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Following Red Strings

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Kasane found themselves alone. Everywhere was dark. Kasane dreaded this place.
“Follow the red strings… don’t let go of the red strings.”
That was Mother’s voice. No matter how many years had passed since their mother’s death, Kasane always recognised her face.

Kasane turned, wandering down the path lit up by red flowers. Kasane wasn’t sure what they were called and never cared to find out. In front of them was a large red dragon, one Kasane had seen many times, made up of countless red strings.
“Be a dragon.”
Kasane frowned at that one; was it Calla? The OSF soldier that had waited with them all those years ago. Kasane had not thought about Calla in years, though they always remembered her advice.

Kasane kept walking, following the dragon through the flowers.
Kasane’s blood stilled. That was Yuito’s voice. Kasane ran towards his voice, hoping to find him.
“Follow the red strings… don’t let go of the red strings.”
“Be a dragon.”

Kasane gasped as the red dragon stopped in front of them. Everything faded, and the voices stopped. Kasane touched the nose of the dragon with their hand and watched as it dissolved into a thousand red strings.

Kasane woke up back in their bedroom and pushed the sheets off.
“That dream again,” Kasane muttered aloud, more annoyed than anything. It was an irritating inconvenience since Kasane was a child to have realistic or vivid dreams about the Chronos Terminal. Kasane had only used the time travel a handful of times, but they saw the Chronos Terminal most nights.

Kasane stood in front of what would make up Kasane Platoon - a little inexperienced, with three of them being from Yuito’s class. Now sixteen and ready to join the ranks of the OSF after years of training.

“I’m Captain Kasane Mikami, leader of this platoon. My power is psychokinesis. Introduce yourselves quickly, then we can go on guard duty.” Kasane informed them. That wasn’t true, but Joe had been insistent that Kasane hide their gravikinesis as psychokinesis and Kasane never fought him on it.
“Kasane! We should all be making friends here… what will the rookies think of us?” Noami asked with a smile. They’d thought side by side with Noami for a while now - she really was better at this side of things.
“I’m Noami! My power is precognition. I can see up to a few seconds ahead, making it useful against incoming Other ambushes.”
“I’m not here to babysit anyone, so don’t get any ideas! I’m Shiden Ritter, my power is electrokinesis… the same as Captain Seto’s. Don’t expect me to be picking up the slack against any rookies - especially not volunteer rookies.” Shiden spat out.
“Do you have a problem with my brother volunteering, Shiden?” Kasane felt anger rise in them as they stepped forward, coming face to face with Shiden, the energy from their gravikinesis radiating.
“I was just saying-“
“Saying what exactly?”
“Okay, you two! Calm down! Shiden, you’re not being very nice.” Noami stepped in, standing between Shiden and Kasane. Shiden scoffed and folded his arms, and Kasane let it slide and turned around. Yuito looked embarrassed, and Nagi and Hanabi looked… was that concern? Hmm, maybe not the best first impression Kasane realised.
“Let’s just continue.”

“Okay… I’ll go next. I’m Yuito Sumeragi… most of you should know I’m Kasane’s brother and we have the same power. They actually saved me as a child. I’ll do my best to repay that debt.” Yuito answered, easing the tension in the room with a smile. They might have the same power, but they were also complete opposites. Kasane could never ease the tension like that.
“And I’m Hanabi Ichijo! My power is pyrokinesis. Happy to be here!”
“Nagi Karmen. My power is air manipulation… it was always my dream to be in the OSF. I’m honoured to serve under Septentrion Seventh Class Kasane Mikami.”
Aerokinesis Kasane corrected in their mind, though it made little difference. It meant the same thing, anyway.
“You don’t need to call me that. No one actually cares about titles and ranks.”
“I guess I’m last? I’m Haruka Frazer. My power is telepathy. Nice to meet all of you!”
“Good, now that’s out of the way. We can begin our assignment. We’re going to Kikuchiba, you should all have the coordinates. Take some time to make sure you have everything you need and head over… I won’t wait if you’re late.” Kasane dismissed everyone.

“Kasane!” Noami chased over them as they walked off, sending their mission status as they did.
“Oh, hey Noami.”
“You did great out there! I know things started off rocky, but I think everyone’s going to get along great.”
“We’ll see.” Kasane knew it wasn’t a secret that they and Shiden often fought even if they worked well together, but at least Noami was hopeful for how this platoon would turn out.
“I mean it! And try not to worry - I’m sure Yuito will be fine.”
“I didn’t say I was worried.”
“No, but I know you, Kasane.” Noami replied.
“We have an assignment to get to.” Kasane rolled their eyes, pocketed some light jelly and secured the three of their knives eager to be out in the field. Introductions had already taken up their time.

Be a dragon, Kasane thought in their head - now would be the time to use that advice and protect Yuito.

Guard duty in Kikuchiba seemed simple enough. The constant uphill of the city could double as a workout and the Others that crawled this place would give Kasane a good sense of where the rookies stood and what their weaknesses were.

“We’ll go in pairs. Yuito, you’re with me. Shiden, Hanabi and Noami, Nagi. We’ll stay in touch via brain talk. If there're no questions, connect your SAS and let’s move out.”
“Wait, Kasane… Haruka isn’t here yet. Shouldn’t we wait for her?” Yuito asked.
“Haruka’s our operator. She’ll support us from Suoh.” Kasane explained.
“With my power telepathy I can communicate by the 500 meters, but it’s a lot easier with psynet. I’ll just be around keeping an eye on things, jamming the signal for the Crows, and offering support where I can! Yuito, Hanabi, Nagi please open your ports.” Haruka answered.
“Okay, Kasane… everyone’s connected.”
“Let’s go.” Kasane dismissed.
“You better not slow me down, rookie!” Shiden snapped at Hanabi. Kasane almost felt bad, even if Hanabi had been the best option given her scouted status. Not that it seemed to help much.
“Shiden, be nice. We’ll all on the same team now.” Noami lightly scolded him before taking off with Nagi.

Kasane made their way with Yuito, following up the sub-basement level of Kikuchiba that was mostly indoors. Kasane remembered when there was life in this city, now it was merely a shadow.

“There.” Kasane indicted, seeing a group of kitchen rummies together. Kasane focused, moving an abandoned crate and hurling into the group as they scattered.
“Careful, those use fire attacks. You don’t want to get hurt.” Haruka said over brain talk. Kasane jumped into the air and used gravikinesis to control their knives, throwing all six into one of the kitchen rummies, cutting deep into its skin until it burst into nothing but red particles as Kasane landed gracefully on their feet.
“Die!” Kasane commanded, pulling at the weakness until it exploded.

Kasane turned, noticing Yuito. If any of them harmed him, they’d bring the entire building down. Yuito flung his sword out into a circle, cutting at two of them at the same time before catching it in his hand and doing this twice. Satisfied Yuito could handle the Others, Kasane jumped back into the air again, slamming down on a rummy with all their force, making sure the daggers cut deep as they did. Kasane could see Yuito leap back at the corner of their eye, before using the familiar pull of gravikinesis as a crate crushed down on top of the kitchen rummy and sending the last of them into harmless particles.

“Impressive Yuito. You got good instincts.” Kasane replied, looking him over. Good, no signs of visible injuries, Kasane thought.
“Thanks, Kasane! It’s always good to get a compliment from you.”
“I’m not that harsh, am I?”
“No, not like that! I just mean… you’re always sincere with them. You don’t say something for the sake of it.” Yuito rushed to explain himself. It was one of their shared traits, the way both struggled to express themselves and often ended up miscommunicating their thoughts.
“That makes sense.”

“Is everyone okay?” Kasane asked as they made their way through the sub-level with Yuito, following even more steps.
“I don’t need you checking in on me like I’m some little kid, Kasane!” Shiden snapped back. Kasane simply rolled their eyes at Shiden’s outburst.
“You’re acting like one,” Kasane replied.
“Well, you are.”
“Just because I wanted to get out of Kodama platoon doesn’t mean I have to sit there and listen to you, Kasane!” Shiden snapped back.
“Everything’s okay here, Kasane!” Hanabi finished quickly, trying to defuse the situation between Kasane and Shiden.
“Nagi and I are doing fine too… it’s actually fun to see some new faces.” Noami added.
“Keep it up.” Kasane answered.
“It’s good that everything is going well, right?” Yuito asked with a bright smile.
“Yes.” Kasane agreed.

Kasane reached the middle levels just as Kikuchiba was out in the open. Between the abandoned shops stood Doppel Pools in a large group.
“Yuito,” Kasane warned before jumping into the air and throwing down all their knives at once, scattering them around, taking as many as possible. Yuito ran up towards the stragglers as Kasane landed on their feet, using his sword to make heavy strikes, scattering them into the red particles that never lasted long.

“We’re getting close to the goal area,” Kasane said, making their way through the streets.
“Since we got a minute… could we talk?” Yuito asked.
“What about?”
“I never got a chance to tell you I’m really happy they placed me in your platoon.”
“It’s not like it was luck. I made it happen.” Kasane admitted. They’d stormed into Fubuki and Karen’s office and demanded it before Yuito had even graduated. Fubuki had been more accommodating than Karen.
“Oh, you asked for me? Well, then I hope I don’t disappoint you.”
“You could never,” Kasane answered sincerely. Kasane didn’t share the same high expectations as Yuito that Kaito did; her step-brother was too much like Joe in all the worst ways but shared none of the good traits.
“Even though you asked for me… it seems like it worked out, you know. I’ve been trying to be like you ever since I was a little kid, since that day you saved me. You didn’t even hesitate. And now I get to learn from the person who made me want to join the OSF. I want to be someone that saves people.”
“It wasn’t that big a deal. I’d fought Others before that, but I appreciate the sentiment.” Kasane told him, though it was only a half-truth. Yes, they’d fought Others, but in those moments of watching Yuito on the ground near that thing, Kasane had never been more afraid and felt everything in their being still.
“Yeah, I know, you were already OSF but still… it changed my life. And being with Hanabi and Nagi is also cool.”

“Others,” Kasane announced, running up to a large Wither Sabbat and leaping into the air, pulling everything toward them with gravikinesis and hurling it at the Wither. It roared and got knocked to the ground.
“The enemy is stunned. Now’s your chance!” Haruka urged. Yuito ran up to the fallen thing, dropping a car on it, exposing its weakness. The core of the Other light bulb.
“Let’s finish this.” Kasane used gravikinesis, pulling at it away from the body sending the Other into red particles.

“Kasane, a Major Other is going to reach the point in ten seconds. Nagi and I are already here.” Noami warned over brain talk.
“What?” Nagi asked. He sounded nervous and with good reason.
“Hold out until we get there. I’m on my way. Shiden, Hanabi double time to the point.” Kasane ordered.
“Finally, some real action.”
“You’ve always been all bark with no bite, Shiden.” Kasane shot back and hurried towards the steps. Noami was strong, and good at using her power to avoid danger - it was almost impossible to get a hit on her with her accuracy, but Nagi might be different. He was still just a rookie and Major Others had taken out more experienced OSF before. Kasane needed to be quick.

They reached the construction work quickly. Noami wove herself between blows easy enough, easily seeing where the large Gunkin Perry would strike. Between blows, Noami used her sais to make deep cuts at the Gunkin.
“Kasane! You’re here! Shiden is incoming.” Noami announced.
“Nagi stand back,” Kasane ordered, watching as Yuito run across to reach Nagi, who was using his aerokinesis to send tornados and his chakrams at the Other.

Kasane jumped into the air, tapping into Yuito via SAS, strengthening their own gravikinesis and pulling all the construction work around them, throwing it down on the Gunkin Perry currently banging its limps on the floor. The force of everything shattered the glass sphere, holding the oil it produced into its fur.
“Wow,” Nagi said.
Kasane landed on the ground throwing all six of their knives at the Gunkin Perry, running towards it and pulling at its core with their gravikinesis until it exploded into nothing but red particles.
“Kasane! Are you okay?” Yuito asked.
“I’m fine, but I appreciate your concern.”

Shiden and Hanabi run up the ramp to the top of the construction.
“Oh thank goodness, everyone’s okay!” Hanabi exclaimed.
“Typical. Little Miss Mikami took all the best shots.” Shiden sneered. Kasane rolled her eyes.
“Oh, no… I’m sorry, the Crows found you.” Haruka announced over brain talk. Great, Kasane thought, annoyed.
“Kasane Mikami… newly a Septentrion and already taking down a Major Other! High command must think highly of you. A new Septentrion and with Yuito Sumeragi in your platoon.” The Crow spoke, while three more flashed in their face. Kasane felt themselves becoming overwhelmed.
“You’d have to ask them.” Kasane brushed it aside. “But for now, Shiden might be better at answering your questions. He did most of the work.” Kasane pushed Shiden in front of the Crows, not really caring that he’d reached the point after the fighting.
“Wh-what?!” Shiden stammered as they swarmed him. Kasane walked off from the camera’s view, relieved.
“Poor Shiden, that doesn’t look fun.” Hanabi sympathised. It really wasn’t, Kasane thought.

“Yeah, sorry… that’s probably my fault.” Arashi leaned against a pillar. Kasane wasn’t sure when she arrived, but Arashi always was fast when she wanted to be.
“It’s fine. It’s just something I have to get used to.” Kasane replied. Kasane found themselves drawn to Arashi in a way they couldn’t explain. Being near Arashi made them feel hot and caused their chest to tighten, and everything was more alert to things.
“I’ll take them off your hands.”
“That’s unlike you.”
“Don’t get used to it. Kodama just gets really moody if there're no Crows around. Probably the only reason she still wants me in her platoon.”
“I’m sure being Major General Fubuki’s sister helps.”
“That too.” Arashi smiled. It caught in Kasane’s being and made them lose the ability to think briefly. Kasane watched Arashi go up to the Crows, smiling away in front of Shiden and making up a lie about looking forward to seeing them there. Kodama hadn’t changed at least… though Kasane was sure she was holding a grudge against Kasane for “stealing” Shiden and not letting Yuito near her platoon.
“Come on. We’re heading back to Suoh.” Kasane ordered as Arashi faded off into the distance.

They reached Suoh in a little over thirty minutes. Thankfully, the only one hurt was Shiden’s pride. At least Yuito had been safe. That was all Kasane cared about right now.

“I don’t need all of you to make a report. Yuito, Nagi, Hanabi, you can leave now.” Kasane dismissed the platoon. Shiden and Noami would be enough.
“Okay… I’ll see you later, Kasane,” Yuito said.
“Hey, Yuito! I know I great cafe near if you wanted to go. You know. To catch up.” Hanabi offered.
“Yeah Hanabi, that sounds great.” Yuito waved goodbye and walked off with Hanabi.
“Hey wait up for me!” Nagi yelled and run after them, prompting Yuito to put his arm around his friend’s shoulders. It was nice, Kasane decided, that Yuito had good friends around him.
“You know, I think Hanabi has a crush on Yuito! Isn’t that so cute, Kasane?” Noami asked. Crush? On Yuito?
“I don’t think so. They’ve been friends for a very long time.” Kasane replied as the three walked back to headquarters.
“Like you would know, Kasane.” Shiden scoffed. They had a habit of missing social queues like that, Kasane admitted.
“Don’t you think it’s sweet Kasane?”
“I’ll have to run a background check on Hanabi, see if she’s suitable to be Yuito’s girlfriend in case you’re right,” Kasane stated.
“Wh-what? Haven’t you known Hanabi since she was a kid?” Shiden asked, bewildered.
“Then what could a background check even tell you don’t know already?”
“And Hanabi is on your platoon now, Kasane.” Noami reminded them. Both points didn’t make any difference, Kasane decided as they reached headquarters.

They flooded the front gates with Crows. Kasane sighed and pushed their way through, ignoring requests for even more questions with Shiden close while Noami made a quick apology that they don’t have time to give an interview right now.
“Hey Kasane, I saw you in the window and thought I’d come down. Save you a trip.” Haruka smiled as she walked over.
“Thanks, Haruka.”
“Wow, the Crows are really gunning for you, huh?”
“All thanks to Kasane and the Sumeragi brat.” Shiden spat.
“What did you just say about Yuito?” Kasane felt themselves fill with fury as they turned towards Shiden.
“Hey, I didn’t mean it like that!”
“Come on, you two, the Major General is right there! Let’s just give our reports.” Noami pleaded. Kasane looked, seeing Fubuki, Karen and Alice talking out in the courtyard. Karen looked unhappy about something; like how he’d been outside Kaito’s office.
“Here’s the report Haruka.” Kasane brushed Karen from their mind, as Shiden and Noami sent over theirs.
“Perfect, that’s everyone’s!” Haruka told them just as Karen had walked away. As he walked past, Karen stared at Kasane with a hard look in his eyes, watching them intensely. It made Kasane feel on edge.

“I’m sorry about Karen. He’s been under a lot of stress lately. He doesn’t mean anything by it.” Fubuki said as he walked over with Alice.
“Well, he is the leader of the second regiment.” Noami sympathised.
“And I want to apologise for the Crows too. I know they can be a handful.”
“Why are you apologising so much?” Kasane asked.
“I suppose I just feel responsible. Those Crows were there for Arashi when they caught you.” Fubuki explained. Kasane thought about Arashi… and the way her hair moved as she speed up.
“Oh Fubuki, you worry too much.” Alice teased him. “Hey Kasane, how did Hanabi do?”
“She did okay. We just got back.” Kasane answered.
“It’s been great to have so many new faces. Kasane let the rookies go off and have some fun. I think they went for food.” Noami filled in for them.
“I’m glad she’s having such a good time! She seems to be in excellent hands.” Alice smiled.
Kasane received a message from Joe. He wasn’t one to send messages often, but it was Yuito’s first day.

“Excuse me.” Kasane walked away, opening the brain message, seeing that Joe had asked them to dinner since it had been a while. Kasane wasn’t against dinners with Joe, but found them filled with too much pointless small talk. Joe tried, but they just didn’t know what to say to each other.
“I’ll be there.” Kasane reluctantly sent back.