<xmp> <body> </xmp>

Sarah Selena Grey-Lacklan hesitates before the doors of the shinto temple. She is adorned in a white dress, the train falling to the ground and running for several feet, with the splintering lines of spider web designs in silver all around. Her face is covered by a translucent white veil, clipped into her platinum hair, which is pulled back into a tightly-wound tale. A small hate rests upon her head, also white, lined with small red feathers. All around her, sakura trees wave in a light breeze, the empty branches dancing and causing a soothing click and clack. Her hands are before her, one on her stomach and the other up, reaching for the door, the gloved fist yet to touch the door. Her body doesn’t move as she holds her breath, her hesitation holding her in place.

“...calm yourself, Fangs…”

Her voice is small, the high-pitched Londoner accent holding none of it’s usual haughty thickness. She licks her lips underneath her veil and raises her fist to knock on the door. But it opens, pulling away from her. She intakes a sharp breath of surprise, and then holds it in as a figure takes up the doorway. A Japanese woman with a touch of grey in her hair and crows feet at her eyes to show her age, wears a simple dress of white, with a purple hakama and matching bow in her hair. Half a head taller than Sarah, the woman seems even larger, seeming to take up the entire doorway.

“I had wondered. Would you visit? Would you share your…trinkets?”

The woman’s voice is light and airy, though with a strength Sarah can feel in her bones, and speaks with the clipped closeness of a second language. That last work...trinkets...had the distinct flavor of derision within it, and suddenly the athletic bag resting behind her legs felt as if it were a stone.

“I...um…”

Sarah gives her head a small shake and she gives a deep bow to the woman, bending at the waist.

“Ma’am...may I enter?”

Sarah stays bent over as the silence stretches, her back tensing with the wait.

"Hai."

The tension leaves Sarah’s body and she lets out a breath she had not realized she was holding. She straightens and is surprised to see the woman already gone from the doorway. She quickly gathers up the athletic bag behind her and walks over the thresh and into the temple.


Presenting the House of Lacklan Saga Story Of:

Leap of Faith, Supplemental: Sayōnara

Sarah smiles as she takes in the soft beauty of the temple. She had first seen the gentle purple and white lace streamers, colored in such a way as to match the woman’s robe, eight months ago. The small Shinto shrine had not changed, and it seemed the woman who watched over the place, the miko, had not, either. At the center of the room was a statue, life-sized, depicting a man with broad shoulders, a strong jaw, and a buzzed head. Surrounding the statue were rows of neatly arranged prayer mats, as well as lit lanterns providing dancing lights. The fixtures within the temple were a mixture of soft curves and sharp angles, a sight which the mind has difficulty processing, all of which created a disorientating view.

“Pay your respects, Child.”

Sarah shakes herself to clear her head and walks up to the statue. Standing before it, she has to crane her head back in order to look at his strong face and cold blue eyes.

“Hello, Father.”

Sarah leans forward and wraps her hands around the statue of a young Jean-Paul Lacklan. She closes her eyes tightly to fight off the tears which threaten to fall onto her snowy gown.

“Where is my daughter-in-law, Child?”

The question catches Sarah off-guard and she pushes away from the statue. Looking for the miko, she sees the woman lighting incense with a candlestick, and the fragrant smell of sandalwood fills her nostrils.

“She...um...she stayed at the hotel.”

The miko does not respond, instead gently swaying towards one of the mats. She lowers herself down upon one of them and faces the statue. Sarah picks up her back and makes her way over to the woman, sets down the bag, and lowers herself to the mat next to her. Though, as she noticed the last time she was here, without the older woman’s grace. Beside her, the miko raises her arms up into the air, slowly, then brings them before her and clasps her hands. Sarah follows suit, her muscled arms moving easily through the motion, and brings her clasped hands before her chest.

“What trinkets do you bring to share?”

Again, the word is full of derision. Sarah bites her lips in thought for a moment.

“Nothing too important, Ma’am.”

“Then why do you come?”

Sarah doesn’t hesitate.

“To honor my father. To honor you.”

The miko’s face cracks a small smile.

“I have heard. Your honor. Oh...Great Miko.”

Behind the white veil, Sarah’s own face finds a small smile.

“I figured you would appreciate it. Kenzi doesn’t get it, but that’s fine. It’s an amalgamation of the love between my father and his first Beloved.”

The miko gives a small nod of her head.

“I approve.”

Relief and joy well up within Sarah and her fingers itch to reach for the bag, but she stays calm.

“Thank you, Ma’am.”

Her small smile grows wider.

“Light’s truth, Kenzi loathes when I wear the mask. But that’s okay. It’s for me, ya know? We need change.”

Her eyes rise up and take in the statue.

“What was he like? At this stage?”

The miko regards the statue for a moment and her small smile grows warm.

“Passionate. Penitent. Strong. His hate would not come until later. I was fortunate. I knew only his love.”

She turns her head slightly to take Sarah into her peripherals.

“I am sorry that you got as much hate as love.”

Sarah’s smile falters and she gives a small shrug.

“He loved me. It was others who found his hate. I just wish I could have dispersed that hate sooner.”

She chews on her lips again.

“Daddy had four distanct phases of his life.”

She nods to the statue.

“Here, training in Saitama, before Grandmumsie and Granddaddy died. Then after, when he lost his face to the fires after I was born. Then later, when the Church was fully a community. And then the very end, when his alabaster mask turned black.”

She gives a small shake of her head.

“I have been thinking of phases a lot lately, Ma’am. I feel as if I have gone through fifty! If I blink, I can remember being at Daddy’s side here in Japan, touring with him. I blink again, and I’m a teenager, wearing too much makeup…”

She laughs at that.

“...and with too little clothing…”

Another self-deprecating laugh.

“...being his valet. A third blink, and I’ve turned pro and am running around the world with...of all things...my girlfriend.”

She swallows a sudden knot in her throat.

“...coming out to him was so hard…”

The sting of tears press against her eyelids and she gives her head a small shake.

“...I blink again...and I am at his bedside...watching him die…”

The sting grows stronger.

“...right in front of me, Ma’am. Last words and everything.”

Her cheeks feel a hot tear digging a lane through her makeup as it cascades to the bodice of her dress.

“I blink again...and I’m…”

She closes her eyes.

“There was a boy...we had had…relations...when we were younger. He wanted more. He felt...felt...that he was owed. Owed everything. Daddy’s money. The Manor. The Church. Me. He hated Kenzi…hated her...called her…”

She bites down hard on her lip, hard enough to feel iron dancing against her tongue.

“...I can’t even speak the words, Ma’am. He drugged me. Took me. But was chased. And in the chase...he crashed. I had a broken leg...my hips were knocked out of alignment...nerve damage...my head took a blow. They induced a coma. I was in and out for a week or two. Kenzi rarely left my side. I’ll never stop loving her for that. We had only been married a couple of months by then. I couldn’t feel my legs for a couple of months. At least I got a badass wheelchair out of it.”

She laughs at herself, a chuckle tinged with barely restrained madness.

“Took me months to recover. I worked slowly, with Kenzi by my side. We eventually let our friends know how much better I was doing, and they helped. I worked part time for half a year. And then, in January of last year, I started running...and I haven’t stopped.”

She chews her lips again.

“Child. Valet. Rookie. Wheelchair. Part-timer. World Champion.”

She shakes her head and lets out a mirthless laugh.

“I am doing something special tomorrow, Ma’am. The world doesn’t know...only Kenzi...and I might tell another...but it will change the world and fates for everyone.”

She pauses for a second.

“Two men do battle for an important prize-”

”Trinket.”

Sarah laughs softly at the incessant interruption.

“Trinket, then. But they fight for it, still. With all of who they are. Both men have gone through phases, through extreme shifts, just like Daddy. They have battled for almost as long as I have been alive, turning the business upside down through matches both straight and insane, in locations small and grand. And they have nearly ruined themselves over it. Old warriors, faces of Daddy’s generation, who made enough mistakes along the way to fill the lives of many men.

“Both seek redemption, of a sort, for past transgressions. The challenger ruined relationships, ruined lives, because of his greed and avarice. The other, the champion, spent more time with a needle in his arm while sitting on a dirty bathroom floor than in the arms of loved ones. Both are new men, now. Both are in new phases. Both are looking, perhaps not to erase their previous incarnations, but at least to make up for them. And both will fail tomorrow. Because of me.”

She turns her head to face the miko.

“Am I being selfish? Am I falling into hubris?”

The miko is silent for a time, her dark eyes staying locked on the statue.

“What is the Path?”

“The road, Ma’am, to saving the world. The One Lord God…”

She points at the statue.

“...through his Voice...would bring the world back to where His love can grace them all. The entire world, forever in sync with the wishes of God. A world based upon the time-honored tenants of wrestling: Sportsmanship. Fairness. Rule of Law. Victory.”

The miko nods.

“And who are you?”

Another small smile from Sarah.

“His Firestarter. His Blood Princess. His Firebird.”

The miko nods again.

“And your role?”

“To set the world on fire so that I can finish what Daddy began.”

The miko turns to face Sarah, and her face displays a soft kindness.

“What are you doing tomorrow?”

Sarah licks her lips and gives a confident smile.

“Giving truth to the champion’s words: Some fairytales don’t have happy endings.”

“Why?”

Sarah’s smile broadens and takes up her whole face.

“To move the needle. To shake up the world. To bring everyone closer to God.”

The miko gives a small nod before her eyes turn down to the athletic bag.

“What is in the bag?”

Sarah’s thoughts turn to the contents of the bag. Her three current championship titles. The mask of the Great Miko. More. She gives a small shake of her head.

“Just trinkets.”

The miko, Nori Nakama, first wife of the albino's father years before she was born, gives Sarah a deep nod of her head. The two turn back to the statue, take in the fragrant scent of the sandalwood, and pray together in silence.