"I can't tell you anything very conclusive as I've only just begun studying HiME biochemistry, but in simplistic terms, what the Searrs did to you was to alter your latent HiME abilities so that instead of summoning a Child, you transform into one instead."
Solomon and I were in Julia's research lab. At Solomon's request, she had agreed to brief us on all that she had learned so far.
"You see, Lycanthropes - or werewolves, as they're more popularly known - are even rarer than Chiroptera now. It's a scientific miracle of sorts that the Searrs got as far into their research as they did. They realized that the only way they could win against Solomon was to breed the natural enemy of vampires - werewolves. But Lycanthropes, as a race, have been long gone. The Searrs' solution, and it's a brilliant one I have to admit, was to find someone who could potentially very easily undergo the transformation. Someone, in addition, whose biochemistry they had long studied."
"Duran." I whispered. "They wanted to turn me into Duran."
Julia nodded. "Exactly. In a way, Kuga-san, you were very literally the only viable candidate they had for their plan. You're the only HiME with a wolf for a Child. What they failed to anticipate was how powerful you would be. In the same way that Shizuru is a HiME-Chiropteran hybrid, you're a HiME-Lycanthropic hybrid. It's impossible for us to predict what your exact abilities are as you're the first of your kind, but from the descriptions we got from the troops who brought you in, you appear to be part biological and part mechanical in your transformed state - just like Duran. Again, it's impossible to say for sure, but I would guess that while Shizuru's current HiME ability is to materialize an Element, yours is to materialize into your Child. But how exactly you achieve that is something you'll have to discover for yourself."
"But what you're saying, in effect, is that the way I am is...lethal to Shizuru." I stared at them, aghast.
Julia sighed and rubbed the bridge of her nose. "Technically, you should only be dangerous to her in your transformed state. But in any case, Kuga-san, the worst has already been done. During your...rampage at the Searrs' lab, you inflicted quite a number of bites and slashes on Shizuru. It's your saliva in her bloodstream that's poisoning her and preventing her from healing. It's precisely what the Searrs intended: they wanted to use you to neutralize us first before reactivating the other HiMEs. That's why they launched a full-scale offensive just to obtain you."
"But...you can reverse the poison right?" I stared at her fiercely, willing her to say yes.
Julia looked troubled. "I don't know, Kuga-san. If she continues to deteriorate over the next two days, we have only one option. It can save her. But it can also kill her."
"What is it?" I asked dully.
Julia looked at me gravely. "She would have to take your blood."
She lay quietly on the bed, her skin pale and her breathing shallow. She looked even more beautiful than she had in the past, if that were even possible. Her hair had grown much longer: the bangs were gone, and the chestnut waves that had used to stop at her shoulders now cascaded all the way to her waist. She had always been slender, but she looked even thinner now, and her skin, fair to begin with, now looked alabaster. She looked ethereal and fey - an almost otherworldly beauty.
As I stared at her, I began to feel the impact of the week's many revelations all over again.
First, there was the rage. At the Searrs, for causing everything. At Solomon, for involving Shizuru. And most of all, at Shizuru herself - for the long agonizing months that she had allowed me to believe in her death. The pain and grief of those endless nights returned to me full-force, and I hated her for not having spared me any of it.
"Do you have any idea," I asked her as she slept, my voice low and trembling from barely-suppressed anger, "do you have any fucking idea what it felt like? Do you have any fucking idea what it felt like to go on believing that the person who mattered the most to you in the world was dead? Did you honestly think it would make my life easier?" I was sobbing by this time, reliving the nightmare that had been my life for the last several months. I cried for a long, long time, and when I was done, the rage had exhausted itself.
Only this time, there was the guilt. The guilt that had never gone away, and that only seemed to keep expanding. Measure for measure, the pain she had inflicted on me was exceeded by the pain I had inflicted on her. I recalled yet again the early years of our friendship when I had shut her out with my indifference and detachment; the tragic night when I had turned away from her in disgust and revulsion; the painful weeks after the Carnival when I had evaded her from shame and unease; then the precious few days after my graduation when I had wavered again and again in declaring my love for her.
And then there was the most recent memory, the one that tore at me the most - the memory of a pair of crimson eyes and a voice telling me: You are not a killer. I would have killed that night, of that I'm sure, if she hadn't stepped in and saved my humanity. Stepped in - and risked dying all over again."Oh Shizuru," I whispered to her then in my grief and regret, "how many times will you have to die in my hands?"