simple, but she toed the line with nervous feet. Different worlds. They couldn't go back. It was amazing she could survive her own, when they struggled to fly there. "If you want I ... could visit, sometimes. Up to this wall."

Her nails crackled over the stone wall. "Maybe." She took a deep breath and looked away. "I don't know. ...Maybe."

It was too alien. Manami nodded.

Miyahara looked back. "Did you find any fallen stars?"

They hummed. "I caught one." And laughed. "Though he didn't give me very much choice in the matter."