Sol of Luna: Near and Far
Notes and Acknowledgements :
This is an alternate universe Death Note fan fiction, which takes place in a high fantasy, feudal world of my own creation. Many of the characters presented here are not mine, but the legal property of writer Tsugumi Ohba, and artist Takeshi Obata. I hope that you all enjoy this little fiction, which was taking up so much space in my head that I had to write it in order to focus on any of my other work.
Chapter 01: Ghosts in the Mist
"I can't believe how cheap you are!" Mello snapped at Roger's back.
The two traveling companions had been walking for nearly two days. The life of a mercenary was never an easy one, but it had always seemed to the fourteen-year-old, skinny, blonde boy that the senior warrior chose to make things more difficult than they had to be. The old man didn't bother to acknowledge the boy, as he hadn't the last seven times Mello had started complaining about his decision, or the last thirty or so times the boy had during the overall course of their trek.
"You could have bought some horses at discount price back in Tenmon!" Mello continued, relentless in his bickering. "They practically throw goods at guild members!"
"Our legs work just fine." Roger replied calmly. "And it would be nice to stay at an INN tonight."
"We have more than enough money for both, and you know it!" Mello huffed.
Roger only sighed in response. It was no use in trying to argue with the blonde boy once he'd decided to start up. You were more likely to persuade the sun to stay down all day. He let the boy continue to fume, ignoring it as he had always done before. Roger could appreciate Mello's passion. It was, in fact, what made him an indispensable member of the mercenary guild. But he applied that passion to absolutely everything. No matter how trivial it may be. Roger thought that Mello should have been a poet. But then he thought about Mello sitting at a desk pouring his heart out on paper, and figured that it was an unlikely scenario. Mello was a man – boy – of action, not words.
The sun was high in the sky, raining golden light over the forest, but the encroaching cloud cover and damp air indicated that it would probably rain soon. Their journey hadn't been a very long one. The capital wasn't far from the guild headquarters in Akkiya, and they had made a stop in Tenmon, as Mello kept reminding him. But any trip could have seemed longer with the blonde boy in tow, complaining all the while. Roger was relieved to see the towering walls of the Hidden City appear through the thicket of trees just ahead of them.
Rounded stone bricks of the purest white, almost resembling ivory scales, rose from the earth, towering above even the tallest of trees. Set in the center of the fore wall were the great gates, adorn with intricate arcane markings that seemed to glow with some lament power. It was said that no force in history had ever managed to breach the capital. The First Emperor had built these was with his own hands. As legend went, the Divine Emperor had supposedly placed a small portion of his own power into the walls as he laid them brick by brick. Roger had never seen anything that he could place as either magic, or miracle, so he wasn't sure how much of the story he could have bought into. But he knew well enough that most mythology had its basis in fact. That was a reassuring thought.
The great gates were slightly ajar…well slightly when compared to overall immensity of their form, for the opening was large enough for four merchant caravans to pass through at one time. The veteran mercenary and his young companion fell in line with the other hundred visitors to the capital. It didn't take long for them to pass through the well-fortified check-in station, Roger quickly flashing their papers to imperial guardsmen before being permitted to enter the city. The streets of the capital were positively buzzing with life. The crowds hustled about in every which direction, merchants peddled their wares, and watchmen patrolled every corner. This was the city, and it was unlike anything Mello had previously witnessed. The young boy was so impressed with the sight before him that, much to Roger's relief, he was shocked into instant silence.
"Let's get onto the walkway and out of the path of carts and wagons." Roger finally said to the awestruck boy, bringing him out of his stupor.
Mello shook his head as he and Roger stepped onto the smooth surface of the walkway paving. Matt and Linda were never going to believe this. They wouldn't be able to picture such splendor without having actually witnessed it firsthand. He walked silently beside Roger through the throng of people that mild about. The sounds of morning business were almost deafening to ears unaccustomed to the pulse of city life. But even most city dwellers would have found the capital a bit overwhelming. The entire city was laid out like a series of steps ascending higher and higher towards the heavens. With each layer more glamorous than the one it overlooked. And above all of it loomed the greatest marvel of all. The Imperial Palace stood proudly over everything, might, yet elegant, lordly, yet terrifying. It was a presence in the city, like living thing, as though the Emperor watched over them at all times.
"We'll being meeting at the High Halls." Roger said to the boy at his side. "It's right next to the palace."
"Who's our employer?" Mello asked.
"One of the Imperial Counselors requested our assistance." Roger answered. "Apparently, with the tension between the Emperor and the Daimyo, there's need of protection for some of the higher ranking officials."
"Bodyguard work." Mello sighed. "Sounds boring as hell."
"We're talking about someone who speaks directly to the Emperor." Roger replied. "One of his majesty's royal advisors. That's not something to be taken lightly."
"I hate these noble types." Mello snorted. "All so high and mighty. Too pampered to take care of themselves, and all they wanted to do is talk and whine about everything."
Roger thought for a moment. Mello's presence was entirely necessary, and he might give the wrong impression, given his age and…disposition. Yeah, that was good word for it. Roger stopped, and Mello looked up at him questioningly.
"I'll go take care of business." Roger said. "You go find yourself a treat, and have smith look at your sword."
"My sword is fine!" Mello snapped, taking the handful of coins that Roger offered him.
Roger pressed on into the throng of people before him, leaving Mello standing in the middle of the crowded walkway. Mello thought about Roger's reasoning for leaving him behind. But he soon dismissed all thoughts and tossed the coins lightly in one gloved hand. He started scanning the area for any sign of a food vendor, preferably one that served sweets. He spotted a little shop on the corner and made for it, shouldering roughly passed anyone who got in his way.
The council chambers known as the High Halls, was large white structure that stood just outside the protective walls of the Imperial Palace. Though it paled in elegance beside the castle of the royal family, the building was exquisitely decorated, and well fortified. When guardsmen at the entrance approached Roger, he quickly flashed them letter that had been sent to the guild, bearing the mark of the Imperial Court. They let him pass upon seeing the signet. This inside of the High Halls was as luxurious as its exterior. Polished black marble floors reflected the veteran mercenary as his he made his way down the corridors, towards the meeting chambers, where he was to speak with his employer.
Black curtains marked the entrance to meeting chambers, and Roger pushed passed them, entering a large stadium built to accommodate hundreds of people. The room was all but empty, save for the small, white robed figure that stood upon the platform set in the center of the room. The person, whoever it was, had his or her hood drawn up, obscuring his or her face from view. Roger approached cautiously. He didn't like cloak and dagger deals, especially ones being conducted in such a high profile place. He stood before the platform and gave a respectful nod. It was returned.
"I'm an emissary from the Guild." Roger stated. "Our services were requested by a member of the royal council."
"I am aware, for I am the one who made said request." The voice of the hooded figure was that of a woman's.
"Than shall we discuss arrangements?" Roger asked.
"We shall." The woman answered.
"Then I must insist that you remove your hood." Roger said. "There are no secrets between the Guild and its employers."
A half hidden face grinned with amusement, and the woman removed her hood. She was every pale, with sharp, beautiful features, and silky black hair that cascaded over his slender shoulders. Her eyes were a pale blue in color, enchanting in their own mysterious way.
"I am Hyrua Mikotsi, Fourth Councilor of the Eighth Emperor." The woman said proudly. "I am the one who has summoned you."
"What service can the Guild provide you, Hyrua Mikotsi?" Roger asked.
The woman seemed amused by the fact that he had used her name, rather than her title, when he addressed her.
"The Daimyo has threatened the nobility." Hyrua explained. "The lives of the high ranking citizens of the Empire are now at risk."
"So you are in need of a bodyguard?" Roger asked.
"Not I." Hyrua replied.
"Oh…" Roger said, raising his eyebrow.
"The Daimyo are intelligent, and cruel." Hyrua went on. "They will strike the nobles where they are most vulnerable. Through their hearts."
"So it is those that are close to the nobility that are truly in danger?" Roger asked.
"Yes." Hyrua confirmed. "Our families are in danger."
"So it is your family that is in need of protection." Roger replied.
"I have only one to care for." Hyrua admitted sorrowfully. "My son. He is only thirteen. Still just a boy, but the Daimyo would use him against me."
"Now that we have the task, we must negotiate a price." Roger explained. "Given the high status of our charge, and quality of those who threaten him, I must warn you that it will be quite an expansive arrangement."
"The cost is of no concern to me." Hyrua responded. "Name your price, and I shall agree to it."
"That is most agreeable of you." Roger said. "But I must check my manners before you discuss our business any further."
Hyrua looked upon him in confusion. Roger knelt down upon one knee, placing his right hand over his heart and bowing his head. He looked up into the woman's eyes.
"Your Majesty." Roger said in a low voice.
Hyrua smiled with amusement.
"How did you know who I was?" Hyrua asked.
"You have an unmistakably commanding, yet elegant presence, my lady." Roger replied, rising to his feet. "It was not difficult to tell."
"I must congratulate you on your deduction." Hyrua said.
Mello bit off another piece of chocolate as he watched the blacksmith inspect the edge of his sword. The smith was a large, and powerfully built man with scarred features and a baldhead. He marveled at the fine quality of the blade, and the expertness of its forging. It was unlike anything he had previously encountered, truly masterful work. He polished and oiled the boy's sword, giving it back to him when he was finished.
"If ever you give up the life of a warrior," The smith said, "Bring the sword to me. I pay handsomely for it."
"Fat chance." Mello snorted over his shoulder as he left the smithy.
It was already beginning to get dark outside, and with the approach of night came the dense patch of fog, which blanketed the capital like a white veil. Mello stood, looking up at the Imperial Palace, the only thing seemingly immune to the mist's shrouding presence. Though he had already seen it only moments ago, the image of the towering structure still amazed him. Again he knew that Matt and Linda would never be able to imagine such beauty without have actually seen it with their own eyes. The thought made him a little sad.
"Mello." The voice belonged to Roger.
Mello turned and spotted the old man. He had someone else in tow, someone very small, who almost seemed to meld into the encroaching mist. As they drew nearer, Mello realized that it was in fact a young boy, maybe just younger than he was. But he was unlike any boy Mello had seen before. He was small, maybe five feet at the tallest. He was deathly pale, his ivory skin devoid of any color whatsoever. His eyes were like two black, lifeless pools, and his curly hair was of the purest white. He was dressed in a simple white, cotton shirt and denim jeans, which were a faded blue color. The boy wasn't wearing any shoes or sandals, just white cotton socks. Mello was rendered speechless by the sight of this person, and looked pleadingly to Roger for an explanation.
"This is, Near." Roger told the blonde boy. "He is our charge."
"Him?" Mello said, indicating the boy with one, leather clad, finger. "You've got to be joking! We're a mercenary guild, not a babysitting service!"
"He's the child of a high ranking official." Roger said firmly. "And we've been offered a great deal of money to protect him from harm."
Mello groaned with frustration.
"What's the plan?" Mello asked after an annoying silence had passed.
"We're taking him to the Guild." Roger answered. "There he'll be safe."
"Fine, let's just get out of here." Mello huffed.
Mello turned to leave, but then turned back around and approached the other boy.
"I'm, Mello, by the way." Mello said, offering his hand.
The boy looked down at Mello's hand for a moment, and then back up at Mello.
"Hmph!" Mello said retracting his hand. "Fine!"
Roger sighed heavily. They started to leave the city. The streets had been consumed by the ghostly mist, making it difficult to navigate through, but they were otherwise empty. Not a sound could be heard, save for their footfalls on the cobblestone path. The air cooled, and chilling breeze passed through, making the fog swirl and coil about them like a hungry predator on the hunt. Roger stopped suddenly. Mello seeing the suddenness of his stop, and sensing the tension in the old man's shoulders, dropped his hand immediately to the grip of his sword. A tense silence ensued, no one moved. Mello's eyes darted about for any signs of movement. His ears were opened to every sound. But the mist was blinding to all sense. Too thick to see through effectively, the sound didn't seem to carry well through it.
Roger's hands dropped quickly to his hips and he drew his twin pair of ivory handled revolvers. Mello's sword flashed out in that instant, and he stepped in front of Near. The mist coiled violently about them. Then the attack came. The assailants were dressed in white stealth gear, their faces hidden behind cloth. They were perfectly camouflaged by the fog, making it impossible to see them until they were right upon their targets. Roger set off a well-aimed percussion of gunfire that hit their marks unerringly. Three of the assailants dropped to the cobblestones, their lives cut short by the veteran mercenaries bullets.
It was obvious to Mello that their attackers were trying to get at Near. As one came in, Mello's sword flashed in a series of controlled cuts, the single-edged blade whistling ferociously as it danced violently, so sharp that it seemed to sever the very air it passed through. The white-cloaked man dropped instantly, his light extinguished by the blonde boy's sword craft. Another rushed in, but Mello dispatched of him just as easily as he had the first. More and more of their attackers rushed in, and though Mello continued to cut them down, he was beginning to suspect that there were in fact much more of them hiding just beyond their field of vision.
Three men rushed Mello and Near at once. Mello took out the first man with quick horizontal slice that nearly spilled the man's insides out onto the street. He then flipped the blade over in his hand, and switched up his stance, bring the blade back around the meet the next attacker, who went down as well. Mello pivoted on his heel, and pushed the tip of his blade into the center of the final assailant's chest. He kicked off with his anchoring foot and embedded the blade deeper into the man's body, before giving it a quick twist and removing it, allowing the man to crumble lifelessly to the ground.
In all of this, the sounds of Roger's pistols echoed in the pale darkness. With each shot, another assailant was dispatched of. Roger precision had always been something to marvel at. Whoever, he was limited by the necessity of ammunition. After twelve killing shots, he was forced to reload. He could do this quickly enough, and still be well aware enough to avoid any melee attack. However, he didn't realize that just outside the swirling mist, there were three archers that were leveling the shots with him. The sound of arrows passing through the air, their death sentence whistling, chilled Mello's blood. He watched as three arrows buried themselves in the old man's chest. In his surprise, Roger dropped one of his weapons.
"Roger!" Mello cried out in alarm, as a wet patch of vibrant red began to spread over the veteran mercenary's front.
Roger swayed a little. He coughed, and tasted the coppery blood that filled his mouth. Appalled, he spit out a long line of red, and clear his throat loudly. He set off another series of gunshots, with the one pistol he still held. Two of the archers went down. The third archer moved to safer spot, Roger's back now exposed to him, and lined up another shot. That familiar whistling sound filled the air, and froze Mello's heart. The arrow buried itself in Roger's right shoulder blade, but he managed to hold onto his pistol. The old man's knees gave, and fell into a kneeling position on the ground. He was wide open to attack.
Mello went to rush forward. Roger saw the boy begin to make his approach.
"Stop!" Roger shouted.
Mello froze. He had never heard Roger shout before, and harshness of his tone was frightening.
"Mello," Roger breathed through bloodstained lips, "Take the prince and go!"
Mello took a surprised look at the pale boy behind him, and then looked back at Roger.
"Prince?" Mello breathed.
"Mello, go!" Roger commanded.
Mello was jolted out of his shock. He took Near by one of his soft, pale hands, and began to run, dragging to other boy behind him. They vanished into the mist.
Roger could hear the sound of the boys' footsteps becoming more and more distant. He knew that his enemies had surrounded him, and were closing in. He had only one bullet left, so he had to make it count. Then a shape appeared before him. It was a man, tall and broad with smooth, graceful features. He had jet-black hair, pulled back tightly into a long, braided ponytail. He wore a breastplate of the purest white, with the image of a serpent forming an S pattern in the center of it.
Roger recognized the insignia. The twelve feudal lords each had an animal assigned to them. The white serpent was Lord Kishin's symbol. The man approached Roger, and stood before him. He didn't say a word, but simply glanced around before fixing the old man with a cold, menacing stare. Roger could read the question behind that stare. Where are they going? Roger spit angrily at the man, freckling the white of his armor with red droplets of blood. Then Roger lifted his pistol, placing the barrel under his chin, and pulled the trigger.
Mello and Near were almost to the great gates when a single shot rang out over the deathly silence, stopping both boys in their tracks. Mello's breath caught in his throat, a cold feeling filling the pit of his stomach. He was pretty sure what the shot had meant. He wasn't sure why, but he was certain that Roger was gone. Sadness gripped his heart, and he glanced over his shoulder, into the mist. His eyes met with the two jet stones that were Near's, and Mello's grief was quickly replaced by anger.
"Come on!" Mello snapped, taking flight and pulling the white haired boy roughly behind him.
When they reached the gates, Mello immediately noticed that there were no guardsmen posted at the check-in station, undoubtedly killed by their assailants, and their bodies hidden. Mello dashed through the station, dragging the hapless prince behind him, and none-too-gently. They were back outside, and driving into the forest in no time. Mello soon discovered that the mist seemed to be exclusive to the city, which greatly disturbed him. Nonetheless, it was night now, and the darkness made the woods difficult to navigate through.
All the same, Mello ran until his heart pounded painfully in his chest, his lungs burned with every breath he took, and his legs threatened to give out from underneath him. He stopped and collapsed to the ground, panting heavily in the darkness, Near panting right next to him. Mello looked over at the pale boy. In the moon light, the white of his flesh and attire almost seemed to glow, radiating a silvery light over the area that they were resting in. The boy was breathing much harder than Mello, and he was positively soaked through with sweat.
"Not used to all the activity, huh." Mello scoffed.
The boy didn't respond. He focused all his effort on evening his breath and relaxing his exhausted body. Mello sat up and surveyed their surroundings. It was too dark to really scan the area, but Mello was certain that he could keep from getting too lost, even during the night. In the distance, a wolf howled at the moon. Mello tensed, glancing about for signs of danger. Near didn't seem to notice, or care. Mello knew that if they started a fire, it would protect them from the wildlife here, and the cold night air. But if they were being pursued, it would give away their position.
Mello sighed heavily.
"We could start a fire, and risk being spotted." Mello said aloud. "Or not start a fire, and risk being eaten in the middle of the night."
He looked over at Near, who had finally steadied his breathing, but the young boy didn't say anything. Instead it seemed that all of Near's attention was directed at the moon, which looked down open them in the motherly fashion, through the canopy above. Another wolf, or possibly the same one, howled somewhere in the darkness.
"Wonderful." Mello snapped. "I get stuck in the middle of nowhere, with assassins snapping at my ass, and my only backup is pampered brat that's too busy stargazing to even hear what I'm saying!"
Near still didn't acknowledge the blonde boy. He simply continued to look up at the moon. Mello got frustrated.
"Can you hear me?" Mello shouted at the boy. "Hello, anybody home?"
That's when Mello saw it. It was a faint glow in the distance, visible just over Near's shoulder. Mello squinted, trying to see what the new development was. The mist began to roll in, snaking between the trees. Mello's eyes widened, and horror gripped him. He grabbed the white haired boy by the hand, bringing him out of his moon-trance, and pulled him up to his socked feet. They ran off into the thickening woods, Mello desperately hoping that the trees would provide them with cover.
To Be Continued…Author's Comments
I think credit is due to Ice-Puppet, whose Dream of Mirror fan fiction may have partially inspired this story. Thank you.
If you liked this story, please comment, or I won't be able to write any future installments. So long as I get at least one comment, I can bring myself t continue writing it.