"Well," Nokoru said, as he finished reading the scroll that had just been delivered to him. He glanced up at the seven Seals and their companions, who had gathered around him in one of the sitting rooms of the Imonoyama mansion. "I have some good news and some bad news....
"The good news is that an outside force has intervened in the battle for the end of the world. This force wishes the Earth's future to be decided without undue violence, and is offering the Dragons of Earth and ourselves an alternative solution."
"Yeah?" Sorata said. "Hey, that's great! So, what's the bad news?"
Nokoru glanced down at the scroll again, and despite the seriousness of their situation he couldn't resist a very small smile.
"How many of you have ever seen the 'Rocky Horror Picture Show'?" he asked.
* * * * *
Kanoe tapped one long, blood-red nail against her cheek as she considered the missive. "I like it," she murmured at last, turning a slow, amused gaze toward the Dragons of Earth that surrounded her. "It has possibilities.... What do the rest of you think?"
The "Kamui" of the Dragons of Earth smiled back at her, as he tossed one of the scripts Satsuki had downloaded and printed out for them (complete with full notes on the audience participation dialogue) onto a nearby table. "I already know who I want to play," he replied with a soft laugh. Yuuto was nodding to himself as he turned pages, and and across from him Kusanagi was for some reason looking strangely relieved.
"There's one problem, though," Satsuki said. Only she was not holding a script; she had simply had Beast load the text directly into her neural system. Much quicker and more practical than reading. "There's ten main characters, plus the extras in the wedding and 'Time-Warp' group scenes. Since one of the rules is that only people involved in the end of the world can be cast, and since we've only got eight people on our side--including you, Kanoe-sama--we'll be short on cast members."
"And I," Kakyou added softly, from where he reclined curled up in the depths of a large, shadowy chair, "do not think I'll be able to take on a role. I simply haven't got the physical stamina to make it through the performance. But," he went on with a very slight smile, "I *have* thought of another way in which I can participate...one more suited to my abilities and nature."
"Great," Satsuki said, "but that leaves us even more short-handed. I don't see how we can win on those terms."
The Sakurazukamori began to chuckle quietly. As Satsuki turned a sharp gaze on him, he grinned at her and answered, "Why, Satsuki-kun--it's not a problem at all. It merely makes the situation more...interesting. It's a worthy challenge." He grinned more broadly, a gleam in one golden-brown eye. "Just leave that part of it to me...."
"Then it seems that we're in," Kanoe decided, her lashes veiling her eyes briefly as she looked down once more at the scroll in her hands, then glanced up again at the one member of their group who had not responded. "Nataku-chan, you haven't said anything yet."
The bioroid raised its head from the page that it was reading, a vaguely puzzled expression troubling its beautiful face. "Kanoe-sama, I don't think I understand this...what is a 'slut'?"
The Sakurazukamori began to laugh again, and Nataku looked even more confused.
* * * * *
Altogether elsewhere, a small, ovoid, and vaguely rabbit-like creature squatted on its haunches, to ponder what had just been wrought. It flicked an ear suddenly, and then grinned, its pointed teeth gleaming by the light of the moon.
The creature had just seen the future.
And it was good....
And It's the End of the World!
Presenting the Rocky Horror Picture Show,
as performed by the cast of X
Part 1: "Any Virgins in This Theater?"
By Natalie Baan
Kamui glared at the page in front of him. It was stupid. The whole *idea* was stupid. He didn't like it, he didn't want to have anything to do with it...but it just might mean that they could protect the Earth without having to fight and kill the other side.
He had to protect the Earth. He'd chosen his side for reasons that had been important to him, once.
And he didn't want to hurt Fuuma...because Fuuma had been one of those reasons, even if afterward he had done those terrible things.
If this plan would let Kamui achieve those two objectives, then he might be able to go along with it after all.
Kamui glowered at the neat lines of the script. He really hated having to memorize things. Settling himself more comfortably on the window seat, he turned to the next page.
"Kamuiiii...." That was Sorata inching up behind him, a wheedling tone in the young monk's voice, the wooden floor creaking softly under his feet.
"*No,*" Kamui said, not even bothering to look up.
"That's not fair!" Sorata protested. "You didn't even wait for me to ask you!"
"I already know what you want," Kamui told him. "You want to ask me if you can be 'Brad.' And the answer's no."
"No. Go *away,* Sorata."
"Kamui-kun, are you being mad at Sora-chan again?" Yuzuriha's voice chirped as she came upon the two of them. Kamui kept his head buried in the script as he replied, trying to look irritable and busy, both of which he was.
"I'm not mad, but Sorata's after me to trade parts and I'm just not interested." He jerked a thumb over his shoulder at the monk. "Anyway, he only wants to be Brad so he can be paired up with Arashi-san."
"Err...," Sorata muttered, "...well...yeah."
"Daisuke-kun wanted to be Brad too," Yuzuriha said cheerfully, "but he gave up on it when Aoki-san got the idea to use baby photos of him for the casebook. He thought it would be too embarrassing. So now he's just a bit part."
<Serves him right,> Kamui thought, with just a little bit of smugness. <Jerk....> Out loud he said, "Well, I don't care what part I play, but I've already learned most of this one so I'm not changing now. You missed your chance, Sorata."
"Sora-chan, you make a great Eddie anyway," Yuzuriha told the monk as he sighed in dejection. "Really, you do! You're much better for Eddie's part...after all, you're just not uptight enough to be Brad!" She looked at Kamui, and instantly grew a set of panicky kitty ears and a tail. "Ummm...."
Kamui wondered whether, if he stuck the script over his face like a mask and walked around that way, people would get the hint and just leave him alone.
"Ummm.... What do you think of my costume?" Yuzuriha asked desperately, trying to change the subject. She held up the halter top that she'd been working on. It was mostly done, with neat lines of sequins sewn over nearly three quarters of the fabric. The needle dangled crazily at the end of its thread, swinging back and forth as Yuzuriha displayed her work.
"Hey, that looks really cool!" Sorata exclaimed, his sorrows forgotten for the moment.
"Thanks! I did it all by myself," Yuzuriha beamed. "Well...Inuki helped."
Kamui stared at the sewing and wondered if he were going crazy.
He could have sworn he'd just heard the needle bark.
* * * * *
Subaru leaned back against the cushions he'd piled up at the head of his bed. He rested the book he'd been reading in his lap, marking his place with a finger. Absently he listened to the sounds of voices drifting up from the window below his own. He could distinguish the three speakers, but could not quite hear what they were talking about, although he was certain he could guess.
Somehow it just seemed so...pointless. To fight for so long, to suffer so much...and then the fate of the world was decided on a sort of play. But then, maybe that very meaninglessness was appropriate, he thought. It rather fit the way his whole life had been so far.
It was all just a game, arbitrary and empty.
There was only one thing that was important....
So he supposed it was not surprising that he had been unable to bring himself to join in the preparations wholeheartedly. Oh, he had tried, he had let them assign him first to this part and then that one, had waited patiently as they struggled to find an appropriate role for him to play, but no matter what they tried, nothing seemed to click.
And he would *not* sing.
In the end, that was what had defeated the casting committee. They had assigned him a marginal role in the opening sequence, he had dutifully mastered the "Time Warp" for the party scene, and that had been that. Then after a couple of rehearsals Nokoru, who as one of the few people who had previously seen the film was Chairman of the casting committee, had come to him and very gently suggested that it would be all right if he withdrew.
/I can see that this is hard on you,/ Nokoru had said. /Please don't feel an obligation to perform. We've got plenty of people on our side, and if you don't want to be part of the show that's certainly all right...I'm sure that we can find something else for you to do./
He had no wish to abandon his responsibilities. On the other hand, if his obvious lack of enthusiasm was going to hurt his side, maybe it was right for him to withdraw. Maybe he could do his part to save the world by doing absolutely nothing.
That would be appropriate too.
Outside the sky was a crystalline blue, and all the trees were in the last, lovely days of their blooming. He could see their flower-laden branches stirring slightly in the soft breeze that also fanned the curtains at his windows. The voices downstairs had fallen still, and in that silence a single bird sent its silvery call swirling up into the gently moving air....
Spring was just so damned depressing, Subaru thought.
And as the breeze crept in through the open window to touch his face and ruffle his dark hair, Subaru closed his eyes in what started out as a perfectly ordinary attack of melancholy, but gradually it became an unexpected doze, and then finally the complete oblivion of sleep.
As he slept, one cherry blossom petal slipped in on the silent wind, and settled onto the open book. Just then Subaru's hand slipped limply to his side, releasing the book's cover. The book flipped shut, squashing the sakura petal flat.
<So much for atmostphere,> Seishirou thought to himself. <Oh, well....>
The Sakurazukamori grinned.
* * * * *
Sorata looked around the "backstage" area, making sure that stuff was ready for the start of the show. Of course, there wasn't really a stage for them to be in back of--the "sets" for this production were spaces carved out of the Dreaming, and the places where the separate casts waited for their scenes were other Dreamspaces that connected to the "onscreen" areas in ways he didn't really understand. It seemed there was a kind of labyrinth of invisible pathways and flywalks twining in between those spaces and the "green room" where he was standing. From those passageways one could see into the active sets, but couldn't be seen (or heard, unless one shouted), and apparently you only had to step through the walls to appear where you were supposed to be. It was an amazing job of coordination. They'd all been reassured that it would work seamlessly, that the actors would arrive at their marks without any error, but he wasn't totally sure he trusted it.
Especially not when the set and lighting designer was one of the Dragons of Earth.
He sighed. As stage manager for the Dragons of Heaven of course he had complained, but it looked like they were stuck with the situation. The judges had run it by the sponsor of the competition, and the word had come back that the offer was perfectly acceptable. After all, the younger judge had explained apologetically, according to the Rules the Dragons of Earth would get penalized for any "break" in character or continuity by any member of their side. So the Dreamer couldn't spoil any of the Dragons of Heaven's scenes without hurting his own team: he'd be forced to keep the sets equal for both groups, and matched as closely as possible to the original film. It was interesting that the Dreamer had picked a role which made him pretty much neutral, Sorata thought. He wondered what that meant, if anything.
Anyway, there was nothing they could do. There wasn't anything in the Rules against it, the younger judge told him, and the sponsor had thought it was a satisfactory solution.
"I believe the exact words were, 'It's cool! We're doing it,'" the older judge had added, wryly.
A fanfare blared out, drawing his attention to "center stage" where the words "Twentieth Century Fox" had appeared, hovering in the Dreamscape. There was a burst of activity in the Dragons of Heaven's "green room" as the players hastened out in preparation for the churchyard scene. Sorata grabbed a stick or two of Pocky to sustain himself, and then hurried into the "wings" behind everybody else. He stationed himself in a passage next to the opening scene, ready to deliver moral support and as many audience participation lines as possible. He wasn't in any scenes but the ones where Eddie appeared, and since there weren't many of those (since after all Eddie died off kind of quickly) he'd been happy to volunteer for the role of stage manager as well. All the better for keeping an eye on his Arashi...especially during the "kiss scene" with Kamui.
That Kamui...and the way he had with young misses....
If Kamui didn't keep that kiss extremely chaste, Sorata was going to be very upset.
He took one last look around at everyone, then pressed his palms together and said a quick prayer for luck. That done, he waved to catch their attention, and then raised his hands in twin "victory" signs. Everything was in readiness; everyone was at their mark.
The battle for the End of the World was about to begin.
[ Long long ago in a galaxy far, far away, God said--
'Let there be lips!'
And there *were* lips.
And they were Kanoe's lips.... ]
As darkness fell over the "sets," broken only by the enormous projection of a pair of brilliantly red floating lips and the first instrumental notes of the opening song, Nokoru ran briefly over the Rules once more in his mind. Each side was supposed to field a complete cast consisting only of persons involved with the End of the World. They would be judged on the appropriateness of the casting, as well as on the actors' performances and their fidelity to the spirit of the original. Breaking character was acceptable only so long as it suited that spirit; joining in the audience participation was acceptable, for example, but speaking of non-Rocky subjects or interfering with the performance of their opposites was not, and doing actual harm to any member of the other side was grounds for immediate forfeit. The Rules were explicit on that point--which was an *extremely* good thing, as the two casts would be using shared sets for at least part of the production. Had that Rule not existed, Nokoru was absolutely certain that there would have been bloodshed.
And of course, the primary Rule was that it should be "fun." Nokoru wasn't sure that the decision of the fate of the human world really ought to be "fun," but he was rather glad it had turned out that way. It certainly beat the alternatives....
As he moved into position he glanced vaguely heavenward, toward the "loft" where the judges were sitting. There were two of them, one nominally for the Dragons of Earth, and one nominally for the Dragons of Heaven, but both pledged to be unbiased in this matter. It was they who would be awarding points and deciding on infractions of the Rules; although the stage managers had the option of appealing to the Sponsor, it was not recommended that such be done too often. It annoyed the Sponsor, and disturbing the Sponsor's enjoyment of the affair was probably not a good idea. The victory would be awarded on the basis of the judges' points and on the reactions of the audience--and there was indeed an audience to this performance, although they were not physically present: somehow, a particular collection of people had had their consciousnesses drawn into the Dreaming at this point, so that although their bodies were nowhere near each other's their minds and senses were united in a single consensual hallucination, a shared world of words and mental images that linked them across the darkness....
Nokoru smiled. Actually, he thought, it was rather like the Internet.
As "Science Fiction Double Feature" wound toward a close, he looked over at the rest of cast. He felt honored that he and his friends could have such a role in this, even though they really were only ordinary persons.... Not far away Kamui was muttering to himself, going over his lines one more time, his eyes intense with concentration behind a ridiculous looking pair of glasses. Behind him Arashi, wearing a appropriate blond wig and hat with far more dignity than they warranted, smoothed down the hem of her lavender skirt. It was too bad that the Sumeragi had had to drop out, Nokoru thought...oh well. With any luck, he was happier not being part of this.
[ Crucify the lips! ] the audience shrieked delightedly.
And they were on.
* * * * *
As the wedding photo broke up, Daisuke pushed his way through the crush of people, hauling Kamui firmly along with him by the elbow. He ignored the glare that Kamui was giving him, as he nudged the "photographer" (Aoki-san in an ugly wig and wire-rimmed glasses that he was squinting myopically through; Daisuke tried not to look at him too closely, for fear of being embarrassed) over to one side. Aoki-san beamed at them, and then ducked out of the way and hurried offstage, to get ready for his main role.
As they finally made a clear spot for themselves in the crowd, Kamui jerked his arm out of Daisuke's grasp--not dramatically enough to be out of character, but clearly with deliberate intent. Nonetheless Daisuke chose to ignore that provocation also. He, at least, would play his part in this meticulously, even if he was only a regular human being and not one of the Seven Seals. He certainly would take this with the proper seriousness; he would not let his temper get the better of him.
Even if Kamui was patently unsuited for the role he was playing, and made little attempt to hide that--or to hide the disdain he felt for the whole affair. Even if Kamui didn't appreciate the central role that he'd been given in the fight for the world's future.
Not even if there was rice down Daisuke's shirt...which indeed, there was.
Where the hell had all that rice *come* from, anyway?
"Well, I guess we really did it, huh?" he said determinedly, wearing a fixed grin.
[ I smell a fight! Hit him!]
Kamui obligingly socked Daisuke in the arm with a great deal more force than was strictly necessary. Daisuke gritted his teeth, smiled, and punched back, nowhere near as hard as he ought to have.
"I don't think there's any doubt about that," Kamui said with malicious sweetness, the gleam of purely wicked amusement in his eyes half-hidden by those ludicrous glasses. The smile he was wearing had absolutely nothing to do with the character of "Brad," Daisuke noted, and only hoped that the judges were far enough away not to notice. If only Kamui had been on the other side, so Daisuke could root against him in matters such as that...and really, the way Kamui behaved, it sometimes seemed as if he ought to be.
It would certainly make loathing him a whole lot more satisfactory.
As Kamui went on with his lines, Daisuke glanced out of the corner of his eye toward the church's second door and the duplicate scene that going on there. He felt a shudder go through him at the thought of their enemies so near at hand. He didn't see the "Kamui" of the Dragons of Earth, but he recognized the tall figure of the Sakurazukamori, who in glasses and wedding suit was playing the part opposite to the Seals' Kamui...it was odd, but somehow he seemed to fit the role of Brad quite well. Much better than Kamui did, in fact. There also seemed to be an inordinate number of black-clad men with sunglasses in the "wedding party," which was peculiar as well. Daisuke frowned and then shrugged, but only inwardly.
"Well, looks like Betty's going to throw her bouquet," he remarked instead, drawing his attention back to his own cast as Yuzuriha wound up in order to pitch the flowers to Arashi. Then he glanced warily over at the Angels once more.
"This is it!" the female Angel playing the bride called out, in near-perfect unison with Yuzuriha. Two bouquets flew through the air. Arashi caught hers neatly, jumped with precisely feigned "joy" and delivered her lines, while on the other side--
"I got it! I got it!" Sumeragi Subaru exclaimed delightedly, bouncing up and down and clutching the bride's bouquet in one hand.
Daisuke's jaw hit the metaphorical floor.
He recovered quickly, and seized Kamui by the arm again before the Seal could go charging over there and do something foolish. His entire side had gone stock still in horror, and they were going to lose if something wasn't done. <Of course, that's the whole idea--they want us to break character!> he thought. <And if we fight them to save the Sumeragi, then they surely win....>
They could not afford to do that, he realized sadly. They would just have to sacrifice the Sumeragi for the sake of the world.
"Hey, big fella," Daisuke said through clenched teeth, "looks like it could be *your turn next.*" He dug his fingers fiercely into Kamui's arm and gave him a little shake. Kamui turned on him angrily, and then, as they glared at each other, the light slowly appeared to dawn. Kamui swallowed, dropped his gaze, and muttered in reply, "Who...who knows?"
The other players on their side were picking up their roles again swiftly. It had been only a brief slip; perhaps it wouldn't look so bad.
"Well...so long," Daisuke said, giving Kamui a final warning shake before releasing him and going to join Yuzuriha in the car. He hoped that Kamui would be able to keep control of himself now; the rest of the scene was primarily Brad and Janet, and they would be depending upon him. As for Daisuke himself, he suddenly discovered that he had something else to worry about right at that very moment.
He'd never driven a car before in his life.
Sliding onto the seat, he clutched the steering wheel tightly with both hands and stared at the controls. If he was correct, that pedal on the right was the gas pedal. He stepped on it, and then, when nothing happened, pressed harder, pushing it all the way to the floor.
"You're in 'Park'!" Yuzuriha whispered urgently in his ear. She grabbed one of the levers on the dashboard and jerked it suddenly down. The car's tires squealed, and it threw up a huge plume of dust as it bolted forward out of the churchyard.
* * * * *
Kamui blinked once, briefly, as the car plunged through the Dreamscape wall and vanished with a bizarre rippling effect. Then he turned his attention quickly back to his scene. He'd better keep his mind on what he was doing, hard as it was when the Sakurazukamori was strolling down the far side of the cemetary and hamming up every line he delivered to the maximum extent possible, with Subaru trailing along behind him wearing--God help him--a lavender skirt and jacket and a silly little hat, and carrying his bride's bouquet of flowers. It was horrible not to be able to do anything to help him...it was almost more than Kamui could bear.
And it could have been him, he thought suddenly. Even on his own side, it was very possible that someone might have tried to stick *him* into a skirt, considering what this play was like in general.
"Tried" being the operative word, of course.
But at least he had a male part, one that wasn't too weird, and the suit he was wearing was kind of geeky but not so bad. He wasn't sure what he was going to be put into once the wedding scene was done--he hadn't really paid much attention to the costuming side of things. Yuzu-chan and the Clamp Campus people had done most of the planning for that, and Karen had been helping them.
He couldn't imagine what kind of clothes Karen might have been making....
As they walked through the graveyard and past the billboard, he still kept half an eye on what the other two were doing. He didn't trust the Sakurazukamori not to do something totally evil to poor Subaru.
"Yes, Sei- uh, Brad?"
"I've got something to say...."
[Say anything you want, but don't sing that stupid song!]
The Sakurazukamori's lips twitched in a smirk that was barely repressed into a smile. "I really love the...
[Sk-...sk-...sk-... --Look at her tits and get inspired!]
[*What* tits?! Subaru doesn't *have* tits!]]
"You beat the other girls...
[--with whips and chains!]
"...to the bride's bouquet."
[That, too...eat your flowers, Subaru!]
Subaru, having turned a very bright red, hid his face in the bouquet.
Shit--they had the song to get through now. Singing was definitely not Kamui's thing at the best of times, and especially not when the song in question was as thoroughly cheeseball as this one was. Nonetheless, he and Arashi made their way through the opening verse, himself with grim determination, and Arashi with that amazing serenity she always had, even though she must be awfully embarrassed by the things that those invisible voices kept calling out. *He* was embarrassed, and, well, he'd been in boys' locker rooms at school and in the men's baths at the sento. He'd heard all kinds of things. Arashi having been some kind of hidden priestess, he was surprised that she was taking all of this as calmly as she was.
"The road was long but I ran it--"
They arrived at the church steps and--oh God, both sides were using the same set of steps for this bit. While the Sakurazukamori pantomimed grandly along with the lyrics, Kamui took the opportunity to throw a desperately pleading glance toward Subaru. Subaru gazed back at him, green eyes wide and strangely childlike and obviously not recognizing Kamui at all.
What the hell had they *done* to him?
Kamui realized abruptly that he was about to lose his place in the song. Wait--where was his chalk? He fumbled it out and scrawled a shaky little heart-shape on the church door, singing hastily, "There's one thing to say and that's--
[--Only! Assholes! write on churches!]
The Sakurazukamori drew a big heart with an arrow through it around and over Kamui's. Kamui glared, but the man was already turning away. He went down on one knee before Subaru, and Subaru fluttered convincingly. The Sakurazukamori grinned.
"Here's the ring to prove that I'm no joker," the man sang.
"There's three ways that love can go--
"That's gay, straight, or bisexual."
Wait, Kamui thought, that wasn't how the song went.
"J-A-N-E-T, I want a--!"
Arashi turned pink, and Subaru's eyes got even wider. The onmyouji fled into the church.
Offstage, Sorata looked unaccustomedly grim. "We have *got* to get him out of there," the monk muttered darkly.
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