A/N: Thanks for the reviews, follows, & favorites on the first chapter! They really inspired me to finish my final edits on this one quickly.
I did a speedpainting of Kuro to go with "Spirit's Journey" you can see at the tumblr HeetaWorks. There's a link at the top for the "A Loyal Son" tag for easy finding.
DISCLAIMER: Ao No Exorcist is owned by Kazue Kato. I do not own Ao No Exorcist, only my own writing.
Rin pulled himself off of the worn wooden floor in effort to lift his spirits, unwilling to endure any more deep introversion nor sitting on scuffed floorboards for the evening. Having wasted the entire afternoon dredging through unsavory memories, Rin sought out a less depressing way to spend his night. He slinked over to his desk chair in a fluid, ferret-like fashion, and switched on his table lamp. White spots splattered his view as his eyes adjusted to the light, cast downward to avoid the source of the sudden brightness.
As if not seeing the mess would make it disappear, he refused to sit up straight as he peered odiously at the unfinished pile of assignments, textbooks, stray paper, and his cell phone littering the surface of his study area. Homework, yet again, infuriated the academically-challenged youth instead of distracting him. Rin rummaged through his table drawer for a few seconds before settling on borrowing a nice looking pencil from Yukio's desk instead. He frowned at the hefty leather-bound book on top of the stack directly before him and shuffled through the notes Izumo had lent him from the last few lectures.
"I'm pretty sure Satan invented essays," the lazy student complained at his incomplete homework.
When blue flames flickered at the corner of the page he was writing on, and threatened to burn up his few scribbled lines of demonology work out of pure frustration, Rin decided against pressing his studies further. He sighed and stretched back, arms crossed behind his head. There were only so many times that any of his professors or classmates would believe the sharp-toothed exorcist when he insisted that he had accidentally incinerated his homework, but promised that he had completed them all on time. Agitated, his tail whipped against the back of one of his desk chair legs with a loud thump, successfully distracting him from stewing over his hatred of written assignments.
He ignored the sprawling coursework in favor of picking up his cell phone. With it's faded gray and blue casing, it certainly couldn't be mistaken for one of the sleek new models he saw the wealthy True Cross students carry. Nevertheless, the little old phone sent texts just fine and endured an impressive amount of abuse. Rin wasn't one to spend his life playing with a cell phone anyway, at least not one that didn't even have a manga viewer.
The bored adolescent thumbed idly over the open text messaging box on his cell phone, contemplating whether or not to message his younger twin. Since his overworked brother was so often not home, and most of his classmates had distanced themselves to one degree or another, Rin was usually able to ignore his phone for days on end without issue. His most recent text messages were few and far between, and mainly from the spotty four-eyes, with the occasional questionable photo or double date offer from Shima Renzou.
Despite his frigid and distant demeanor, Yukio still responded to status update questions from time to time with short sentences and threats of punishment for bad behavior done by Rin in his absence. It reminded him of how Yukio used to treat him in person opposed to the complete cold shoulder he had gotten all summer. Although the ever-busy, more advanced, exorcist appeared to be intentionally avoiding coming home to his rowdy sibling, Rin still wondered what his accomplished brother was up to.
A tiny yawn from the edge of his bed caught the teenager's attention. He dropped the phone onto his desk and turned towards the drowsy cat sith that was stretching every part of its body, claws dug into his unkempt sheets. The irritated student rose from his chair and joined his small companion. Rin folded his arms quietly and watched the sleeping demon near the edge of the bed, a pillow's length from the sprawled out feline. While Yukio would take days to message him back, and the recent social recluse wouldn't see any people until classes on Monday, Kuro was ready and willing to keep him company.
Since being called out as Satan's offspring at True Cross Academy early in the summer, Rin had pulled further into himself. Before going to True Cross, the navy haired teenager had been used to never having friends at school. He tried to assure himself that reverting back to that solitary lifestyle would be easy, normal even. Although he still had people who talked to him at school hours this time, he missed their extracurricular chats. Unlike his life before moving to True Cross though, when he had often gotten in trouble for protecting his crybaby brother, Rin at least had gained a formidable former silk god as a companion.
Instead of attempting social outings with his estranged Esquire classmates, the adolescent opted to spend most of his free time socializing with Kuro, his ever accepting familiar. He felt relaxed around the cat sith, and enjoyed not having to worry about whether or not he used his inherited Satanic power around the demonic feline. The nights and weekends he spent with Kuro gave him a break from the leash of guilt that came with being both an exorcist and son of the God of Gehenna. It also distracted him from the remorse that weighed him down internally when he thought about the humans in his life. To Kuro, Rin was simply a friend and fellow demon, not some threat that should be eliminated at the slightest use of his inhuman abilities. If the conflicted youth was honest with himself, he felt happier and less imprisoned running freely alongside Kuro, his flames not forcefully controlled, than he did anywhere else ever since he had last battled with Amaimon.
With the sky filled by the cool darkness of nightfall, Rin felt his mood improve and an invigorating energy well up within him, begging to be spent. His tail flicked at the floor in dwindling unrest as the freshly energetic teenager laid his head down immediately next to the still groggy feline demon. A huff of hot breath blew his familiar's sleek coat about like a field of overgrown grass waving gently in the breeze as Rin exhaled.
Kuro's fur bristled in reaction. The tiny demon's whiskers flicked, and his left eye twitched slightly. He yawned once more before he opened his large yellow eyes at his rude companion. Oblivious to the concept of polite ignorance, the newly awakened cat sith grinned at his friend with a paw over his nose.
"Good Morning, Rin! You can't wake me up with your bad breath if you kill me with it first," he teased, one ear turned aside.
"Hey! I'm not the one with fish breath! It's almost nighttime too, you lazy cat!" Rin blushed slightly in embarrassment at Kuro's comment. He deftly swiped his blue bed-sheets from underneath the cat sith, who jumped off of the fabric in time to avoid being flung into a pile of laundry with the sheets he had been sleeping on. The petite demon licked one of his front paws nonchalantly after he landed, and leaped up onto the teenager's shoulder. Sharp, thin claws dug into Rin's skin as Kuro found a comfortable position to keep his balance on the standing student. Wounded pride swiftly forgotten, the navy-haired youth scratched behind his familiar's ear fondly while he headed downstairs.
At the first floor landing, Rin turned down a long hallway to where a row of several metallic sinks were lined along the wall. Near one of the faucets, a splay-bristled toothbrush stood upright, next to a small, half used tube of toothpaste, a plastic cup with his name written on it in marker, and a stray bar of pale green soap. He fiddled shortly with the toothpaste cap, distracted by Kuro's incessant kneading into his collar bone as he went about brushing his teeth. On the opposite end of the sink row, he noticed that his twin's obsessively organized toiletries were still missing. Rin's ear twitched at the feeling of hot feline breath against his neck and earlobe as Kuro yawned on his shoulder, causing the boy to shake his head about out of reflex. He jostled his shoulder slightly in attempt to stave off the cat sith's sleepiness. "Don't snooze on me now, Kuro; you slept all afternoon! It's cool out now and it looks like Yukio isn't coming home again tonight, want to go for a run?"
"Do I ever!" The feline demon's eyes sparkled with eager glee. He promptly bounded off of Rin's shoulder, down the dormitory hallway, and towards the front doors at full speed. Kuro meowed impatiently back over his shoulder to his companion, who was readjusting his shirt where the cat sith had used the teenager as a pin cushion and vaulting horse. "Let's go, Rin!"
A smile cracked across his face at Kuro's restlessness, and the invigorated youth ran out the dormitory doors after his feline companion, only stopping momentarily to lock the doors behind them. As soon as the fresh night breeze vibrated in his lungs, his eyes adjusted to the darkness around the two demons with ease. Since the boys dormitory had been unused prior to the previous semester, there was barely any modern lighting immediately surrounding the building. The sparse few lamps were often out; he noticed old broken glass scattered around one's base among half-rotted leaves. Rin's whole body buzzed with energy. His tail bounced behind him like a wound coil ready to spring. Without a word, he followed his feline friend up the unwashed stone beside one of the unlit lamps, and on top of the courtyard wall that connected the dormitory to the rest of the academy campus.
The two demon companions ran along the high wall together without any particular destination in mind, in the same way they had spent previous nights during what little free time the restless student had between his studies and when they both tucked in to the seasonal humidity made the days uncomfortable, it provided a pleasant softness to the night weather for the friendly running duo. He stayed several feet behind Kuro, avoiding being whipped in the face by his friend's two massive tails. Rin enjoyed the empty evening air as it blew about in pulse with their spirited feet whenever they pushed off of the Academy rooftops in merry leaps.
He felt akin to a pet let off of its leash on a sunny day whenever he and Kuro dashed across the rooftops of True Cross late at night, without any immediate responsibilities looming over him. The pair made certain to stay within the limits of Mephisto's domain, despite Rin's unspoken eagerness to journey further; to escape from all of his worries about school, his friends, Satan, and the Vatican and just continue running forever. Whenever they reached the edge of the Principal's anti-demon charms and protectorates, Rin paused for a few minutes to take notice of the demons that gathered wherever the navy haired adolescent and his feline familiar rested. With his increased isolation from many of his human companions, Rin found comfort in spending time observing the creatures he was regularly compared to.
Near midnight, when they were sprinting especially close to the edges of town, Kuro and Rin found themselves running alongside other demons, only separated by the impassable divide of repellent exorcist technology between them. The affected adolescent slowed to a stop and stared out at the creatures opposite him, separated by mere feet. While some had continued to run onward, many more of the demons across the wall had stopped to watch the Gehenna prince just as curiously as he was looking at them. They were mainly lower level demons that Rin had encountered before including animal ghouls, moorkin, and coal tar, but there were a few he only knew from the pictures in his demonology books. The curious boy was both somewhat disappointed and relieved that he didn't see any human ghouls, ghosts, or high level demons raring to hold a full conversation with him like he talked with his cat sith companion. Partly because he was so close with Kuro, Rin wondered if it was possible for him to make other demon friends, or if he was destined to always be split by a wall of difference between himself and potential companions.
As he peered over the barrier, it amused the young man to watch a particularly friendly dog ghoul wag its tail and tilt his head at him like a stray puppy looking for petting. Unlike the first time he had come across ghouls with the former Paladin, Rin was no longer bothered by their smell. Ever since he had used the Kurikara, his sense of smell had been altered just as much as his other senses were. Miasma, herbs, perfume, they were all strangely different now. He knew that the demons across the divide were dangerous and supposedly untrustworthy by nature, but it was hard to keep that aversion solid in his heart when the playful ghoul dog before him kept circling stupidly along the wall in an attempt to get closer to him. The creature paced back and forth along the same ten foot stretch near the outside wall. It diligently sniffed and pawed the ground for an opening, as if somehow a hole to access the demon prince would magically appear in the short period of time the eager creature had it's head turned from the spot.
Rin barely avoided his inner urge to go to the dog ghoul himself, and repressed his amusement just long enough to resume his run. He had always liked animals, they were far kinder to him than people even when he was a small child. Especially now that his closest ally looked so similar to a regular house cat, Rin had reconsidered what and who he could be friends with. Kuro must have sensed his small struggle with pulling himself away from the friendly demons at the bottom of the wall, as the former silk god kept especially close to his two-legged companion afterwords. Still needing to burn off energy and happy to distract himself, Rin headed away from the city walls and north through the city, towards the True Cross activity grounds where the cram school Esquire's had done their summer training camp.
For the first full month after his last fight with Amaimon exposed his flames to the exorcists, he had avoided the forest altogether out of a residual fear of running into the pointy-haired demon again. After June and July went by without so much as another creepy peep from the Earth King, the energetic youth had grown to greatly enjoy the wooded space and its supernatural residents during his treks in the dark. When the cat sith and he extended their nighttime travels to the expansive forest, there were no charms separating the two groups. While certain higher level demons were sealed away in the exorcist maintained woodland for advanced training, the rest took advantage of having free roam of the forest. Rin first noticed that flocks of coal tar would follow their excursions in a windy swarm; quickening and slowing like the flow of the coastal tide in the brisk autumn air. Once he had learned to maintain a fast enough pace around the dust-possessing demons, it was easy to keep the coal tar from flying in his face and inhibiting his vision.
"Ick!" Kuro spat as a particularly high leaping goblin left a trail of slime along the enormous cat's whiskers.
Rin laughed at the sight of his feline friend, chasing behind him as the the midsize demon bounded deep into the woods after the gooey goblin. A slimy sensation rubbed against Rin's leg as various sized goblins and hobgoblins bounded along in oddly timed leaps past him. Although they were kin to the abrasive Amaimon, the drooling demons seemed to be more frolicsome than hostile in nature. The innocuous way the small animal-possessing creatures from Gehenna playfully skittered along the fallen leaves that lined their running trail was worlds apart from the frenzied actions of the heavily baited goblins he had seen at True Cross on his first day of class.
As the pair often did on days when Yukio didn't come home from his missions, they ran until dawn without tiring out. Night was a stimulating time for both of them, and Rin's lack of sleep didn't catch up with him until the sun peeked over the hazy horizon. In those few minutes between nighttime and daybreak, the tailed exorcist went from being full of enough energy to run cross-country to feeling like a dead man walking, about to fall over from sheer exhaustion. His sudden drop in vigor each sunrise continued to always catch the young demon off-guard, but Kuro had cleverly led them back towards the boy's dorm in the last thirty minutes of darkness.
Limbs heavy, Rin collapsed on the dormitory roof in a heap of tired teenager. Kuro landed next to him with a mild thud and gazed down at his sleepy-eyed running mate. The familiar laid down next to his exhausted companion and pulled the half-conscious adolescent closer to him with a giant paw, which Rin responded to by curling up to his friend's soft side. Kuro purred loudly as the wiry teenager used him for a bed on the rooftop of the run down dormitory they called home. The drowsy demon stretched his tail and wrapped it around himself once more as he petted his familiar under the chin fondly.
"It's nice to not be the one being used as a cushion for once," he bemused quietly as he found his own comfortable spot on the former silk god. One hand tucked between Kuro's arms and the other gripped around the longer fur of his chest, both demons enjoyed relaxing lazily after a whole night's worth of running all over True Cross Town. The sun eased slowly up the horizon, and the cool misty daybreak began to warm with light. Rin yawned, his last word muffled as he buried his face in Kuro's plush black fur, "I could get used to this."
Several guilty memories plagued the exhausted boy's final thoughts before he was able to sleep soundly. He knew his night time activities with his familiar separated the young Esquire further from his classmates. His habits of sleeping in class and staring at the door eagerly with his tail thumping near the end of lessons only increased as the days went by. Rin ground his fangs anxiously as nightly remorse spewed itself through his brain like repeated hail mary's, too often reminding him of his shortcomings and failures.
More demons had been active lately near the True Cross Academy campus, but Rin had lost his determination to kill them over time. Sure, he was still absolutely set on killing Satan, but his underlings that possessed plants and animals weren't the same. Often they were just guardian demons or forgotten deities who lived their lives to protect something they cared for, instead of for malice or chaos as his Professors preached so vehemently. It only made his guilt worse that could no longer drive out their calls for help from his head, fearful demons begging for their "young prince" to come to their aid. He had previously thought that they were only trying to manipulate his emotions, but had long realized that demons felt pain and fright just the same as humans. The lines between what he considered himself to be and the demons the exorcists were supposed to dispose of was far too blurred for him to understand his own feelings.
Paladin Angel had made sure of planting those ideas firmly in his head when he chopped off Rin's foot so eagerly at his trial with the argument that "it would just grow back." A phantom pain tingled through his ankle like hundreds of needlepoint icicles. The unsettled young man wondered about what else Arthur Angel wanted to sever from him. Being carved like a holiday roast didn't sound like his idea of a good time.
He recalled a training session from the spring when he watched his fellow exorcists ruthlessly exterminate a generally peaceful demon. Tearing it limb from limb didn't seem like much of a problem when they barely tried to run away, he thought grimly. As the inheritor of Satan's flames, he wondered how long it would be until he would be the one in it's place as part of a routine demon eradication. Rin nuzzled his face deeper into Kuro's fur until all he could hear was the demon's purring and rhythmic heartbeat.
The rest-hungry young man bartered with his conscience; at least his help wasn't wanted by most of his fellow exorcists, so he was regularly able to avoid the slaughtering duties. His avoidance of the "extra credit" offered for joining in on additional demon hunts didn't worry anyone. The older Okumura twin had always been known for avoiding homework when possible, and they were all too eager to avoid Rin losing himself in his flames again. No one cared to ask the demon exorcist the specific reasoning for his continued slacker behavior after class ended. A reputation for laziness wasn't always so bad, he guessed, as his body began to fully relax on the warm morning rooftop.
An obnoxiously pointy object prodded the snoozing Esquire in his ribs. Sunlight assaulted the boy's dazed vision as he growled at the repeated bothersome jabbing to his torso. He waved a hand in the air, swatting at the irritant groggily. Rin rolled over, groping for warm fur to bury his face in. He slowly realized that his familiar had moved the sleeping student onto a wadded up pile of blankets on the roof, and left during the time he had been snoring away. The half-awake teenager clawed at the soft mess like a clumsy cat burrowing itself in a basket of warm laundry. Finding the arrangement satisfactory, Rin curled up on top of the grouped fabric in an attempt to resume his slumber.
"Okumura!" A sing-song voice trilled, far too chipper and bright for the groggy teenager's acute hearing. Another jab to his person came from that painful poking, awkwardly close to his backside, with a bit of added power to its push. His tail whipped through the air with a whistle to assault the item disrupting Rin's sleep. Pain shocked up his spine as a bony hand gripped around his tail's fleshy end, below the dark fur that extended off the tip of the wiry appendage. The unruly extremity attempted escape by flailing about unsuccessfully in its captor's grip. Again the boisterous man spoke in a volume too loud for what Rin assumed was still the extremely early morning. The sound rang through his sensitive ears with fierce enthusiasm despite the thrashing tail in the speaker's grasp, "you're late for school, Okumura. It reflects poorly on my position of trust with the Grigori if you don't show up for class. What will Professor Okumura think? The shame, the scandal!"
The melodramatic male's theatrics mentioning the Grigori brought Rin right out of his attempt to return to sleep. A yelp came from the suddenly alert exorcist as he tried to get to his feet quickly, but tripped on the blankets he had nestled himself into minutes prior. To make matters worse, the flamboyant Principal decided that moment was an opportune time to release his clawed hold on the youngest son of Satan's tail, which sent the boy within inches of kissing the roofing at full force. Sharp nails scratched into the pavement followed by skinned elbows. Fortunately for his head, Rin was able to save himself from face-planting completely at the last moment due to the speed of his demonic reflexes. Nonetheless, he was a bit more than riled up by the embarrassing events of his awakening and panic at his tardiness. The wounds healed near instantly, but his ego did not.
Still on all fours, the rudely awoken student turned quickly back to the direction of his assailant, only to be met with empty air and his school uniform neatly folded on top of the blankets where he had been resting. The stray leaves accumulating on the dormitory roof were the lone audience to Rin's explosion of colorful language at a lump of linen. Impotent rage subsided, the student looked around him to make sure no one had witnessed his very uncool outburst. Coast clear, he snatched up the pile of fresh clothing and began to change whilst hopping in his boots towards the main True Cross building for his day classes, leaving yesterday's clothes scattered across the roof behind him.
A/N: Thanks for reading! The next chapter will actually have a far bit of dialogue, so I hope this story hasn't been too slow so far.
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