And with Her Came the Birds

Her lips twitched, the black stone, once radiant with colour and light, held firmly in her gloved hand. The power to fashion the illusionary into the real, Carantula had implied; the power to make such stuff as the heavy hearts of humans into raging furnaces of malevolent energy. Yodonna recalled her observation of the abominable thing in the warehouse, the power that those devils had attempted to draw out of a human host and contain within the pages of some especial book. Was this not also what Carantula had hoped to achieve, she thought, looking at the stone; was he not also planning on using the human heart as an incubator for the achievement of their goals?

Not that it mattered, of course, both Carantula's Wire Jamen and the yeti-thing that gathered human energy into its book had both failed in their attempts to harness such power, but it made for an uncomfortable comparison and led to her suspicion that perhaps Carantula, Mask of Darkness, was not as fearful of the Emperor's wrath as he should be; that perhaps he was complicit with these other forces, these devils and their nightmarish books.

She closed her hand over the stone, and then returned it to a pouch on her belt. Without her need to say anything, Sena was at her side, head bowed, the faded emerald number five upon the chest of her new dark blue uniform, its design following after the manner in which her own had been tailored.

"You wish to depart, my lady?" she asked, expectantly, eager to serve.

"Alone," Yodonna said.

She did not need to look over her shoulder to sense the disappointment that exuded from the younger girl. Such was her nature, she thought, such were the things that she was fashioned from, being an outpouring of all the negative emotion that once had dwelt within the original Hayami Sena.

She said nothing more to her, lifting up the Yodon Changer upon her wrist, momentarily catching her own reflection within the dark orb that resided so predominately at its centre. Deftly she pressed against the nearest button, her lips parting in a simple phrase:

"Yodon change."

There was a sudden effusion of energy, a cloud of dark smoke rising up to conceal her, and then, in an instant, she was gone, leaving Sena #5 alone amidst the shadows, fretful and resentful, the water of that damp realm lapping at her feet.

She sighed, she stretched, she frowned, and looked worried, trying not to think of the doughnut she not brought during her lunchtime in an effort to tell herself that she was strong of will and did not need to eat just because she felt stressed, but regretting its absence nonetheless.

Standing at the coffee machine, her auburn hair tied up in a high knot, dressed in a loose, cream Jason by Jason Kenney blouse and flared pin-stripe trowsers, Sudo Mei surveyed the office with intent, the low murmur of voices, the faint ring of telephones, the absence at Yuki's desk.

It had been two weeks, she thought sadly, as the coffee machine gurgled its way in making the approximation of a chai latte; two weeks since Yuki had been claimed by the spirit of the evil book she had been fed, transformed into the rueful, raging Yeti Megid, and, at the very last, rescued by Touma. Her boss's boss, who she rarely saw nowadays outside of their name in a thread of emails in her inbox, had brought in some other staff to help alleviate the workload placed on Mei and her colleagues, one such person being a woman maybe four or five years older than her, bobbed, dark hair, dressed in muted colours, the top button of her blouse always done up.

Mei did not wish to suggest that the other woman suffered from 'resting bitch face,' yet she could think of no other way to put it. In the week and a half that the woman had been in the office, she had never once seen her smile. She worked hard enough, Mei thought, having been charged with sitting with her for the first few days, and she did everything she was told, and did it well—too well perhaps, Mei thought, well enough that it had begun to make Mei herself look bad—but she also seemed strangely detached, often blunt, and every moment in which she was not copyediting manuscripts to be passed on, or answering emails, she was asking Mei in her flat, emotionless cadence about her Insta, about the pictures she had posted of Touma, of Rintaro, back when things were better, when everyone wasn't fighting so much.

It wasn't that she came across as if she was trying to discover who Touma or any of the others were, if anything she seemed almost indifferent to them, her focus seemingly always on the blurred glimpses of Megid in her photographs, the occasional hint of the four monstrous generals who seemed to lead them.

Her interest made Mei feel uncomfortable. It was as if she was somehow testing her, as if she was integrating her—but surely that was just her own unfounded suspicion, right? Why would anyone want to know about the Megid? Surely, what people wanted to know was how to get away from the Megid.

She sighed again, audibly, loudly, and turned back to accept the wax paper cup of approximate chai latte. It was probably nothing, she thought, it probably wasn't even important, the other woman just had some weird interests, that was all.

She turned again, cup in hand, and as she made her way back to her desk, found the other woman staring at her, her face blank, utterly lacking in emotion. A chill ran down Mei's spine. Perhaps this matter was something she should talk to Touma about after all.