Hey there! Finally got the time/mental energy to write this up. I hope you like it, I know it's been a long time since my last update.
William travelled these dark streets every night, or every morning rather, but no matter what time of day, no matter what mood he was in, whatever he was thinking about, it was always exactly the same. A generally exhausted and stressed out man going home after a ridiculously long and difficult day (sometimes two or three days when things got busy), fully aware of and possibly contemplating his repetitive and seemingly inescapable job, and how that horrid place dictated his life.
Oh, it was fascinating.
Well, perhaps fascinating was the wrong word to use here but it was the most fitting word that the crow, perched silently on a high up window ledge, could think of. So for now this person, this shinigami, was fascinating.
The bird waited there, watching the windows of the apartment across the street and the large antique clock that was visible from his ledge. It was unusual seeing it display the current time, normally when he watched it, it was several hours later and he knew from the position of the hands exactly when he was allowed to fly. But tonight he had to think about it briefly. At what time had William passed this ledge? How far was his apartment from the ledge? How fast did he walk on average? He would need to consider that he might be moving more slowly tonight after that earlier encounter, so he would allow for a few extra minutes before his departure from the ledge.
But what if William stopped on the way home? Then everything would be destroyed, his entire carefully crafted plan would crumble. He couldn't have that, he had worked so hard! It had taken weeks to decide on this route, to study the timing and behaviour, it would be such a shame for that all to go to waste. Of course, William was a very consistent type of person. There was little chance that he would stop for anything, especially not with a demon after him.
No, this was perfectly safe.
The bird remained there for several more minutes before he left his ledge, sure to be as silent as possible as he flew to the ground. He wouldn't dare make a noise, not even the smallest little coo as he landed on the pavement. At this hour, even the noise of his feathers was too much for his tastes. He quickly hopped around, surveying the area from one corner of the street to the other before he determined that he was alone. Finally.
Folding his wings back the crow slowly began to mutate and transform, a disturbing image indeed as his wings grew larger and began to drop their feathers to reveal pale arms, eyes growing to an unnatural size for a bird until they nearly consumed his entire head. But that was growing too, the dark plumage on the back of his head becoming equally black hair, his beak giving way to pale lips and small but sharp teeth. The change took barely a minute, and soon enough a demon was standing there, surrounded by a pile of black feathers.
He looked himself over, plucked any excess feathers that didn't quite drop from his body, and stretched his neck and limbs. Being a crow was quite uncomfortable, demons were not meant to take those strange animal forms as often as he had been lately. It was useful for hiding, but it was not exactly good for the body. He could only hope it was worth it.
Tch. What was he thinking? Of course it was worth it. He was obtaining valuable information, and he could use it later when... oh there it was again, that scent.
The demon practically slammed himself against the nearest wall as he picked up the scent again, the one he had been following for weeks on end and become so familiar with that it had grown on him and become some sort of a comfort. It wasn't particularly sweet, unusual, intense, intoxicating... it wasn't particularly anything in fact. It was something average, something easily lost in a crowd. He doubted that he would have picked it up at all had he not been looking for it, it was subtle... so subtle that it was almost nothing.
But it was him.
It was William's scent, the shinigami who he had been tracking for weeks, and it was one that the creature reveled in. If he hadn't been such a proud creature he might even lay on the ground and immerse himself in the ground he walked on, the scent that he left behind in the air. Of course, he had self respect, so the demon would never dream of it. He was perfectly content pressing himself against walls, running his fingers along corners where he knew the reaper's hand brushed against the brick while walking by, following his footsteps exactly until he ended up at the man's home...
One might wonder why exactly a demon would so adamantly follow a shinigami, especially to the extent that he had. It was true that demons did take an interest in tormenting reapers, perhaps stealing souls from them or taking innocents to destroy their precious soul records. It wasn't unheard of for a demon to seek out a shinigami for their own personal pleasure either, if that was the sort of thing that roused their carnal appetite on a particular occasion. There were multiple theories amongst demons as to whether or not reapers were edible. A soul was simply an essence of being, which was not something reserved to just humans. It was a possibility that they could be consumed, but few have tried.
This particular demon had been stealing souls from this particular reaper, but that would not give him warrant to follow him home. Even the most determined of creatures would rarely go that far for a meal, especially an average one. As for sex, there were far better options around than a shinigami. In a time when incubi and succubi freely roamed the human world, why would a demon travel to the shinigami realm to seek out a partner, and an unwilling one at that. And eating his soul? What good is that to a demon who just ate several months worth of souls in a matter of weeks? He never believed that reapers had souls in the first place, not real ones anyway.
The reason that this demon was following William... well, he couldn't say for sure. He was fascinated by this reaper. He was oddly intriguing, he had been since the moment he first saw him venturing around the streets of London on his midnight soul collection, he was an immediate interest for the demon and he wasn't sure why. So perhaps the reason he was fascinated with William was that he was fascinated with William. What was it about the man that attracted his attention? Why did he care enough to follow him home? There was something about this man, this reaper. He simply wanted to know what it was.
Whatever it was, he liked it. It was actually invigorating, that mysterious quality he possessed. The demon liked walking along the wall and feeling the remnants of the man's presence, and his actual aura becoming stronger as he came closer and closer to his apartment. Yes, he could sense him now, he was right above him, so close. The demon climbed up the wall of the building, not even bothering anymore to be discreet. He had his target.
When he finally reached the correct floor, the demon peered into the window cautiously, hiding behind a cement beam in the wall so he could see his reaper. The view wasn't great, half the time he couldn't even see William, but when he could it was worth watching. The more he saw him, the sooner he could figure it out.
Presently, William was asleep. Sloppily asleep in his armchair, the one he bought long ago but never used. Well, this wasn't exactly a typical behaviour. Then again, tonight, and tomorrow for that matter, were not exactly going to be typical, were they?
There was an unfamiliar glow in front of the shinigami's eyelids when he finally began to stir, which upon opening his eyes and fixing his skewed glasses he realized was sunlight. Wait sunlight? That meant that he had slept in! William jumped out of his chair and ran over to the phone. He had to call in to explain why he was running so late, he had to find a reasonable excuse, he... oh right, he had the day off today. William slammed down the phone and sighed. How had he gotten into this mess?
Well... it was his day off. Now what? Usually on his days off he spent the day running errands and tidying up his apartment. He supposed he could do that today, but there wasn't really much to do. He had just gone grocery shopping a few days ago, and his apartment was still clean from last weekend so there was really nothing that he could do in that department.
Well, he should probably check the handbook to see the rules on stolen souls and demon encounters, particularly what the charges against him would be, and what he needed to do to lift them. Yes, that was probably a productive way to spend the day. Going over to his bookcase, William got out the most recent edition of the Shinigami Handbook and flipped through the table of contents until he found the right section.
However, his thoughts were broken by a loud, agonized squawking sound coming from the other room, and he rushed over to his pigeon's cage to make sure that they were alright. He had two messenger pigeons, not exactly pets, he never considered them to be something like that. Calling something a 'pet' implied an emotional attachment for the creatures which did not exist. They were his pigeons, they sent messages for him, and he took care of them.
"What is it?" he asked them, concerned for their well being. Those noises had worried him, it sounded like one of them was in pain. Yet here they were sitting happily in their cage, silent except for the soft confused noises that they made in response to William's slight panic. So nothing was wrong with the pigeons... then where was it coming from?
William knew that the sound was coming from somewhere close by, but at this point it was more irritating than anything. He searched around his apartment trying to find the source of the noise for at least ten or fifteen minutes before he traced it to the balcony. More specifically, the injured crow on the balcony. He went outside and slowly inched towards the creature, and it quickly became clear that the crow had somehow broken a wing. Poor thing.
William knelt down and examined the creature, and carefully moved it so he would be able to pick it up. He had always had a way with birds, which is why he kept pigeons. A crow should not be terribly difficult to take care of, he knew a few things about caring for crows. The bird squawked again when he tried to pick it up, but only ended up squirming on the balcony floor when he did.
"I will not hurt you..." William whispered to the crow, attempting to pick him up again, and surprisingly this time it remained still. "Good. Now, you are going to come inside with me." he said, serious as ever even as he attempted to reassure the bird that everything would be fine. "Do not worry, I will take care of you."
The bird seemed to purr at that, as if he understood what the man was saying and was happy to be taken care of by someone capable, someone who actually cared whether he lived or died. With William he was safe.
William found a box, and lined it with soft cotton cloth so that the crow would be nice and warm and set it down across the room from his pigeon cage, causing them to start panicking. They clearly didn't like this new bird, but William shushed them and explained that he would be staying with them for a little while until he got better. Even then, the pigeons were still on edge (until he threw the cover over their cage that is).
"How did this happen to you?" he asked the crow, though of course he knew he would not get an answer. This was just a crow, but he had a tendency to talk to birds the way one might talk to a person. He lived with pigeons, talking to birds was just what he did. He examined the crow's wing carefully and decided that it would need something to keep it still until it healed. He quickly got his first aid kit and used a cloth bandage to make a splint for the wing (he had done this once or twice when his pigeons had gotten hurt in the past).
"There you are." he said, watching the crow as it sat in the nest he had made, looking around the apartment curiously.
The crow had seen the apartment from the outside many times, but never before had he been inside of it. It was truly a fascinating place; it was neat and clean just like he had expected, it smelled the way he had expected, even the temperature of the room was just as he had expected. Slightly cold for his personal tastes, but probably good enough for a person like William.
"If you are alright there, then you will have to excuse me, crow. I have a demon to deal with." he said, again sounding a little odd for talking to birds. Not that it mattered, no one could hear him anyway except for the animals themselves.
William returned to the other room and resumed his search for the laws related to demons, which were quite complex. He would have to prove that there was a demon somewhere around, track down said demon and then prove that it was in fact stealing souls. How he would do that he did not know, but one thing was unfortunately certain.
He would have to find that demon again.