Author: Yukimi the Ice Goddess PM
The war between angels and demons has been going on for millenea, with no signs of stopping, but one weapon may be able to turn the tide. The job of retrieving it belongs to Angel Trainee Sakura, who must travel to the ultimate battlefield: EarthRated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy/Romance - Chapters: 3 - Words: 11,389 - Reviews: 4 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 4 - Updated: 01-27-08 - Published: 09-13-07 - id: 3782382
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
As she gazed longingly into the sky, searching in vain for the signal indicating the shift change she was hoping for, Chiharu heaved a sigh into the starry night. The stars, shining spires of light in the near distance, were reflected in her lucid brown eyes. Fingering the official-looking golden badge on her chest, she marveled as she did time and time again at how mortals must live down beneath the clouds. "I wonder," she muttered in her own contemplative way, "if they can see this beauty from down on Earth." Her eyes drifted over to the side, where the clouds fell away, almost like stairs, to reveal the green and blue expanse below.
Like most angels, Chiharu delighted in looking over The Edge. When the sun was at its brightest, the clouds became thin and filmy and anybody could glance at the world down below. The dizzying drop towards Earth, known as Lucifer's Fall, always made Chiharu's fledgling wings tremble with frightened excitement. Before an angel was certified, there was no way a curious soul could purposely travel from the heavens down onto the mortal realm. One needed a set of fully-grown wings to traverse the gap safely, something that a trainee like Chiharu lacked.
Chiharu sighed gloomily, glancing at the feathery stubs on her back. It would be at least another year before she would earn her wings and be able to attain Guardian status. After all, she had no special abilities, not like her friend Tomoyo who managed to pass the test early due to her skill as a healer. She would have to pass her certification test the regular way; with patience and hard work.
Realizing that her concentration was fading, Chiharu snapped to attention and focused on her set task. She had worked too hard to get her position as a guard to have it taken away from her because she had been dreaming! Only seconds later the ominous sound of footfalls greeted her highly tuned ears. Stiffening involuntarily, she gripped her guard's staff tightly and tried to look official.
As the figure turned the corner, Chiharu breathed a sigh of relief. "Yamazaki," she said gratefully to her fellow trainee, a young boy with short dark hair and a cheerful expression. "I'm so glad it's you. I thought it might have been General Toya."
Yamazaki flashed his brilliant white teeth at the young girl. "Don't worry, the general's gone home. As scary as it is to believe, it's only us and a couple of sergeants who are keeping this place safe."
"Are you serious? Isn't the general worried about security?"
"Nah," Yamazaki assured the girl, who now had a look of deep concern upon her face. "Apparently it's a holiday in the underworld, or as much of a holiday as you can make out of ushering the souls of the wicked into Hell. They wouldn't dare break away from the 'festivities'." He gently sat down next to Chiharu and quickly handed her a small bag that had been tucked away in the folds of his coat. "Here," he whispered. "I sneaked out a bean bun for you."
Chiharu quietly accepted the package, curtly nodding her thanks. "You might get in trouble for stealing food," she reminded him.
"Relax, nobody saw me," Yamazaki chuckled. "I won't get any demerits. Besides, you look like you need the nourishment." At that precise moment, Chiharu's stomach let out a pained gurgle and she flushed red with embarrassment.
"Thank you, Yamazaki…"
"And didn't I ask you to stop calling me by my earthly name?" the boy continued, shoving past Chiharu's visible discomfort. "You break that rule every day: 'All angels are required to address each other as absolute equals.' Do you hate me or something?" he joked.
"No!" Chiharu nearly shouted. She quickly checked herself and continued speaking, oblivious to Yamazaki's surprised expression. "I don't call you 'Takashi' because…I mean…it sounds so ordinary! And…" She suddenly turned away, glad that it was only the two of them together. "Maybe…I think we need to be a little more…formal?"
"Hmph. I suppose," Yamazaki said with dissatisfaction. He turned his attention towards the shack they were safeguarding, eager to change the subject. "What do you suppose is in here, anyways? Grand Cardinal Yukito never said anything to you about it, did he?"
"Grand Cardinal Yukito didn't appoint me," Chiharu corrected him, glad that the topic was done and over with. It was an old argument between the two which was never quite resolved. "General Toya did. And all he said was 'make sure nobody gets in here.' He never explained just what I was supposed to be guarding." Doubt began to hover in her eyes. "Not even Sakura knows, even though she's the General's sister. It must be really important."
"Something the Cardinal doesn't want the demons to get their hands on," Yamazaki mused. "Maybe it's a weapon?"
Yamazaki suddenly growled angrily, a very uncharacteristic move on his part. "This is just another example of the High Council's hypocrisy! They encourage all the principles of love and honor and trust, and then they don't let the ordinary angels in on anything they're doing! That really makes me irritated!"
"Don't get angry at the High Council," Chiharu said in an attempt to pacify her friend. "They're just doing what they need to do. We are at war, after all."
"Yeah, you're right," the other grudgingly admitted. "You never know who could be a spy. It's just…" He struggled for a moment to find the right words. "At times like this…it's really hard to live by the Divine Principle, you know?"
"Love thou anyone and everyone, even thy enemy, equally, and without reservations or preferences," Chiharu quoted dully. "That is an angel's duty. It's a great honor to uphold."
Yamazaki paused for so long that Chiharu wondered if he had fallen asleep. "But…?" she prodded gently, sensing his hesitation. He had a very odd look on his face, somewhere between confusion and embarrassment. The Yamazaki she knew was always smiling and joking. Was he worried about something? Chiharu had no way of knowing.
Finally, Yamazaki sighed and slowly turned to look into Chiharu's anxious eyes. He shyly placed his hand over Chiharu's own dainty one. As Chiharu's cheeks flushed without her knowing exactly why, Yamazaki spoke in a low and secretive tone. "Sometimes I wonder…why is it that only the demons get to be passionate about something? I think about it and…" He grinned awkwardly. "…I get a little jealous. That's…pretty stupid, right?"
Chiharu's heart pounded inside her chest like a drum. She struggled to reply, only to find that her voice had disappeared. In all of her training as an angel, she was never prepared for anything like this! Nervousness seeped through her, perhaps drawn from the excited tension and the air, and a smile crept hesitantly across her features.
"No," she finally managed to say, still puzzled as to why she was suddenly so happy. "I…don't know exactly what you mean, but…I don't think it sounds stupid at all."
Yamazaki's face lit up like that of a delighted child, and Chiharu was sure his features now mirrored her own. She shuddered as his fingers tightened around her hand, and his face fell a little. "See…this is what I mean," he said, attempting a halfhearted grin. "They tell us from the moment that we're born that it's wrong to touch, to feel alive like this. They tell us to love, that love is what our souls are made of, but then…"
His hand grew limp and fell away. Chiharu marveled how cold her hand felt without Yamazaki's own covering it. Unsure of what else to do, she grabbed his hand back and forced Yamazaki to face her completely. "It can't be wrong," she said vehemently, surprising even herself. "I…" She began to blush furiously again, something that made Yamazaki smile softly, tenderly. "I want to know what you mean."
Suddenly, Yamazaki's face grew hard. Cold and sharp, his eyes left Chiharu's and darted around. He released Chiharu's hands and stood up, becoming increasingly alert and frantic.
"Yamazaki?" Chiharu said anxiously, gradually developing a sense of another presence close by. A sinister chuckle sounded from above them, like the toll of a death knell. The angels' nervousness was quickly replaced by chilling fear as two strange figures leapt from the top of the shack down to the thick clouds in front of them.
Chiharu had only read about demons before, about how their eyes burned bright red in the dark and about their black, flightless wings, which were punishment from the Original Lord for their act of mutiny. The first demon standing before them was a lean and sinuous woman, with hair colored a dazzling pink shade and long butterfly eyelashes. Her companion, a large, black, panther-like animal, growled menacingly and stalked the quivering pair with his malicious eyes.
"Well, well, what have we here?" giggled the girl demon. "A pair of widdle baby angels!" Smiling knowingly, she stepped closer to Yamazaki, who had flung his hand out protectively, covering a frightened Chiharu. "You two are a cute couple," she said sarcastically. "Isn't that kind of thing frowned upon up here?"
"We didn't do anything!" Chiharu protested, a cold sense of reality running through her veins. They were under attack. This woman must have been trying to get whatever was in the run-down building behind them!
"Don't give them anything, Chiharu," Yamazaki whispered harshly, grasping the girl's hand tightly in reassurance. "They might use it against us later." Louder, he shouted at the demon, "At least the High Council of Heaven doesn't tolerate whores like you, demon!"
The demon glanced down at her healthy figure, which was covered sparsely with skin-tight material. "There now, you've hurt my feelings," she pouted flirtatiously. "Do you know how long it took me to become a Succubus? I didn't rise to that rank just because of my gorgeous body, you know!"
"Nakuru," the demon panther hissed, "This is not the time to be showing off! We need to get what we came for, eliminate these…insects…and leave!"
Nakuru shot a hate filled glance at her accomplice. "You're no fun at all, Suppi." Tossing her hair back, she reached into her bosom and pulled out a whip, which was covered from handle to tip in inch-thick thorns. "I only bring this out for special occasions," she said, in a voice nearing a whisper, but for all her sense of play, Chiharu could still see malice in her eyes. As the girl demon cracked her whip ferociously, Chiharu panicked and screamed, completely forgetting her combat training. As the poisoned tip flew towards her, Yamazaki jumped in front of the quivering girl, holding out his training rapier. The whip coiled around his sword, nearly pulling it out of his hand.
"My, my," said Nakuru appreciatively, "So at least one of you has some skill."
"Chiharu, your staff!" Yamazaki shouted. Finally snapping out of her shock, Chiharu unsheathed the short spear she kept on her back. She quickly stepped into ready stance, preparing to spear the demon, but she was shunted to the ground by the giant panther. She gasped for air as the beast growled into her face, his great paws pressing down on her chest.
"Now, Suppi!" Nakuru called, easily subduing an angry and hurt Yamazaki, and at her command the panther turned his head towards the building nearby. Opening his great maw, a deep moaning growl developed in his chest, and before Chiharu could scream or struggle, a stream of fire poured out of the panther's gaping mouth. All Chiharu could feel were the flames crackling above her face. The air suddenly became thick with the scent of burning wood.
"You angels really are a soft bunch," Nakuru shouted over the roaring fire. "Imagine keeping something like the Demon's Bane in a wooden house!" With that, she broke free of the death grip she held with Yamazaki and made a dash towards the inferno as the helpless boy hit the ground.
Yamazaki tried to stand, but sickly realized that the woman's whip bound his ankles together. "How…how did you…?" he stammered weakly.
"Don't underestimate me," the demon sang, and shrieking with delight thrust her hands into the flame. Chiharu looked on in horror as her arms seemed to grow longer and twined through the burning wreckage. Worse than that, however, was the look on the demon's face, clearly one of pain, but pain that she seemed to embrace with her entire body.
"They're mad," Chiharu whispered, and the panther pressed down on her harder.
"Don't take all day," the panther growled to his partner. "The prince needs that thing now!"
"I've got it!" the demon cried triumphantly, and turned from the fire with her prize in her miraculously unscathed arms.
It was a perfect sphere, lacking markings of any kind, nothing that seemed special at first glance; but there was something about it that made Chiharu's eyes hurt. Suddenly she realized, she could not tell what color it was. When it was first revealed to her, it seemed pure white, but now it seemed black…or blood red. Its hue was constantly morphing, and the demons seemed confused by it as well.
"What the hell is this?" Nakuru spat, her features distorting to make her seem ugly.
"It's reacting to your demon blood," Suppi said calmly. "Now let's get out of here before—"
A golden blur suddenly bounded into Nakuru, jolting her into letting go into the precious orb. It hit the ground with a thwack and rolled over into Yamazaki's ready hands.
"Don't let go of that, Takashi!" the shape shouted, and Chiharu immediately recognized the welcome form of Cerberus. The golden lion spread his majestic white wings threateningly at the demons, growling low and dangerously in his throat.
"Lord Cerberus, I—"
"Never mind right now, Chiharu! Don't let them get their hands on the Demon's Bane!" He stood strong as a tree trunk in front of them, their celestial guard, and Chiharu could see Nakuru's face grow even more twisted. Then, suddenly, the wrath left her features, and she chuckled softly.
"I was wondering when you'd show up, Cerberus," Nakuru coyly remarked. "I suppose it would have been too easy to just walk in here without meeting you. After all," she smirked, "You are the 'guardian beast'."
"Don't mock me!" Cerberus growled. "You two have ten seconds to vanish before I destroy you!"
"I'd like to see you try it," the panther purred. "In case you haven't noticed, Cerberus, there are two of us, and only one of you. Unless you count those two brats behind you," he added with disdain.
Chiharu was more frightened than she had ever been in her life. The only thing that was keeping her from falling to the ground in tears was Yamazaki's reassuring grip on her hand.
It was impossible, she reflected softly, not to feel safe when Takashi was around.
"Yama…Takashi," Chiharu whispered softly.
Yamazaki felt his heart skip a beat. It was the first time she had ever called him by his name. "Yeah?"
"I want you to run," Chiharu muttered urgently. She could feel Yamazaki stiffen next to her, but didn't dare look at him lest the demons notice their conversation. "Those demons aren't going to leave. You have to take that…weapon…you're holding, and go find Grand Cardinal Yukito. That's the only way we'll make it out of this in one piece."
"Are you crazy? I'm not leaving you here alone!" Yamazaki shot back, his face now taut and pale. The glowing orb in his hands was now changing from its brilliant gold to pure white, but nobody was paying any attention.
"You have to!" Chiharu pleaded. "I'll be fine; Lord Cerberus will protect me. But if they get whatever it is they want, something terrible will happen, I know it! You have to run. Please don't argue with me."
Yamazaki hesitated for a moment more, and then gave Chiharu's hand one more tight squeeze. "I love you," he whispered into her ear, and then ran off, clutching the coveted sphere to his chest.
Chiharu sank to the ground, tears springing into her eyes. It wasn't unusual for Yamazaki to say that to her. All angels used the phrase when they parted; it was part of the Code. But somehow, it meant so much more hearing it from Yamazaki, at that moment…
White fire met orange as Cerberus and the panther sparred, Nakuru looking happily on. The two blazes only met for a moment, melded into a towering inferno, and then disappeared. The two cats were evenly matched.
Nakuru laughed wildly as the brawl continued. "That's it! Fight! The more violence you cause, the stronger we grow!" Suddenly, her face grew serious and she glanced away from the battle. "You! Stop right now!" she screamed, and lashed out her whip to catch Yamazaki by the leg. Chiharu screamed as Yamazaki was pulled to the ground, the golden orb flying from his arms and into the air.
All action stopped as the round object flew through the starry night and across the clouds. Five sets of eyes watched it soar higher and higher, and then finally begin to fall through the open hole in the cloudy land, Lucifer's Fall.
There was silence, then a horrendous scream. Nakuru dashed towards the site in a panic, only stopping when her companion flew in front of her to block her path.
"Suppi, get out of my way! Do you realize what's happened?" she demanded, eyes full of rage and despair. "It's fallen to earth! We have to recover it before—"
"Are you mad?" the panther spat disdainfully. "Do you have any idea what the prince will do to us if we go down to earth without permission? If we cannot get to it, the angels certainly cannot. Now," he said slowly, turning to face the stunned Cerberus. "We shall see who wins this war in the end. But for now, we retreat!"
And the demons disappeared as quickly as they came.
Cerberus heaved a sigh of relief. Even if the Demon's Bane was somewhere on Earth, it was still better than being in the hands of a demon. But now, he realized, it was truly a battle. The Demon Lord would already be working on obtaining the weapon before the angels could reclaim it.
He had to warn Grand Cardinal Yukito.
"Chiharu, Takashi, let's—"
The words died in Cerberus's mouth as he looked upon the scene before him. Chiharu sat on the ground clutching the wounded Yamazaki to her breast. The young boy-angel returned her embrace, his face the picture of despair. "I let go of it, Chiharu. I…I failed. I should have known that any job General Toya gave us had to be important, but I…"
"You did your best," Chiharu insisted. "And I…" Her eyes filled up once again with tears. "I'm so proud of you…Takashi…"
Chiharu and Yamazaki whipped their heads up at the sound of Cerberus's commanding voice. Realizing what he was doing, Yamazaki abruptly sat up and removed himself from Chiharu's tender hold. They both leapt to their feet and stood at attention, hoping against all hope that the guardian beast would not say anything more, that he would just walk away.
But it was too late. Chiharu could see the sadness in Cerberus's golden eyes. He had witnessed their moment of connection, and there now way to stop what would inevitably happen next.
Even knowing this as well as Chiharu did, Yamazaki tried. "Lord Cerberus, I can explain!" he cried. "We were—"
"Yamazaki," Cerberus interrupted, and even in her dread Chiharu could hear the sorrow in his voice. "You know the code as well as any angel here." With that, he turned around and beckoned the two trainee angels with his shaggy head. "Come with me. It is my duty to report this."
Yamazaki and Chiharu followed him, and as the stars looked on, took hold of each other's hands, grasping them with no intention of ever letting go.