Shima sighed again before taking a sip of his soda. Surrounding him were Bon and Konekomaru, his friends since childhood. They had grown up in the same temple and when Bon made the decision to become an exorcist, the other two had naturally followed. It wasn't his friends, though, that caused his melancholic mood.

Two tables away from them in the heavily populated canteen sat three exorcists-in-training of the female variety. Though going through some rough attitude issues the year before, Kamiki, Paku, and Shiemi had managed to become rather close friends. The only girl Shima had eyes for at that moment, though, was Kamiki, who was seated closest to the edge of the table and facing him.

She was engrossed in a conversation about something or other with the other two girls, so Shima was able to unobtrusively not-creepily stare at her. He could take his time and notice how her long, dark hair, tied up in the usual twin tails, shone a romantic shade of purple in the sunlight, and how the tan she'd acquired over the summer suited her particularly well, and how even her unusually shaped eyebrows didn't detract from her beauty.

He was supposedly trying to be a monk but, god, he was helpless.

He was knocked out of his daydreaming by Shiemi suddenly jumping up and calling out to someone, waving her arms like a lunatic. The person, an unfamiliar boy around their age wandering around the tables, strode up the girls' table confidently despite seeming lost only a second before.

Suddenly the conversation around him ceased, the other members of his table also interested in who the person was. They listened in as the boy greeted Shiemi and introduced himself as 'Rin' to the other girls.

"See, I told you I wasn't making it up!" Shiemi said smugly, crossing her arms as Kamiki and Paku reluctantly agreed with her. Belatedly, Shima realized she was referring to their gossip during class, and he felt a moment of envy toward the guy, made worse by the way the three girls were looking at him. They stared at him, starstruck, as if he were some kind of celebrity, and who wouldn't? He was displeased to find that Shiemi hadn't been exaggerating about the guy's appearance –if Shima were into guys, he'd be all over that.

Everything about him screamed dangerous and sexy at the same time, from his skin tight jeans and leather combat boots to the muscles bulging out when he crossed his arms, the black studs in his ears, and even the risqué smirk on that handsome face and oh god Shima thought he was hot.

"Anyway, I should be going now," Shima tuned back in to hear. "I was sent by Mephisto to tell you there's a special cram class late tonight, since the teacher has been absent so often, or something. It's a good thing I was able to find you so easily."

"Bye then!" Rin left with a casual wave, the girls' insistent whispering following his departure.

"Who the heck does that guy think he is?" Bon muttered from beside him.

"That was the person Shiemi was telling us about yesterday, right?" Konekomaru answered, looking unsure.

Bon snorted. "Oh yeah, the guy that can apparently jump off a twenty foot tall building unharmed. What a load of bull."

"I don't know, Bon…We've seen some pretty weird things."

"Oh please. He's obviously just a human; we would have noticed otherwise, and the barriers around the school keep out demons, anyway."

"I guess so..." Konekomaru seemed doubtful, but didn't offer any more protest.

"Still," Bon pondered, "I haven't heard of him before in the exorcist ranks. Just who is he?"

Shima, who had, yet again, zoned out of the conversation, sunk into the table, more depressed than he was earlier. He didn't have a chance even without any competition; how was he supposed to get Kamiki to like him when there was someone like that around?

There were many things Rin was accustomed to dealing with. Power plays between bloodthirsty demons, greedy humans trying to take over the world, the ignorant ones that deliberately chose not to see what's right in front of their eyes.

One thing he would never be able to prepare himself for, however, was dealing with his father.

The man was crazy, no doubt about it. Old as dirt, if rudely put in human terms, and he could still take down a fully manifested demon without breaking a sweat. He was the Paladin, and had been for many years, and would probably be for many more years. He could outrun a tiger…okay, maybe that's an exaggeration. But he could out-shoot, out-gun, and out-drink anyone else in True Cross Order.

But that's just what Rin knew about his life as an exorcist. The one he had only seen on scant occasions, the one that had him questioning everything about his childhood and everything he'd ever been taught. It was what he knew about the man apart from his title of exorcist that had him, against all reasoning, trudging up the richly carpeted steps to the uppermost wing of the eastern 'faculty' building, the one that held the Paladin's office. Most of the True Cross organization was underground, a necessity for the type of work that went on, but such an important position garnered an aboveground office complete with a breathtaking view of the enormous school…Hard work pays off, he supposed…

Shiro wasn't the Paladin, he was just an old man that liked to sneak a bit of whiskey into his tea at night and think his sons won't notice, that was usually harsh but inarguably fair in handing out punishments. But he was the Paladin, and that's the part Rin had a problem with. How could he go in there and act like he was still the normal if troublesome son he used to be if the man he called his father was someone completely different from who Rin thought he was?

That's how Rin found himself reconsidering his decision, hand poised to knock on the heavy doors of the old man's office. He took a deep breath, trying to give himself the courage to complete the action, but it didn't work. Minutes passed in silence, until eventually his hand dropped back to his side.

Rin's eyes fell in something like despair. He couldn't bring himself to knock, and no amount of time loitering around the door could change the fact that he wasn't ready. Maybe he'd never be.

Then his fist clenched in anger, tight enough that his nails cut into his palm. Why did he have to be the one to reach out and fix things? He wasn't even the one in the wrong! He kept hold of that flash of anger so that he wouldn't have to deal with the underlying guilt.

As he turned to leave, a suspicious sound caught his attention. He paused, trying to listen. It seemed to have come from outside, but he didn't see anything through the large windows lining the hallway. He had just made the decision to ignore it and leave anyway when he heard it again, much louder and closer than before.

Wait a minute, that sounds familiar. No sooner had the thought occurred to him than the hall was doused in darkness, the light shining through the windows completely blocked by a huge shadow…one with wings.

Sunlight returned to the hall as the demon flew away from the building, revealing its massive body. It announced its presence with another rumbling growl that shook the foundations. Even larger than the one Rin had eradicated more than a year before, it's long, spike-encrusted tail swung into another building, sending an entire corner of bricks to the ground.

Rin rushed to the nearest window, flinging it open and setting one foot onto the sill before pausing. Far below him, several black-cloaked exorcists poured out of doorways, looking like large ants from his height. A bit farther away he could see the arrival of another group, marked pointedly by the leader's strikingly white hair. Of course, after all that, the old man would end up not even being in his own office. Rin felt like kicking himself as he saw the half dozen cram students trailing after the Paladin. He was the one to tell that blonde girl about the cram class, and he forgot that his father was the one teaching it!

Bullets flew through the air, most falling short of their target but a few biting into lavender scales and drawing angry howls from the beast. Rin fought the initial urge to jump down there and join in the fight, tampering down on the irrational compulsion to help the exorcists. Instead he settled down into the window, sitting with one leg hanging outside for balance, so he could watch.

He figured if a teenage kid with a medieval weapon could bring down a dragon-like demon, then a score of trained exorcists could accomplish at least that much. It wasn't like he was jumping at the chance to reveal all his tricks, especially since he was still trying to keep off the higher-ups' radar. He didn't need suspicious exorcists asking him questions he wasn't ready to answer; that part would come in due time. For now, he would just observe. He could jump in if he was needed, if it looked like the humans were losing.

But why was he even fighting for the humans? A small part of him watered that seed of disquiet. He was a demon, after all. Why was he killing his own kind?

…Well, he knew why, of course. Getting rid of murderous, bloodthirsty creatures would be considered a worthy cause by most anyone. But still. He was a half human son of Satan –he was allowed a few identity crises, a few wars on existentialism in his lifetime.

He was a demon, but he was human, too.

Life was hard.

Rin sat back and watched as the beast was finally felled, sounds of victory reaching him even at that height as the demon was captured and secured with countless bullets and yards of thick cord so they could study it later. Would they try to do that with him, too? Capture him, lock him up so they could poke and prod at the devil's abomination?

He sighed, sliding out of the window. He needed to leave before Shiro came back.

Early the next morning, Rin found himself rolling out of bed at an ungodly hour and using an enchanted key to transport himself halfway across the city at Mephisto's request. Well, order, more like.

'Go help out with the investigation!' he'd said, waving around that ridiculous umbrella. 'That little brother of yours is too stubborn to figure it out himself. You want to stop all these needless deaths, right?'

Of course, by experience, Rin knew that Mephisto was more than likely just leading everyone through his hoops again and that the case he'd sent Yukio on was, again, more than likely baked up by the clown himself. But people were dying. Even though he'd acted like an ignorant fool with his younger brother two days before, he could tell from the information and photos he'd seen that the murders were a serious matter. He knew he could help with the assignment, given his own unique experiences. He wasn't as dumb as he seemed.

Maybe it wasn't in his best interest to keep concealing that particular aspect of himself.

True Cross High School truly was an enormous structure, large enough to be a small city all on its own. Large enough that, though there were several hundred average human students living on the premises, not a single one was aware of all the demonic happenings taking place right at their back doors. The night before, several armed exorcists had shot a flying demon out of the sky, and none of the normal students had any clue.

Rin had been given a room far off from the inhabited sections of the school –even if he wasn't careful about concealing his presence, the only people he would come across were the occasional errant exorcists.

Even as isolated as he was, travelling out of the school and into the city wouldn't be problematic or time consuming to someone such as him. Still, getting all the way from point A to point B was so tiresome (or he was just a little lazy); he was glad Mephisto had bothered to give him a key.

The destination was a few blocks off from where the key transported him. It wasn't like they could go around bunching up the fabric of time and space for every doorway, after all. He knew he had arrived by the ostentatious yellow caution tape and the police cruisers parked outside. The only people within the small, dilapidated apartment complex were exorcists; the only police present were loyal to the Vatican. Inside the building, people were rushing about, collecting samples and writing in little notebooks or tapping away on tablets.

Rin followed the bustle through the apartment. The building was a sorry state to begin with, white walls yellowed with years of dirt and general uncleanliness, cracks in the ceiling and floor, mildew in the carpeted corners. The whole place gave off a sour odor, like dirty socks soaked in lemon juice. There were a lot of things hidden in the dimly lit rooms, including vermin and rodents and probably a load of illegal porn –it was pure luck for the normal residents that there weren't normal, law-abiding police officers going through their things.

Damn, but the demon behind the whole thing didn't half-ass anything. All Rin had to do was follow the conspicuous trail of blood down the smaller hallway on the side to find what he was looking for. He walked in, scoffing at the bloody handprint half covering the 'D' that marked the door. Overdone. Everything pointed to a lunatic snapping and murdering the victim. There was nothing demonic about the whole thing; even the door had been manually snapped off its hinges. Nearly any demon would have been able to find a cleaner, less obtrusive way into the building.

The apartment, which was the one furthest back in the complex, was a complete mess, even compared to the rest of the building. Instead of the aftermath of a nasty fight, it looked more like a rhino had gone on a berserk tantrum and destroyed everything in the small, four-room block. Papers were torn up and thrown, shards of glass scattered around, the light fixture removed from the ceiling and planted in the wall. The refrigerator door was a permanent addition to the window.

The blood trailed through the small kitchen and into the bedroom, where larger puddles disrupted the path. Rin nimbly avoided the liquid–most of it had already been catalogued already, but he didn't want to have to clean his boots later–and made his way throughout the apartment, peeking through the doorway into the bedroom.

He saw a pale leg hanging off the mattress, half of the bedspread hanging with it. The rest of the scene was obscured by his younger brother's long coat.

"What are you doing here?" Yukio asked irritably without turning around, spitting out the you as if it were bitter on his tongue. He was leaning over the dead body, silver doctor's utensils in his hands as he poked and prodded the lifeless skin. Taking a step inside, Rin could see that he was joined by a lab technician in sterile white. Neither looked fazed by the gory, torn up body they were working on.

"Supervising, of course," Rin replied cheekily, finding a spot of wall not covered in blood and human remains and leaning against it. "Someone's gotta make sure you don't make a mistake."

There was no response.

The lab tech finished whatever he was doing and excused himself formally, going so far as to bow to the exorcist. Just a pawn, then, Rin observed, his lip curling slightly in distaste. He tended to fight on the humans' side, but that didn't mean he had to like them. Especially those mindlessly binding themselves to the exorcist hierarchy.

Once the man was gone Yukio straightened from his work and Rin found himself with an eyeful of an angry blue glare, diluted only by the narrow gleam of his glasses in the dim light. Rin felt his breath catch, startled not so much by the sudden animosity as the strength of the resentment conveyed by those eyes, nearly organic and animate in its ability to lure him into its depths then cleave through his composure like a sword. The feeling brought a certain amount of anguish to the older twin.

Rin mentally crossed his fingers for dry eyes and was rewarded with his brother blinking once and turning away. Gratefully, he leaned further into the wall.

Due to the circumstances they faced, Rin could not find it in himself to trust his younger brother even without the angry glares and harsh words. But Yukio was still his little brother, and that was a title none other could claim. Dealing with him in such an antagonistic manner left a bitter taste, though even that was offset by the equanimity years of fighting and harboring secrets had given him.

Rin thought back to two days prior, when Yukio had all but kicked him out of the dusty old classroom used for the exorcist cram school. He was dismissed, surely cast as an idiot for his claiming ignorance.

"I have a legitimate reason to be here." Rin was unsure as to how he should act towards the other, and that made him edgy. Years of training and battling demons didn't prepare him for this. His weapons couldn't cut through the tension building up in that small room, though he wouldn't be far amiss trying, as thick as it was. "Mephisto sent me."

"Again." The tone was annoyed.

"That's right."

"To complete the pretense of being a real exorcist."

"I'm not trying to be a real exorcist," Rin bit out, finding some inner resolve and, with it, revitalizing his inborn sarcasm. "That would be a bit dangerous for me, don't you think? What with the whole 'kill all demons' mentality some of your mindless drones have."

Yukio had long since turned back to his work.

The victim he was examining was a woman, curvy with red hair and green eyes, though it was hard to enjoy her aesthetic appeal when the bullet wound was a dark blemish on her otherwise smooth forehead. She was naked and covered with blood. Besides the fatal wound on her head, her abdomen and extremities seemed to have been ripped up by some kind of animal, or demon, and her throat had been torn out.

The remains of the flesh that had been dug out of the woman's body were scattered on the floors amongst the blood splatter, as if the beast had flicked it off his claws when he was done.

After a few minutes passed, and a few more after that, Rin figured he would try again.

"Have you found anything else out, then?" His breath caught in the middle of the sentence but it was thankfully unnoticeable.

The exorcist's hand paused, the tiny metal blade it was holding hovering not two centimeters from the woman's face. Yukio didn't look up again.

"And why should I bother telling you if I had?" The words were noticeably tight. "Since you're just here as a cover, it would be a waste of my time."

Well, then. That's rather rude. He didn't remember Yukio being such an ass. But then again Rin figured the situation was trying for both of them.

"You got that twitch in your eyebrows again," Rin pointed to his own. "You only do that when you're confused about something, and you're gonna get wrinkles from it. So you might as well bounce ideas off me or something. It's better than worrying about it in silence, I'd think."

"What kind of reason is that," Rin heard him mutter, then sigh. "Very well, then. The victim was a nineteen year old university dropout. She appears to have been attacked trying to get back to her apartment. She managed to make it inside but the demon followed her into this room and killed her in the same way it killed the other victims. It then seems to have gone on a rampage, tearing into her body and the rest of the apartment." Yukio worked as he spoke, carefully peeling back layers of blankets that had found their way into her wounds in the attack.

Rin whistled low. "And no one heard her screaming or her apartment being trashed?"

"This is a low-end neighborhood; the only ones found present were under the influence of hallucinogens so it's unclear whether what they remember actually happened. Anyone else who heard probably thought it was a drug deal gone wrong. The victim is a known user and, according to her other neighbors, it wasn't uncommon for her to bring her dealers into her room. It's weird though…" Yukio seemed to say to himself. "The other murders were cleaner and more efficient. The demon left after finishing the job, but for this one it took the time to destroy more than it needed to. It's actions don't make any sense."

It was then that Rin understand what kind of demon was behind the murders, and also why Yukio would never be able to figure it out without his help. He's so accustomed to viewing demons as inhuman beasts that he can't see what's right in front of him.

"There's nothing abnormal I can find in her body," Yukio continued. Done with the examination, he began cleaning the instruments he had used.

"You're wrong about something though." Genius though he was, Rin needed to point him in the right direction, or the demon would never be caught. "She wasn't wounded before she got into her apartment."

Yukio paused, turning suspicious eyes on the elder. "And how do you know that?" His tone suggested he was humoring the other.

"The blood outside her door isn't hers. It's not even human."

Yukio's brow furrowed, bringing back the confused look from earlier. Rin interrupted him before he could say anything. "There's no way I could mix them up; they smell completely different. The blood trailing through the hallway is the demon's. He was injured before he broke through her door."

"How do you know it's male?" Sharp ears caught the pronoun. Rin had his full attention.

"Besides the completely unladylike mauling of the victim's body? This room reeks of pheromones." A sharp canine worried his lower lip before Rin finished the thought. "Did you check her for rape?"

There was a moment of stunned surprise before Yukio was leaning out the door, calling one of the white lab coat-wearing assistants to bring him the necessary items.

Rin pointedly looked away. Murder was one thing. He was used to bodies being chopped up, people dying –demon or human, they went pretty much the same way. But he never condoned any kind of torture.

Yukio cursed at the result. There weren't many tests he could administer on site and the human police would most likely take control of the body before any detailed tests could be done, but a full round of physical examinations was routine. He was getting careless.

"Sexual assault was the last thing I expected." Yukio grimaced. "That's one more thing that's different about this victim." There was a pause as he cleaned up again. "It's surprising…well, thank you; I wouldn't have bothered to check this or the blood, otherwise."

"I'm not as dumb as I look, alright?" Rin snapped without thinking, spurred by the stale yet honest words. "Just…" he tried to play it off, "just don't assume all demons think the same way. It's not the victim that's changed, it's the demon."

Then he hightailed it out of there as quickly as he could without drawing attention to himself. It was dangerous if he couldn't stop himself from running his mouth.

"Stupid Yukio, always making things difficult," Rin muttered. He'd forgotten to ask for a key to get him back into the school, so he had to take the long way back.

Resolving things with his brother would be difficult, especially when he didn't even know if he wanted things resolved or not. His father, too…He wished he could go back a couple years to the time when he could spend all his time thinking about the next manga release, or what to make for dinner.

He was so caught up with his thoughts that he almost stepped on a black lump lying on the sidewalk. Frustrated with his lack of perception, he quickly stepped around it. Someone like him could be attacked at any time; if he let down his guard for even a second, he could be killed.

Something made him look back, though. He'd initially assumed the black lump to be a coat someone had left there, but upon further inspection it was actually a wounded animal, a cat sith.

The cat sith must sensed his power because it opened its eyes and mewled at him weakly.

Please, help me!

^End of chapter seven.

I HAVE A THEORY. I figured if I put that in all caps someone would read it. But you don't have to. I wouldn't, honestly. I just wanted to put it out there.

But anyway. So Mephisto's like master of time and everything right? He pretty much knows everything that's gonna happen. Which would be okay if he was a good demon that played by the rules. Unfortunately, he is not, even though it seems as though Shiro trusted him with a bunch of stuff. He's pretty dang evil, as far as sons of Satan go, so of course he'd make sure the Okumura twins would be used for his own purposes, instead of, say, to save humanity or something like that.

This also has to do with the characterization of Yukio thus far. He's definitely emotionally unstable, he doesn't deal well with his own problems, and, because of Mephisto, he has a shit ton of stress to work through; I feel like one of these chapters he's just gonna snap and start murdering people. So then I was thinking, why would Mephisto want that to happen? Especially since they're, like, brothers. Well, also taking account the events of the anime, Yukio would be a really convenient host for Satan, yes? Especially since, if left alone, Yukio is an experienced exorcist that might interfere with Mephisto's plans. So I think he planned it all for Satan to take over Yukio when he has his psychotic/demonic break, and then use Rin as his own pawn to get shit done. And then somewhere in there Satan and Yukio are killed, Mephisto takes over as head hauncho, and Rin either lives or dies but it doesn't really matter because he's kind of useless.

I was always confused about why Mephisto would go through the trouble of teaching Rin, having him learn how to fight, if Satan was just going to take over his body anyway. Kind of pointless, I think. And it makes sense -Rin is the true inheritor of Satan's power, the demon among the twins; it seems like Satan's other offspring don't take any notice of Yukio because he's all human, so Mephisto most likely doesn't see any blood relation between them worth mentioning. But, hell, what do I know.

If you managed to read this far, I thank you from the bottom of my bag of popcorn. Really, you are a wonderful person. And also, I apologize for the super late updates, and the chapters that are mysteriously shorter. I can barely believe people are still reading this story. Ehh and also there's some weird time problems in the previous chapters, like I completely miscounted the years, but I'm probably...not gonna fix it. You all get the idea.