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.”

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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.”

Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 21

Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 21

Moon Phase: Waning Below Half

Journey’s End

 

Naoki stayed with his brother throughout the bulk of the day, but he had to go home eventually. His ruse likely hadn’t even lasted this long. Unfortunately, the faerie glen had no cellphone reception for him to feed his mother excuses.

He also couldn’t figure out what to do with the damaged uniform, horn, and glowing marks. They’d stayed strong after the fight and he was getting concerned.

Leanan Sidhe came over to him. “Pixie has informed my lord and lady of your situation.”

Oh yeah, she had gone to talk to them. Couldn’t imagine her desiring an outcome that ended with this beautiful faerie speaking to him.

“It seems you cannot resume a more normal human form on your own.”

He shrugged. “I’ll figure it out.”

“Why struggle? To show what we are inside/never a lie. To embrace deceit/to never retreat.”

“What are you getting at?”

She chuckled, hovering just slightly off the ground. “I can allow you to change your form into that of other humans. Usually, I’d need something from them, but since I merely change you to you it will not be difficult.”

“Clothing too?”

“No problem.” She struck a pose then, hands on hips, hair swung around.

“Sidhe!”

“Oh my, seems we have a pixie in the vicinity.”

Sure enough, Pixie came charging up. “What are you up to?”

“Merely what was commanded of me.” She pouted her thin lips. “Do you not trust your elder fae?”

“Get away from him.”

“Pix, I need a disguise.”

Pixie hovered there a moment, wings fluttering furiously.

“You see, dear. I’m just trying to be helpful.”

“You are never just trying to be helpful.”

“Well,” Leanan Sidhe winked at him, “there are sometimes perks.”

“Not interested,” he quickly explained, “but the disguise would be appreciated.”

Pixie seemed to calm down. “Guess if I came with you it might be okay.”

Dante wandered over from a nap he’d been taking under the trees. “What’s with all this commotion? Lover’s spat?” He yawned.

“Leanan Sidhe says she can disguise me.”

“That’d be helpful.”

“Dante,” Pixie shrieked.

“What? It’s a good plan.”

“Thanks, Dante.” Naoki checked the time. “I should leave soon if I want to get home at a good time.”

“Very well.” Leanan Sidhe hugged close to him. “Just think about what you need to look like. Think of your hair, your uniform, your arms…everything. Now, close your eyes.”

Naoki heard Pixie groan, but went ahead and closed his eyes anyway.

“Open.”

He opened his eyes and looked at his arms. The uniform appeared completely intact now and no glow emanated from his hands.

“You look weird,” Pixie commented.

“Downright normal,” Dante added.

“Guess that’s good right now.” He looked up at Leanan Sidhe. “We ready?”

The faerie grinned and nodded. Pixie grumbled a bit, but nodded as well.

Naoki turned to Dante. “Protect my brother.”

“Will do. But I can only sit around so long, you know.”

“I understand. I’ll come back as soon as I can, hopefully with more information.”

“The other faeries are looking into it too,” Pixie reassured him.

“Thanks.”

“Are we ready?” Leanan Sidhe pressed.

Naoki nodded. Time to face his parents.

 


 

 

Naoki had walked through the door fully braced to see a scowling mother. He hadn’t expected her to be sitting across from Detective Sakamoto.

They both looked up at him when he came in.

“You weren’t at school.” His mother shook and he could see moisture around her eyes. Could it actually be for him?

“Sorry. Things came up.”

“You lied to me.”

“Yeah.”

She stood up then. Naoki honestly wasn’t sure if she was going to hit him in anger or hug in him relief. Weird to think she cared.

“Miss Kashima,” Detective Sakamoto said softly. “Please, if you would have a seat. You as well, Kashima-kun.”

Naoki sat down on the side of the table between them.

“Your mother was very worried when I told her you didn’t attend school yesterday. Apparently, you told her you’d be staying with a friend to study the night.”

“Correct.”

“And you lied?”

“Yes.”

“Why?” his mother breathed. “Why would you make things worse than they already are?”

“I didn’t want to worry you.”

“What did you expect? That no one would say anything? You get in trouble all the time and we let it slide, but your brother is missing and-“

“Miss Kashima,” Detective Sakamoto snapped, “if you would leave your son and I alone for a moment.” She stared at him. “You said you needed more milk, correct? Why don’t you go get it? My assistant will make sure you’re safe.”

She slowly nodded.

“Thank you.” The detective waited for her to leave before turning back to Naoki. “You had us worried.”

“Sorry.”

“Why did you lie to her?”

Naoki shrugged.

“Were you searching for your brother?” the detective inquired more quietly.

Naoki thought for a moment. A part of him knew he had to hide everything. That there was no way this man would believe him and it would only make things harder for both of them. The other part wanted desperately to tell him. To try and find some support from someone who seemed to have a decent grasp on the situation. Someone who could deal with his parents.

He answered slowly, watching the detective’s reactions as he spoke. “I found him.”

“What?” Sharp surprise, but nothing worse.

“I found him,” Naoki repeated, “and I got him out.”

“Why haven’t I heard about this?” The first hint of anger, mixed with confusion and some relief.

“He’s badly hurt,” Naoki explain.

“Then he needs a hospital.”

Naoki shook his head. “Not good.”

“Why not?” he demanded sharply. The detective stared at him a moment before letting out a deep breath. His body seemed to deflate a bit as he calmed himself down. “Kashima-kun, I need you to be upfront with me.”

Naoki glared at the man. “I could tell you everything and you wouldn’t believe a word.”

“I don’t just handle homicides and kidnapping, Kahsima-kun. I handle the cases that simply don’t make sense. I stumbled into your case because of you and your markings.”

Pixie whispered in his ear. “He’s baiting you. He can’t see Sidhe or I.”

“Obviously. Leanan Sidhe, drop the disguise.”

“You sure?”

Naoki nodded. No slow metamorphosis, just an illusion dropped. Naoki’s markings glowed furiously through his tattered uniform. His eyes shined yellow and his horn prominently stood out from his hair.

Detective Sakamoto’s eyes widened a moment, but then he leaned back, clearly contemplating something.

Not the reaction Naoki had been anticipating.

“Kashima-kun?”

“Yes?”

“Are you the demifiend?”

Naoki jumped. If there had been one question he hadn’t been expecting, it had been that. “I…How do you know?”

“Have your demons put the disguise back up. Your mother will be home soon.”

Leanan Sidhe complied before Naoki even said anything.

“Thank you for being honest with me.”

“But how? How do you…?”

The detective pulled out his wallet, flipping past his badge and to a separate sheet. He held it out for them to see.

A pentagram with a three legged crow in the middle, against the backdrop of a shining sun, like the old Japanese flags. Leanan Sidhe backed up, eyes widening, and pixie fluttered nervously.

“I’m with the Kuzunoha,” the detective explained. “While I don’t have the power to interact with demons myself I act as a liaison.”

“Kuzunoha? Like Raidou Kuzunoha?” Naoki asked hopefully.

“You know Raidou?”

Naoki nodded. “Yeah. He was trying to figure out my Reason. Left when he thought I was alright.”

“Strange. He never mentioned you. When was this?”

“No idea,” Naoki admitted. “Time passed oddly there. When I came back I was human again and right where I was before I got mixed up in it. I’d never seen him before.”

“You don’t want to get mixed up with Raidou,” Leanan Sidhe warned.

“Why not?” Pixie asked. “I get that he’s dangerous, but he’s a friend of ours. We need to get in contact if we’re already dealing with the Kuzunoha.”

“This one is no one’s friend.”

“Will you tell me what happened to your brother now?” Detective Sakamoto asked.

“Angels kidnapped him,” Naoki admitted.

“And brought him to St. Mary’s Cathedral,” Detective Sakamoto surmised.

“Yeah.” How did the detective know the location? “He’s badly hurt though. They did something to him.”

“Such as?”

“He’s growing wings.”

“Where is he now?”

“Don’t tell him our location.” Leanan Sidhe warned.

“He’s with a friend of mine. We’re worried they’ll come after him again.”

“Understood. Do you think you could get him to Shinjuku’s central hospital?”

“It’s straight on the trains, so it might be doable.”

“I know a doctor there who specializes in demonic possessions and parasites. I’m sure he could help both of you.”

“I don’t need help.”

“You need control,” the detective countered.

“He’s good,” Pixie whispered.

“I can take you straight to the hospital. Your friend could meet us there or we could pick him up from Shinjuku station.”

“Too big. He needs to come in on a smaller station.”

“I can borrow a car so we could simply go and pick him up.”

Naoki turned to Pixie and Leanan Sidhe. “What do you think? Could we just ask them to stay somewhere more accessible for a bit?”

“I could relay the message once we have somewhere to meet.”

“How far are we from the shrine visitor center?”

“However far we want to be,” Leanan Sidhe grumbled.

Naoki turned to Detective Sakamoto. “How about the visitor center for Meiji Shrine? Even my friend can find that.”

“Very well.”

“I’ll go get them,” Pixie announced. She quickly fluttered away.

“I’m glad we’ve reached this understanding,” Detective Sakamoto said. “I’ll call Doctor Yukimura.”

“Thanks.”

“It’s my job to help people, no matter how strange their situation.”

“I’m still grateful.”

Detective Sakamoto smiled kindly.

Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 20

Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 20

Fall to Rebirth

Whisper

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The priest immediately backed down.

“Anything?”

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

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

“By whom?”

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

“Angels,” the priest mouthed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Save the theatrics.”

“He threw people with one hand.”

“Description.”

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

“With an internal light?” Detective Sakamoto inquired.

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

“You saw the angels?”

“Oh yes, they were beautiful.”

“Blonde ladies in bondage outfits?”

“What?”

“Description,” the man added testily.

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

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

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

“As for the supposed demon…”

“Radou.”

“Hmmm?”

“I might have a lead on that.”

“The kidnapping?”

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

Raidou nodded slowly.

“What’s wrong?”

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

“Strange demon?”

“Possibly unique. Avoid conflict at all costs.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Obviously.”

“Does she have to hear everything?”

“Yes.”

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

“She heard that.”

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

Raidou nodded.

“Careful out there.”

“You too.”

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

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

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

“About time,” the demon snarled.

Raidou motioned to the roof. “Investigate.”

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

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

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

“Throne. Thank you for answering.”

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

Raidou waited patiently.

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

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

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

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

Throne spun angrily. “We are restricted.”

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

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

“Hunt him down.”

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

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

“You should mend the mistakes of your predecessor.”

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

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

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

“You will defeat the fiend.”

Raidou bowed. “I will remove the threat.”

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

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

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

Raiju came down.

“Well?”

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

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

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

“Huh? Hardly. Don’t pray.”

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

“No. I ask.”

“Prayer is…”

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

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

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

Raidou took a deep breath. “Demifiend.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And Daisuke went to talk to him?”

“Yeah.”

“Call him. Now. Tell him to stop.”

“You sure?”

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

Raidou pulled out his phone with a sigh.

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

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

“Sorry, just got off the train.”

“Daisuke.”

“What is it?”

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

“Protect him,” the cat urged.

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

“Demifiend?” Daisuke whispered.

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

“Understood. I’ll be careful.”

Raidou hung up then.

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

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

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

“And for good reason,” the cat warned.

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

Previous

Next

Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 19

Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 19

4/14/2015

The Mystic’s Dream

 

“Welcome to the velvet room.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He will defend his friends.”

“And his family,” Igor stated.

“Family?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What does that mean?”

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

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

“What happens if this seal remains broken?”

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

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

“Margaret, if you would leave us.”

“Master?”

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

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

“You know I can’t do that.”

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

Souji nodded.

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

“What does it mean?”

Igor nodded.

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

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

“Doesn’t sound so different from shadows.”

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

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

Do you understand now why Butterfly is so dangerous?”

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

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

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

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

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

“But he can’t lose Thanatos.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Good morning.”

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

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

“That got you going.”

“You could have woken me.”

“I tried, but I could not reach you.”

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

“Igor called me to the velvet room.”

“Long conversation.”

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

“Like what?”

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

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

 


 

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

“I promise to answer honestly,” Butterfly began.

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

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

“Addressing Thanatos, why do you need Arisato?”

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

“Addressing Arisato, why do you need Thanatos?”

“To live.”

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

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

“If Nyx awakens-“

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

“What do you mean by whole?”

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

“Gods are unique?”

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

“I’ve never seen one.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Guess I’d be mad too.”

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

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

“Sorry.”

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

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

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

“Thanks.”

Previous

Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 18

Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 18

Moon Phase: Waning Half Moon

Beauty is Within Us

 

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

Dante and Pixie were waiting for him at the entrance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Except for all those times when you die.”

Pixie laughed. Daisoujou stared at the cathedral.

“Ready to go beat up some angels?”

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

“Let’s do this.”

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

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

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

No response.

“Pixie?”

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

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

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

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

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

The officer began her charge once more.

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

He had no problem walking into this.

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

 


 

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

“Gathering.”

“Probably,” Dante replied.

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

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

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

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

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

“Dancin’ with the stairs.”

“What?”

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

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

“Since when?”

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

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

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

“Now that’s a challenge.”

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

“Understood, Ashura.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Dante, clear our back.”

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

“Pixie, keep Dante clear.”

“On it,” she cried gleefully.

“Ready for a heal, Daisoujou?”

It cackled once more.

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

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

A gunshot later and no more principalities.

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

“Daisoujou!”

Gleeful, the monk cried out.

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

Daisoujou began to recite a prayer of healing.

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

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

“Watch it,” she shouted from the fog.

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

“Deal with Virtue,” Naoki commanded.

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

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

“Dante?”

Resuming gunfire answered his question. They were all okay.

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

Just a few more to go.

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

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

He braced.

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

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

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

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

“Mamudoon,” Naoki commanded.

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

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

“Pixie, deal with them.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

He growled at the Dominions just a bit away.

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

Yeah, that answered that.

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

Maybe he could nickname her Ivory?

The Dominions retreated further.

“Regroup on the platform,” Naoki ordered.

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

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

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

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

The one closes to Metatron, naturally.

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

“Let go of my brother and I leave.”

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

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

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

“Or that idiot with the sword.”

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

“Either.”

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

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

“Get your brother and run?”

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

“It’s showtime!” Dante shouted.

“Showtime!” Naoki and Pixie shouted in response.

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

“Destroy the fiend!” Metatron called.

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

“Ashura!”

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

He did, unfortunately, fall on his butt.

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

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

Two arms appeared from the many wings.

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

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

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

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

Trumpeter angled for Metatron and the cage he guarded.

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

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

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

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

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

They’d pay for this.

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

The roar of a trumpet.

At least this wouldn’t inherently kill him.

Another blast of lightning from the unknown angel.

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

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

With new resolve, Naoki gripped the bars.

“Grab and go,” he shouted.

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

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

Trumpeter sounded his horn.

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

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

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

He began to fall.

“Push Yukio towards me.”

Pixie began to move the larger human towards Naoki.

A bolt of lightning followed Dante down.

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

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

Naoki reached in and grabbed his brother under his shoulders.

“Fall.”

Dante?

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

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

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

“Hang on, kid.”

Naoki clung to his brother.

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

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

“Open the ceiling,” Dante commanded.

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

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

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

Naoki felt Trumpeter die and quietly returned him.

“Brace!”

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

Pixie immediately followed up with some healing.

“They following?”

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

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

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

“He didn’t either.”

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

Naoki cast Dante and incredulous glare.

“Right, wings. He’s got wings.”

“He needs help.”

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

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

“He’s my little brother.”

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

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

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

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

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

“How do we even get there?”

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

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

“You sure?”

“Don’t make this harder.”

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

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

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

“Close enough,” Dante quipped.

“Well, I think your markings are handsome.”

“Thanks, Pix.”

She grinned.

“Off to your people then.”

“No teleporting tricks this time.”

“No promises,” Pixie teased.

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

“Impressive party.”

“Yeah.”

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

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

“How does she do that?”

“Pixie power.”

“Almost makes me want some.”

“You’re actually tired?”

“Only a little.”

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

Dante sighed, but didn’t argue the point.

 


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Can we keep them?” Titania blurted.

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

“I’d be very grateful,” Naoki added.

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

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

“That one’s dangerous,” Dante remarked.

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

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

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

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

“I can see to it.”

“Great. Then you should leave.”

“A little concerned, pixie?”

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

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

“I’m seductive.”

“No, you’re beautiful.”

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

“Ready for some filling berries?”

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

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

“Do you like strawberries?”

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

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

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

“I didn’t realize…”

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

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

“Ashura? What’s wrong?”

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

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

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

“Were you ever in high school, Dante?”

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

“Is that really so young?”

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

“I see. Are you not an adult then?”

“Not technically.”

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

“Maybe, but it’s over now.”

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

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

“Like you?”

Dante raised his glass. “Like me.”

Naoki returned the cheer.

“Hey, looks like we got the water.”

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

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

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

“Gross.”

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

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

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

Naoki stood as well.

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

They jumped into the pool with a giant cannonball.

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