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.
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.
“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.”
“Nothing, Pix. Dante’s just being Dante.”
Dante rubbed his head, affected an embarrassed appearance. “Hey, I’m trying to be hip.”
“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.”
“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.
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.
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.”
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
“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.”
“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.
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?”
“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.”
“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?”
“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.”
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.”
“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.