Maki Ano had once been such a good student. When she arrived at Capital State University she had been so full of optimism and joy. She was intense, inquisitive and eager.
Professor Matty Pope noticed her early on in her first year as someone who desperately wanted to get ahead. Though there were times where Matty worried that the bright young woman had erroneously decided that testing well and getting good grades alone meant that she would be able to translate those skills to the workforce. Such pursuits were meaningless without a driving target to funnel those grades towards. There are no job openings for 'tests well'.
As a sociology professor, Matty was just happy to have a student engaged with the material and not willing to use it as a blow-off class to fill out their gen eds, but it still bothered her that a spirit so filled with potential had such little focus. She had made it a project to speak with her when she could to ask how she was doing, what she was planning, where she was going.
Over their first year together these chats had sparked a warm protective fondness between the young student and her 36 year old professor. But deep into Maki's second year with the school things had changed. Her attention was no longer as keen, her grades had begun to slip far beyond recognizable levels. Her absence ratio was becoming a discussion point between the other professors who also had her in attendance. It's so much easier to notice a struggling student when they were the apple of everyone's eye only a short year before.
In one lesson, Matty sat at her desk as the clock neared 4:30pm and saw Maki already gripping her messenger bag, starring at the clock, foot primed to push up and out of the door.
"Miss Ano." Matty called out as the clock ticked over. Maki was caught midway through the motion of launching herself out the door, "A word, please?"
The 19 year old student's eyes darted the room like a wild animal, her frowning features obscured partially by her thick round glasses. Her tense shoulders drooped as she nodded cordially and made a step towards her instructor.
"What is it?" she asked. Her tone impatient and firm, the unspoken implication added 'I do not have time for this.'.
"Sit down." Ms. Pope asked, her unspoken implication adding 'this is happening, whether you want it to or not.'.
Maki was wearing an ill-fitting graphic T-Shirt and sweatpants. The Maki she remembered wore clothes which betrayed a little more refinement and composure. There was nothing wrong with lazy attire, but the stark difference between then and now was a cause for concern. Particularly when paired with the distracted gazes, the dark bags under her eyes and an impatience for academia that had seemingly sprung up overnight.
"I don't have time for this..." she grumbled, "I'm needed elsewhere." another telltale sign that the woman before her was not the same prim, proper and polite woman that had been such a faculty favorite a year ago.
"I'll be quick then." Pope persisted, "I'm concerned about you. I don't think I'm alone in that, but I'm concerned about you."
"Good for you." Maki grunted, pulling herself up. She was about to just ditch this so called important conversation when Matty reached over and pushed her to the chair by her shoulders. Maki's expression was scandalized. Matty had been one of her favorite teachers in the past because of how approachable she had seemed. Comfortable and laid back in attire, never pushing with make-up or even the simple act of brushing or conditioning hair at times. She seemed down to Earth.
She did not seem like the kind of person who would manhandle a student.
"Sit down." she pressed, firmly. Hands not removing from the shoulders. Matty raising herself up slightly and pinning Maki down with ash grey eyes.
Maki was completely caught off-guard. Her surprise enough to cause herself to rest back in the seat and finally conceded. "Fine. What do you want."
"I want you to not throw your future away." Matty's voice carrying the stern scolding tone of a mother, Maki could almost hear the 'young lady!' added at the end.
Playing back into the role, Maki pouted and crossed her arms, "I don't think it's any of your business." her petulant tone making her appear all the more childish in spite of her objectively correct stance.
"If you want to pay this school more than a year of my salary to let you fail a bunch of classes and leave without a diploma, that's your issue." she grumbled running her hand through her own tangled net of thick and faded hair, "But I owe it to the woman I remember from last year to at least try and help you."
Maki gave a frustrated sigh. "Fine. What do you want me to do..."
Dr. Nyx had only been established at Capital State for the past semester. The university hadn't had need for an on site councilor before but she had turned out to be remarkably popular with the students and even members of the faculty just weeks into her tenure. She always came to work in a tailored pinstripe suit with her silky red hair pulled in a messy bun, a pair of reading glasses dangled upon a chain around her neck. She favored satin shirts, glimmering Silver earrings and elaborate bracelets betrayed a comfort of living that simply should not have been sustainable under her presumed salary.
It was 5pm on Tuesday night. Her newest client was going to arrive very shortly. Ms. Pope had given her the full briefing and she was eager to start working with a new case. She'd spent some time over the weekend gathering material and testimony on the young lady and everything that she had learned only served to intrigue further.
Pope's testimony had been the most insistent and carried the most actionable information but there were other faculty members and classmates who had commented on her absences, the bruises which had been spied on her and the complete social withdrawal. Nyx's hypothesis was that she was being abused by either a parent or lover and made preparations to that effect, but the rest would have to wait until the session to truly unravel.
Prep time was over, though. The door opened revealing Pope and this reluctant new patient.
"Ah, Ms. Ano, I assume?" Nyx chimed expectantly. "Take a seat."
Between the desk and the door sat two plush chairs square in the center of the carpet. A reclined chair for the patient and a plush armchair for the doctor. A waist high table rested to the side of the patient's chair with a vase of roses, a set of chargers for cell phones and a steaming cup of green tea waiting and inviting for the patient's enjoyment.
The doctor watched the student cross the room. An arm folded across her chest, eyes averted and frowning behind their circular frames, lips locked in a firm pout. Her jaw was tense, a weak point Nyx mentally jotted down while taking in the initial encounter.
Nyx couldn't be happier with this situation, she looked to the instructor, lingering in the open door, "That will be all, Matty. We will speak tomorrow. Close the door on your way out."
"Yes, Doctor." Matty responded plainly, obediently making herself scarce.
Something about that exchange awakened something within Maki. Where she had been withdrawn and reluctant moments before, her eyes now sparked to alertness, finally taking in the room. If she were to select a word for it she would have used regal. The bookshelves and desk were a rich and lacquered drown with gold crowning, the furniture, curtains and carpet all hinted scarlet or viridian. A grandfather clock sat by the bookshelf, the golden pendulum swaying lazily back and forth and filling the room with a constant droning tick. She would have expected such grandeur from a gentleman's club of historic repute, not a campus councilor for a mid-sized college.
Nyx grinned and walked the chasm between her desk and the patient, seated on a reclined leather chair, "It's a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Ano.", her voice was warm and inviting in spite of how intimidating her surroundings were. Maki couldn't turn off a sense of danger lingering at the back of her head, though.
"Well, Miss Pope wanted me to come..." Maki grumbled, defensively. She reached over and grabbed the china cup full of green liquid and gave it a cautious sniff. Nyx nodded and gestured with her hand, inviting her to enjoy if she wished. She took a sip. Shincha. Not bad.
"And you decided to come, I think that's the important part. You had the choice to not be here and yet you decided to come." Nyx positioned herself to sink into the armchair which neighbored the patients chair. Notepad at the ready, she plucked her reading glasses from their position dangling by her breasts and placed them on. "Why is that?"
"She said she'd forgive the tardy penalties on some of my papers--- I cancelled some plans, but I'm here aren't I?" Maki's purple eyes bore at Nyx, silently complaining about how much of a waste of time she felt this entire situation was.
"Do you feel that those penalties were fair when they were given?"
Maki drew in a breath. It looks like they were straight off to the races. At least that meant that there wouldn't be an awkward set of ice warming and 'getting to know you' questions.
"If I go along with this will you let me get back on my way?" the china cup rested between her hands, the warmth against her skin somewhat inviting.
"Clean bill of mental health. I promise." Nyx responded, crossing her legs and relaxing into position. "No one here is interested in telling you what to do, who you are or how to spend your life." her head tilted as she watched the student shuffle in her chair, averting her gaze, "You may think that is what I'm here for, but it's not. If we talk and I deem that you're making decisions you feel are right, I'll tell Matty that you're an adult in charge of your own life and you can perform in class however you want."
Maki snorted and rolled her eyes, kicking back in her chair. "School just isn't important to me. I don't get why everyone's so bent out of shape about how I do there." she glanced to the table and noticed the roses, all in full lively bloom.
Nyx nodded patiently, "I had heard that you were regarded as a model student last year. Has something changed between then and now?"
Maki swished some air between her cheeks, letting the question sit as she worked out how to word her response. "You could say that...".
"Hmm... could I?" Nyx tapped the cap of her pen against the notepad slowly. The muted tone of the tapping fit perfectly in the span of time between the mechanic clunks of the grandfather clock behind her. "And what would you say, Ms. Ano?"
"I'd say I met people. Changed priorities. Found things in life that are more important than school. I took on some extra responsibilities. Maybe more than I can handle, I don't know." her petulant edge was starting to dull. The soothing atmosphere of the office was doing wonders for easing her stress.
"I see..." Nyx mused, nodding softly, "So why not simply drop out or take some time away from school? Clearly juggling your responsibilities is stressing you out. A young woman like yourself shouldn't be carrying such a load."
The droning tick and the rhythmic tapping drowned into a vacuum of space between them now.
"...yeah..." Maki sighed. Her shoulders loosened. "It's been hard."
Nyx drew in a long breath and sighed it out. "You said you'd cancelled your plans tonight, didn't you?"
Maki had been starring at the steaming vapors of her tea for just a moment too long, Nyx's question reminded her of where she should have been tonight and where she wasn't. She looked up, "That's right...?" her voice contained just a hint of caution.
"Then there's no need to worry about today." Nyx said, her velvet voice draping over the silent void like a welcome blanket. "You can relax today. I see it in your eyes. Hear it in your voice. You're exhausted, aren't you?"
Maki double-blinked, looking back to her tea. Mere minutes ago she was so tense and stressed and rebellious but what she was being told made sense. There was no battle. No objective. No expectation. She just got to be for a few minutes.
Maki couldn't remember the last time she was just allowed to be.
She used to be such a calm and casual girl, too.
"How much sleep do you get each night, Ms. Ano?" Nyx pressed on.
"...four or five..." Maki responded, breath heavy and exhausted.
Nyx tutted and shook her head. "May I try something, Maki? If you're interested in relaxing?" she paused a moment as the young girl starred at her tea again and got lost in thought, poor thing. "Just listen to the sound of my voice, okay? I'm going to try and relax you a little. Help you get some more rest tonight than you would have."
The tapping continued between the droning tick and tock of the antique clock. The scent of tea and roses blended in with the muted colors of the décor... and then there was Nyx herself. A wall of professional calm. Such a soothing presence. A mild and gentle voice.
If Maki had a reply, she didn't make it audible.
"Good... just relax. Focus on your breathing for a little while. Do you catch more of a scent of the tea or the roses, I wonder? No need to answer... you can just focus on timing your breathing. Perhaps using my clock to keep time. Clocks are good at that after all... Breathe in on the tick... and hold through the tock... release on the tick, expelling your lungs capacity... and then in again, tick, hold and tock, release on tick... good. Just like that."
Maki's eyes slipped closed, her head gravitated a little towards her collarbone. All of those exhausting nights had truly drained her dry. Following along like this was not her style. Not anymore. But the invite was just so welcoming. So her nostrils flourished with air when suggested and her lips gently parted to exhale at cue. Hair that was the darkest shade of purple spilled down to cover her face. Somewhere Nyx kept speaking but there was only the wobbly soft sensation of comfort and intoxication. The siren song of slumber long rejected finally pulling her from the inside of her forehead down through the floor and into a floating freefall.
Nyx leaned forward and collected the china from her hands and placed it on the table before pressing a hand to Maki's forehead.
"Down." she commanded firmly, "Deep down and sleep... drift into a powerful relaxing slumber where your mind can truly be at ease."
She needn't have said more. At the earliest contact between the doctor's hand and her forehead, Maki gasped out a submissive sigh of surrender and her limbs lost all strength to do anything but flop helplessly on the patient's chair.
"Good girl..." Nyx sighed, a hint of a smirk appearing on her lips. "Just like that."
If Maki was capable of processing the boast it didn't show. She only let out a comforted whimper.
"Can you hear me, Miss Ano?" she asked, plucking her patient's wrist up between her thumb and forefinger and giving it a testing waggle. The limb moved helplessly with minimal effort. Satisfied she let gravity take it back down to her side with a pleasant thunk.
"Yes..." Ano sighed, her voice a hollow, vacant whisper that barely carried the distance between the two women.
"That's Yes Doctor..." Nyx sighed, brushing her fingers gently across the exposed skin of the student's arms.
"Yes doctor." Maki corrected herself.
"You seemed quite defensive when we began..." Nyx sighed. "Are you in trouble, child?"
Maki shook her head.
"Are you being taken advantage of in any way?"
Her brow scrunched. A sign, Nyx had learned, that the answer was conflicted. Complicated. Not clear enough to be spoken thoughtlessly.
"Shh..." Nyx cooed, pressing fingers to Maki's forehead again and watching her melt away that tension, "Maybe you should tell me what you are doing that is taking so much of your time and energy..."
Maki's brow furrowed again, but a quick temple massage replaced the conflicted grimace with an empty smile.
"Fighting the Voidverse." she swooned.
And then the atmosphere of the moment shifted. The intimate calm between the two women that swallowed all sound and surroundings shattered in an instant and the grandfather clock, the hauntingly large office space and the deafening silence between were all completely apparent. At least to Nyx.
Ano just lounged in her chair with a detatched grin of supreme comfort, drool pooling at the corner of her lips. Oblivious to the fact she had said anything worthy of reaction.
"...excuse me...?" Nyx asked, sincerely taken aback.
"Fighting the Voidverse." Ano repeated, her voice serene and gentle. Like just saying those words out loud was the relief that she had so desperately needed.
"The Voidverse..." Nyx toyed with the word, studying this odd child far more skeptically than she had moments before. "Those monsters that attack downtown?"
"Mhmm..." Ano sighed, "With my friends.".
"Oh shit..." said Nyx, startled, "You're one of the Zodiac Warriors, aren't you?"
"Mhmm..." Ano sighed again, "Lady Scorpio."
Nyx backed off and regarded this child again, as if for the first time. All the pieces fit perfectly together and she did look awfully like one of the heroic women that were responsible for saving the city again and again.
But this was no time to let her shock control her actions. Nyx rose to her feet and selecting one of Maki's hands had her do the same.
"Prove it." she finally commanded, "Show me your abilities."
Maki's brow furrowed and Nyx yanked her by the wrist, catching her head and dragging her against her. Maki flopped like a ragdoll against the councilor.
"Show me." she commanded again, fierce and firm.
Maki nodded meekly and backed off. Raising her hand and whispering "Scorpio Lock. Activate."
Her nails ignited with a rainbow fury of light that spread across her body and plucked her in the air. For a full fifteen seconds Nyx watched as the sweatpants and t-shirt were consumed by this light and Ano's petite form was flung around by this unseen force, flopping with every swish of magic as it enveloped her and left a scantily clad superheroine in place who sunk delicately to her knees, head tilted down and hair curtaining her frame.
'holyshityouareladyscorpio' Nyx screamed internally as she watched this unfold.
"Rise to your feet, Lady Scorpio..." she audibly said, trying to maintain her composure. The Zodiac Warrior obeyed and pulled herself up, her sleepy head barely able to hold itself up under the newly added weight of the ornate tiara adorning her head now.
Nyx drank in the moment. Watching the helpless heroine with a triumphant smirk.
Queen Beatrice was going to be so pleased with her.
Nyx's hand snapped up to select Scorpio's chin. "Eyes open, my dear. Eyes on me." she whispered, her ruby red lips pulling into a sinister smirk. Scorpio's purple eyes, no longer obscured by glasses, gazed back with a watery glaze of unfocused splendor. "That's right..."
As Nyx cooed and hushed her prey, her skin began to seep from a pasty Caucasian to an aqua blue, her soft skin becoming slick and textured. Sharp teeth replaced the broad and straight ones that were there moments before and her gaze which had once been so kindly was now twisted and possessive.
One hand wrapped around Scorpio's unresisting throat as the other planted itself by her ear.
Nyx had installed herself into this human learning facility months ago. Used her mind altering abilities to corrupt the faculty. Have them bring her students so that she could feed off of their energy and bring it back to Queen Beatrice. To revive the Astral Legion and conquer the stars... Nyx was a lowly lieutenant, hardly noticed by the powers that be, but she had firmly rooted herself in human society and was capable of generating so much energy. Matty had done a wonderful job bringing her this specimen. She would have to reward her favorite human pet when all was said and done.
The hand at Scorpio's ear pressed in firmly and a shock resonated through both hero and villain. Scorpio's eyes shot wide and her heels flailed out as something entered her mind. Something huge and powerful. Her thoughts were too small. Too fragile. Too disparate. This force pushed everything inside her brain to the edges. She could feel parts of herself being pushed through her eyes, out of her ears, down her nostrils. Thoughts and Presence like a rich goo pushed right up against Scorpio's skull.
The Zodiac Warrior began to scream out in a wailing combination of agony and ecstasy. With a hand firmly clasped around her neck, holding her above the ground and the other pouring this power into her skull, Nyx had only one option to silence her. She yanked her forward and locked lips, muting the screams and pouring even more of this astonishing psychic force directly into her.
The flailing and kicking lasted far longer than Nyx had hoped or expected. Far longer than the transformation light show she had been given. But it did stop. Gloved hands stopped swaying into her form helplessly, tears stopped running down Scorpio's face, all resistance was gone.
Nyx lowered Scorpio to her feet. As gravity welcomed her back to solid ground the Zodiac Warrior swayed at first but then drew tall and to height. Rigid in posture and stance.
"There, there... that wasn't difficult, was it?" Nyx giggled brightly, backing off and resuming her human form with little fanfare.
"No Doctor." Maki replied, her tone dutiful and flooded with pride.
Nyx circled her obedient patient like a shark easing in on prey, as she did she inspected every aspect of the magical girl, pulling locks of her hair, testing the frill on her mini-skirt, testing the elasticity of her fuku. All the while Ano stood sentinel.
There was so much fun that could be performed with this new toy, but sadly work always came first.
With a triumphant grin, Nyx framed the unresisting face of her new doll with the palm of her hand, "So, Miss Ano... I have a favor to ask of you."
"Anything for you." she responded in a swoon, "How may I serve you?"
"Perhaps you could introduce me to some of your friends..."