Blood Promise

She was haunted by the recollection of memories that were not her own, memories of great physical pain and tremendous, aching sorrow that she could not understand or find words for. On some level, she understood that these were not her memories, not who she was now—her hair so light that it was almost white, her body clothed in the armour of Badan—yet, at the same time, she was haunted, those memories like the sensation of limbs lost.

Such feelings became worse when matters turned to discussion of ZX. In the company of Mikage, as brutal and unknowable as such a man was, she felt a strange closeness to ZX, and she could not understand if that stemmed from her unwanted memories, or from the confused manner in which Mikage expressed his own feelings regarding the other, the man who had once been his charge. This feeling grew stronger when the child, Hide, was present, however, in the case of the young boy, it was more that his feelings of helplessness seemed so often to resonate with her, albeit for very different reasons.

When in his company, Mikage had forbidden her from appearing without her armour, and yet even in such a guise, it was impossible to not recognise her for who she was, who she might once have been. The armour, after all, was inherited too—like the memories of that other life, the woman who shared her face. In contrast to the visage they had given ZX, the armour she wore, was instead white and pink, a silk scarf about her neck.

It had never been hers by right, she thought mournfully, but rather she had been fashioned as a vessel to house this ancient power. They all had, although Mikage would certainly have been reluctant to admit that his transmogrification was anything but a desire for progress, a yearning to transcend the perceived ugliness and stagnation of his humanity.

Unlike Mikage, she had no humanity to transcend. She was aware that her body and spirit had been grown deep within the centre of Badan's operations, its network of black pyramids. She had been born in the dark beneath the soil, and, should she die, she would be born again, and again, and again, a thousand others with the same face as her, the same face as that woman who had once stood in her place, the woman they had tortured to death.

The knowledge of this filled her with something akin to sadness, a sharp, cold feeling that nestled inside her, a presence weighed heavily upon her shoulders. If she should die, and if there came another after here, would that other still be the same person—and if they were the same person, did that mean that she was the woman who had died beneath the soil at Badan's behest, a precursor to what they had later done to the man who became ZX.

There were no answers. She could not ask Mikage, nor was Hide old enough to understand—yet there was Yuuki Jouji, the Destron scientist who had returned to them. Perhaps he would know, she reflected, perhaps he, having been out in the world, having fought alongside the traitor, ZX, would be able to offer her the answers she so dearly yearned for. Yet even as she thought this, she knew it was impossible. There was no truth but the truth of Badan, and whatever Yuuki had seen of the outside world, soon he would only be able to spout the rhetoric of the Great Leader. She knew what happened to scientists once their individual projects for Badan were completed, she had seen that room full of the interlinked remains of the essence of such men.

She felt nothing, and yet despite this, she understood that she also wanted to feel some kind of reaction to this knowledge, to feel pain, regret, horror at the fate of these men, yet she did not. Their bodies were gone now, and their minds were eternally in service of Badan. In contrast, her mind was gone, but her body—and the body that would follow, and the body that will follow after that—would forever be the property of Badan.

There was again that sharp, cold feeling within her. If she died, she thought, she could leave the responsibility of all she felt to the version of her that would follow after. That would be easier, she thought, that would be a release.

Would she remember, would she recall this moment; would she always be craving death?

She looked down at her hands, at the heavy armour she wore. It would have been better to stay dead, her flesh burnt by the electricity that had coursed through the body of the woman who came before her. For now, all that she had to look forward to was the next death, and the death after that, and the death after.

Beneath the swollen bug eyes of her helmet, the woman who had once been Murasame Shizuka felt the warmth of tears upon her face.