Monday, January 28, 2013

Family Tree

"Alright, we all know why we're here," Phoenixia stated gravely.

"...I don't," Harriet declared, casually tossing a cricket ball from one hand to the other. "You just told me to come to Tash's office."

She turned her head to study the aforementioned Librarian, who was sitting on her desk, her head resting in her hands. Flanking her was Michael, who was rubbing his glasses against his shirt.

Phoenixia rolled her eyes, and snatched the cricket ball from midair.

"We're here," she continued. "To talk about Emily."

Michael raised an eyebrow. He had not been brought up to speed on the contents of this meeting either, but now he had a very good idea where this was heading. "You noticed too huh?"

"That we haven't seen hide or hair of her since the war except for mealtimes?" Phoenixia nodded. "Yes, we all noticed."

Harriet snatched the ball back from the hologram, and rolled it over in her hands. "She barely says a word in our lessons too... I thought she was just in mourning..."

She trailed off, her eyes drifting over to Tash, not wanting to upset her. Tash however was worrying her lip between her teeth.

"It's me," she stated finally. "She leaves the room every time I enter. It must be me."

Phoenixia sighed. "Don't be silly Tash. What could you have done to upset her? You've been away for the past week."

Tash gave her a look of disbelief. "Oh I don't know, it might have something to do with the fact that I put a sword through her sister, just over a month ago?"

The hologram winced, though this may have been because Harriet had just dropped the cricket ball onto her foot, as she stood up suddenly.

"Well, I think over a month is long enough, don't you?" and she reached over to Tash's bag, and began rooting through the contents.

"I'm almost afraid to ask..." Michael admitted. "But what are you doing?"

"Looking for Tash's Plot Summary," the leader explained. "Emily missing is part of this plot, so I can track her with this!"

Somewhere in the distance, the fourth wall rumbled ominously. Phoenixia rolled her eyes, but the three leaders paid little attention.

"Got her!" the leader announced, before charging for the door, pausing only to swing her own handbag over her shoulder. "Onward, my underlings!"


"I've never been here before..." Tash admitted. "In fact... was this room even here two weeks ago?"

Phoenixia appeared on the screen of the Plot Summary, which was still being clasped by a determined looking Harriet.

"Nope. There's no holoprojectors or even security cameras in there. Whatever this room is, someone instructed the Library to keep it a secret."

"And Emily is in here?" Michael summarised. "Either something dodgy is going on, or she's been keeping something big, a secret."

"Either way," Harriet declared, thrusting the Plot Summary back to a surprised Tash. "I'm going in! Follow my lead!"

"And what lead would this be?" Michael inquired, as Harriet tried the doorknob with no success. The leader thought for a second, before hauling back and kicking the door hard. It swung free, and banged against the wall with a thundering crash.

"...not going for subtlety then, are we?" Michael smiled. Tash shrugged, wrestling the Plot Summary back into her bag (ignoring the complaints from Phoenixia, who was dying to see what the big secret was).

The three could hardly believe their eyes as they stepped over the threshold.

The room was decked in flowers of all varieties, though roses, lilies and carnations were the dominant selection. The smell was slightly overpowering, and all three newcomers had to pause for a minute, their sinuses reeling, and their eyes tearing slightly. Strangely, they could hear birds calling to one another from the tall trees that lined the room, and they could faintly detect the hum of insects.

"Bloody hell..." Harriet muttered, as they slowly walked further into the room.

"Its amazing..." Tash breathed.

"Achoo!" Michael sneezed loudly, the scent of pollen leaving a nasty tickling sensation in his nose. Tash reached into her bag and handed him a tissue, feeling the tell tale signs of her own hay fever threatening to make themselves known.

"Better find her quickly," she suggested, as Michael sneezed again.

"She's probably already heard us," Harriet shrugged. "She'll come looking after she heard Michael sneezing."

Michael gave the Society founder a look. "Right...and it wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that you kicked the door in?"

There was a moments silence, as Harriet recalled the bang she had made upon entering, and blushed. "Oh yeah... that might have too."

"Hey," Tash was examining a nearby tree, which seemed to have been made the centre point of this particular clearing. The flowers surrounding it all had one thing in common – they were red. "This is a juniper tree..."

Harriet scanned the room, and walked past the juniper tree, into the next clearing. Her heart sank as she walked through the flowers, and found another tree.

"Yeah... there's a holly bush at the centre of this one," she said gravely, eyeing the white flowers on the ground, which reminded her strongly of snow, for some reason.

"Wow..." Michael was in the next clearing, craning his head to see the top of the towering deciduous tree, and trying not to step on the blue flowers. "That's a big ash tree..."

In unison, they all moved to the final clearing, and sure enough, pride of place at the centre of the clusters of pink flowers, stood a single striking snowbowl aspen. Harriet reached forward and stroked the bone coloured bark.

"She must have been vanishing to plant these... I wonder how they all grew so quickly."

Michael sighed heavily. "And I'll bet we can all guess what kind of tree she's at right now..."

They all made their way deeper into the room, stepping over small bushes, and kicking up more pollen, which caused Tash and Michael to break into fits of sneezing (Harriet got tired of saying 'bless you' after Tash's violent exclamation frightened a group of birds from a nearby tree).

Finally, they broke into a new clearing. Unlike the previous ones, the ground here was clear of flowers, and the attention was left to the single weeping willow, which swayed gently, despite the fact that there was no breeze (Harriet could not help but liken this to the hair of the Sue who's name was derived from this very tree).

And sure enough, there sat Emily, hidden behind a curtain of willow leaves, her back flat against the trunk. She appeared to be reading several sheets of paper, with tears in her eyes. So distracted was she, that she apparently had not heard or registered the noises that the leader's had been making since their arrival.

Harriet's first instinct was to hurry over and embrace her charge, however Michael firmly took her wrist and pulled her back.

"Let's wait outside," he suggested quietly. Harriet pouted, but allowed herself to be tugged away. Tash followed, her hands shaking.

"I knew it..." she thought to herself.


When Emily finally emerged, the leaders were clustered just a little way down the corridor. Michael was trying very hard to give Harriet a Duel Monsters tutorial, and Tash was idly tapping her Plot Summary, repeatedly huffing in annoyance every time Phoenixia tried to contact her to find out what was going on.

Upon seeing the welcome committee she had apparently picked up, Emily made to back into the room quietly so that they would not see her. Harriet however, was supernaturally attuned to any sound from that direction by now, and her head immediately snapped upward, her green eyes fixing on Emily's blue ones. The ten year old paled, and shut the door before anyone could see inside it.

"It's okay," Michael had seen where Harriet's attention had been directed, and was now gathering up the scattered Duel Monster cards. "We saw it all."

Emily might have gone a few shades paler, were it not for Harriet sprinting the length of the corridor and hugging her tightly.

"Harriet, gerroff!" she complained, readjusting her glasses which were being squashed painfully into the bridge of her nose.

"Sorry..." the leader backed away. "But I was worried about you...none of us knew where you were, and you've barely said anything lately..."

"Let her breathe Harriet," Michael suggested. Emily dragged her left foot slowly across the floor, and wondered just how mad everyone was. She got a surprise however, when Tash knelt down beside her, her head bowed.


"I'm sorry Emily... I really am..."

The youngster tilted her head, standing on both feet again. "What for?"

"For killing her... I'm sorry I've made you so sad. I don't know what else to say..."

There was a huff, and Emily poked her hard in the shoulder, surprising the leader.

"You think I've been avoiding you because I'm angry with you?" she rolled her eyes. "You're cool and everything Tash, but you can be really self-centred..."

The Librarian at least had the decency to blush hard at that.

"This," Emily waved a hand at the room behind her. "Has nothing to do with you. I've just been avoiding you because I was worried you'd drag me back to work on your secret project, when I wanted to spend time on this..."

Tash gave a shaky laugh. "You could have just said... I'd have understood why you'd rather spend time here than in my hanger..."

"Regardless!" Harriet butted in, hating the fact that she was left out of the loop. "Why didn't you tell us about this room? Why keep us worrying like this?"

The left foot was dragged across the floor again. "Because I thought you'd disapprove... you hated them all... heck, I dislike Ashley and Aspen for what they used to do..." she broke off, before continuing in a quieter voice. "But they're still my sisters... they were my family, and now they're all gone..."

She turned to look at the door to the garden, not wanting any of them to see her face. "I built that room to remember them... not how they were when they got their powers and turned into the people you hated. I want to remember before that... when they were my sisters... and how much we loved each other..."

The tears would not be held back any longer, and Emily's body trembled as the sobs slowly worked their way out of her throat. Harriet scooped her back into a hug, and this time, Emily did not protest. Michael tapped Tash on the shoulder, and jerked his head to indicate that they should make themselves scarce.

"Poor kid..." he muttered, as soon as they made it back to the communal areas of the Library. Tash nodded quietly.

" I a bad leader, Michael?" she asked quietly. "Am I horrible, for not stopping and finding a way that would have caused her less pain?"

"No," Michael shook his head immediately. "You did the only thing you could at the time. Its not your fault. None of us really thought about it."

He sighed, as he contemplated the truth of the whole situation.

"In all our own grief... none of us realised that Emily was grieving for her whole family too..."


Harriet eventually carried Emily to her bedroom, slipped her jacket and shoes off, before putting the exhausted girl to bed. She struggled over to the wardrobe, trying not to trip over the clothes, books and bits of machinery that littered the floor, and placed Emily's shoes in the bottom, before reaching for a hanger for the jacket. She paused as her fingers brushed paper, and curiously, she pulled an envelope out of Emily's jacket pocket.

Her eyes went wide as she saw the neat cursive on the front. She'd recognise that handwriting anywhere.

Willowe had written to Emily? When? How? This couldn't be an old letter, because Emily had brought nothing with her into the Library after she had been found in the Final Fantasy X fandom, except for the clothes on her back. This must have been given to her recently. But how could Willowe have got a letter to her, when she had been living all this time in the Library?

Questions were screaming to be answered in the leader's mind, and her fingers inched toward the flap of the unsealed envelope. She could look and find out the answer...maybe she would read something that she had never known about her own Sue. Willowe had always been very good at keeping secrets after all...

But the letter was not for her, she firmly reminded herself, scanning Emily's name on the front. It was for the youngest Foxblade sister. And she could not intrude.

So carefully, she slipped it back into the pocket of the jacket, and picked her way carefully back across the floor, toward the door. Checking over her shoulder that Emily was sleeping peacefully, Harriet closed it quietly, before heading off to the kitchen, curious as to whether her creation would continue to surprise her like this even after death.

Back in the room, Emily cracked one eyelid open very slowly, before slipping out of bed, and tiptoeing across the room to her wardrobe. The door creaked as she opened it, and she pulled the letter from the pocket of her jacket, before creeping back to her bed, and curling up again beneath the duvet. She pulled open the pages, and began to read slowly...

Dear Palm Tree,

I am sorry.

I'm sorry for not being a better big sister to you, for not protecting you better and not giving you a proper home to grow up in. And most of all, I'm sorry for not saying 'I love you' enough.

I know you're very bright for at ten-year-old, but my recent actions and those our sisters must leave you so confused... you're terrified of becoming that and you can't help but wonder why we even do it... and I'm not even sure, either.

When a Sue matures and gains their powers, their minds change too... we become power-hungry and desire to corrupt and conquer worlds to match them to our own visions of perfection... even the things we regard as already beautiful, we want in our fists.

I don't know when it first came upon me or I first figured it out... maybe I went insane, trapped in my story and only now became sane again... or I'm still insane... I don't know. But regardless, I can't escape this... impulse to conquer, to control and twist and bend other things to my will... but I can't live with it, either... I can't watch my family do the same..and I refuse to even let this be a possibility for you.

That's why I'm doing this, little sister. It's all or nothing. I will take over the Real World and use it to control every possible fandom and world and then, with everything bent to my will, I can only hope the urge will be satiated and because everything will already be perfect, you will grow up and not wind up like me. Or the Society will stop me and that'll be the end of it, too.

When I heard the Society had taken you in after Ashley and Aspen's abuse of you, I found myself, not angry or upset, but relieve to hear the news. You haven't changed into a Sue yet and I hope so much that living with the Society will stop you from becoming like the rest of us, people who desire nothing but power and a twisted ideal of perfection.

But don't be afraid of your power, either, Palm Tree. If there is anything that I have learned, it's that power is just power- it's intent that matters. And I just know you'll be able to use it wisely.

If there is anyone I know who can avoid becoming like me, it's you, littler sister. It's my biggest hope that you'll grow up and live the life you always wanted and it will be your own life, not one ruled by this lust for power or anything else. Just you and what you want.

You make me so proud, Palm Tree and I love you so much. You're the best little sister anyone could ask for.



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