Author's Note: For anybody who has read the first version of "Broken Bond", I just want to say that although I've made a lot of major changes to the new edition, it's basically the same story. The original story was based on the pendant used in "The Pendant" by slyangelz, but I've changed that slightly: this time, the story revolves around a ring instead of a pendant, and Larva is not enslaved, just trapped. The first chapter pretty much explains everything in the story, but in case anyone needs a summary, here it is: Miyu is kidnapped by a rogue demon goddess, and Larva is trapped in the jewel of a very powerful magic ring. The ring comes into the possession of Menami, a demi-goddess who sets out to help Larva find Miyu again. The journey leads them through both natural and supernatural places and situations, and hopefully I'll be able to add quite a lot of juicy parts along the way.

By the way, this story was written in Verdana at point/size 8, and for a reason I can't quite explain it looks better if it's read that way, so if you haven't set it at minus yet, please do. (Unless you've got some sort of eyesight problem, in which case you obviously can't read it at something as small as point 8).

Severe Warning! : I am not a Vampire Princess Miyu expert, nor do I pretend to be one. But I do know one thing for sure: Larva and Miyu belong only to each other. So this is not a Larva/Original Character romance, people! (Just in case you decide not to read the fic because you've made that particular mix-up).

Not So Severe Warning: I know a lot of people don't like Original Characters, but I hope you'll just give mine a chance. I tried making Menami a lot more realistic this time, but I'd love to hear any suggestions on how I could improve her character.

Oh, and of course, all reviews are welcome! (Unless they are rude and/or vulgar, in which case I'll just get rid of them).

~ Calliope ~

~ ¤ ~

-Introduction-

People disappear constantly in big cities, and most of them are never found again. In many cases, the police create what they think is a logical explanation; the missing person ran away, got lost, moved unexpectedly without telling anyone… That sort of thing. And of course, the friends and relatives of the missing people are always more than happy to accept these sad, but perfectly scientific explanations. They mourn, they grieve, they move on. They tell themselves they are accepting the will of God.

But, in the back of their minds, there is always that tiny, nagging doubt. What if… What if these insipid explanations they so eagerly accepted are no more than lies - pretenses? What if something darker, more ominous, got hold of their lost loved one? For a minute, the truth - the real truth - grips their hearts and they start to suffocate with the knowledge of what is and has always been; the ancient, never-changing knowledge that hides in the mind of every human being. And then, just before their minds are shattered by a truth that is too much for any mortal to bear, the feeling of slowly being drowned starts to fade and drifts away, leaving them tired and vaguely uncomfortable, but - once again - blissfully ignorant to what has just befallen them.

And what, exactly, is it that strikes a fear so deep in their hearts? They have long ago let go of all their beliefs in demons and ghouls and things that go 'bump' in the night; because, after all, those are only childish fantasies - juvenile illusions.

But are they really?

What if the truth that so nearly destroyed them is the same truth they had nightmares about as children? That truth is, in fact, the only thing that can save them from oblivion; the only thing that can save them from eventually going missing, too.

But people choose instead to push away these horrible thoughts and return to their usual existence - their meaningless, consumer-driven lives. And, soon enough, they disappear as well.

The point of all of this, dear reader, is to explain something to you. Very simply, and very clearly: there are no such things as logical explanations. Because although the police can talk their way through run-away teenagers, wandering senile seniors and lost truck drivers, they cannot talk their way through the bodies found in dark alleys and on park benches. Pale, limp bodies, whiter than marble; lying perfectly still, looking oh so peaceful…

And, of course, completely drained of blood.

Oh, yes. Things that go 'suck' in the night are not as uncommon as you think… And there is only one person - a single young girl - who can protect us from them…

The Vampire Princess herself.

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Chapter I:

Between Heaven and Earth

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"It's a blue moon tonight," Miyu remarked casually, casting her eyes upwards towards an inky sky smattered with brilliant, diamond-like stars. It was a cold night, and icy breezes constantly shifted stray strands of her soft chocolate hair into her face. But, despite the cold, Miyu was dressed very lightly in a short, cream-white kimono bound by a scarlet sash. A long ribbon of the same scarlet color bound her deep chocolate hair into a twisting ponytail on one side of her head, while two thick, straight tresses framed either side of her face.

"So it is." Larva's voice, smooth and flowing, came out undisturbed through the pale ivory mask covering his face. He stood just behind her, half-hidden in the shadow of the supple hazel tree they stood beneath.

"Do you think she'll come?"

Larva contemplated this question silently, his eyes focused on the shining moon, now tinged with misty blue. "Yes. She's been waiting for you, after all."

Miyu nodded, her eyes searching the surrounding park area for any significant movement. For several days now she had been monitoring a young woman who came every day to the park, and always sat at the same bench, crying silently. She carried a deep sorrow – Miyu could always sense it within her – and she grieved alone, in the dark. But the truth was, the woman had no desire to grieve. She had no desire to live, even; only to die, and be done with it. And that was where Miyu came in. She had come to offer the woman a trade, of sorts.

"Miyu. She's here." Larva didn't even have to turn; the thought reached Miyu's mind instantly, conveyed by an invisible bond stronger than words. Miyu turned, smiled briefly, and walked noiselessly towards the woman. She was sitting on a park bench with her head in her hands and a cascade of wavy, platinum blonde hair hiding her face. Miyu circled the bench silently, contemplating the miserable woman.

The woman glanced up suddenly, fixing her clear blue eyes on the face of the young girl standing before her. Or at least, her body and face looked young - no older than thirteen, perhaps: but her eyes were both ageless and immortal. They were deep, shifting golden orbs, like warm liquid honey - unlike any other eyes on Earth. Secrets lurked beyond their golden depths, and beyond that lurked the very key to immortality.

"What's your name?" Miyu asked softly, tilting her head to one side.

"Daena," the woman answered, looking curiously calm.

Miyu frowned slightly, suddenly noticing the icy look in the woman's eyes. And if she remembered correctly, "Daena" was certainly not an everyday name; in fact, it was a Shin name, meaning "clever vixen".

Now, why would a mortal woman have a Shin name?

Daena suddenly smiled ferociously, displaying a set of sharp, fang-like teeth. "Hello, Guardian."

Miyu froze for half a second, then let herself relax. So this was just another lowly Shinma… another demon to be sent back into the Abyss. That, I can definitely handle.

She let a slow smile spread across her face before raising her right arm and sending out a spray of glowing flames to wrap themselves around the humanoid Shinma. The woman screamed and tried to twist away from the flames, glaring hatefully at the Guardian. Well, honestly, what was she expecting? Miyu thought idly, watching the flames blaze around the now shrieking humanoid demon. A bouquet?

Daena's blue eyes blazed with hatred, and she shrieked something shrilly into the dark. "Hyssia! Hyssia, you witch! You promised me - you promised meee!"

But the flames were already starting to tighten around her, forming burning circles that finally flared up to an enormous height and then disappeared, taking Daena with them. Miyu stared at the pile in distaste before starting to turn back to the hazel tree, where she knew Larva would be waiting for her. It took a while for her to realize something that should have been obvious the moment she tried to turn.

She couldn't move.

Her whole body was frozen, paralyzed; her arms hung uselessly at her sides, and her feet refused to obey her. Her eyes and neck were the only things that were even remotely mobile; the rest was totally numb. Miyu could only glance down far enough to see that an icy blue light was radiating along her limbs. Even worse, Larva was gone; he no longer stood underneath the hazel tree, and Miyu couldn't sense his presence at all.

She twisted slightly, trying to get rid of the light, but she was completely frozen. And then, suddenly, she was beginning to hover above ground; gently at first, but soon she was hoisted several feet into the air, propelled by the mysterious blue light.

Miyu glanced around her, but she could neither hear nor see anyone for miles. But the light had to be coming from somewhere - or, more correctly, someone.

Miyu was suddenly aware of the sound of soft laughter, coming from beneath a nearby clump of trees. Following the laughter, Miyu could just see a tall, slim figure leaning against one of the trees, watching her idly.

"Well, well, well… How lovely to finally meet you, vampire princess." The voice was female, definitely; clear and sharp, with just a tinge of arrogance. "I was beginning to think I'd never have the pleasure."

"Who are you?" Miyu's voice was sharper now, and hard as flint, "And what -"

"- have you done to my beloved Laba?" The woman finished, in a cruel, mimicking voice. "Oh, how cliché, princess; how very cliché." Something about her voice - the cold confidence in it - made Miyu shiver. What had she done to Larva?

"Oh, you needn't worry, princess. He's in a very safe place; actually, I think the correct term for his situation is "isolated". But if I were you," the woman said slowly, stepping out of the shadows and coming up face-to-face with Miyu, "I would be more worried about myself."

Miyu glared at her captor. She was a tall, impressive-looking woman with an attractive face, curling golden blonde hair and hard, flinty sea-green eyes. Actually, her eyes kept shifting from blue to green, so Miyu couldn't which was her real color. One thing was for sure, though: she was neither human nor Shinma.

"And now, to answer your first question… My name is Hyssia, demi-goddess of demons."

A deity. It figured. Miyu's knowledge of gods and goddesses was limited, but she did know the difference between a demi-deity and a real one. And if this Hyssia woman was telling the truth, she was only a half-goddess, and a demon one at that. They were powerful, but not unbeatable.

"And what, exactly, do you want with me?" Miyu spat out, glaring at the demon goddess.

"More cliché. Well, since you asked…" Hyssia paused to lower Miyu a few feet out of the air and then pushed her face very close to hers. "I'm going to kill you, Guardian," she hissed, her eyes glittering. "I'm going to kill you, and then every Shinma in the world will follow me."

"You'll never get away with it," Miyu hissed back, deciding she might as well go with the clichés.

"Never say never, princess... Especially when you're dealing with your own life."

Hyssia suddenly raised her hand and burst of blue light engulfed them; Miyu heard the sound of rushing wind, felt her body being jolted sideways, and then everything went black.

The only trace left of the Guardian and her captor was a single red ribbon.

~ ¤ ~

The thin, wrinkled homeless woman straggled slowly along the park, clutching a tiny frail baby against her chest with one hand and holding a paper bag in the other. In the bag was a collection of little trinkets she had picked out of the gutters: half a marble, a shiny bottle cap, part of a broken chain, a stained rag doll, a square of dirty but smooth velvet and a sparse bouquet of plain wildflowers and weeds. To anyone else, it would have been a bag full of trash, but to the woman it was her only hope of survival.

She had come to the park during early dawn to make sure there was no one else around, and she was now busy looking for something to add to her collection. The woman wandered towards a clump of damp, emerald-leafed trees, hoping to find something tossed aside nearby. Almost instantly, her attention was caught by a silky scarlet ribbon lying on the gravel. With thin, bony fingers she groped for the ribbon, picked it up and tucked it into the paper bag, all the while patting the baby with her other hand to quiet its feeble squeals. The woman straightened up and looked around; from the corner of her eye, she could see something glinting in the shadows beneath the trees. Following the glinting, she soon found a small, shiny object on the ground. Once she held it in her hand, she saw that it was a beautifully wrought silver ring with elaborate designs climbing along the sides; like thin, leafy vines. A dark jewel, perfectly smooth and round, was set in the center of the ring: large enough to be distinctive, but not large enough to be noticeable on its own. The woman smiled, showing whatever few yellowing teeth she had left. Finally, she had found something worth while.

The goddess would be pleased.

~ ¤ ~

The temple stood on a rolling hill of lush green grass, surrounded by blooming trees and heavily scented, vibrantly colorful exotic flowers. Sparrows, robins and other small birds flitted among the silver-green leaves of the trees, singing jubilantly and chattering cheerfully to each other. The sun had just risen above the horizon, and bright golden light was spilling over everything in sight, creating an almost breathtakingly beautiful effect. The temple itself looked as though it were glowing with vibrant sunlight, and the polished cedar wood and smooth bamboo stalks looked even more impressive than usual.

The homeless woman seemed terribly out of place among all that beauty, but she didn't mind in the least. She breathed deeply, enjoying the calming scents of blossoms and wildflowers. A light breeze brushed through her filthy hair, cool and silky against her withered skin. She straggled slowly up the smooth wooden porch of the temple entrance and made her way inside. The air in the temple was cool and mild, slightly scented by the incense that was slowly smoldering in various holders around the room. Beautiful, delicate plants grew in elegant clay pots: lilac blossoms, African violets, golden star-petals, powdery white snowdrops and emerald sweet-scented clover, to name a few. The woman made her way towards the altar platform at the front of the room and put the paper bag down. She proceeded to carefully take out all the objects and arrange them as neatly as possible, with the silver ring in a place of honor. Then, holding the baby in the crook of her arm, she prayed silently and as sincerely as she possibly could. Pearly tears formed beneath her shut eyelids and slid down her wrinkled cheeks, dropping noiselessly onto the floor. The woman prayed for so many simple things: food, good clothing, a roof over her head, milk for her baby, hot water… Things so many people take for granted. She was tired of scavenging; she was tired of hearing her child cry and not being able to do anything about it; she was tired of being stared at by other people; she was tired of begging for food and shelter from strangers; she was tired of sleeping between boxes and dumpsters. She let a final cry, a desperate plea, escape her mouth.

"Goddess, help me!"

For several moments, nothing happened. The temple grew quiet and darkened as a cloud momentarily covered the sun; the woman sat alone, abandoned, praying, praying so hard

And then…

"Blessed be those who follow the ways of the good."

The voice was soft and silvery, beautifully musical and warmly gentle all at once. It was a voice unlike any other the woman had ever heard; and yet, it was so familiar… Like a melody once heard and then forgotten…

"Your life has been a wretched one, Reiku Kun. But you are a good person, with an open heart. You never deserved this miserable fate." The homeless woman - or, to be more precise, Reiku Kun - turned, trembling. Whoever had spoken knew her; they knew her name… And they weren't shouting at her, or insulting her poor appearance, or rudely telling her to go away. It was a long time since Reiku had heard a kind voice speak to her. Who could possibly have answered her prayers?

But, although she looked around frantically, she couldn't see anyone else in the temple. And yet… it felt as if someone was standing right behind her. She could almost hear breathing; almost feel something brush her shoulder…

Reiku glanced down and found that the baby was fast asleep and breathing gently, peacefully. Her skin was no longer pale and pasty, but had regained its warm rosy color; her cheeks looked fuller, and she no longer seemed as frail as she used to. Even Reiku herself suddenly felt peaceful and warmly drowsy, although she hadn't slept well for days.

The sudden sound of footsteps caught Reiku off guard, and she watched the temple entrance fearfully lest anyone should appear and see her sitting there. She knew the temple was for everyone, but she was afraid of being shoved out by an overly prim temple attendant. The footsteps grew steadily more distinctive, until a slim figure finally appeared at the entrance, carrying a bouquet of colorful wildflowers.

It was young girl, dressed simply in a flowing kimono of snow-white silk bound by a golden fire-colored sash. A wreath of the same fire-colored flowers crowned her raven hair, which rippled down to a considerable length. The girl did not stop when she saw Reiku; she simply put the bouquet aside, moved forward and bowed in simple respect. Then she replenished the incense sticks, blowing gently on each one to waft out a thicker trickle of smoke, checked on the plants and swept away some leaves that had fallen during the night. Finally, she turned and looked straight into the homeless woman's face, her silvery violet eyes twinkling with something very like compassionate pity.

"You look hungry." Her voice was mild and very gentle, as if she was afraid of raising it too high; and yet it had a very clear, silvery ring to it. "Would you like something to eat?"

Reiku nodded slowly and the girl smiled, as if she was sincerely pleased. "Come with me, then."

The girl waited while Reiku rose and then carefully took the sleeping baby away from her, carrying her gently in the folds of her arms. Reiku didn't even protest; in fact, she felt strangely relieved - after all, she had carried the baby around for several days in a row now. It wasn't even her baby; she had found it on a stranger's doorstep and, after the strange family had made it clear they did not want the baby, she had taken it away to live with her. Things had been bad then, but not nearly as bad they were now.

The girl led Reiku to a small but comfortably snug room decorated with numerous plants and several traditional Japanese paintings. On a knee-high round table the girl placed a steaming pot of tea, a pair of delicate china cups, and several plates of rice, chicken, salad, dumplings and noodles. She heated milk in a pot and poured it into a bowl: waking the baby with a gentle prod, she dribbled the milk into its mouth with a small spoon, careful not to pour too much at once. Although the girl didn't eat much - only sipped at her tea while feeding the baby - Reiku ate as much as she possibly could, only stopping now and then to compliment the girl on her cooking or thank her for the hospitality. The meal lasted hours, but at the end of it both Reiku and the baby were well fed and happy. The poor woman couldn't help looking forlorn when the time came for her to leave.

"Why don't you come back tomorrow?" The girl asked. "I'll inform the attendants, and they can provide some clothes and an extra room for you. Although…"

"Although what?" Reiku asked, doubtfully. The offer sounded wonderful, but there had to be a catch.

"Well, I'm not sure if you would like to work at the temple or not…" The girl said thoughtfully; but her eyes were twinkling visibly, and she didn't seem at all surprised by Reiku's joyful expression.

"Work at the temple? That would be perfect! Oh, thank you!"

"Don't thank me yet," the girl warned her, laughing. "But I'm quite sure you'll do well here. And some of the other girls could look after the baby for you."

Reiku seemed lost for words, but then suddenly an idea struck her and she excused herself hurriedly. She left the room and, within moments, came back carrying something in her palm. She opened her hand and proudly displayed the beautiful silver ring with its shining dark opal.

"I want you to have it," she said, pressing it into the girl's free hand. After blinking in surprise, the girl shook her head slowly.

"No, I couldn't take this - it's yours, you should keep it," she said, gently but firmly.

But Reiku was insistent, and finally the girl gave up and slipped the ring on her finger, just to please the eager homeless woman. "Thank you," she said sincerely, eyes twinkling. But Reiku shook her head.

"No, thank you."

Reiku Kun left the temple as a new woman; for the first time in years, she was truly happy; and she even had a hopeful future ahead of her. Of course, she still got stared at because of her ragged clothing and dirty appearance; and of course, she still heard sniggering and rude whisperings behind her back whenever she passed a crowded street - but what did that matter? Today, nothing could have wiped the happy glow from her cheeks, or the joyful smile from her face.

~ ¤ ~

"You're late."

"Yes, grandmother."

"You could have informed me of where you were going before running off like that."

"Yes, grandmother."

"Where have you been?"

"At the temple."

"What? How many times have I told you not to descend without my permission? How many times, Menami?"

Menami sighed, tucking back a stray raven curl from her forehead. "Over a thousand times, grandmother," she said obediently.

"Exactly. It would do you good to remember your responsibilities, child."

"But grandmother, the temple is my responsibility!"

The goddess of Moonlight snorted, shaking her head so that the jewels in her hair tinkled faintly. She raised one slightly wrinkled, but still elegant, hand in a brushing movement. "Only because you have made it your responsibility. There are better ways you could spend you time than hanging around among mortals." The last word was said ever so slightly scornfully, as if mortals were no better than rodents.

Menami decided to ignore her grandmother's tone and carefully inspected the vaulted marble ceiling of Lunar Hall. After leaving the temple - and Earth - her eyes had reverted to their natural form: vivid, iridescent silver spheres with ever-shifting, multicolored pupils. She still wore her snowy kimono and fiery sash, only because she had no desire to put on any of the heavily jeweled golden gowns her grandmother and some of the other older goddesses wore.

The goddess of Moonlight and her kin were the only deities allowed inside Lunar Hall: it was one of the finest dwellings in all of the Goddess Realms, and the god of the Moon had built it himself. Menami was currently the demi-goddess of Moonlight, but as soon as she had her coming-of-age ceremony she would be a full-fledged goddess with her own title. Her grandmother expected her to take after her mother and become the new goddess of Justice, but Menami didn't exactly feel like taking on anybody's so-called "legacy".

Menami absently stroked the silver ring on her finger - the one Reiku Kun had so eagerly given her - and was surprised to feel a tiny buzz, like a small electric current, run through her hand. She blinked and stroked the ring again, this time carefully avoiding the opal. Nothing happened. But when she specifically touched two fingers to the dark opal she felt the buzz again, but stronger this time.

Menami recognized the buzz as the small jolt she got whenever she was near strong magic. Her mother had been a skilled sorceress - or so her grandmother claimed - and she had supposedly inherited some of her more natural magical skills. Menami kept her eyes fixed on the ring, her brow furrowed.

"Grandmother…" she said slowly, "can I go visit Sherazi? I just want to check on something, and -" Menami broke off when she realized her grandmother was no longer there. She smiled to herself. If you can leave, grandmother, then so can I. She closed her eyes and simply wished herself away, and suddenly the ground shifted and the surrounding hall melted and blurred around her.

A moment later she was standing outside the dwelling halls of the Maiden Ladies, who served the Divine Ladies of the goddess realms. The divine ladies were mortal women who had been granted immortality by some deity or other, and, although they lived among the goddesses, they were not quite deities and some of the more haughty goddesses looked down at them.

Luckily, Menami didn't have to go looking very far to find Sherazi; she had been sent out by Lady Jade to bring her rose-scented bathing water, and she was in the process of picking rose petals and dipping them in the clear water she had brought from the Silver Spring. She had rolled up the sleeves of her silver-green gown (the maidens of each divine lady wore a certain color so that they would be easily recognizable to their mistresses) and was busy dipping bunches of petals in and out of the water in a large jade basin. She looked very frustrated and her dark hair was in quite a disarray; and Menami's sudden appearance did not do much for her temper.

"Oh, bother these stupid roses!" She exclaimed angrily, shoving all the petals in the basin and leaving them to float around. Then she suddenly saw Menami standing there, checked herself and blushed; Sherazi wasn't the type to have sudden outbursts, even in front of her best friend.

"I thought you loved all living things," Menami said, stifling a laugh. "Especially roses."

"I do love the roses," Sherazi said insistently, "but I simply can't stand the thorns!" She ruefully displayed her slender fingers, which were now covered in tiny pricks and bruises.

"Let me guess - Lady Jade wants to freshen up for some new ritual?"

"Yes," Sherazi agreed, nodding. "The Ritual of the Planting of the New Rose. A living rose of solid gold is going to be planted in the gardens, and all divine ladies want to look their best."

Menami snorted in a manner very like her grandmother's. "And smell their best, apparently."

The divine ladies were always having some silly ritual or other, and their maidens were sent scurrying in all directions just to prepare for them. The goddesses thought these rituals extremely amusing and some of the younger ones - the goddess of Scorn, especially - loved ruining the rituals just to see the ladies' shocked, indignant faces. The most recent ritual had been the Ritual of the Lighting of A Thousand Candles, which the goddess of Rain had quickly put an end to.

To divert Sherazi's attention from the pricks on her fingers, Menami quickly slipped off the ring and held out in her palm. "Look at this."

Sherazi peered at it carefully, then blinked upwards in mild puzzlement. "It's a ring."

"Yes, I know that, but look at it closely." Sherazi stared at the opal and suddenly her eyebrows shot up. She made a strange choking noise and her face went pale in shock.

"What? What's wrong?" Menami hadn't really expected her to see anything, but Sherazi looked terrified.

"Th- there's -" Sherazi stuttered, her eyes fixed on the opal.

"There's what? What?" Menami asked, frustrated by Sherazi's stuttering. She felt like shaking her friend's shoulders.

"There's - oh, there's a - a -" Sherazi took a deep breath and looked Menami straight in the eye.

"There's someone inside that ring!"

~ ¤ ~

Author's Note: Okay, that's the end of it (for now). I'd really love to hear your opinions, so please review.

(I have a bet going that I can get at least six reviews before next week. I'm betting against ;-)

~ Calliope ~