Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 20

Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 20

Fall to Rebirth

Whisper

 

The construction crew just stared at the ceiling of St. Mary’s Cathedral. They had long since tuned out the priest and now just proceeded to wonder how anything had managed to burst through the tall ceiling from the inside.

Unfortunately for Daisuke Sakamoto the understandably livid man had moved on to him, and he had to listen.

“The police were supposed to keep it closed off, but you tell me someone did make it inside. Someone matching the description of the demon who intruded two days ago. You force me to close my doors your foolish investigation and then let this happen.” He swept his arms wide in a frenzy as he spoke, revealing how much they shook from his rage.

“And we’re looking into all these incidents,” Daisuke calmly explained. “We must investigate while the scene is fresh. We’ve got some men on the roof taking a look and will help cover your costs. In the meantime the crew will help us figure out what might have happened.”

“And then you find nothing for it was the work of demons.”

Daisuke shook his head. This man was usually so reasonable, and had helped Daisuke find people to perform Catholic exorcisms on several occasions. Surely, he knew better.

A tall man, somewhere in his twenties, strode into the cathedral. His laced and buckled boots came above the knee and his leather jacket hung to about midway down the thigh, though it was open right now to reveal the boots, katana, and set of strange tubes along his white weapons belt. The inside of the coat was purple, reminiscent of royalty, and he wore and old uniform cap from the Taisho era. He came right up beside Detective Sakamoto, almost a head taller than the older man.

The priest immediately backed down.

“Anything?”

“Just that it was done from the inside, but you knew that already. Your end?”

“Barrier.” The newcomer looked carefully around the room. “You have to be invited in.”

“By whom?”

The newcomer looked the detective straight in the eye. “Demons. Likely Divine order, doesn’t seem to hold an elemental affinity, but whatever’s holding it up might even be as high up as a herald.”

“Angels,” the priest mouthed.

“Not surprising they’d like this place.” He looked up to the ceiling. “Given that, it’s a little odd they’d let this happen to it. Safe to assume they got into a large fight. What we don’t know is why, or with whom. With angels though, the second one’s usually pretty easy to answer once you know the why.”

“The demon from the other day,” the priest surmised, glaring at Detective Sakamoto.

The seasoned detective held up his hand. “We don’t know that.”

“Demon? Is this about those reports of mass hallucination two days ago?”

“Yeah. Didn’t get to me right away, but once this happened too they thought I should look into it. I’m already handling a kidnaping and the kid’s parents are going berserk. Knowing I’ve got another case won’t help. Still, this definitely falls under our jurisdiction.”

“You saw the demon?” the man asked, turning to the priest.

The priest nodded. “Looked like a young adult human male at first, but his eyes glowed yellow and he snarled like a wolf. Stronger than a bear.”

“Save the theatrics.”

“He threw people with one hand.”

“Description.”

“Like I said, much like a young man, Japanese. He wore a hoodie, but once he fought you could see these marking all over his face and hands. They were black and blue, and the blue glowed.”

“With an internal light?” Detective Sakamoto inquired.

“Definitely. He had a horn coming out his neck, and a voice spoke to us to destroy him. He took on a horde of angels all on his own.”

“You saw the angels?”

“Oh yes, they were beautiful.”

“Blonde ladies in bondage outfits?”

“What?”

“Description,” the man added testily.

“I suppose that would be one awful way to describe their splendor.”

“Good to know your fetishes.” He turned directly to Detective Sakamoto. “Everyone who works here needs to be extra careful. Make sure they don’t mess with anything.”

“I’ve already told them that,” the priest practically screeched. He was ignored.

“As for the supposed demon…”

“Radou.”

“Hmmm?”

“I might have a lead on that.”

“The kidnapping?”

Detective Sakamoto nodded. “The kid’s brother had some interesting markings he was trying to hide. Said it was cosplay, but seems to me you’d just wait to apply the lines ‘til you were out of dodge. Apparently, had quite the personality change recently too.”

Raidou nodded slowly.

“What’s wrong?”

“Hm? Ah, nothing much. Just thinking over the description.”

“Strange demon?”

“Possibly unique. Avoid conflict at all costs.”

“Heh. I prefer to leave conflict to the professionals.”

“Smart man. Call me the moment you’re done.”

The detective’s phone let out a buzz. With a sigh he pulled it out and checked the new message.

Narumi: Don’t forget to contact Raidou about your meeting with the kid. Contact the agency immediately in case of trouble. Will message you again when you approach his home.

He glared at Raidou. “You’re wearing it again.”

“Obviously.”

“Does she have to hear everything?”

“Yes.”

Detective Sakamoto let out a dramatic groan. “You youngsters and your technology.”

“She heard that.”

“Good.” He grinned. “Anyway, guess I have a kid to interrogate.”

Raidou nodded.

“Careful out there.”

“You too.”

Detective Sakamoto offered a small bow before heading out of the church. Raidou watched him leave, waiting until the man had left the building to pull out one of his small tubes.

“Raiju,” he whispered, lips pressed against its cool metal. The tube seemed to open of its own accord, a green mist spilling forth.

A moment later a vaguely hound-like flash of lightning appeared before him, but this was a flash with physical form and which stayed, even if it blinked to and fro as it did so.

“About time,” the demon snarled.

Raidou motioned to the roof. “Investigate.”

“So says the man with the tube.” The demon began to flit up to the ceiling, starting at the hole.

As for Raidou, he moved up to the altar. Two claps. Bow. “May I have a word?” Since he knew there were angels here it seemed reasonable to ask them for their side of the story.

Much to his surprise, it was an angel bound to a fiery wheel who answered his call. “Devil Summoner Raidou Kuzunoha the Fifteenth.”

“Throne. Thank you for answering.”

“If the Kuzunoha would aid our crusade against the fiend we would be most gracious.” The flames on the wheel blazed a little brighter. “However…”

Raidou waited patiently.

“It is your predecessor who allowed this fiend to escape in the first place.”

Raidou kept his face completely still. He wanted to hear Throne say it. To hear an angel admit to failure.

“The demifiend, the human Asura, a threat to existence.”

A little party went off in Raidou’s head as he silently prayed for Narumi-san to have recorded this moment. Now, to make it perfect. “If he is so dangerous how is it the angels have allowed him to live?”

Throne spun angrily. “We are restricted.”

“This is your home.” Raidou pointedly looked up to the ceiling. “And yet you allowed this demifiend to defile it?”

The angels spun once more, fires flaring. “He escaped.”

“Hunt him down.”

“He is originally Japanese and still under Kuzunoha jurisdiction.”

Ah, so there was the crux of it. A rogue angel was one thing, but a group of angels on a man hunt for a Japanese citizen on native soil? Oh yeah, Raidou would totally fight them without a second thought. Unfortunately, while these little admittances of failing were beautiful, that meant this discussion was headed in a rather nasty direction.

“You should mend the mistakes of your predecessor.”

Truly, a statement he had never thought he would hear. At least, not when it came to discussing the Raidou directly preceding him.

“Don’t revel in it too long,” a female voice berated through his hidden earpiece.

“Very well,” he responded loudly. “I will consult with the Herald and track down the fiend.”

“You will defeat the fiend.”

Raidou bowed. “I will remove the threat.”

Throne looked long and hard at him. “You had best stay true to your duty, Raidou Kuzunoha.”

So many things to do now, and almost all of them liable to end in a terrible burn. “I stay true to my oath.”

The angel seemed content with that, vanishing in a puff of flame. All heads turned towards the source of the fire, but not even smoke lingered.

Raiju came down.

“Well?”

“Electricity. Very strong. Alongside a sharp impact. Area between there and the dark realm very weak.” Raiju looked around cautiously a moment before leaning in close. “Raiju can smell it. The smell of rotting corpses.”

A kidnapping. Rotting corpses. He really didn’t like where this was going. Still, without evidence he had to tread very carefully in a Catholic church.

The priest came up to him. “Were you in prayer?”

“Huh? Hardly. Don’t pray.”

“Truly?” The priest looked quizzically at the protection talisman hanging off Raidou’s katana.

“No. I ask.”

“Prayer is…”

“A wish. Asking is a conversation, which I would like to end now.”

The priest bowed. Raidou strode purposefully passed him and out the church, Raiju trailing behind.

A black cat with bright green eyes met him immediately outside the building. “Well?”

Raidou took a deep breath. “Demifiend.”

For a moment the cat just looked at him, as though sorting what it had heard. Then its eyes slowly widened.

“The demifiend, the human Asura, a threat to existence, as Throne put it. He said that it was my predecessor’s fault for letting him escape.”

The cat’s hackles slowly raised. “Not good.”

“Apparently, he is Japanese. Daisuke thinks it might be connected to a kidnapping. Raiju smells bodies.”

The cat sat down, slowly seeming to calm as everything sunk in. “Human helpers the demifiend murdered or captives of the angels?”

“Guessing the latter, but either way we need his side of the story. Can’t charge into an angel lair without evidence.”

“And Daisuke went to talk to him?”

“Yeah.”

“Call him. Now. Tell him to stop.”

“You sure?”

“Akira, you have no idea how dangerous this child could be. Even when your grandfather and I fought him he was resourceful and dangerous. Imagine how much more he could be now.”

Raidou pulled out his phone with a sigh.

“We definitely need to monitor this demifiend, whatever the case,” the voice behind the earpiece stated.

“Agreed.” Raidou dialed the detective. One ring. Odd. Two rings. That was rare. The third ring had just started when the phone picked up.

“Sorry, just got off the train.”

“Daisuke.”

“What is it?”

“I think your hunch was right. That kid, he might be…” Raidou trailed off. He looked questioningly at his cat. What would happen to this kid if they were right? If they exposed him to the Kuzunoha?

“Protect him,” the cat urged.

Raidou nodded. “Sorry. The kid might be the demifiend. Proceed with extreme caution.”

“Demifiend?” Daisuke whispered.

“Long story, but if we’re right you need to be very careful.”

“Understood. I’ll be careful.”

Raidou hung up then.

“Are you sure about letting him go there alone?”

“I’m sure.” He smiled down at his cat. “Better not to freak this kid out.”

“Demifiend a legend,” Raiju said, continuing to flit around.

“And for good reason,” the cat warned.

“That’s why I’m going home. Time to collect information.”

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Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 19

Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 19

4/14/2015

The Mystic’s Dream

 

“Welcome to the velvet room.”

Souji opened his eyes to the same nondescript velvet draped room he’d seen the last several times. Only this time, Igor sat across a small table from him.

“So, what my assistant has told me is true,” the old man sighed.

Margaret stood beside Igor, carefully avoiding Souji’s eyes. Why?

“You have involved yourself in a story which should not be. A story which should not exist.” A tarot spread appeared on the table, death face up. “A story which can end only one way.”

“I thought I had infinite potential,” Souji counted.

“Potential and ability are different.” Above death appeared a card Souji didn’t recognize it. To that card’s lower left appeared the World. “The Universe,” Igor explained, “in which all of creation dwells.” He closed his eyes. “All its lover and potential. All its anger and despair.” He opened them once more. “Do you understand?”

“Butterfly may be somewhat unstable, but I trust him and his intentions.”

“And if you’re wrong?” Margaret quietly asked. “He may not be evil per se, but can you really trust that his intentions are in line with yours, that he will protect humanity?”

“He will defend his friends.”

“And his family,” Igor stated.

“Family?”

Igor glanced over at Margaret who nodded and walked away. The pianist began to play softly, the singer Souji had yet to meet slowly beginning to sing a gentle melody. Margaret came back carrying a tattered looking compendium.

“This is the compendium of Minato Arisato,” she explained quietly. She opened it to the middle, the image of the familiar Thanatos appearing above its pages.

“Thanatos,” she recited. “The Greek god of death, he is the son of Nyx and brother of Hypnos. He is depicted as a young man with an inverted torch and wreath or butterfly in his hands.” She looked up at Souji. “Ultimate persona of the death arcana, above even Hades. Variations of his birth vary, but in all he is the son of Nyx, night, and brother of Hypnos, sleep. Often the son of Erebus, the gloom of Tartarus, the gloom of the world.” She slammed the book shut. “Sometimes god of peaceful death. Other times capable of carnage beyond any you can imagine.”

Souji cast his eyes down. So the young man he’d seen among the butterflies, the unfamiliar man, had that been Thanatos? Probably, but wasn’t that just a persona? He knew well enough that other beings existed, but all of them had proven nothing more than bigger shadows, one who could control the weaker ones and had developed an identity of their own.

“The Thanatos before you now is not a Shadow,” Igor rasped. “Nor is he the Persona described within Arisato’s compendium.”

Souji looked up at Igor. He had to ask. He had to know. “Then what is he?”

“A god,” Margaret breathed, “and not just a god. He is death in its truest form and the son of shadow itself.”

“The son of shadow itself,” Souji repeated. That must mean Erebus, and Nyx was night. But what of Arisato in all of this? Surely his interests still mattered?

“Arisato and Thanatos have fused,” Igor explained. “Where once he held but the shadow of a god, Arisato now must control the entirety of its being with his own soul irreparably damaged. He cannot recreate the Great Seal.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means,” Margaret faltered, “it means someone of a comparable ability would have to die in his place.”

“But you are not the Universe. While comparable you are not the same, not a perfect match, as no two humans truly are. Your experiences are different, creating a different being. You cannot do it.”

“What happens if this seal remains broken?”

“Erebus will break through what little remains,” Margaret whispered. “And he will bring down Nyx. She will crush humanity in her darkness.”

“Then why not immediately? Why doesn’t this happen right away?”

“Margaret, if you would leave us.”

“Master?”

“Tend to your sister,” Igor commanded. Margaret looked helplessly between her Master and her guest a moment before retiring to the back room.

Igor turned directly to Souji. “You are no longer a true guest of this room, but that never meant your journey had to end. However, you are bound by no contract. You may walk away.”

“You know I can’t do that.”

Igor gave a toothy grin. “Very well. But seeing as you are no longer a guest I am no longer bound to what I do or do not tell you. Understood?”

Souji nodded.

Satisfied, Igor slid his hand above the table, causing the tarot cards to disappear. “There is no more set path. No more destiny. Merely what has been. What has always been. That which must be found. That which must remain hidden for eternity. Thanatos is a god, as are Nyx and Erebus, as are many others. What does that mean?”

“What does it mean?”

Igor nodded.

Souji thought about it a moment. “Well, a god is one who dwells within a certain object or aspect. They are old and powerful, but not almighty. Many are greatly skilled.”

“You are not wrong. Whether gods or humans came first is an eternal question, but they are intricately tied. For one to exist without the other would create a fundamental change it what it means to be human or god.”

“Doesn’t sound so different from shadows.”

“We know which came first. There are humans and gods and from them come shadows. An aspect of the soul given form. Of a god, of a human, of the masses, but always but an aspect of the soul and the thought.” Igor pointed at Souji. “You are human. You are independent. You have mastered the physical manifestation of your soul. You decide for yourself.”

Igor lowed his arm with a sigh. “Gods are bound by innumerable contracts and grave consequences follow if they are broken. Be it by age or nature no god is truly free. It must protect something, serve a function, never interfere in a certain thing. A continuous list of requirements and limitations forged between other gods and humans.

Do you understand now why Butterfly is so dangerous?”

That took Souji by surprise a moment. Then, he thought of the arcana spread. Of persona users, and he had seen Orpheus with his own eyes. Butterfly still had a persona, even a persona of Thanatos, but supposedly the god Thanatos dwelled with him as well.

Oh. “He’s not bound by these contracts.”

Igor nodded. “Thanatos cannot act against the rules set before him. Arisato’s soul cannot function long on its own.”

“Arisato can act unbound by contracts,” Souji reasoned. “Thanatos can provide power to the soul. Is that why gods so often have followers? So they may act on their own?”

Igor nodded solemnly. “Whether a human does as a god commands is their decision. The loophole that never closes. From a cosmic perspective, from my perspective, Arisato is still human. That he uses power from a god does not change this fact.”

“But he can’t lose Thanatos.”

Igor nodded once more. “Do you understand why that is so dangerous? For the seal and the one it seals to be so tightly linked?”

This time it was Souji’s turn to nod. No way Thanatos would let Arisato re-establish the seal.

“Now, I must send you back to the waking world. Margaret will continue to aid you as well as she can, and I must prepare for what is to come.” The old man waved his hands.

Souji woke up feeling very drowsy. He never felt rested after something like that.

He turned his head slightly to see Butterfly lying beside him, staring.

“Good morning.”

“You slept through your alarm. Your mother came in to try and wake you, but you slept on.”

Wait. What? Souji turned to his alarm. Almost noon. Shit. He bolted out of bed. He’d already missed two classes for the day. He’d need to apologize to his professors, get the notes, eat, and make sure he got to his last class of the day.

“That got you going.”

“You could have woken me.”

“I tried, but I could not reach you.”

Souji groaned, throwing on the nearest pair of pants. How much to tell him?

“Igor called me to the velvet room.”

“Long conversation.”

“Yeah. Butterfly, we need to sit down and figure things out.”

“Like what?”

Souji grabbed his bag. “What you are. What you want. What needs to happen. I go along with it because I see people getting hurt, but I need to know the final goal. Can we talk about that after classes?”

Butterfly nodded, transforming into a butterfly hairclip. Souji put it in his pocket. This was going to get interesting.

 


 

Souji and Butterfly sat side by side on a bench in Yoyogi Park. It was a cool day, but the sun was bright and warm. The cherry blossoms would bloom soon.

“I promise to answer honestly,” Butterfly began.

“Thanks.” Now that they were here Souji had no idea what to even ask. Be broad or specific? Push the issues? Reveal everything he’d been told? “What is Thanatos?”

One voice. “My persona.” A second voice. “Me.” Together. “Death.”

“Addressing Thanatos, why do you need Arisato?”

One voice, the one which had answered second before, “I don’t.” The other voice. “We’re bound together.” A pause. Butterfly smiled sadly. “Because I don’t want to hurt anyone.”

“Addressing Arisato, why do you need Thanatos?”

“To live.”

Souji didn’t like the implications on what that meant about the power struggle between the two should it come to it. Still, at least they did indeed appear to be telling the truth. “What do you want?”

Butterfly took a long time to think about it, sitting very still in the sunlight. Emotions crossed over his face quickly, sadness more predominant among them. “To help them,” he finally answered. He looked at Souji. “To help Nyx and Erebus. To find a solution.”

“If Nyx awakens-“

“No. It’s not that. She means humanity no ill will. Neither did Erebus, but he is the deepest gloom, the largest shadow. He is where you hide your problems, hoping they’ll go away. They don’t, you know? They just sit there, rotting inside of him. He reaches out to Nyx, not because he wishes our destruction, he’s in too much pain to think. He just wants the one he loves. I try to ease the pain, but in the end nothing but allowing them to reunite and making Erebus whole once more will accomplish that.”

“What do you mean by whole?”

“The Erebus who calls for her, I don’t understand it, but it’s not him. It calls for the real Nyx, but it’s not the real Erebus. It’s truly just a shadow. That’s why you kill them and there’s always more.”

“Gods are unique?”

Butterfly nodded. “There can be thousands of lesser versions. Those who appear and call themselves Thanatos, or Erebus, or Nyx, but only one true on of each. All the lesser ones are bound to that one. I don’t understand why, or how, but I know that’s how it is. Like avatars to a deity, wandering around and interacting.”

“I’ve never seen one.”

“You’d never seen a shadow either, but they’d existed in our world for at least twelve years.”

“Point taken, but what you’re implying seems a little bigger than shadows in a TV world.”

“They don’t have to be in a separate world, Souji. You know that.”

“Guess there’s a lot of strange things out there.”

“Heh. I guess. I want to reunite Erebus, to make him whole and real. I think then, it will be okay if he goes to Nyx. But all that rage, all from humanity…”

“Guess I’d be mad too.”

Butterfly nodded once more. “That’s why I can’t abide by this Armageddon. To choose to create more of that, choosing to harm my father.”

“Thanatos, son of Erebus and Nyx,” Souji muttered.

“Sorry.”

“Don’t be. I agree with you. That’s why we’ll start by dealing with Armageddon.” He held out his fist. “One thing at a time.”

Butterfly offered a fake fist bump. “I can try that. At least for now I don’t think we’re in a hurry.”

“Just keep me informed. I want to help you.”

“Thanks.”

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Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 18

Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 18

Moon Phase: Waning Half Moon

Beauty is Within Us

 

Given how Dante and Pixie had said goodbye, how could Naoki possibly go to school? He woke up extra early, grabbed a piece of toast, and rushed for the cathedral. He wore a hoodie under his uniform blazer to help cover his horn and markings, but otherwise made a point of dressing normally. He’d told his mom he’d be out late to study with some friends and she’d let it go at that, so he felt pretty ready for the day. He figured it also provided a nice excuse for his phone to be on silent. No phone calls while battling angels.

Dante and Pixie were waiting for him at the entrance.

“What took you so long?” Pixie practically screamed, flying right up to his face.

Naoki grinned and gave her a quick peck on the check, a far larger target than her thin lips. She blushed slightly and shrunk down to sit on his shoulder.

Dante just shook his head. “You ready for this, kid?”

Naoki nodded, feeling the magatama squirming through his neck and head. Hard to believe how uncomfortable that sensation had once made him feel. “Daisoujou,” he whispered.

His markings flared well beyond anything the makeup could hope to cover, bright blue and fierce. A moment late what looked like a deceased monk, still in his meditation pose and dressed in yellow robes, appeared beside him. It cackled gleefully.

“Thought we could use some prayers of our own.”

Pixie applauded. Dante sighed. “You don’t need more than me.”

“Except for all those times when you die.”

Pixie laughed. Daisoujou stared at the cathedral.

“Ready to go beat up some angels?”

Hard to tell on a skeleton’s face, but Naoki was pretty sure he saw the dead monk grin. Pixie flew up high, raising her fist. Dante just turned to the cathedral like the cool guy he was.

“Let’s do this.”

Naoki came up beside him, and they walked side by side to the closed doors. They raised their fists simultaneously. Three louds thuds as they knocked against the door.

The cathedral had been locked after the “outbreak”. Police were investigating the cause of the riot, after all, but they weren’t looking for humans to open this door.

A police officer finally noticed them. Pixie joined the duo, and now all three knocked.

No response.

“Pixie?”

She nodded, grabbing one of the giant door handles and pulling. It slowly slid open.

The officer stopped dead in her tracks. Naoki and Dante got their fingers on the other side of the door, now able to aid pixie pull it open.

The old cathedral doors groaned, but they did slowly open.

Naoki could hear the officer behind them. “Wha-what are you doing? Those doors are chained shut!”

A moment later they heard a snap and the clatter of chains. The door practically flew the rest of the way open, pixie barely getting out of the way of being crushed.

The officer began her charge once more.

To Naoki, the other side of the door didn’t show a church, but rather a gleaming palace. Stairs floated gently up out of nothing and the whole thing seemed to be made of glass.

He had no problem walking into this.

As far the poor officer could tell Naoki and Dante just disappeared, the only sign of their presence the opened door and the chains lying on the ground.

 


 

Daisoujou rubbed his prayer beads between his bone fingers. Naoki could feel it too, the feeling of being watched and surrounded. The angels had noticed their presence, but didn’t seem to be making a move to stop them.

“Gathering.”

“Probably,” Dante replied.

“Ooo, we’re not the greatest at hordes,” pixie reminded them. True enough. Naoki preferred to split his enemies into smaller, more manageable, groups. The angels doubtless remembered that from when he’d beaten them before.

“Just don’t get surrounded,” Dante added with a shrug. He drew out two unusually large handguns from behind under his coat. One gleamed white, the other a well-polished black. “I’ll see what I can do to help with that.”

“And I’ve got a couple tricks in this adorable body of mine.”

Naoki chuckled. Good to see his friends so unconcerned. He glanced at Daisoujou. The dead monk eyed the three of them, but had stopped his prayers.

The altar gleamed before them, shining in radiance. The cross overhead seemed to float, and maybe in this reality it did, with stairs elegantly wrapping around. Naoki couldn’t see the top. He could however see some angels beginning to gather partway up.

“Dancin’ with the stairs.”

“What?”

“Nothing, Pix. Dante’s just being Dante.”

Dante rubbed his head, affected an embarrassed appearance. “Hey, I’m trying to be hip.”

“Since when?”

“Never,” Pixie added. All four of them looked up the staircase.

Naoki concentrated on his magatama, pulling one to the front of his mind, and apparently towards the horn coming out his neck, which offered resistance to wind and light. Well, everything actually.

“Thank you, Masakado,” he whispered. It set. “Alright. Dante, you do what you can to stop spells and keep the numbers on us to a minimum. Make staying back to cast garu spells look like the more dangerous option.”

“Now that’s a challenge.”

Naoki grinned at the compliment. “Pixie, do what you can to stun them. Only use your big attacks if we get fully swarmed. I don’t have all the items I used to.”

“Understood, Ashura.”

“Daisoujou. Drain their MAG until they can’t cast anymore. Heal when anyone, yourself included, gets badly hurt, but focus on stopping the spells first. I’ll handle the swarms. Pixie will flying around us. Daisoujou in the middle. Dante and I on either end. If they want to attack our back I feel sorry for them.”

Dante grinned. Pixie stretched in the air. Naoki strode forward, taking his first step on the stairs.

The angels tensed, but didn’t immediately respond. “They’re going to try to wear us down before we get to the big stuff, so try and conserve your energy.” Naoki grinned at them. “Let’s…”

“Get this party started,” Dante and Pixie joined in.

The quartet charged. Who knew if his brother was even up there? It didn’t matter. They were here to take out the angels who had kidnapped him in the first place, save him if he was indeed here, and find out why. Why would angels do something like this?

Naoki leapt over a gust of air. Daisoujou clattered his teeth together, draining the angel’s vitality. Pixie easily dodged attacks, harassing any angel that seemed to get ready for a big spell. Amazing what a little zap could do.

The constant sound of Dante’s gunfire pushed them forward.

Each shot took out one of the beautiful winged women in chains. Two quick shots took out an armored enemy, one to piece the demon’s armor and one to kill it. Though, sometimes he did get a head shot.

Those armed angels, the archangels, were the ones who began to close in on the group. Naoki smacked away each archangel which came anywhere close.

Just a little bit higher and the group was completely surrounded. Angels below. Archangels coming in for melee. Right behind the archangels Naoki could now make up a different type of angels. Principalities guided the attack, holding their scepters aloft as they encouraged their comrades. Each shout of encouragement also greatly healed a single ally.

“Principality with diorama,” Naoki called. “Daisoujou, drain them.”

The deceased monk was more than happy to oblige. With a cackle he began draining the healers.

“Dante, clear our back.”

“Can do.” Dante turned, now hopping up the stairs as he shot down the angels behind and below the group.

“Pixie, keep Dante clear.”

“On it,” she cried gleefully.

“Ready for a heal, Daisoujou?”

It cackled once more.

“Alright then.” Naoki looked at the horde before him, surrounding him. He snarled. His markings grew brighter. The very air seemed to shatter. The archangels reeled, most of them falling to the ground.

A flurry of punches later and all archangels who had dared defied him joined them. He glanced around the battlefield then. One Principality left. No angels.

A gunshot later and no more principalities.

Unfortunately they’d been replaced. Fully armored angels charged, spears leading. Behind them angels which appeared made of glass began to cast.

“Daisoujou!”

Gleeful, the monk cried out.

The air roared of thunder. Purple runes appeared under the bulk of the armored angels. About half of them fell, even as Dante grunted.

Daisoujou began to recite a prayer of healing.

The reaming armored angels, Power, yelled a roar cry.

Naoki breathed a thick fog cloud. Pixie dove into it. Naoki joined her. Dante fired somewhat randomly into it, needing only a vague sense of where his allies were to avoid hitting them.   Easy for Naoki. Not so easy for the pixie.

“Watch it,” she shouted from the fog.

Dante didn’t feel the need to respond. He just kept firing. The healing went off, recovering all of them.

“Deal with Virtue,” Naoki commanded.

The monk understood, carefully meditating on the fragility of these particular angels.

Glyphs of light under all of them. Naoki grabbed pixie. She called out as the mahamaon went off.

“Dante?”

Resuming gunfire answered his question. They were all okay.

A spear slammed into his back. It hurt, but didn’t seem to do any serious damage. Certainly less than he did when he spun around and punched the offending Power in the face. The angel fell.

Just a few more to go.

Wheels of fire rolled down the stairs. Behind them Naoki could just make out the robed forms of three Dominions.

“Focus fire,” he commanded. They had to get enemies down. “Daisoujou, stop the Dominions from healing.”

He braced.

One of the wheels leapt over him, coming to land behind Dante.

Naoki reached out when the second one tried a similar trick, catching it before it could enough lift. He began to catch fire. The third wheel slammed into him, causing him to stumble a step down.

He would never use that hand again. Naoki grimaced. Three Thrones and three Dominions. They could do this.

The few remaining Powers charged at him, taking this opportunity to get some attacks in. They were met with pixie fury. Wind raged all around, shoving them back, and shoving the Thrones away as well.

“Mamudoon,” Naoki commanded.

Daisoujou happily complied. Two of the Thrones dodged, but none of the Powers did. Two more Thrones and still three Dominions.

Some Virtues remained in the back, quietly healing their companions.

“Pixie, deal with them.”

“Yes, love,” she responded. She noticed them too and didn’t need any more explanation.

Naoki took a moment to check his surroundings. He could see a platform just a bit higher.

First he’d have to charge through one of the Thrones and the Dominions behind them, though those looked somewhat softened from Daisoujou’s meditations.

Time to punch out a wheel of fire. After all, wasn’t that always what you did if you weren’t sure? Unless they were resistant, of course. As he recalled, neither Thrones nor Dominions fit that description.

Throne spewed holy fire at him. Naoki pushed through it, not appreciating the heat at all, and grabbed the angel’s wheel. The angels inside began to cast. Naoki tore the wheel apart, leaving the angel inside exposed. Light surrounded him.

He grabbed the angel. It howled in anger. With an explosion of released Magnetite, the angel came free, howling in pain before dissipating in the very energy used to grant it solid form.

He growled at the Dominions just a bit away.

“Get going, kid,” Dante called. He must have gotten rid of the Throne on him. Gunfire rained upon the Dominions.

Yeah, that answered that.

Naoki had no trouble charging them amid Dante’s shots, even as Daisoujou continued to drain the angel’s Mag. Pixie flew beside Naoki, almost like one of those bullets.

Maybe he could nickname her Ivory?

The Dominions retreated further.

“Regroup on the platform,” Naoki ordered.

He and Pixie made it first. Immediately, Naoki attempted to track down the three angels who had retreated. Then, he felt rather like a mouse in a barn surrounded by hungry, angry, cats.

“Never seen that blue one before, have you?” Pixie asked, halting beside him.

Naoki could only shake his head. He’d never seen so many angels, or so many types. The blue one pixie had pointed out, for instance, looked more like it belonged with the faeries, but definitely looked at him with the same haughty expression of an angel. Probably a very powerful angel too.

Additionally, shining metal cages hung from the ceiling of glass. Several held rotting corpses. One held the familiar form of his brother.

The one closes to Metatron, naturally.

Naoki forced his attention away from the other angels to focus entirely on the voice of God.

“Let go of my brother and I leave.”

Metatron spread out his arms. “Why would I do that? All the heavenly host prepares to destroy you here and now.”

“Don’t see your archangels anywhere,” Dante quipped from right behind Naoki.

“Oh yeah, you’re right,” Pixie added, looking around the room more carefully. “I don’t see Gabriel anywhere.”

“Or that idiot with the sword.”

“Which idiot with the sword? The doofy looking one or the doofier looking one?”

“Either.”

Naoki grinned. His friends remained calm, and Daisoujou still seemed to have plenty of energy, plus he could feel the power of other demons within him. He could do this. They just had to get his brother and get out after all.

“Sorry, Metatron, but if I can punch reason’s lights out I can handle a few more measly angels.” He skimmed the other cages. At least three bodies, all unrecognizable except for the fact they’d clearly been human once. “And after seeing this I’m not sure I can even let you keep this holy space.”

“Get your brother and run?”

Naoki grinned. “Let’s make this a party to remember.”

“It’s showtime!” Dante shouted.

“Showtime!” Naoki and Pixie shouted in response.

He leapt at the nearest cage. No more stairs so he’d have to use what he had. Stupid, flying things. He got the bottom, hanging on the edge, between the bars. A quick swing, an angel kicked in the face. Another swing, enough leverage to flip to the top of the cage.

“Destroy the fiend!” Metatron called.

Several giant balls of lights appeared above Naoki’s head.

“Ashura!”

Nothing for it but to jump. Naoki leapt for the next cage, this time landing on top, or almost at least. Enough that he didn’t fall to his near-death when the almighty attacks went off. The larger ones still managed to hit him, pushing him forward.

He did, unfortunately, fall on his butt.

Electricity slammed down upon him. He spasmed, but once more avoided serious injury. Unfortunately, the spasms weren’t quick to reside.

An angel, looking like six wings surrounding a head, descended near him. He’d never seen this one either.

Two arms appeared from the many wings.

Naoki vaguely rolled away from the pathetic physical attack, right off the cage.

Nothing like a little adrenaline to solve your problems. “Trumpeter!” he called. His markings grew brighter than ever before. Daisoujou disappeared. “Catch me.”

He landed with a thud between two large feathered wings. A trumpet sounded, a rallying cry for allies and a cry of despair for enemies.

“Good to see you.” Naoki slowly came to his feet, balanced precariously on the back of the humanoid skeleton.

Trumpeter angled for Metatron and the cage he guarded.

“Guard me.” Naoki leapt for the metal angel.

Metatron caught his fist. Naoki grinned. His other hand came up, blasting the metal angel in a thick sheet of ice.

Naoki swung from the still solid hand to his brother’s cage. That wouldn’t hold such a powerful angel very long, but it would at least give him a moment.

Yukio lay on his stomach, skin covered wings protruding from his back. His clothes had been completely removed and Naoki could see something bulging on his brother’s neck.

He bent two of the bars apart. Luckily, they were already fairly far apart on the top, probably so the angels could place things inside. Looking more closely, Naoki could see a pool of blood and vomit under his brother’s head.

They’d pay for this.

A metal wing hit him in the side of the head. A giant gust of wind immediately followed. Naoki clung to the bars, trying really hard not to look down. He didn’t have a fear of heights per se, but a fear of falling while angels threw everything they had at you seemed perfectly reasonable.

The roar of a trumpet.

At least this wouldn’t inherently kill him.

Another blast of lightning from the unknown angel.

Naoki spasmed once again, just catching himself on the bottom of the cage.

Yukio stirred. He was conscious. His brother was conscious.

With new resolve, Naoki gripped the bars.

“Grab and go,” he shouted.

A moment later pixie blasted Metatron and the electricity angel with a megidolan. “Big guns, Dante.”

Dante’s sword pierced through Metatron. Not really so much damage to the angel, but certainly enough to distract him.

Trumpeter sounded his horn.

Pixie flew into the cage, casting a healing spell for Yukio.

Naoki pulled himself up, now bending the bars on the side. His foot might be stuck now, but maybe he could get his brother out this way.

Metatron grabbed Dante, attempting to hurl him away. The devil hunter responded with shoving his feet against the angel to pull out his sword.

He began to fall.

“Push Yukio towards me.”

Pixie began to move the larger human towards Naoki.

A bolt of lightning followed Dante down.

Naoki grabbed his brother’s hair. Disgusting, but at least now he could help Pixie get him out.

“None of you shall leave,” Metatron proclaimed. He raised his arms high. Every single angel followed suit.

Naoki reached in and grabbed his brother under his shoulders.

“Fall.”

Dante?

Naoki tilted himself back, trusting pixie to make sure his brother didn’t get hurt getting the rest of the way out of the cage, and fell.

The biggest almighty attack he had ever seen launched, just barely missing his brother’s deformed wings.

A moment late something humanoid caught him, shooting straight up.

“Hang on, kid.”

Naoki clung to his brother.

“Didn’t tell us you were a bug,” Pixie teased.

A bug? Now that he thought about, Dante couldn’t fly.

“Open the ceiling,” Dante commanded.

Pixie obliged, charging forward with a megidolan. It caught some angels too.

The ceiling exploding out, rubble raining down on them. Naoki could just hear the sound of large pieces hitting the building’s roof.

A moment later they were out, Dante now angling more horizontally and down.

Naoki felt Trumpeter die and quietly returned him.

“Brace!”

They landed on the ground hard, rolling. Dante wrapped his now normal arms around both of them as tightly as he could, doing all he could to keep the impact from striking Naoki’s brother.

Pixie immediately followed up with some healing.

“They following?”

Dante stood, brushing himself off. “Doesn’t look like it.”

Naoki sat up, cradling his brother gently. “Now what?” Bruises Naoki could deal with. The careful looking incisions were a little more terrifying, not to mention to wings on his back. Now that Naoki held him he could feel that some of that skin was growing unusually hard. He could also tell that his brother was lighter than he should be, and his skin too tightly drawn.

“You don’t look like that at all,” Pixie whispered.

“He didn’t either.”

“Actually damaged the church,” Dante remarked. “Could hand him off to an ambulance?”

Naoki cast Dante and incredulous glare.

“Right, wings. He’s got wings.”

“He needs help.”

“I’m sorry, Ashura, but as far as my healing can tell he’s supposed to have wings.”

“Just like you’re supposed to have a horn.” Dante kneeled across from him, placing a hand on Naoki’s shoulder. “It’s not your fault, kid.”

“He’s my little brother.”

“I know.” Dante sat beside him. “I know how it feels to lose a brother. Always feels a bit like your fault, but it’s not. You didn’t know they’d do this, and you rescued him. You did your part. You’re doing your part.”

“Yeah. Not your fault angels are mean, no good, awful, horrible, cretins with no souls, lives, feelings, or sense of fun.”

Naoki managed to get a small smile out at that one.

“Thanks you two, but that still doesn’t resolve what we do.”

“Well, we could take him to Yoyogi Park for a while. I think the other faeries would watch him while we found someone who could help.”

“How do we even get there?”

Dante had managed to get them away from any busy streets, but someone was bound to walk by soon.

The man stood, taking off his coat in one grand motion. He held it out. “Get this on him. Should be pretty big for him, so maybe it’ll hide the wings.”

“You sure?”

“Don’t make this harder.”

Naoki’s smile got just a bit more sincere. He gently took the coat, putting on his brother and buttoning it up. Sure enough, with a little finagling there was enough space to hide the wings.

“You’re glowing too,” Dante pointed out.

“I’ll call it cosplay. Long as we don’t run into someone who knows me they’ll just think I’m a freak.”

“Close enough,” Dante quipped.

“Well, I think your markings are handsome.”

“Thanks, Pix.”

She grinned.

“Off to your people then.”

“No teleporting tricks this time.”

“No promises,” Pixie teased.

Slowly, uniform ripped from the fall, Naoki made it to his feet. Dante helped get his brother situated on his back in a way that hid his face. Now he looked more like a drunk young adult than an injured kid.

“Impressive party.”

“Yeah.”

Pixie took point. “You two slowpokes coming. Geeze, you move slower than a slime.”

Dante and Naoki shared a look before following the energetic pixie.

“How does she do that?”

“Pixie power.”

“Almost makes me want some.”

“You’re actually tired?”

“Only a little.”

“Good, cause you get to help carry him.”

Dante sighed, but didn’t argue the point.

 


 

They arrived at the faerie sanctuary without incident. Lots of stares, but everyone was too polite to actually say anything. They just assumed insane cosplayers and drinking. Luckily, there were lots of entrances to the park and they were able to take a rarely used one, to find the path everyone forgot, to go off the path and through the trees, to find a large clearing.

A host of faeries celebrated before two thrones. The music stopped, faerie stepping aside to grant access to the thrones.

On one sat a pale faerie, almost white. He wore dark red clothes with white tights, and a rather classic crown. On the other sat his queen, a blonde haired beauty dressed in green. The king glared. The queen smiled mischievously.

“King Oberon, Queen Titania,” Pixie greeted, “it’s good to see you both again.”

Titania jumped to her feet with a clap. “Is it you, my dear?”

Pixie bowed. “I know I chose not to stay.” She gestured to Naoki. “And I don’t regret it, but I have missed you, and now I come asking for your help.”

“So this is the human you left us for,” Oberon grumped.

“He’s not a human! He was, but he isn’t now. You can tell that. One of his family members has been hurt, and he needs somewhere to rest. We aren’t sure how to help him yet. We just need to make sure he’s okay.”

Oberon looked at Naoki. “You are the demi-fiend.”

“Yes.” Naoki motioned towards Dante. “This is a friend, Dante.”

“Can we keep them?” Titania blurted.

“Please, just a short stay while we recover and find someone who can heal his brother.”

“I’d be very grateful,” Naoki added.

Oberon closed his eyes for a moment. “Very well. Leanan Sidhe, if you could lead them to a room?”

A beautiful faerie dressed in a purple dress came forward. She offered Naoki a sweet smile. “Of course. If you would follow me?” She turned quickly on her heel then, moving back into the forest.

“That one’s dangerous,” Dante remarked.

Naoki nodded. Pixie let out a huff, quickly glared at Oberon, and began to follow her.

The lovely faerie didn’t take long, leading them to a large clearing with several moss beds. A giant rock stood in the middle of the clearing, wooden goblets of water and bowls of fruit atop it.

“This food is of your realm. I suggest you do not eat anything else.”

Naoki moved to the closest bed, gently laying his brother down. “Any water to wash him with?”

“I can see to it.”

“Great. Then you should leave.”

“A little concerned, pixie?”

“Shoo shoo shoo.” Pixie waved the larger faerie away. “Don’t let her to close to you,” she warned Naoki.

He held up his hands. “I know. Any faerie that seductive has to mean trouble.”

“I’m seductive.”

“No, you’re beautiful.”

Pixie grinned. Dante just sighed, sitting down in front of the rock.

“Ready for some filling berries?”

Naoki sat across from him. “I’m not complaining. At least it’s something.”

“Fair enough.” Dante picked up his bowl. “Hey, strawberries.”

“Do you like strawberries?”

Dante finished swallowing the one he’d already put in his mouth. “I like them best with ice cream and beer, but this will do.”

“Ice cream and beer?” Pixie asked, confused.

“Yeah. Best bar food is a strawberry sundae.”

“I didn’t realize…”

“It didn’t matter. Now eat up. These are good.”

Naoki looked down at his bowl. Sure enough, strawberries. Not the most filling food, but at least it was food. Probably more filling for a pixie than a human though. A human.

“Ashura? What’s wrong?”

“Ashura,” he mouthed. He’d always liked when she called him that before. It made him feel powerful and confident. Now it just made him feel inhuman. “Pixie, when did you start calling me that?”

“Huh? I don’t remember. Just seemed right. I mean, you’re the demi-fiend, hitoshura, Ashura.”

“Naoki,” Dante added. “You’re Naoki. And it’s okay be Ashura too, just don’t only be a slayer of gods. You can be a high school student too.”

“Were you ever in high school, Dante?”

Dante leaned back. “Hmmm. I don’t remember. Been a while. Was pretty surprised when I found out how young you are though. Really are a kid.” Naoki detected a hint of sadness behind the usual bluff.

“Is that really so young?”

“I’m technically sixteen,” Naoki told her. “We don’t typically leave our parents until at least eighteen, and often later.”

“I see. Are you not an adult then?”

“Not technically.”

“Pretty brutal when you think about it,” Dante muttered. “You and your friends, just tossed in there. Some salvation.”

“Maybe, but it’s over now.”

“If it’s over, then…” Pixie glanced over to Yukio. She had a point. If it was over, then how come the angels had attacked his brother?

“Don’t let it get to you, kid. Just keep on going ahead.”

“Like you?”

Dante raised his glass. “Like me.”

Naoki returned the cheer.

“Hey, looks like we got the water.”

Naoki and Dante glanced over to the side of the clearing to see a clear pool which had just bubbled up. A small stream led away from it.

“A cleansing spring,” Pixie announced. She flew over, gently settling herself down on the edge. “This is the best. Stays clean no matter what you do.”

“Huh, can’t really remember I bathed.”

“Gross.”

“Hey, I shower, but we never had time in the vortex.”

“Or water,” Naoki added. “Always felt disgusting.”

“I hear ya.” Dante stood. “Guess these clothes need a bath too.”

Naoki stood as well.

Dante kicked off his boots. Naoki kicked off his sneakers. Dante grinned. Naoki grinned back.

They jumped into the pool with a giant cannonball.

Next

Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 17

Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 17

Moon Phase: Waning Half Moon (04/12/2015)

neverending

 

Naoki slowly opened his eyes. A cute redhead stared at him.

“Asura,” she exclaimed gleefully.

Awake. He was awake now. “Pixie?”

“Uh-huh.” She flew in a graceful somersault, showcasing her purple leotard and boots.

He sat up. “But…how?”

“We’ve been wondering that ourselves.”

Dante walked into Naoki’s vision. He looked weird without the red coat.

“You wished for the world to return to how it was. A world without demons, right? So why is the pixie here?”

“I’m not a demon. I’m a fairy.”

“You know there’s no difference.”

“Maybe not literally, but it seems important to me.”

Naoki chuckled. Pixie and Dante did have a habit of arguing.

“Kid?”

“Yeah, Dante?”

“Why were you fighting people in the church?”

“So you saw that?”

“I felt demons in there, so I was going over to take a look. Heard the commotion and a moment later you come flying out their window.”

“Stupid garu,” Naoki hissed under his breath.

“Kid.”

“I have a name.”

“Asura,” Pixie stated.

“Naoki. My name is Naoki Kashima. It just didn’t seem worth much during the conception.”

Pixie placed her hands on one of his. “You’ll always be my confused Asura.”

He smiled slightly. “Thanks, Pix.”

“And you’ll always be kid to me.”

“Slightly less thanks, Dante.”

The devil hunter shrugged. “What’s going on?”

Naoki sighed. “Metatron kidnapped my brother?”

“What’s a brother?”

“He’s another child of my parents. A little younger than me.”

Pixie nodded, fluttering closer to Dante.

“Younger? What do they want with a kid?”

“That’s what I’m trying to find out. Metatron handled it personally, so it must be important, and I think they wanted me to try to follow.”

“Jerks.”

Dante and Naoki both smiled. Pixie had a real way with words.

“And they’re in that church,” Dante reasoned. “Makes sense.”

“Then we go in there and take them out,” Pixie announced.

Naoki shook his head. “Bad idea. They’ve got the people in there pretty well brainwashed.”

“It can be hard to resist an angel. If they’ve been exposed frequently then it’s no surprise they attacked you.”

“I don’t think I killed anyone. I tried not to anyway.”

“I believe you.”

“Wait. Not killing anyone? I mean, I don’t like a blood bath, but they were attacking you.”

“Humans aren’t demons, Pix. They aren’t infinite.”

“I’m not infinite either,” she countered.

“I know that, but I also know you’re very different from other pixies. Most of them might as well just be copies of one another.”

Dante stood. “Alright, kids, that’s enough. We’ll worry about the philosophical quandary later. Right now, we need to figure out how to get the kid out in public and home.”

“More a pain than it’s worth.”

“Maybe, but with one kid missing I’m sure your parents don’t want to lose track of another one.”

“They’d be happy enough to trade.”

“Naoki.”

“Sorry, Dante, just speaking the truth. But you’re right, I shouldn’t worry them if I don’t have to.”

“At least call them.”

Naoki nodded.

Dante handed him his cellphone. “It fell out during the fight, but I managed to retrieve it when mass let out.”

“Thanks.” Naoki looked at the screen. Five calls from his mother. Oh boy. He went ahead and dialed.

One ring. “Naoki. Oh thank goodness, where are you?”

“Just with a friend. I fell asleep so I missed your calls.”

“I see. Is everything alright?”

“Yeah. Fine. Just, randomly hoping I see my brother walking down the street or something, you know? Must have been more tired than I thought?”

“Alright. Come home soon, okay?”

“Yep.”

His mother hung up. He put the phone down.

“You get wordier when you’re nervous,” Dante remarked.

“Do you always talk that fast around your mother?” Pixie asked, fluttering straight into his face.

“No. Usually I don’t talk to her. You’d think she’d notice.”

Pixie pouted, settling herself into his lap. “I can tell.”

“And so can I,” Dante added with a smile. “Now, why don’t you go home like you said you would? Pix and I can keep an eye on things at the church.”

“Yeah. We can go in tomorrow and be all rested.”

“Sorry, guys, I have…”

“School?” Dante asked.

Naoki nodded. “Yeah. If I miss now my parents will really freak.”

“Does it matter?”

He looked down at pixie. Does it matter? “If I don’t go they’ll get really suspicious.”

Dante sat down beside him. “We’ll be there, kid. Whatever you decide, we’ll wait for you at the church. You can show up in the morning or not. Doubt we have too long, but it’s up to you if you want to risk a falling out with your family.”

“Dante.”

“He’ll come to us.”

Dante picked pixie up by the wings.

“Hey, stop that you big meanie!”

“His decision, Pix. Either way, we’ll walk you home.”

“You sure?”

Pixie sighed, going limp. “I guess. You won’t abandon us.”

“Of course I won’t, Pix. You and Dante are the ones who stood beside me.”

“We weren’t the only demons,” Pixie lamented.

Dante dropped her back into Naoki’s lap. “Speak for yourself.”

“And he tried to kill you.”

Noaki grinned. “I know, but you’re more my friends than the others.” He thought for a moment. “I wonder if I could summon them again?”

“You haven’t even tried?” Pixie fluttered back up to his face.

“Didn’t occur to me, but with you guys here…probably.”

“Test that before the fight tomorrow.”

Naoki nodded. Pixie sighed. Dante grinned.

NaNoWriMo 2015: Fall to Rebirth Chapter 16

NaNoWriMo 2015: Fall to Rebirth Chapter 16

One Fine Morning

 

Souji had kept his discussions with Butterfly to a minimum throughout the rest of the week. Butterfly had respected that. When they saw the news the evening of the event, Souji had just sat in his chair stiffly while his mother worried about the state of the country for such things to happen.

Twelve people dead in the night club. Cause of death: Unknown.

Seventy cases of apathy syndrome in the second room. All severe.

Unknown number of bodies in the third. The news didn’t describe the scene, stating only that it was grotesque.

Souji had excused himself from dinner after the report. Suddenly, those twelve Butterfly didn’t seem as big an idea. Thinking that way just made him angry. All Butterfly had asked was that they stay together in case of danger. Other than that he had investigated on his own as much as possible. Souji knew that. Butterfly had gotten on his computer, been checking out newspapers, and even wandered slightly off in human form to trail people briefly.

Last night, he’d even gone out on his own. He came back early morning.

“Souji?”

Souji rolled over.

“Souji, we can’t hold this off forever.”

He knew that.

“Souji, I think there’s more of these places.”

Souji rolled back on his bag, staring at the ceiling.

“I went to the police station to check out missing persons.”

He didn’t want to know. He had to know.

“There’s a lot, and that’s only reported, and only those missing for at least three days. The number of people with loose souls is getting higher. Given circumstances, I suspect that well over half are suicidal. I checked out the hotlines and current numbers. The suicides this month are already at record for the worst month in history and people are going missing daily. Additionally, there’s more shadows. I can feel them. They’re everywhere.”

“Shadows?” Souji forced himself to sit up.

Butterfly nodded. “A lot of them.”

“Mitsuru hasn’t said anything.”

“No dark hour. No TV world. I think they’re part of this, but there’s no obvious attacks. Nothing that doesn’t fit in some way.”

“So just normal numbers?”

“This Kyou does seem to know what he’s doing.”

Souji sighed. “I have to tell her.”

“If the shadow operatives start pestering him he’ll lay low. He’ll become impossible to find.”

“Are you sure? Or are you just trying to keep your friends in the dark?”

“Not my friends,” Butterfly mumbled. “Get up. I think I know how to fight some of these shadows, slow things down, and while we’re at it we can figure out where they’re coming from.”

“When is the right time to tell them?”

“I don’t know.”

“Butterfly.”

“I’m sorry, but I really don’t know and I don’t know how I feel either.”

Souji sighed. “Guess I can accept that.”

“Really?”

“Barely, but I get that you’re worried, so I’ll tolerate it.”

Butterfly shook his head. “We leave in half an hour.”

“We leave when I’m ready.”

“Half an hour.”

Sure enough, Souji had showered, gotten dressed, and eaten breakfast within half an hour. He even managed to stick a note to his mom on the table that he was likely going to be gone all day.

 


 

Sunshine sixty viewing rooms. Souji and Butterfly looked out over the city. Strangely, he’d never come up here. It was just somewhere you went with dates, not to scope things out. Still, the view of Mt. Fuji was nice.

“Distracted.”

“Admiring,” Souji corrected.

Butterfly slowly moved around the room, scanning the crowds below, such as you could make any of them out.

“Can you really tell anything from up here?”

Butterfly nodded. “It helps me differentiate the people from the space.”

“From the space?”

“People make a city. However, there is still an inanimate space which simply is. It would not change if you lost all people. I need to scan that.”

“But aren’t shadows born from people?”

“Sometimes.”

“Sometimes?”

Butterfly nodded. Souji stood to walk beside him.

“How sometimes?”

“There’s more than humans in the world.”

“So dogs can have shadows?”

Butterfly looked at him sharply. “They can have persona.”

“Right. Forgot.”

“Never forget Koromaru.”

Souji smiled. Of course, Butterfly, Arisato, was fond of his friends. He’d just forgotten how to show it.

Butterfly stopped, staring across the city. “Disneyland?”

Souji came beside him. “Disneyland?”

Butterfly pointed to the castle. They could just make it out thanks to the clear day. “Does it look darker over there?”

“Maybe? Why, how, would shadows be in Disneyland?”

“It may not be there exactly, or it may be using tourists to its advantage. Either way we should check it out.”

“We’re going to Disneyland?”

“That way at least. We can keep our eyes open on the way.” Butterfly headed for the elevators. Souji moved to follow.

The sounds of shattering glass. A scream. They rushed to the sound. One of the employees, likely the one who had screamed, moved to block them.

“D-do not approach, do not approach, do not approach the, oh, the o-open window.”

“What happened?”

The woman just shook for a moment. Poor girl must have worked the souvenirs. About five other guests and two other employees now stood nearby. Nobody else spoke.

“E-everyone just, just stay up here, please.” She looked pleadingly at one of her coworkers. Message received, the other woman moved away to call security. Seemed like a place to stop.

“I apologize for the inconvenience, but if you would all stay on this floor…” she trailed off.

Souji looked at Butterfly. “Did you know?”

For his part, he stared intently at the window. “To see what we do.”

“What?”

Butterfly leaned in close and whispered, “I don’t think she’s dead, and I don’t think she planned to be.”

“What?”

“Her soul wasn’t loose.”

“Not near death.”

Butterfly grinned. “Follow me!”

Bolt passed the woman by the window and out.

Follow him? Was he nuts? Or had he simply forgotten that Souji wasn’t already dead?

“Hurry.” A call to his mind, his Persona itching to follow, to find the truth.

He looked apologetically at the woman. “I am so sorry.” Then he ran too. She tried to stop him, but pushed by her and out the window.

Falling to his obvious death did not seem like a good way to start a day. Seriously, not even eleven yet. The ground was coming close awfully fast.

Souji gasped for air, heartrate accelerating. He was going to die.

“Idiot.” A horde of butterflies enveloped him. They seemed to push Izanagi out, encouraging the persona towards the flight. A familiar face appeared amid them, but it wasn’t the face of Butterfly. Similar, yes, but with black hair and a very prominent mole on his face.

“Congratulations on facing your death.” The young man chuckled. “Even if you didn’t have to.”

The butterflies swarmed, concealing the face. Then, gone, but a hand in his. Souji turned his head. Butterfly was beside him, holding his hand and with Thanatos above him. Above. Souji looked up to see Izanagi as well.

Then, it dawned on him that they were no longer falling.

“Are we–?”

“After the woman,” Butterfly announced. “I can just see a trail.”

Souji was more concerned with the buildings they seemed awfully close to running into, but when he forced himself to look more closely he could just make out a trail of shadows tuff, slowly drifting down on the city.

“Faster, truth seeker.”

He could see it now, and if you could see the truth you had to follow it. Souji had no trouble picking up the pace, while Butterfly helped keep them in balance. They rushed after the trail of darkness, carefully avoiding any contact as they soared across Tokyo.

It didn’t take very long for that trial to grow thicker as they crossed the city. Judging by the buildings they now had to dodge they had made it to Shinjuku.

“Souji,” Butterfly called, suddenly steering them steeply to the left.

Ah, the trail became more a glob than a line just ahead of them.

“Ready?”

Souji nodded. Butterfly grinned back at him. Then, they cut through the darkness.

Well, more of ran into it. It felt like drowning in gelatin. Really disgusting, black, oily gelatin. Then the despair hit. The desire to die. The desire to lose all desire. The desire to finally not care anymore. The desire for an end.

“Death is not an end,” something growled from above him. Souji glanced up at Thanatos. The persona (it was a persona right?) seemed on edge and angry. Really angry.

They landed on the roof of Shinjuku’s clock tower. At least, Souji figured it was the clock tower. It felt good to let Izanagi go. The less direct contact with this stuff the better.

Thanatos dissipated as well.

“I can barely see,” Souji admitted.

Butterfly nodded. Souji pulled out his old glasses from Inaba. They helped, but only a little. Everything was still draped in darkness.

“Shadows,” Butterfly confirmed. “This stuff, it’s pieces of shadows.”

“Pieces?”

“Hm. Shadows which couldn’t exist on their own. Drawn into something else.”

A woman’s voice in the darkness. “Who’s there?”

Butterfly and Souji looked at one another nervously. The person who had jumped had been female, but they couldn’t be sure if this was her.

“Who are you?” Souji called out.

“How did you get here? This roof is closed off. You followed me.”

The darkness began to recede, flowing behind a small woman in a business skirt. The shadows formed a giant vulture behind her.

“What were you doing?”

She and the vulture both tilted their heads quizzically. “What was I doing? What I should do.”

“Spreading apathy syndrome?” Butterfly hissed.

She stared at him. “You do not breathe. Why don’t you breathe? Why are neither of you impacted? Are you sad too?”

Souji stepped forward. “Just tell us why.”

“Why?” She grinned. “Because I wanted to make everyone happy. They’re sad if they hurt, so I took the hurt away. While, more of bandage it up, I guess.” She bowed. “I’m Tsubame Koriasobi. You must be Butterfly. I’m supposed to avoid you.”

“Really? Then why’d you get my attention?”

“I didn’t know it was you. I just wanted to bandage everyone one up, and if you can follow me…”

“Get ready,” Butterfly hissed.

The woman nodded. “Yes, yes, very unfortunate, but I’m afraid I’ll have to send you ahead of me. So sorry.”

The vulture flapped its great wings and a burst of air came forward. Souji and Butterfly braced, but Souji could feel his feet sliding back.

“Wind wall,” Butterfly called out. Souji couldn’t make out the Persona, but the wind died down, even if he could hear it howling passed them. “We need to catch her.”

Souji nodded. “Ziodyne!” Izanagi-no-okami appeared behind him and, with a lift of his massive double bladed sword, lightning rained down on the woman. The wind stopped.

Butterfly charged forward, katana leading.

She laughed. “I want to die, you idiot.”

He turned the blade in his hand, bashing her in the head with the hilt. She reeled. Her persona disappeared.

Souji moved forward.

The woman moved back. “Final breath,” she whispered. Butterfly leapt forward.

She fell over the edge of the roof. He dove after her. Souji stopped at the edge. What was she thinking? There was no way she could summon her persona so quickly after a hit to the head like that.

Butterfly’s katana became a horde of blue butterflies, all reaching for her.

Souji saw them both jerk. The butterflies disappeared, revealing barbed wire coming from Butterfly and wrapping around the woman. The wire had managed to anchor into a window as they passed. Already down below he could see emergency vehicles arriving.

He sighed in relief. This would be hard to explain, but at least they seemed okay.

“I’ll meet you at home,” Butterfly called up. “Run.”

Souji nodded and moved to the other side of the roof. He had to have faith in his new friend.


 

Souji had just finished lunch when the large butterfly flew into his room, materializing into his human form once he was through.

“What happened?”

Butterfly held up a hand. Wait, was he bleeding?

“Heavier than she looked, though I guess I can blame gravity.” He looked around the room. “I managed to get some information.”

“Is she alright?”

Butterfly shrugged. “I released her when they got close, but we were better than halfway down. She’ll have a concussion at the least, but I think she survived and the ambulance had already arrived.”

“You didn’t stick around to check then?”

“I got what I needed.”

He moved for the bed, but collapsed on the floor just in front of it.

“You alright?”

“Just tired. I want to sleep, but I shouldn’t.” He looked up at Souji. “She worked under Kyou, and that woman we saw with Doctor Kishitani. They call themselves Armageddon.”

Souji leaned down beside Butterfly. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Don’t interrupt. They’re not persona users, at least she wasn’t. Our first instinct, it was right. They’re Shadows, but they’re not originally their Shadows.” He looked at Souji, his eyes so dull. “First death. First death is having your shadow removed. If you are deemed strong enough before then you instead receive one, to help others find their way to final breath. Her Shadow was from a child who dreamed of falling to his death every night, until he couldn’t take it anymore, but he survived. He didn’t want to.”

“And they ripped out his shadow?”

“And gave it to someone else. Those who fail have the new shadow, the one from both of them, ripped back out until it works. The stuff behind her was from people who could only form fragments, and it damages you somehow. She didn’t understand it either.”

“So those suicide clubs really are…”

“Yeah, and they’re spreading it, creating a cycle. It’s not a change, it’s just a loop.”

“That’s evil.”

Butterfly didn’t respond, instead fading back to his butterfly form. Souji gently scooped it up. He could ask how his companion had gotten this information later, but right now they both needed an afternoon nap.

A long one.

 

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