Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 27

Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 27

Shadow World

Raidou stared at the doppelganger before him.  “Who are you?”

“I told you.  I’m you. Or, in our case, you used to be me.”  He bounded off the large rock.  “There’s a whole spiel I’m supposed to make here about how you’re me, and I’m you, but honestly it seems pointless.  You’re happy a wandering zombie and I don’t want the job.”

He walked up to Raidou, holding out his hand.  “Akira Miyagawa.”

Raidou stared, breathing growing ragged.  Sure enough, that was his birth name.

“Seriously?”  Akira leaned forward, grabbing Raidou’s hand.  “I thought you came in prepared, all variables accounted for.”  He firmly shook the forcibly grabbed hand.  “But it shouldn’t be a problem, right?  You threw me away after all.”

Raidou just stared.  So this was his Shadow.

“Yep.”  Akira stepped back.  “That’d be me, Mr. Shadow.  Nice little home I got here, huh?  Nice and traditional.  Honestly, I hate it, but so do you.  Guess that’s part of the point.”

“You know what I’m thinking?”

“Not literally,” the Shadow admitted.  “I just know because I know how you think.  That I’m your shadow is the most likely conclusion given the situation, and you’re right.”

“What’s your goal?”

“My goal?”  Akira tilted his head oddly.  “That’s a good question.  I’ll admit a set of clashing desires, like instinct and logic.  I want to take your place.  I want you to accept me.  Just saying that makes me want to puke.  Actually, scratch that, it just takes thinking about it.  If I replaced you they’d make me be Raidou and bull on that.  But, if you accept me…I still have to do it.  Quite the conundrum we live.”

“You don’t want to kill me?”

“Ew.  I’m not killing myself.  You may be the failure version of me, but for some reason you’re the one in the real world and I’m stuck tied to you.  Who knows what happens to me if you die?  Ugh.  Does that mean I have to rely on you?  Maybe I should just lock you up.”

“Imprison me then?”

“I’d rather not,” Akira admitted.

“Why?”

“You’re me.  Imagine talking to you for the rest of eternity.”

“Point taken.”

“Right?  I’m terrible company, and you’re worse.  I have a horrible sense of humor, when I have one, and am fundamentally a power-hungry vengeful piece of shit.”

“Harsh.”

Akira shrugged.  “I’m not wrong.  At least I admit it though.  Wouldn’t it be nice to drop the whole Raidou gig and just go hunt down the idiot who murdered mom and dad?  I’m sure grandfather did it already, but I’d still like to know why.  Why were they killed?  And who was stupid enough to do it?  Come up with a pretty excuse about how I’m helping everyone, sure, but frankly if I could just do whatever the hell I want I’d be happier.”

“You’re…honest.”

He shrugged again.  “Probably comes with being a Shadow.  Odin knows you’re not honest, so I don’t get it from you.  You don’t even really want to be, but when it comes to me and you, oh yeah.  It takes a lot of self-awareness to be a Shadow.”

“Wordy too.”

“Well, yeah.  No one said I was born a mute.”  He looked away.  “Just sort of forced into one.  I’d talk more, but it just doesn’t seem worth it.  The world is filled with idiots after all.  They’re either too dumb to get it no matter what you say or so smart you don’t have to say anything.”

“Where am I then?”

“Well, I’d like to say you’re an idiot, but we both know I’m not.  In fact, I’m damn near genius, but no, you have to go throwing me away and for what?  You hate your job.”

“Fair enough.”

“See?  It’s the pits, and you know it.  But, if you try to pull out now you’ll get brutally murdered.  Not good for either of us and I have no delusions on the outcome.  Fuckin’ Kyouji’s a sniper.”

Raidou choked down a chuckle.  Getting ripped into was a new experience for him, but so far, extremely accurate.

“See?  I’m right, about everything.  Well, not everything, but life would get really boring really fast if I were.  Knowledge is great.  Knowing everything would suck.”

“What to do?”

“Good question.  I vote tea.”

Raidou started.  Not the answer he had expected.

“Honestly,” he stepped a little closer, “I can’t force you to leave.  You have to want it, and I think you’re too curious to want it.  Add to that the fact you can’t accept me since that would mean denying Raidou, but I’m so right you can’t get yourself to deny me either, we’re in a bit of a mess.  Given the situation,” he gestured towards a larger building, “we might as well have tea.”  He paused.  “I suppose getting drunk together would be an option too, but I’m not sure if that’s possible.”

“That’s okay.  I don’t want to hear a drunk version of me.”

“Ugh.  Right back at you.  Gross.  Anyway, pretty sure I can make up some awesome tea, if you’ll follow me?”

Raidou just shook his head in confusion.  This wasn’t exactly what he’d thought when Souji and Butterfly had described the concept of shadows to him, but he had to admit intrigue.

 


 

Akira hadn’t been kidding.  He made a good cup of tea.  Not as good as Miss Narumi’s, but still.  He used a nice green tea, with just a bit of sweetener and some milk.  It was really quite tasty, and nowhere near as sweet as cafes liked to make.

They sat on a veranda overlooking the courtyard.  Even as they’d sat there a small stream had begun to run through the area, circling the stone and allowing plants to grow.

“Does it always change like this?”

“Pretty much.  I think.”  Akira shrugged.  “Whatever the case, it suits me.”

“Peaceful of you.”

“I am relaxing right now.”

Raidou breathed in the air.  Strange how clean and beautiful it felt, even as he registered that it wasn’t quite right.  “Why a shrine?”

“Don’t you recognize it?  This is where we trained to become Raidou, along with that jerk and the coward.”

“Oh yeah.”

“And the pretty girl.”

“Never liked her much.”

“Yeah, but she wasn’t so bad, and she did take good care of us.”

“I guess.  Her advances though…”

“Yeah.  That was way too much.  Surprised I kept my cool through all of that.  I’m not just some breeder and I don’t like being treated like one either.”

Raidou smiled.  The current Geirin had approached him almost immediately about the prospect of a child.  Things were peaceful in her region after all.

“And then there’s the current Geirin,” Akira added.”  “It’s just gross.  I know she’s not really related to us, but no.”

“Weird how similar we are.”

“Be weirder if we weren’t.  And don’t lie to yourself, you’re taking some comfort in knowing that the you you threw away still exists.  Some of me’s still in there, just waiting to shine.”

“Shine, huh?  Sounds like a good way to get in trouble.”

“Maybe sometimes that’s what you need.”

“I’m not strong enough.”

“You could be.”

Both of them knew better than to continue the conversation past that point, so Akira just let Raidou keep his thoughts internal for a bit.  Besides, something had just entered his domain.  He focused in on that.  Two very powerful entities.  No, three, but two were closely linked.  He could feel the presence of something beyond him, something which simply existed on a different scale.

Should he send the weaker shadows after them?  Or should he simply let them arrive?  The concept of keeping Raidou around had occurred to him, but he could tell the shell wasn’t inside his domain, just the mind.  The thought of the shell being destroyed, and the mind with it, bothered him more than he liked to admit.  After all, he wasn’t exactly a separate being.

He ordered the shadows to simply watch.  Creep them out a little, but not attack.

“I think your new allies have arrived.”

“They’re fast.”

“Hmmm.  One of them has done this before and the other…”

“Thanatos?”

“Yes.”  Akira stood.  “Not sure I can resist testing my strength against this pair.”

“Do you really care that much?”

“Of course I do!  In my strength lies my freedom, my ultimate joy.  How could I not want to give it a go?”

“What if they win?”

“I’m in my domain,” Akira explained.  “Even if they win, I won’t be destroyed.  Besides, I know some fun tricks I’ve been looking forward to trying.”

“What if you win?”

“Good question.  I wonder if I could kill them.”

“They’re my responsibility.”

“And yet you became theirs.  Pathetic.”

“Akira.”

“Right, right.  I’m power-hungry and violent, not evil.  Barely.  Very barely.  Would you feel better if I invited them in?”

Raidou looked away.  The next layer of understanding in how surreal this really was had just stared to hit.  His shadow cared about what happened, and how he felt.

“Well?  You’ll have to be my captive, ew, gross.  Never mind.  Scratch that.  You’re me and I sure as hell never want to play captive.”

“Hmph.”

“What?”

“Sorry.  It’s just weird.  Shadows are supposed to be dangerous for the people who birth them, right?”

“You still have my face.  And my basic mannerisms.  Upsetting you might be fun, but I don’t really want to put you in a situation I refuse to see myself in.”

“Then I’ll watch.”  Raidou sipped his tea.  Curious to see how this goes.  Just, don’t seriously hurt them.”

“Yeah, yeah, we’ll set it up like some of kind of stupid duel if it’ll make you happy.”

“Thank you.”

“Ridiculous.”  Akira waved his arms out wide.  A circle in the stones, completely empty on the inside.  Two of the buildings separated, creating a clear path.  Along that path stood shadows, of various forms, who then spread out along the edge of the circle.   “Nice turnout.”

“They are your minions.”

“Yep.  I think some of them are bits of me, even, but I’m not sure.  Maybe the weaker ones just like to live in a stronger one’s domain?  Who knows?  It’d be interesting to find out though.”  He provided a wolfish grin.

A moment later Souji and Butterfly cautiously stepped into the courtyard.

“Welcome,” Akira called.  He grinned widely.

Butterfly looked cautiously around.  Souji strode forward.  “Are you Raidou’s Shadow?”

“I suppose shells do cast shadows,” Akira admitted.  He strode to the middle of the ring.  “But what happens when the shadow is sturdier than the shell?  Unfair to think the shadow cracks alongside.”

“Who are you?”

“You already asked that with an assumption.  Just because I am not a complete match does not mean you’re allowed to neglect the truth before you.”

“Truth?”

Butterfly moved up beside Souji.  “What do you want?”

“Freedom, of course.  I want my freedom.”  A katana appeared in his hands.

“Get ready,” Butterfly warned.

“One on one.”

“We won’t do anything that limits our ability to save Raidou,” Souji declared.  Izanagi appeared above him.  “Ziodyne.”

Akira shuddered slightly, but showed no other signs of damage.  Most notably, the lightning failed to stun him.  He charged forward with a yell.  The arena itself seemed to respond, light raining down on Souji and Butterfly.

Izanagi vanished.

Akira got right in Souji’s face.

“Vorpal blade,” Butterfly called.  Thanatos appeared, ready to launch a flurry of slashes on Akira.

Akira slid his blade into Souji’s gut.

Thanatos landed the hits.  Akira pulled back.

Blood didn’t come out of the wound.  Instead, the katana pulled forth a viscous black substance from Souji’s body.

Akira swung at the offending persona.

More black ooze.  Souji tried to summon a persona to heal himself, but he couldn’t find it.

Thanatos leapt back, letting out a roar of anger.

Akira charged.

More blackness.

Butterfly came beside Souji.  “What is this?”

“I don’t know.”  Souji’s knees gave out from under him.

“Does it hurt?”

“No.  It’s just…”

“What?”

“Empty.”  He wretched then, black ooze frothing forth.

This time, it seemed not to just viscous, but almost solid.  It slowly began to shape itself into a humanoid form.

Butterfly pulled Souji back.  The pain of thorns cutting into his flesh returned Souji to coherence enough to stagger back with is companion.

Thanatos disappeared.  Akira turned to the persona users.  Despite the fight with Thanatos he had only a single gash across on arm to show for it, and even that didn’t look very serious.

He didn’t pursue though, instead tilting his head to watch the newly formed shadow as it staggered to its feet.

The ooze slowly began to slide off.

“What is this?” Souji whispered.

“Birth,” Butterfly responded.  “A shadow being born.”

“But…”

The first thing truly revealed was bandages.  The shadow, while distinctly human in shape, was covered in bandages.  Most notable were the long ones wrapped around the eyes.  They flowed against the hair, a dull silver, until the two became indistinguishable.  The next most notable thing was the fact that this shadow was clearly female.  She wore a thin shroud, which really didn’t matter with all the bandages, but her form was still clear enough.

She seemed to look around, even though she couldn’t see.

“Souji,” Butterfly whispered.

He nodded.  This then, this was his shadow.  That would certainly explain why he couldn’t feel Izanagi at all, but how could this have even happened?

The arena disappeared, reverting to a more normal looking courtyard.

“I should have only caught a fragment,” Akira breathed, seemingly shocked at his own abilities.  He had intended to see if he could stun the persona long enough to get at the human behind it.  He certainly hadn’t intended to draw out the persona user’s shadow.  He hadn’t even thought he could.

The shadow turned to him.  “I’m sorry.”

Raidou came down to stand just slightly behind Akira.  “What did you do?”

She shrieked.  A shot of black and Raidou reeled back, mouth covered in rubbery shadow stuff.

“No questions.”

“Wa-“ Akira clamped his mouth shut.  “That’s an interesting rule.”

Souji forced himself up to her.  He knew what he had to do and felt no apprehension in his approach.  If this was his shadow, then so be it.  “I don’t understand how this happened, but you’re my shadow.  I can see that.”

She reached out her hands.  He let her place them on his face.

“We have the same face.  I know that.  I accept you.”

Her nails dug deep into his skin.  “Liar.  Liarliarliarliar!”  She ripped back, drawing blood as she peeled off the skin.

Akira grabbed her before she stumbled back.  “Don’t push yourself.  You’re still a newborn.”  A powerful newborn, sure, but a newborn.

Butterfly took a look at the scratch marks.  “Guess you have to mean it.”

“But I do.  I don’t understand what’s wrong or how this happened.”

“No one cares,” the shadow whispered.  She leaned against Akira.  “No one cares.”

“Tell us your name,” Raidou pushed, hands in front of his mouth in case she decided to send more gunk.  “I’d like to know what to call you.”

She whispered, “Izanami.”

Previous | Next

Fall To Rebirth: Chapter 26

Fall To Rebirth: Chapter 26

Inside Out

 

Souji watched Raidou go down, but with a giant crocodile, hippo…thing coming at him, found it impossible to respond.

“Don’t let it hit your persona,” Butterfly warned.

Persona nothing.  Souji didn’t want the giant shadow slamming into him at all.  He dove away, moving away from the unconscious Raidou as well.  Better the enemies never even notice.

The shadow followed him.

“Ziodyne,” he hissed.  Izanagi appeared long enough to send a bolt of electricity crashing down.

The huge shadow barely slowed.

Izanagi became Loki.  “Garudyne.”

Wind whipped around the giant shadow.  It barely slowed.  Just how strong was this thing?

The sound of a lyre gently struck.  The beginning of a melody.

Souji couldn’t even describe it.  It just made life seem threadbare, pointless, and miserable.  Around them several of the apathy syndrome cases slowly died.

“What is this?” the shadow user hissed, stepping back.  Even her shadow had stopped, caught in the melody.

Souji felt caught too.  He couldn’t get himself to do anything.  Tears slowly began to roll down his cheeks.

A pair of hands gently covered his ears.  The song seemed to vanish, but even so he could feel it.  A funeral dirge for all those lost.

“Attack now,” Butterfly whispered in his mind.

Souji looked at the woman and her shadow, both pressed down by the funeral dirge.  Only one attack seemed right now.

“Alice,” he whispered.  A persona in the form a young English girl appeared.  “Will they die for me?”

The girl twirled and curtsied.  A moment later cards rained down from the sky.  The woman simply looked up at them, her shadow doing likewise.

The shadow dissipated.  The woman fell to her knees.

The hands moves away.  The dirge had stopped.  Butterfly approached her.

“Not so hard to destroy a shadow.”

She stared at the ground.  “How?  You couldn’t even harm it, and now it’s gone.”

“You’re right.”  Butterfly kneeled down across from her.  “Shadows are never really gone, just severed.  To use shadows not even your own.  Despicable.”

Souji glanced over at Raidou.  The cat, Gouto, crouched on the fallen man’s back, carefully keeping an eye on things.  What had happened to him?

“What do you know?  You who found joy.”

“You take joy in harming others.  In encouraging them to simply stop.”  Butterfly reached out a hand, palm resting on her forehead.  Her eyes widened.  Then, with just a soft whimper, she fell.  Butterfly stood.

“How’s Raidou?”

Souji stared.  “What did you do to her?”

“Just let her know what dying feels like.  It should keep her down for a while.”

“Why aren’t the police here yet?”

Butterfly looked around at all the bodies.  “Maybe better that way.”  He moved over to Raidou.  “May I have a look?”

Gouto jumped off.

“Souji, could you flip him over?”

“Huh?  Sure.”  Souji moved over to turn Raidou over to his back.  “Why can’t you do it?”

“Feeling prickly.”

Raidou’s breathing was shallow, but steady.

Souji let out a relieved sigh.  “He looks like he’s sleeping.”

“Hmmm…” Butterfly lightly tapped Raidou on the nose.  Nothing.  “Someone’s not home.”

“Meaning?”

“Shadow world.”

“What?”

“I don’t know how,” Butterfly admitted, “but I think he got drug in.”

“He’s not a persona user.”

“We need to go after him.”

They heard a great crash from next door.  A moment later a couple of armed police officers charged into the room.

“No one move,” they shouted.

Butterfly and Souji immediately held up their hands.

A plainclothes detective walked through the doorframe.  “Put your guns down.  Just because we said it might get dangerous doesn’t mean you need to look for an excuse.  Identify people who’ll need help when the paramedics get here.”

“Yes, sir.”  The armed men began examining the room.  The detective approached Souji and Butterfly.  He cast a concerned look down at Raidou.

“I’m guessing one of you is Souji Seta?”

“Yeah. That’s me.”

“Good.  I’m Detective Daisuke Sakamoto.  I’m Raidou’s guardian.”

Guardian?  That felt weird to think about.

“Well, I was.”  He sighed.  “What happened to him?”

“We’re trying to figure that out,” Butterfly explained.  “If you get us somewhere quiet I think we can help him.”

“Somewhere quiet?  Hmmm.  Hard to do smack in the middle of a crime scene, especially moving this many people.”

“Speaking of which, the woman over there,” Butterfly gestured to the shadow user, “she’s part of the group running this.”

“Is that so?  Alright then, we’ll keep her confined until Raidou can question her properly.  In the meantime, agency or hospital?  I can have one of my men drive you.”

“Agency,” Butterfly responded.

Souji nodded.  It would probably be best to move Raidou somewhere familiar.

“Alright then.”  He pulled out a radio.  “I need someone to drive some witnesses to the Narumi Detective Agency.  Yes, that one.”  He sighed.  “Alright, we’ll wait.”

“The medics just arrived, so they’ll help move him.”

“Thanks.”

“Yeah, well, you all owe me an explanation when this is done.”

 


 

Souji hadn’t realized the agency had an upstairs, but by the time they’d gotten back Miss Narumi had already rolled out a futon for Raidou, made tea, and gotten some warm water ready so they could all wash up a bit.  When they got there she’d easily led everyone upstairs and cleaned off Raidou’s face.  She’d also removed all the excess equipment so he could rest more easily.

“Now, is there anything you two need?  According to Daisuke you think you can help.”

Butterfly nodded.  “Just quiet.  Don’t freak out if we’re not here.”

“Do you have any idea how many background checks I have to run?  I don’t intend to notice.  Gouto can keep an eye on you two.”

Souji bit his lip.  He had to ask.  “Um, excuse me, Miss Narumi?”

“Seta?”

“How can you just accept this at face value?”

“Why wouldn’t we?  We’ve seen things over three fourths of the population vehemently denies, and even fewer actually see.  Why would we assume there wasn’t yet more to see?”

Butterfly smiled.  “How practical.”

“Denial serves no one.  Now, is there anything you need before I go?  And do you have a time estimate?  How long before I start worrying?”

“I have no idea,” Butterfly admitted.  He turned to Souji.  “I can get us in, but I’ve never done something like this.”

“I don’t know where it will put us, but it really depends.”  Souji regarded Miss Narumi.  She stood calm and confident.  “Hard to stay in for more than a couple hours though.”

Butterfly nodded before turning to Miss Narumi.  “Give us two hours.  If we’re not back by then you can worry.  Also, Raidou might show physical signs of stress.  We’re connecting to his mind, so I don’t know really know what will happen.  If it gets too intense he may need medical care.”

“Understood.  I’ll come up to check periodically.”

“Thanks, Miss Narumi.”  Souji looked at her.  “But, I’ve been wondering something.”

“Don’t you need to hurry?”

“She’s right.”

Souji sighed, but nodded in agreement.  How could they just trust him the way they did?

Miss Narumi seemed content with that and headed out.

“I don’t get it,” Souji whispered.

“Aren’t you the one all about friendship and faith?’

“Doesn’t it seem weird to you that they trust us so readily?”

“A bit,” Butterfly admitted, “but I don’t think they’re as trusting as you think.”

“What do you mean?”

“I think they’re more about giving us the chance to prove it.”  He looked down at Gouto.  “After all, it’s not like we’re unsupervised.”

“Meow.”

“I guess so.”  Souji shook his head in an attempt to clear it.  “Anyway, how do we do this?”

Butterfly wrapped his arms around Souji.  “I think you just hang on.”

“What?”

Souji felt something prick into his arms and shoulder.  “I can act as a portal.”

It hurt, seeming to wrap not just around his body but around Izanagi as well.

The world spun.  Souji closed his eyes.  The spinning sensation stopped.  He opened them again.

A giant Torii gate stood right in front of them.  Butterfly stood.

“Guess this is the entrance to his dungeon.”

“Yeah.”  Souji stood as well.  He felt a little dizzy, but otherwise fine.

“Ready?”

“Yeah.  Let’s go save him.”

They walked through the gate together.

Previous | Next

Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 25

Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 25

Time to Make History

Raidou sort of hobbled off the back of his motorcycle.  Souji had clung on for dear life the whole way and it took a moment to get his guts back in position.  “You always this clingy?”

“You’re a terrible driver,” the kid retorted.   Way too many kids in his life right now.

Butterfly manifested beside Souji.  “What’s the plan?”

Raidou strode up to an inconspicuous side door.

“Wasn’t expecting a fancy hotel,” Souji noted.  They stood in a small alley, beside a lavish looking hotel in Asakusa.

Raidou gave three sharp raps on the door.

“They have passwords,” Butterfly reminded him with a smirk.

Raidou paid him no mind.  Instead, he pulled a small tube out from his weapon belt.  “Turdak.”

The tube slid open.  A green glow emanated from the revealed glass capsule, leaking out.  To Souji it seemed to dissipate in the air.  To a summoner’s eyes, it congealed into the form of the demon stored inside.

Butterfly lost his smirk.  Beside Raidou stood a skeletal being holding two swords.  It wore banded armor and its head bobbed oddly, not quite able to supports itself without muscle.

“sUmMOner?”

Raidou gestured to the door.  “Remove this.”

The demon cackled, lining up its swords for a strike.  A great flurry of blows.  The door flew, in several different pieces, off its hinges.

Raidou strode forward, carefully stepping over the unconscious door guard.

Butterfly came in behind him.  “Nice friend.”

“tHank YOooUUu.”

“Indeed.”

The demon offered an awkward bow.

Souji carefully walked in behind them.  “How’d you do that?”

“You can’t tell?”

“No.”  Souji looked to Butterfly for support.

The ghost shrugged, regarding Raidou.  “I guess having a persona doesn’t let you see demons.”  He looked back to Souji.  “Maybe it’s because of Thanatos?”

“Thanatos.”  Souji looked to Raidou.  “Demon?”

“Devil summoner,” Raidou reminded him.  He strode confidently down the hallway.  “Let’s deal with the shadows quickly.”

“Second door should be first death,” Butterfly reminded them.

Raidou nodded, strolling casually past the first door.  Souji could hear the loud music through the door, vibrating from the bass.  A strange smell wafted from the gap between it and the floor.

“That’ll be a fun drug report,” Raidou commented dryly.

They stopped in front of the second door.  Butterfly’s face screwed up in revulsion.

“What’s wrong?”

“Get this door open,” Butterfly growled.  “Now.”

“Turdak.”

“RROoAaaaArrR!”  The demon charged into the door, swords swinging wildly.

The door exploded in splinters.

At least fifty people occupied the small room.  Most of them leaned against the nearest object.  Those too far away from such a support had simply collapsed.  All of them had their eyes open, blinking languidly.  The smell of human filth and sweat permeated the room.

One group of people sat in a circle in the middle of the floor.  In the middle of them stood a man in plain business clothes.  The giant shadow of a jackal-headed man hovered over the group.

Raidou fired a shot, bullet careening over the man’s head.  “End this.”

The business man and his shadow turned towards them.  The people around him began to shake slightly.

“You would interrupt first death?”

They screamed.

Butterfly charged into the room, katana appearing in his hands.  The viciousness of the attack, and the low growl accompanying it, sent a quiver through the room.

Raidou drew his katana as well.  He didn’t want to kill this person if he didn’t have to, information was simply too valuable, but he wanted less to become the victim.

A swarm of shadows leapt forth from the floor, coalescing around Butterfly.

“Maziodyne,” Souji called.  Electricity crackled, causing the shadows to shudder and fall.  Some dissipated, but most of them just got back up.

Raidou rushed passed him, katana leading.  No one knew how effective or not it might be, but it proved enough to briefly scatter the shadows.  Butterfly broke free from the horde.

Raidou found the shadows fairly easy to slice through, but they also didn’t seem particularly bothered by it.  It left a small cut, a thin point in the darkness, but nothing serious.  Glancing over at Turdak, he could tell the demon face similar issues.  It offered a distraction, but little more.

The shadows did seem to lose some energy when he cut through them though.  Energy Raidou could use.  He naturally absorbed magnetite from foes, and these didn’t seem to be any exception.

Souji’s persona, Izanagi, joined him.  It was definitely a lot more effective with its unwieldly dual blade than Raidou and his katana.  The proper weapon against the proper enemy.

Butterfly moved for the man in the middle of the circle.

“Anubis, defend me.”

“Thanatos,” Butterfly shouted.  Instead of the persona appearing above him, it wrapped around him, aiding in his charge.

Katana struck against judgement’s scales.  A moment later, the scales snapped.

The man screamed in agony.  His shadow slid back.

“I am beyond your pathetic judgment,” Butterfly snarled.  His words reverberated through the room, and several of the weaker shadows quaked in sudden fear.

“He’s strong,” Raidou admitted to Souji, fighting beside him.

“I try to forget how scary he can be.”

“Heh.”

“Please, please,” the shadow user whimpered, “you have to understand.  We’re helping these people.”  He backed away.

Butterfly continued forward.  “Then why so scared?”

“Anyone can get scared when they first look death in the eye,” a female voice called from the back of the room.  A great surge of water pushed Butterfly against the far wall.

A woman stepped out from behind a secret door in the back.  What appeared to be a giant mixe of crocodile, lion, and hippo stood in front of her.  Chains rattled when it moved, broken from a tremendous force.

“Ammut,” Raidou whispered.

“What does that mean?” Souji asked.  Izanagi whacked another shadow out of the way.

The woman smiled.  “It means your little flying friend is in trouble.”  The shadow pursued Butterfly.  “More’s the pity.  You really should have been on our side.”

The shadow turned its giant jaw towards Butterfly.

“I can handle you,” he whispered.  Thanatos no longer surrounded him, and his katana had dissipated.

“You drove poor Tsubame insane.  She writhed so much in her pain we just had to put her out of her misery.”  The woman’s shadow cackled, displaying just how wide that jaw opened.  “Suppose we’ll just have to find poor Nephtys a new host.”

A new host?

“You’re sick,” Souji shouted.

“We all come here to die.”  She smiled as she examined the swarm of shadows around Souji and Raidou.  “Don’t go thinking you’re an exception.  Truly, bringing a man here who can’t even use a persona as your aid?  What were you thinking?”

Enough of this.  He may not be able to fight the shadows very effectively, but Raidou could still take down a human.  He maneuvered away from the throng, beating the lunging shadows aside with his katana.  It bothered him a bit to use the fine blade as little more than a club, but if he could get close to her, they could end this.

Butterfly pushed himself off the wall.  “You’re worse than any of them, accepting that in your soul.  It’s rotted through.”

“Look who’s talking.”  She looked to Souji.  “Eat the persona user,” she ordered her shadow.

Ammut began to head to Souji.

Butterfly rushed forward, Thanatos once more enveloping him.  He kicked the shadow in the face, pushing its trajectory closer to Raidou.

“You’ve got to clear your feet,” Butterfly shouted.

“Understood.”  Izanagi changed, quickly morphing into a handsome looking demon with blonde hair.  “Freeze them all,” he commanded.  Ice whipped around him, encasing the shadows.

Butterfly continued to kick around Ammut, occasional flames aiding him.  Raidou did he best to sneak towards the woman, gun drawn.  They could do this.

The Anubis shadow bared down upon him, mouth open to bite at him.

The ice cracked around the weaker shadows, causing them to splinter and fall.  None of them remained standing.

Raidou channeled his internal magnetite, switching his gun to his offhand so he could keep the katana in his main.  He lunged forward.  The katana slid easily through the shadow stuff.  He pushed his magnetite to his arm, enabling him to execute a flurry of blows well beyond a human’s normal ability.

He wasn’t sure how much damage the sword did, but the magnetite infused cuts proved fairly effective.  The shadow howled.  Raidou spun, forcing more magnetite though his body.  It formed a giant hammer, magnetite focusing through the old katana.

The hammer slammed the shadow against the wall.  Up and then down.  Now it was against the ground.  Remove the magnetite hammer.  Slice off the head.

This slice seemed to finally work, a final blow against an injured opponent.  The head hung grotesquely off its shoulder.

Raidou could choose to increase his natural magnetite draw when an opponent stood near death.  It could no longer properly hold everything in, so he just sort of convinced the magnetite free.

He hadn’t registered this with the smaller shadows, but this magnetite felt wrong.  He gagged.  The shadow disappeared, its energy consumed by Raidou.  The world began to spin.  The man who’d been using it let out a yowl of anguish.

Raidou couldn’t stand straight anymore.  He leaned against the wall.  Everything spun.

“What’s this?”  Sounded like the woman.

Raidou was vaguely aware that he puked, his body desperately trying to remove the strange magnetite.

His vision grew cloudy.

“We’ve got to take Ammut down now!”  Souji perhaps?

He slid down the wall.

A charm with the emblem of the Kuzunoha burned.

Stay conscious.  He had to stay conscious.  He had a group of newbies here.  He had to stay…

An image of the hall where he had trained flashed through his mind.

He fell to the ground, just managing to stay clear of his own vomit.

He could no longer see the room.  Instead he was somewhere very dark.  A moment later he lost track of sound.  He was vaguely aware that Souji and Butterfly must still be in battle, but could no longer hear it.  He couldn’t even feel the concrete floor.

A moment later the smell left him too.  A definite improvement.

He smelled incense.

Wood beneath his body.  The sound of gently running water.  A sunlit room.  Slowly, Raidou sat up.  What had happened?

He forced himself to his feet.  Exhaustion held him now.

Raidou could see a paper sliding door.  He gently pushed it open, stumbling outside.

A shrine courtyard greeted him.  White stones lending a sense of peace to the scene.  He could see the fountain just beside the small set of stairs leading down.

In the center of the shrine stood a large rock, wrapped in rope with the white papers to denote a kami.  On top of the rock sat a man.

He looked a lot like Raidou, but wore rather different clothing.  Basic jeans and a t-shirt with a math pun written on it. The only other noticeable difference was his baleful yellow eyes.

The man smiled.  “Long time no see, me.”

Previous | Next

 

Author’s Note: I am so sorry, guys.  I didn’t realize I had stopped so early.  It’s really hard to keep track of what I’ve written, posted, and what’s just in my head.  Anyway, hoping for weekly posts.  It might not always be this story, but I plan to post a piece of writing every week, and it’s usually going to be this story.

Anyway, planning to start posting to fanfiction.net fairly soon.  Those chapters will be slightly more refined.  Going to see about recording an audio version too.  It won’t be great, but I’ve held a boring job before and understand the value of something to distract you that can’t use your eyes or hands.

Currently feeling very inspired by Tokyo Ghoul.

Never “Just” Friends

Never “Just” Friends

A short story written as part of #talesofsanta.  You can also find it on my tumblr (lessiehanamoray).  Hope people enjoy.

 


 

Elysia sparkled.  Flickering flames hovered around the homes and lit the paths.  Earthen lanterns lined the paths, encasing the flames so they wouldn’t burn anyone who strayed.  Wind danced among the skybound fire, causing it to flicker and dance.  It even seemed to drift the flame away from anyone who wandered near.  The light reflected off of intricate ice sculptures and well-placed icicles.

The stars above shone like iris gems.  Indeed, their reflection in the snow below seemed to call out to long forgotten memories.

Sorey stared, an open-mouthed grin on his face.  He had seen the fire lights before.  The fire seraphim put them up on winter nights to help keep the town warm.  Sorey had never seen them used so artistically before.

“Yeesh, it’s really decked out,” Rose remarked beside him.

Sorey nodded eagerly.

Mikleo manifested beside him.  “I’ve never seen them use this many artes for decoration before.”

“Yeah.”

“Seems like overkill, if you ask me,” Edna grumbled, materializing just ahead of them.  She lightly twirled her umbrella, the out snowflake pattern catching the starlight and sending out a dazzling array around her.

Zaveid popped up just behind Rose and Sorey.  “Pretty awesome if you ask me.  It’s not often you get to see so many seraphic artes used in unison.”

Lailah appeared beside Edna.  “It certainly is breathtaking, isn’t it?”

“Then what are we waiting for?”  Rose marched towards the gates of Elysia.  “I wanna go talk to this gramps of yours.”

The party followed her through the gates. Upon crossing the threshold, the spells which marked Gramp’s domain, and hid the seraphim of the village, lost its effect.  The seraphim of Elysia appeared before them, standing in the central area of town.

Slightly in front of most of the town stood Gramps and…

“Alisha!” Sorey exclaimed.

The princess bowed.  “It’s good to see you again, Sorey.”

“Definitely but…”  Wasn’t she busy?  He paused, looking at her with his mouth slightly agape.

“I received a message requesting I return here,” Alisha explained.

“Can Princess Alisha see seraphim too?” Rose queried.

Edna jabbed Rose with her umbrella.

“Hey, what was that for?” Rose complained, skipping a bit away from the dangerous umbrella.  She’d seen enough hellions go down to Edna’s umbrella wrath.

“She needs to draw from Sorey’s power to see us,” Lailah explained softly in an attempt to quell the commotion before the whole village noticed.  Better the Shepard’s companions looked less childish in front of other seraphim.

Sorey decided it would be best to respond to Alisha.  “It’s good to see you too.  Can you sense the seraphim better now?”

“I still can’t see them,” Alisha admitted, “but I can certainly feel them more clearly than I used to.”  She spread out her arms.  “I knew when I first met you, that you hadn’t been raised alone.  This time I can feel the warmth of your family.”

“Is she sure that’s not all the fire talking?” Mikleo muttered.

“Come on, Mickey-boy, give the lady some credit,” Zaveid scolded, leaning over the younger Seraphim.

“Indeed,” Lailah added, “it is quite possible that, after her experiences with us, Alisha is much more aware of both seraphim and hellions.”

Gramps, Zenrus, stepped forward.  “The seraphim of Elysia decided that the Shepherd deserved a bright night for these dark days.”  He blew a puff of smoke from his long pipe.

The smoke swept across the ground, causing earth to rise into a simple long table.  Crystalline chalices and platters of food covered it, the smell of meat and vegetables wafting towards the group.  The fire seraph’s flames illuminated the feast, highlighting all the best dishes.

Alisha stepped back from the sudden display, more startled than distressed.

“Whoa,” Rose exclaimed, “that looks delicious.”  She rubbed her tummy eagerly, keeping her eyes on the food even when Gramps spoke again.

“Mikleo, Sorey, you work hard to bring light into the world.  You, and your friends.  You deserve a night of light and merriment.”

“Thanks you, Gramps,” Sorey and Mikleo replied eagerly.

“Yeah, thanks.”  Rose moved up to the food.

“It is quite the feast,” Alisha noted, seeming to grasp the general gist of events.

“Mabo Curry,” Edna muttered.  Lailah spotted a thin line of drool forming at the edge of her mouth.

Gramps clapped his hands.  Several seraphim broke off from the main group, grabbing instruments.  They then began to to play a lively dance tune.  Alisha looked towards the source of the sound.

“What lovely music.”

For her part, Rose took the cue to dig in.

“Hey, Sheps,” Zaveid leaned on Sorey’s shoulder, “I get she can’t see us.  Can she feel us?”

“Uh,” Sorey looked quizzically at Lailah.

The fire seraph shrugged.  “She has resonance, and she’s certainly aware of us, so… maybe?”

Zaveid offered his wolfish grin.  “Perfect.”  With that he moved away from Sorey and towards Alisha.  He adjusted his hat as he approached, making sure it couldn’t possibly fall off.

“This is going to end poorly,” Mikleo muttered.

Indeed, the seraphim in the village, even Gramps, were moving to create plenty of space around them.

“For once I agree with Mi-bo,” Edna replied.  Even she stepped back.

Zaveid grabbed Alisha’s hands.  She jumped.  Zaveid wrapped his large hands around her smaller ones.  She couldn’t pull them away.

“Are you a seraphim?” she asked, a vague stutter evident in her voice.

Zaveid shook her hands, mimicking a head nod.

“I can feel you,” Alisha replied, a slow smile spreading across her face.

Zaveid grinned.

“Uh-oh,” Sorey and Mikleo whispered.

Zaveid spread Alisha’s arms out.

“Sorey?” she queried, looking over to him in confusion.

“Just, uh…”  How could she follow the dance if she couldn’t see it. He spluttered for a moment before desperately turning to Rose.  “Rose, dance with me?”

Rose looked up from her food, spoon full of mabo curry in her hand.  “What?”

Zaveid began tugging Alisha around.  Sorey moved towards the table to grab Rose’s hands.

“Guess we need to show the princess how it’s done, huh?”

Sorey nodded even as he pulled her along.  Rose looked sadly at the food a moment before joining in.

Lailah clapped her hands in excitement as the groups began to dance.  Other seraphim joined in, giving Alisha and Zaveid plenty of space.

Alisha knew her way around most dances, even folk ones, allowing her to avoid collisions and guess several of the moves simply from Zaveid’s invisible lead.  With a little visualization help from Sorey and Rose, and quickly fell into step.

Mikleo sulked at the edge of the ring.  At least, until Lailah lassoed him right in.

Once Alisha got a hang for the steps, they began to dance properly.  The pace increased, and partner trading began.

Edna sighed as a fellow earth seraph drug her in.  Alisha would probably need the help anyway.  Most of the seraphs of Elysia weren’t strong enough to make their presence felt, even to someone who knew they were there.

Indeed, Alisha had a hard time with the partner swaps.  Sorey and Rose quickly realized to call out right before the shifts, and Sorey grabbed the princess’s hand for the first swap so she could figure out the motions.

She smiled at him in thanks.  “This is truly an incredible experience.”

He nodded.  “We’ll make this work, I promise.”

“Yeah.”  Her grin reflected the joy Sorey felt at being surrounded by friends and family.  He couldn’t help wondering, even if she only knew a few of the seraphim here, if she really did feel their warmth.

Maybe, even if humans couldn’t see seraphim, they might still one day dance with one another.  Certainly, Alisha seemed to be enjoying it.

She even enjoyed it when they passed partners again.  She was going to get paired with one of the fire seraphim, but he couldn’t grab her hands.

With a lovely twirl, Lailah replaced him.  She had the power to properly hold onto the twirling princess.

“We’ve got you,” Sorey assured her again, dancing off with another seraphim.

Alisha began laughing, truly caught up in the music and the light.

They spent much of the evening dancing, eating, and telling stories.  Whenever Alisha joined the dance, Sorey made sure to dance too, so she could watch his movements.  Even Gramps joined in on the fun for a bit, dancing with both Alisha and Lailah at various points.

They went to bed with full tummies and smiles on their faces.

 


 

Sorey stared out at the clouds below him.  Knowing what lay beneath the drifting sky made Elysia feel more isolated than ever, like it hovered on a mattress of cloud and hid under a blanket of stars.

So much darkness in the world, so much malevolence, so much pain.  None of it even visible from these heights.

He heard the crunch of snow just behind him.  Sorey leaned back his head to see Mikleo standing over him.

Mikleo dropped a blanket over his head.  “You’re going to get yourself sick.”

Sorey stood, draping the offered blanket over his shoulders.  No reason to get it soaked.

“What are you doing out here anyway?” Mikleo asked, moving beside him.  “The view hasn’t changed.”  His voice dropped as he spoke.

Sorey looked back over the ledge, what for so long had acted as the end of the world.  “No, it hasn’t.”

“But we have.”

Sorey nodded.  He could feel Mikleo looking at him, but continued looking at the clouds below.  Did they block all the stars from shining below?

One hand slid off the blanket to rest at his side.  Sorey wasn’t sure how long passed.  After a time he became aware that his left shoulder was colder than his right.  Despite that his left warm felt perfect.

Mikleo had wrapped a hand around Sorey’s left hand, gripping it warmly.

Sorey looked back up.  Mikleo followed his gaze so they looked eye-to-eye.  A definite part of Sorey had expected Mikleo to retract his hand the moment he realized he’d been caught.

Instead they just locked gazes, slowly turning to properly face each other.  Sorey reached out with his other hand, letting the blanket fall.  Mikleo received it.

They looked rather similar to how it had looked when Zaveid grabbed Alisha’s hands.  Stretched out and firm.

Remembering the lively music, Sorey began to sway his arms.

“What are you doing?”

Sorey gripped Mikleo’s hands tighter.  Then, after a deep breath, he quickly exclaimed, “Dancing!”

Suddenly, they were twirling around the field.  Snow kicked up in little flurries around them.

“Whoa,” Mikleo shouted.  He didn’t pull away though.  Instead, he began to join in properly.

Sorey began to hum the melody of the dance tune.

Mikleo whispered the harmony.

And they danced.

Sorey could feel the movement warming his body.  He could also feel the snow melting on him.  He’d get cold later, but for now, he felt entranced by by his surroundings.  Both the gentle snow and beautiful seraphim in front of him.

They pulled closer as they danced, until Mikleo’s face was about all Sorey could see.

Their lips just touched, Sorey’s lips catching onto Mikleo’s whistling ones.  All sound stopped.

For a moment they stayed like that, unsure whether to pull closer or further.

Sorey lifted the light seraphim up a little higher.  Mikleo pulled forward.

They almost seemed to hover there then, closed lips just touching, breath hot on each other’s faces.

MIkleo felt highly aware of the way Sorey’s hand wrapped around his lower back.  Sorey pushed him even closer, making it hard to breathe.

“Maybe I am gett–”

Mikleo kissed him, taking the opportunity formed by Sorey’s suddenly open mouth.  He could feel Sorey tense.  It only pulled them closer and lifted Mikleo higher.

And disrupted Sorey’s balance.  He fell onto his back with an oof.  Mikleo came down with him, even though Sorey had let go when falling.

Not one to waste an opening, Mikleo pressed back in with his kiss, hands reaching out to grab Sorey’s.

Sorey made no move to pull back, and even slid his hands so they could hold each other properly.

Mikleo pulled back.

“Your eyes are sparkling,” Sorey muttered.  The sparkling expressed his joy more than any grin ever could.

“I’ve always wondered…”

“…what you saw me as.”

“Are we friends?”

“Brothers?”

“Or…?”

Sorey slowly sat up, wrapping Mikleo in his arms.  Mikleo returned the favor.

Sorey kissed him.

“You too, huh?” Mikleo muttered.

“I was so scared of you getting hurt, of scaring you away.  Nothing would be worse than you leaving me.”  Water began to pool under Sorey’s eyes.  He bowed his head.  “I don’t know what to do, and all the time I worry.  I worry you’ll get hurt, or worse, and I don’t know what I’d do.”

Mikleo leaned forward to kiss one of the tears.  “You’d recognize it was my decision to come with you.  Right from the start, I chose this.”  He nuzzled against Sorey’s face, appreciating his thick and soft hair.  “I know what could happen, but it could happen to you too.  I don’t know what I’d do, if I had to live with myself knowing I could have stopped it.  Always wondering, what would have happened if I was there.”

“Mikleo, I’m sorry I ever asked you to leave.”  Sorey squeezed the water seraph tightly.  “There’s no way I could have ever made it this far without you.”

“Obviously, you big doofus,” Mikleo replied with a smile.  He could feel water at the edge of his eyes as well, but refused to let it fall.  “And we’ve gotten to discover all sorts of ruins together.”

“And make a lot of new friends,” Sorey added.

“And discover so many secrets.”

“It’s really amazing how much we’ve learned.”  Sorey pulled back enough for them to really look each other in the face.  “Like the fact we aren’t just friends.”

“We never have been ‘just’ friends,” Mikleo scolded, “and we never would have been.”

“I know.”

“It is nice to know where you stand, at least.”  Mikleo leaned forward in Sorey’s lap, hand resting just a bit below the stomach, to highlight his point.

Sorey blushed.  “Now that would be cold.”

Mikleo blushed too.  Then, he just leaned back and laughed.  It didn’t take long for Sorey to join in.

“When this is all over,” he promised, or tried to, but he was hard to sound serious when just saying it made him laugh even more.

“You’re such a child,” Mikleo chided, despite his whole face going red.

“I still promise.”  Sorey’s smile softened away from pure mirth and towards warm love.  “I still promise that when this is done, you and I will explore the world.  We’ll see everywhere.  We’ll find every ruin.  And we’ll find a way for seraphim and humans to live together.”

“For us to co-exist.”

Sorey kissed him again.  “Nothing can stop that.”

Mikleo returned to kiss vigorously.  “You better keep your word, Sorey, because I’m going to hold you to it.  To many years exploring the world together, just the two of us.”

“It’s a promise.”  Sorey extended his pinky finger.

Mikleo wrapped his own around it.  “Pinky swear.”

“Pinky swear.  Now, I owe you for tumbling me into the snow.”

“You should probably get inside.”

The light in Sorey’s eyes warned Mikleo he had other plans.

Sure enough, a moment later Sorey pounced, landing on top of Mikleo and getting him soaked in cold snow too.

“If we get hypothermia in the morning, I’m blaming you,” Mikleo shouted.

“We’ll just have to cuddle for warmth then,” Sorey replied.  He wrapped his friend, his love, in a giant bear hug.  Mikleo playfully attempted to free himself, causing them to roll around in the snow.

It didn’t take long for laughter to ring through the clearing, tears rolling down their faces from glee.

They watched the dawn together, holding each other close.  They then returned to Elysia, where it turned out Alisha had just started to worry about Sorey.

Rose wasn’t up.  Edna was though, and she jabbed Mikleo for making the Alisha worry.  He pulled back a bit behind Sorey, grimacing.

“Was that really necessary?”

Lailah chuckled gently, directly fire to hover around the two and warm them up.

Zaveid gave them an odd smile, not so different from the one he gave to pretty women.  It sent a fresh shiver down Mikleo’s spine.

The wind seraph just laughed.

Alisha brought Sorey a warm cup of tea.  “Are you sure you’re alright?”

“Yeah.  Just had to think about what to do next.”  He took the tea.  “This has been great, and I feel a lot better, but there’s still a lot for us to do.”

“Yes,” she agreed.  “I will do everything I can to help.”

“Isn’t she sweet?” Zaveid commented.

“Princess Alisha is a fine ally,” Lailah reminded him.

Sorey smiled at her.  “I know you will, Alisha.  You’ve already done so much.  Sorry, if this pulled you away from an important mission.”

She shook her head.  “It’s fine.  I’m glad to see you again, and dancing with the seraphim was an incredible experience.  Not to mention knowing they trust me enough to invite me to their home.”

Sorey glanced over to the seraphim in the area.  They gave her space to avoid collisions, but Sorey didn’t get the impression she made them nervous.

“Oh, here comes Gramps,” he muttered.

The old seraphim looked Mikleo and Sorey up and down.  He puffed furiously on his pipe.

“Are you feeling better now, Sorey?”  He didn’t sound angry.

“Yeah.”

Gramps’ gaze turned to Mikleo.  “And you, Mikleo?”

“Thank you so much for this celebration.”

“That’s not what I asked.”

Mikleo’s face slowly turned red.

“Humf.”  The edge of Gramps’ lips curled up in a smile.  “Just make sure you lot don’t leave behind any regrets..”

“We know,” Sorey assured him.

Apparently content with that, the old seraphim summoned another table of food, this one emphasizing eggs and fresh bread.  “Then don’t leave home with an empty stomach.”

“I’ll go awaken Rose,” Alisha volunteered.

“Sure.  Thanks.”

Alisha rushed away.  Zaveid, Lailah, and Edna all turned to give Sorey and Mikleo an odd look.  Lailah even went so far as to cover her face with her papers.

“What?” Mikleo questioned, growing flustered.

“Did you two become adults while we weren’t looking?” Zaveid asked.

His own earrings probably could have blown Sorey over at that point.

“What?! What are you even talking about?”

“And here I thought you saw each other as brothers.”  Edna opened up her umbrella, turning around so that only it faced the two.  “Guess I was wrong.”

Lailah side-eyed them.

Sorey scratched his head.  “Are we really that obvious?”

All three seraphim regarded him and Mikleo, each smirking in their own way.

 


 

P.S. I received my Santa Secret just a little bit ago.  It’s a bunch of Tales of the Abyss GIFs.  They’re super sweet.

 

Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 24

Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 24

April 15th

Lazy Detective Agency

Souji wasn’t quite sure what he’d had in mind when Raidou had asked him to his office, but an old building in Shinjuku with the words “Narumi Detective Agency” written in faded lettering on the door hadn’t exactly been it.

The woman, sitting behind the desk of three monitors and two laptops, caught him even more by surprise.  She wore a giant headset on top of her neat black bun, yet still managed to look up when they entered.

“Welcome home,” she greeted.  “The tea’s ready.”

“Thanks.”  Raidou gestured to a couch in front of an old coffee table.  Souji and Butterfly cautiously sat down while their host poured them tea, bring it over on a tray, along with some red bean cakes.  The woman behind the desk resumed her tasks.

Raidou sat down across from the two persona users, reclining easily in the battered old armchair.  It had clearly been there a long time, seeming to conform the tall man’s form.  A black cat jumped on the chair’s back before settling its gaze upon them.

“That cat followed us,” Butterfly opened, staring uneasily at the feline.

“His name is Gouto. My secretary is Sakura Narumi.”

“The cat part of the agency too?” Butterfly asked.

Gouto nodded.

“So you really are a detective agency,” Souji mused, looking cautiously around.  Several black and white pictures hung on the walls, and he could just make out a staircase in the back.

“Correct.  We’ve been around since well before the bombings.  My grandfather and her great-grandfather ran it.”

“A family business?”

“We re-established it ten years ago,” Miss Narumi explained.  “However, our segment of the building is indeed from before the war.”

Raidou rested his head on his fist, gazing at Butterfly.  “First question, what are you?”

Souji jumped.  Butterfly, however, didn’t seem so surprised.  “Me?”

According to Igor he was a soul and god fused together, but Souji had no idea how Butterfly described himself.

“I’m a ghost,” Butterfly answered.

“Ghosts rarely manifest in the primary realm,” Miss Narumi remarked.  “While it answers the question at its most basic level I find it an unsatisfactory explanation.  It doesn’t even begin to cover your ability to manifest in a physical form.”

“All you’re getting.”

Raidou sighed.  “Miss Narumi?”

The woman stood, pulling out her phone.  “Stand in front of me,” she commanded.  Cautious, but more curious, Butterfly did as he was told.

Miss Narumi clicked her tongue.  “Thanatos.”

“Like this?”

“He appears to have modified some of his base data,” she continued.  “I do believe this may be the origin point.”

“Interesting,” Raidou mused.  “Go ahead and sit.”  Miss Narumi sat back down at the desk.

“I’m not just Thanatos.”

“Obviously,” Miss Narumi replied.  “Your information would come through clearly if you were.”  She looked at Raidou.  “Most likely a pact.”

He nodded.  “A man who runs suicide clubs and a god of death.”  He turned his gaze over to Souji.

“We’re friends.”

“You’re the one Kyou called out.”

Butterfly glared at Raidou.  “Tell him.”

“What?”  Souji turned to regard his companion.

“Go ahead.  I’m curious.”

“But-“

“He knew about me,” Butterfly reminded him, “so just tell him.”

“Why is he after you?” Raidou prompted.

“We got into one of his clubs.”

“And took down a woman spreading apathy syndrome,” Butterfly added.

“So it is actively spread,” Raidou mused, biting his lower lip for a moment.  Miss Narumi typed vigorously at her keyboard.

Souji and Butterfly both nodded.

“How?”

“We’re not quite sure, to be honest,” Souji replied.  “It has to do with shadows, but beyond that we don’t really know.”

“Shadows?”

“That which we hide,” Butterfly explained.  “Everything we repress, the shadow of who we are.”

“Shadows can come out and attack people,” Souji added.  “When I dealt with them at first they only appeared within a special realm connected to the human conscious, but these people seem to have figured out how to harness for their own purposes.”

“Similar for me,” Butterfly added, “but they actively prey on people who fit a certain profile.  These people develop apathy syndrome.  I’m not quite sure what’s happening this time.”

“Do you know his motives?”

“No” Souji admitted.  “That’s what we’re trying to find out.”

“They’re ripping shadows out of people,” Butterfly added.  “They then use those to create more powerful ones.  The suicide clubs draw people in, people who want to die, and they use them.”

A pause hung in the air.  Raidou chuckled slightly a moment later.

“I see.  Just one more question then.”

“What is it?”

“What can you do to stop it?”

There it was, hanging in the air like a heavy fog.  Souji looked to Butterfly for support.  He received an encouraging nod.  No reason to turn back now.

“Sometimes a full shadow comes out of someone.  Instead of a single fragment it’s more,” Souji paused, “more complete.  These shadows actively try to break the person they emerge from.  If they win, the person dies.  If the person instead accepts their shadow they can become a persona user.”

“This group, Armageddon, I think they do something similar, but instead of accepting their shadow and becoming persona users they steal the shadows from someone else.  I’m not sure why this is preferable, but I believe their leader is the only true persona user among them.”

“Persona,” Raidou whispered.

“In the psychology of C. G. Jung, the mask or façade presented to satisfy the demands of the situation or the environment and not representing the inner personality of the individual.  The public personality,” Miss Narumi recited.

“It’s what we use to combat shadows,” Souji added.  “We have to accept ourselves completely, but then we use these aspects to form persona and battle.”

“Well,” Miss Narumi remarked, “I suppose that would count as satisfying the demands of the situation.”

“You summon it?”

“Outer personality,” Butterfly reminded him.

Raidou looked up at Gouto.  “Have you ever heard of this?”

The cat shook his head.

The detective turned to look at Souji and Butterfly again.  “Could you show me?”

Souji sighed.  “I’ve never just summoned it to show someone,” he admitted.  “I’m not sure anything will happen.”

“Just try it,” Raidou urged.

Miss Narumi held out her phone.  “I’ll see what data I can gather,” she explained.  “I’m curious how this registers.”

Souji closed his eyes to concentrate.  “Izanagi,” he whispered.  He could feel the persona stir within him.  A moment later he felt the surge of energy as it materialized.  “This is Izanagi,” he announced, slowly opening his eyes.  “He’s my primary persona.”

“Fascinating.  The energy doesn’t register at all.  Are you getting anything, Raidou?”

He stood up, staring up at Izanagi.  “Can I touch him?”

“I don’t really know,” Souji admitted.  “He’s physical, but not, especially outside the shadow realm.  I guess you can see what happens.”

Raidou reached out his hand, tugging gently on Izanagi’s coat.  The tug connected and the coat moved.  To Souji it just felt kind of nauseating.  Raidou backed off.

Izanagi diffused.  “I can summon him a long time to fight, but I’ve never just pulled him out to show off before.  It does seem a little more exhausting in the real world.”

“Raidou?” Miss Narumi interjected sharply.

He looked at her.

“The police have a lead.”

Raidou stepped back to look at Souji and Butterfly.  “Looks like we have a lead on a suicide club.  The police can round up people.”

“But they can’t deal with shadows,” Souji confirmed.

Raidou nodded.  “If you’re telling the truth, I may not be able to either.”

“There’s a terrifying thought,” Miss Narumi responded.

Nodding, Raidou asked, “Do you want to come?”

“Really?”

“I’m not exactly endangering you further.”

What a different mindset from Mitsuru.

They both heard the whirr of a printer.  “If you’re going to work with us then you’ll need to sign some nondisclosure forms,” Miss Narumi explained.  “There’s no guarantee this is the right club, but it is owned by Kyo Kinamo.”

Raidou walked over to pull a couple of forms off the printer.  He brought a pen over as well.  “We need to protect confidentiality.”  He placed a contract in front of each of them.

Butterfly skimmed the contents.  “Well, this isn’t a bad way to keep us quiet.”

“We are professionals,” Miss Narumi reminded them.  “If you want to get involved we need to know you won’t become a liability.”

“So fast,” Souji whispered.  All of this, so fast.

Raidou walked across the room, grabbing a larger coat that hung.  “I’m leaving fast.  Thanatos, can you cover your own transportation?”

“I’m called Butterfly, and I can stick with Souji well enough.”

“Good.”

“He primarily uses a motorbike,” Miss Narumi explained.

“Excuse me,” Souji interjected, “but this contract almost makes it seem like I’d be working for you.”

“You’ll function as an intern.  You don’t have the appropriate background for it, but at least you’re the right age.”

“We may not get an opening like this again,” Butterfly reminded him.

“We still don’t know how much to trust them.”

Raidou pulled a weapons belt off the rack.

“I feel fairly confident they’re prepared at least.”

“No kidding,” Souji responded, eying the gun, “but it doesn’t help against shadows.”

“That’s what you’re for.”  Raidou turned to look at both of them.  “We can’t dawdle.”

“I’ve told the police to let us handle it, but they’re not exactly fond of the idea.  If you wait too long they’ll get moving.  We can discuss the full terms of your internship later.  For now, let’s just call it a trial run.”

Souji looked up at Raidou for a moment.  How had everything gone so smoothly?  He seemed understanding at least, even if not entirely trustworthy, and they definitely knew what they were doing when it came to detective work.

“Connections with the police would help,” Butterfly reminded him.

Souji signed the contract.

“Let’s move.”

Previous | Next

Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 23

Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 23

4/15/2015

A Moment’s Peace

 

Naoto: Mitsuru just informed me that she believes shadows are involved in a recent number of suicides. I’ve been told to pass it on and urge all of you to be on the lookout. So far they’ve only had isolated cases in Tokyo, but the cause remains unidentified.

Rise: Oh man. I have a concert coming up too. I was hoping things would stay calmed down.

Yosuke: Seriously? That sucks.

Teddie: You make me beary sad, Naochan.

Souji’s hand hovered over the digital keys on his phone. He had no idea what to say.

Rise: Hey, Souji lives in Tokyo, right? Man, I hope he’s okay.

Yosuke: Now that you mention it, he usually responds by now.

Naoto: That is part of why I selected this time.

Souji sat in a café, where he always studied between classes, staring at his phone. Even so far away they knew him so well.

Butterfly peered over his shoulders to watch the conversation. “Say something.”

“What?”

A shrug.

Souji sighed. Butterfly was right, of course, but what should he say? Maybe just a confirmation would do.

Souji: Understood.

Yosuke: There you are, partner.

Rise: Thank goodness. We were starting to worry.

Naoto: I’m glad you’ve responded.

Another window for a chat between just him and Naoto.

Naoto: Have you noticed anything?

“I can’t lie to her.”

Butterfly leaned back. “Hmmm. Maybe feel her out first?”

Reasonable enough advice, he supposed. It felt a little wrong not to just immediately trust Naoto and her judgment, but maybe this way they could get some new information.

“Involving shadows?”

Naoto: Yeah. Several hundred cases of apathy syndrome were reported yesterday in central Tokyo.

“Hundred?” Souji choked. That woman had caused hundreds of cases? He’d been there and he still couldn’t quite wrap his head around it.

Butterfly reached out, gently tapping on the phone.

Souji: How widespread?

Souji glared at him. Butterfly shrugged.

Naoto: Pretty much everywhere within the Yamanote line. Researches are investigating the cause, but it’s hard to explain why it happens even with the proper knowledge.

That seemed like more than the area he and Butterfly had covered. They exchanged looks.

“It is an organization,” Butterfly reminded him.

“Yeah, but just how big is it?”

“At the rate she was moving it wouldn’t take long to cover the area within the Yamanote line.”

“I guess, but still…hundreds of cases.”

“Fewer than you’d expect.”

“Fewer?”

Butterfly nodded. “A lot of fewer. We were lucky. Or perhaps she drove people straight to suicide.”

“You can’t be serious.”

“Not this time.”

Souji sighed. How could anyone make fun of that?

Naoto: The Shadow Operative are stumped. Apparently, there’s never been an outbreak quite like this.

“Wrong,” Butterfly whispered, “but perhaps not this sudden.”

“Wouldn’t be quite like it then.”

“I guess.”

Souji: Do they have any idea what caused it?

Naoto: It should be a powerful Shadow, but they haven’t seen any like that recently. A lot more small ones though.

She was being so open with him. Her trust reminded him of the strength of their bonds.

“I have to tell her.”

“Only if she promises to leave the others out.”

“Why does it matter so much? Don’t you want them to help?”

“No,” Butterfly snapped. He stood up. “They’re your friends. Do what you will with them.” He began to sulk towards the exit.

“Wait. Butterfly!”

Several heads turned towards them, but Souji did his best to shrug them off. Now what had he done?

Fortunately, Butterfly didn’t actually wander off. He just stood staring at the campus.

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t’ try your community tricks with me.” He looked up at the sky. “Clear day.”

“Yeah. It’s nice after following all that shadow stuff around.”

“Yeah.”

“Butterfly, why don’t you want them involved? You fought together before and I’ve seen them in combat. They’re incredible.”

“I know that.”

“Then why?”

“I wanted them to move on,” he whispered. “I wanted them to drop it.”

“How could anyone do that after an experience like that?”

“How could they forget?” Butterfly whispered. He turned to Souji. “They forgot. All of it. Gone. Never happened, and then they pretend they can never move on.”

“You can move on, and they have. Yukari is a model. Akihiko is studying to be a detective. Ken is almost done with high school.”

“And yet they fight.”

“How could they not? They want to help.”

Butterfly turned away. “Come on. You’ll be late to class.”

 


 

 

“I just heard from the morning class,” a student hissed excitedly, “Miss Suzuki is out today.”

“Seriously?”

“Man, that sucks.”

“Maybe we’ll finally get someone who makes some sense.”

“I like her.”

Souji barely paid any attention to hubbub. A teacher calling in sick wasn’t such a rare thing that it warranted astonishment. Especially since she had a toddler. Who knew how many diseases that woman got exposed to in a day?

The lecture hall door opened.

Izanagi reacted, but in a way Souji couldn’t identify. Whatever it was, it had all of them on high alert. Even Butterfly seemed to be tensing from his hairclip form.

Whoever was coming through that door was dangerous.

A man only slightly older than the students walked in. He wore a white button down shirt with no tie and a black leather jacket. His pants appeared to be leather as well, as did his boots. He stepped up to the podium and stared up at the silent class.

With a sigh, he turned around and wrote his name on the board.

Raidou Kuzunoha.

Whispers erupted around the room.

“No way!”

“Isn’t he the freshmen slayer?”

“I heard they never let him teach.”

“Getting a crush on him is referred to as a curse.”

“He’ll kill you if you so much as look at him wrong.”

How had Souji never heard of this guy?

The temporary instructor turned back to the class. “Done yet?”

His sharp tone and level eye contact made it quite clear that only one answer would do.

Now that Souji thought about it, that even gaze seemed way too close and personal for how far apart they were. His eyes shouldn’t have been so clear. Certainly, not clear enough to identify the hint of blue.

“You are?”

“Souji Seta.”

Raidou looked down the class roster. He then glanced back up. “And the odds all of you are seated correctly?”

Assigned seats? Yeah right.

“Very well. I’ll start by asking you, Seta-kun.”

Souji stood. Class began.

 


 

 

After class with Raidou, Souji wanted nothing more than to rush out of the room. The substitute had been brutal. His explanations of the material were alright, and he clearly knew his stuff, but he also clearly thought of anyone who didn’t know his stuff as an idiot. He hadn’t handled questions well at all. Topping it all off his phone had gone off during the class. A teacher’s phone going off? Seriously?

For some reason though, Butterfly urged him to stay.

That’s why he found himself lingering as the rest of the class ran away. That’s why he found himself now staring awkwardly at Raidou.

“Question?”

“Ask him anything,” Butterfly urged inside Souji’s head. “I just want to get a feel for him.”

Why? “Just wanted to confirm the homework.”

Raidou sighed. “You wrote it down.”

Souji bit his lip.

“And you’re a terrible liar. Can I go now? E-mail Serena with questions. It’s her class.”

“You know our teacher?”

Radiou just gave Souji a dead-eye glare.

“Sorry. Guess that’s pretty obvious. Are you both in the graduate program then?”

Raidou slowly nodded.

“What’s she like?”

“Stop wasting my time, Seta.” Raidou grabbed his bag.

“Wait.”

He didn’t wait. For a moment Souji just stood there, staring at the door.

“Interesting,” Butterfly remarked, materializing beside him.

“What’s interesting?”

Butterfly tilted his head. “He felt wrong.”

“Think he’s with Armageddon?”

“Not sure,” Butterfly admitted. “Something’s off though.”

Souji’s phone buzzed.

UNKNOWN: Click Here

“What do you think?”

“Looks like a video link.”

“Then why can’t my phone just load the video. It has internet here.”

UNKNOWN: Password: PH4RO5

Souji and Butterfly exchanged concerned glances. Then, he clicked on the link.

Password required.

He typed in “PH4RO5”.

A video popped up. Kyou stood against a view of Sky Tree.

“Hey, darlings,” he greeted with a grin.

Was this really the man they’d met just a few days ago?

“Thought I should let all of you know that we’ve got a bit of a problem lately.” It finally registered with Souji that this video was taken at night.

“Just a few days ago our dear mother Nephtys was brutally attacked while spreading the message. The attackers, a pair of dastardly persona users, show no regret for destroying the peace and even went so far as to attack her shadow directly.”

Souji looked at Butterfly. He’d never asked how he’d found everything out.

“Unfortunately, this forced her to the stage of final breath. Without her the spread of contentment will be greatly slowed.” He pouted dramatically. “So, I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands.” He held up a photo of Souji. “Cute face, huh? Strange how those always hide the brutal murderers. This hotbed of deceit needs to experience the stages. Needs to find his answer and face Armageddon. And so, I say, bring him to me alive. I’ll be waiting at the club.”

The video abruptly ended.

UNKNOWN: Why is he targeting you?

Souji: Who are you?

UNKNOWN: A friend. Why is he targeting you?

Souji: I can’t answer if I don’t know who you are.

No immediate response. Souji looked up to Butterfly. “You killed her?”

“No.”

“Then why’d-“

“I don’t know.”

“Why is he targeting you?”

Souji and Butterfly both turned sharply to the door. There stood Raidou Kuzunoha.

“Where’d you come from?”

“Just closed the door.” The man stepped forward. “Heard everything.”

“Why were you spying on us?” Butterfly demanded.

“Why is he targeting you?”

“Did you send that video?” Souji asked.

“Someone wants you dead, and you’re worried about who warned you?”

“Who are you?” Butterfly demanded.

“Raidou Kuzunoha the Fifteenth,” the man responded. “Devil Summoner.”

“Devil summoner?”

“Correct. My agency has been investigating the recent outbreaks of the disease known as apathy syndrome.”

“Why?” Butterfly asked.

“Abnormal occurrences is what we do. We’ve had eight, ten, people come in reporting loved ones with apathy syndrome they believe related to illicit activities. Three cases lead to suicide clubs where several more incidents were discovered. Seven cases appear to have simply occurred. In only two of these could we trace anyone who might have a motive to cause such a state, and we still haven’t found what causes it in the first place. The only common thread is in the suicide clubs, all run by the man in that video.”

“The man targeting me,” Souji added. “That’s why you’re asking about me.”

Raidou nodded. “What do you know?”

“Only about the suicide clubs,” Souji answered. He figured it was true enough. Non persona users couldn’t help with something like this, no matter how otherwise competent they might be.

Raidou sighed. “Come with me.”

“Where?”

“Shinjuku. Easier to have a candid talk at my office.” He glared at Souji. “I don’t appreciate run arounds.”

“It’s what you’re getting,” Butterfly retorted.

“We’ll see.” Raidou looked directly at Souji. “Are you coming?”

“No.”

“Look, you can tell me what you know. Let me in. Or I can tail you until I find out anyway.”

“Must be hard when you tell everyone what you’re up to in the beginning,” Butterfly snapped.

“No.”

“How do we know we can trust you?”

“We could use each other. I need information. You’re going to need protection.”

“We can take care of ourselves.”

“Cute, but doubtful.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Not even gauging your enemy well enough to know when you’re targeted?”

“That doesn’t reflect our abilities in a fight,” Butterfly countered.

“Getting jumped?”

He backed down.

Souji looked at Raidou. “And if we do come with you?”

“We have a nice chat.”

“That’s really it?”

Raidou nodded.

“I think we should go.”

“Really?”

Souji nodded. Butterfly shrugged. “Alright then. Guess we’re following you.”

“Good.”

Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 22

Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 22

Fall to Rebirth: 4/14/2015

So Many Things

 

Raidou slowly flipped through an old journal as hospital staff worked desperately to prepare the room. They rushed around him, but he simply sat quietly. A tall man wearing a doctor’s lab coat came in, bringing in a tray filled with tools required for an initial examination.

Raidou looked up from the journal. “Need a hand?”

“No, no, we’re fine,” the doctor replied. He pulled the tray up to the bed. “Just wishing we had rooms already clean and ready. All these apathy syndrome cases lately has really put us in a bind. They don’t need a lot of care, but you can’t care for most of them at home and so they just end up taking a lot of space. Needing an individual room doesn’t help.”

“They’ll be here soon.” Raidou looked down at the journal again.

“Rare for you to take those out of the house.”

“Didn’t have time.”

The nurses finally finished making the bed. They didn’t bother to stick around either, knowing full well how weird conversations between these two could get.

“Don’t you think it’s a little weird?” the doctor asked sharply. “Why would he come out like that?”

“According to the bio, Naoki Kashima is a second year in high school, not quite seventeen. He may be powerful. That doesn’t mean he knows what he’s doing.”

“All the better for us, I guess.”

“For his brother, certainly. He’s lucky Daisuke was on it. Anyone else would have ended poorly.”

The doctor’s phone rang. He quickly flipped it open. “They’re here.”

“Tell the nurse to lead them in.”

“We’re not going to meet them?”

Raidou leaned back. “Still reading.”

“You’ve actually never read this one?” the doctor asked as he typed quick response.

“Hidden.”

“Must be serious then.”

“Obviously.”

The doctor shook his head with a smile, organizing his things. Several minutes passed before a knock on the door.

“Doctor Yukimura, your patients are here.”

“Bring them in.”

Naoki walked through the door first, looking cautiously around. Detective Sakamoto followed him, immediately followed by Dante carrying Yukio.

“Lay him on the bed.”

“Are you Doctor Yukimura?” Naoki asked.

“Correct.” He rushed around to help Dante lay Yukio gently on his stomach.

Raidou watched over the edge of his book, seeming uninterested.

Naoki grew immediately interested in him though. “Who’s this?”

“Ah, this is-“ Detective Sakamoto began.

The sound of book snapping shut interrupted him. “Raidou Kuzunoha the Fifteenth. You must be Naoki Kashima.”

“You’re Raidou?”

“He said you two had met,” Detective Sakamoto added, confused.

“Not us.”

“Catfight later,” Doctor Yukimura said. “I need Kashima-kun’s description of how he found his brother and what demon he thinks caused it.”

“Metatron,” Naoki answered immediately, slowly coming over to his brother. Raidou opened his book again.

“Metatron? What did you do to piss of Metatron?”

“Exist.”

“He is stubbornly good at it,” Dante added.

“And who are you? You don’t seem quite human.”

“Hey, I resent and resemble that remark.”

“That’s Dante,” Naoki explained.

Raidou’s hand twitched slightly, but only Pixie and Leanan Sidhe were paying enough attention to him to notice it. In fact, neither of them had taken their eyes off him since flying in the room.

“I see,” Doctor Yukimura responded, even though he didn’t quite. He moved to check Yukio’s pulse. “There’s a chart on the table. If you could sit down and fill out what you know about your brother? I’d like you to fill one out as well.”

“He’s underage,” Detective Sakamoto warned.

“This is merely for informational purposes. Once we gets these wings dealt with we can have the parents come in and handle everything properly. Until then, we just need everything we can get. His pulse is low, but not bad for someone who appears to have been knocked out by faeries.”

“We thought he’d freak if he woke up with wings,” Dante explained.

“Reasonable enough. Now, why don’t you take a seat as well?”

“Where?”

“Just stand against the wall for all I care, but I need to check his vitals.”

Dante held up his hands in defeat, moving to stand by Naoki.

“Sorry for bringing in such a crowd.”

Doctor Yukimura shook his head. “It’s fine. Better to have them all here than wandering around. Still, the only time I’ve seen something like this…”

Raidou glanced over the edge of his book as the doctor trailed off.

“Leanan Sidhe, drop my disguise,” Naoki requested.

“You don’t want to do that,” she hissed.

“I’d like to see it,” Raidou said, still looking at Doctor Yukimura.

She shook a moment, but did drop the disguise. “Do you think it’s like me?”

“I think it tried to be,” the doctor stated, “and I’ll need to give you a look over too. I’m guessing they chose your brother since you survived a similar transformation. If we can figure out why one would work and the other wouldn’t we should be able to cure it.”

“You should let him know that natural healing just encourages them to grow,” Pixie added.

“So they’re fully integrated, but stunted. Interesting.”

“You heard her?” Naoki asked, surprised.

“Of course. I’d be a terrible specialist in demonic parasites if I couldn’t see them.”

Raidou returned to his book, sensing the moment of crisis had passed.

“So that’s what you do. Do you do normal stuff too?”

“Of course. I work the emergency room just like everyone else, much like Daisuke works as a regular detective. Demonic incidents aren’t as rare as people would like to believe, but they usually stay out of our areas.”

Daisuke? Right, Detective Daisuke Sakamoto. So, those two knew each other really well then.

“I’ll head out then, let his parents know I’ve got him in good hands.”

“Thanks,” Naoki said. “I don’t want my mom freaking out on me again.”

The detective turned to Raidou. “You think you can stay and keep an eye on things here?”

No response.

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Doctor Yukimura replied. “If it all comes down to the wire we’ve got a potential attack on a Japanese civilian from a major angel and the demifiend here. He can excuse his way out of about anything for this job.”

“I suppose so. What should I report?”

“Nothing,” Raidou responded, still reading. “Report nothing yet.”

The detective and doctor exchanged glances.

“Raidou…”

“Understand the demifiend’s situation, Daisuke. Better to hold off the report until he knows what he’s gotten into.”

“Not thinking the boss will like this, huh?” Doctor Yukimura responded.

Detective Sakamoto looked at Naoki, who watched the conversation carefully. “You really think it could be so bad we just shouldn’t say anything?”

“My grandfather was initially sent to kill him. As things stand I see no reason why their opinion would have changed.”

“Kill me?”

“Not my intention.”

“He thinks angels are jerks,” Doctor Yukimura explained.

“He’s right.”

“Well,” Detective Sakamoto said with an exasperated sigh and a sharp clap, “I can see you’ll get along at least. Call me when I can say something more to his parents and keep me informed, alright?”

Raidou lifted a hand from his book to wave the man away. The detective chuckled before leaving.

It took almost an entire five minutes for the quiet to end, discounting the sound of irritated pixie wings.

“You and the detective know each other well?” Naoki asked as he stood up to hand Doctor Yukimura the forms.

He glanced over them. “Healthy family.”

“Yeah. Mom makes us eat properly and neither my brother nor I are very sedentary.”

“Good. Whatever we do it will be easier if your brother is already healthy. I’ll hand these to a nurse when we get the chance, so we can pull up your full family records.”

“Yeah. Thanks.” Naoki felt very deflected.

“You’ll have to excuse Raidou.”

“Huh?”

“He’s pretty much always like this, though usually without the excuse of a book.”

“What’s he reading anyway?”

“A diary.”

“Whose?”

Doctor Yukimura looked over to Raidou. “You’re the one who seems to want to keep him as our responsibility.”

“Not yet.”

The doctor let out a sight, even as he smiled. “Like I said, always like this. Always has been too, so don’t worry it’s just you. As for your brother, he’s in pretty good health if you disregard the obvious signs of torture and the wings. Good blood pressure. Reasonable pulse. Normal breathing.”

“That’s good.”

“Do you mind if I check you?”

“Why?”

“Frankly because I’ve never seen anything quite like you.”

“Drop it, Vincent.”

“He speaks,” Naoki exclaimed.

“I can’t drop it, Raidou. We have a patient here who needs help.”

“Only what you need to do.”

“I am a professional.”

“And an obsessive.”

“Ignore him.”

“Okay?”

“Hold out your arm.”

Naoki complied. “You two seem like friends.”

Doctor Yukimura pulled up Naoki’s sleeve to place the blood pressure band around his arm.

“Am I wrong?”

The doctor pressed a button and it began to exert pressure. “Not really. But we do have our disagreements.”

“Am I one of them?”

“You aren’t, at least not inherently. My family just has a bit of a history with going overboard when it comes to the relationships between demons and humans. That’s all. But yeah, we’ve known each other a long time.”

“He’s not the Raidou I met.”

“Entirely possible. He is the fifteenth one after all.”

“I wonder which one I met then?”

The pressure released from Naoki’s arm. “Looking good. Really good. I’m sure he knows who it was, so you’ll just have to trust him to tell you when he’s ready.”

“Hmm.” Naoki rolled down his sleeve.

“Now, how did your transformation occur?”

“Magatama,” Naoki replied, “but that’s not what they used on my brother.”

“Magatama?” Raidou whispered.

Naoki and Doctor Yukimura both turned to Raidou. He gently closed the book and stood.

“Yeah, strange blonde kid gave me one through the eye. Hurt, but now I can just swallow them and they find their way.”

“You have multiple?”

“Yeah, but they seem to get sick outside, so I’ve got them all in my body.”

“Demonic power through parasites,” Doctor Yukimura mused.

“Vincent,” Raidou snapped.

“Have you ever heard of anything like this?” the doctor countered.

Raidou sighed. “A blonde child?”

“Yeah.”

“Do you know who?”

Naoki shrugged. “No idea.”

“I see.” Raidou sat back down. “Random blondes handing out information and power.”

“Isn’t the usually bad?” Doctor Yukimura asked. “Excuse me, Dante was it, would you like a quick check-up too?”

“I’m good.”

Raidou turned to Dante. “Where are you from?”

“Why you ask?”

“You’re speaking the language of the demons.”

“Huh? He’s just speaking Japanese.”

“You’re good,” Dante responded to Raidou.

“I know it linguistically. I can tell. You’re an instinctual speaker.”

“What’s he talking about, Dante?”

“So’s the kid.”

“I noticed, but he’s the demifiend. Who are you?”

“The one and only Dante.”

“What are you talking about?” Naoki asked.

“American then,” Raidou surmised,

“Much as anywhere.”

“You don’t speak Japanese.”

“Not much,” Dante admitted.

For a moment Dante and Raidou just glared at each other.

“Seriously, guys, what’s going on?” Naoki demanded.

Pixie came up to him. “Only demons speak our tongue instinctually, but everyone understands it. That’s why we can always communicate. Well, at least everyone can understand it. Sometimes it’s talking back that’s hard for humans, or their minds are trying to block us out.”

“You’re a demon,” Raidou stated to Dante.

“Nope.”

“Then what?”

“Dante.” He came up to Raidou, standing about a head taller than the already fairly tall Japanese man. “And I’m a devil hunter.”

Raidou didn’t back down physically at all. “I’ll accept your explanation, for now.”

“Good.” Dante happily backed off. “That’s good. Just here to help the kid out.”

“Thanks, Dante.”

“No problem. Now, where can we get some grub?”

“I’m going to need to run some x-rays and the like,” Vincent said, “so maybe it would be best if all of you went out to dinner.”

“Sounds good. I could really go for some sushi.”

Naoki chuckled.

Raidou turned to him. “What about you?”

“I don’t care, but I think Dante’s been itching for sushi since he got here.”

“There’s a pretty cheap place two blocks away. Conveyer belt, but you can order take-out there too,” Vincent responded.

“You want sushi?”

“I’ll take anything that’s not hospital food, but something I don’t need to worry about eating hot is best. You might as well go out somewhere though, since this is going to take a while. He’s here in secret, so I can’t really push too many buttons with this.”

“Is it a problem?” Naoki asked.

“Not really, so don’t worry about it. Honestly, I handle this sort of mess all the time.”

Raidou sighed. “Alright then. Your demons should come as well.”

“Like we’re missing out on sushi,” Pixie exclaimed.

“You know we shouldn’t eat human food,” Leanan Sidhe berated.

Raidou shook his head. “Are you coming or not?”

“Well, I’m coming. Dante? Pixie?”

“Sounds good to me. You do your thing, doctor.”

Vincent nodded.

 


 

 

Raidou sat between Naoki and Dante at the sushi bar, watching the little plates of food go by. Not the best place for conversations, but Dante seemed pleased at the sight of all the fish, even if he couldn’t seem to identify any of them.

Naoki grabbed some tuna. Dante grabbed the same.

“Going to just copy off of me?”

“Gotta start somewhere.”

Raidou sighed, pulling a slimy bundle of natto and okra off the belt.

“Seriously?”

“What is that stuff?”

“Healthy and cheap,” Raidou responded.

“Yeah, but really? You eat okra?”

“Okra, I know. What’s the other slime ball?”

Naoki looked sharply at Dante, surprised. “Natto. It’s fermented soy beans.”

“Why does something fermented look so disgusting?”

“It’s not bad,” Raidou commented right before plopping one of the rolls in his mouth.

“It’s better than it smells,” Naoki added. “I like it best with mustard. Actually, I only like it with mustard. Man, can’t remember the last time I had that stuff.”

Raidou ate the second roll.

“Just gulp it down, huh?”

“That’s how you’re supposed to eat rolls, Dante. That way you get all the tastes.”

“Gotcha.”

For a while they had a fairly standard meal. Dante occasionally asked what something was, but otherwise the happy sound of munching prevailed. Conversation started up again when things slowed down.

“So, you’re the fifteenth Raidou?”

“Correct.”

“One at a time?”

“Also correct.”

“The guy I met seemed a little out of place, I guess, but I still don’t get how I met a previous Raidou.”

“It’s not impossible you met a future Raidou.”

“Then you probably wouldn’t know who,” Dante countered.

Raidou smiled slightly.

“Does it have to do with the diary you were reading?”

Raidou nodded.

“Hmmm, do all Raidous keep a record?”

“No. The diary was his choice. There are reports, but mostly just stories passed down through oral tradition and rumor.”

“Huh. Well, you definitely knew about me.”

“I investigated the cathedral. You two really stirred the hornet’s nest.”

“They had my brother,” Naoki retorted.

“I’m not saying you were wrong, just what you did.”

“Did you know about the blasted angels?” Dante asked.

“Demons prefer to live where they are believed. Angels commonly reside in Christian locales. St. Mary’s Cathedral has operated as a base for some time.”

“My brother’s not the only one.”

“As has been hinted, but without evidence there’s not much we can do.”

“Evidence?”

“Correct. It’s one thing if it’s a rogue group, but any group under Metatron is far from rogue. The consequences could easily become catastrophic. My job as Raidou is to avoid such a situation.”

“And let them get away with shit?”

“No, but they must be proven the first aggressor.”

“Don’t want it to be your fault,” Dante reasoned.

“Angels are aggravatingly chivalrous. If they acted out of turn they will generally back down. This is our jurisdiction and they should come to us first.”

“Who knew demons had rules,” Dante pondered.

“Didn’t think they had regions at least,” Naoki admitted.

“Demons are tied by ancient oaths and rules, and are rarely consciously aware of them.”

Naoki glanced outside the window to the sulking faeries. Raidou had refused to let them enter the building, sayings its impact on humans would be negative.

“They can enter where they like, but in a tight space remain conspicuous. It’s easy to panic when you know there’s something you can’t see.”

“I guess.” Naoki looked back at Raidou. “Is knowing all of this part of your job?”

“Yes.”

“Not just about killing them anymore, is it?”

“Why would I?” Raidou responded, turning to Dante.

“They’re demons.”

“You put up with the pixie.”

“She doesn’t much act like a demon.”

“Exactly. Why assume she is unique?”

Dante just stared at him for a moment.

“Calm down, Dante. You and I don’t agree on this either.”

He grabbed another plate of fish.

Raidou turned to Naoki. “Is he always like this?”

“No. Well, we’ve only recently met up outside…”

“I see. You see different things when you change spaces.”

“Something like that. Glad you agree with me about demons though. Besides, saw enough problems causes by humans not to think they’re worse.”

“What caused it?”

“Caused what?”

“The Conception.”

“I don’t know the details, but there was a man who caused it. He wanted to make the world anew.”

Raidou leaned back.

“He was pretty scary. Just wanted a world of silence. The ultimate peace, boredom, except you’re too lifeless to even care.”

“Did you want a world?”

“Not when I started. Even when I ended, I thought maybe if I can just go back and take what I learned. Everyone just freaked out.”

“I read the report that got Daisuke involved with your case.”

“Heh. Yeah, that was…not good.”

“Hey, do they have strawberry sundaes here?” Dante suddenly asked.

“What?” Naoki and Dante replied in unison.

“Strawberry sundaes, or is that not a thing in Japan?”

“We have parfaits,” Naoki replied.

Raidou just shook his head at the sharp change in conversation.

“With strawberry sauce?”

“Strawberries even.”

“Great. Where can we get one?”

“Are you done eating?” Raidou asked.

“Until the sundaes come out.”

Raidou waved over a waiter. “Then you’re done. We need the tuna bento to go.”

“Yes, sir.”

“There might be something in the convenience store.”

“I’d be up for that.”

“Seriously?”

“You could get Doctor Yukimura some coffee or something.”

“He doesn’t need more caffeine.”

Naoki shrugged. “Come on. It’s a true Japanese experience.”

“As long as they’re good.”

“Depends what they have.”

Raidou groaned. The waiter brought over the check. “Your bento will be ready very shortly.”

“Thanks. I’ll go up front and pay now.”

“Yes, sir.” The woman began clearing away the plates.

“Come on, you two. They’ll have it up front by the time we’ve finished paying.”

“Sorry, you have to treat us.”

Raidou sighed. “It’s alright. Not optimal, but alright.”

Naoki grimaced. Dante grinned. “You really are something, you know that?”

Raidou just went up and paid. “No sundaes for you.”