Thanks for all the support! I would've had this chapter up by Saturday but I had to read Wuthering Heights, pain in my ass..I made up for it by making it longer! Oh and if you didn't get the Matrix reference in the last chapter, in the movie, the guy gets hooked up to the computer thing and another person does some like computer programming stuff and then magically the guy knows like karate and rocket science and stuff. Okay, maybe it's a bit different than that, but whatever haha you get the picture. So basically Mephisto and Amaimon took Rin and implanted a bunch of information into his brain. Wish I could do that instead of studying!
It was like a buzzing in my ear whenever he wasn't there. Like a mosquito stalking me, eager for my blood, only more of the bzzzt sound in my ear and less of the itchy painful bug bites afterwards, or as if someone were constantly dragging sharp nails across a chalkboard in my head. It was frustrating; I couldn't seem to locate the source, or even what the specific sound of it was. It was more like a feeling than an actual sound anyway, something I was constantly aware of. It was just there, like a bruise that you couldn't remember how you'd gotten or a new line on your face that you swear wasn't there the day before (though I was too young to know much about that problem). It was distracting, I hated it, and it wouldn't stop. My head ached from the constant abuse, this persistent-agh, whatever the fuck it was, and though I'd nearly overdosed on painkillers it just wouldn't stop.
My fingers fumbled while tying the knot of my tie, a nostalgic act that I had become unused to in the past months. My body, clean for the first time in way too long, was restless; every few moments my hands twitched, or my fingers would start tapping any available surface, until I noticed the act and forced myself to stop. Afterwards I would become distracted by that buzzing feeling and the twitch would begin again. Most likely to anyone that saw me I looked like a drug addict, itching for his next fix.
Though I couldn't really remember being conscious often in the past weeks, my eyes had heavy, purple bags under them, only adding to the druggie look. My uniform didn't feel comfortable; the jacket covered up how loosely the collared shirt hung off my shoulders, and I actually needed to borrow one of Yukio's belts to keep the slacks up. I knew I hadn't eaten much more than Amaimon's candy in weeks but my stomach churned at the thought of real food; that Ukobach hadn't made anything was fortunate, as I wouldn't have to risk insulting him by not eating.
The dorm was dark and empty as I made my way down the stairs and to the front door, the only door with a keyhole. Cram class didn't start until after normal classes had ended but I had woken up late for it anyway, had forgotten to set the alarm, forgotten the need to set an alarm. Food was a far-off thought, however, and I ended up outside the door of the cram school classroom, now the second door on the left, right on time.
The doors were heavy and old but relatively easy to open for someone like me. I used more force than necessary and the doors slammed open, revealing a half full classroom just as the longer hand of the clock on the wall reached the twelve.
Upon seeing the many unfamiliar faces as well as the teacher-that-was-not-Yukio at the front of the room, my mood worsened considerably. If there was some type of meter or gauge showing my mood, it would be tickering dangerously between extremely cranky and dangerously pissed. And it certainly didn't help that every little sound, from the slight creak of the door to the ear-piercing chatter of the students, seemed to ricochet off the interior of my head like a bullet.
The room fell silent as they all noticed me, even the familiar students like Shiemi and Bon too stunned to speak. My footsteps were loud in the silence as I made my way to an empty row of chairs, ignoring the wide eyed, gaping faces. It's not like they didn't know I was back; I also didn't want to blow up in their faces on the first day back, and with the irritation I couldn't shake I couldn't guarantee that I wouldn't. Instead I sat in my purposely secluded seat, resting my head in my hand so I could surreptitiously rub my temple, while the teacher began his lesson and the bewildered stares all turned away from me. The pounding in my head refused to grant me relief. I imagined two tiny golems playing ping pong in my head badly, the ball bouncing from side to side and top to bottom as the animal-like creatures fought and did the same. Soon I gave up on the attempt to assuage the pain and kicked my seat back until it hit the desk behind me, resolving to tune out all noise for the duration of the lecture.
"Rin, wake up."
Why would I wake up? I wasn't asleep to begin with.
And it was warm, too, finally. Usually it's cold on the floor. I wanted to conserve the temperature.
Besides, if I woke up, I would have to deal with the demons.
If I didn't wake up, then I wouldn't have to deal with them. They wouldn't be able to do anything to me.
Someone shook my shoulder gently, and though the touch felt strangely pleasant I shifted away, determined to remain in the land of dreams for as long as I could.
"Rin, what are you doing? Wake up!" I moaned in refusal.
Warmth surrounded me like a blanket, a cocoon around this indescribably safe feeling. It felt…like home. Like how everything was before this whole mess started, when I would wake up back in the room shared with Yukio back at the church. In a few minutes Dad would come wake me up, threatening to let me starve if I slept all day, and then I would argue with Matsuda over who would cook breakfast, and I would always win because my food always tasted better. Then Yukio, who always woke up earlier than me, would come eat, his head always stuck in a book when we would let him, but he always made sure to say good morning to everyone and thank me for the food, saying it's my only useful skill…
Nothing was hurting, and even that annoying buzzing feeling was gone, replaced by an overwhelming sense of peace and stability. I was comfortable, and screw anyone that was trying to take that away from me.
I froze, startled out of my half-aware state. That buzzing sound, the pounding headache, they were gone!
My eyes flew open to meet my twin's, his teal irises an off-shade mirror image of mine. We stayed like that for a moment, with him leaning over me slightly, his hand gently but firmly gripping my upper arm, both of us just staring into the other's eyes. He had a slightly baffled look on his face, as if, now that he'd gotten me to wake up, he didn't know what to do next.
The annoying sound and headache were gone but in its place was an almost unnatural awareness of something disconnected from my own body. A foreign entity was taking residence in my skin, not malicious but disconcertingly curious. I could feel my own heartbeat driving the demon blood through my veins and also a second note, not as strong as mine but still insistent in nature, pounding half a beat off of my own. It came from deep inside me and encompassed my whole body, and there was no way I could dismiss it as my imagination.
Then I realized that I was actually in the cram school classroom and had no idea why Yukio was even there, so I jumped away from him, tipping over the already precariously balanced chair.
"Ah! Rin! Are you okay?" Shiemi, who had lingered in the room after the other students had left to see the interaction of the two brothers, asked worriedly. She rushed over to hover, not sure what she could do to help.
"I'm sure he's just tired, Shiemi. You shouldn't worry," Yukio reassured with that impeccable smile of his.
"Ah, okay then." The blond girl still looked uncertain but left us alone anyway, turning back twice on her way out to make sure we were still alive. I thought her caring and motherly attitude was kind of cute, but Yukio seemed almost relieved when she was gone.
"Are you okay?" my little brother asked. I hadn't moved from my spot on the floor. The fallen chair rested between us, but he made no move to reach out to me again.
"Yeah, sorry, I just thought…"
"You thought it wasn't me." It wasn't a question.
"What?" My mind scrambled, and I let myself slump farther into the floor as I tried to puzzle through his words. Yukio would always be the smarter of us, however.
"Satan took my form while you were in Gehenna." He sounded completely certain, as if he had been there himself. "It is understandable that you would hesitate to trust someone that looks like me."
Yukio was already taller than me, a fact that I would forever gripe about (It wasn't fair! If he got the brains, then I should at least get the body) but from that spot, with my butt firmly planted on the ground and him standing straight, he towered above me in a way I was unused to. It was almost menacing, the way he held himself over me, a stance that exuded confidence and power, but I knew better. It was the tilt of his head and the slight crinkle of otherwise smooth skin in between his eyebrows that betrayed his true feelings…and he was actually worried.
Once a scaredy cat, always a scaredy cat.
Yukio was a busy person. So busy that he hadn't had time to even welcome me back, if he even wanted to…but at the moment, I was the only thing holding his attention.
And suddenly I realized that I never wanted it any different. I always wanted his attention on me, those incorruptible eyes directed towards me, only me, and no one else. We hadn't been very close as brothers, especially since I became a demon, but I wanted that to change. I wanted him to trust me as much as I trusted him, and I did trust him, even though he lied to me for years and told me I should die. Even though someone with his same face had put me through absolute hell for weeks before, because it was Yukio. Because, no matter what he does, I will never be able to forget his face as a little kid, covered with dirt and blood and snot and tears but still complemented with a smile. And I knew for sure that the person standing before me was the real thing, just as I knew for sure that the second beat, the shadow presence within me, was also him.
I looked up at him- nearly having to crane my neck, to my annoyance- and reached out a hand, asking him to help me up.
I felt the heat first, a thousand times more conspicuous than the comparatively weak warmth I'd felt when waking. It rushed through me, this heat, filling me up and leaving a tingling sensation in my stomach and extremities, most prominently in the hand within his grasp. In fact, the slight but certain contact of his fingers to my palm seemed to be the source of the wave, flowing from that discrete point and into us both, leaving in its wake a rising blush in my ears.
If this were a shoujo manga, we would somehow be suddenly surrounded with sparkling flowers and the words doki doki everywhere. Not that I read those kinds of manga.
His clear turquoise eyes widened in shock; if I was right-and judging by his reaction and the faint flush of on his neck, I was- he was feeling the same thing I was.
I smiled at him and pulled myself to my feet, threatening to pull him down by his arm until he matched the force of my weight. Once on my feet I made no move to disjoin our hands, and neither did he.
Our hands were so similar, nearly the same size. Our nails were all cut to the quick, though mine grew out inhumanly fast in sharp claws whenever I lost control. Callouses roughened our skin as well, making the contact between us strangely satisfying in texture.
"You can feel it too, right?" I stepped over the chair and comfortably into his personal space. "This…thing." I gestured vaguely to visualize my eloquent explanation before bringing my free hand to the center of his chest, where I felt that intangible feeling the strongest. Four of my fingers pressed lightly into his thin uniform shirt. I could feel his heartbeat under my fingers and, sure enough, it matched the phantom beat I could feel in my own body.
My eyes never left his and I swallowed drily, wishing I had felt the need to drink something beforehand. I could feel I wasn't wrong, instinctually, but then again, historically, my instinct wasn't the most reliable sense to utilize.
A mixture of relief and satisfaction came to me as I felt his heart rate increase beyond my own. His hand, a bit shakily, came up to brush against mine, still poised over his chest. It then traveled to my own chest in the same manner. The warmth of his fingers seeped through my clothes, and no doubt he could feel my pulse racing to match his.
"I thought I was crazy," he confessed. "It's how I knew Mephisto wasn't lying."
And then he smiled, his slightly pointed canines somehow accentuating his features, and such a reaction was so rare and unexpected that I couldn't help but smile back.
"Rin, let's go back." He couldn't say home, because home was back in a little house beside the old church, but it was as close as we were going to get. We left together, not losing the connection of our clasped hands even when he had to lock the door.
"You don't have another mission?" He'd been called out as soon as our case had been reviewed by the Grigori-as the son of Satan, apparently even being kidnapped can be made out to be my fault-and presumably hadn't made it back until school this morning. Even he looked tired out, though he was most likely accustomed to long hours like these.
He shook his head in answer. "We're short staffed, but that was the last for at least a few days."
"Would ya like t' buya vowel?"
The worst possible replacement for Vanna White stood before me dressed in heeled knee-high boots, fishnet stockings, what could be considered shorts, and nothing more than a bikini top.
She was curvaceous, her full pouty lips and expressive fiery locks only adding to the first impression one got from her impressive bust size; I wouldn't be deceived, though: this was not a woman. Sometimes I doubted if she was even human.
She was a person of the female variety, and as ruthless as they come. Masculinity shook in fear and withered away in her presence. She would not hesitate to neuter a man that got too close to her; she would most likely enjoy the act and take some trophies to remember the newly-made eunuch by.
So when Shura Kiragakure looked happy, anyone in the vicinity that had a brain should probably be very, very afraid. And while it was debatable whether I did, in fact, have a brain (It's not like I choose to be stupid, I swear), even I didn't want to end up on her bad side. I still had the scar on my shoulder from her sword. Fuck male pride and all that bullshit; Shura was fucking scary when she was pissed, and even more so when in a good mood.
"What're you gonna charge me?" I'd spent the last five minutes trying to guess what 'surprise' she had for me. Surprises were good, like, for parties and birthday presents, but with her?
"Ahh, I give up! Useless!" Toned arms crossed over her chest, unfortunately covering the nipples exposing themselves in the chilled air of the training room. Domineering women weren't really my type, but damn…
"Tell me already!" I demanded. She had called me in there supposedly to train but hadn't shown the slightest inclination to do so. I actually had other things to do besides wasting my time there, like studying…yeah, that's a lie. She was just frustrating, and it didn't help that the second Yukio had left me to her, that stupid, annoying, freaky, crawling, nails-on-a-chalkboard feeling came back as if it had never left. It wasn't as bad, though, when I wasn't thinking about it, which was pretty hard to do.
She turned her head to the side petulantly and looked at my out of the corner of her eye.
"Not gonna!" I growled in warning before lunging at her, intending to pull her hair out until she told me.
She jumped away with a sharp grin like she'd been expecting the move.
"I'll tell if yer can catch me!" Her voice echoed behind her as she fled out the door and through the hall.
"Shit!" I was after her in a second, determined not to lose.
Through the doorway, down the hall, passing the first and second doors before entering the third passage it branched off into, I ran after her, always a few precious seconds behind her. The next corridor had several similar branches and again we raced through the third in succession.
The training room was one of the closest rooms to the surface, built into an enormous underground system. There were a few rooms similar to it, easy to access from the surface and even from the cram classrooms, but the straightforward paths soon degenerated into something mazelike, characteristic of the one in charge of the school itself.
A few turns later had me at the precipice of a different kind of doorway. The frame was and obnoxious pink and wooden, splintering at the seams. Beyond it wasn't the coveted, gothic-textured walls that had preceded it but pure, unworked tunnels, made somewhat safe only by the sparse wooden posts set to hold up the heavy, rocky stone above. Breaching the entryway, I caught sight of the tail end of her hair before it disappeared around the next corner.
I grinned; Shura was playing dangerously, taking this game of tag outside the demon barrier around the school.
At first there were a few lanterns placed intermittently along the walls, but the amount tapered off into none. Darkness was like daylight to me, though it was a testament to Shura's inhuman abilities that she was able to travel as well as she did.
My body was stiff but the exertion felt good, even with the frigid air freezing up my lungs. Somehow this was exactly what I needed; I felt my muscles loosening up, remembering the pull and strain I needed to move, to fight.
The tunnels were built to escape from the school undetected if for some reason the magical keys we were given stopped working, but they were also built with many side passages to confuse anyone not familiar with it. Namely, me.
If I lost sight of Shura for a second, I could end up stuck down there forever.
And then I reached the end of the central tunnel and turned, expecting to see the tip of her hair, the bottom of her shoe, rounding the next corner, only to be met with nothing.
It was a large expanse, dimly lit by a single lantern hanging by the entrance, and it was completely empty. I slowed to a cautious tread, wary as I crossed the boundary into the cavernous maw.
Two steps in I felt the cold rush of someone rushing behind me, and I turned on my toes, hoping to catch Shura in the middle of her fun. My fingers passed through empty air, though, and the only reward for my effort was a heartless chuckle from another part of the room.
Rushing through the expanse, I finally caught sight of her, legs crossed, sitting on an outcropping of rock. She slid off and jumped left, and I tried to follow her motion, lunging to where her trajectory should have taken her, unable to flee with her feet not on the ground. I noticed but didn't realize the significance of her arm raising, reaching behind her, until, a split second before my fingers closed around her neck, she lifted herself back using a piece of rock jutting out of the wall as leverage. I was unable to stop myself and I fell forward, gasping as the wind was knocked out of my stomach by something long and hard sticking out of the ground.
"Fuuuuck!" I wheezed out, rolling to the floor on my side to relieve the pressure.
"Oh my god," Shura leaned against the wall, holding her stomach as she laughed at me. She slid down to the floor, unable to hold in her laughter, unable to breathe as a result.
"Holy shit, my stomach hurts," she said once she could take in air again. She opened her eyes, full of mirth, and looked at me. "Not as much as yers, I bet!"
I sat up, glaring at her. She was finally stationary but I got the idea that the game was over, and I'd lost, though she probably wouldn't be too harsh in dishing out punishments because I'd already humiliated myself in front of her.
"What the fuck…" I complained without much anger.
I noticed the thing I had fallen on.
"What the fuck?" I said again. What was something like that doing down there?
Spotless steel glinted, reflecting the flames a few meters away. It was buried over half a foot into a big mound of earth extending from the ground, but the curve of the metal was obvious.
"Carnwenhau," I breathed. I shifted to my knees before the blade.
Shura visibly started, violet eyes wide before narrowing suspiciously.
"Most people would think of Excalibur when they see a sword in the ground. Especially since Carnwenhau is supposed to be a European dagger."
My gaze fell to the point where blade ended and earth began. I didn't answer the implied question. She scowled.
"Welp," she leaned forward from her place on the floor with a grin, the bad atmosphere forgotten. "Since yer so goddamn funny, this is yer present. Ya like?"
I gaped at her, shocked. "Really?"
"He he." She crawled forward, only the sword between me and her dangerous grin. "Ya gotta get it from the stone first," she challenged.
My right hand was already wrapped around the handle before I stopped myself.
"This isn't gonna blow up on me when I pull it out, right?" I asked suspiciously. "The ceiling isn't going to cave in, and giant monkeys aren't going to chase me outta here?"
"What, yer scared?" She leaned forward on her elbow, her free hand tauntingly waving a can of beer she'd appropriated from god knows where.
I grit my teeth and focused on the blade, determined. With my strength, one hand should be enough, but I grasped the handle with my other hand, just in case.
My fingers clenched and I pulled with all the strength I had, expected a great amount of resistance. Instead I lost balance and fell backwards; the katana came out as easily as if it'd been stuck in butter.
"Ha!" Shura looked surprised, her mouth forming an 'o' shape before reverted back to the grin.
When I opened my mouth to retort, I choked instead, accidentally inhaling a large amount of dust that hadn't been there a minute before. The walls groaned, no longer being able to comfortably hold their own weight.
I glared at Shura. "I thought you said the ceiling wasn't going to cave in!"
"I didn't say that!" She grabbed me, lifting me to my feet to begin dragging me towards the exit. The once-smooth cut stone of the entryway trembled suddenly and collapsed on itself, blocking the path just before we reached it.