Part IV: Weakening
Past the point
of no return
the final threshold -
is crossed, so stand
and watch it burn . . .
~The Point of No Return: Phantom of the Opera
However, Kaioushin did not understand the full meaning of her words until almost a week later. Aimlessly, he had wandered unseen in the small town of his supposed dream. Disappointingly, none of his efforts, hindered by the fact that he did not wish to encounter other mortals on the road, revealed a secret to awakening. To his unease, each night, Meghann ran as she had before. He wondered after several days, if the means she proposed to expel Majin Buu did not include giving up her uncanny connections to the bloodstained, wind-swept summer skies after all.
Finally, his search of the day frustrated, he encountered her on the twilight road where they had first met. A hum of frenzied insects and the croaking of hoarse frogs nearly drowned out her footsteps. This surprised the Kai; before they had been as the roll of thunder. A thick scent of clover and flowers almost liquefied the air. Fine dust shone in the slivers of sun that permeated the oppressive gray clouds, undisturbed by wind or breath of the sleepy town. Almost in a stupor from the blazing heat of summer, he flew after the girl for several blocks. At last she noticed and veered off the path. Sweat rolled down her sunburned face as she bent, resting her hands on her knees. "Kaioushin!" she gasped. Coloring slightly more, she dabbed at her face with her tee shirt. A smear of dirt came off on the white tail. "Why are you still here? Can’t you wake up?"
Kaioushin shook his head without a word. In these brief instants, he knew something was wrong. However, concerned with his inability to rouse from the dream, he decided not to broach the subject. "I'm certain there is a reason for it," he replied confidently.
A crow on the telephone wire above them cawed loudly three times. Meghann shivered, despite the stickiness of the evening. "Flag," she whispered.
"What?" Kaioushin squelched a mosquito that had landed on the tip of his pointed ear. The Potara earring swung erratically, throwing flashes of fire across his hand.
"It's a movie called The Stand. The devil takes on the form of a man named Randall Flag, but he can shape shift into a crow… Oh forget it," she muttered as Kaioushin regarded her in confusion. "The main idea is that the crow cawing like that is an ill omen."
Kaioushin shrugged. "It sounds like a foolish idea to me. Will anyone notice if I fly behind you? I don't want to interrupt your run after all."
Meghann grinned. "How thoughtful of you. But really, it is okay if we just stay here for a while. I don’t really start to have fun on these runs until the stars come out." Noticing Kaioushin's shudder at the mention of the stars, she quickly changed the subject. "I think I figured out how Buu was able to follow you here."
Kaioushin's mouth dropped into an O of surprise. "How?"
"It has to do with the atomic theory. When particles evaporate from a liquid, it is because the fastest moving of the bunch escaped their intermolecular bonds. Buu is high energy like you. Couldn’t he do that?" Without realizing it, Meghann had started to walk. After she asked this question, she began to lope toward the fiery sun and its trailing streamers of pink cloud in the west.
Kaioushin followed her. It seemed that the wind would sear his face. "Yes, after a fashion. Quite correct actually," he answered, reflecting on Buu's calliope scream and the steam that rose from his lumpy mounds of flesh. "Did you come up with that idea yourself?"
Meghann laughed. "Certainly not!" she managed to wheeze. "What a ridiculous idea! Me coming up with the atomic theory!" she managed to sputter, clutching her side. "That was the idea of a panel of scientists from about Einstein onward! I just studied it in school." She and Kaioushin swiftly dashed down an empty boulevard. To one side, overgrown fields waved their summer-gold banners proudly. To the other wafted an overpowering scent of sun-baked asphalt. Meghann's heart soared as if so often did, even as her body denied her growing weakness. Kaioushin did not mistake it. "Your face is so thin," he whispered. Another corner whipped them into shadows. Here it was no easier to speak of the demon that lodged within her.
Her toe snagged in a crack in the road as the dread words fell from his lips. Momentum flung her to the ground before she could recover and turn the thrust to her advantage. Kaioushin lunged to catch her. For less than a heartbeat, she sagged against him. With a snarl of fury, she pushed the Kai away. "You're sounding just like the rest of them! Is food all that they ever think of?" Her stomach growled menacingly. "I'm trying, Kaioushin. Trying so hard! But even as I burn him with hell he has never experienced, my weak body is deteriorating."
"You needn't do it!" Kaioushin's lie burned his lips. "There must be another way-"
"No such way exists!"
"But it is just a small part of him! Help me to awaken from the dream! If I can fulfill my mission-" The Potara earrings glinted, a cynical reminder of his failure. "He will have to come out of you to be at full strength."
Kaioushin's desperate words did not sway her. Setting her teeth, she motioned him to the roadside. "I have had a recurring dream since that night." Thick, dark clouds overshadowed Kaioushin and Meghann. Occasionally a bar of sunlight would pass over them. In their week apart, Kaioushin reflected, Meghann appeared as careworn as he did. Whether from the dreams or her plan to dislodge Majin Buu, he did not dare to guess.
"In it, I was able to fully comprehend that creature's suffering. He was folding up under himself, like a collapsing galaxy. There was no blood to spill, no bones to pierce his rubbery flesh. There was only nothingness to claw at a void of equal emptiness, scalding it with tongues of acid fires like to those of hell. His smoking flesh reeked of death… My spirit had left my body to watch myself turn the pages of cookbooks, tormenting him, tempting him with what he could have if he would only leave my body. Then…" She drew a shaky gasp. "When he had died -as close as he could come to it anyhow- his emptiness drew me along with it. Though already I was as wasted as the bones that lay in the sarcophagus at Penlenque, I experienced the tearing at my flesh. It curled and blackened long after I screamed my voice away. Then it hung like melted wax upon bone and tangles of muscle..."
Any words of comfort that Kaioushin might have offered died on his lips. Hers was a despair, so terrible, utter, and final that it strode beyond comfort and promises of morning. Suddenly he knew the only thing he could say. "It is clear to me, the meaning of this dream." He could feel her eyes studying his in the darkness. "Buu will try to remain in you at any cost. He might wait for the last, as you mortals say. You must have fortitude. Taunt him, spit on him, anything! He must be driven away or else-" He broke off, understanding at last the reason he couldn't awaken. So long as Buu is alive in this place, the dream will go on… Sweat slid down his face, the caress of withered skin upon his ageless lavender flesh. Temptation nearly knocked the wind from his gut. I am Higashi no Kaioushin! If I destroyed this mortal shell, Buu would be forced out! Her fate is already sealed…no! I REFUSE to believe it!
"I think I understand," Meghann slowly got to her feet. "By keeping hope alive, it is possible that he won't absorb me with his death." Her whimsical, misty smile belied her confidence.
Sighing, Kaioushin waved in parting as the flag of her ponytail and the music of her stride continued down the boulevard. He did not notice the shadow of utter despondency that overtook her once she passed into the thick shadows of the prowling storm. What I did not tell him… She berated herself, sprinting, her breath coming in painful spurts. The second dream… Slowly, like a sunbeam sliding through her fingers, the roadside dissolved beneath her. Her head spinning, the night runner collapsed into the sun-scorched grass, reliving the terrible nightmare that had tormented her since the night Majin Buu had seized control of her body.
The night, the darkest through which she had yet traversed, pressed about her on all sides. She ran on, flinching from tendrils of darkness that cloaked house and tree, choking off life as it went. I never wanted to become the night! I only wished to experience its majesty! Nothing more! Flames erupted in her chest as she whipped around the corners, an agile fish in swift currents. Her own breath wrapped around her throat as she expelled it, a ring of smoke crowning the sight of a volcanic explosion. Lightning exploded silently in the blazing night, perched like the legs of ghostly-white spiders upon the web of the sky. Her breathing became sporadic and frantic; there was little she feared more than running in a storm. Around her, she could sense the rippling heat waves of sidewalk, like swirling waters. Magnified as the heavens prepared to rain fury upon the land, the scents of swamp gas, crumbling, parched sediment, and sweet asphalt choked her. The drone of insects was as a thousand old women whispering of the storm's onset with their ghastly rasps. Pines roared in the gale and in her ears, the blood drummed faster and faster until mad speed overtook her. It was the greatest pace she had ever attained; the fields of weeds, the man-made lakes, house, tree, vehicle, light and darkness converged into a combination she could recognize in dream and waking without fail.
Suddenly she came upon a single figure that had never been a consistent part of this ritual odysse, Even now, he stood out. In the consistent illumination of the lightning, Meghann could discern Kaioushin's lavender skin and his silver-white mohawk dancing upon the quick, sharp breeze. As she closed the gap between them, the subtle muscles of his chest plainly showed through his tattered silk garments, sharp angles against the harsh glare of sudden light. A gasp of surprise freed itself from her throat. All the strength went out of her legs as she skidded forward. In Kaioushin's almond-shaped eyes lingered a telltale hint of hazy blue. The night runner gasped; he had frozen her to the spot!
Slowly, reluctantly, he advanced. "Once more I am left with no choice." Even in regret, his silver voice was like to the peals of a priceless crystal bell. Unable to do otherwise, she followed him with her eyes. Though as beautiful and strangely vulnerable as he had always been, a mantle of danger hung about him. Around the Kai flickered sparks of ki, the particles she had described - eons ago it seemed. His short, commanding figure was a vessel of tremendous unawakened potential. As Kaioushin drew closer, the oppressive stormy air magnified his cloying scent until it seemed that she stood in a garden of everlasting bloom. There was no mistaking the loathing in his eyes for what she had become. His hand closed around hers for an instant, whereupon she chanced to glimpse what remained of her flesh. It appeared mere panty hose atop her bones, a poor veil of their pitiful whiteness. Then Kaioushin raised his other hand, palm up to her face. "I am sorry it must be this way. But until Majin Buu is destroyed in this dream, there will be no way for me to reawaken."
She lowered her eyelids in shame and sorrow. For the briefest of instants, a red ball of ki, a hell-sent fireball flared around her eyelids. "Forgive me…" Before the ki could so much as touch her, her heart shattered from the magnitude of his soul-shattering grief.
Trembling, Meghann broke free of the reverie and scrambled to her feet. She lit for the trunk of a gnarled tree. Once there, she leaned her head upon her hands. A violent spell of shaking overtook her, but no tears would come. Shaken, she peered around the protective wall, a silent witness to the wisdoms and follies of many generations. Kaioushin was gone from where they had spoken. A low moan escaped her. With her back to the tree's reassuring bulk, she forced her eyes to the place where they had met in the vision. Disbelieving her own good fortune, she managed a cynical smile. Slowly, the awful tightness vanished from her shoulders. Drawing a resolute breath, she dashed to the spot. In the endlessly shifting ceiling of sky, the first heralds of the storm began to warm up their instruments.
These same musicians had been long into their concerto by the night of All Hallows Eve. Kaioushin, though less watchful than Meghann, could sense the thick unrest. However, it was no storm that troubled the insects, nor violently swirled the waters with nips of sharp-toothed wind. From the moon, a witch's dark-toothed smile, to the silent houses, right down to the very road resonated with unease. A whisper lingered upon the lips of the pine trees and the grasses that grew in the warm mud beside the water. It traveled from cricket, to grasshopper, to frog, lean alley cat, and baying dog, a question none could answer, a demand that kept eyes open long after the appointed hours. Where was the night runner? Eventually the moon tired of waiting and retired into the west. Likewise, the gentle stars yawned and nodded off waiting for her. The dogs lumbered off to the soft grass inside their kennels. Though the frogs and crickets continued their symphonies with the alley cats fighting among themselves for the role of prima donna, they soon revised the score to make the drums of her footsteps unnecessary.
Kaioushin waited, crossed-legged, atop a light post. Of late, he had become indifferent to the workings of the dream, since there existed no method of which he could conceive to break free. More absorbing was the matter of Meghann's exorcism of Majin Buu. Her efforts thus far had produced little effect that he could measure save for making the bones of her face and arms protrude starkly. Not wanting to frighten her, he had said nothing. That she would become further emaciated before she could convince Buu to withdraw, he harbored little doubt. However, her insistence on making the nightly ritual confused and frustrated him. Though far less prominent than that of Vegita, her pride was as persistant as water and wind, capable of sculpting a mountain to their wills. No matter what he said or threatened, she would not withdraw. At last, however, it appeared that she had. Kaioushin permitted himself a small smile before reconsidering. After further deliberation on the matter, the very prospect of her change of mind seemed ridiculous. Something must have happened to her. But what?