This is the first chapter of Chosen, a fic about Chomesuke, the converted Akuma. Apologies in advance if this first chapter seems a little slow, the pace will definitely pick up in the next couple of chapters.
So, please enjoy… Thank you all for reading, reviews and constructive criticism is definitely welcome.
Sachiko slowly led the group up the ancient Japanese steps. Under the dark cover of night, nothing else seemed to be stirring, save the cherry blossoms which fell silently about them from the towering trees above. On either side of the long flight of steps, a row of Japanese banners was lined up, and occasionally Sachiko would peer behind them or instruct the group to hide behind them at the slightest sound.
Dressed in a pink kimono, Sachiko wore traditional Japanese wooden shoes and a large bow on her back, a symbol of a young, unmarried Japanese woman. She herself was rather attractive, with Lavi's immediate reaction being "K- K- Kawaii!" A lantern in her hand cast a small circle of light around her and the group, illuminating the steps immediately in front of her, and lighting up her face in a slightly eerie glow. Step, by cautious quiet step, she led the group up the flight of steps, the rest following her lead.
The ragtag group following her were mildly exhausted, although they kept up with her. Wearing gray cloaks over their black-and-silver coats, they walked silently behind her, their faces half-lit up by the weak lantern light. Together with Sachiko, this group did not seem to have major anything out of place, except for one small detail.
Sachiko was dead.
"Akuma" was what they were called – literally translated as "demon" – born of love, desperation and sorrow. And if one's loved one – brother, sister, parent, child, lover – had died an unnatural death, there was a chance of this love being exploited.
At the grave of the deceased where the living wept, the creator of the Akuma might appear and offer his "services" to bring the dead back to life. Being the smooth-talker he was, added to the fact that the living usually had their thinking faculties addled with grief, they usually accepted, joyfully calling their dead loved ones into a mechanical skeleton, then trying to embrace it.
And then, the Akuma would kill them.
Not instantly, usually. The creator would explain, with the patience of a teacher teaching a child, the workings of the Akuma. The soul of the loved one powered the mechanical body it was in, but had no control over it – that control lied exclusively with the creator. At this point in time, the loved one would usually scream through the mechanical skeleton – crying its fate, and yelling at the bewildered living why he or she had condemned it to the fate of an Akuma. The creator would then smile, and give the screaming, unwilling Akuma the command, demonstrating his control in front of the now-frightened living.
And then, the Akuma would kill them.
"Chomesuke?" Sachiko – or "Chomesuke", as she was nicknamed, due to her inexplicable habit of adding "cho" to the end of her sentences – turned. A gray shawl was pulled back, revealing a red-haired head of teenager, with an eyepatch over one of his eyes.
"How long more? I'm beat..." Lavi pulled an exaggerated face of fatigue. Chomesuke smiled, but motioned for Lavi to be quiet. "We should be reaching a safehouse soon, cho," her high-pitched, child-like voice drifted back to the weary group, which brightened up at the promise of rest.
Sachiko – or Chomesuke, as she was called – was an Akuma. She had shed the form of the mechanical skeleton, instead evolving to take on a larger, bulkier form, and acquired a kind of consciousness, repressing the screams of the soul that powered her metallic body. Yet, at her will, she could clothe herself with the attractive body of the girl she first killed in the graveyard all those years ago – grisly, but it concealed the more sinister form of the Akuma within.
Chomesuke was a friendly Akuma, nonetheless, forcibly converted from her previous bloodthirsty form. As machines, Akuma could possibly be reprogrammed, but only one alone knew the secret. And this one man had already met, subdued, and converted Chomesuke in order to further his goals.
And now, Chomesuke was leading them to him.
"Cross-gensei is an idiot," Lavi mindlessly kicked a small rock, sending it flying down the endless flight of steps. With each bounce, the cold rock floor responded with a click, unnaturally loud in the otherwise silent night. Immediately, Chomesuke froze, her shoulders locking, then turned and quickly started pushing the group to hide amongst the banners on the side. They didn't protest, but obediently slid in between the banners, hidden from sight.
Once safely concealed, she turned and faced Lavi. "Shut up," she hissed softly, her amber eyes revealing a mixture of frustration and pure fear. "We don't want to get into any more trouble cho…" Lavi wanted to retort, but his eyes took in Chomesuke's terrified face and his words died on his tongue.
There was reason to Chomesuke's fear. Japan was the land of the Earl, the Akuma's creator. Each Akuma possessed superhuman strength or powers, near-mindless drives to kill, and an insatiable appetite for blood. With a network of countless thousands of Akuma worldwide, as well as his own superior prowess in combat, the Earl was indeed a formidable foe.
And Japan was his base.
His heavily fortified base.
Chomesuke was a Level Two Akuma – one that had evolved from its primal mechanical skeleton and had literally taken on a consciousness of its own. Chomesuke had assumed a bubbly, carefree nature, with an innocent-sounding voice, coupled with her attractive human "skin", all of which served to lull nearby people into a false sense of security. Until, of course, she killed them.
Behind the thin layer of human flesh, Chomesuke's true form was a slightly more unpleasant sight to behold. Towering, yellow, and vaguely humanoid, she easily was much taller than the tallest human. Possessing overpowering strength belying her innocent façade, as well as mechanical flight capabilities, she was indeed a force to be reckoned with. Lavi was glad she was on their side, though.
As powerful as she was, she was no match for superior Akuma. Level Threes were such an example – tall humanoid knights-in-shining-armour, except that these knights were not here to rescue anyone. Looking physically weaker than Chomesuke, they possessed supernatural powers imbued by their continual killing, easily allowing them to dispatch a large crowd of humans and multiple Level Two Akumas at one time if ever the occasion rose.
"Ninety percent of the population is Akuma, cho," Chomesuke had earlier informed them. As the group shuddered and stepped up the first steps of the long flight of steps, Chomesuke had went on talking, calmly stating facts as if she was discussing the weather. "The government is filled with Akuma, and politics is entirely orchestrated by the Earl-sama himself, cho. Thousands of superior Akuma, above Level Three, reside in Japan…"
"Above Level Three?" Lavi had remarked. "That's a good sign."
Bookman brought up the rear of the group, silently padding up the long stone walk. The older man was a Bookman, a select group of historians who had cut off all outside ties, and lived only to record history as it unfolded, and not to get emotionally involved in anything. Bookman had spent his life following this creed, but the red-haired imbecile didn't seem to get it.
He had taken Lavi in, under his wing, an aspiring Bookman. Lavi had done well as a historian, but he didn't seem to be able to completely put aside his emotions. Even now, he seemed to be attracted to Chomesuke… In fact, he was now talking to the Akuma like they had known each other for years. Who knows, that Akuma might leak information out to the Earl… "Idiot," Bookman muttered under his breath as he tried to catch up with the rest of the group.
Suddenly, from the back of the pack, Bookman saw Chomesuke stop, then turn excitedly to the rest of the group, gesturing. "Come quickly cho! We've reached the safehouse!" she cried out in a hoarse whisper. Even at that sound, the group's mood seemed to brighten tenfold, and they moved with a renewed vigour into the small building. Chomesuke stood at the door, counting the humans as they went in, much like a shepherd counting sheep... Bookman was the last, and as he crossed the threshold he turned and glanced at the Akuma. Chomesuke stared at him, perplexed for an instant, but then smiled softly.
He nodded curtly as Chomesuke stepped in behind him and drew the door shut with a soft click.
"Ah, this is great! I'm so tired…" Lavi literally threw himself onto the hard floor, lying down and closing his eyes. The others found their own positions and they soon were drifting into an uneasy sleep. Chomesuke stood by the window, elbows on the sill, peering outwards towards the gray sky.
"Tim! Tim, come back cho…" A golden sphere hovered in the air for a second, then flapped its wings and hastily flew in through the window. Timcampy was a wireless golem once belonging to General Cross Marian – the person this group sought – a round golden ball with intricate markings on it, and a pair of fine, almost feathered wings. Although it was a robotic machine, it still seemed to have some semblance of sentience, and it had instantly recognized Chomesuke from their first meeting so many years ago.
Timcampy alighted on Chomesuke's head, nuzzling his body slightly into Chomesuke's long almond hair. Chomesuke laughed softly, then shut the window.
"He likes you." Chomesuke nodded slowly, then turned to face Bookman. The small, wizened old man stood, staring up into her face, his features unreadable. Chomesuke chose to run her fingers through Timcampy's wings, which beat lightly as if to affirm what Bookman had said.
"Go to sleep, Bookman," she advised. "The road to Edo is long and dangerous, cho, and you will need all your strength and awareness cho…" "I am aware of that," Bookman calmly responded. "Are you sure General Cross is in Edo?"
Chomesuke glanced out the crack in the window, seeing the endless path stretch out in front of her. Edo was further inland, and to reach it one had to cross multiple forest paths, natural dangers… and of course, Akuma. She herself was not immune from danger, and she shuddered from the thought of the possibility of her capture. Bookman noticed this and looked at her even more keenly with a questioning eye.
Eventually she steeled herself, turning her head slightly to look at Bookman in the eye. "Yes, cho," she finally said, her quiet, childlike voice carrying a subtle tone of conviction and determination. "… and I will do all that is in my power to bring you there."
The long fingers delicately gripped another small piece of metal, flicking it into the darkness where it landed with a soft clang. The other hand still holding the first silver of metal, using it to pick away at a row of long, gray teeth, like a crude and macabre toothpick. Eventually the Akuma got bored of this and dropped the metal silver, crushing it under an armoured foot.
The Level Three Akuma breathed in deeply, taking in the scents of the surroundings, and then slowly exhaled in a satisfied sigh.