Disclaimer/Notes: I do not own Juvenile Orion: Aquarian Age, or any of the characters mentioned here. They belong to the series' creator, and no money is being made off of this piece of fiction. This story was written solely for entertainment purposes, and no copyright infringement was intended. Please, do not sue. All original ideas are original (duh) and belong to me, unless otherwise mentioned. This story is unbeta'd, but otherwise needs no warnings. Enjoy.
He could feel it like a second skin, the dried plasma cracking at the joints when he tried to move. It had been smeared over his face, and he could not open his eyes at first because of the thick crust it had made over them. He opened his mouth and tried to speak but to no avail. His throat was raw as if from screaming. His body ached and his muscles burned. The back of his head was throbbing. He took a deep breath and nearly gagged on the painful expansion of his chest.
The young man coughed, rolling onto his side with his bloody cheek pressed against the pavement. He did not remember where he was. All he could remember was the feeling of falling forever, the unfamiliar surge of joy and peace, then the wind whipping past him and the feeling of horror as he had watched the cold, unforgiving world rush up to meet him. He remembered the moments before he fell, when he had sneered at his comrades and spat on his commander before opening wiry arms wide to the heavens and leaning over the edge.
He had jumped, and nothing had slowed his descent.
After a few shallow breaths, the young man struggled to open his eyes. When the red seal finally cracked and broke, light flooded his senses, blinding him. He coughed again, and brought one tired arm up to shield his face.
Was this the Earth that they had all told him about? The place where judgments were passed and sinners punished? He blinked rapidly, trying to adjust to this strange new world. There could be nothing good in this place, nothing beautiful or sacred in such a desecrated garden. The soldiers of Azrael who had been here before him, who had brought down Rayyu's fearsome wrath in the form of holy fire and unforgiving light, had seen that there was nothing left worth saving here.
Standing in front of him, was a young girl in black lace with long blonde hair. His blood had spattered her pale face and dark dress with red dots, but there was no look of horror to be found in her eyes. There was no pity for his pain, no fear for his survival. He had expected more from humanity. There was not even curiosity over the strange black wings that trailed out behind him from his shoulder blades. Here, in her eyes, there was only apathy, as if some great and tangible nothing had eaten away whatever soul she might have possessed. As they stared at one another, her with her head tilted to one side ever so slightly and he gasping and choking on his own agony, he briefly wondered if Azrael had given the humans a War Machine of their own so that they could cloak their minds and rid themselves of costly opinions and dangerous personalities.
Then, quite suddenly, the girl smiled at him, a humorless twitch of painted lips. She glanced over her shoulder to a tall, somber man that he had not noticed before.
"Kuga, carry him," she said, and looked back at the 'bird' that had fallen at her feet. "You. Get up."
The young man forced himself up onto his forearms, gritting his teeth against the pain as he willed his unreceptive body to do as she commanded. What? He stopped, uncertain. That was not right; surely, he had begun to move because it was what he wanted to do, wasn't it? But the girl kept staring at him with those empty eyes, and he could feel her will. It was a black and sickly aura that gripped his already aching throat and dragged him to his feet. She simply turned, and began to walk away:
"You will follow me," she said, though it seemed like less of a command and more of a statement of fact. He had to follow her, no matter how much it hurt or how much his body protested. There was no other option available. "What is your name?"
"Rafayel," he managed, though the word tore at his voice box and made him cough blood. Rafayel stumbled, but the tall man moved from behind her to catch him, supporting him around the waist with one strong arm. They glared at each other for a brief moment, but then she paused to look back, and they had to set aside their initial suspicion of one another to follow.
"See, Kuga? I told you: the birds will come to me if I call them."
"I am no bird."
"You are whatever I tell you to be," she snapped, narrowing her eyes. The anger she showed was a slight improvement over the nothing, but when her power rushed over his skin and made his injuries burn with an unholy fire, he knew that she was right: he would become anything for her. "So now, regardless of what you were, Rafayel, you are my bird. And you. Are. Silent. Kuga, he is too slow: I told you to carry him."
The tall man lifted Rafayel gently, careful to mind the broken bones and bloody scrapes. They walked away from the street in silence, and although Rafayel tried to tell himself it was only because he was too tired for any further conversation, a part of him did not mind the blissful, mindless obedience.