Cutscene: All in the Mind

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Who: Yisa Taimiev
Where: Laundromat, Hirasaka Ward, Sumaru City
When: July 29, 2011 (IC)

I don't mind being alone, she told someone once.

And there's a certain truth in that. It is for that reason she slipped away, using the touching reunion between old friends in the fallout of the Taurus Shrine to make her escape. Two shrines survived. Two people saved. One long day. Yisa counted that as a small victory.

But anything after that victory was not hers to share. Watching the tears and emotions and private words shared between her comrades, she felt just strange and foreign there as she did in every other facet in Japanese life. It was like she was intruding in another person's world, one where she had no right to belong. Same went for the others maintaining their around-the-clock vigil at the hospital. She never had much of a stomach for denouements.

Sumaru is a world of gates and fences and locks, left behind like a cage of a thousand iron bars. Most of it is empty by now, vacated by the incidents of the last week. And sensibly so. The only place that looks amenable to her exhausted, limping step is a lit laundromat, and Yisa pulls her coat together as she hitches in. The owner looks at her in abject suspicion. She asks for the directions to the women's bathroom. She receives no response. She puts ten thousand yen down.

And Yisa closes the bathroom door behind her, kicking down the toilet lid and easing herself on top of it with a gusty sigh. Everything aches in its own way, parts of her body stinging and burning as she moves her arms, opening the zippered pockets on her coat and pants and pulling free every item on her person. Her battered smart phone. Her charge cards and some folded bills. A half-used roll of gauze. She sets them in a neat line along the edge of the sink.

Stripping off her coat painstakingly, Yisa finds her second blouse of the last forty-eight hours similarly bloodstained and half in tatters. One button at a time, she opens it to cast aside. Something to try to clean in the sink later.

Stripped down to her bra, Yisa looks down at her body. She studies its dark skin and broken bandages, watching it wear its wounds under the filmy, yellowy halogen light that buzzes through the empty bathroom. She looks at herself much the way she did several hours ago, alone in the safety of Imaizumi's bathroom. She wears the signs of deep, grotesque puncture wounds, some of them punched straight through her body. The external damage looks hideous. She can't think of what's happened to her organs.

Though Yisa is willing to bet -- and it seems on her own, very life -- that it won't be much.

Her skin is dark and purpling in places. Her wounds aren't bleeding. They're closing. She doesn't feel incapacitated. She doesn't feel cold and disoriented, all clear indicators of someone going into shock.

"I should be in a hospital," Yisa concludes out loud in her native Chechen. She's always had a habit of talking to herself when alone.

"But I'm already healing," she continues, standing in time to check over her injuries with her hands, twisting to look at the exit wounds on her back in the reflection of the mirror. She straightens to face the mirror, leaning in to study her features under the unflattering light. "It's you doing this," she accuses her image. Her voice breaks with an exhale, softening. "Or it's me."

Whatever her superhuman constitution, a wave of dizziness forces Yisa to sit back down with a sigh, holding her side as she eases painfully back to position. In a distant way, she's grateful for the hurt. It means she might still be halfway human.

She reaches for the roll of gauze in time for her phone to vibrate, the device knocking abruptly on the porcelain sink. It startles Yisa enough to pull one wound she shouldn't, twisting and regretting it immediately with a sharp hiss. Frowning irritably, she grabs her phone. But one look at the screen kills her temper.

It's her mother.

Having long given up on voicemail (her mailbox has been consistently full the last few days), her mother appears to have sent her a text message from half-way across the world. Without her glasses to see, she has to hold it far from her eyes to parse the words.

[ Please stop this. Answer your father. He's worried. ]

It's been a few days of strict radio silence on her end. Ever since she received call, back on her estate, that her driver was coming to collect her -- and escort her out of Sumaru to somewhere safe -- Yisa had to make a rash decision. Be an obedient daughter or be the person she is. There would be no way her father would allow her to stay without a fight. But people needed her. Her purpose meant more than her family name. She had to take off on her own.

Her father's investigator is looking for her. Her father is looking for her. Now her mother has joined their march, no doubt to wear Yisa's spirits down.

It's working.

Yisa realizes she's been holding tightly onto her phone when her hands start to tremble. That she's been reading her mother's message over and over until her eyes start to lose focus.

She breaks radio silence, just this once. She sends back:

[ I'm sorry. ]

Her phone immediately animates, roaring to life as her mother tries to call. Yisa balances on indecision as whether to answer.

Ultimately, with turned eyes and a knotted stomach, she sets her phone down and lets it ring. She reaches for the gauze instead, straightening her back as she begins to spool it around her body.

The empty bathroom amplifies each and every one of her stiff, pained movements; its cement walls and hollow, empty body echo every all of her solitary winces and sighs.

She tells herself she doesn't mind it.

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