A/N: Originally written for KageprOTP Month in 2018.
When the noisy thoughts of the people around him grow too strong for Seto, it's been his habit to walk deep into the woods as an escape.
It's much quieter here.
Even though he has trouble turning off his powers, the faint buzz of the animal minds around him are far more tranquil than the minds of people in the city.
On one particularly bad day, he walks deeper into the forest than he's ever gone before (almost as if in a trance) and gets lost.
Out here in the middle of nowhere, the voice of a girl's mind is particularly loud.
Seto's astonished to find a little cabin out here in the middle of the wilderness. How could someone live this far from civilization? But the voice seems to be coming from here.
He finds a pretty white-haired girl in the house; and only a year or so older than him, by the looks of it. He stares at her, and she stares at him, and then she squeaks, turning away and hiding her face. "If you look me in the eyes," she says, "…'ll turn into stone…!"
He doesn't know how to respond to that. But to be honest, he can kind of relate. "I guess I've been living afraid too," he says. "I really have been running away from my problems. But…" He pauses. "Wouldn't the world be so much better without that fear?"
The girl hesitantly peeks out from between her fingers. "Erm," she murmurs. "…Maaaaybe?"
"Um…" On an impulse, he pulls out his phone and his earphones. "Here."
Curiously, she peers at the earphones that he's holding out. She's never seen anything like it before.
R…really? he thinks. She must be an incredibly sheltered girl. "It's music," he says. "Here, give it a try." He carefully puts one of the earphones in her ear.
She giggles. "It tickles."
And then he presses the play button.
"Wah," she says, jolting in surprise at the sound of instruments playing directly in her ear. She stares in awe at the curious little instrument in the boy's hand. "Whoaaa…"
He just smiles, and then puts the other earphone into his own ear. "I like this song. It always calms me down."
"Is that so…"
They sit there on the floor, listening to songs for a while.
"To be able to fit all these songs into such a little object," she says, turning to him. "That's incredible."
"It's low on charge, though," he says, smiling sheepishly.
"Charge?" she asks, tilting her head.
"Um… So, it'll turn off when this reaches zero, unless I plug it in somewhere to recharge the batteries." He looks around. "I don't think there can be electricity this far away from the city, though."
"Oh, that's a shame," she says. She leans onto his shoulder.
He tenses for a moment, before leaning into the physical contact.
Eventually, the battery runs out.
"Oh, um, right, I haven't introduced myself," he says, taking off his earphone. "My name is Kousuke. Seto Kousuke."
"My name is Marry," she smiles shyly, taking off her earphone and handing it to him. "Kozakura Marry."
"Um, actually, I should have told you sooner," he says, "and this might creep you out, but I can sort of read… minds."
She blinks. "Oh. Like Grandmother."
"Wh—huh!? Your grandmother can read minds?" he exclaims. He thought he was the only one.
"Come to think of it," she says, peering more closely at his face, "You have the same eyes. Grandmother had red eyes too, or so I'm told."
"R…Really?" he says. He gets up and runs to a mirror. "H…huh…"
"Ac…actually," she says, patting her own face. "My mom told me to never look anyone in the eye, or they'd turn into stone. But that doesn't seem to have happened…"
"H-huh!?" He whips around.
"I wonder why," she murmurs.
"Well, maybe it's just a little white lie parents tell their kids," he suggests. He really has no idea.
"Maybe…" she says. She looks up at him, beaming. "But I'm glad it didn't happen to you. You're nice."
He stammers, flustered. "Oh… um…. I'm glad." He rubs the back of his head, looking away. "So, are your parents around?"
"My mom passed away a while ago," she says, looking down. "My father, I've never even met."
"Oh, um, I'm sorry to hear that." He kneels down. "You've been living alone all this time?"
"…" She nods her head. It was so lonely.
"That's no good!" he exclaims. "Why don't you come back? With me? The home I'm living in… I'm sure they'd welcome you. We're all adopted anyway…"
"Eh?" she squeaks. She rapidly shakes her head. "No, I can't leave. I'm not supposed to, not until I'm grown up."
"But… you can't just live here alone…"
"I just…" She shakes her head rapidly. "I can't go outside. I just can't." She still vividly remembers what happened the last time she went outside. The one time she wandered outside, she came across those two bad men. They grabbed her, yanked her by the hair, and she cried out in pain. Her mom came to her rescue, but the two men were too strong.
She remembers a blur of motion and panic.
One of the men turning into stone…
Her mom's eyes glowing bright red…
A roar of anger from the other man…
A sudden spike of pain as something heavy suddenly slammed into the back of her head…
And then, from her sprawled vantage point on the ground, the last thing she saw from her rapidly darkening vision was the man wrestling with her mom, the man turning to stone, and her mom collapsing against the tree, a trail of red down her face…
And then her vision faded to black.
The boy, Kousuke, is staring at her with wide eyes. "You… died?"
"…" She nods, her lips quivering. "I don't know how I came back here. But when I did, my mom was gone." I miss her.
"Oh…" He hesitantly reaches over and pats her on the shoulder.
She leans into his arm.
"I died too," he says. "When I was young. I drowned, but then I was alive. And after that moment, I could read minds."
"So we're the same," she says. "I too died, and then I was alive again. That was the same."
"Yeah." He leans back against the wall. "Do you remember… in between? I think there was something, but I don't remember it really well. It's more like I have indirect memories. Memories of remembering an earlier memory. I remember remembering that it was a nightmare."
She frowns, digging deep into her memory. "I don't remember, not really… But yes, I remember remembering…" She shudders. "Snakes. Lots of them. I didn't like it."
"Snakes… I don't think there were any snakes for me? But I could be wrong." He turns to her. "It's like, you know, a dream. It's hard remembering."
"I know what you mean," she smiles weakly.
"Hey, um," he says. "If your grandma had this power, would you possibly know… how to turn it off? Back where I live, there are lots of people… so many people, and I really want to be able to turn it off. It's been bothering me."
"I'm not sure," she says, getting up, "but Grandmother had a diary. Maybe she said something in there." She heads towards the bookshelf. "Ah, here it is."
"Th… thank you."
After that, she shows him some of her favourite books, and they read together for a while.
But soon, the sun is starting to get low in the sky, and the evening birds are starting to caw.
"Erm," he says. "It's been really nice, but I have to… go home now. I don't want to worry my family."
"Oh." Her face falls.
"Are you sure you don't want to come with me?"
She grimaces. "I… I'm not ready yet."
"…" He reluctantly gets up.
"But you'll visit, right?" she asks.
"Yeah," he smiles. "I'll visit often, don't worry." He pauses for a moment. "I know," he says, taking off his white hoodie putting it on her head. "Here. As a promise to return."
She touches the hoodie with surprise, and then smiles. "You promise?"
And with a farewell wave, he's off.
Marry takes a deep breath, and then clutches her chest. Golly, was that a nerve-wracking experience.
But in a good way.
As far as interactions with others go, this was by far more pleasant than the previous time.
She hopes he visits again.
(Seto had a long walk in front of him, and so he ends up getting home at around midnight.)
(He gets thoroughly scolded by Ayaka and Kenjirou. Ayano shouts, "We were so worried about you!", and then tackles him in a hug.)
The next time there's a knock on Marry's door, she feels excitement rather than fear and uncertainty like the last time. "Is that you, Kousuke?"
"Yes, it's me. May I come in?"
"I brought some books from home, if you're interested," he says, walking in the door.
Her eyes light up in excitement. "Ooh. Yes, definitely."
"Thank you for the diary, back then. It was helpful."
"You're welcome," she says.
Though he suspects that half of the helpfulness may have been just meeting Marry. For some reason, thinking of his conversations with her just makes him feel an inner peace that makes it easier to rein in his powers. He has trouble explaining how.
But the descriptions in the diary helped a bit, too. It was reassuring, in a way, seeing their powers described so matter-of-factly.
"My brother and sister, their powers were in there too," he says, taking out the diary and setting it on the table.
"You have siblings?" she asks, standing up.
"Well, we became friends in the orphanage," he says, flipping to the page with the list of Snakes. "That's Kido," he says, pointing at the page. "The Snake of Concealing Eyes. And that's Kano, the Snake of Deceiving Eyes."
"Your friends have the eyes, too?" she asks. "What a small world."
He smiles. "Indeed."
One day, he manages to convince her to walk outside.
She's clinging tightly to his hand the entire time, but they manage to complete a lap around the exterior of the house before Marry starts feeling sick and they need to go back inside.
She smiles shakily, collapsing to the floor. "I… I did it."
"That's great!" he says, trying to sound encouraging.
They next they go out for a walk, it's right after it rained.
So of course, she slips and falls into a mud puddle.
Seto collects some firewood and they figure out how to get a fire going. They manage to heat up some water and they fill the tub with it.
"Th…thanks, Kousuke," she says, slinking into the warm water, her cheeks pink. "It's been so long since I've had a warm bath."
"You're welcome," he says, very deliberately facing the other way, holding up the muddy clothes, and frowning. How… do you clean this?
Fortunately, Marry has a spare set of clothes.
"Normally, Mom would wash our clothes in the river," she says as she dries her hair, "but you know, since she passed away…"
"Ah… yeah. But the river is not that far, right?" He looks at her. "Do you think you're up for it?"
"…" She nods, a determined look on her face. "Yes!"
And so they head off to the river, muddy dress in hand, with Marry much more careful about her balance this time.
After much experimenting and many inexperienced attempts at washing the dress in the river (neither of them really know what they're doing), they manage to get most of the mud out.
"Okay!" she says, beaming, hot and sweaty from the exertion. "We can hang this up to dry now!"
"Good," he says, getting up. Then, as he makes to walk away from the riverbank, he slips on the gravel and skids into the river with a splash. The water is shallow, but his clothes are soaked now.
She attempts to stifle her laughter, but she fails miserably. "Kousuke!" she giggles. "Oh no!"
"Oh no," he says, smiling in exasperation.
At one point, Seto manages to take Marry as far as the edge of the city, but she's spooked by the cars and the loud noise, so she opts to return to her cabin. "I've… I've never been out this far," she says.
"Okay," he says, slightly disappointed, but still optimistic about the future.
He wants to accompany her back, but she knows that it's getting late ("You need to go home, too!") so she insists that he go back.
But he insists too, and although she's comfortable walking outdoors when her hand is in his, she's still a bit trepidatious about taking such a long hike back by herself, so they walk back together.
On their way back, it starts raining.
The sky grows darker.
Thunder booms in the distance.
They run the last leg back to the cabin.
"I'm sorry for inconveniencing you," she says, panting for breath.
"No, it's no problem!" he says, out of breath, shutting the door behind them.
Another loud blast of thunder rattles the skies.
They hang up their clothes to dry.
She has some spare clothes to put on, but Seto doesn't. But she manages to find some of her grandfather's old clothes for Seto to wear. It's a bit large, but he accepts the clothes with a thankful smile.
His stomach growls.
"S…sorry," says Marry. "I don't really have any food here."
"You don't!?" he exclaims with surprise. But come to think of it, he hasn't really seen any food in the cupboards… "Then, what have you been eating?"
"Nothing, really," she says, wringing her hands nervously. "I can go just fine without eating… I'm one fourth Medusa, after all."
"I…if you say so."
"I still have some tea," she says, walking over to the cupboards, stumbling a bit in the dim lighting. "But no food. I'm sorry."
"It's fine," he says. "Humans should be able to go weeks without eating, anyway. One night should be fine."
She apologizes again.
They both have some tea.
"I guess I'm staying the night?" he asks.
"Of course," she says, taking a sip of tea. "You absolutely mustn't go out in this weather. I saw lightning strike a tree once, and the poor creatures that were in it at the time were burnt terribly…"
"I agree, probably not a good idea to go out in this weather." He shudders, glancing at the downpour outside.
As someone used to life before the age of electrical lighting, Marry's biological sleep patterns are very closely tied to the cycles of the sun in the sky. She does have a number of candles and lamps scattered about her home, but she doesn't usually use them, as the sun is a far superior source of light.
So, as a result of this lifestyle, she usually gets really sleepy as soon as it's dark out. "Time for bed," she yawns.
"O…okay," he says. He fidgets. "So, do you maybe have a spare bed, or…"
She just pulls him into her bed. "Good night, Kousuke," she says, hugging him.
"…" Seto stiffens up, before taking a deep breath and trying to relax. He hugs her back. "Good night, Marry."
They both quickly fall asleep, tired after a long day of walking.
Marry is up bright and early the next morning. She has a couple of cups of piping hot tea prepared for the both of them by the time Seto wakes up.
"Good morning," she says, setting Seto's cup on the bedside table.
He yawns, stretching his arms. "Good morning," he murmurs.
"It's been so long since I slept with anyone," she says. "The last time was so many summers ago, with Mom. I missed the warmth. So thank you."
"Huh? Sure, no problem," he says sleepily.
After a morning's cup of tea, she bids him goodbye and he starts his hike back home.
He's a bit wary of the lecturing that's sure to follow when he gets back home, but he'll just have to man up and take it.
(By this point, they'd gotten used to Seto sneaking off to who-knows-where, so they just sound more exasperated than anything else.)
Marry is paying her respects at the grave of her grandparents and mother when she hears Seto approaching in the distance.
She claps her hands together, finishing off her prayers, and then turns around to greet Seto.
He's considerably shaken up. "I—Our Onee-chan," he stammers, looking lost. "I just don't understand it. It was so sudden…"
Something bad must have happened. "What's wrong?" she asks, reaching up to put a comforting hand on his shoulder. (He's already slightly taller than her, now.)
"She… she jumped off the school roof," he says. "And now she's… gone."
"Oh no," she says. She pulls him into a hug. "I'm so sorry."
They take a seat on the grass outside the house.
"And now Kano wants us all to move into a separate apartment," he says, poking at the soil with a stick. "Kido's neutral about the move, but I just don't know what to do…"
"…Ayano-neesan's mom passed away too, right?" she asks.
Seto nods. "It's just her dad now left."
"That's so sad."
"I know…" He turns to her. "What should I do? I just don't know…"
"What does he think? Ayano-neesan's dad?"
"I mean…" Seto sighs. "He already agreed, and he said he was going to pay the rent for us, too." He frowns. "But he was really shaken up by Onee-chan's death, so I think it was kind of unfair for Kano to spring this on him so shortly afterwards."
"I see," she says, looking down at her hands. "I think that being lonely is a terrible thing. If you all move out, it'd be so sad for him to be on his own…"
"I think so too," he says. "But I'm worried about Kano and Kido as well. Kido keeps to herself a lot, so she'll probably keep things bottled up. And Kano was closest to Oneesan, so he was struck really hard by her death. So I don't know…"
She strokes his arm, trying to be comforting. "I…" She pauses. "I think the best thing you can do is to make sure that they're not alone. You should be back there, with them. All of them. As much as possible."
Marry hops up. "Erm. Kousuke, is that offer still open?"
He blinks. "Offer?"
"I don't really eat much, so I won't be a drain on your resources, I promise. So, er… Can I come back with you?"
"Ah—Of course!" He smiles weakly. "You're always welcome."
"Your friends sound like good friends," she says. "I want to do what I can."
"If you're sure about it… I'd be delighted."
And with that, she pops back into her house and starts packing. She doesn't need much; she's read all of these books countless times, to the point where she almost has all of them memorized. The only things she needs to bring back with her are the books Seto lent her, plus perhaps a few sentimental items here and there.
She double checks that all of the candles are out, the fires are out, and that all of the windows are closed and secured.
Her backpack fastened securely on her back, she turns around and gives her house, her home since birth, a final cursory look.
"Farewell," she says, her eyes feeling slightly wet from the nostalgia. "You've been a good home." She turns to Seto. "Any parting words?"
He just bows at the interior. "Thank you for taking care of Marry up until now."
She giggles. "I'll be in your care now, Kousuke, please treat me well," she says. And then, with an air of finality, she shuts the door to her house for the last time.
She takes a deep breath. "Phew… I did it…" she says, staring at her hand.
"Are you ready?" he asks, extending a hand.
She smiles, taking his hand. "Yes."
During the hike back to their new home, there's a faint spring in her steps.
"Marry, was it?" says the boy with the spiky blonde hair, leaning forwards, examining her with interest. "So you're the mysterious girlfriend that Seto here has been sneaking off to see."
"I—er…" she stammers. "Well, not a girlfriend, basically, yes…"
He stares at her for a moment, and then smiles. "You're real interesting, you know that? I think we're going to have interesting time, us four. All I have to say is…" He spreads his arms. "Welcome to the Mekakushi Dan!"
The girl with the green hair just nods at her, smiling faintly. "It's nice to finally meet you."
Seto nods at her too, smiling.
"Me too," says Marry, smiling as well. "A pleasure to meet you all!"
I think… things will turn out all right.
"I see, you're the 'Deceiver' f͟róm̧ t̵ha͟t͡ ̡time, ̶ąre͞n't͟ you?͞" smirks the dark-haired man.
When did things go wrong?
"Yo͏ù've g͝ǫtte͢n qu̕i̡t͢e goơd̀ a͢t͡ ̡'̴u͡s̢i̵ǹg̷' ͝i̕t̵,҉ h͚̝̖a͕͠v̶̦̜̦e̶̪̤̩͈͚͇n̯̱̘̰̼̪͇'̧t̖ ̸͔̳͉͇̙̫̭y̪̠̳͘o̦̣̩̪̺u͉̞̲͎̜̭͔?͓͔͖͚̬̬̹"
It's happening again.
The ones I love…
Marry stares in horror at the man with the dark hair…no, the Snake of Clearing Eyes—the brute—as he shoots down all of her friends, new and old, right before her eyes.
And then her vision fades to white.
Marry shoots up in bed, gasping for breath.
She flails around in the darkness, grasping for Seto, for a source of light, anything, but she doesn't find anything.
The images of her friends being brutally murdered stabs its way through her mind again. She cups her mouth, gagging. "Urk!…"
She dashes out of bed, stumbling for a moment because her legs are shorter than she's used to, and hurries towards where she vaguely remembers the washing basin being. She grabs onto it with both hands and coughs, dry-heaving into it, saliva trickling down her chin as she continues to cough and gag.
But nothing comes up, because in this body, she hasn't eaten anything in decades.
In this body, she hasn't had a chance to taste Kido's delicious cooking yet.
She hasn't joined the Mekakushi Dan yet.
She stares at her reflection in the mirror, only faintly visible in the moonlight. She's too young…
She doesn't think she's even met Seto yet, at this point.
This was years ago, years and years ago.
And she's all alone.
Her heartrate spikes as overwhelming fear grips her. Oh god, what do I do!? He's going to kill us! He's going to kill us all and there's nothing I can do! As her heart hammers violently in her heart, she abruptly remembers that the front door to her home doesn't have a lock.
An irrational fear grips her heart; a fear that the murderer will come in the door at any moment and kill her, and kill her again, and kill her repeatedly until the end of time.
She dashes to the door, dragging a chair and the table behind her, and shoves them in front of the door. Then, she runs back, and with a strength she didn't even know she had, she grabs the wardrobe and drags it over to the door, kicks the chair and table out of the way, and shoves the wardrobe in front of the door.
She flips the table onto its side, shoves it in front of the wardrobe for support, and then shoves the chair in front of it for additional support.
She gasps for breath, her heart pounding, her body covered in a cold sweat, her eyes scanning the room rapidly.
And then, another irrational fear grips her heart; a fear that the dark man will appear out of the shadows; will slink out from under the bed; from behind the bookshelf.
With a horrified cry, she grabs as many candles and lamps as she can find and lights them all, shoving them everywhere, leaving no shadow unlit, until her little cabin is almost as brightly lit as can be.
Then, she jumps into her bed and buries herself underneath the covers, shaking violently, hugging her covers tightly, the memories of what had just happened running on repeat in her mind.
I'm scared I'm scared I'm scared I'm scared I'm scared
It's another four hours before she calms down enough to start feeling drowsy.
She cries herself to sleep.
Out here in the middle of nowhere, the voice of a girl's mind is particularly loud.
Especially one from a girl that… seems to already know him by name?
He's perplexed at the presence of his name in this girl's thoughts, and a bit frightened by the overflowing spikes of fear and pain.
But the girl sounds really scared, and he can't just leave someone like that on her own.
And so he marches in the direction of the voice.
When he knocks on the door, "Don't come in!" is the half-hysterical shout he's greeted with.
"I… I won't hurt you, I promise," he says. "I was just passing by, and…"
"I know," says the girl's voice. "But please. Just leave. Just… turn around and pretend you never saw this place."
"I…" Another barrage of painful memories throw themselves at Seto, and he tries to not be distracted by the fact that some of these memories seem to include someone who looks like an older, taller version of himself? "Are you okay?" he asks. "I'm just… worried."
"No… I'm not okay," she whimpers. "Seto! What should I do!?"
"Erm… How do you know my name?" he asks. "What's going on? Do we… know each other?"
And then, Seto sees another flash of memories. Memories of him meeting the girl. Listening to music with the girl. Talking with the girl. Giving his hoodie to the girl. All things that he doesn't remember doing.
"We knew each other once," she says in a defeated tone. "We would have met, we would have become friends. But…"
Seto sees her joining the Mekakushi Dan. Becoming friends with Kano and Kido. Meeting a perky orange-haired girl with red eyes. Meeting a guy in a red jersey. Meeting a blue girl who lives inside a phone. Meeting a guy with dark hair and a… gun? The guy… oh god. The guy, killing all of them…
…and then her waking up in the far past.
"Oh, so it's like a time travel fix-it situation," he says, sighing.
"…Yes, it looks like it," she says.
(It should be noted that the two of them have read quite the number of novels between the two of them, so they're both rather familiar with the concept.)
"Do you mind if I come in?" he asks. "I mean, if you really do already know me, you should already know that I can read minds, but… I would feel better if we could talk face-to-face?…"
I wanted to see you again, Seto. I really really want to be with you again. But I shouldn't… But I want to…!
He feels his face heat up slightly from embarrassment. "Erm…"
There's a pause, and then he hears the sound of heavy furniture scraping along the floor. Then, the door opens, and out pops the face of a pretty white-haired girl. But she looks rather… in bad shape. There are dark shadows underneath her eyes, her hair is incredibly messy, and she just looks incredibly stressed out in general.
"C…come in," she says.
"Please excuse my intrusion," he murmurs, walking into the house. She shuts the door behind him.
They take a seat on her bed.
She talks at length about their experiences in the previous timeline, and how it all ended.
"The worst thing about him," she says, "is that there's no way we can stop him from getting here. He's a crafty one. Unless we can stop everyone on Earth from dying, forever, he's going to find his way into this world sooner or later." She's just completely dreading that day. She feels so hopeless and lost.
Seto hesitates for a moment, but then at Marry's subconscious urging, he lays a comforting hand on her shoulder.
"I don't want him to harm any of you," she says. "So I should just stay here. Alone. So that I don't bring harm to uninvolved people."
"But we're already involved," protests Seto. "Kano, Kido, and I already have snakes, so like it or not, we're already involved. That guy will probably go after us whether or not you become involved with us. So, wouldn't it be better for us to all stick together rather than stay apart so that we can work out a plan?"
"…" She bites her lip.
"I think we should, Marry. I think we should stick together." He tries to smile encouragingly, but all this is so overwhelming at the moment that he'll honestly need a day or two to just lie down and process it all. "We're stronger together," he says, trying to sound more firm this time.
"…Yeah," she says, leaning on him. "Yeah, I guess you're right…"
Seto sighs, patting her on the head.
She turns and hugs him. "Thank you Seto, for coming for me. I love you."
He turns bright red. "I… um… thanks." He hugs her back. "I only just met you, but based on what you told me, I think my future self… loved you too. A lot."
A memory comes to mind; a memory of his future self lunging forwards to the maniac with the gun without any hesitation, not backing away even after being shot multiple times.
She holds the hug for a long time.
"Will you come back home with me?" he asks. "So that we can make a plan together."
"Of course," she murmurs, clutching him tighter.
After that, she packs up her things into a backpack. Mainly just the important things, like her grandmother's diary, and a few other items with sentimental value.
He plops his hoodie onto her head, just like last time.
She blushes. "Oh. Thanks."
He smiles shyly. "You're welcome."
And then they're on their way.
"Nee-chan…" says Kido, sticking her head in the room where Ayano and Kano are talking about something. "Seto's back. And he brought back a girl…"
Ayano gapes in shock. Then, she turns around and rushes to the front foyer. "How on Earth…!"
There, at the entrance to the house, standing next to Seto, is a beautiful young girl of a similar age, with long white hair and pink eyes.
"Um…" she says quietly. "Hello."