• Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate (Fan Fiction)
  • Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate (Fan Fiction)

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  1. #1
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    Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate (Fan Fiction)

    Disclaimer: In no way, shape, or form do I claim ownership to Outlaw Star or other franchises set in the Towards Star universe.

    (Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate)

    Prologue: Seed of Another Future

    The Outlaw Star's rematch with the mysterious pirate ship was over. The enemy's grappler arms, which could separate and fight independently from the ship's main body, had already been destroyed. As for what remained, it was only a matter of time before it exploded due to the heavy damage it had sustained.

    In their previous encounter, the crew of the Outlaw Star had been thrown for a loop, for they had never faced an opponent that could effectively split itself into different parts. In a last ditch effort, the crew's captain, the cocky womanizer Gene Starwind, had the ship fire off all of its remaining projectiles. This forced the pirate ship to counter the overwhelming barrage, giving the Outlaw Star an opportunity to escape.

    Upon docking at a nearby space station, Symka 5, the crew's tactician and youngest member Jim Hawking spent an entire night without sleep developing a strategy designed solely for defeating the opponent they had just faced. Once he finished, instead of going to sleep, Jim decided to explore the station, considering how it was already morning.

    After coming across two cats, Jim followed the feline pair to a park. It was at the fountain in the park's center that he first saw Hanmyo, a young purple-haired girl who was the same age as Jim and was the owner of the two cats. In Jim's eyes, she was the most beautiful girl he had ever met. For a while, he merely gazed in awe at her, watching her practice what appeared to martial arts, though her form was so graceful one would think she was dancing. Eventually, she stopped and noticed that she had attracted an unexpected audience. Jim tried to talk to Hanmyo, but he was so nervous that he kept stumbling over his words. He even admitted that he liked her, although they had just met. Luckily, Hanmyo didn't seem to mind at all, and upon finding out that neither of them actually lived on the station, but were both just passing through, even said that their meeting must be fate. Hanmyo then left to feed her cats, whose names were Kemi and Matta, but she and Jim promised to get together at one o'clock later that day.

    When they met up again, Jim gave Hanmyo a small, but lovely bouquet of flowers. This present made Hanmyo feel not only flattered, but incredibly happy as well. Jim and Hanmyo spent the entire afternoon playing together in the park, and while they never really spoke about themselves or their backgrounds, the two came to know each other in a way most people didn't. Hanmyo found Jim to be a cute, honest, and humble boy who was very kind and hard-working, while Jim saw Hanmyo as a pretty, cheerful, and strong girl with a sense of maturity he could easily identify with.

    Before they knew it, the sun was setting and the two had to part ways, though they promised to meet each other at the same time and place the following day.

    Upon returning to the hanger, Jim learned that the Outlaw Star was already repaired and everyone else was ready to depart. Disappointment and guilt could not begin to sum up how Jim felt at that moment. Soon after leaving Symka 5, the enemy ship from the day before appeared once again. However, the outcome was completely different this time. With Jim's new strategy, the once formidable foe didn't stand a chance, with each of its grappler arms being destroyed before the main body was inflicted with massive damage. It would be a matter of seconds before what remained of the pirate ship exploded.

    What no one onboard the Outlaw Star knew was the actual identity of their soon-to-be dead opponent: Hanmyo, the girl Jim had met that day and had formed a deep connection with. Would Jim go to their meeting place, only to be confused and heartbroken when Hanmyo doesn't show up? Would Jim go his entire life never knowing that he took the life of his first love? Or would Hanmyo survive their cruel clash and reunite with Jim at a later point in time? And if either Jim or Hanmyo had known the truth about the other prior to their second confrontation in space, what else would have changed as a result?

    These are all possibilities that, along with others, have been explored and their stories told. Here, a new story and a new adventure will begin, similar to some of those before it, yet different all the same. A new seed has been planted, one that will forever change Jim and Hanmyo's destinies once it sprouts and blooms.

    (To be continued)

    Preview:

    Because of Jim, today has been one annoyance after another. First I wake up with a huge hangover and immediately I am made to work on the ship. Then Jim asks me for dating advice out of the blue, only to get second thoughts and start calling me out. And right when we're about leave, he suddenly becomes really depressed, yet he STILL tries to act like a big shot, but who's he trying to fool? Well, at least he cheered up after the fight, but why the hell is he so excited about going back to Symka 5 for repairs? Whatever, it's not my problem. Huh? Wait a second, Jim! What do you mean you need an ambulance?

    Next time on Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate: Miracle of Destiny. You better get ready!
    “So here’s the deal. Life doesn’t always wanna be your friend. Sometimes it’ll feel like life wants to hurt you. But you can’t just hide, ‘cause nobody likes a quitter. You’ve gotta take chances. They never said it was gonna be fun, or easy. Whether your totally ready, or when you least expect it, it doesn’t matter: life will punch you right in the face. And you can lie there for a second, cry a little if you need to, but get back on your feet, ‘cause it’s the gettin’ back up that counts. And that’s what shows that you’ve got heart, that’s what helps keep you going. Fall down seven times? Get up eight. And know, we’ll be right there with you.” - T.O.M. (Toonami)

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  3. #2
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    (Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate)

    Fate. Destiny. Some believe that the past, present, and future are all set in stone and cannot be changed, for better or for worse, no matter how hard one wishes. Others believe that the future is full of infinite possible outcomes, and that one's fate is far from predetermined. Which of these explanations is the real answer? Is there truth to be found in both of them, or is the answer something else entirely? The concept has inspired countless theories, with every individual coming to his or her own conclusions. Nonetheless, one simple question remains unanswered. A question that has existed since the first sentient life form came to be, an answer to which has yet to be given and proven to be absolute, with no room for doubt. Is fate real or not?

    (Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate)

    The lights inside the ship had stopped working. Hanmyo knew that her ship, the Torata, was about to explode. There was a good chance that with all of the attacks her ship had suffered, Hanmyo might have also been hurt badly, but even if she had been, it wasn't going to matter. Soon she would be dead, just like her feline companions, Kemi and Matta, who had been the ones controlling the grappler arms of their ship. Hanmyo began to wish that she had ordered her cats to return to the ship so that they could pull back, but immediately she pushed that thought aside. Even if they had successfully escaped, Hazanko would have had them executed for giving up on their mission and thus shaming the rest of the Anten Seven. Hazanko had been angry at Shimi and Iraga for failing to accomplish their objectives, but at least they had died while trying to carry out their assignments.

    "A dead ship. The Torata won't respond. Kemi…Matta…" said Hanmyo quietly.

    Chapter 1: Miracle of Destiny

    Tears began to stream down Hanmyo's face from under her control helmet. Internally, the young pilot was apologizing to those she considered close, her cats and Jim, the first boy she ever had feelings for, perhaps even loved. "Kemi…Matta…I'm so sorry I couldn't save you two. Jim…please don't feel sad when I'm not there tomorrow. Let me be the only one hurting, so that I can take that hurt with me."

    In her mindscape, she sighed deeply. "You're so nice and honest, and you try so hard at everything. Jim, you were the first boy…no, the first person to show me true kindness that I can recall, and you barely knew me. Someone like you deserves far better than a pirate like me."

    Back outside of her mind, Hanmyo glanced at the flowers Jim had given her earlier through her helmet. The bouquet was tucked inside her shirt, resting right in front of her heart. With a sad smile on her face, Hanmyo closed her eyes and silently gave one last farewell to Kemi, Matta, and Jim.

    Suddenly, time seemed to come to a standstill. Two orbs of light, one green and the other blue, appeared between the Torata and the Outlaw Star. The lights, completely invisible to both ships raced towards the Torata, one towards each side. They phased through the walls, entered the cockpit, and came to a halt right in front of Hanmyo. The two orbs seemed to turn towards one another, as if to share a knowing nod, before turning back towards Hanmyo and entering her body. The cockpit was filled with a bright light, followed by time beginning to move once more. The Torata gave off a spark of electricity before it exploded a few seconds later, but there was no longer anyone inside to disappear with it.

    (Scene change)

    Jim had been unable to hide his happiness when Gene announced with a sigh that they would have to return once again to Symka 5 for repairs. The repairman at the hanger hadn't been too pleased that all of his hard work had been undone so quickly, but given the fact that it wasn't often that he got to work on a grappler ship, and that Jim was a good negotiator, the two worked out an agreement. If the entire crew helped him out with his work around the space station's various docks and hangars for the remainder of the evening, the repairman would start fixing the ship the next day while the crew slept, all while charging them the same amount as last time. So for the next few hours, everyone did their own tasks. Gene helped out with fixing ships in the repair hangar, while Aisha carried cargo onto and off of docked spaceships. Suzuka alternately supervised the two, making sure they didn't slack off or get into any trouble. As for Jim and Melfina, they were in the office, with Jim helping out with all of the financial records while Melfina helped search for and provide Jim with particular files that needed attention. But both Melfina and the repairman were shocked with Jim's behavior. He was so excited about his date that would take place the following day that he plowed through the mountain of paperwork like it was nothing. Jim was so into his work, in fact, that the only possible way to have gotten his attention away from it would have been nothing short of finding Aisha and having her scream in his ear.

    Before anyone knew it, it was already four in the morning. The repairman told everyone that they had done plenty and could just go to bed, while he would start working on the ship around noon. While everyone else conked out immediately upon going to bed, Jim's excitement about seeing Hanmyo the next day prevented him from successfully falling asleep. After lying wide awake in bed for a couple of hours, Jim finally decided to just get up and take a walk again. Determined not to wake anyone, the boy genius snuck off the ship, managing to slip past even Gilliam.

    (Scene change)

    Jim would have gone straight to the elevator that would have taken him to the main part of the space station, had he not begun floating around in zero-gravity the moment he opened the hatch. Realizing that their ship was in the middle of the repair hangar instead of docked outside, Jim looked around before seeing the repairman. Upon realizing that the blonde kid had spotted him and was floating his way, the middle age man sighed in exasperation.

    "I thought I asked your ship's computer to make it so that you wouldn't be able to hear any of the noise," the repairman grumbled, adding to Jim's confusion.

    "What do you mean? And weren't you going to wait until noon to get started?" Jim asked, completely puzzled.

    "That was BEFORE I took a closer look at all of the paperwork you did for me," the repairman responded. "Kid, do you have any idea as to the amount of work you actually finished for me?"

    "I…wasn't really keeping track," Jim answered embarrassingly.

    "Well then…" the repairman began. "To put it one way, I haven't taken a single day off from work in several years, but thanks to you, I'll be able to enjoy at least three weeks of vacation, starting the day after tomorrow! What I'm doing right now is simply a gesture of pure gratitude, nothing else."

    "Gee, I don't know what to say…" replied Jim, doing his best to hide the pride in his voice.

    "How about telling me what you're doing out here?" responded the repairman in a serious tone. "You look like you haven't slept a wink in ages, and yet you're still up and about."

    "Couldn't sleep," replied Jim. "I've got something going on later today, and I can't stop thinking about it. I figured that maybe if I took a short walk or something, I might calm down a little."

    "Well, all I can say is I hope you're able to fall asleep after your walk, cause there's no point in doing whatever you have planned later if you can't stay awake through it," said the repairman.

    "Me, too," Jim agreed. "And once again, thanks!"

    (Scene change)

    Five minutes later, Jim got off the elevator and started to walk around the station again. Soon after beginning his stroll, however, Jim found himself inexplicably drawn towards the park where he met Hanmyo. Upon arriving, he noticed that the entrance gate to the park was strangely wide open. Curious, he went in to investigate. With sunrise still more than an hour away, all the lampposts in the park were still lit. Upon reaching the fountain, Jim noticed someone slumped alongside the edge of it out of the corner of his eye. A nearby lamppost illuminated the person's bruised face and damaged clothes, just enough for Jim to recognize who it was. Immediately turning deathly pale, Jim panicked and cried out, "HANMYO!"

    (Scene change)

    To say that Gene was not amused when he heard Jim's voice yelling out of his earring (he had forgotten to take it out in his exhaustion) would be a gross understatement. After receiving the rude wake-up call and noticing the time, Gene's frown grew even larger.

    "Jim, do you have any idea what time it is? And why are you calling me like this?" Gene growled.

    "No time to explain! Just call an ambulance and have them come to the park right away!" Jim replied.

    "Are you sure you didn't just have a nightmare? You've been working way too hard lately."

    "I'm serious, Gene! Someone's life could be at stake here, dammit! Get help RIGHT NOW!"

    After that, Jim cut the connection. Still skeptical and half asleep, Gene grudgingly rolled out of bed and stumbled towards Jim's room to give him a piece of his mind. Upon seeing an empty bed, however, Gene snapped out of his stupor, ran back to his room to get dressed, and stormed out of the ship, knocking one of Gilliam's robots into the wall along the way.

    "Why did Gene hit me this time?" moaned Gilliam.

    (Scene change)

    After jumping straight into zero G when he wasn't expecting to and angrily floating around for the next few minutes, Gene successfully made it outside. Almost immediately, he saw the park nearby and ran over there. "What's that idiot doing outside right now anyway? And why the hell is the park even open at this hour?"

    Seeing Jim kneeling on the ground near the fountain, Gene marched up to the little genius and got straight to business.

    "What the hell are doing here, Jim? Do you have any clue what time it is?" Gene snapped.

    "Gene, you moron! Where's the ambulance?" Jim yelled.

    "What'd you just call me, you little pipsqueak?" retorted Gene, not really listening.

    Because they were too busy arguing, the two didn't notice at all when Hanmyo very slowly began to regain consciousness. Her eyes opening at a snail's pace, Hanmyo could vaguely see the silhouettes of two people standing in front of her. She could hear their voices, but couldn't fully make out what they were saying. Her vision gradually improving, Hanmyo noticed that one of them was a young boy with a shock of dirty blonde hair whom she quickly recognized.

    'Jim…What are you doing here?' Hanmyo thought. 'What AM I doing here, wherever HERE is? And…who is that with him?' Seeing a man with red hair, she took in more of his features until…

    'Gene Starwind?!' Hanmyo internally gasped, recognizing him based on the description Hazanko had given the Anten Seven. 'Why is he here, talking with Jim? Do they know each other? No, that's impossible…isn't it?' Shock and realization hit Hanmyo like an asteroid, her eyes now completely open in disbelief at her sudden discovery. 'They're…friends? No…no! No! No! NO, IT CAN'T BE!'

    As quickly as she had come to, Hanmyo fell unconscious once more. However, her body had begun to lean to the side and she fell, her head hitting the pavement. The sound of movement got the attention of Jim and Gene, which promptly lead them to cease their bickering. Upon realizing that Hanmyo was now lying on the ground, Jim panicked and raced to her side, fearing the worst.

    "Hanmyo!?" Jim cried. Cautiously, but nervously, he straightened Hanmyo up back into a sitting position, then while kneeling on the ground, had her lean forward so that she was on his back. Standing up, Jim ran towards the park entrance, looking around for signs for a hospital. Or rather, he tried to run, but Jim wasn't as strong physically as he would have liked, so he trudged towards the gate more than anything.

    All this time, Gene had been watching Jim with an emotionless expression on his face. Noticing his lack of progress, Gene scowled and marched over to Jim before proceeding to lift Hanmyo off his back and placing her on his own.

    "I saw earlier that the hospital is this way, and it isn't too far, so come on!" Gene said before racing off, preventing Jim from complaining before the thought had even occurred to him. Jim immediately dashed after the redhead, just barely able to keep up. A minute later, Gene could no longer hold back on the question that had been driving him crazy.

    "Jim, who is this kid and how the hell do you know her?" he asked the blonde.

    "Her name is Hanmyo, and she's an important friend to me, alright?" Jim answered back.

    "An important friend?" Gene questioned, but then immediately put the pieces together. "OH! I get it! She's the date you had earlier! So what were you two doing out here so late? Did you rough her up too much or something?" he teased. Even in times of stress, Gene's wit never abandons him.

    "Would it kill you to keep your head out of the gutter for more than five minutes? I would NEVER do something like that to an angel like Hanmyo, you lech!" Jim retorted. He realized a moment too late, unfortunately, that he had made an unnecessary comment, giving Gene plenty of ammo.

    "An angel, is she?" Gene laughed. "Even I wasn't this much of a lady killer when I was your age!"

    "Gene Starwind, now is NOT the time for this!" Jim yelled.

    "Can you please stop freaking out? At this rate, you'll go bald before we reach the hospital, which may I add happens to be just one more block away!" Gene criticized.

    "Wait, what?" Jim said before looking up and seeing a giant building with a red cross on it in plain sight, causing him to blush in embarrassment at not having noticed sooner.

    (Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate)
    “So here’s the deal. Life doesn’t always wanna be your friend. Sometimes it’ll feel like life wants to hurt you. But you can’t just hide, ‘cause nobody likes a quitter. You’ve gotta take chances. They never said it was gonna be fun, or easy. Whether your totally ready, or when you least expect it, it doesn’t matter: life will punch you right in the face. And you can lie there for a second, cry a little if you need to, but get back on your feet, ‘cause it’s the gettin’ back up that counts. And that’s what shows that you’ve got heart, that’s what helps keep you going. Fall down seven times? Get up eight. And know, we’ll be right there with you.” - T.O.M. (Toonami)

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    (Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate)

    Gene and Jim crashed right through the hospital's front doors, startling all of the staff members who were in the foyer. It wasn't even 7 o'clock yet, so could anyone blame them?

    "Um…excuse me," one of the nurses asked shyly. "But can we help you with something?"

    Gene looked at the nurse before beginning his explanation. "Yeah, my buddy here and I found this girl in the park, and she looks pretty hurt. I'm not sure how serious it is, but could you look her over?"

    "Y-Yes, of course!" the nurse answered immediately, calling over her colleagues to take the girl off of Gene's back and place her onto a stretcher and take her away. A few seconds later, Gene addressed Jim directly for the first time since they arrived.

    "Hey, Jim? Don't you think you should inform Hanmyo's family about all of this?" Gene remarked.

    "I can't," Jim said sadly. "In fact, I don't know if she even has a family. We never really talked much about our personal backgrounds."

    "Then what the hell did you two do together all afternoon?" Gene asked.

    "Just…stuff…" Jim muttered embarrassingly, not wanting to admit to acting like a little kid and just running around and playing.

    "What kind of stuff?" Gene teased.

    "None of your damn business!" Jim said even more softly, now with his eyes shut, unable to look Gene in the face.

    "Alright! Alright!" Gene threw his hands up in mock defeat before getting serious. "But do you know anything about her? Anything at all?"

    Jim opened his eyes half way before answering sadly, "Not much, just that she was here alone on Symka 5 while passing through on a trip with her two cats. Speaking of which, I need to ask Hanmyo what happened to them, since they weren't with her when we found her."

    "Alone, huh?" Gene sighed. "What is it with kids trying so hard to act like adults?"

    "And what's that supposed to mean?" Jim asked angrily.

    "That other than sharing a habit of trying to act like grown-ups when neither of you are one, I honestly don't see anything you two could possibly share in common," Gene answered indifferently. Before Jim could talk back, Gene went on. "This isn't like you at all Jim. You haven't known her for one whole day, and you know even less about her than you should, given that amount of time. So why is she so damn important to you?"

    "You just don't get it!" Jim responded furiously. He then whispered the next part, though Gene heard him anyway. "I should have known that someone like you couldn't possibly understand how I feel."

    Normally, Gene would have been enraged by that last remark and would have started fighting with Jim, but he didn't for two reasons. First of all, they were in a hospital, so that would be a really bad idea. Secondly, Gene noticed something odd about Jim's voice when he made that last comment. It wasn't an angry retort or even a resigned acceptance, both of which were common to hear from Jim when it came to Gene's antics. It sounded depressed, something Gene couldn't recall Jim ever being.

    Before Gene could do anything about it, however, one of the nurses from earlier had returned. "I'm sorry to bother you," the nurse said politely. "But we need both of you to answer some questions concerning the girl you brought in."

    "Uh, okay," replied Gene hesitantly.

    (Scene change)

    "Just to make sure I understand all of this," the head doctor questioned Jim and Gene, who were sitting in her office, a while later. Pointing at Jim, she continued, "You met her in the park yesterday morning." To this, Jim nodded. "You then got together and spent the afternoon with her before parting ways at around sunset. And at any point yesterday did she display signs that she was hurt in some way?"

    "No, not at all," Jim answered.

    "Then about an hour and a half ago, you went for a walk because you had trouble sleeping and thought it would help you relax. You noticed that the park gate was open and you went to check it out. It was then that you found your friend Hanmyo lying on the ground," the doctor added.

    "Yep. Then I contacted Gene, and together we brought Hanmyo here," Jim said, confirming their story.

    The doctor closed her eyes and let out a sigh before looking at Jim and smiling kindly. "Well, Jim, I think that they should be almost done checking Hanmyo over, so you should be able to see her soon. She's still unconscious, but she should probably wake up soon. Why don't you go see her right now?"

    "Okey-dokey, then! Thank you!" Jim said cheerfully, already out of his seat and on his way out the door. Gene was about to stand up as well, but the doctor stopped him.

    "Actually, Mr. Starwind," the doctor began. "There's something I need to discuss with you."

    "Is this about paying for everything? Because if that's it, then…" Gene stated, sick of having to worry about money so much lately.

    "No, Mr. Starwind. There wasn't much to do, so we won't charge you a whole lot," the doctor reassured him. "However, about Hanmyo's injuries…"

    "Yeah? What about them?" Gene asked.

    "On the surface, the bruises on her face and scratches on her body appear to be fresh, along with a broken rib. I can't say for certain, but it appears as if Hanmyo had been roughly thrown around at a high speed. And yet, even before we began to take X-rays, it was clear that she was almost fully healed," the doctor explained.

    "What do you mean, almost fully healed?" Gene asked, completely shocked. "Is that even possible?"

    "If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I would feel the same way," said the doctor. "But right in front of me, the bruises were gradually, but clearly fading. And once we began taking the X-rays, we took several, and with each shot, the rib appeared to be constantly improving. In short, Hanmyo's body is healing at an unnaturally fast rate, the equivalent of several weeks worth of recovery in one night."

    "Are you serious?" Gene responded.

    "I don't joke about these sorts of things, Mr. Starwind," the doctor coolly answered. "I would be a liar if I said this was actually a bad thing, but given how bizarre this is, I was hoping you would be able to shed a little light on this mystery."

    "I'm afraid not," Gene sighed. "Jim's the one who knows her, not me. And even he has only known her for one day."

    (Scene change)

    Jim had finally found out where Hanmyo's room was, and upon entering, found her fast asleep on a hospital bed. The purple-haired girl looked so peaceful while sleeping, Jim was satisfied with just pulling up a chair and sitting next to her bed, watching over her with a soft smile on his face.

    "Hanmyo, I'm so glad you're alright," Jim said quietly, hoping Hanmyo could hear him, even in her unconscious state. "I don't know why you were there in the park or how you got so badly hurt in the first place, but from here on out, I promise to protect you with everything I've got, because I know you'd do the same for me."

    "Jim, thank you," a strained voice muttered, just loud enough for Jim to hear.

    "Hanmyo?" Jim asked, attempting and failing to hide his excitement. He watched as Hanmyo slowly opened her eyes half-way and started to sit upright. "How are you feeling now?" Hanmyo glanced in his direction, her eyes still not fully open.

    "Alright, I guess…" she began. Hanmyo squinted her eyes even closer, thinking hard, before donning an utterly perplexed and slightly pained expression.

    "What's the matter, Hanmyo?" said Jim worriedly.

    "Jim, something's wrong!" Hanmyo gasped. "My memory, it's gone!"

    (Scene change)

    "So…all you can remember is our meeting and the afternoon we spent together?" Jim asked Hanmyo a few minutes later. He was now sitting next to her on the bed, hoping to help her in any way he could.

    "Uh huh," Hanmyo confirmed, her face solemn. "And oddly enough, I can remember those things perfectly. Every single detail, from the sound of the fountain when I first saw you to me leaping into the air when you gave me those flowers."

    "I see. I'm sorry, Hanmyo," Jim said, holding his head sadly.

    "Cheer up, Jim!" Hanmyo said cheerfully, causing Jim to look at her in confusion. "They're good memories, so you have no reason to apologize!" she explained.

    "Yeah, I guess if you could only remember one thing, you'd want it to be a good memory, right?" Jim replied, feeling a little better.

    "Yep!" Hanmyo agreed happily. "Though…" her expression became serious once more.

    "Yeah, Hanmyo?" Jim asked curiously.

    "There is something else," she began. "I don't know whether or not to call it a memory, but I have this overwhelming feeling inside of me." Hanmyo closed her eyes tightly, holding her hand over her heart. "It's like something between sadness and regret. It keeps telling me that Kemi and Matta, that they're…gone. And that…I should be, too. I have no proof to back this up, but deep down I know that it's true." At this point, her eyes opened back up and tears began to form.

    "Hanmyo…" said Jim quietly, unsure of what to say or how to respond. All he knew is he couldn't stand to see Hanmyo cry. Instinctively, he rested his hand on her back and rubbed up and down gently, hoping to cheer her up, at least a little. Mere seconds later, Hanmyo turned to face Jim with a look of joy and gratitude gracing her features, with no trace of tears at all.

    "You're so sweet, Jim. Thank you," Hanmyo said.

    "But I didn't even say or do anything worth mentioning just now. How did I help?" Jim asked, confused. To this, Hanmyo responded with a light chuckle.

    "Yes you did, silly!" Hanmyo said in a cheerful tone. "You were sitting with me and trying to find a way to make me happy! That's more than plenty!" At this, she shook her head in a reassuring manner. "Not only that, you've been doing all that and more this entire time! I can't think of a good way to thank you enough!"

    "Then how about you come with us?" Jim turned to see Gene standing in the doorway.

    "How long have you been there?" Jim asked, afraid of what Gene might have heard.

    "Doesn't matter," Gene responded nonchalantly. "The point is that if Hanmyo came along, you'd not only be happy, but you'd finally have someone your own age to annoy instead of us! It'll be a nice change of pace, seeing you act like a child for once in your life!"

    "Gene, could you please not say things like that right now?" Jim asked the laughing red-head miserably.

    "Seriously, Jim, can't you take a joke for once?" Gene calmed down. "Look, the hospital is ready to dismiss your friend here any time, the Outlaw Star has one more spare bedroom, and according to our ship's blueprints, Jim's chair can be separated into two without that much trouble. So all that's left is your answer. What do say, Hanmyo? Do you want to come?"

    Hanmyo was speechless, but quickly shook her head before jumping off the bed in a fit of joy. "I'd love to! Thank you, thank you!" Hanmyo cheered before pulling Jim off the bed and spinning around with him. "Jim, we get to travel together! Yippee!" Jim smiled bashfully along with her, but his mood was instantly killed when Hanmyo asked, "But shouldn't we tell the doctor about my memory?"

    Jim panicked, considering the extra money it would cost to pay the hospital, along with the additional docking fees during Hanmyo's stay, but luckily, Gene thought of a cover-up.

    "Don't worry, Hanmyo!" Gene attempted to reassure her. "We already have another crew member who has amnesia, and I doubt she'd mind having someone to relate to. Besides, after what the good doctor has done for us, it wouldn't be nice to trouble her anymore, right?" Gene said all this while occasionally throwing in fits of forced laughter, but apparently it was enough to convince Hanmyo.

    "Um, okay," Hanmyo said plainly. Jim sighed with relief, but Hanmyo noticed this. "Is something wrong, Jim?"

    "Oh, it's nothing!" Jim said quickly. "Besides, you and I get to be together from now on, and that's all that matters!"

    To this, Hanmyo couldn't help but smile and hugged Jim in response. "I told you our meeting was fate," she said quietly enough so that only a blood-red faced Jim could hear, while in the background Gene just looked on and laughed.

    (To be continued)

    Preview:

    Jim sure looks so happy now that Hanmyo is a part of the crew. I'm glad. Gene also doesn't seem to mind that much, and Aisha and Gilliam appear to have taken a liking to her already! I don't know about Suzuka though, but I'm sure that she'll warm up to Hanmyo soon. As for myself, I think she's really sweet. Jim's made such a good friend. Still, I just wish that he would relax and take a break for once. He's been working so hard lately, and he's been looking a little ill. I'm getting worried.

    Next time on Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate: The Genius Short-circuits. You better get ready! ...Did I do alright, Gene?

    (Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate)
    “So here’s the deal. Life doesn’t always wanna be your friend. Sometimes it’ll feel like life wants to hurt you. But you can’t just hide, ‘cause nobody likes a quitter. You’ve gotta take chances. They never said it was gonna be fun, or easy. Whether your totally ready, or when you least expect it, it doesn’t matter: life will punch you right in the face. And you can lie there for a second, cry a little if you need to, but get back on your feet, ‘cause it’s the gettin’ back up that counts. And that’s what shows that you’ve got heart, that’s what helps keep you going. Fall down seven times? Get up eight. And know, we’ll be right there with you.” - T.O.M. (Toonami)

  5. #4
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    (Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate)

    Mankind has long taken pride in its ability to think on complex levels, a quality separating it from all but a few other life forms. But even among sentient species, there are individuals who possess intelligence far above the average members of their race. Genius comes in many different forms. Some brilliant thinkers come up with new theories or inventions that revolutionize society, such as advances in the field of medicine or interplanetary travel. Others utilize their intellect and apply it to certain activities, competing with their fellows in an attempt to prove themselves. All of this often comes at a price, however. When society acknowledges a person's intelligence, high expectations are placed upon them. Pushed to their limits, many bright men, women, and even children struggle to overcome the overwhelming pressure. And sometimes, they may lose themselves completely.

    (Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate)

    "So what do you feel like doing, Hanmyo?" Jim asked as he and his two companions left the hospital.

    "You mean to tell us that after everything that's happened, you still want to do things other than sleep?" a bewildered Gene countered. "If memory serves, you didn't get any sleep last night. How are you even able to hold a conversation right now?"

    "I'll be fine, so don't worry about it!" Jim replied before turning his attention back to Hanmyo. "Anyway, you just got out of there, so let's go celebrate and get some breakfast!"

    "Okay! That sounds great, Jim!" Hanmyo agreed happily.

    Gene just shook his head in exasperation. "Whatever. You two do what you want. I'm going to bed!"

    "See you later," responded Hanmyo.

    "Yeah, see ya," said Jim.

    Chapter 2: The Genius Short-circuits

    Five and a half hours later, Melfina knocked on Gene's bedroom door to tell him that breakfast was ready. Pulling himself out of bed, Gene dragged himself to the kitchen where Melfina was cooking while Gilliam sat on the counter keeping her company. Seconds after Gene sat down at the table, Aisha charged in like a speeding bullet before leaping onto a chair, leaning back and forth eagerly. Meanwhile, Suzuka walked in quietly and calmly before taking a seat.

    "Oh, breakfast, breakfast, breakfast!" Aisha chanted.

    "Repeating the same word over and over again like you're a pirate isn't going to make the food ready any faster, Aisha," Gene muttered.

    "If she were truly trying to use Tao magic, I don't believe she's doing it correctly," commented Suzuka plainly.

    "Well, that's to be expected," agreed Gene.

    "Who the hell gave you two permission to gang up on me like that?!" roared Aisha.

    "Aisha, please calm down," begged Melfina, placing a plate in front of Aisha. Luckily, this succeeded in stopping Aisha from yelling anymore, for the Ctarl-Ctarl immediately perked up and started chowing down on the steaming plate of scrambled eggs.

    "By the way, where is Jim?" asked Gilliam after everyone had gotten a serving.

    "I was wondering about that myself, actually," added Melfina. "When I went to his room to knock on his door, he didn't answer. And when I went in to check if he was alright, his bed was empty."

    "That's probably because he's still out with his girlfriend," Gene said offhandedly through a mouthful of eggs.

    Upon registering this piece of information, Aisha did a spit take and yelled, "His WHAAAT?!"

    (Scene change)

    "And that's that," finished Gene. The red-haired captain had just spent the last half hour telling the rest of the crew what had happened earlier. Everyone's reactions varied. Melfina had a hand held over her heart and had donned an expression that was like a cross between sympathy and empathy. Meanwhile, Suzuka and Gilliam seemed to simply take in the new information without much outward reaction. Aisha on the other hand…

    "Bwahahahaha! Jimmy's got a little girlfriend!" Aisha roared in laughter.

    "Would it kill you to be quiet, animal?" asked Gene.

    "For the last time, quit calling me an animal!" snapped Aisha.

    "Maybe now you'll understand why I don't like it when you call me Suzu…" Suzuka commented.

    Aisha turned towards Suzuka and plainly replied, "Reow? Did you say something, Suzu?" To this Suzuka could only grit her teeth in annoyance.

    "So, if I am to understand all of this correctly, Hanmyo is to become a crewmember, correct?" asked Gilliam.

    "Yeah, you got it. Speaking of which, could you go ahead and do whatever is necessary in order to split Jim's chair into two?" said Gene.

    "Very well," Gilliam answered.

    (Scene change)

    Jim and Hanmyo were walking back towards the ship, conversing along the way. After they had gotten breakfast at a diner, the pair had gone back to the park and just sat and talked for a few hours before going to a café for lunch. Jim had told Hanmyo a little bit about the rest of the crew, but much to their confusion, certain terms and even NAMES felt slightly familiar to Hanmyo. These included "Ctarl-Ctarl", "assassin", "Melfina", and "Gene Starwind". The last two were found to be the most bizarre amongst what seemed familiar, given that Hanmyo had not yet met the bio-android, while Gene had managed to forget to properly introduce himself earlier and hadn't stated his last name. Jim brushed it off as her mind playing tricks on her, but Hanmyo wasn't so sure.

    "Regardless, I can't wait to meet everyone!" said Hanmyo cheerfully as they approached the ship. The pair had reached the dock where the ship was, and after crossing the bridge and arriving at the entrance, Jim looked up and directly into a surveillance camera.

    "Hey Gilliam, could you register my friend here as a crew member?" asked Jim.

    "Gilliam…that's the Outlaw Star's computer, right?" questioned Hanmyo.

    "That is correct, young lady," a polite voice answered, surprising Hanmyo, who was unable to pinpoint the source of the voice. "I take it your name is Hanmyo?"

    "Yes, but how did you-" Hanmyo stammered.

    "Gene explained your situation to us earlier, and I must say that it is nice to see that Jim has made a new friend. Therefore, now that I have finished registering you as a crew member, please allow me to welcome you aboard the Outlaw Star!" said Gilliam before opening up the hatch.

    (Scene change)

    "My name is Hanmyo. It's nice to meet all of you!" Hanmyo introduced herself with a bright smile. She was standing alongside Jim while the remaining crew members stood a few feet in front of her. Melfina was the first to speak.

    "How do you do, Hanmyo? I'm Melfina, and it's a pleasure to meet you," the bio-android said sweetly.

    "And I am the great Ctarl-Ctarl Aisha Clan-Clan!" announced Aisha.

    "I am known as 'Twilight' Suzuka," the bokudo-wielding assassin stated simply. Looking at Suzuka's face, Hanmyo felt an odd yet very faint sensation, as if she had either met the calm and collected woman a long time ago or had known someone like her. The purple-haired girl wasn't sure which it was, but decided not to dwell on something so vague.

    Unknown to everyone else, however, Suzuka had felt something as well upon seeing Hanmyo and was looking at the girl curiously. What exact thoughts were running through the assassin's mind, though, one could only guess.

    "And I'm Gene Starwind," the red-headed captain said proudly before ruffling Hanmyo's hair, much to her embarrassment. "Sorry I didn't tell you my name earlier. It's not like me at all to forget to introduce myself."

    "Ain't that the truth," muttered Jim.

    "Watch it, Jim," warned Gene. "Anyway, after we've taken off and everything, one of us will give you a tour of the ship. Can you wait until then?"

    "Sure!" replied an excited Hanmyo.

    "I can't wait to show you around, Hanmyo!" agreed an equally excited Jim. Unfortunately, Gene had other plans.

    "Actually, I need you to do something," said Gene. "Fred sent us some data concerning a place that supposedly is related to the Galactic Leyline (yet another name that felt familiar to Hanmyo for some reason). It's in an encoded e-mail addressed to you."

    "Yeah, so you better hop to it, Jim!" Aisha chimed in.

    "Are you serious?" grumbled Jim. "Aw man! I really wanted to give Hanmyo a tour…"

    "I can do that, Jim," said Gilliam.

    "Okay," Jim sighed in defeat.

    (Scene change)

    "We're off to the Galactic Leyline and the treasure!" cheered Aisha about an hour after the Outlaw Star had left Symka 5.

    'I wonder if all Ctarl-Ctarl have short-term memory…' pondered Gene, considering how he had said earlier that they were heading somewhere related to the Galactic Leyline, not the Leyline itself. He found it really irritating that while they still had no idea as to where exactly they were going, their enemies were pretty damn good at tracking them down. Admittingly, he admired Aisha's perserverance, but even though he was trying harder not to tease her as much as he used to, some habits die hard.

    "Hey, Gilliam?" Gene asked, breaking the silence.

    "Yes, Gene?" responded the computer.

    "How's our newest recruit doing?" the red-headed captain inquired.

    "Hanmyo is doing quite well," responded Gilliam. "She's very enthusiastic about the tour, and she's also very polite. I must say, Jim picked a very good new friend."

    "Well it WAS my idea to let her join!" bragged Gene with a smirk on his face.

    "Save it, Gene," commented Aisha.

    'Forget being nice to the animal. She should be respecting me, not the other way around!' Gene thought angrily while Melfina just laughed lightly and Suzuka allowed herself a small smile.

    "I agree. Hanmyo is very nice, and quite cute, too. Jim's lucky to have found her," mentioned the bio-android.

    (Scene change)

    "And that concludes our tour. I do hope you enjoyed yourself," said Gilliam.

    "Oh yes, very much! Jim's lucky to be on such an incredible ship!" confirmed Hanmyo cheerfully. "By the way, may we stop by Jim's room on the way back?"

    "Why of course we may, Hanmyo," answered the computer.

    (Scene change)

    "I'm finally done!" said Jim as he slumped in his chair. "The encryption Fred used was easy enough to figure out, but finding out additional information about the place was such a pain. There wasn't a lot though, and I'm not sure whether or not to be surprised by that." Jim let out a yawn, but to his surprise, this was followed by a brief, yet quite painful, coughing fit.

    "Maybe…maybe I should rest instead of going back and joining everyone…" Jim said to himself before shaking his head. "What am I saying? Without me, nothing is going to get done. Well, gotta get goin'!" Jim forced himself up and made his way towards the door of his room. But just at that moment, it opened to reveal Hanmyo.

    "Hi, Hanmyo. Are you already done with your tour?" asked Jim.

    "Yep! You're ship is amazing, and Gilliam is very nice. I've never before seen a ship's computer that's developed such an emotional personality," answered Hanmyo, who then gasped.

    "What's wrong, Hanmyo?" Jim's voice was laced with concern.

    "Oh, it's nothing, Jim," Hanmyo reassuringly shook her head while smiling. Internally, however, the young girl was contemplating the statement. 'Why did I say that I'm familiar with computers?' pondered Hanmyo. 'How…How could I even know such things? I don't remember anything like that and yet somehow…I know that I wasn't making it up either. I'm so confused. Who…just who was I before I met Jim?'

    "Are you sure you're alright?" asked Jim once again.

    "Yeah, I'm fine," replied Hanmyo. "Anyway, are you still working? If it's alright, may I keep you company?"

    "Actually, I just fini…huh?" Jim began to say before he suddenly began to feel really weird. His eyelids became very heavy, and he could no longer keep his balance. The boy genius struggled to stand up right, but he proceeded to lose consciousness without warning.

    Hanmyo caught his body before he crashed to the floor. "Jim? Jim!" she pleaded in vain.

    (Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate)
    “So here’s the deal. Life doesn’t always wanna be your friend. Sometimes it’ll feel like life wants to hurt you. But you can’t just hide, ‘cause nobody likes a quitter. You’ve gotta take chances. They never said it was gonna be fun, or easy. Whether your totally ready, or when you least expect it, it doesn’t matter: life will punch you right in the face. And you can lie there for a second, cry a little if you need to, but get back on your feet, ‘cause it’s the gettin’ back up that counts. And that’s what shows that you’ve got heart, that’s what helps keep you going. Fall down seven times? Get up eight. And know, we’ll be right there with you.” - T.O.M. (Toonami)

  6. #5
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    (Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate)

    "Why didn't he say something!?" complained Gene. The entire crew, plus Hanmyo and Gilliam were standing over Jim, who was lying on a bed in the infirmary. Safe to say he wasn't looking very good.

    "Poor Jim. How did this happen to you?" Melfina said, her eyes beginning to tear up.

    "That's what I'd like to know! Would someone please tell me what's going on around here?" asked Aisha.

    "Jim seems to be suffering from a severe case of exhaustion. Not too surprising, given the circumstances," Suzuka commented.

    "Circumstances?" questioned Hanmyo.

    "Well, Hanmyo," Gilliam explained. "Over the course of the past few days, we have been in to grappler space combat twice. On top of that, after our first battle, Jim stayed up all night planning out a complex strategy and didn't get any rest afterwards. And if I recall correctly, he didn't sleep at all the following night either."

    The purple-haired girl took in all of this new information. "So that means…" Hanmyo said before gasping with realization.

    "That's right," confirmed Suzuka. "While I'm sure that most of the time the two of you spent together was very enjoyable, it was still most likely very taxing on Jim. Physically, mentally, and emotionally, Jim pushed his limits much harder than he should have and didn't have any opportunities to properly rest and get his energy back."

    Before Hanmyo could start blaming herself, however, Melfina placed a comforting hand on the poor girl's shoulder. "Please don't blame yourself, Hanmyo. None of this is your fault. You had no idea how badly he needed to rest."

    Hanmyo looked up at the bio-android's kind face, her eyes shining with gratitude. "Thank you, Melfina."

    "So how long until he wakes up?" Gene interrupted.

    "Yeah, Jim's the only one who knows where we're going, right? What are we supposed to do until then?" added Aisha. Upon hearing this, Suzuka closed her eyes, deep in thought, while Melfina looked intently at Gene for answers. The silence didn't even last ten seconds, however, for the newest member of the crew wasn't too happy with the direction this conversation was taking.

    "How could any of you say that? Doesn't Jim's wellbeing mean anything to you!?" Hanmyo yelled, completely outraged. The other people present were shocked at this outburst, but the surprises were far from over.

    "Jim truly found a wonderful friend in you, Hanmyo. There's not a doubt within my circuitry of that," complimented Gilliam. However, he wasn't quite finished. "I must admit, though, that it is odd that only our newest addition would be so perceptive. Then again, Jim did have a point earlier…" That last remark was probably not something he meant to share out loud, but Gene picked up on it nonetheless.

    "What did Jim say? Tell me, Gilliam!"

    The pink robot would have sighed if possible. "Oh dear….Jim probably won't be too happy with me for divulging this, but since it technically refers to everyone here, well…"

    "Say it already!"

    "Very well," the computer adjusted himself so that he could properly address the occupants of the room. "You see, our first night at Symka 5, I could tell Jim was feeling stressed from the grappler fight. On top of all that, he felt that he had to figure out how to defeat our opponent in a future encounter by himself."

    "Where would Jim get an idea like that?" asked Aisha.

    "There's more, though, isn't there?" Gene's expression was deadly serious.

    "Correct, Gene. Jim made it clear that in his mind, this was not unusual for him to have to take on difficult or multiple tasks without anyone else there to help him. And when I sympathized with Jim, he said that there was no one else who noticed the extent to which he pushes himself. But he seemed especially annoyed with you, Gene."

    "What? With me? Please! Why the hell would he possibly be so angry with me?"

    "I would think that it is quite obvious, Gene, given who you are supposed to be to him," Suzuka hadn't said anything for a while now, so Gene wasn't too pleased that this was apparently the first thing she had to say.

    "And what's that supposed to mean?"

    "Simply that you've known him longer than anyone, so why you do not realize his reasons is a mystery in and of itself," the bokudo-wielding assassin replied.

    "You still haven't told me what these reasons are yet!"

    "Very well then," Suzuka said, her tone like that of a teacher dealing with a student who refused to listen at all. "In order to deal with your way of handling everything, Jim in turn feels that he has no choice but to go beyond what is necessary in order to keep things together and under control. What infuriates him the most is that this has become something he must do regularly, and while he tries to deny it, his body can't handle it."

    "Yeah, Gene. He may be a genius, but he's only a kid," added Aisha. "Even young Ctarl-Ctarl aren't capable of doing everything that a fully-grown adult can."

    Melfina looked at Gene, her expression sad but otherwise unreadable. "Gene…" she said in a concerned voice.

    Gene didn't say anything, but if he had clenched his fists any tighter, his gloves might have been stained red.

    (Scene change)

    "Dammit! Dammit! DAMMIT!" Gene stormed through the halls of the Outlaw Star, unable to contain his anger.

    "Calm down, Gene. This isn't going to accomplish anything" said Suzuka, who was managing to keep in step with Gene. When they had reached the cockpit, Gene turned his head and glared at the assassin.

    "Calm down? After what you said, not to mention everything that's happened, you expect me to just calm down? Jim's nearly worked himself to death, and it's all my fault!"

    "Gene…?" Suzuka was slightly taken aback by Gene's outburst.

    (Scene change)

    "Jim…" Melfina said sadly while absentmindedly stroking Jim's face. With the exception of Suzuka, all of the female members of the crew had stayed behind to look after Jim. Presently, Aisha was sitting on a chair near the head of the bed, looking at Jim sadly. Suddenly she stood up.

    "There's not really much here for me to do, so I'm gonna go take a walk. See ya later," The crew's resident Ctarl-Ctarl began heading for the door, but stopped when she passed by Hanmyo. Turning towards the young girl, Aisha's mouth changed into a slight grin. "Hey, Hanmyo?"

    "Yes, Aisha?"

    "You know what, kid, you're not half bad," said Aisha, ruffling the girl's hair. "After all, to a Ctarl-Ctarl, standing up for and protecting one of your own is a sign of utmost loyalty!" With this, Aisha left the room with an expression of absolute joy and pride. Melfina chuckled at this display, mystifying Hanmyo. Seeing the young girl's confusion, the bio-android explained.

    "Aisha's never actually said this out loud, but I'm pretty sure she thinks of Jim as her little brother. When Aisha gives you a compliment like the one she just gave you, it means she really likes you!" Melfina's smile was contagious, and Hanmyo could feel the ends of her mouth being tugged upward. Unfortunately, the cheery atmosphere was only temporary. Melfina let out a deep sigh, closing her eyes and frowning sadly. "Jim's always doing such kind things for me, and I never do anything special for him in return. Seeing him lying here sick, I feel horrible."

    "Don't be like that, Melfina!" Hanmyo insisted. "I don't think Jim ever blamed you for anything. In fact, I doubt anyone could get mad at you!"

    "She's right, Mel…" a soft voice groaned from the bed.

    (Scene change)

    "You, Gilliam, even Aisha, everyone was right. I knew Jim was biting off more than he could chew, and I didn't do anything to stop him." Gene took a deep sigh. "It's always been like that, me doing all of the dangerous jobs while he just manages everything from behind the scenes. I never once tried doing any of his work. If I had, maybe I would have stepped in a long time ago."

    The red-haired captain walked by Jim's seat and ran his hand over the edge. "First with Leilong and now here, I've nearly lost what's important to me when I could have done something before it got to that point." Gene looked up at the ceiling with a contemplative expression on his face. "I've never been one who likes to work, but if people are going to suffer because of it, maybe…maybe I could try to change, at least a little."

    (Scene change)

    "Jim, how are you feeling?" Melfina asked, worried that he might try to get out of bed.

    "Ugh…really tired…and my limbs feel like they're encased in cement."

    "If that's the case, then you're definitely not getting out of bed until you're completely better," said Hanmyo.

    "But…the ruins…" It was clear that Jim barely had even enough energy to talk.

    "They can wait, Jim. We all need…No, we all WANT you to be at your best before we go anywhere else," Melfina assured him.

    Jim was surprised, though he wasn't able to show it. "Are you…Are you sure, Mel?"

    "Yes, Jim. Although…" Melfina paused for a moment.

    "Although what?" asked Jim.

    "Jim, please promise me that you'll won't push yourself so hard anymore," requested Melfina. "You're far too important to everyone here for you to work yourself to death."

    "That's right, and until you're all better, we're gonna take good care of you!" Hanmyo said with a determined smile.

    "You don't ne-" Jim began to argue, but Hanmyo interrupted him, shaking her head.

    "Jim, over the past few days, you've done so much just for me. You gave me flowers, you took me to the hospital, and you even let me join your crew. Looking after you is the least I can do to repay your kindness," Hanmyo said sweetly and sincerely, making it impossible for Jim to even want to argue.

    "I feel the same way, Jim, so please don't worry about us," Melfina shared a knowing look with Hanmyo and the two smiled happily.

    "Yep! It'll be our pleasure!" added Hanmyo.

    Jim finally began to relax after that, and slowly his eyes began to close. "Thank you, Hanmyo. And…thank you, too, mom…" the blonde-haired boy whispered. As Jim fell back to sleep, Hanmyo grinned and glanced at Melfina. The bio-android put a hand over her chest while a tear fell from each eye.

    "Mom…" Melfina closed her eyes and a ghost of a smile graced her kind face. "He called me mom…"

    (To be continued)

    Preview: I'm no archeology expert, but for such a primitive world, these ruins are incredible! The Eroba Reo Ruins of Ctarl-Ctarl are still far superior to these buildings, though! But at any rate, if this place really is connected to the Galactic Leyline, then there's BOUND to be tons and tons of treasure here! Huh? What are you saying, Gene?! Are you hiding something? Tell us what you know already!

    Next time on Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate: Shattered Seals. You better get ready! Reow!

    (Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate)
    “So here’s the deal. Life doesn’t always wanna be your friend. Sometimes it’ll feel like life wants to hurt you. But you can’t just hide, ‘cause nobody likes a quitter. You’ve gotta take chances. They never said it was gonna be fun, or easy. Whether your totally ready, or when you least expect it, it doesn’t matter: life will punch you right in the face. And you can lie there for a second, cry a little if you need to, but get back on your feet, ‘cause it’s the gettin’ back up that counts. And that’s what shows that you’ve got heart, that’s what helps keep you going. Fall down seven times? Get up eight. And know, we’ll be right there with you.” - T.O.M. (Toonami)

  7. #6
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    (Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate)

    Memories are a peculiar thing. Records of information and past experiences, they are often used for storing pieces of knowledge for future use. Memories also enable individuals to recall significant events that have occurred to them. There are countless different types of memories. There are positive memories that are looked at with joy or provide someone with a source of motivation. On the other hand, some are of painful experiences or recollections of horrifying information that do nothing but haunt a person's soul. It is undeniable that what has occurred in the past plays a role in the development of any living creature. However, despite how large a role memories play, they are not all the only things that make a person who they are.

    (Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate)

    "Today's the day, huh?" said Gene while stifling a yawn on his way to breakfast.

    "According to my calculations, at our current speed, we should be arriving at our destination in less than five hours, so yes," confirmed Gilliam, who was following Gene via his rail. When the pair were approaching Jim's door, they noticed that Hanmyo was also coming towards them.

    "Hey, squirt," said Gene. "Whatcha up to?"

    "Oh, good morning, Gene," Hanmyo returned the greeting. "I was about to wake up Jim. It's nice that he's finally getting some rest, but it's not good for him to oversleep, either."

    "He's usually a light sleeper, so even after everything that's happened, I don't think you should have too much trouble getting him out of bed."

    "I guess, but I have something special in mind just in case," Hanmyo smiled before opening the door and entering Jim's room. Curious, Gene stood by the doorway and watched to see what the young girl had in mind.

    Standing next to his bed, Hanmyo leaned over and said playfully, "It's time to wake up, sleepyhead!"

    "Ugh…" Jim groaned, opening his eyes slightly. However, Hanmyo wasn't satisfied and decided to try something else. After listening to the sound of the boy genius giggling hysterically for a minute or so, Gene went on his merry way with a smirk glued to his face.

    "Even I never knew Jim was so ticklish," chuckled Gene.

    Chapter 3: Shattered Seals

    It had been about 11 days since the Outlaw Star had departed from Symka 5 with Hanmyo in tow. Until three days ago, Jim had not left the infirmary except to bathe and use the toilet. Everyone had been insistent that Jim continue to rest and to let them take care of things, much to the boy's shock. Gene focused mostly on piloting and keeping watch for any potential dangers, but he also occasionally looked through some of the data that Fred had sent Jim. Suzuka spent a majority of her time meditating in her room, but whenever she did visit Jim, the assassin gave the bedridden genius tea she had brewed personally. Aisha also spent a good amount of time in her bedroom working out on the fitness equipment that she installed herself, but made it a point to come and visit Jim regularly and play video games with him to help pass the time. Meanwhile, Melfina had asked Gilliam if he could search various databases and find any recipes that could help with exhaustion. Once she had some, the raven-haired bio-android prepared all of Jim's meals. The child computer prodigy felt embarrassed by all of this, but in reality, he truly appreciated what everyone was doing for him.

    As for Hanmyo, the young purple-haired girl never left Jim's side. Well…except for whenever he went to the bathroom. Hanmyo quietly kept Jim company, talking to him when he was awake and watching over him while he slept. She also never bothered going to back to her room to sleep, drifting off in a chair next to the bed each evening instead. One time, she unconsciously pulled herself onto the bed and snuggled up next to the blonde boy. Gene happened to walk by on his way to bed and upon noticing what had happened, the red head decided to carry Hanmyo back to her own room…though not before taking a picture to show everyone else later.

    It was also during this time that a surprising talent of the Outlaw Star's newest crew member was brought everyone's attention. On the third day after Jim had been made to rest, Melfina had walked in with his lunch and noticed that Hanmyo was in the middle of sewing while sitting next to a sleeping Jim. The purple-haired girl explained that she first decided to start sewing after realizing that she didn't have any spare clothes, and surprisingly, she was very good at it. Hanmyo shocked everyone even further the following day when she revealed that, not only had she produced several sets of spare clothing, but had even made herself a pink nurse's outfit. Each crew member had their own reaction to this. Jim spent the entire day unable to face Hanmyo, occasionally resorting to hiding his head under his pillow or covers. Gilliam and Suzuka politely complimented how it looked on her, while Jim's own reaction caused Gene and Aisha to laugh so hard that the two had to support each other in order to keep standing. Melfina enthusiastically praised the young girl, even asking Hanmyo if one could be made for her. Upon hearing the raven-haired bio-android's request, Gene began to visualize how Melfina would look in a nurse's uniform. In a matter of seconds, he promptly excused himself and proceeded to walk rather stiffly out of the room, twitching the entire time. Once he had reached the hallway, the red-haired outlaw was able to take about five more steps before his imagination got the better of him and knocked him out.

    While Hanmyo's newfound talent was by no means unwelcome (Once he had calmed down, Jim realized that they could now save a lot of money of repairing and replacing damaged clothing from now on), Hanmyo was unable to explain how she knew she could sew despite her amnesia. The implications raised several questions: had the girl known how to sew in the past? If so, was her body simply remembering the motion she used to go through? And if she hadn't known how to sew in the past, how did she become a natural at it so quickly? Was Hanmyo a genius like Jim? For the most part, these questions would simply raise everyone's curiosity a little, but the unspoken mysteries this issue brought up bothered Gene and Suzuka to no end. In the meantime, all they could do was hope that Hanmyo's past would not come back to harm everyone later, the young amnesiac girl included.

    (Scene change)

    "So this is it, huh?" said Gene from the pilot's seat. The Outlaw Star was gradually approaching a small, dusty red planet. While they were still too far away to see the surface of this unknown world, the coordinates Fred Lo had provided them confirmed that this was their destination.

    "Honestly, I was expecting something more impressive," sighed a disappointed Aisha.

    "Aisha, don't forget that nobody truly knows what the Galactic Leyline is, so what it is or even what it looks like is unclear. It may not even be half the size of this world," said Suzuka.

    "True," nodded Aisha. "Still, given that the Empire believes there to mountains of treasure hidden there, can you really blame me for assuming that its appearance would be magnificent as well?"

    "Not really, but by that logic, isn't it possible that a normal looking, yet out of the way place would be the ideal location to hide such an enormous treasure?" added Jim.

    "You know what? I didn't think of that!" Aisha said, realization hitting her.

    "Hopefully, we won't have to keep pondering what the Leyline is once we check this place out," said Gene.

    "Tell me about it. It's so frustrating that the only thing we know for sure about the Leyline itself is its name. But don't forget Gene, this place has a supposedly strong connection to the Galactic Leyline, so we're bound to find out something promising," reassured Jim.

    "You got that right, partner. Here's to finally getting some answers," said Gene with confidence. Internally, however, he was worried. 'If we do learn something, I just hope that this time, it's something worth telling Mel. What MacDougall told me can't be the entire story. It just can't!'

    "I apologize for interrupting, but shouldn't we be looking a landing spot? The planet is less than a minute away." asked Hanmyo. Gene and Jim briefly froze with embarrassment before sharing in a bout of nervous laughter. It didn't happen very often, but sometimes the two forgot just how fast their ship was.

    "How about the same place as the survey team? The area down there is level enough, so it shouldn't give us any trouble at all," Jim said simply, his tone indicating a quick recovery.

    "Okay. Prepare for landing," replied Gene.

    (Scene change)

    Luckily, the landing itself had gone without a hitch. The only problem? They were two kilometers away from their final destination, and getting to the ruins themselves required an hour long hike. Fortunately, they were able to kill time with conversation.

    At point during the trip, Jim, who was leading the way, decided to ask the purple-haired newcomer about something. "Hey, Hanmyo?" he asked the girl walking right alongside him.

    "Yes, Jim?"

    "I meant to ask you this a while ago, but do you know what happened to the flowers I got you?"

    "Sorry Jim. I don't know. I think I vaguely remember tucking them into my clothes on my way out of the park, but that's literally the last thing I can recall." Hanmyo replied sadly.

    "Sorry, I was just curious is all," Jim apologized. "I mean, when we brought you to the hospital, according to the doctors, you didn't have any belongings on you at the time, so I was just wondering if you had left them somewhere."

    "Actually, I think I still have them with me," Hanmyo said, much to Jim's bafflement. "I know it sounds weird, but whenever I close my eyes and picture that bouquet, a bright, warm feeling accompanies it." Jim's face began to get very hot, and it didn't help when Hanmyo asked him, rather simply, "Jim, do you have any ideas as to why that might be?"

    "Well…I…err…" Jim stuttered, at a complete loss of words and began stumbling around.

    At this point Suzuka decided to chime in with her own interpretation. "Perhaps it's not the flowers themselves that are causing you to feel that way, Hanmyo. Have you considered that maybe it's just Jim's act of giving them to you that you remember so fondly?" the bokudo-wielding assassin said.

    Hanmyo thought it over for a moment before responding with a bright smile and eyes shimmering with respect, "Wow, Suzuka! That feeling's there as well, and much stronger, too! I feel a lot better now, so thank you!" Hanmyo felt content with her conclusion, her answer causing Jim to blush madly, but now Suzuka began to glance curiously at the young girl.

    Throughout this entire exchange, Melfina just looked on and smiled at the two youngest members of the team. 'Jim looks so happy. I know he always tries to be cheerful around me, but it seems Hanmyo just manages to ensure he stays that way. I really admire her. Neither of us remember very much about ourselves, but unlike me, she doesn't seem to dwell on it nearly as much. Meanwhile, despite all of the good things in the life I have, my past is all I can ever think about. But Hanmyo…she's content with the present, and is enjoying every moment of it. She's so much stronger than I am.'

    Ironically, Hanmyo was in turn thinking about Melfina's take on pursuing the mysteries of her origin at the same time. 'Being with everyone, I'm as happy as I was when Jim gave me flowers, but those memories…there's something wrong. Why is it that I can only remember our first meeting and our date, but not even the time in between? Who was I before I met him, why can't I remember, but most of all…do I want to know? Would the answers take me away from Jim? I'm scared. My past terrifies me, but Melfina…she wants to know about herself more than anything, and she isn't frightened by what awaits her down the path. She's so much stronger than I am.'

    (Scene change)

    "Awesome!" Gene whistled, effectively summing up the reactions of everyone else. The architecture of ruins did not look as though they came from any era in time, past or future. Additionally, the buildings seemed as though they had been too meticulously designed and built to have possibly been the work of any of the known races: not Terran, Ctarl-Ctarl, Silgrian, Corbonite, Sith, Lorgan, nor Nyen. And even after several millennia had passed, both the exteriors and interiors of nearly all of the structures on the site showed few signs of having been significantly weathered, decaying, or collapsing.

    "You're telling me," agreed Jim. "The shape these ruins are in is unreal, and the trek getting here was such a pain that it almost seems as though the terrain had been purposely carved to be hard to traverse in order to protect this place."

    "Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case," responded the red-haired captain.

    "And if the ruins are this impressive now, imagine how they looked when this world was still inhabited," commented Suzuka.

    "I wonder how long ago that would have been?" asked Melfina. The group had gone inside the entrance hall of a large temple-like ruin located at in the center of the site.

    "Well, after a lot of investigating, the survey team concluded that all of this was probably first built around 10,000 years ago," answered Jim.

    "Wow, that's pretty old," commented Aisha.

    "But then why did the survey team leave? These ruins are pretty much like an all-you-can-eat buffet for any archeologist," said Hanmyo, using an expression she had picked up from Aisha.

    "Apparently, their funds ran out before they could really get anywhere with their research, so they had to call it quits," said Gene. "Funny thing is, while that's the main reason they had to stop, I think they also mention that the Kei Pirates may have had something to do with it as well." Gene looked towards Jim, who nodded his head in confirmation.

    "The Kei Pirates?" inquired Suzuka.

    "Yeah, not only may the pirates have been responsible for their funds suddenly vanishing, the survey team's supply lines had been sabotaged, too," said Jim.

    "A place that's potentially connected to the Galactic Leyline and the Kei pirates are involved? Rather suspicious bedfellows, indeed," Suzuka replied.

    "Hey, this is pretty interesting and all, but just how is this all related to the Leyline?" asked Aisha. During the conversation, the group's resident Ctarl-Ctarl had climbed on a giant dragon statue in order to inspect.

    "Well, that is exactly what we came here to find out," said Gene. "But hey, Jim? Any idea what the deal is with that giant statue?"

    "You mean that thing in the middle?" Double-checking on his hand-held computer, Jim responded, "The survey team referred to it as the Dragon Sphinx, and the line that leads up to it is the Way of the Dragon."

    "So the Way of the Dragon is the Leyline," confirmed Gene.

    "But…if the Way of the Dragon is the Galactic Leyline, then what is the Dragon Sphinx? The Leyline leads right to it," asked Hanmyo.

    "Maybe the Leyline really is a gateway after all. But to what?" muttered Gene.

    "An entire world made of dragonite? Or perhaps something worth that much?" Aisha suggested.

    "I hope you're right, Aisha," said Gene. But internally, he felt something was off about that guess. Shaking himself of his concern, Gene decided to get things going again. "Anyway, let's go check out the survey team's barracks and see if there's anything they left behind we can use."

    "You mean like a bathroom?" asked Aisha.

    "Not what I was thinking of in particular, but I admit it would be nice if they left one behind in case we need to use it later," said Gene, confirming one of the most crucial guidelines for traveling, as well as one of the most commonly neglected and least forgiving: when exploring unfamiliar territory, always make note of the places that are set aside as or can function as restrooms. You WILL be thankful you did so. "Still, the only other thing of interest we managed to find in the database was that the survey team checked out the entry chamber of that pyramid nearby, so I was hoping to find something more to work with before we went there."

    "I see," nodded Aisha.

    (Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate)
    “So here’s the deal. Life doesn’t always wanna be your friend. Sometimes it’ll feel like life wants to hurt you. But you can’t just hide, ‘cause nobody likes a quitter. You’ve gotta take chances. They never said it was gonna be fun, or easy. Whether your totally ready, or when you least expect it, it doesn’t matter: life will punch you right in the face. And you can lie there for a second, cry a little if you need to, but get back on your feet, ‘cause it’s the gettin’ back up that counts. And that’s what shows that you’ve got heart, that’s what helps keep you going. Fall down seven times? Get up eight. And know, we’ll be right there with you.” - T.O.M. (Toonami)

  8. #7
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    (Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate)

    Sadly, the survey team's barracks didn't have anything that could help answer the crew's questions further. However, they did find a working toilet, much to the silent delight of everyone present. So after everyone had taken care of whatever business they had, the 6-man troupe went to check out the pyramid. Despite the large size of the structure, the entry chamber was rather tiny in comparison, and felt even smaller due to the fact that it was the only accessible room inside. Currently they were looking over a distinct rectangular outline in the center of the floor.

    "Look here," Jim pointed to the inside of the rectangle, which was a completely different color than the rest of the ground. "They mention that there might have been something here originally."

    "What do you suppose used to be there, Jim?" asked Hanmyo.

    "That's just the thing, Hanmyo. They never did find out," explained Jim. "'Leyline' was oringally a term used by the space pirates. It comes from Feng Shui, meaning a path that chi collects. They're energy lines. They spoke of it as the Dragon's cosmic breath."

    "That's all very interesting, but it doesn't really tell us anything," Suzuka commented.

    "Look, I don't even understand it. If I did, I wouldn't be wasting my time right now," Jim admitted bitterly, not accustomed to being unable to figure things out. "What they're saying is controlling the Leyline means controlling everything."

    While Jim had been speaking, Melfina had found herself inexplicably drawn to the wall behind the blonde-haired boy. Turning his head, his tone full of confusion and concern, he asked, "What is it, Mel?"

    "I feel something coming from here…" Melfina responded, feeling along the wall with her fingertips.

    "You do? Well, what are you feeling?" Gene asked her.

    "I'm not sure. It's just…" Suddenly, a glowing circle appeared on the wall directly in front of the bio-android's face, causing her to gasp. Accompanied by an odd humming sound, the circle quickly expanded into a large ring, with an intricate dragon-like symbol appearing inside. Shaped like an S, the top half consisted of the dragon's head, a long neck covered in spikes, and a small claw, with the mouth and claw both pointing directly at a small circle to the left. The bottom half also featured a circle, this one situated between the dragon's spine and its tail. Before the crew could look at it at length, the symbol faded away as quickly as it had appeared.

    "Hey! What was that?" yelled Aisha.

    "Mel!" Gene added, his voice betraying genuine concern.

    "I'm not really sure what it was. Now I don't feel anything. Not anymore," Melfina answered, clasping her hands in front of her chest and shaking her head side to side. Everyone was concerned, but the bio-android wasn't the only one who was the worse for wear. No one noticed that another member of the crew's eyes had gone wide and their face had turned a deathly pale.

    (Scene change)

    Returning to the survey team's barracks, the crew felt that they'd had enough mysteries and weirdness for one day and decided to call it a night and sleep on site rather than return to the ship. Aisha and Hanmyo had immediately hit the sack, while Suzuka was brewing some tea for the group. Gene and Jim were helping get the camp site set up. Melfina, however, was mysteriously absent.

    "Where's Melfina?" Jim asked.

    "She said she wanted to be alone for a while," Suzuka answered.

    "I wonder what's wrong?" Like a son worried about his mother's happiness, Jim's concern was as obvious as can be.

    "Let it go Jim. If she wants to be alone, then just let her be alone," Gene, on the other hand, didn't seem to care at all.

    "Gene, how come you don't care about Melfina? You're always so cold to her," Having had enough, Jim decided to finally confront his partner.

    "No I'm not. Not really."

    "Yes, you are! You've been acting weird ever since we left to look for the Leyline!"

    "What do you mean?" Gene asked.

    "It's like you're avoiding her or something," Jim explained.

    "So? I always do."

    "Not like this!"

    "Of course I do. Where are you going?" Furious, Jim stormed off, leaving the barracks.

    "I wanna be by myself," the blonde boy responded, without turning. Before Jim was completely out of sight, however, Hanmyo opened her eyes and looked to see which way he was leaving. Getting out from her sleeping bag, the purple-haired girl quickly, but silently chased after him, almost like a cat.

    Once the two children had left, Suzuka decided to break the silence. "I know you didn't ask, but to be honest, I agree with Jim," she spoke bluntly, confusing and somewhat annoying the red-headed captain. "Is he wrong?"

    "No, but…I don't really wanna say I'm sorry. And even if I did, what good would it do, anyway?" Gene responded.

    "What are you sorry for?" the assassin inquired.

    "Well, I made a promise to Melfina," answered Gene. "But now I'm not sure I can keep it cause I'm not making any progress with it at all. At least, not the sort of progress I'd been hoping for."

    "Oh? A promise?" Suzuka asked with a curious, almost teasing tone.

    "I told her that I would find out anything I could about her," Gene sighed. "And I was so sure that I'd have come up with an answer by now, but I haven't found out a thing."

    "Now that isn't true and you know it. You came all the way to a place like this to investigate it, right?" Suzuka was determined to get Gene out of his funk and make him realize that it wasn't all for nothing. Meanwhile, Aisha had begun to stir. Her eyes squinted tight, the Ctarl-Ctarl briefly scanned the immediate area and then rose.

    "What's the matter, Aisha?" asked Suzuka.

    "I think I'm gonna go find Jim and Hanmyo," Aisha answered. After she was out of earshot, Gene took another deep sigh.

    "From what McDougal told me, Melfina was originally created as part of a navigation system that was designed specifically to reach the Galactic Leyline. But you tell me: is that the sort of answer you'd want to hear?" Gene looked Suzuka right in the eyes, which told of understanding of his indecision, but whether it was from sympathy or empathy remained unknown. "Of course not! Who'd want to hear that? I can't tell her. I just can't."

    (Scene change)

    After taking his leave, Jim had returned to the steps under the Dragon Sphinx, scowling and hugging his knees. He almost didn't notice the soft, cool arms that suddenly wrapped around him from behind.

    "Hanmyo, I-"

    "Hush now," the girl interrupted him. "You were there to comfort me before, so please…don't stop me from trying to do the same for you now," Hanmyo asked of him. Neither were aware of the person listening to them from the shadows, wearing a wide, genuine smile.

    "You really did find someone special, little brother," Aisha said softly. "A complicated grown-up like me probably wouldn't have been able to help you nearly as much. If anyone can teach him to live his life not worrying, it's her."

    (Scene change)

    "Even with taking what MacDougal said with a grain of salt, I held onto the hope we'd learn more about her when we reached the Galactic Leyline. But now I have no idea what's gonna happen when we get there. I don't even know if it has anything to do with Mel or the answers she's looking for," Gene admitted bitterly.

    "…You have no choice but to go there now," Suzuka said with conviction that caught Gene off guard.

    "Yeah, but as it stands, we can't get there," Gene said sadly. "I guess I…have been kinda cold to her. I just can't be sure if I can actually keep my promise. I don't know what to do."

    "You act so tough on the outside," Suzuka, the pieces falling into place.

    "I wish I was a little tougher on the inside," With this statement, Gene got up from his place on the floor and left to look for Melfina. Suzuka watched him leave. The more time the bokudo master spent with everyone and the more she learned about them, the more intrigued she became. Gene, the outlaw who gave off such a confident front, but his arrogance was really so that he and his friends could continue to move forward. Jim, the computer prodigy who wished to be like Gene but felt too weighed down by responsibility to think he could afford to. Melfina, the kind, pure-hearted bio-android who wanted the answers to her past, yet wished to stay with her friends regardless of what the future would bring. Aisha, a Ctarl-Ctarl who originally began following Gene and his friends in order to regain her people's acceptance, but the gradual acceptance of her new peers was beginning to overtake that desire. Hanmyo, who was the newest and most cheerful member of the bunch, but possibly the one most terrified by the uncertainties of her personal history. And then there was her, an Ultra Class A assassin that regularly acted as a confidant for a man who was fully aware he was her next target.

    "What interesting people we all are…" said Suzuka with an odd smile on her face.

    (Scene change)

    Jim and Hanmyo were sitting next to one another on the stairs now, but feeling tired, Jim had unconsciously decided to rest his head on Hanmyo's shoulder, much to the young girl's embarrassment. Aisha was busy trying to stifle her laughter, but a sound clicking noise got her attention. Immediately charging out towards the kids, she grabbed them and leapt away from their spot on the steps. A second later, a projectile exploded where they had just been previously. Suddenly, a sinister man wearing a red coat and carrying a rocket launcher stepped forth from his hiding spot.

    Meanwhile, Gene found himself on the outskirts of the ruins, glaring down a cliff at a familiar young man with long blue-hair who was attempting to coax Melfina to leave everyone and come with him, leaving her friends behind. Enraged, Gene raced down towards the pair, the man running way, only to return inside what appeared to be a gigantic, black mechanized suit loaded with weaponry. At the same time, Suzuka was reaching for her wooden sword just as she heard the low growling of panthers. Temporarily distracted by the distant sound of gunfire, Suzuka quickly recovered just in time to parry the strike of a robotic feline weapon. The group's three key fighters were all thinking the along the same lines.

    "Why did the MacDougal Brothers have to attack us here and now?"

    After yelling at Jim and Hanmyo to head back to the ship, Aisha left to find Suzuka with Ron MacDougal in hot pursuit. Once Aisha had found her, the two silently agreed to swap opponents, with the assassin fending off the older MacDougal Brother while the Ctarl-Ctarl officer fighting against the robot panthers. It turned out to be a good thing that the two kids had been made to leave, for the fight was not going smoothly. The panthers appeared to have been upgraded since the last time they had fought, for Aisha found herself pinned against a wall. Suzuka was also struggling against Ron, the man blocking every single one of her strikes with his monk staff-like caster gun, forcing her to consider having to resort to a secret technique.

    Gene was able to hold off Harry at first, but the bipolar younger MacDougal Brother eventually succeeded in cornering him and Melfina. Using a hand-held cannon as well as the turrets on the suits' shoulders, the blue-haired man was able to break through Gene's light shield and send him flying back.

    "Gene!" Melfina cried out.

    Following her outburst, something occurred back in the pyramid. The symbol from earlier appeared once more, only this time a strange voice began to echo through the chamber.

    "The maiden…The maiden is in danger…Protect her…Protect her…"

    Suddenly, the ground began to shake violently. A single earthquake was shaking the surface of the entire planet. Even Jim and Hanmyo, who were almost back at the ship, felt the ground beneath them collapsing, seemingly without any warning. Fortunately, the two only fell a few meters before landing upon a ledge below them, but the impact combined with the constant shaking had badly unsettled Hanmyo, who couldn't stop shivering in fright. Refusing to let her stay that way, Jim started carrying Hanmyo piggyback the rest of the way, determined to get her back on the ship and find some way to aid her. Back on the outskirts of the ruins, Harry was again trying to urge Melfina to go with him, but the shaking caused the suit he was in to stumble backwards and fall. To add even more humiliation and pain, Gene was back on his feet and standing right above Harry. Firing his own caster gun at point blank range at the center of the suit, Gene grabbed Melfina and ran back towards the ship. After checking in with Jim via his com-link, Gene also contacted Suzuka and Aisha, telling them to head back the ship as well. With the panthers crushed by the rubble and Ron freaking and trying to contact Harry, no longer paying either of them any attention, the duo had no reason to object.

    (Scene change)

    With Gilliam hurrying them to do so before the ship toppled over, everyone else began to get back on board the Outlaw Star. Before Gene or Melfina grabbed the pulley that would take them back up, however, the red-headed captain had something important to say to Mel.

    "Listen, Melfina. If you don't want to, you don't have to come with us. I would never force you to do anything. Once we're in space, you can do whatever you want," Gene said with a sense of maturity that was somewhat surprising. After a brief silence, Melfina gave him her answer.

    "Take me with you, please," she pleaded. "I want to go with you. I want to go with everyone. Please, Gene." With that statement and the beautiful and smiling face that spoke it, Gene's heart just melted.

    "Sure I'll take you along. I'll take you with me anytime. Come on."

    "Thanks."

    Jim and Aisha had been watching the entire time, each with a small smile on their face. Aisha playfully ruffled Jim's hair and stood up to leave, but not before saying, "Come on, Jim. Now let's return you to your girlfriend." To this, Jim could only blush as bashfully as ever.

    (Scene change)

    Soon after takeoff, the crew scanned the planet one last time and realized that the earthquake had reduced nearly all of the ruins to rubble, so Gene promised to start looking for a new lead, to which Melfina happily cheered to. Hanmyo had asked what had become of their attackers, but no one had a definite answer. Ron had disappeared during the mayhem, probably to search for his brother. As for Harry, after Gene shot him, more rubble had fallen on top of him. But despite all that, the crew had the feeling they had yet to see the last of the MacDougal Brothers.

    Sadly, their problems were still far from over. Soon after arriving at a station so that they could rest and resupply, Hanmyo announced that she wasn't feeling well and retired to her room to get some rest. Not a minute had passed from when she left before Gilliam announced that they had received a live transmission directly from the station, the caller being Professor Gwen Kahn. Why did the eccentric researcher keep following them, how did he keep finding him, and what could he possibly wish to discuss with everyone?

    (To be continued)

    Preview: Professor Gwen Kahn…this man is surprisingly helpful despite his methods of persuasion, but that makes him someone to be even more wary of. This mission he's given you, Gene…what will you do? When Melfina is in danger, will you crumble under the pressure while the sun sets on your dreams and future? Or will the tension push you beyond your limits and cause you to soar high above the stars? Despite the stressful atmosphere that has taken up residence here, no one has lost their faith in you, so go on ahead, Gene! Go on and prove yourself!

    Next time on Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate: Pushed to the Edge! You better get ready!

    (Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate)
    “So here’s the deal. Life doesn’t always wanna be your friend. Sometimes it’ll feel like life wants to hurt you. But you can’t just hide, ‘cause nobody likes a quitter. You’ve gotta take chances. They never said it was gonna be fun, or easy. Whether your totally ready, or when you least expect it, it doesn’t matter: life will punch you right in the face. And you can lie there for a second, cry a little if you need to, but get back on your feet, ‘cause it’s the gettin’ back up that counts. And that’s what shows that you’ve got heart, that’s what helps keep you going. Fall down seven times? Get up eight. And know, we’ll be right there with you.” - T.O.M. (Toonami)

  9. #8
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    (Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate)

    Fear. That is a feeling all living things are familiar with. Danger. The uncertainties of the future. The well-being of friends and loved ones. Failure. Death. Each of these are known to be sources of terror for people, with countless individuals succumbing to his or her personal demons or forever running away from them. To do so is easy. To fight and free the soul from torment is not. However, just because you are afraid of something does not mean you are destined to always be. It is true that if one tries to face their fears, the road ahead of them will not be simple. But never let that be enough to stop you. Be curious of what you do not know. Pursue your interests, no matter where they take you. But more than anything else, acknowledge your fear as well as the desire to conquer it. For to take that first step forward is what truly matters.

    (Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate)

    "How the heck does he keep finding out where we're going?" Jim asked exasperatedly, referring of course to the eccentric professor that kept contacting them.

    "Good question. Did you plant some sort of transmitter on our ship?" Gene asked Kahn directly, whom was currently on the station and was now speaking to them via a com-link.

    "Oh my! How did you know that?" Kahn responded with genuine surprise.

    "Yeah! How did you know that, Gene?" Aisha asked as well.

    "Well, can you think of another explanation as to how he is able to continuously track us down, including all the way out here?" countered the red-headed outlaw, his tone matching the bluntness of his words.

    "I…er…" Aisha stuttered.

    Gene, however, was more concerned with something else, 'The thing is, I can easily understand the pirates and even the MacDougalls doing this, but what's Kahn's deal?'

    "Very clever of you to deduce that. Yes, quite clever," stated the Professor. "It is true that I planted a bug, well a sort of bug, on the ship, but that was all the way back during the planning stages of the XGP. Yes, since the planning stages."

    "Wait a minute! What do you mean back in the planning stages?" Gene demanded.

    "Forget about it," Kahn said, brushing aside his question. "I have found someone who knows the coordinates of the Galactic Leyline. I actually found someone. So why don't you go ask the man yourself? The thing is, he's been incarcerated in a prison and has been sentenced to 300 years. Additionally, he isn't allowed any visitors. However, you must go see and ask him for the coordinates, Gene. Yes, yes, you do."

    Chapter 4: Pushed to the Edge

    "What the hell are you babbling about? There's no way I'm going into any prison!"

    "But Gene! He actually knows the coordinates of the Leyline!"

    At this point, the two began arguing over whether or not there was an alternative option. The truth was, high-ranking pirate guild leaders were already aware of the coordinates, but Kahn didn't want to get involved with them. Gene, however, had no qualms with directly confronting the Kei Pirates for answers, thinking it was a better idea than entering a highly-secure prison to ask a convict because some bizarre stalker told them to.

    'But something Kahn said is bugging me,' thought Gene. 'If the pirates already know where the Leyline is, why do they need the Outlaw Star to go after it? If that last fight with the pirates proved anything, it's that they already have capable ships. So why haven't they gone there before now? And what does Mel have to do with this, if anything at all?'

    Gene then came to a decision. Ordering Gilliam to prepare to leave, Gene announced to the others that they were going directly into Kei Pirate territory, having realized they weren't getting anywhere by simply avoiding them. Recognizing that Gene was dead serious, Kahn revealed he had another trick up his sleeve.

    "Melfina, listen!" the professor desperately yelled, grabbing the bio-android's attention. "Leyline Project command input: It was you who broke my mason plate!" Without warning, Melfina fell unconscious and her navigation chamber went dark, terrifying the rest of the crew.

    "It was I who created her control system and commands from the beginning. I designed Melfina, and now I have suspended her personality," Kahn announced, his change in tone revealing his manipulative nature.

    "What the hell do you think you're doing? Turn her back to normal right now!" Gene screamed at the scientist.

    "Oh, I will. Don't worry. Right after you go to the prison, meet with the man, and find out the coordinates," Kahn replied smoothly, a smug smile plastered on his face.

    "You bastard…" Gene seethed, gritting his teeth with rage.

    (Scene change)

    "You mean Planet Hecaton Kyrez?" Gene was already expecting that whatever Kahn wanted them to do would be insane, but hearing the name alone of the infamous prison world came close to making the red-haired outlaw lose his balance.

    However, their "guest" showed no signs of noticing Gene's shock, and went on to describe the planet itself. "Yes, that's right. It's a strange world that's very massive for an Earth-type planet. In addition to its irregular shape and high rotation speed, the force pushing down on the planet varies depending on where you are. While the gravity is only 1G at the equator, it's a crushing 10.4 Gs at either pole, even though it is only 3Gs where prison itself is located."

    "Then I guess you would weigh 3 times what you normally would." Jim surmised.

    "That's right, Jim. What a smart boy to have figured that out so quickly." Kahn complimented the boy genius. "At any rate, there isn't a single place in the entire prison where the gravity is stabilized. In fact, for security reasons, you can't find a single place where the gravity is stabilized on the entire planet. To make matters worse, the nature of the planet makes the use of radars and radios on the surface unreliable."

    "Not only that, but one day in human time is 74 minutes. Just thinking about it makes me sick." Aisha added.

    "I didn't realize that Gehenna Prison is on Hecaton Kyrez. No wonder no one has ever gotten out alive. Gene, you've got to be careful. Your usual recklessness won't serve you well if you want to take on this mission."

    "She's right. Use your head this time. If you jump in without thinking, it's all over."

    "Yeah, like you're one to talk!" Gene retorted.

    "Gene, come on!" Jim pleaded, genuinely worried.

    Gene spun around to face every one there and said with a smirk, "You say that no one's ever gotten out of there alive, huh? Alright then! What are we waiting for?"

    While such a statement was not surprising coming from Gene, Jim noticed something else in addition to his partner's air of confidence.

    'His eyes…What's that look in Gene's eyes all about?'

    (Scene change)

    "So where is everyone?" Gene asked Jim, a few hours after the mission briefing. The two were standing on the space station, looking through the window at the docked Outlaw Star.

    "Well, just as you said, Aisha's with Mel, and Suzuka's sticking to Gwen Kahn like glue."

    "What about Hanmyo? She still in her room?"

    "Yeah. I'm gonna check on her in a little while. If Hanmyo's fast asleep, I won't wake her, but if what Aisha said is true, then…"

    "Hanmyo, you say? You have a crew member by that name?" Seemingly out of nowhere, Kahn approached the pair, Suzuka standing off to the side.

    "Yeah, but maybe you'll meet her later. Anyway, did you get a chance to look into what I asked you about?"

    "As a matter of fact, I have it right here with me." As Kahn handed Gene a mono pole, an odd device that resembled an old-fashion compass, Suzuka approached Jim.

    "This may not be my place, but instead of waking her up, I think you should allow her to continue to sleep, and just hope she comes out of her nightmare on her own." When Jim glared at her in protest, the assassin responded. "When you think about it, we're currently in the middle of an intense situation right now. Hanmyo may very well wake up in a little while, but the longer she doesn't have to be a part of this, the better. Don't you agree?" To that, Jim had no answer.

    Gene and Kahn had just finished their discussion and Gene turned to look at Jim, whose eyes were still laced with concern despite his best attempts to hide it. "Alright Jim, now don't let your guard down. I wouldn't ask this if I had a choice, but I'm leaving you in charge while I'm gone."

    "Yes sir!" Gene shook his head, and smiled back at the boy, who noticed the same odd look from earlier.

    "I'm counting on ya, partner. See ya later."

    "See ya, Gene," said Jim as Gene walked out of sight down the corridor. Though his back was facing them, Jim knew that the look in Gene's eyes was still present. 'I will see him again…right?'

    (Scene change)

    Jim roamed the halls of the station, hoping that he could clear his head with a short walk. He wanted to check on Hanmyo, but based on what Aisha had said earlier after passing by the young girl's door, the purple-haired child's rest was anything but peaceful. If it weren't for Suzuka's comment, he would have rushed to her bedside. He didn't want to admit it, but she had a point. "Do I really want to wake Hanmyo up from a nightmare just to thrust her into one that is far more real? Of course not." He looked out the station window at the stars, something Gene himself had done almost nightly while they lived on Sentinel.

    Sentinel…How much has changed in the few months since Hilda had entered their lives? In some ways, not a whole lot. They were STILL in financial straits, unable to get very far without pissing someone off, and despite aspirations of greatness, were struggling to find a lead towards the closest thing they had to a concrete long-term goal. But now he and Gene were two males traveling across the galaxy with four girls on the fastest ship ever developed, making many memories and friends along the way, and maybe, just maybe, coming close to finding their soul mates. Sure, Jim wasn't aware that this last one was precisely why the crazier of a certain pair of brothers was trying to kill them (Neither Melfina or Gene had informed anyone about this little detail), but the fact remained that a lot of good had come out of their adventures.

    Before he knew it, Jim had walked from one end of the station and was approaching the Outlaw Star. Jim ran the plan through his head once more. Gene would sneak aboard a ship transporting prisoners to Hecaton Kyrez, and with the help of a fake Id and criminal record that Jim had had perhaps a bit too much fun writing, Gene would pass himself off as one of many new inmates. In regards to getting in, the prison's own reputation made infiltration a cakewalk. But after acquiring the coordinates, Gene would have to find a way to escape the prison walls himself before reaching the North Pole and using the mono pole to launch himself into the air. As soon as the Outlaw Star's sensors picked up the magnetic signature of the mono pole rising above the planet's surface, the ship, which would have been waiting just outside of where it could be detected, would perform a sub-ether jump, come in as quick and low as possible to pick up its captain, and jump out as soon as he was back on board. They had no idea how long the plan would take, but it was agreed that the Outlaw Star would remain docked for at least 5 days in Earth time in order to conserve fuel before it would leave to begin orbiting around the prison world.

    It was an absolutely insane plan with a goal that they would rather achieve via other means. But Kahn had already displayed a frightening amount of control over Melfina, and no one questioned him when he promised that he could even get the ship to move without her when he so wished. This was a man who was far more dangerous than they ever could have imagined. Trying to take him on under the current circumstances was out of the question.

    Just as he was about get back on board, Jim looked up out of the window to see a prisoner transport leaving the station. The operation had begun.

    (Scene change)

    Around the same time, Hanmyo was beginning to stir. After looking in the mirror and patting down her slight bed-head, the purple-haired girl decided to get up and see what everyone was up to. She opened her door and stepped out into the hallway and was surprised to see Jim walking her way, though with his eyes on his feet, he didn't notice her immediately. Deep in thought, he wouldn't have noticed her had she not called out to him.

    "Sorry, Hanmyo." Jim apologized. "It's sad, actually. I was about to come see how you were doing, but I've got so much on my mind that I didn't notice you were already up."

    "I just woke up. Even so, I can tell that something is troubling you. Is something going on?"

    "Well, one of my concerns has just been resolved."

    "You mean me? Jim, that's sweet of you, but there's more going on, isn't there?"

    Jim sighed, almost in defeat. "Let's go to the infirmary. I'll tell you on the way."

    (Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate)
    “So here’s the deal. Life doesn’t always wanna be your friend. Sometimes it’ll feel like life wants to hurt you. But you can’t just hide, ‘cause nobody likes a quitter. You’ve gotta take chances. They never said it was gonna be fun, or easy. Whether your totally ready, or when you least expect it, it doesn’t matter: life will punch you right in the face. And you can lie there for a second, cry a little if you need to, but get back on your feet, ‘cause it’s the gettin’ back up that counts. And that’s what shows that you’ve got heart, that’s what helps keep you going. Fall down seven times? Get up eight. And know, we’ll be right there with you.” - T.O.M. (Toonami)

  10. #9
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    (Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate)

    "Gene's gone somewhere so horrible just to wake Melfina up?"

    "Yeah, that about sums it up," Jim said, trying hard to maintain an appearance of composure.

    "And all this is because of a single man?"

    "And that's what really makes this so frustrating. Gwen Kahn contacts us out of nowhere, and suddenly we're his slaves."

    "Too true, Jim." As the two children arrived at the infirmary, Aisha greeted them with bitterness in her voice. "But seriously, if this Saiyo Wong guy really has the coordinates for the Galactic Leyline, I'm surprised the Empire has never heard of him."

    "Well, supposedly he's part of some outfit known as the Battle Group, which was known to give the Kei Pirates a run for their money," Jim theorized. "My guess is that he managed to swipe the coordinates from those high-ranking pirates Kahn mentioned, and as retribution, they had him sent to that hellish prison before he could put that info to use."

    "Having him imprisoned there specifically instead of outright killing him? That is pretty sadistic, even for space pirates," Aisha commented before turning towards Melfina. To the naked eye, the resident navigator was simply sleeping. But as everyone there was aware, if Gene didn't pull through, this would be one beauty that would remain asleep.

    "Hey, Jim? Do you think you could get us something to drink?"

    "Sure. I don't think Suzuka would mind if I made us some of her tea. I'll be back soon." As Jim left for the kitchen, Hanmyo stared at him concerned. Aisha noticed this and spoke, "Worried about little Jimmy?"

    "Yeah. I know Melfina's state worries him, but it seems like it's just one of two or more things that are unsettling him. I can just tell."

    "A little young for your first case of women's intuition, aren't ya?" Aisha teased. To this, the purple-haired girl's pale cheeks quickly flushed. "I am sorry, but you are the last person who should be commenting on a girl acting womanly." The girl's forced attempt to sound proper just made Aisha burst out laughing. Eventually, Hanmyo's embarrassment gave out and she joined in the laughter.

    (Scene change)

    It was taking all of Jim's effort not to burst out laughing, but for completely different reasons than his companions were at that moment. Whenever Jim felt truly terrified, when he felt he was at his most helpless and useless, his first instinct was to laugh, a coping mechanism that he was not proud of. The last time he was this scared was when he, Gene, and Melfina were dealing with a time bomb that could go off if they made just the tiniest of errors when defusing it. Back then, Melfina had succeeded in comforting him and Gene had been able to pull through and save the day with style (That last part Jim would never admit willingly to Gene. The "angel" bit with Hanmyo had earned him enough abuse.). But now he was being faced with the very real possibility that he could lose them both forever, and that there was nothing he could do.

    Not even halfway to the kitchen, Jim could hold himself back no longer. Sitting on the floor against the wall, the blonde-haired child pulled himself into a ball and let out a hoarse laugh.

    (Scene change)

    Melfina had once compared Jim and Aisha to being like family. Had she been awake to see Aisha chatting with Hanmyo, she would have been convinced they were long-lost sisters. It was a little-known fact, but in all honesty far from surprising, that the Ctarl-Ctarl had a great appreciation for any members of the cat family. Considering how Hanmyo had been so attached to felines even before meeting Jim, Aisha felt instant kinship with her little brother's cute girlfriend (Hanmyo was truly flustered when she heard Aisha use that description). Before they knew it, 20 minutes of talking, laughter, and even light arguing had gone by. Jim could hear them all the way down the hall, and the sound had brought out a small smile. Walking in, he silently laid down a tray of cups with tea on a table in the corner of the room, pulled up a chair next to Melfina, and just laid his head in his hands and watched the two chat, taking pleasure in the joy in which they were absorbed. It was another minute before each of them calmed down long enough to realize that Jim was back.

    "You know, Jim. You could join in the conversation anytime." Hanmyo said, smiling widely at Jim.

    "Yeah, but just watching you two talk is nice." Jim replied, his own smile still quite small and subdued.

    Still feeling playful, Aisha decided to have a bit more fun now that the two kids were in the same room. "Oh really, sure you weren't hoping you'd get to watch something else? Talk about no control."

    "Damn it, Aisha! What do you take me for!?" Jim blurted in in outrage, face burning like wild fire.

    "A boy with an eye for beauty. Though you have a specific taste for it, don't you?"

    "Well, she's-HEY!" Jim began, only to catch himself, amusing the resident Ctarl-Ctarl officer even more. Had he finished his statement, however, he definitely would left both the laughing cat woman and already blushing young girl speechless. '-more like a breath-taking, gorgeous maiden.'

    "Hey Jim? What's with the extra cup?" Hanmyo pointed to the tea tray.

    "Well, I decided I wanted a cup for myself as well." Jim shrugged.

    "That doesn't explain why there are four cups, though." Aisha chimed in.

    Jim froze. "That one…that one's for…Mel…" Losing it in front of the others was not something he wanted to do, but the dam finally broke, and a lame patch-up job wasn't going to cut it anymore. The boy genius fell to his knees, face in his hands. With a brief shared look and a nod, but not a single word, Hanmyo and Aisha sat next to Jim and wrapped their arms around him. The warmth from Aisha's strong, firm skin and Hanmyo's smooth, gentle hands may not have stopped the tears, but Jim's heart felt a great weight disappear, and even through the sobbing, he was able to return the embrace.

    (Scene change)

    Meanwhile, Gwen Kahn and Suzuka were watching as the ship was being resupplied with fuel and minor repairs were being addressed. The professor's constant pondering and muttering to himself would drive most people crazy. But as of late, Suzuka had begun to realize the importance of putting up with what were in all honesty minor nuisances (for example, the futility of preventing Aisha's nicknaming), and just how rewarding the pay-off could be. With Aisha, it seemed that she no longer felt the slightest hint of irritation towards the energetic Ctarl-Ctarl. The mad scientist was far more infuriating than Aisha had ever been, so it only stood to reason that necessary or not, tolerating Kahn's quirks should prove to be quite satisfactory in the long run.

    "Hanmyo…Yes, Hanmyo…"

    "What about Hanmyo?"

    "Yes… I believe I may have heard that name before…Tell me about this person named Hanmyo who is also aboard the XGP."

    "Hanmyo was invited to join the crew quite recently by Jim, and the two children are very close."

    "So a child like Jim? Interesting. Very interesting. Is there anything else worth noting regarding the child?"

    "Hanmyo is most likely the same age as Jim, and is quite bright in her own right. However, like Melfina, she has no memory of her past prior to her first meeting with a crew member, which in her case, happens to be Jim."

    "Hmm…is it possible? Well, regardless, Jim truly is a remarkable child. Given enough time, he may very well be my equal. Yes, yes…" Gwen Kahn went back to pondering who knows what, but the assassin did not mind. In fact, she had gleamed quite a bit from their brief discussion.

    Gwen Kahn himself had revealed that he was responsible for creating Melfina and had played a large role in designing the XGP, a project Suzuka had learned from Gene that the space pirates and the space forces had collaborated on. However, Kahn had also made it clear that he had no desire to go out of his way to get involved with the Kei Pirates and would gladly embrace alternative options. In addition, Hanmyo was not a common name. Anyone could tell you that. The fact that there was someone of some significance whom Kahn was aware of who shared this unusual name with the amnesiac girl was something worth noting. But his last statement gave the impression that Suzuka's limited info had completely satisfied his curiosity, implying that even if they were the same person, Kahn did not feel worried. However, she now had a potential lead on Hanmyo's origins, and if she was indeed once a member of the Kei Pirates, combined with Gene's gift of attracting pirates and trouble in general, it meant that Suzuka had just grown that much closer to achieving a goal of her own.

    (Scene change)

    After what felt like a lifetime of sitting on the floor in silence, Aisha, Jim, and Hanmyo were gradually beginning to find their voices again.

    "Feeling better, Jim?" Aisha asked in a soothing tone resembling the purr of a house cat.

    "Yeah, I am. Thanks you two." Jim said softly and sincerely.

    "You almost sound like you're surprised. Jim, you of all people should know firsthand the power of just being there for others, even when neither of you know what to say. After all, you did just that when we were in the hospital." Hanmyo reminded Jim, her tone as comforting as their presence

    "Well, as smart as he is, Jim can be pretty silly sometimes," Aisha added.

    "Aisha!" Jim attempted to grumble, but his smiling face betrayed his true feelings once again. "I guess…every now and then, I need a reminder, ya' know?" The Ctarl-Ctarl just smirked and nodded confidently.

    "Jim, if my time with all of you has taught me anything new, it's that when the stakes are at their highest, Gene will do whatever it takes to pull through for all of you, be it put his own life on the line or change how he behaves. I don't blame you for being worried, and I know you wish you could do something more to help him. But have faith in him, for deep down, you know that he'll succeed."

    "Have I ever told you that you can read me like an open book? You really know just what to say to me." Jim chuckled lightly. 'Faith, huh…' Suddenly, a thought occurred to him. "Excuse me, I'll be back soon. There's something I need to look at." Much to the confusion of both girls, he ran out of the infirmary, only coming to a halt once he was in front of the bathroom mirror, staring himself in the eye.

    'Faith…believing in people…that can apply to both oneself and others. Gene…he's always been so confident in himself, but he's always counting on me, too. Is it really fair for me to not do the same for him? No. Hanmyo is absolutely right.' As he finished this thought, for a brief moment, Jim's eyes shimmered. It was then that he knew for certain. He knew what the look in Gene's eyes had meant.

    'No wonder Gene had such respect for that salty old geezer. He saw in an instant what I couldn't see until now.'

    Gene's eyes had been blazing with unshakable determination, the kind that would only be put out when a dream had been fulfilled and someone or something precious and worth protecting had been found. In simpler words, it was the look of a true outlaw.

    'Maybe one day, I'll have that look, too,' thought Jim as he headed back to Aisha and Hanmyo. At the very least, he knew that he had nothing to fear. Gene wouldn't fail. He would succeed.

    (Scene change)

    And before they knew it, the time had come…

    "I'm picking up a magnetic signature. It's currently rising over the north pole," said Suzuka, looking over a screen depicting Hecaton Kyrez.

    "You guys, it's Gene!" Aisha cheered. Before they knew it, the time to retrieve Gene had come.

    "Okay, it's pretty much empty over the pole. We're gonna go in there and do a catch-and-go at full speed!" Jim confirmed, sitting in Gene's usual spot.

    "Understood," stated Gilliam as he fired up the sub-ether reactors. While travel options were heavily limited due to Melfina's current status, Gwen Kahn had muttered some other strange kitchen-based phrase that would temporarily allow Gilliam to act in her stead.

    "Feeling better now, Jim?" Hanmyo asked in a tone that managed to be both teasing and gentle. For the time being, the seats she and Jim usually occupied had been returned to a single chair.

    "Yeah, seriously," Jim admitted. "All that stress over just a few days. Maybe I really can learn something from how laidback Gene is."

    "Should I tell him you said that?" Suzuka chimed in.

    "No way! Like his head needs to get any bigger…" Jim retorted.

    Within a matter of seconds, the Outlaw Star had appeared directly over the prison world, just low enough that Gene could get onboard without too much trouble. Not even a minute later, Gilliam provided everyone with an update.

    "Gene is now safely onboard, and it appears as though he brought someone with him," the computer informed the crew.

    "In all likelihood, it's Wong," Jim guessed. "Well, we're done here, so let's get outta here!"

    So in an operation that had taken less than four minutes, Jim and company had arrived at Hecaton Kyrez, rescued Gene, and departed. The prison guards never had a chance.

    (Scene change)

    Before long, everyone had made their way from the deck to the infirmary, where Gwen Kahn was waiting alongside the unconscious Melfina. To the crew's relief, Gwen Kahn had mostly kept his distance since Gene had left. The few times he was in the same room as Hanmyo, he barely acknowledged her presence, much to everyone's relief, especially that of Jim and Hanmyo, who gripped Jim's shirt sleeve whenever she and the scientist made eye contact.

    Moments later, they could hear footsteps and a couple of voices. "Man, I bet that warden is having a fit right about now. I sure would love to see his face," came a cheeky voice they recognized as Gene.

    "Get serious. Even if he's crying, I never want to see his face again," responded a gruff voice they didn't recognize, but assumed was Saiyo Wong.

    "Hahaha, that's for sure," agreed Gene as the pair finally entered the room.

    "Hey Gene, great job!" praised Jim, which Gene accepted with gratitude.

    "Well there, well done, well done, young man! You should be quite proud of the work you've done," the resident mad scientist cut, placing himself in between the two partners. "What about the Leyline? Have you asked about the Leyline coordinates? Haven't you asked yet?"

    "Melfina comes first!" Gene barely stopped himself from snarling at the man responsible for their current predicament.

    After muttering a rather insincere apology and complaints regarding the delay towards learning the coordinates, Kahn clearly stated yet another kitchen related phrase. "Breakfast is signaled with a silver spoon."

    And just like that, Melfina's eye flew open.

    "Hey, it worked!" Jim cheered, resisting any urge to run over and hug her.

    "You okay, Melfina?" Aisha asked pleasantly, happy that her dear friend was back to normal. Suzuka and Hanmyo, for their part, said nothing, but the assassin had the happiest smile the crew had ever seen on her face and the newest member was beaming with utter joy.

    "How you doing, Melfina?"

    'So she's why the crazy idiot broke me out of prison,' Wong thought to himself in amusement. 'Hate to admit it, but if it had been for Miranda's sake, I probably would have gotten myself killed trying to save her. Regardless, I guess I can't blame him for everything he's done now…though like hell I'm ever telling him that!'

    "Huh? What?" Melfina looked around, understandably confused as to how she wound up in the infirmary. "Gene, you look different somehow. When did you change your clothes?" Gene now felt a wave of panic, not really wanting to explain that he'd gone to prison for her sake.

    "Well, you're satisfied, right?" asked the ever-impatient Kahn. "Now hurry up and ask about the Leyline!" For all of his begging, however, the scientist was rewarded not with the coordinates, but a swift chop to the back of the neck.

    "Sorry, but someone had to put you in your place," Suzuka explained as she lowered her hand.

    "That's right! The guy's a moron!" Aisha agreed, her hands on her hips in annoyance.

    "You can use this guy's spaceship if you hurry up. He's out cold now. In return, do me a favor and ditch him someplace along the way." Gene

    "Would that be after I kill him?" Wong

    "No," Gene clarified, somewhat exasperated. "Look, I told you before. I'm an outlaw, not a criminal."

    'This kid's really something else. Guess I was right after all in thinking he had potential,' Wong silently confessed. "I'll leave him alone," the former convict agreed before throwing a pendant at Gene. "Analyze this when you get a chance. There's a data file in it. The password's Miranda. It also happens to be my daughter's name."

    "That's a nice name," complimented Gene.

    "Of course it is! I'm the one who gave it to her," bragged Wong. "Anyway, the date file contains the Leyline's coordinates. After that, you can go get yourself killed for all I care. Never want to see an outlaw again!" At this statement, Wong smirked at Gene, which the redhead returned. The two then shared a hearty laugh, much to the bafflement of everyone else in the room. Afterwards, Gene saw him off, though not before slipping a Starwind & Hawking Enterprises business card into Wong's back pocket. After all, as vast as the galaxy may be, you never know when you'll be reunited with an old friend.

    (To be continued)

    Preview: Gene did it. He broke into Hecaton Kyrez and brought us the coordinates. It's normally not my thing, but hey, this calls for a celebration! Huh? Tenrei!? Gene! Right, like you'll find caster shells there. Still, even I admit that a nice hot bath would do wonders after such a stressful period. I bet Hanmyo would really enjoy it, too. Wait, Hanmyo… in a hot spring…bathing…Gene Starwind! What the hell have you done to me?!

    Next time on Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate: Secrets of the Springs. You better get ready!

    (Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate)
    “So here’s the deal. Life doesn’t always wanna be your friend. Sometimes it’ll feel like life wants to hurt you. But you can’t just hide, ‘cause nobody likes a quitter. You’ve gotta take chances. They never said it was gonna be fun, or easy. Whether your totally ready, or when you least expect it, it doesn’t matter: life will punch you right in the face. And you can lie there for a second, cry a little if you need to, but get back on your feet, ‘cause it’s the gettin’ back up that counts. And that’s what shows that you’ve got heart, that’s what helps keep you going. Fall down seven times? Get up eight. And know, we’ll be right there with you.” - T.O.M. (Toonami)

  11. #10
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    648
    (Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate)

    Though commonly believed to have been uninhabited upon its original discovery, one of the planet Tenrei's more popular local legends states that there was once a seventh, previously unknown alien race that called the world overflowing with hot springs their home. Thought to bear a striking resemblance to the Earth-based mammal species known as rabbits, some have nicknamed them the Usa. Some stories claim to that upon being discovered by Terran wizards over one hundred years ago, they demonstrated great hospitality to their visitors, offering them gifts of natural resources, the most notable being the planet's signature springs. These same stories go on to say that after years of living in harmony with the colonists, the native inhabitants sold the land to the wizards and then quietly faded away. For their part, the tourism bureau for Tenrei, while neither outright confirming or denying the Usa's existence, regularly employ rabbits mascots and imagery in various popular spots across the planet, far more than most other animals, as if to pay tribute to the legendary natives. However, over the years there have been a handful of historians and archaeologists who argue that the transition of Tenrei into a popular vacation destination and the supposed indigenous people's cooperation in the matter may not have been gone as smoothly as the more-popularly held stories imply…

    (Outlaw Star The Flower of Fate)

    Chapter 5: Secrets of the Springs

    "Are there really supposed to be wizards on this planet?" Jim asked incredulously. All six crew members were currently standing outside the Hagone Hot Springs space port, looking down into the town below.

    "I heard there were, so here we are," Gene shrugged.

    "Why's everybody dressed like that?" Jim followed up, referring to how every person, regardless of gender or species, were walking around in swimsuits. Little did he know they were all about to learn the answer firsthand.

    "Greetings, ladies and gentlemen! Welcome!" a man in a haori shouted from behind them with uncomfortably forced cheeriness. Flanking him on either side were what could only be described as utterly bizarre bear mascots, with giant red heads and paws, yellow voluptuous bodies, and green and blue bath towels. "All the delights of Hagone Hots Springs await you!"

    "Huh?" yelled the six crew members in perfect sync.

    Before they knew it, Gene and company were being shoved and tossed through a series of five strange doorway by the man and a bunch of the bear mascots, with Gene and Jim being forced through the same door while each of the females were sent through one of their own. (Though to the group's overall credit, Suzuka managed to slap one of the mascots so hard their head span around before getting sent through as well.) After passing through the door, the group realized they were inside personalized changing rooms, with swimsuits awaiting each of them. It didn't take them too long to realize that they wouldn't be allowed any further until they had changed into the provided attire.

    A few minutes later, the man in the haori and the bear mascots lifted the shutters on the other sides of the changing rooms, finally enabling the group to pass through.

    "All right!" cheered the man. "Everyone ready for some in the sun?"

    "'Immigration matters', huh?" snorted Jim.

    "All we did was change our clothes," grumbled Aisha.

    "Was tossing us beforehand really necessary?" sighed Hanmyo.

    "Okay, please enjoy your visit here, everyone!" the man announced.

    With a sigh of relief, the group made their way into town, passing a multitude of equally strange mascots ranging from purple dogs and yellow horses to pink cats and alligators with blue bodies and green boots. They were so distracted by the strange costumes that none of them heard the sound of a man with red hair even brighter than Gene's and a strange white mask with four slit red eyes and a creepy grin receiving the same welcome they just experienced, only his landing in the changing room included him hitting the back of his head on the stone floor.

    (Scene change)

    After about an hour of walking around the market stalls, the group was now waiting for a train. While Suzuka and Aisha elected to keep standing, everyone else took a seat on a bench between them, with Jim and Gene sitting towards the left and Mel and Hanmyo sitting on the right. Having been busy helping Gene out until now, Jim was only now taking in everyone else's new attire. Gene was wearing a light blue, pink floral print shirt that showed off his chiseled torso, as well as a violet speedo. Given all the stares from women he'd been getting, Jim was VERY grateful neither Fred nor Iris were present, and vowed to never let either of them know of this.

    Melfina was sporting a pink bikini top, yellow skirt, and pink sandals. Between her stylish appearance and how relaxed she appeared to be after everything Gwen Kahn put her through, Jim couldn't have been happier for the woman who reminded him so much of his mother.

    Aisha, meanwhile, was wearing a white and green one-piece suit that did a marvelous job showing off her curves. So great, in fact, Jim couldn't help but be both surprised and grateful no one was catcalling towards the woman he saw as his older sister.

    As for Suzuka, her red two piece managed to come across as both traditional and revealing all at once, with her usual single ponytail now done up in two. But despite it all, she still managed to carry herself with the utmost grace and elegance befitting her reputation.

    Lastly, Jim took a glance at Hanmyo and went slack-jawed, for the newest member for their family had foregone her usual pink headband and was dressed in a black one-piece bathing suit covered in white kitten paw designs. He was so stunned that it took him a full thirty seconds to become aware he was staring, after which he abruptly turned to look away.

    What Jim didn't realize was that the young girl was giving a similar look-over, admiring the blonde's blue tank top, dark green swim trunks, and light green sandals with a light blush and a noticeable smile. In fact, the young indigo-haired girl was bummed when he turned away, for she no longer had as a good a view as before.

    In an attempt to move past his perceived shame, Jim tried starting up a different conversation, "Hey Gene?"

    "Yeah, what is it?" Gene groaned, knowing what was coming.

    "No one knows anything about any wizards on this planet," the young blonde boy complained.

    This only managed to irritate Gene further. "They've got to be here!" the red-haired captain insisted. "Every time I went looking for caster shells, people told me rumors about these wizards who make them! They're supposed to be right here on Tenrei at Hagone!"

    "…Maybe they were messing with you?" Jim stated matter-of-factly.

    "Well, I can't remember ever hearing rumors like that from Ctarl-Ctarl…" Aisha confessed.

    "It's my understanding that casters and their shells are the products of a lost technology. No one can create them any longer," informed Suzuka.

    "I'm sorry Gene, but you have to admit the idea of finding actual magic bullets in a tourist destination seems a little on the silly side," admitted Hanmyo.

    "Uh, yeah but…what about that old woman we met?" Gene argued, desperate to maintain his credibility. "She said if we go to the temple atop Mount Nantai, we'll find what we're looking for! I just know we'll learn something when we get to that temple the old woman mentioned!"

    "I don't know about that old hag. There's something fishy…" Jim pointed out. After all, said elderly lady was strangely dressed, even by local standards. With a long mane of grey hair, a purple headband decorated with three talismans and a red hibiscus, a bath towel draped around her neck, a yellow shirt with orange leaves so large and baggy it hid her entire body from the neckline down save her hands and feet, white socks and sandals, and a wooden cane as tall as herself, it was a wonder that people hadn't been gawking at her in the street.

    "You're just bummed because I managed to acquire information where you couldn't," Gene teased. "Face it, Jim. I have a better way with women than you do."

    "Yeah right," Jim scoffed.

    "What was that? You think you can compare yourself to me here, Jim?" Gene challenged.

    "Of course not," Jim conceded with a surprisingly straight face. "You're the biggest idiot I know."

    "Um, Jim?" chimed in Hanmyo. "Isn't that a bit harsh?"

    "Would you still say that if I told you he once played Russian Roulette with five bullets instead of one just because a pretty woman promised him a spectacular time afterwards if he won?" Jim revealed.

    There was dead silence from the entire group for a full thirty seconds before Aisha began roaring with laughter, only to start choking on the meat bun she'd been snacking on. Hanmyo kept shifting her gaze between Jim and Gene, unable to comprehend just how absurdly lucky the red-head was.

    A moment later a train passed, ruffling the skirt of someone standing to the group's right. While Gene decided to take a peak, Jim had chosen to look in the other direction. Unfortunately for them, said skirt belonged to a Silgrian female who did not appeal to Gene's tastes in women whatsoever, and Jim realized he was staring at Hanmyo yet again. Both began staring at the ground afterwards in disgust, but each for different reasons.

    "We're just wasting time now that we have the coordinates of the Galactic Leyline. We should go!" Jim yelled at Gene, still embarrassed from before

    "Let me remind you that we're here looking for caster shells because we have no idea what to expect at the Leyline, alright?" Gene snarled back, glaring at Jim. At this point, the trains doors opened, and the band of six all boarded the car before plopping themselves down on a bench.

    "Well, since we're here, we may as well enjoy it," said Aisha in a laidback tone.

    "Yes, and by coincidence it happens to be on the way to the Leyline," Suzuka agreed.

    "Fine! See if I care when the pirates get there first!" Jim complained.

    "Stop worrying! Those idiots are still screwing around somewhere…" Gene reassured him. Little did they know there was merit to both their arguments.

    "I'm with Jim on this one," added Hanmyo. "It's likely that the longer we take to reach the Leyline, the more obstacles that are bound to be put in our path."

    "And is that the only reason you're agreeing with him?" teased Gene. Hanmyo had no response for this beyond stammering and being unable to look their captain in the eye.

    About five minutes into the train ride, Melfina broke the comfortable silence that the group had been enjoying. "Um, Gene?"

    "Yeah?" the red head replied.

    "What exactly is a hot spring?" Now it was Gene's turn to stutter.

    "Haven't you ever been to a hot spring before, Melfina?" interjected Jim.

    "No, Jim," admitted the bio-android.

    "Well a hot spring is a place where-" Gene began before being interrupted.

    "Attention all passengers," came a voice over the intercom. "As part of our customer service, we will now fill the train with hot natural spring water." Sadly, this warning did little to prepare the passengers for the torrent of water that abruptly flooded the train car from the direction of the caboose. The crew of the Outlaw Star found themselves completely submerged while one particularly unlucky passenger was sent careening towards the front of the train.

    Before long, Gene and company popped their heads back above the surface. "Well, this is sort of what a hot spring is like," Jim explained to Melfina, as though nothing unusual had just transpired.

    "Oh!" Melfina stated, pleased to have learned something new. Gene remained silent throughout all this, a deep scowl on his face.

    "You call this hot?" Aisha grumbled, her voice muffled by the water.

    "There is nothing that I find appealing about this," said Suzuka, appearing completely unfazed.

    Jim chuckled a bit at Suzuka's and Aisha's irritation before looking towards Hanmyo, who had been sitting between him and Aisha. What he saw shocked him.

    Hanmyo was shivering. Sure, Aisha was moaning about the water not being hot enough, but that was probably because Ctarl-Ctarl had a different threshold for what was too hot or too cold. To Jim, the water felt like comfortable bath water, but Hanmyo was shaking like she had just spent the last half hour in a giant ice bucket.

    "Hanmyo, what's wrong?" Jim asked. Now Melfina, Aisha, and Suzuka were all looking in their direction. Melfina's eyes were full of concern, Aisha's were clouded with confusion, and Suzuka's narrowed with suspicion.

    "J-Jim…I-I…" Hanmyo stuttered, which wasn't like her at all. Her face was so pale that Jim started to wonder…was she really cold? Or had something really scared her?

    Without thinking, Jim made his way over to the shivering girl, all traces of his earlier embarrassment gone. Facing Hanmyo, he wrapped his arms around her, placing his chin on her shoulder.

    "Jim?" Hanmyo looked up, color returning to her face, though more specifically her cheeks.

    "I don't know what's wrong, and I don't know what I can say or do to help, but I'm here for you," said Jim softly.

    "…Thank you," Hanmyo whispered, closing her eyes and smiling softly.

    Melfina beamed at the adorable sight before them, while Gene grinned and Aisha chuckled. As for Suzuka, her mind was on other matters. Therefore, none of them happened to notice when a man towards the front of the car with bright red hair and a buttoned up shirt of the same color, a white backpack, and yellow shorts was inexplicably hit over the head with a barrel that had been sent airborne by the rushing water.

    (Scene change)
    “So here’s the deal. Life doesn’t always wanna be your friend. Sometimes it’ll feel like life wants to hurt you. But you can’t just hide, ‘cause nobody likes a quitter. You’ve gotta take chances. They never said it was gonna be fun, or easy. Whether your totally ready, or when you least expect it, it doesn’t matter: life will punch you right in the face. And you can lie there for a second, cry a little if you need to, but get back on your feet, ‘cause it’s the gettin’ back up that counts. And that’s what shows that you’ve got heart, that’s what helps keep you going. Fall down seven times? Get up eight. And know, we’ll be right there with you.” - T.O.M. (Toonami)

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