THE LION IN THE SKY
Run. That was all he could do. Footsteps pounded after him: heavy, lumbering, but clearly with physical strength, indenting the soft earth as it changed into harsh asphalt. It masked the number of pursuers; he couldn't afford the time to turn a sound and check. And so he kept running, dodging through alleyways, skirting around corners and changing directions so fast only a professional could keep track of him.
He had to move inland; there was no other way. The road on the beach was perhaps a little easier to both flee upon and utilise, but it was too open. Too exposed. And the water carried a threat that wasn't completely neutralised and could still strike upon him in a vengeance.
And so he ran. It was the only thing he could do. Run.
The footsteps followed him, relentlessly pursuing their prey.
He was lucky there was no moon that night, and the weaker lights of the stars were veiled in a thick cloud cover. The darkness made it easier to flee. Easier to hide.
The earth trembled beneath him, but he kept on running. Kept on moving. He couldn't stop. He just couldn't.
For a moment, a fleeting breath of life's length, it looked as though the chase would end as it always did. Very rarely over the past few years had he needed to escape them on the front of a full-blown assault…and he would rather it didn't come to that again. The cost of fighting was too great, left him too vulnerable…and some innocent bystander, mostly attracted by the light show as nature's elements clashed, gave too large a price for curiosity and another's witness. But then he ran straight into something solid and fate changed its course again.
When Kanbara Takuya was first drafted into the LWO, he thought all his dreams had come true. It was every arcade-obsessed teen's dream to hunt down and fight real monsters and save the world, especially when coupled with the relief that he was not about to be hauled off for experimentation like some lab animal when he had snapped his fingers at thirteen to prove a point (which point had rather slipped his mind) and accidently set the previously smooth soccer lawn on fire. The reality however was, while it far surpassed being stuffed in a cage and punctured with needles, it was not quite the glamorous action-hero role he had had in mind. He had a "uniform", but unlike the cool one-piece skin suit with lots of gizmos he had originally imagined, red with decorated flame, it was a simple light-weight jacket (but at least it was red; its function was to both track and mask his signature) and a wrist-watch that coupled as a communicating device. And he had a job too. Keeping watch in front of an old warehouse…contraire to the video-game arsenal of missions.
The warehouse was one of the several ideal locations to keep a watch from, one of those places connected by a multitude of roads and alleyways, smack bang in the middle of an intersection. The gigantic computer at base had tracked abnormal pulsing energy signals to the city of Kamakura, but it, as of then, lacked the skill to narrow down the coordinates.
Which was what had stuck him in such a boring location, leaning against a post with a bored look on his face, feigning waiting for someone who could only equal trouble.
Truthfully, he was waiting for someone of the likes, but he was no deviant exchanging cigarettes or drugs. Hell, his mother would murder and then castrate him if he did do anything of the sort. Still, a white stick danced on his lips as he sucked at the lollypop, the only remotely interesting thing to keep him company…and awake for that matter. Midnight was the time he would normally have been comfortably in bed…but as the old boss said, casualties were mounting. And it was their duty, as pawns of the government, to keep those casualties to an absolute minimum…and that meant catching the elusive shadows that brought about the destruction.
The other "option" was to be renegade. But he was a family, so that wasn't possible. Unless he could burn their bodies to a crisp himself and toss them onto the streets and into the face of the world above a home of smouldering ash and melted plastic. No…that was no option at all. He loved his family, and his home. And being a renegade meant living in a do-kill be-killed world.
Being a renegade meant having no heart and no life. The very idea was horrifying to him. No family, no friends, no support, no purpose…and blood. All the blood that was spilt.
And it was a very depressing thing to be thinking about in the darkness, where the only light came from the lampposts littered about the streets. But the old coot did have a habit of drilling them on it, and there was a renegade signal roaming around the city somewhere.
It was easy to tell them apart from the others like himself. They were the ones not registered on the database. And every one, whether renegade or not, had a code that could be scanned, and a marking on their body. A sort of symbol. His was on his chest, right under the pendent that dangled from a thong around his neck.
The pendent that was shaped like a flame. That his mother had given him after the truth had come out. The one that said that no matter how harsh she was at times, she still loved him.
He was fingering that pendent when something, or rather someone, crashed straight into him, knocking him off his feet. It was only because he had been lounging against the lamppost that he didn't go tumbling to the ground, reflexes kicking in and grabbing the long metal post.
The person who had run into him had no such luxury and was crawling to his knees from his sprawled-out position…when they both registered the shaking from pounding feet.
'What the hell?' Takuya gasped, quickly letting go of the lamppost as his teeth clattered together. Whatever was thundering towards them was bringing with them the force of an earthquake ranking 3.5 on the Richter scale…but the sound wasn't coming closer.
The boy at his feet sagged a little, if still panting rather desperately for air, half-looking backwards for a moment, as if to catch a glimpse of the cause of the mini-earthquake, before looking up at the brunette.
The brunette just stared. Looks like he had found his Renegade; earthquakes hadn't been on the menu. He should know; they'd had to check, seeing as the overly-frequent and localised earthquakes following a path of destruction. Buildings caving in, roads splitting…and coming from a country that was largely earthquake resilient, that was a rather big deal. Worse, they hadn't been able to pick out what the disturbance was caused by, except a Renegade signature was found at least an hour before.
Those earthquakes were greater than 6 on the Richter scale.
'Quite a tremor,' he commented casually, taking the empty stick out of his mouth.
'It certainly feels odd,' the other admitted, standing. From the lamplights, the brunette could only discern the other to be similar to his own age; his figure was cloaked in loose clothing and the hood came up upon his hair. His eyes were still visible, but the colour was difficult to pinpoint. 'Japan is no stranger to earthquakes, but she feels strange under my feet after my time abroad.'
He spoke with a slight accent, one so subtle that it would take a native Japanese speaker to realise and someone well cultured to recognise it.
'China?' Takuya guessed, being the first but not quite the second.
'Korea,' the other replied, before bowing. 'I apologize for running into you by the way.'
The brunette waved off the apology. Definitely the wrong person then. But he'd be damned if the heavy footsteps hadn't anything to do with it.
Speaking off the footsteps-
The stranger stiffened as he heard the footholds, before cursing in an unfamiliar tongue. Probably Korean, Takuya figured, and although he had to admit the sound so heavy was rather frightening, the other certainly wasn't reacting right to the situation.
'I apologize again,' the other said hurriedly, bowing again before picking up something he had dropped. What it was, it was difficult to tell. 'You should leave.'
He quickly darted into the nearest alley-way, leaving a rather befuddled and slightly insulted Takuya behind. Of course, he couldn't well tell a stranger he was en garde.
The footsteps stopped once again, before a red flash of light suddenly occurred to the east. Abandoning the post for curiosity, he ran into the next street…immediately finding the source of the shaking ground.
The guy was huge. Fat, obese…whatever. He reminded the other of the Homonculus Gluttony in the Fullmetal Alchemist series. And he was panting, quite heavily, as though he had been chasing something before falling to one knee, roaring and rubbing at his eyes. Around the wide frame, the other caught a glimpse of a shadow departing, but the owner of that shadow was no-where to be seen.
The brunette turned his attention back to the other, which looked like his classical definition of a bully with an elongated nose, then the shirt he was wearing, covered in mud as if he had been playing like a child in the riverbanks. His eyes became drawn to the shirt tail, where a brown marking was showing. It looked like the devil's three-pointed trident standing upon a straight line which could symbolise any form of support. The symbol of earth.
Well, there was his Renegade he supposed. He was rather lucky the shirt tail had been out and the buttons not done up properly. He was also lucky the guy hadn't the sense to cover it like everyone else, though most symbols were luckily under clothing. Of course, they had one Talent, not a Renegade, that had the misfortune of having his symbol in the middle of his forehead, and the symbol of ice was far more complicated than his own fire symbol. That meant a lot of makeup, much to his chagrin, under the stupid orange hat he was so fond of. If he was any older, the old boss would snatch it away, but even he had some morals.
Evidently the big lumbering guy had not taken such care. Nor apparently did he with anything, including walking and speech, because after he had looked around and spotted him, he slouched over.
'You, you seen brat past?'
His Japanese was rather clumsy, but rather than that which gave the person away as a foreign speaker newly learning the language, it seemed he was somewhat…dysfunctional. A speech disability at least. However, he spoke slowly enough to be understood, even under the languid tongue.
'Nope,' the other replied, a little cheekily. 'But if you're chasing someone, you're doing a bad job lumbering about.'
That phrase suddenly reminded him of the other boy, and he wondered for a fleeting moment if that was the victim of the chase. But he had evidently insulted the other one (the boss was so going to give him an earful in the morning) and apparently he didn't take insults too well.
He kneeled down and slammed his enormous fists into the asphalt and Takuya could feel every organ in his body rattling in its confines. He quickly tore off his gloves even as the rest of him fell forward and summoned fire to his hands, flicking them like little darts till the other straightened and roared in pain again, flesh singed.
To his utmost surprise, the lamplights to the sides hadn't even flickered during the earthquake.
Hmm…so it was localised. Good.
He almost hit himself thereafter. The reasonable thing to do would have been to take to the air. His ears were still buzzing and blood was still pounding through his skill (at least that told him he was alive). He remembered Junpei drilling something about air rising in heat or something of the sort…but he found now he couldn't remember the physics even if he tried.
Not that he needed to. There really wasn't anyone on the streets, and two monsters fighting were about the same as a monster and a teenager.
So no-one would notice the tail sneaking under the flair in jacket and the wings bursting through invisible folds in the shoulder blades. He gave them a good flap, then rose as the other slammed his fists down again.
'Not going to work again,' he called down, making sure not to fly too high as he summoned some more fire to his fists. It was a good thing he did because the other summoned a hammer out of the ground and swung clumsily at him.
He parried the blow with a fiery fist…which was another bad idea. Fists were no match for hammers, though the heat grasped the metal and travelled down its length. Another roar of pain greeted his own sore fingers as the other dropped the weapon, arms blistered.
The other lunged boldly, causing the brunette to dodge out of the way…which the tail made a tad harder. Unfortunately, he couldn't get the wings without the tail. That went on for a bit as he retaliated with fiery fists and darts, before he crashed into a gate.
'Damn,' he groaned, flexing his wings again and checking for damage. They rippled, before extending to their full length. 'Phew.' The lady would have murdered him. Actually, she would have fixed him after the boss murdered him.
He then realised he'd forgotten about the other…who was spinning on the spot and causing dust and earth (seeing as they were on cement, he didn't see where it was all coming from) to fly about him like a tornado.
'Damn,' he said to himself again, before rising into the air and spinning his tail.
The whirlwind of fire collided with the whirlwind of earth, momentarily blinding him.
Then his wristwatch and the other's earpiece sounded at the same time with a soft bleep and then static. By the time the static cleared and he could hear the question, albeit a little annoyed, the other was gone, probably back to chasing his quarry or to lick his wounds.
He hoped he'd managed to get the feet as well as he had the hands.
Then he grinned. Those burns would blister well. No more thumping and causing earthquakes and getting little kids trapped in buildings for a while.
He breathed a sigh of relief as he paused under a tree in the park, hearing nothing save the stillness of the night. Good then, he had managed to lose his pursuer. Unfortunately now they knew where he was…but seeing as he had followed them to the location and not the other way around, it didn't really matter.
He wondered about the other boy. His tone had been a little too casual, as if asking or accusing him. He couldn't blame him; truthfully he played quite a big role in the large-scale situation though not entirely by choice. But for someone to accuse, they had to know. Was he another one of them? One who had simply failed to recognise him?
It was stupid of him; he should have just stayed away. He would have been safer. But he couldn't, and they knew that all too well. He had family, even if they had either forgotten him or thought him dead…or if some parts even knew…like that brunette woman who was, or should be, his step-mother. Or the large dog which slightly unnerved him by its enthusiasm and the large yet sharp eyes that managed to pierce through any barrier. And not only that, but there was something buried in the heart of the city that dragged him there, eventually, against his will.
The alternative was something too terrible to imagine…or let happen. And that was exactly what they wanted, though he would never understand their desire for it.
At least it was like picking out a needle in a haystack when they couldn't track the code or his eyes. Unfortunately it only took a matter of days to pinpoint the former, thanks to the tracker. The best he could do with that was scramble the code…unless he wanted to be a paraplegic for the rest of his life, and that was if he was lucky. Which he rarely ever was. It did favour him sometimes though; luck was what gave him the means to keep on scrambling the code and vanishing again. As long as he could do that, and keep outrunning the others, maybe he could stop more people from getting hurt. As it was, there were too many, most of them ignorant, thinking it was Mother Nature turning against them.
His eyes were a different matter, and depending on what he was doing he either covered them with a black cloth or with dark-lens glasses. After all, having eyes that changed rather spontaneously from their natural blue to variants of brown, and worse, red, was a rather unique trait.
He gritted his teeth before pulling out the small compact from beneath his clothes and the electrode it was connected too, before piercing the latter through his skin without a sound.
In a few moments, he would vanish off the radar as well. Then he could go home. Or as much a home as a safe-house was.
Another place where luck had favoured him. Along with caution. But having jamming equipment in his apartment wasn't as suspicious as carrying it on him. Of course, it's a lot more common in Korea, but it wasn't on enough to attract unwanted attraction.
There were a lot of people who valued their privacy after all. Especially in the shadier areas of town.
But he was a teenager living alone, getting into fights and never going to school. On the outside anyway. Truthfully, he wanted none of those things.
The compact blinked once, telling him it was done before reflecting eyes shaded like the opal jewel. A bad luck stone and a talisman rolled into one.
She winced, pulling herself out of the water and onto the sand, before rolling over and trying to massage the pain away. Damn him, she thought savagely, giving it up as a lost job and instead reaching for the pain balm. He'd definitely gotten her good and proper, though she had given him rather a cause with her acid rain.
He'd accomplished what he had wanted. It'd be a while before she could summon up or affect water to that level. For the first few weeks, even the tiniest bit of water had burned her horribly. And her skin had resembled a prune that had gotten badly sunburnt.
It was back to her belly-flesh pale now…thank goodness. But it still pained sometimes.
A shadow loomed over her and she looked up, hoping it was something good and not at the same time. She wanted her revenge after all.
Then she winced as the sun hit her eyes. They were back to normal in the water now, but the sun still made them sore, and now she felt about for her sunglasses.
'What is it?' she asked, sounding a little annoyed. Anyone who knew the brunette girl well though knew it wasn't annoyance though. She was well used to the other's lumbering tone.
'Found him but gone,' the other mumbled back, clumsily handing her the towel she had discarded before her early swim.
'Why thank you.' She towelled down her hair, letting it string down her shoulder (it'll fluff out a little once it dried) before tying it around her waist, before she got a better look at the other's puffy eyes and blistered hands, hissing as soon as he did.
'What happened?' she asked, taking the right palm and sucking the pus out of it before moisturising it with better water. No dizziness or pain accompanied it, which meant low scale manipulation of water seemed to be working quite well. 'Pink-eye?'
She was scowling a little though. She knew exactly what it was. Laser.
Anyone watching would have been surprised at the tenderness of her touch as she fingered the swollen skin gently. The other winced, his form already depleted but still larger than a healthy male, making his skin a little more tender.
Tears formed at the edge as she gently prodded the skin.
'Oh, stop your crying you blundering mass,' she scolded.
'Hurts,' the other cried, a little childishly. He couldn't help it though. That was just how his mind was. 'Make it stop.'
There was only one person who could do that. Because everybody's instinct was to survive, even as they tried to defy it. The easiest way was to get someone else to do it, but it was more than death.
It was rebirth, a utopia where the possibilities never arose again, that they longed for.
End of Chapter 1
A/N: I picked Kamakura because it's a shoreline place, and that's the place in Elfen Lied which had the facility…convenience really. It's also a natural fortress and was once the de facto Capital of Japan. It's also quite large.
You might remember that the warriors usually have a marking of their symbol somewhere on their body. Agunimon's is on his chest, while Grumblemon's is lower down. Lobomon/Wolfmon's is on his shoulder and Beetlemon/Blitzmon's is on his back. Kumamon/Chakkmon's is on his forehead, and I can't remember where the rest of them are.