Disclaimer: I do not own Blue Exorcist or its related characters. Such is the property of Kato Kazue, Shonnen Jump, and Funimation. I'm just borrowing them for some non-profit entertainment.
Shadow of Maybe
Chapter Nine: Evening
Since the Interview lots of things were debated. Either in private between individuals, or in public between professionals and experts. They debated the validity of the Vatican's claim that the Incident was caused by Satan (and by extension the implication that God and the Devil, and angels and demons were real, everything written in the Bible was true and that people should convert to one of the major Abramhamic faiths). They debated whether or no two children could defeat such an enemy. They debated what the blue phoenix really was. And they debated Rin's suggestion that demons and humans could get along and live together peacefully.
It was hard to turn on the TV without seeing someone talking about it.
Two sociologists, on channel 9, debated whether or not society was ready to live side-by-side with creatures that weren't even human when we still seemed unable to get along with each other. Channel 13 featured a special effects and pyrotechnics technician who explained how the blue-fire phoenix could have been made and executed to look real -especially on a non-professional grade camera like an iPad. Channel 128 aired an interview with Lorenz Kiel, the chairman of Seele, whom believed the Incident was only the start in a series of events that would eventually change the world.
Kiel was very vague on the whole thing. Nothing giving much detail. He claimed that the Incident that started over True Cross Academy and spread over True Cross Town and parts of Asia and the Pacific, was the "First Impact" in an obscure prophesy laid down in the Dead Sea Scrolls. That man, by his ignorance would cause a great catastrophe and a giant of light (in this case, the gigantic blue phoenix) would appear. After the First Impact, man's blindness would be cured and they'd see for the first time with eyes unclouded that angels and apostles walked the world along side them.
It was easy to say that things were prophesied after they happened. Goodness knew people always liked to claim that they knew X was going to happen before it did. The Wold Trade Center was supposed to be prophesied by Nostradamus. The 2011 earthquake that lead to the tsunami that hit the north-east side of Honshu and subsequently caused the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown was supposed to have been foretold months before. Every time horrible tragedy struck, there was always some schmuck trying to claim they saw it coming but no one would listen to them, blah, blah, blah.
But then Kiel went on to say that a "Second Impact" was coming. One worse than the Incident that just occurred. Darkness would cover the world, the King who was thrown out of Paradise will return to lead Man into realizing his destiny, and a new Genesis would begin.
Yukio turned off the TV.
He had no patience for absurdities.
Rin was in the kitchen, blissfully ignorant of the media storm they had wrought. Since his first date with Shiemi was one big steaming pile of fail and he never did get around to calling her to tell her he was okay, she had to find that out through the TV of all sources. He figured the best way to apologize and begin their second date would be to bring dinner over for her and her mother after they closed the supply shop for the day.
Yukio walked in just as he was giving the sauce one final stir before deeming it done and turning off the stove.
"Smells good." The younger commented. "What are we having?"
Rin froze, suddenly remembering. "Oh. Yeah… uh, sorry. This is for Shiemi and her mom. I, uh, I kinda forgot to make something for you. Oh! But don't worry! I think there's some instant ramen in the pantry! Or if you like I can whip up some seared tofu and vegetables."
Pinching the bridge of his nose at his elder brother's absent mindedness, Yukio sighed. "Don't bother, I can make something myself." Then he straitened as if suddenly realizing. "You're going to see Shiemi?"
"Yeah. Since our first date was kinda crap. I thought if I made dinner for her, it would make up for it. And her mom must be really burnt out from running the shop all day -what with the high demand and all right now- that she might appreciate a good home cooked meal too."
Yukio decided not to comment that it was only his second date and that it was a little to early to be buttering up his future mother-in-law -unless he planned on proposing to Shiemi next week, which in addition to being ridiculous, was also something Yukio would not allow. Marriage -and more importantly, everything that came with marriage- was something that was not in the cards for the sons of Satan. Yukio wouldn't allow it. But that was an irrelevant tangent at this stage in their lives. They were not even sixteen yet.
"If you're going to Shiemi's, you might also want to ask her about Amahara." He suggested.
Rin looked up at him, confused. "Uh, sure. Why?"
"Remember that demon that was possessing Ikari-san?" Yukio reminded him. "It claimed that it wasn't from Gehenna, it said it was from Amahara. Aside from Shiemi and Noihaus' wife, I've never heard anyone mention it before. It might be worth looking into. The Incident's got everyone running around crazy. People are panicked and the Order's spread thin. The last thing we need is a new type of demon running around that no one knows anything about or how to fight it."
Fishing some tupperware out of the cupboard, Rin replied, "Well, I'm not gonna pester her or anything. But if I get the chance, I will ask her." There was a beat of silence as he transferred the food from the stove to the travel containers. After a prolonged pause, "Hey, Yukio, about all that stuff that was said during the interview. About the Archangel and blue fire… did you know about that?"
Another pause. "No. No, I didn't. Since you're essentially researched Amahara for me, do you want me to look into that for you?"
"For you too!" Rin reminded him. While Yukio did a much better job of controlling his own blue flames and had not used them or even let them out since the Incident, he still had them. Being possessed by Satan awakened his demonic power. Sealing the Gate did not reseal his latent ability that had been awakened.
"Okay, Niisan, I'll look into Michael's blue flaming sword." He nodded. "I guess I might as well look into this Valley of Benhinnom while I'm at it. I never knew there was a time before Gehenna existed, or that Gehenna was created from a piece of Assiah."
"To trap Satan." Rin nodded.
"Yeah… to trap Satan." And for some reason Yukio's mind jumped to the TV story he'd just been watching. Of Lorenz Kiel and his insane Dead Sea Scrolls prophesy, '…the King who was thrown out of Paradise will return …' Well, even if he tried, Yukio would make sure he and Rin stopped him again. They would stop him as many times as they had to.
Taking the things Rin, son of the Prince of Gehenna, said to heart, Gendo tried to play a little gentler with Yui. And since both the Incident and the debacle with her father, Yui was more willing and even eager to play with him. In short, they became true and proper friends. Koyo and Souta weren't so thrilled to have the little hobgoblin staying at their house with them, but they did begrudgingly give him a doghouse in the yard.
The neighbors weren't to thrilled about that either. It was bad enough that their world was turned upside down after the Incident. Their street filled with all manner of creatures they'd never seen before, didn't understand, and found terrifying. But having one live right next door. Not just live right next door, but be welcomed, housed, and accepted like a family pet. Like any normal dog. That was a bit much for them. Gendo became a point of contention between the Ikaris and their neighbors.
And the feelings of adults and parents are often picked-up on my their children.
The other boys and girls on the Ikari's street that Yui used to play with before the Incident suddenly shunned her. Not listening to her suggestions of games they could play. Refusing to let her play their games. Needless to say, this was frustrating for a little girl whom, up until that point, was most well accepted by the group.
Like any child of that age, she blurted out her true feelings. Not only calling them meanies, but also that they were being stupid and unfair. Another kis called her stupid in return and a 'monster lover'. She said they didn't know anything about anything and that Gendo was way nicer than they were, if anyone was a monster, it was them. Then one of the kids hit her, Yui fell down, skinned her knee, and began to cry.
Gendo reacted quickly.
The small hobgoblin reacted the only way a demon knew how. He attacked them. They hurt his playmate, so they were enemies. The fact that they were small children was immaterial.
Roaring, fangs dripping, claws out, he pounced on them.
The children screamed and ran. Crying for help and their mommies. Adults looked out their windows and doors. They saw a group of children being chased by a demon and arrived at the obvious conclusion. Then they did what any normal parent or person would do. They rushed outside with whatever the could find as a weapon to protect the poor kids.
One woman smacked Gendo with an umbrella. A man came up with a baseball bat and hit him squarely on the head. The hobgoblin howled in pain. The first woman with the umbrella took the opportunity to poke him in the eye with the tip.
"Leave these kids alone, monster!" She shouted.
Yui came running up, ignoring the pain of her skinned knee. "Stop it!" She screamed. "Leave Gendo alone! Stop. You don't understand! Stop!"
The adults ignored her, continuing their onslaught on the hobgoblin. Others joined them. Using whatever they could find as weapons. Not just umbrellas and baseball bats, the handles of garden rakes, shovels, they threw rocks, one man even came out with a boken (wooden practice sword). Gendo might have been a demon. But he was still only one and they were many. The humans over powered him.
"Stop! Stop it! You're gonna kill him! Help! Someone help! Stop it!"
Then there was the sound of the jingling rings of a khakkhara, a monk's staff with four small rings interlocked with one larger ring. "What's going on here?"
Yui turned to see two big kids, both wearing the same school uniform that one of the Okumuras was wearing when they came over to her house to help with her Tousama. One of them -the boy- carried a monks staff, the kind with the rings that jingle, the thing that made the sound. The girl had her hair pulled back into two pigtails, and she stood with her arms crossed over her chest. Yui didn't know them, but they weren't instantly attacking Gendo and they were wearing the same uniform that Okumura Rin wore, so Yui took a chance.
"Help." She ran to them. "Help him! They're attacking Gendo!"
"A bunch of grown-ups attacking a kid?" The girl with the pigtails asked skeptically.
"They don't look possessed to me, but ya never know." Said the boy. "But it never hurts to check, besides, I can never resist a lady in need." He patted Yui on the head. "Don't you worry, Little Lady, the great Shima Renzo will save your friend!"
"Idiot." The girl muttered. She pulled two pieces of paper out of her skirt pocket, pricked her finger and dabbed each little leaflet with blood. "Inari, I humbly beseech thee to grant my request."
Two white foxes materialized like mist from the circles on her paper. Demons. This girl also had demon friends. Just like Yui did.
"Please, help him!" She pleaded.
The boy, Shima, banged his staff on the ground a few times, making the rings on the head jingle loudly. "Hey, hey, hey!" He called at the mob. "What're you doing? Beating up on this Little Lady's friend like that! Grown-ups are supposed to protect kids!"
One of the adults from the group, the woman with the umbrella, looked up at him. Angry and defensive. "We are protecting the children!"
"This is stupid." Muttered the girl with the pigtails and the foxes. "Uke, Mike, break them up and give the kid in the middle some breathing room!"
The two foxes rushed forward. Swirling around the group, they broke up the mob. Spreading them out so that their weapons couldn't connect with their target. The one they were beating up on was revealed and both Shima and his companion were surprised to find that it wasn't a kid at all, but a demon. A small hobgoblin.
Yui rushed to him. "Gendo! Gendo! Are you alright? Oh no!"
"Her- her friend is a demon." Shima gaped.
"We have a friend who's a demon." The girl scoffed. She knelt down next to Yui and Gendo. "Hi, I'm Izumo. Let me look at you."
The goblin did not look good. Demons as a general rule were fairly durable and resistant to damage. But even that durability and resistance has its limits. After being bludgeoned by a horde of people all wielding blunt weapons. One of its eyes was poked out and bleeding, dark reddish-black demon blood. The other eye was intact but swollen. One arm was bent in the wrong direction. He seemed to be breathing heavily.
"Can you help him?" Yui asked.
"Well, I- I don't really know anything about how to treat a demon." Izumo admitted. "Whenever my familiars get injured, they just return to Gehenna."
"I don't want Gendo to go away!" Yui whined.
"Is there such a thing as a demon vet?" Shima suggested. "I mean, Exorcists use demons as familiars. There's got to be someone who knows how to treat them when they get injured."
"We'll take him to the supply shop." Said Izumo. "Moriyama might know something."
"I'm coming too!" Yui announced. Firm and resolutely.
"Well, that was the best meal I've ever had." Shiemi's mother set down her chopsticks and leaned back on the heals of her hands. "Thank you for the food." Then to her daughter, she muttered -none to quietly. "Don't let go of this one. He's a keeper."
They both blushed.
Looked at each other.
Rin gave a goofy smile.
Shiemi smiled back. Blushed more. Then looked away. "I- I'll clear the dishes."
"I'll help." He stood.
In the kitchen, Shiemi filled the sink with water while Rin stacked the dishes on the counter. The sponge was dabbed with soap, plates soaked, and together the two of them went about cleaning up after their meal. Shiemi washed, Rin dried.
They did this together in silence for a bit before Rin asked, "Remember the day we first met?"
"Yeah." She replied. "I still feel a bit guilty sometimes, over calling you a demon. It seemed to genuinely hurt your feelings back then."
Truth be told, up until just recently, it still would have hurt his feelings. But Rin's feelings on his demonic heritage were more resigned of late. He was half-demon (at the least) and that was just a fact of life. No amount of hurt feelings or indignation was going to change that. But it didn't bother him anymore more. Now what bothered him more was the general view of demons as creatures that were inherently bad and something to be feared or even hated. That was what he really felt strongly about now. Rin's feelings over his own demon heritage being transferred and transformed into something else.
But that wasn't what he wanted to talk about right now. It wasn't why he brought up their first meeting. Yukio asked him to see if Shiemi could share any more information with them about Amahara. The day Rin first first met her was also the first time either of them had ever heard of the mythical garden paradise.
"Its okay. I'm over that." He brushed off her apology. "I actually wanted to hear more about your magical garden."
She blushed daintily. "Oh, Rin, my garden's not magical. It just seems that way thanks to all the greenmen and ents who live there. They help me out and keep things thriving while I'm at Cram School or on missions."
"Ah. Um, your garden is pretty awesome. But, uh, I meant the Garden of Amahara." He clarified. Embarrassed. "I wanna hear more about Amahara. …That is, if you're willing to tell me."
Shiemi smiled. A good and true smile of pleasure. "Oh, Rin! Of course I'll tell you about the Garden of Amahara! But you have to promise not to laugh at me. Nobody else has wanted to listen to me talk about it. They all think its silly or that I'm to old for fairy tales. I haven't even told Izumo about it because I'm afraid she'll say its stupid and I'm stupid for believing in it."
"I don't think you're stupid for believing in a magical garden." He told her. "In fact, we kinda have something similar in Catholicism. The Garden of Eden. Its supposed to be like a sort of forbidden paradise."
"I've heard of Eden." She nodded. "And your forbidden fruit from the Tree of Good and Evil. I guess Amahara would be like that. But, nothing in there would be forbidden. Amahara is a place of light, and life, and abundance. Its where God, or the Creator, or whatever you want to call it, gathered all the plants in the world. All of them, even ones that don't exist anymore. And they all grow and thrive. The flowers are more fragrant and color there, and the fruits are sweeter. There's nothing bad or evil there."
Rin smiled. "It sounds kinda like a Heaven on Earth." Then his expression turned a bit more serious. "Does anything live in Amahara? Besides plants, obviously. Are there animals there? Or people? Maybe even its own version of demons?"
"Well, I- I don't know…" She admitted. Shiemi pulled the drain stopper out of the sink to let it drain. She used Rin's kitchen towel to dry her hands. "Grandma never said anything about animals or people living in Amahara. But I'm sure there has to be bees and things there. To pollinate the flowers and make fruits and seeds and stuff. If there are bees and bugs then there might be things that eat the bugs, and so on. But I never really thought about it before."
Rin thought about that for a sec. Shiemi didn't really know of anything that lived in Amahara besides plants. But then, she mostly only heard of the garden through her grandmother's stories. The real person to ask about it would be her grandmother, but unfortunately, she passed away before Rin even met the family. Noihaus' wife might also have known but she was also, unfortunately, dead and gone. Because of the debacle at the Ikari household, Yukio wanted him to gather information on Amahara, but Shiemi couldn't really tell then any more than she already had the day they met and the other two people who might know something were gone. This was a dead-end investigation.
So, in classic Rin fashion, he did the only thing that made sense to him. He put the whole thing aside and instead focussed on spending time with the girl he liked. "Wanna sit outside in your garden?"
The sun was just setting over the trees, splashing the skies with vivid shades of red and orange. The clouds drifting overhead were a dusky shade of purple and the garden buzzed with evening insects. It was going to be a nice night.
"Your garden is close enough to Paradise for me." Rin muttered. He took her hand in his, turning to look at her. His crystal blue eyes meeting her emerald green ones.
She blushed. "Michelle -uh, Noihous' wife- told me my garden was what she always imagined Amahara being like. It made me so happy."
Rin smiled and leaned in. Paused. Did not finish closing the distance. "Our, uh, our first kisses weren't all that great."
"Yeah…" She agreed. Then suddenly realized that maybe she wasn't supposed to agree to that, maybe he wanted her to deny that they were disappointing and assure him that there was nothing wrong with his kisses. "But… but only because they were so sudden, you know. The first one you didn't even mean it. It was an accident. And then, the second one, you were just leaving. Then you grabbed me and… well, it was just as unexpected as the first. Better. But still so sudden."
She topped talking, deciding that maybe that wasn't exactly helping either.
"Do you… do you wanna try kissing again?" Rin offered. "I, uh, I've never kissed a girl before that day and I'm ashamed to say that I don't really know how."
Shiemi smiled. That was something they had in common. "I've never kissed a boy before either. I don't know how to either. But we can try and learn together."
"Okay," He whispered. "I'm gonna try and kiss you again."
Rin closed the rest of the distance between them. This kiss wasn't as abrupt as the first two. He did not grab her, pull on her, or press her against himself. But he did brush his lips against hers, gentle but hesitant. But also needy and wanting. Like he wanted to deepen the kiss, wanted more, but was afraid to. Afraid of kissing her any more ardently. Afraid of scarring her off. Or maybe afraid of himself. Afraid of the savagery he was capable of when he got carried away. He didn't want to chew her face off. Shiemi parted her lips experimentally, hesitantly inviting him in. But Rin did not accept the invitation. That was when he broke the kiss.
"See." She said. "That wasn't bad at all." She didn't have the heart to tell him that it was also boring and unexciting. Not that Shiemi was any expert on kissing, but she was pretty sure 'boring' or 'unexciting' were words you were supposed to use to describe a good kiss. Who would have though that a half-demon and son of Satan would be a bad kisser!
"I think you're probably better at it than I am." He said.
She blushed. A lot. In fact, they might even have been able to see her from the space station, she was such a bright red. "Oh. I… well, that is… I just- I just did what I saw women do in movies. That's all."
This conversation might have continued had they not been interrupted by the garden gate suddenly being flung open and Izumo running through it with Shima carrying what looked like an injured demon. They were trailed by a little girl whom -when they got closer to the light from the house- Rin recognized as Yui.
Yui came running up to them. "Oniichan!" She looked up at Rin. "Gendo got hurt. Can you make him better?"
Izumo and Shima came up behind her, carrying the goblin. Shima lady him down on the porch step. So that Shiemi could see his woulds -the lightest of which were already healed, the worst of which still looked pretty nasty.
"Neither of us know anything about healing a demon. And since you're studying to become a Doctor miester, we brought him to you."
Shiemi just stood there, looking confused.
"Uh, maybe some introductions." Rin suggested. "Shiemi, this is Ikari Yui, Yui is a member of my church. And the hobgoblin is her familiar, Gendo." Then he looked up at Izumo and Shima. "How'd he get hurt? Was Yui attacked by another demon?"
"Honestly, we don't really know what happened." Izumo supplied. "When we arrived there was a bunch of people beating him up and this girl was shouting for help. We thought they were possessed and attacking another kid. We didn't realize her friend was a demon until we defused the mob."
"Normal people did this to a goblin!?" Shiemi looked equal parts shocked, impressed, and skeptical. "Were they possessed?"
"No." Said Shima. "But there were a lot of them."
"Please, you have to help him!" Yui cried.
Shiemi pursed her lips, thinking. Then she stood. "I'll see what I can do. Wait here." Then she ran into the house.
Rin placed a hand on Yui's head, tousling her short hair. "Don't worry, Yui-chan, Shiemi's really good at what she does. If anyone can fix Gendo-kun, she can."
They waited in silence for a few moments. When it became apparent that Shiemi wasn't going to reappear mere seconds after she went into the house, Shima decided to take the opportunity to state an observation. "So… you're over here awfully late. A bit to late to just be picking up exorcism supplies."
"Yeah…" Rin raised an eyebrow at him, wondering why he was using such a conspiratory voice. What was he supposed to be suggesting exactly? "We had dinner together. I cooked for her and her mother." A hesitant pause, then with defiant pride and stubborn conference, "She's my girlfriend!" He still liked the sound of that. Referring to Shiemi as his girlfriend. The idea was still new to him. Novel and exciting. But, it also made him feel self-conscious and scared. Like maybe they would think he wasn't good enough for her, or maybe that he shouldn't have a girlfriend at all seeing as how he carried the blood of the devil in his veins. It was to just be friends, but anything more than that might be dangerous. So, Rin quickly changed the subject. "Why were people attacking Gendo?"
"We were playing." Yui explained. "Then one of the other kids was mean to me. Gendo stood up for me and made the other kid cry. But when the grown-ups came out they didn't wanna listen to me and just assumed that it was all Gendo's fault and they started beating him up." A brief sob. "They didn't wanna hear our side of the story. They just wanted to hurt him cause he was a demon. Its not nice. Its not fair! Gendo didn't do anything wrong. It was the other kid who was bad. Not Gendo!"
Rin sighed. "Yui-chan, I'm sorry to say that that's the way a lot of people think. People make assumptions based on how people look or dress, the color of their skin or who their parents are. Sometimes when their assumptions are proven wrong they'll admit it and get to know the person better, maybe even become friends. But other times, they refuse to accept anything that contradicts their original assumption. They think that just because a person is fat they are lazy, or just because a person is Latino they're a thief, or just because someone's a demon they're evil. Its called 'prejudice', and its a very bad thing."
"Can we stop it?" The little girl asked.
"Maybe." Rin nodded. "With time and education. It might be possible."
"But we're probably gonna be seeing a lot more incidents like this one before that happens." Izumo said. "Social change like what you're talking about doesn't happen very easily or very fast."