Magical Juggernaut Heather Crunch versus Magical Ascetic Valentina Tenko
"Sister, she's going to wake up any minute now."
My eyes SNAP open as consciousness returns to me, and I spy a sneak straddling me with a sheepish smile, in a yellow shirt that SCANDALOUSLY reveals her navel, and grey sweatpants that accentuate her FOCUS CRUNCH FOCUS DON'T LET HER GET IN YOUR HEAD!
In her hand she is holding another syringe. I thought myself SAFE sleeping in a negligee, but I WAS GRAVELY MISTAKEN. I could almost overlook this HORRIFIC breach of trust and violation of my personal space... If this wasn't the THIRD TIME THIS WEEK!
"NAKAJIMAAAA!" I bellow at her loudly, which only makes her smile bigger, "I TOLD you to stop trying to experiment on me in my sleep!"
"I apologize," she says demurely. Well, that's more-
Wait, that's the other Nakajima, standing off to the side. "Not... Not you," I clarify. Why's she the only one dressed?
"Oh crackle," Nakajima - the first Nakajima, that is - squawks, trying to stand. "She's awake!"
No more games. I make to snatch the syringe from her hands, informing this SATANIC SIREN that "I'LL be taking THIS devil's instrument, and-"
"Kyaaaa~!" she screeches, before toppling on top of me. Of all the stupid, contrived nonsense...
I NARROWLY avoid having my eye pierced with the needle, which clatters onto the floor! "Geh... Get off of me!" I rage at her, trying to untangle myself!
Wait, how'd her hand get in there? Don't even think about- "Ohhh, that's soft and squishy~!"
"A-ah..." I coo helplessly as a jolt of electricity runs up my spine... THEN SNAP TO MY SENSES AND TENSE UP, THUNDERING, "RELEASE YOUR GRASP ON ME, YOU SINFUL SUCCUBUS, OR SO HELP ME I WILL-"
"Jaaaaade!" this VIOLENT VIXEN SHRIEKS, attempting to RESTRAIN me! "Stop taking pictures and get the syringe, I think she's serious!"
"A very nice pose," comes the voice of the other Nakajima, along with the sound of a camera shutter clicking.
"Jaaaade! Hurry, she's about to-"
"DYNAMIC EXIT!" I CRY OUT, REMOVING Nakajima from my person by BRACING against her and THROWING her off with my feet! HAH! Even when not transformed, THE CRUNCH TRAIN EJECTS UNWANTED PASSENGERS! Nakajima LAUNCHES OFF the bed, clear to the other side of the room, and hits the wall!
"Owww!" the girl groans, stumbling forward. I see what you're planning, Nakajima, and I will THWART it! For as soon as she's stumbled over to where the syringe is, I am already LEAPING out of bed and DESCENDING UPON HER LIKE THE FIST OF GOD! She only has a moment to pick it up and call out "Got it!" before THE CRUNCH TRAIN RUNS HER OVER AND PINS HER DOWN!
Prying it out of her hand, I declare triumphantly, "your nefarious needle is MINE now!"
"Hey, give that back!" Nakajima calls out beneath me, unable to pry me off. "That solution's really hard to replace!" she adds, trying AGAIN to grab my chest, but I RESTRAIN her arm while keeping the nefarious instrument out of her reach.
"I'M going to hold on to this," I declare, to the BOTH of them. "You can have it back when I am GONE."
"Give it back!" Nakajima pleads. "Pleeeeease!" She's frowning heavily, but I will NOT be moved as I am going to focus on the OTHER Nakajima instead!
"We would appreciate it if you returned that to us, Miss Crunch," other Nakajima says politely.
I shake my head, for I have made up my mind! "NO!"
"Pretty please with a cherry on top?" says Nakajima hopefully. I turn to look - DAMMIT SHE'S MAKING PUPPY-DOG EYES AT ME! Will failing... resolve crumbling... GAH! This soft-heartedness of mine is going to come back to haunt me someday. I just know it!
"If you promise to stop trying to conduct SCIENCE on me in my sleep," I say slowly, "THEN I'll give it back. Deal?"
Nakajima pleads pleadingly, "can we run more tests on you while you're awake, then?"
"What?" I ask incredulously, keeping the wiggling woman held down. "Why would I EVER allow that?" What are they thinking?
"To test your physical limits beyond what we have already tried," explains other Nakajima.
"Aren't you just the teensiest bit curious?" inquires Nakajima. Her lower lip is trembling. Confound her, she raises a good point.
"Nnngh... No funny business?" I ask.
"We're not gonna kill you or make you wish you'd died, Crunchy," reassures Amber, who THEN adds, "unless something goes wrong, but what are the chances of that?"
"Remarkably low if we are not trying," says other Nakajima, having moved adjacent to me. FORTUNATELY, the implement we are bargaining for is out of BOTH their reaches.
"I'll agree," I concede... BUT I state my terms, saying, "that is, IF you swear that you will not conduct experiments on me while I sleep, and will NOT use this opportunity for EVIL!" My grip tightens as I bellow "SWEAR ON IT!"
Amber calls out, "aww, butterpoop!"
"Just kidding," Amber says with a grin, holding up her hand, pinky extended. "Pinky swear!"
"PINKY SWEAR!" I yell out, RELEASING my grasp on her to wrap my pinky around hers.
"Pinky swear," murmurs the other Nakajima, linking her pinky around ours. We hold it for a moment, and... I hand the other Nakajima the syringe. Amber cheers.
"Alright then!" I say, my mood considerably improved, "are you preparing breakfast again?"
"Yah huh!" Amber chirps, nodding her head, "Jade and I are invincible when we're together!"
"Unstoppable culinary machines," affirms other Nakajima, the syringe already gone.
"I would like that!" I reply with a smile, then order, "SNAP TO IT, THEN!"
"Umm... Could you get off of me, first?" asks Amber, face slightly red. What is-
"GYAH!" I CRY OUT AS I LEAP OFF THE SINISTER SEDUCTRESS AS QUICKLY AS I CAN, THOROUGHLY DISGUSTED, AND POINTEDLY IGNORING THE THOUGHTS SAYING TO STAY ON HER! Nakajima GIGGLES at this! NOT FUNNY!
"DIABOLICAL DEMONIC DELILAHS, THE BOTH OF YOU!" I scream at the Nakajimas. Amber just titters and Jade looks at me impassively. The impact is probably lost after being said through a mouthful of food.
Swallowing, I clarify, saying, "Having said that, you are EXCELLENT cooks!" Before coming here, it'd been AGES since I'd had an American-style spread. A plate of crispy bacon and steaming scrambled eggs over here. A plate of golden waffles DROWNING in syrup and butter over there. Before me, PUMPKIN MUFFINS AND HASH BROWNS! I click my chopsticks together and hold up another slice of bacon, then start to DEVOUR THE GOODNESS.
Nakajima bows her head, and starts murmuring, "gosh, and here I was hoping you'd say I'd make a great wife someday."
I nearly spit out my meal. Was she attempting to make me choke to death? I'M ON TO YOU, NAKAJIMAAAAAAAAA!
"Aww, Crunchy's cute when she's blushing~!" she teases, my face growing hotter. I... Just... Argh!
Other Nakajima interjects, "you said she was cute all the time." G-grr... Stop fanning the flames, you duplicitous-
"What? Jade, I did not!" a pink-faced Nakajima cries in outrage.
"Did so," claims other Nakajima, holding up her phone and proclaiming, "I have proof."
Nakajima is pointedly unable to look at my glorious, if flustered, visage, stammering, "Well don't tell her that!"
"Too late," says other Nakajima, holding the incriminating item just out of reach of her sibling. I feel a powerful urge to avert my head...
Swallowing, I croak, "nuh... Nuh... New subject!" Recapturing their attention, I ask, "When did you STOP poisoning my food?"
A serious atmosphere chokes the cheer out of the room. Both of them look equally shocked. "Uh oh," Nakajima groans, "you noticed?"
"I'm NOT stupid enough to miss it," I inform her, pointing my chopsticks at her. "Now ANSWER MY QUESTION!"
Other Nakajima bows at me, stating, "We have been trying since the beginning, and only stopped today. My apologies."
"Yeah, yeah, sorry," Nakajima says insincerely. Her curiosity overwhelms her tact, and she presses, "say, you haven't been feeling nauseous or sleepy or anything?"
Puffing my chest out, I proudly declare, "Not in the SLIGHTEST!"
"Be serious," Nakajima says without ANY trace of amusement, "this is important science stuff."
Setting down my chopsticks, I inform them, "I have NOT felt any such -weakness- after consuming these meals."
The two of them stare at me for about a minute. They see only the BLINDING truth, as other Nakajima states, "invincible body."
I grin at them, the seriousness SHATTERED, and shout, "INVINCIBLE!"
"Yaaaay!" Nakajima cheers while hugging her sister. "We're off the hook!"
"No you're not!" I interrupt, startling them both. "Between THIS and allowing you to continue your experiments, YOU OWE ME." With how they're staring at the ground, it's CLEAR that they understand this. FINALLY, I have the upper hand!
Satisfied, I take a swig of milk before I pick my chopsticks back up, and RESUME my consumption.
Mmm, these eggs are nice and fluffy. Taste like VICTORY.
"Sooo," Nakajima says nervously, "what happened with the flower lady?"
Pointing my utensils at the Nakajimas, I inform the both of them, "she REFUSES to see me after the INFERNO CONSUMED her flower fields!" It wasn't supposed to rage out of control like that.
"But on the plus side, no more wasp's nest!" Nakajima volunteers.
"No more anything," other Nakajima drones.
"In any case," I continue after finishing a muffin, "I -must- meet with the Spiritual Liege once more, and find out WHAT is on the itinerary for today."
"And we'll tag along out of sight, right Jade?" Nakajima says excitedly, turning to her sister.
"Completely silent," other Nakajima confirms.
"SEE TO IT THAT YOU DO!" I roar, transforming into my costume at long last, "For I have ANSWERS to find!"
Both of them nod in response. Nakajima fist-bumps her sister and calls out, "Nakajima twin powers, gooo!"
"Aiyaaaaah!" screeches the Spiritual Liege of the Seventh, who looks quite cross. "Crunch why you come back?"
Bowing slightly, I answer her, "SPIRITUAL LIEGE! I am here for the remainder of the month, as I seek-"
"You set back Plum Blossom anger management two years!" she interrupts. STOP DOING THAT, IT'S RUDE!
"That was not my intention," I answer her plainly. It wasn't supposed to get out of control like that.
"You not even sorry!" she seethes, MENACING me with that... paper on a stick thing. "Xiaomei make you sorry!"
Thumping my chest with my fist, I PROUDLY declare, "even so, I ERRRADICATED the wasp's nest, AS I WAS INSTRUCTED TO-"
"Xiaomei not care!" she interrupts AGAIN, pointing now towards the western hallway. "You train with other noisy Rank Leader!"
"You dismissed!" the Spiritual Liege says with finality, turning her back on me. It seems there is simply NO REASONING with her.
...I WORRY for the state of this Officio with such a person in charge.
I take my leave and STRIDE down the indicated hall. The place is only MODESTLY furnished, with PLANTS and PICTURES and PICTURES OF PLANTS lining it, aside from the various closed doors. The hall is DEATHLY quiet, aside from the clacking of my steps on the wooden floor.
And the various sounds the Nakajimas are making as they follow me. Sounds such as jumping and LOUDLY somersaulting, things that are COMPLETELY out of place when trying to be quiet and sneak around. Even I know that much, as the Big Boss INSISTED I learn about how to move stealthily. While it hasn't seen use, it allows me to know, WITHOUT EVEN LOOKING, that they are doing it WRONG!
"Hey Crunchy! We're being ninjas!"
...Do NOT look, Crunch. It's simply NOT worth it.
The only door open is a sliding door at the end of the hall. I make to move through it, and look around-
Wait, my Crunch senses are tingling! DANGER IS NEAR!
There's movement to the left of me. I turn to face it just as a BURNING SWORD BEARS DOWN UPON ME!
"BARE-HANDED BLADE BLOCK!" I CALL OUT, THROWING UP MY HANDS AND CATCHING THE SHARP EDGE BEFORE IT CAN REACH ME!
"And so comes the Truth-Seeker," speaks the wielder, a girl with long blue hair, "who holds the sun upon her back!"
"What is the MEANING of this?" I demand, holding the searing hot blade between my hands and forcing it back! "And what is the MEANING of that thing you said? WHO ARE YOU?"
My assailant WISELY sheathes her blade after that. "I am the lone island in a sea of tranquil fury!" she answers.
"I am the whispering winds and the babbling brooks, intermingling and shifting!" she elaborates. I don't get what she's talking about.
"No, your NAME!" I angrily demand of her. "What is your NAME?"
Putting her hands on her hips and staring straight ahead, the person says, "My name is Valentina Tenko! The Eversor Soul Temperer of this most sacred of places!"
"Is that like a Rank Leader?" I ask of this confusing person.
After relaxing her posture, she turns to look at me and COMPLETELY IGNORES MY QUESTION! "Are you the one known as Heather Crunch?"
Aha! "I am indeed!" I respond. "So YOU are the one I was supposed to find."
"Indeed I am!" Tenko replies, and asks of me, "but have you found yourself?"
I frown in confusion. "I'm... I'm right here, aren't I?" I ask. I'm me, right? I pull at the fabric of my jacket to see that, yes, I'm almost certainly myself and not another person.
Tenko throws her arms wide and turns away from me, declaring, "And yet you are nowhere at all!"
"No," I try to explain to her, "I'm right-"
She looks over her shoulder, looking very pleased with herself when she assures me, "I see now that you have much to learn, Seeker of Enlightenment!"
Between this, the Spiritual Liege, and the Nakajimas, my patience is NEARLY AT ITS END! "I KNOW that!" I SHOUT, GESTICULATING WILDLY. "THAT is why I'm here!"
"You only know of battles without!" Tenko scoffs, "but what of your battles within?"
"You're not making any SENSE!" I SCREAM!
She's not even looking at me! She's looking outside! "The zealous fires that race across the sky draw closer to the horizon!" she proclaims, spinning around and drawing her blade from its sheath in a burst of flame. "Come, Seeker of Wisdom, show me your heart!" What is she-
I can't help but smile at this. "HAH! I know what -that- means!" I say with COMPLETE CERTAINTY! IMPOSING my will into physical form, my Eversword manifests in my hands! Both of us take our stances, and it's Tenko that makes the first move! My trusty blade repels a fiery slash, but Tenko simply uses the momentum to make ANOTHER swing! I am unguarded, but not defenseless, as my UNBREAKABLE body takes the attack, and that ones that follow, in stride!
...Well, it hurts a bit. Quite a bit, really. I forgot how hard Rank Leaders hit.
Tenko follows up with a FIERCE upward kick. I am sent FLYING and reeling from pain as she LEAPS after me! I am COMPLETELY HELPLESS!
HAH! LIKE THAT'D HAPPEN!
I WILL heaviness into my blade, and I PLUMMET to the ground before she can reach me. Tenko knows what's coming next, but her evasive maneuvers are NOT fast enough to stop the Crunch Train!
"COUNTER SWING!" I bellow, whipping my sword back and SLASHING into the airborne figure! Even though she blocks some of it, she CRASHES into the far wall!
I thought it would break, being wood, but it did not. Curious. But not important! As she points her weapon at me, a CONE OF FLAME ENGULFS ME! The searing heat is even MORE intense than that of Nakajima's energy katana, and is QUITE PAINFUL! It is even singeing my costume away!
BUT HEATHER CRUNCH BURNS HOTTER!
CHARGING THROUGH THE INFERNO, I slash at her AGAIN! Even though Tenko is able to parry my blow, I FORCE her back with the sheer weight of it, and she seems to be in WORSE shape than I! I can tell she's holding back - we both are, but I don't know how much stronger she can get.
"Your fighting is like a raging typhoon!" she commends me, panting slightly. "And yet, it lacks something!"
Holding up my sword, I ask of her, "What does it lack? What is the answer that I seek?"
Smiling at me, Tenko stands up and dusts herself off, before slipping her weapon back into its sheath. The temperature of the room quickly drops. She points at me and exclaims, "You are as the monkey with the key to the plantation!"
Huh? "Did you just call me a monkey?" I ask indignantly, bringing my sword back up.
"You lack discipline!" she clarifies. Which... Doesn't clarify anything.
"Discipline?" I ask yet again, letting my Eversword disappear.
"You rely too much on the strength of your soul gem, rather than the strength of your soul itself!" she proclaims, pointing outside. "Have you ever seen the sunset through your true eyes?"
"I don't understand what you're saying."
Tenko faces me once more, a self-satisfied look on her face. "Have you heard the world laugh without invoking your magic?" she inquires.
"...Does hearing Nakajima's giggling while dressed for bed count?" I ask warily in return.
She shakes her head. "I'm afraid not," she says, advancing upon me. "You shine as brightly as any pearl, but beneath that luster you are still merely a grain of sand."
She's standing uncomfortably close right now. Why is everyone here so STRANGE? "Could you just explain to me what to do here?" I query.
"Shed that garish luster, Seeker of Justice!" she retorts, clenching her fists. "Bare your true self to me, as the grain of sand it always was!"
I let her words sink in for a moment, then asks, just to make sure, "You mean transform back into a normal girl instead of a magical girl?"
Tenko confirms this with a nod.
I only do that at bedtime, though. Which means... "I'm not comfortable running around in a nightie, or just my undergarments," I tell her, hoping she picks up on my discomfort.
"Then bare your soul to the world without the threads of fate binding you down!" she yells, tugging at my clothes.
"What? NO!" I yell, pushing her back!
"Is the baby bird afraid to leave the comfort of its shell?" Tenko taunts. What is WITH these people?
"I said NO!" I screech at her!
"Then I shall be your wings, Truth-Seeker!" Tenko exclaims, and- Oh no, she's actually starting to undress. "Gaze upon my brilliant innocence and feel no shame!"
Shameless is right! "JUST, JUST GET ME SOME NORMAL CLOTHES!" I yell!
"Very well, Truth-Seeker!" she proclaims, clearly disappointed. Ugh! If she weren't my equal in battle, I would have NO respect for her right now!
"Here you are!" Tenko exclaims after pulling something out of her inventory. "A new shell for the hermit crab!"
I catch what she tosses to me and grunt at her in acknowledgement. She has given a black sleeveless athletic shirt and a pair of long pants with a jungle camouflage print, that flare slightly at the hips. They feel comfortable in my hands, and look stretchy enough to fit.
Both of them are wrinkly, and smell faintly of peaches, but seem to be the right measurements. And she just had these clothes in her inventory, when she -clearly- lacks the endowments for them. Disturbing.
"Make haste, Truth-Seeker!" the increasingly bothersome person urges. Sighing heavily, I transform out of my costume, and back into my nightgown. I pull it over my head, careful not to tear it, and-
"Nice!" calls the annoying voice of Nakajima, followed by a VERY tasteless wolf whistle. I freeze like a deer in the headlights, my back to the entrance.
"Please just stare quietly, sister," other Nakajima murmurs over the sound of her camera's shutter. "You are making a scene."
Ignore them. Just ignore the perverts, Crunch.
"Crunchyyy, come on!" pesters Nakajima, prodding at the back of my head.
"Sister," other Nakajima murmurs, "Miss Tenko said Miss Crunch was to meditate under the waterfall until sunset." Which is what I've been doing for the last... I'm not sure how much time has passed. I've had my eyes closed since Tenko left.
The freezing water pounds on my head and shoulders relentlessly. I'm actually starting to shiver. But thus far, I've been able to put that out of mind. I've come close to achieving some sort of inner peace.
And then these two show up.
"She said a bunch of baloney!" Nakajima insists. I believe it's her that is grabbing me from behind. "Now help me pick her up!"
"What if she fights back?" retorts other Nakajima.
I'm let go of, and then something is planted against the small of my back. "Plan B, then!" And then, in as many days, I am pushed into the dirt and mud! Wiping the muck from my eyes, I make to turn and glare at my oppressor, but there's something more interesting ahead.
Half a dozen identical copies of other Nakajima stand at the ready, eyes staring dully ahead. As one, their heads turn to face me with a loud clicking sound. Looking closer, their skin has a metallic finish, just like...
ACTUAL FIGHTING ROBOTS! OH MY GOD!
"At last!" bellows Nakajima as she takes up position behind the assembled FIGHTING ROBOTS! "I, Amber Nakajima, have the great and mighty Heather Crunch at my mercy! Now, bear witness to the power of SCIENCE!"
Pointing at me, Amber gives the order to her henchmaids! "Go, my minions!" she cries out. "Bring her to meeeee!" Over the sound of machinery moving, her evil laughter ECHOES where there should be none!
I may have to explain myself to the Soul Temperer later... But FIGHTING ROBOTS!
"BRING IT ON, NAKAJIMAAAAAAA!" I ROAR AT HER!
"Yes?" a voice demurely queries behind me. I spin around and see other Nakajima doing the waterfall meditation I had taken up until moments before.
"N-no, the other- NEVER MIND!"