Continuing the almost weekly releases of the GPR 3 draft. Sorry for the delay.
– I –
I’d like to think of my actions as unconventional.
Unpredictable. Unexpected. Difficult to fathom.
Dare I say crazy?
I’d like to stress that there is a method to my madness; a reason behind my irrational behavior.
In other words, I’d like to say that I didn’t jump off the side of the building without a plan or a reason.
Let’s begin with the reason.
I wanted to get away from Erina.
Pure and simple.
So what was the fastest, most reliable method?
If I decided to leave via the apartment, I would need a means to operate the elevator. I had noticed Erina touching her fingertips to a sensor plate beside the elevator doors. Undoubtedly that was a security measure. Were Mirai’s fingerprints recorded in the building’s security system? Alternatively, would the elevator take me straight down to the ground floor lobby or foyer without the need for fingerprint recognition?
I didn’t know, but in the event that I couldn’t operate the elevator, I would need to either return to the apartment, or descend via the fire escape.
Thinking about it now, as I jumped from balcony down to balcony and in the process having to repeatedly to climb over permaglass fencing, the fire escape was certainly the logical choice.
But instead I stupidly fled over the side of the building.
Because Erina worked her way into my thoughts, disrupted my rationality, and flipped my switches.
In short, I had to get away from her or I was liable to lash out with tragic results.
Yet, I wasn’t angry.
As contradictory as that sounds, as I jumped down the building, level by level, I wasn’t angry at Erina.
Instead, I felt wounded and hollow as though from that wound all my emotions had bled out, leaving a vacant shell behind.
Not even despair lurked within me.
Emptied of feeling, a calm had settled upon my mind, and I moved without thought – jumping and falling from balcony to balcony – until finally a new emotion was born.
It started with a mild soreness, but as it grew it birthed irritation.
What was the source of this soreness and the irritation it sired?
Mirai’s giant boobs!
Without a proper bra, the Princess Regalia, or other means of support, those perfectly shaped mounds of womanhood bounced every time I landed on a balcony, and by the time I’d descended fifteen or sixteen floors, I was in some real discomfort, and the pain coupled with the emptiness I felt within me to distract me, and eventually became my undoing.
Having leapt onto the edge of a permaglass balcony wall, I didn’t check below me.
Mirai’s mountainous breasts made looking down a little cumbersome, but I could still have taken a peek at where I was going to land before I jumped down from the top of the transparent wall.
I didn’t, and a moment later I splashed feet first into someone’s pool.
The cold water stunned me far more than the shock of suddenly finding myself submerged in a balcony pool. Because it was shallow, I touched the bottom with my sneakers as soon as my head sunk below the surface. I pushed upwards, broke through the surface, and gasped for air. After flailing for a heartbeat or two, I swam to the nearest edge of the pool, and started hauling myself out of the water.
In the corner of my eye, something small and white sped toward me. At first I suspected a security droid, but soon recognized it for a small dog. Neither I nor Mirai recognized the breed, but I can describe it as small, white, and covered in long shaggy hair. Running full pelt, it circled around the pool, yapping at me madly with a mouth full of small flat teeth.
I was halfway out of the pool when it launched itself at me, and tried to bite my face.
I splashed water at it, but it moved faster than I expected, making me wonder for a heartbeat if it really was a dog.
Dodging the water, it latched onto my right arm with its mouth, but the jacket sleeve proved too tough for its small teeth to penetrate. However, once it latched on, I couldn’t dislodge it, and given Mirai’s enormous strength, I was afraid of swinging my arm around too forcefully. If the little dog flew off, it might sail over the balcony and into the night sky, or it could fall in the pool and drown, or hit the ground with bone breaking force.
Hampered by sentimentality, and reluctant to cause it harm, I found myself at a loss on how to deal with the pesky mutt that was defending its realm.
If dealing with the pint sized pet wasn’t troublesome enough, the apartment lights soon turned on, and I glimpsed shadows moving behind the curtains drawn across the balcony window wall.
It wasn’t long before I heard a woman yell from inside the apartment.
“Harold! Shut up!”
From the tonal properties of her voice, she sounded middle aged, but it wasn’t until she drew the curtains aside with a wave of her hand that I saw that was true.
“It’s one in the morning. What the Hell is wrong with—huh?”
She stopped short as our eyes met.
“Who are you?”
I was kneeling by the side of the pool, soaking wet, my long blond hair drenched, wearing a heavy ground crew jacket, and looking like a runaway caught in the act.
I could very well imagine what was running through her head.
With her dark blonde hair tied into twin buns, and wearing a tracksuit in place of pajamas, the woman stared at me for a full second, before she waved her hand at the permaglass balcony doors. They opened in response and she rushed outside.
“What the Hell happened to you?” she demanded as she circled around the balcony pool. “Where did you come from?”
I stood up with the dog clinging by its teeth to my jacket sleeve. Its feet kicked the air as it refused to let go. “I fell from the sky.”
The woman stopped a few feet away, regarded me from head to toes, looked up at the early morning sky, and then stared down at her dog in confusion.
I held out my right arm to her, offering her the dog that stubbornly clung to my sleeve.
“I’m sorry. I can’t get him off. And I really need to be going.”
“Huh?” Her face contorted in confusion. “Going?”
“Yes. I need to be going.” I sounded a lot calmer than she had expected. In a way, I sounded rather mechanical, and it surprised me. “Could you get it off me?”
She crossed her arms. “First you tell me what’s going on, or I call the police.”
I sighed and began taking off the heavy jacket, then remembered my torn clothing. Giving up on that, I chose the next best option – I walked away.
I arrived at the permaglass wall fencing the balcony, judged the jump I needed to make, then leapt upwards with the dog clamped onto my jacket sleeve like a giant clothes pin.
“Hey—come back here! My dog—!”
Standing on the top edge of the permaglass wall, I looked quickly at the next balcony below me, then dropped onto it, landing with a wet sounding squelch. I winced when Mirai’s heavy boobs once again bounced with a sharp sting.
The dog must have been blessed with the jaws of death because it continued to cling onto my sleeve. At that point, I frowned at it then concentrated my vision upon the small animal. It wasn’t long before my senses sharpened to a razor’s edge, and I could now see people’s auras. But when I studied the dog, I noticed that it had none and realized then that it was an automaton constructed in the form of a small canine.
“Ghost, can you do something about it?”
“Princess, I thought you would never ask.”
I watched the mechanical canine jerk twice, before opening its death trap jaws. It dropped with a cringe worthy thud and lay still on the balcony floor. “Did you—kill it?”
“No, I merely reset its functions.”
“A factory reset?”
“No, that wasn’t necessary. A mere off-on was sufficient.”
Free of the small mechanical mutt, I considered the permaglass wall surrounding this balcony, and looked up to see the woman thumping on the glass bordering her balcony, her yelling muted by the permaglass. Even without hearing her, it was clear to see she was pissed at me.
Hoping to appease her a little, I picked up the mechanical dog that was still in the process of resetting – though it was twitching on the ground as though electrocuted – and threw it up and over the transparent wall of the balcony above me. The woman had the presence of mind to catch the small machine before it could land on the ground and break. Afterwards, she continued to throw what I presumed were choice words down at me, before hurrying off somewhere, perhaps back into her apartment to report me to the authorities.
Deciding to turn the page on that brief installment of my life, I once again regarded my surroundings with displeasure as I gently massaged my huge breasts under the jacket.
“Princess, if I may suggest.”
“Sure…,” I replied somewhat absently as I threw the floors above me a quick look in search of signs of pursuit.
I wonder if the Cat Princess will come after me?
“Princess, make a right turn. This is the corner of the building so you will find a terraced wall connecting the east face with the south-east face. I assure you, it will be far quicker to descend down that wall. And less painful.”
I looked down at myself. “I need a change of clothes.”
“Do you wish to summon the Sarcophagus? I can have you outfitted in your Regalia in a matter of seconds.”
I gave that some thought as I walked to the transparent wall fencing the south side of the balcony. “No. I don’t want them knowing yet that I’m linked with that coffin.”
“Please, don’t call it that….”
Whatever, I muttered inwardly as I looked through the permaglass at the terraced wall beyond it that resembled giant steps running steeply all the way down to street level. As Ghost had said, it was more like a wide join between the east and south-east faces of the building. It didn’t take me long to get over the permaglass and onto it, and with one arm supporting my boobs, I proceeded down to street level, one terrace at a time.
It took me a good ten minutes to descend to the last terrace that overlooked the base of the megascraper some twenty meters below it.
Cradling my breasts in my arms, I frowned at the drop I’d need to make, then took a deep breath before stepping off the terrace and falling to the ground.
Did it hurt?
The impact worked its way up my legs and all the way to my eyeballs, and I fell to my hands and knees with a short sharp cry that turned into a hiss of pain when I tried to stifle it.
If it wasn’t evident before, it was certainly clear to me now just how beneficial the Princess Regalia was to me. Not only did it provide excellent support for Mirai’s voluptuous chest, but it seemed to absorb, distribute, and disperse physical impacts away from body. Perhaps it was more accurate to say that it acted like a bumper between me and harm. Regardless, as I picked myself up off the ground, I seriously considered revealing my hand and summoning the Sarcophagus for a change of clothes.
Gasping a little, I looked myself over. “Next time I spread my wings.”
“Princess, are you certain you can summon them?”
I pouted in thought, realized what I was doing, and cleared my expression in a hurry. “Honestly. No idea. Maybe they would spread on their own if I was falling to my death.”
“…you are not considering putting that hypothesis to the test, are you?”
My face twisted as I scowled at Ghost whom I could now see standing before me, a few feet away. I guessed he was projecting himself into my vision through the wetware, and thereby superimposing his image into my surroundings.
“Do you really think I’m that suicidal?” I grumbled at him.
He averted his eyes in thought. “I have yet to formulate an accurate profile on your personality.” He met my stare with a calm gaze. “Shall we say, the jury is still out?”
“Ha ha. You are so funny.” I indicated my boobs that I was cradling. “Why don’t you start being helpful instead and do something about these?”
In my vision, the ghost of Ghost regarded my breasts studiously. “Princess, might I inquire?”
“Well, what exactly is wrong with them?”
My lips drew back into a snarl and I hissed at him, “They need support!”
“Very well. Follow me.” I blinked sharply and gaped at him as he then smoothly flourished upon me an elaborate bow. “Princess, this way if you please.”
Ghost turned around and began walking away from the building.
I stared at him in bewilderment for a few seconds before chasing after him.
The base of the megascraper apartment complex was a hexagonal stepped plaza leading down to street level. As I hurried away from the building, I looked behind me at the lobby visible through the ground floor windows.
“I thought the Cat Princess would be here by now,” I muttered to myself.
Naturally, Ghost heard me. “No need to worry.”
“Yeah? Why not?”
“I temporarily suspended her security rights within the building. The elevators will not respond to her, and the fire escape doors have been automatically locked to her.”
“What about my sister—I mean, Erina?”
“Hah,” I exhaled loudly. “Aren’t they going to know it was you?”
“Eventually.” He shrugged. “Or maybe not.”
I looked up at the building towering over me, and pictured Erina losing her cool and tearing up the apartment.
“Princess, please don’t dally.”
Cradling my boobs, and feeling the chill through my wet clothes, I hurried after the ghost only I could see and hear.
Courtesy of Mirai’s wetware, I knew that local time was 1:15 in the morning. Not surprisingly, there was plenty of pedestrian traffic in Ar Telica’s Ring Zero. I wouldn’t describe it as the city that never sleeps, but there were numerous of shops open serving food, coffee, and drinks. Ring Zero bordered the harbor, so there were restaurants a plenty, and more than enough patrons to keep them running well into the bright side of the morning.
To say I was conspicuous was an understatement, so I ducked my head, hiding my face under my long dark locks – yes, Mirai was still in powered up mode – and kept an eye on Ghost a few feet ahead of me who nonchalantly walked through people like a phantasmal entity. Though I knew he was merely a projection into my vision, I have to admit the effect was a little creepy.
However, while he could pass through people without worry, I had to avoid bumping into them. I kept my attention away from their faces, refusing to make eye contact. But because of Mirai’s wide field-of-vision, I could see the curious expressions I drew, as well as looks of disgust from the women I walked by. No doubt some of them thought of me as I was a runaway or drugged out teen prostitute. I can’t say I felt pleasant when I garnered such looks, and I cursed Ghost for leading me down busy sidewalks.
After a few minutes of this torture, I followed him down a narrow side street, that was sparsely lit. A hundred meters further on, Ghost turned into a wide alley, and I trailed after him until he stopped a dozen meters from the previous corner. Halting beside him, I looked up to see the entrance to a shelter with numerous donation bins clustered nearby.
“What is this?” I asked him, sensing there were people inside the building, and despite knowing what it was.
“A charity organization,” he replied. “Frequently, the services of the Health and Welfare Division fall short of meeting the needs of the population. A non-profit organization such as this one helps fill the gap between the haves and the have nots.”
“Why is the entrance so far away from the street?”
Ghost stared at me with a faintly puzzled air. “Perhaps because the citizens do not wish to be reminded there are those less fortunate than them.”
“Ah…you have a point….” His answer was depressingly reasonable.
Ghost pointed at the bins I’d noticed. “You should find something in those donation bins.”
I chuckled softly without humor. “From riches to rags—” My chuckle died in a hurry when I noticed the stern expression on Ghost’s face. “What…?”
He regarded me in silence for a long while before saying flatly, “I suggest you hurry, Princess.”
What’s his problem, I asked myself, not liking the way ‘Princess’ rolled of his phantasmal tongue. Ah, whatever. I’m too tired to care.
Ignoring him, I stepped up to the bins, and then opened their lids.
After a few minutes rummaging inside, I found a surprisingly large plastic bag filled to bursting with clothing that must have belonged to a teenage girl. It was full of tops in various colors and styles, most of them quite trendy and revealing. But more importantly, I found a wide selection of bras and sports tops.
Closing the bin lids, I moved with my spoils to a dark corner of the alley.
Mirai’s night vision made it easy for me to see in the dark, but even so it was hard telling colors apart. I picked out items that I guessed would fit me, then peered around to see if I was being watched as I contemplated changing clothes here in the open.
Ghost indicated what looked like a narrow laneway. “Princess, I suggest that entrance over there. I’ve disabled the security camera watching over it.”
For a moment, I stared at him in both awe and fear at the ease with which he could interface and dominate photronic systems.
This is the entity that destroyed a Citadel with half a million people in it. If he wanted to, could he destroy Ar Telica just as easily?
The thought made me shiver and I hugged the plastic bag to my chest.
“Princess, time is precious,” Ghost warned me as he swept his gaze down both directions of the alley. “Please hurry.”
“You’re not going to peep on me?”
He looked perplexed or should I say, astounded that I would ask such a question. “Princess, you wound me.”
“Well are you?”
Ghost sighed as he placed an arm across his chest. “I promise not to peep on you.”
Does it really matter? I asked myself. It’s not like he has a body, but could he grow aroused at sight of me naked?
I shiver ran through me at the creepiness of the thought, and so I swallowed hard, nodded once, and then rushed over to the laneway that wasn’t a laneway but a basement entrance into one of the megascrapers occupying this district block.
After descending a dozen or more steps, I found myself well below street level as I approached a closed metal door and dropped the plastic bag at its foot. Throwing off the wet jacket, I quickly stripped out of my torn clothing, tossing them to the ground as the cold air bit into my skin, and chilled my arms and torso. I expected to sneeze, but Mirai was sturdier than she looked. Certainly, I felt cold but if I was Ronin Kassius, I’d be sneezing my lungs out by now.
After quickly drying myself by using a dark satin top from the bag, I found a grey sports bra that stretched fittingly over my breasts, then pulled out another top I’d noticed before. It was black, with short, ruffled sleeves, a modest neckline, and a frilled hem. It fit so well, that I guessed its owner must have been a well-endowed girl, and I wondered why she’d thrown all these clothes away. From what I remembered of teenage girl fashion, these articles of clothing were quite expensive. In other words, they weren’t items you’d purchase at a department store, but at a boutique.
Feeling curious, I dug deeper into the bag, discovering a handful of short, tight skirts, and a pair of dark capri pants that I decided to trade for my soaked denims. But that meant I had to do something about my underwear, and again I resorted to fishing around in the bag until I found – shock, shudder, horror – black lacy panties that were at least dry.
Who the Hell was this girl?
I had an epiphany as I stared at the silk panties in my hands.
Did her mother toss out all her sexy clothing?
Quickly slipping out of my wet clothes and into the dry panties and capri pants, I proceeded to donate my soaked belongings by pushing them into the bag.
The only pieces of clothing I couldn’t replace were my deck shoes, so I slipped my feet back into them, grimacing as I did so, and then fled the basement entrance. Having returned to the side street, I skulked back to the donation bins and tossed the plastic bag into one of them.
Ghost was keeping a lookout in a very humanly way that unnerved me, but he did run his gaze over me at one point.
“Good choice,” he praised me. “Ah, about your shoes.” Pointing at a specific bin, he added, “Try that one.”
When I peered inside, I soon realized it was meant for donated footwear.
I wasn’t keen on slipping my feet into someone else’s shoes, both literally and figuratively, but my deck shoes were dank and unpleasant to walk in.
After a couple of minutes looking at what was on offer, I found some heeled sandals that looked to be Mirai’s size, and put them on. They were cold but clean and dry, so I decided trade them for my wet deck shoes.
Feeling better about my appearance, I pondered what I should do with the man’s ground crew jacket, eventually deciding to fold it up and take it with me.
Ghost nodded in satisfaction at me, then arched an eyebrow as he expressed curiosity. “I am surprised by how well you are taking all this.”
“What do you mean?”
“Changing clothes without arguing. Not making a fuss over your body.”
I stared at him but in truth I wasn’t looking at him. Instead, I was picturing myself changing clothes beside the basement entrance with little regard to my surroundings.
“Yeah, that was a little too willing on my part,” I replied with a bitter nod, “but I was cold, wet, and uncomfortable. What would be the point in arguing about it?”
“Are you suggesting I should have kicked up a fuss?”
“I am merely making an observation that you demonstrate a surprising willingness to adapt to your circumstances.”
“Is that a compliment?” I warily asked.
“Indeed it is.”
I took a deep breath, and admitted to him, “It’s not like I’m comfortable being Mirai. And getting changed out in the open isn’t my idea of fun. But there are times when put up and shut up make the most sense.” I hesitated before asking, “Does that make any sense?”
I sighed after a moment. “When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.”
“Does that imply you are accepting of Mirai?”
“I don’t have a choice, do I.”
“And if you did?”
I sighed again and looked away. “I’d prefer going back to my old life.”
But that would mean dying prematurely.
Feeling trapped on all sides, I felt anxious and could only quell it by taking slow, deep breaths while focusing on the damp, folded jacket in my arms. But by looking down, I was conscious of the clothes I was now wearing, and how well Mirai’s body filled them out. I blushed in shame as I realized I was being vain, and yet I couldn’t deny that it felt pleasant to take pride in my appearance.
I looked up at Ghost, and wondered if one day I would wake up and no longer think of myself as Ronin…but as Mirai or Isabel.
If so, what sort of person would I be when that happened?
What would my life be like afterwards?
Would I have learned to walk like a girl by then?
“Hey Ghost, can I ask you something?”
“By all means.”
“Do I walk like a girl or a boy?”
His eyebrows arched steeply, then came down in a frown. “If I may be so bold as to present my opinion.”
“From my many observations of Ronin Kassius, I can safely say he was never the manliest of men.”
“I think you’ve mentioned that already.”
“My point is that he lacked the—dare I say—swagger that most teenage boys have.”
“So I walked like a girl?”
“No, you simply walked. That is to say, you lacked the physique of girl but you also lacked the physique of a boy.”
“So I was somewhere in the middle.”
“Correct. As a consequence, I can say that your manner of walking is rather neutral.”
I felt my forehead begin to furrow. “Is that what Erina meant?”
“No, she most clearly exaggerated.”
I exhaled long and slow, feeling oddly relieved perhaps because I didn’t feel I was at an extreme. In other words, my body language wasn’t something that would naturally stand out. It may draw attention to me, but not in an untoward way.
So that begged the question, did I want to walk like a girl?
Folding his hands behind his back, Ghost observed me studiously for a moment before interrupting my train of thought. “Princess, I propose you not dwell upon it deeply.”
“Because in Mirai’s body, you will naturally learn to adapt your manner of movement. You simply need to give it time.”
I felt a cold emptiness begin to hollow out my chest, and I found myself speechless so I kept my mouth closed as I turned away.
Ghost had stated the obvious, that little by little I would become Mirai and Isabel, and discard the traits of Ronin Kassius.
Yet, apparent or not, it was still an unpleasant truth that I didn’t want to accept.
In the corner of my eye, I watched Ghost regard me with the air of a teacher, or a counsellor. “Princess, where to next?”
I realized he was choosing to distract me from my troubled thoughts, and I silently thanked him.
Looking around me at the quiet, deserted side street, I gave the question my full attention for a short while. After clearing my throat, I wet my lips slowly and I looked up at him. “I…I need some time…to myself.” I frowned slightly before concluding, “I’d like to go somewhere where I can think.”
Ghost’s eyebrows rose and fell in a subtle response to my answer.
Was he surprised by my reply? Why would that be?
I was still wondering why when he soon favored me with a gentle nod. “In that case, Princess, may I make another suggestion.”
I wet my lips again before deferring to his judgement with a hesitant nod of my own.
Apologies for the delay and rough cut of this chapter, and thank you for sticking with it for so long.
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