As a socially inept pariah and the unluckiest half-demon in Hell, Setsuna can't help but feel her mission to befriend Konoka Konoe is doomed to fail. Everyone has their run-in with fortune sooner or later, however, and she soon finds that her assignment may be going a little /too/ well... Cosmic warfare, magic powers, and accidental romance included. [KonoSetsu]. [AU].
After Setsuna woke up from her nap, Konoka had briefly gone out to grab some DVDs and video games, and they'd spent the rest of the evening struggling through Resident Evil 6.
"What the – how are we supposed to kill this thing?" Konoka shouts indignantly, watching Setsuna's character get eaten by a massive sea creature.
"I don't know," Setsuna answers a bit too seriously, "I've never had to kill a giant zombie shark before."
"I'm gonna look it up online. Can I use your computer?"
Konoka squirms her way out of the blankets and grabs Setsuna's laptop from where it'd been sitting on the desk. There's no password, and she logs in to an open browser window. It looks like a blurb about the Kyoto National Museum, accompanied by a map.
"Did you want to go to the museum or something?" She calls out, opening a new tab for GameFAQs. There's a slight clatter as Setsuna drops her controller. I forgot to close the page…
"N – no, no, not really. I just wanted to see what was around here. Did you find out how to kill the shark yet?" Setsuna's reply is delivered with obvious nervousness, and the deflection hadn't been any less subtle either. Thankfully, Konoka doesn't think anything of it.
"Yeah," she scoffs at the obvious answer on the forum, "Shoot it in the mouth, duh. Why didn't I think of that?"
"Probably because you've never had to kill a giant zombie shark either."
"True," Konoka giggles, sitting back down in their nest of blankets and pillows on the floor.
They resume playing, managing to kill the monster and progress, but the mention of the museum Setsuna had robbed a little over twelve hours ago reminds her she should probably call Evangeline. She tries to wait for Konoka to go to sleep, but around midnight she gives up on that idea. What had happened during the heist, although she personally can't understand the significance of it, should probably be relayed as soon as possible. Whey they finish a chapter and the achievements screen comes up, Setsuna puts her controller on the floor in front of her and stretches.
"Going somewhere?" Konoka asks without looking at her, too busy rearranging her character's skill set and power-ups.
"Actually, I think I'm going to step outside to make a phone call if you don't mind. It shouldn't take long."
That one strikes Konoka as a bit odd, considering Setsuna had mentioned previously that she didn't know anyone else to call.
"An old friend or something?" She turns to face the other girl, and seeing Setsuna nod, continues with her guessing game. "Asuna?"
"No, actually, a different old friend. Or, I guess you could call her more of a teacher or something…"
"Aw, c'mon, now I'm curious. Tell me!"
Setsuna shifts her weight, looking slightly uncomfortable. That only makes the other girl more curious, of course, but she holds it at bay.
"You don't actually have to tell me, Silly."
Setsuna considers it for a moment. It's not like Konoka's ever going to find out who Evangeline is – or not anytime soon, anyway. Not able to find the harm in it, she acquiesces to Konoka's probing.
"It's okay. Her name's Evangeline and she used to mentor me in high school. She was the only one that was ever nice to me – besides Asuna, I mean. Since I got a phone we got back in touch, and she asked me to call her once in a while."
"Oh," Konoka looks appropriately surprised. "That's great! Don't let me keep you then, I'll be here when you get back."
Smiling in thanks, Setsuna grabs the compact and her phone this time before heading out the door. Considering the more-risky-than-normal topic of conversation today, she didn't want to jeopardize her fake identity by talking in the bathroom. Instead she steps out of the hotel and walks a few yards away, leaning against one of the nearby buildings. She puts her phone against her ear, just in case anyone's looking, before opening up the compact.
It takes a bit longer than normal for Evangeline to appear on the screen, and when she does, she looks annoyed.
"What is it?" She growls, and Setsuna cringes at her tone.
"Um, I was just calling to let you know how it went and stuff…"
Evangeline stares at her for a moment then takes a deep breath.
"Okay," she says, more calmly now, but Setsuna's still a bit unnerved.
"Is something wrong?"
"Kind of. I got the piece I asked you to get for me, and it turned out to be a dud. That's all."
"Are you sure?" Setsuna asks with no small amount of surprise.
"Because someone tried to stop me from taking it."
Evangeline's eyes narrow slightly and there's the sound of wood scraping against floor as she pulls up a chair.
"Who tried to stop you from taking it?"
"I'm not really sure… He said his name was Secundum Avern – Ava – Averruncus, or something. He's an angel, and he tried to use magic to kill me."
"Averruncus… I've never heard that name before, but I think I can guess," Evangeline mumbles quietly, and then a bit more loudly, "Did he say anything else?"
"He said a lot actually. He was pretty loud," Setsuna recalls, wincing at the recollection of events. "He said not to worry about Nagi because he doesn't have any idea what's actually going on –"
"Psh, figures," Evangeline scoffs.
"And he said that he has a boss, but he didn't say who, but whoever it is wants me to abandon my mission. He also said if I went back to Heaven again he'd kill me…. Oh, and he seemed to really, really want that crow thing."
Evangeline hums in thought at that. She gets up and disappears from view for a second, coming back with a heavy looking metal box and the object in question. The vampire mutters something under her breath, pushing the crow to the front of the box, and the lid squeaks open. There's a scroll inside and she opens it up, appearing to read its contents for a moment.
"This must be more important than I thought, but I'm not sure how…"
"What's it say?" Setsuna tilts the mirror as if it'd help change the viewpoint. It doesn't, of course, and she waits for Evangeline's answer.
The vampire turns the parchment to face Setsuna, and sure enough, it's completely blank.
"He didn't say why he wanted it, did he?"
Setsuna shakes her head in the negative, "No, that was all he told me. Then he insulted you, so I killed him," she finishes with a touch of pride in her voice.
"Well, wasn't that considerate of you," Evangeline laughs, and Setsuna smiles and blushes at the praise. "Still," she continues when her laughter's died down, "That he knew I was giving orders is probably a bad sign. But I guess it was just a matter of time anyway."
There's a pause as Setsuna weighs that statement. It's becoming clearer and clearer that her mission isn't as black and white as she'd thought, and Karma had certainly convoluted her basic idea of it. There seems to be a lot more going on behind the scenes, and although she doesn't feel she has the right to know it, that doesn't quell the desire to know it.
"Evangeline, can I ask you something?"
"Why am I doing this?"
The blonde, who had been rolling up the scroll to put it away, stops to give Setsuna an incredulous look.
"Is that a serious question?"
"…Yes?" Is Setsuna's hesitant response. Feeling the need to justify herself, she explains, "I mean, I know I need to take Konoka's soul, but um, no one's really told me why yet, and it just seems like maybe I should know. Just in case people keep trying to kill me…"
"Mana didn't tell you?"
"Not – not really."
"Seriously?" The vampire sighs. "That woman won't do a bit of work over what she's paid for… Well, it's not important for you to know everything. It's probably better if you don't," she muses out loud, "But you made a valid point. It'll take too long for me to explain verbally; I'll just have to show you."
"Show me? I thought there weren't any portals from here to back home –"
"There aren't. That's part of the problem. Just go to sleep tonight, and when you do, I'll show you everything you need to know. For now I have to leave. It's going to take me a while to figure out what this piece of scrap paper is for."
"Okay," Setsuna agrees, though not really understanding, "Thanks. For taking the time to help me and everything, I mean…"
"There you go, getting all sappy again," Evangeline says it with a smile though. "In any case, I'll see you shortly."
Her image disappears from the mirror and Setsuna closes it, pocketing her phone as well. She walks back into the hotel room to find Konoka fiddling with her laptop. She glances up at the sound of the door opening and waves, but she also looks slightly disconcerted.
"Something wrong?" Setsuna asks after she's done getting ready for bed. She crawls under the covers and turns off her lamp, eager to get to sleep for once.
"No, it's nothing. Just some annoying work stuff."
Konoka closes her computer and goes to brush her teeth before getting in her own bed – much to Setsuna's disappointment. Whatever had been worrying the girl earlier doesn't seem to prevent her from falling asleep though, and after a few minutes her breathing steadies. Setsuna takes a bit longer, staring at the ceiling and trying to will her mind to shut off. After an hour, sleep claims her as well. XXX
In all the years she'd been alive, however many that may actually be, Setsuna had never dreamt. Maybe it was because she couldn't envision anything outside of her day-to-day life, or maybe there was some force keeping her imagination from wandering. Or it could just be that she hardly ever sleeps, although you wouldn't know it watching her behavior over the past few days.
Regardless, having no experience with dream worlds of any kind, she's understandably confused to wake up in Hell. She looks down at her body, which she now realizes is utterly naked, and then back up again. Wherever she is, it's definitely Hell – same general topography, same heavy air, but it's also simultaneously different. If she squints she can see grass in the distance, and trees, which must mean water. But Hell has been nearly dry for as long as Setsuna can remember. Did I die in my sleep? That wouldn't explain the change in environment though. She's about to get up and look around, but refrains after feeling someone else's presence.
"Welcome home," an amused voice says from behind her. She turns around to find Evangeline a few feet behind her in a similar state of undress.
"Why is everything weird?" Setsuna asks, gesturing vaguely at the landscape, "And why are we naked?"
"That's how the mind link works, unfortunately. I haven't managed to smooth that kink out yet. As far as why everything is weird, as you put it, that's because this is Hell before you were alive. We're in my memories, I guess you could say."
"This must've been a long time ago…"
Evangeline scowls at the implication, but to be fair, there's a big difference between what a long time is for her and what it is for Setsuna.
"I guess you could say that, but this is still after the war."
No sooner are the words out of her mouth than the scenery changes. Setsuna finds herself in the middle of a battlefield, but this doesn't look like an ordinary battle. She's never seen a group of angels and a group of demons together in the same area, but here there are hundreds scattered around; slashing, clawing, occasionally slinging magic at each other. One angel's sword flies straight through her, but being a conjured image, it has no effect. His weapon impales a stout, horned demon in the chest, and he falls to the ground without another breath.
"When – where – what?" Setsuna tries, watching the carnage with wide eyes.
"Thousands of years ago, on Earth –"
"This is Earth?!"
"It was Earth. It's before my time as well, but this memory is from a reliable source," she explains, watching with zero emotion as people die around her. "This was just around the time our planet started to die. Demons went looking for a new hospitable plane of existence, and lo and behold, there was Earth. We managed to get away with staying here for a couple millennia, but after that, angels came and crashed our party. The few attempts at verbal negotiation dissolved too quickly for anything to come of them," Evangeline takes a second to sigh at that. "Long story short: the angels wanted us gone, there was a war; they won, we lost. We were forced back to Hell after being slaughtered in large numbers. It was at that point Earth's magic was suppressed, and that's why all the portals disappeared."
"I'm confused," Setsuna admits after trying to absorb this information. "Why was Earth's magic suppressed? And what does that have to do with the portals closing? And – wait," she says, a thought striking her, "Why didn't the angels want us here?"
"It was suppressed for the purpose of closing off our access points. Portals are like magical black-holes. No magic, no portals."
"But I got to Earth from Heaven using a portal," Setsuna points out. An angel in front of her gets decapitated, and she watches the woman's body twitch on the ground.
"You can't get back to Heaven using a portal, can you?" Evangeline asks in a deadpan, already knowing the answer.
"No, I can't."
"Like I said: magic suppression."
The image changes again, and the fidgeting corpse in front of Setsuna disappears. They're back in Hell now, but this time it's like they're watching from somewhere far away.
Everything seems to be sped up like a movie on fast-forward. There are cities – big, well-built, thriving cities – with demons and their families on the streets, going about their business. Setsuna can see them smiling, and laughing, and generally being very unlike the demons she's used to seeing. As the images speed past though, the cities start to collapse. They deteriorate slowly, frame-by-frame, until many of them are gone. The landscape which had started off being rather beautiful – similar to Earth's, she realizes – gets increasingly more desolate. The parched ground and the dying vegetation and the dried-up river beds she's used to seeing reappear, and as they do, the smiling faces become increasingly less frequent.
Evangeline nudges her and points to a swirling mass of dark energy. Setsuna watches a few demons disappear into it, but like the dying landscape, eventually the portal dissipates as well.
"What's going on?" Setsuna asks, watching the energy evaporate into thin air.
"Basically, the planet's going to shit. It's slowly getting pulled closer and closer to this universe's sun, and as it does, the water dries up and makes living impossible. We're all going to die, eventually."
"Why can't we just make –"
"We can't make more portals because, for reasons I'm sure you're not interested in, Hell's magic is slowly getting sapped away as well. There usually has to be magical energy on both sides of a portal for it to be created, and it's hard enough with the condition of Earth as it is. But, there is one way."
Evangeline says it with finality and starts to pace as she continues her explanation, "If you can gather enough energy, you can potentially force your way to the other side. That's how the angels get to Earth; Heaven has a ridiculous amount of magic, and they harness it to create portals that open up to Earth even though the planet is near magic-less. But even then, they only last a little while. In our case," Evangeline gestures at the barren landscape, "With our planet's magic nearing Earth-levels, it's near impossible for anyone of even top-tier skill to create any inter-dimensional travel method that works."
"How does this work, then?" Setsuna asks, pointing at her bracelet.
"It works because I'm better than top-tier," the vampire responds with a smirk, "But even my magic is limited."
"This is all so confusing…"
Evangeline shrugs, not really concerned/ "It's not like you really have to know this. I mean, most angels don't even know half the things I'm telling you. Their own history is a secret to them. But anyway," she waves her hand to signal she's dismissing the topic, "Moving on…"
The vampire snaps her fingers and the fast-forwarded movie stops, pausing on a frozen frame of time for a second until the scene changes again. They're standing in a hospital room, much to Setsuna's discontent, although this particular area is a lot less unnerving. She looks around at all the babies in the nursery, covered in blue and pink blankets, and raises an eyebrow at Evangeline.
"That one," the blonde points at a baby with big brown eyes and a pink blanket over her torso. "That's Konoka." That's Konoka!? Setsuna bites her lip to keep from reacting in an embarrassing fashion, but the words slip out anyway.
"She's… so cute…"
"Take a closer look," Evangeline mutters, passing one hand in front of the Setsuna's face. An incredibly bright, whitish-yellow light burns her eyes and she closes them to avoid the pain.
"What is that?" She asks, putting her hands over her eyes to help block out the rays. "It's like staring into the sun."
"That's her magical energy," Evangeline explains, not seeming to have the same retina-scorching problem as Setsuna. "Ridiculous, isn't it?"
The vampire taps Setsuna to let her know it's alright to open her eyes again.
"She has that much power?" It's hard for her to imagine that, looking at this tiny pink baby in front of her. Not that the silly adult version makes much more sense either.
"Enough energy to open as many portals as it takes for demons to evacuate Hell. The angels will come after us, of course; we'll have to blend in or hide once we get to Earth. I'll admit it's a temporary fix and a shitty existence, but it's better than extinction."
"But I still don't understand. Why do they want us extinct?"
"Because they're selfish, delusional, power-hungry pieces of crap!" Evangeline shouts, throwing her hands up in exasperation. Almost as if hearing her, the baby begins to cry. The vampire rolls her eyes, muttering something about 'obnoxious children,' before bringing them back to Hell. She takes a deep breath and a few minutes to calm down before speaking again. "There's a lot of other details, but it's probably best if you don't know. Some angels have ways of reading your mind, and there's no way you can learn to protect your thoughts."
"That's okay," Setsuna knows the other woman is right. She's never had a talent for magic, after all. "And now that I know all that, my mission makes a lot more sense."
"Good. Just remember what I told you before you left, and you'll be fine."
Setsuna nods, recalling her short mission briefing, "Get to Earth, then get as close as possible to Konoka so that our souls will be linked, then kill her," she repeats, then looks to Evangeline for approval.
"Good work," Evangeline humors her desire for praise, even going so far as to float up and pat the girl on the head. Setsuna smiles but keeps her eyes on the floor. She enjoys the compliments, but she's still not sure how to react to them.
"It – it's nothing," she says.
"It's hardly nothing, and I know the rest of our kind will agree with me," Evangeline continues. "When it's all said and done, you'll be a hero. Don't forget that."
It'd be impossible to forget. The idea of being able to live her life without pain and prosecution is all she's ever wanted, besides Evangeline's friendship. I'll do it for sure, Setsuna thinks determinedly. No matter what.
"Well, if that's the case, then I think we're all done here. Keeping this world up is getting tiresome," Evangeline reaches up and stands on her toes in a full-bodied stretch. "I'll be busy with that scroll for a few days, so you likely won't hear from me. Let me know if anything important happens. Other than that…"
The world in front of Setsuna fades away along with the image of Evangeline.
"Have fun," the vampire's disembodied echoes in the empty space. Then: blackness. XXX
After waking from her dream with renewed determination, Setsuna decides to focus more on getting closer to Konoka. She's not sure if it's been fun so far, exactly, except maybe the plane trip. Everything else seems to have ended in some sort of unfortunate shenanigans, but now she's determined to have a good time, damnit.
Except two things are preventing her from doing that. The first is that she has no idea how to have fun with someone, or at all, for that matter. Before this trip her only form of entertainment had been video games.
Going off that line of reasoning, they spend two days working their way through Heavy Rain and FarCry 3 at Setsuna's suggestion, but after that they both lose interest. On the third day Setsuna has resorted to trying to Google an answer up, but the second worry arises right about that time, namely in the form of Konoka's dad.
Konoka had apparently decided to mail the letter Tsuruko had given her. Eishun received it, read its contents, and promptly called his daughter to berate her over an issue that, to Konoka, seems completely unnecessary and ridiculous. Sure, Setsuna is a little odd, and sure, she did have a strange conversation with her old teacher on the phone the other day – Konoka hadn't meant to eavesdrop, but snippets of the conversation had drifted in through the open window. She's pretty sure she heard the word kill, among other things, but really, who hasn't sarcastically said they wanted to kill someone before? Eishun's worry seems incredibly superfluous, almost to the point of being plain superstitious.
"For the last time dad," Konoka whisper-yells at him over the phone, "I'm way too old for you to be telling me who I can and can't hang out with! Do you even have a real reason to dislike Setsuna? She hasn't doneanything!"
Eishun has one very real reason to dislike Setsuna, but he can't tell Konoka about that. Tsuruko's letter had more or less confirmed his suspicions, but it's difficult to tell your daughter she might be hanging out with a demon who's likely putting her in mortal danger without actually, you know, telling her as much.
"I didn't like her," He replies curtly. "She was strange and ill-mannered. You shouldn't hang out with people like that, Konoka, you should find friends more suitable for your nature –"
"What, so you don't like her because she's not rich or something?! That's totally stupid, and even if I decided to not be friends with her anymore – which I won't, by the way – how could I find people like that with you constantly sabotaging my pathetic excuse for a social life!"
Eishun sighs and runs a hand through his hair, trying to calm himself down. A part of him knows she's right about his behavior, but it's hard not to want to keep Konoka under lock and key for her own safety. There are half-a-dozen reasons someone might want to harm her: her money, her position with the company, her soul, and to get to me, he thinks with frustration. He doesn't expect her to understand that though; she's only half-aware of those things, and her sheltered life seems to have given her the idea that the dangers aren't real. I overdid it a bit, Eishun acknowledges solemnly. My attempts to protect her just made her think I'm being paranoid. Which might be true, at least a little bit, but as long as she remains such a tempting target, he can't simply let her do as she wants. Especially now, with her befriending someone so potentially dangerous.
"Konoka, I only worry because I love you," He says, more subdued now. He can hear her hmph in recognition. "You hardly know this girl, and it wouldn't be that unlikely for someone to come along and take advantage of your kindness. She could be using you for money, or maybe she wants a promotion or something, or she could be dangerous –"
"Dad, if I lived thinking like that I wouldn't speak to anyone, ever. It's not fair to assume that about Setsuna! She's been perfectly nice to me, and she even helped me out in a conference a few days ago. Just give her a chance, daddy," Konoka pleads through the phone, knowing full well how hard it is for Eishun to say no to her. "You have to learn to trust people eventually."
He scratches the back of his head nervously. If only it were that simple.
"Okay, fine," He acquiesces, already thinking about how soon he can get a guard from the Shinmeiryuu to tail her. If she won't listen, then he'll have to protect her quietly this time, he decides. "But you have to promise to call me every night before bed, and if I don't hear from you I'll assume the worst. And if something happens, you have to cut ties with her immediately, you understand?"
"Alright, alright," She mutters, once again feeling like a child. "I'll keep you updated on any evil rituals or murders I find out she's committing," Konoka finishes sarcastically, not knowing those are the exact two things Eishun is worried about.
"Thank you," He replies, not at all fazed by her tone. "I'll talk to you tonight, okay?"
"Okay dad, love you. Talk to you soon."
Konoka hangs up the phone and tosses it into her nightstand drawer, shutting it angrily. She flops down on her bed, letting out a loud ugh of frustration in the process. Her angry voice comes muffled through the mattress.
"Can you believe that? He's so dramatic all the time." She turns over on her back and glares at the ceiling. "Not everyone I meet is out to get me. I don't know why he can't seem to get that through his stubborn skull."
"He seems to care about you a lot. I don't blame him for not trusting me, if that's what you're worried about," Setsuna replies, having heard pieces of Eishun's sentences through the receiver. It's definitely not good that he seems more or less sure of her identity now, but the worst he can do is get someone to tail her. She doubts he would do something as traumatic as have her killed while Konoka is around at least, and if he's waiting until Setsuna does something threatening before making a move of his own, he'll be sorely disappointed anyway. If everything goes according to plan, by the time Eishun realizes his daughter's in danger, she'll already be dead.
A guard could be trouble though, assuming he's going to hire one. If it's a Shinmeiryuu warrior – and hopefully not the same one she fought the other day – all the worse. It would be difficult to make calls to Evangeline outside of the room, she wouldn't be able to pull out her pactio cards unless she was in complete isolation, and screw it all if she gets sent on another mission like the museum fiasco. I can't do much about it though, she thinks a bit disappointedly. But I should have at least a day before he can arrange for that.
Not that she's going to be able to complete her mission in a day or anything, but at least she'll be able to tell Evangeline and Mana about this new turn of events. She's just about to excuse herself and do just that when Konoka, who had been staring pensively at some point in space, sits up suddenly.
"This is seriously pissing me off. We should do something fun," she announces, and while the timing is a bit frustrating, that is what Setsuna had been planning for anyway. And maybe now she won't have to be the one that decides on the activity.
"What should we do?"
"Let's…!" Konoka's enthusiasm seems to die a bit, but after a moment she perks up again. "How about we go shopping? I can buy you some going-out clothes, since you don't have any."
Her dad's voice appears suddenly in her head: 'She could be using you for money, or maybe she wants a promotion –' and Konoka promptly squashes it.
"I'll buy you so many clothes," Konoka growls out defiantly, once again glaring at a point in space. Setsuna looks uneasily at the pissed off girl in front of her.
"That… sounds good. I can buy them too, if you want. I don't mind spending money or anything…"
"No! I insist."
"If you're sure…"
Konoka makes it clear that she won't have it any other way and bounces off her bed to get ready. Setsuna grabs a pair of cargo shorts and a t-shirt from her dresser and shoves the compact, her pactio cards, and her phone in the various pockets. I'll have to find some privacy to use these before the day's over, she thinks, absently rubbing one of the laminate cards between her thumb and forefinger.
After a quick phone call, Ayaka informs them there's an upscale shopping center on Shijo Street at a walkable distance from their hotel. Konoka had been more interested in going to some of the smaller local places, but this time of day they'd probably be way more crowded, and she's not in the mood to navigate through heavy people traffic.
They leave in pretty good spirits, chatting idly and pausing every now and again to point out a restaurant or building of particular interest. It's a little under thirty minutes to get there, and the weather is nice, so it's easy for Setsuna to forget her troubles and actually have a good time for once.
Or it would've been, if there wasn't something bothering her. There had been a few people outside the hotel when they'd left – no one conspicuous looking or anything, just a few people going in and out, and one man in a gray, long-sleeved shirt smoking a cigarette. The only reason Setsuna had even noticed him was because of the smoke, but other than that, she hadn't thought much of him.
Until he started following them. They'd only gone about thirty paces away before he'd pushed himself off the side of the hotel he'd been leaning on and casually started walking behind them, always a good distance away, and never in any great hurry. It wouldn't be so odd for him to be heading in the same direction as them – Shijo Street is a popular shopping area – but as she walks, Setsuna can feel him staring at the back of her head. After twenty-five minutes she's now positive he's following them, and it's hard to relax under the surveillance. How did Eishun get someone out here so quickly?
Fiddling with the compact in her pocket, Setsuna knows she won't have the chance to use it any time soon. Even if she excuses herself to the bathroom or something, this guy could have any number of powers – shape shifter, mind reader, x-ray vision – and there's no way for her to tell. If he's there to keep an eye on her, though, that gives her plenty of time to watch him as well.
"Seeetsuuuunaaaa!" Konoka waves a hand in front of her friend's face. "Are you in there?"
"Wha –" Setsuna blinks a couple of times to refocus herself. "I'm sorry," she apologizes, blushing at her own unawareness.
"That's okay Silly. What were you spacing out about?"
"Nothing important. Maybe I'm getting hungry or something." It's a lame excuse, but it's better than having to come up with a more thorough one.
"Should we get something to eat?"
"Maybe in a little while. I don't go shopping very often, so I was thinking maybe you could lead me around?"
Konoka seems to like that idea, and while Setsuna appreciates the direction, she hadn't realized admitting her inexperience also meant volunteering to be Konoka's personal doll. They're on their second department store and Konoka's picked out four different outfits for her friend to try, and Setsuna disappears into the dressing room and comes back out to flaunt whichever look was given to her. It feels a bit unnecessary to have to change clothes so many times, but Konoka seems to be having fun, and it feels good to know she's the cause of it.
"I hope you don't mind me using you like a Barbie doll. Not that you look anything like one," Konoka amends, walking up to Setsuna and looking her up and down with a critical eye. The vaguely, maybe half-Asian features and dark hair are strictly non-Barbie. She's definitely skinny enough though, Konoka thinks with maybe a little jealousy. But for some reason these clothes just don't seem to go. She adjusts the shirt and frowns at the jeans, fully engrossed in her task.
The man that'd been following them lingers outside the dressing room, and when Setsuna steps out to model her clothes she sometimes sees him walking around in the store, pretending to look at things and politely declining help from the salespeople.
"I think I'm going about this wrong," Konoka admits after she gives up on her adjustments. "I mean, your figure's really nice, and these clothes do make you look super cute… But they don't suit you. Maybe it's because I'm too used to seeing you in men's clothes," she sighs, plopping down in one of the chairs by the mirrors to think.
"Maybe I should just wear men's clothes then. They're definitely not as confining," Setsuna says with a frown, pulling uncomfortably at the hem of the skin-tight v-neck she'd donned.
"That's true, but you already look really young. I feel like if I put you in boy's clothes… well, I'll give it a try anyway. Wait here, okay?"
Konoka gets up and disappears into the racks of clothes. She grabs a plain black t-shirt and a fitted, button up, dark blue and white plaid shirt, holding them up and eyeing them critically. This is probably going to look kind of silly on her, she thinks, smiling at the image in her head. She carries them regardless, and on her way back she grabs a pair of dark jeans.
"You have good taste."
She turns around to see the man who'd spoken to her; an average looking, dark-haired guy in a long sleeved grey shirt.
"Thank you," she smiles politely, fully intent on heading back to the dressing room. He cuts her off with a question though, forcing her to stop and talk to him for a moment longer, as social rules dictate.
"Shopping for a boyfriend?"
"Ah no, actually," her hand comes up behind her head nervously as she tries to figure out if he's hitting on her or not.
"…Girlfriend, then?" There's an amused smirk on his face, and Konoka's eyes widen at the question.
"N – no, I'm not a – she's just a friend," she stutters, obviously flustered. "If you don't mind, she's waiting for me."
Without giving him a chance to reply, she steps past him and into the dressing room. What a weirdo, she thinks, but brightens when she sees Setsuna.
"Here you go. It's probably going to look kind of awkward, but it's worth a try," Konoka tosses the clothes to her friend. "I'm going to go grab another color while you try those on."
She disappears again, and Setsuna stares distrustfully at the clothes. But they look more comfortable, at least, so she heads into the dressing room. It doesn't take her long to throw them on, and she leaves the shirt buttons open, knowing by this point that Konoka will just mess with them anyway. This looks pretty good… I think, she notes, staring passively at the mirror.
After fifteen minutes she starts to wonder where Konoka has gone off too. She considers whether or not to put her other clothes back on, but then, she'd probably just have to change back into these anyway when she finds the other girl. Opting not to bother, she only grabs her things from the pockets of her cargo shorts before stepping out of the dressing room to scan the now crowded store for Konoka. At first, through the large amount of shoppers, it doesn't look like she's there, but after a minute she spots her by the side exit leading out of the mall. With the man that'd been following them. That's weird. I doubt Eishun would've told him to show himself like that…
Setsuna watches for a moment longer, an eery feeling starting to make her nervous. He's leaning in pretty close to her, and although he's smiling while he talks, it doesn't look like he's speaking English. She's no lip reader, but to focus and not be able to pick up one discernable word is… odd. Not to mention, Konoka isn't responding whatsoever. In fact, her eyes are glazed over, and when the guy turns to leave she follows after him with stiff, controlled movements. Something's definitely wrong, Setsuna thinks, knowing full well Konoka wouldn't leave her in the store by herself. She walks briskly up to the exit and passes through the doors, ignoring the alarms going off behind her. Looking around the parking lot, she spots the duo getting into an inconspicuous black Toyota, and she pulls out her phone to take the license plate number.
"Hey! Excuse me!"
Setsuna turns around and frowns at the department store employee that'd followed her out there. He stands up a bit straighter at her annoyed look, and he continues on in accented English, "You're going to have to pay for those, ma'am."
Setsuna looks down at the clothes she'd donned, then back to the guy. "How much?"
"I don't know ma'am, I'd have to ring it up –"
"Here," she opens her wallet and pulls out two hundred dollars in cash. "This is all my money."
"H- hey, wait a –"
Setsuna doesn't wait around and instead makes a dash for where the car is headed. There's no way she can keep up with it on foot, even with the traffic and red lights, but maybe she can at least see where it's headed. She makes it to the intersection just as the light turns green and the driver speeds off, but not before making eye contact with him through the rearview mirror. When he realizes she's looking, his serious expression changes and he smiles at her mockingly, even throwing a wave out the window before disappearing around a corner. She takes note of the street he turned on and stops running. Do I call the police? Is that even considered a kidnapping…?
To make matters worse, at this point Setsuna's fairly sure the guy isn't human, let alone Shinmeiryuu. She grabs her pactio card out of her thankfully functional jeans pocket and holds it up to her head, not caring about how strange it looks. Mana? Are you there?
There's a pause, and then. What's wrong?
Setsuna lets out a breath she hadn't known she was holding, glad to know she at least has some reliable advice now. I think Konoka just got kidnapped. What? By who? Where? I don't know who, and at the mall, Setsuna responds, realizing how useless that probably sounds to the other girl. As expected, Mana isn't pleased by the lack of details. Tell me what happened. There was this guy following us, and I thought he was with the Shinmeiryuu since Konoka's dad may know who I am now – He what? That's not important right now! Setsuna snaps, surprising herself and Mana in the process. The gunman reflexively raises an eyebrow. Setsuna had always been painfully mindful of the difference in their positions of power, and she'd certainly never yelled at her before. She might be in danger, Setsuna continues, ignoring the other girl's lack of response. I got a license plate number, but I'm not sure I should call the police. He doesn't seem human; I think he used a spell to mind-control her or something.
Mana considers that. It'd be pretty unlikely for an angel to kidnap Konoka. What would be the purpose? They could want to take her soul to Heaven, she supposes, but then why not kill her immediately? And even then, angels have strict rules about doing things like that – something about messing with some universal balance or other. So a demon, maybe? But why? It isn't public knowledge who Konoka is in the demon world; there'd be no reason to target her specifically without that information. Unless… Eishun. What? It's probably a demon out for revenge or extortion against her father; he was a pro-demon slayer along with Nagi back in his younger days. This wouldn't be the first time someone's gone after him, but as far as I know, no one's ever tried to use his daughter to do it. So how can I help her? Setsuna asks impatiently. Are you sure you want to? What do you mean? I mean that if he kills her, all you have to do is be close by. This might be a good opportunity for you to take her soul yourself – I'm not ready for her to die yet! Setsuna snaps again, growing increasingly irritated by the amount of time this is taking. Mana narrows her eyes in suspicion. You do mean because of the mission, right? Of course. I don't think we're close enough for me to be able to do that yet.
Setsuna realizes that hadn't been what she meant at all, but she doesn't dwell on it. There are more important things to do right now. So can you help me? Read out the license plate number and I can probably track him.
Setsuna does just that and taps her foot against the sidewalk while she waits for Mana to get back to her. After nearly half an hour – thirty whole minutes, damnit – the gunman's voice echoes in her head. The car is registered to a guy named Shiro Miyasashi. I'm going to give you his address. Thanks, Setsuna replies after plugging the street name into her phone's GPS. She tells Mana she'll keep her updated before putting the card back into her pocket, but there's another problem. According to her GPS, the guy lives on the southeastern edge of the Yamashina Ward, about six miles away and at least two hours of a walk, if she could even manage to cut a path directly there. And she'd just given all her cash to that store employee.
Biting her lip, she glances back at the mall. It'd be faster to take a cab, she decides, and not having another choice, goes back inside to find an ATM. XXX
Konoka has no idea how she got here.
One minute she'd been shopping for clothes for Setsuna, and the next she'd opened her eyes and found herself smack dab in the middle of a horror movie scene. Who the hell has jail cells in their house?! She asks herself angrily, pulling vainly at the bars. Psychopaths, rapists, and murderers, probably, she answers herself, feeling the chill of fear sneak its way up her spine. Okay, Konoka, think. You can get out of this.
Presumably she'd been driven somewhere, but for some reason or another, she doesn't remember any of the trip. She'd regained consciousness just as she was carried into a nice looking house with wooden floors and big windows, but when she'd tried to move she'd found her hands and feet tied up with rope. Not wanting to let her would-be murderer know she was aware yet, in case he decided to reveal something important, she'd kept her eyes half-open but hadn't said anything.
Unfortunately, he hadn't talked to himself or made a phone call to any conspirators like what usually happens in the movies. Instead he'd carried her upstairs and opened up the door to this cell, dropping her rather painfully in the middle of it. He'd been kind enough to untie her before locking her in, and Konoka had briefly entertained the idea of trying to hit him and escaping that way. That idea quickly faded with the realization that she'd probably just earn herself a beating, though. She has no fighting experience whatsoever, and she'd be up against someone bigger and stronger. Konoka had only seen someone her size win such a one-sided fight once before – Setsuna! She'll realize I'm missing and call the police, Konoka smiles at the thought, but as the details work themselves through her brain her happiness quickly dissipates. Except she probably didn't see this guy knock me out or whatever… She'd have no idea where to look, and that means the police wouldn't either. They probably wouldn't even start searching right away.
In the U.S. she'd have to be missing for twenty-four hours before a search would actually get started, and if the same is true in Japan, well, that's a lot of hours. Plenty of things could happen to her in that time period, depending on what this guy wants with her. Immediately, her imagination conjures every bad thing that could possibly happen in vivid imagery, and she bites her tongue to get rid of the pictures in her brain. That's not going to happen, she tells herself firmly, but she still flinches at the sound of footsteps coming up the stairs, and the guy she'd met at the mall earlier opens the door and walks through.
"You?" She says before she can stop herself, and he stares at her blankly for a moment before responding.
"Yes, me. Sorry to keep you here under such shitty conditions. Oh, wait," he smiles at her, and Konoka instinctively backs away, "No I'm not."
"Why- why are you doing this? What do you want?" She tries not to think about how heroines in scary movies always say that before they get killed.
"What do I want…?" He repeats slowly, sauntering toward Konoka's cell. He reaches the bars and leans against them, watching her from between the gaps. "I want you to die. Slowly, and painfully," he says finally, and Konoka tries to withhold the tidal wave of sheer panic in her stomach.
He watches her trying not to react and smiles again, obviously pleased by her fear. "I want to skin you alive and shred the meat from your bones while you scream and beg for me to end your life because it hurts so much. But I won't kill you right away," he continues, keeping eye contact with her. His grin stretches when he sees the tears in her eyes. "I'm going to let you feel the whole thing. I'm going to drain you of your blood and watch you die, slowly and agonizingly, but maybe before all that I'll have some fun with your body while it's still warm. I'm not particularly interested, but it'll make for good sound effects, don't you think?"
Konoka berates herself for being slightly insulted by that part.
"Sound effects?" She asks, bringing her legs together nervously. He sees her do it and laughs at her, making her blush and avert her eyes in both embarrassment and anger.
"Yes, sound effects. I would much rather do it in person, but this will have to do." He gestures to the corner of Konoka's cell, and she turns around and spots the blinking red light there: a video camera.
"In person with who? I- I don't understand," she mumbles, looking back and forth between the man and the camera.
"With your father, of course."
"My dad?! Is this for money then? I can pay you anything you want if you just –"
"I don't give a shit about money," he snaps at her, banging his fist against the frame of the cell. "I want your dad to suffer. I want to hurt the thing he loves the most. I'm going to record our time together, and then I'm going to let him know your dead. Maybe I'll send him a piece of your body – an eyelid, maybe, or an ear? Fingers are awfully boring," he muses out loud, pacing slowly outside the cell, and Konoka puts a hand on her face as if trying to protect it. "And then, when he comes for me, I'm going to sit him down and show him the video. I'm going to break his spirit, and then I'm going to kill him, and then I'm going to find a way to drag him to Hell with me and torture him forever. Doesn't that sound great?"
"You're delusional," Konoka manages to choke out, horrified. "My dad's never done anything to you."
"On the contrary, you're delusional. Of course, you wouldn't know that, being delusional and all, but that's okay. I don't give a shit about what happens to you, really."
Konoka can feel the pit of dread in her stomach spreading throughout the rest of her body, rendering her limbs immobile as realization sinks in and she stares wide-eyed at her captor. I'm not getting out of this, she thinks, starting to tremble, I'm going to get tortured and die and my body's going to get chopped to pieces…
An overwhelming wave of nausea hits her; she blinks and is suddenly bent forward on her knees, dry heaving and spitting on the floor. Oh my God, I'm going to die. I'm going to die I'm going to dieI'mgoingtodieI'mgoingtodie –
The man, Shiro, watches her come to terms with her fate. He feels no sympathy even when the heaving turns to sobbing and Konoka curls into a ball on the floor, shaking all over. Still, there's a pang of familiarity about it that has him turning his head away to glare at the wall.
That's what his wife looked like before Eishun killed her, after all.
It wasn't his original intention to kill the man's daughter. Rather, the last time he'd seen Eishun, he'd been living in Japan, so naturally Shiro had manifested himself here and gone out to find him – only to be told the Shinmeiryuu master had moved to the U.S. Getting here had been hard enough, but arriving without being killed by angels or humans within the first two weeks just to find out he'd gotten the location wrong… it'd dealt a serious blow to his psyche. Only his thoughts of revenge kept him on this planet as he dodged the various people and forces that would kill him simply for what he is.
Just like Eishun had killed him and his wife.
They'd come to Earth hoping to escape the ravaging hardships of their own planet; he wasn't high up enough on the power hierarchy in Hell to keep him and his wife safe from the violent, blackmailing bastards he called his seniors. Sick of the way he was mistreated, and sick of watching his wife suffer, he did what he had to; Shiro stole a powerful magical item and transported himself and his wife to Earth. It was a gamble though. If his superiors found out – and they would – and the two of them somehow ended up back in Hell… well, if they thought their lives were bad before, he knew it could be much, much worse.
Except, apparently, that wasn't a good enough reason for people like Eishun, who believed he must be there to torment humans. But Shiro could care less about humans – or he didn't before, anyway, until he'd been hunted down by them. He'd tried to explain why they were there, but they hadn't listened, even when his wife had pleaded to let them stay.
"They're obviously lying!" One of Eishun's friends had said, pointing an accusing finger and nudging the swordsman in the shoulder while Shiro watched on, terrified. He knew he'd have no chance against the four swordsmen that had shown up, especially in a human body and without a weapon.
So without further ado, he'd watched his wife's soul get condemned, and then his own.
The memories still make him shake with rage. As he'd expected, what they'd returned to in Hell was far worse than what they'd left. And his wife…
Shiro glares at the sobbing girl in front of him.
"Humans are all the same," he mutters. "Enjoy the last ten minutes of your pain free life. I'll be right back."
The sobs intensify behind him as he walks away, but he takes pleasure in them. What this girl suffers won't even be close to what he and his wife went through; the amount of torture she can endure is limited by her human body, and when she dies, her soul will likely go somewhere far more pleasant. He and his wife hadn't had that luxury.
A couple of minutes after the door closes behind him, Konoka manages to stop crying long enough to take another look around. Like the first time, the situation doesn't look very promising. There is a window, but it's closed and on the wall by the door, outside of her cell.
Frustrated, she tries the bars again, pulling desperately with every ounce of strength in her body, but they don't budge. Standing back and taking a breath to calm herself, she checks her pockets. Her phone is gone, but he'd left her wallet. He wasn't kidding when he said he doesn't care about money. She bites her lip and stares at the cash and credit cards. They were her only leverage against this guy, and if he doesn't want them, she's got nothing. Konoka rifles through her clutch, trying to find anything at all that could get her out of this situation.
Halfway through searching through its contents – a tube of lip gloss, some coins, hair ties – she lets out a frustrated growl and shoves it back in her pocket. What the hell am I thinking? I'm not MacGyver.
That being said, with walls on three sides and bars on the other, she's now officially out of options. Konoka can feel the tears starting again and she slides down the wall of her cell and leans her head back against the wood, staring at nothing.
"Dad was right," she mumbles, laughing humorlessly. I should've been more careful. But how was she supposed to know? She doesn't remember even putting herself in a vulnerable situation; she'd been at a crowded mall, in broad daylight, shopping with Setsuna.
She clenches her fists at the thought of her friend. We were just starting to get close, and now… Now she's going to hear the news two days from now that her only friend died in a horrific homicide. Konoka swallows her panic; freaking out won't help anything. She forces her thoughts anywhere but her impending doom, and they wander back to Setsuna. I wonder if she's looking for me… Her imagination spirals briefly because of her hopeless predicament; a short clip plays in her mind involving Setsuna bursting through the door, kicking the guy's ass, and effectively sweeping her off her feet and out of the house to safety. As soon as the images fade Konoka can't help but laugh at her own absurdity. She's just a girl, and this isn't a movie, you idiot.
There's no way she'd find Konoka even if she is looking, and people don't normally put their own lives in danger on the off chance they might be able to rescue someone. That's the job of firemen and policemen and military – not middle class human resources workers from big business. How useless am I? She scoffs at herself, kicking her clutch to the other side of her cell and glaring at it. I get myself in a mess and all I can do is sit here and hope that someone cares enough to bail me out of it – Setsuna, no less.But there's no way in hell… she sighs, putting her face in her hands in resignation. It was a nice thought though.
She's just about ready to bid the world farewell when she hears movement.
Konoka's head snaps up at the creaking of the door, and she takes a deep breath and tries to accept death with dignity, and grace, and Shitshitshitshit I'm going to die –
It's not Shiro that walks in, however, and Konoka's jaw drops when she sees Setsuna's face peaking around the door.
"No freaking way," she mutters in disbelief. Setsuna glances behind her before stepping into the room and quietly shutting the door. A million things run through Konoka's mind, and the seriousness of the situation comes back to her full force. "You – you have to leave," she says quietly, not wanting to alert her would-be murderer. "This guy's crazy, he's going to kill us both –"
"I'm not leaving without you." Setsuna's tone carries an air of finality, and there's determination in her eyes that Konoka isn't used to seeing. In fact, Konoka's not used to seeing much of any emotion on her friend's face, but she's not about to question it now. Setsuna stares at the bars of the cell, reaching out and testing their strength once before going to examine the lock.
"Do you have the keys?" Konoka asks hopefully.
"No. I saw them, but they were on a table with a bunch of hacksaws and knives, and he was standing right next to them."
Setsuna doesn't notice Konoka go pale at the mention of Shiro's tools. If she wasn't grateful for her friend's presence before – and she was – she's more than grateful now. A thousand ways to say thank you clog up her brain and can't quite make it out of her mouth, and she decides to save them for later. If there's a later. She has a good amount of faith in Setsuna after what she's seen, but training and all, the guy could easily be carrying a gun or any other weapon on him. And before all that, there's one very important detail they need to address.
"The bars aren't breakable," Konoka whispers, interrupting Setsuna's attempt to simply pry them off the cell. "There's no way –"
"I'll find one, then."
Konoka stands there, watching Setsuna try in vain to bend steel bars for her. Of course it's not going to work, she thinks, but there's something so convincing about the way Setsuna says it, and there's a tinge of desperation in her slightly shaky hands that makes Konoka think twice about convincing her savior of the impossibility of it all.
So she stands there, at a loss for words at being confronted with this… person. Certainly no one she's used to seeing, because Setsuna's not emotional – not like this. She hadn't even flinched when she'd recounted those horrible things that'd happened to her as a kid; but now, somehow, there's something about her that's different. Konoka would almost call it an aura, if she were more into the supernatural, but even as she racks her brain for something more reasonable, that's the only word that seems to fit.
But even besides that intangible feeling, Konoka watches Setsuna grit her teeth, and her muscles flex within the sleeves of the plaid shirt – those clothes look good after all – and whatever it is that's changed about the girl in the last forty-five seconds makes Konoka swallow a ball of nervous butterflies that has nothing at all to do with being trapped in a homicidal maniac's house.
And the aura, or whatever it is, which similarly has nothing and everything to do with Konoka's stomach elevator-diving into her throat, has her involuntarily taking a step back, because even though she doesn't know what's happening in front of her, she can tell it's about to culminate into something – SCREEEE –
Konoka has to cover her ears at the sound of metal grinding ever-so-conspicuously on metal, but with five more seconds and a grunt from Setsuna, her jaw drops as the girl in front of her literally tears the door off its hinges – and the lock, heavy duty chains and all, breaks to pieces in front of her.
"How… how the hell did you –"
"No time!" Setsuna whispers harshly, and they both hear the footsteps from downstairs. She spots the window and grabs Konoka by the wrist, leading her over to it. "Go to the roof. I'll call you down when it's safe."
"But what about you –"
"I'll be fine."
"How can you be sure?" Konoka turns around, halfway out the window and hands clasped on the gutter, but suddenly defiant. "What if you die?"
Setsuna glances at the door then back at Konoka, knowing she doesn't have much time before Shiro bursts into the room. Without reservations she puts her hands under Konoka's butt, ignoring the eep of surprise, and practically throws the girl on the roof.
"I'll be fine, I promise," Setsuna says again after catching Konoka's eyes just long enough to notice the fear. "I can't die."
Konoka's incredulity is obvious in her reply. "What does that even mean?!"
With the other girl is safely on the roof, Setsuna sticks her head out the window and looks up, trying to think of something quick and reassuring to say. Stuck between various lies, a couple of different realities, and her own personal thoughts, she goes for a modified truth: "If he kills me then I won't get to be close to you anymore. So I can't die."
Konoka stares down from the roof, examining her friend's face and trying to decipher the nonchalant comment.
Setsuna's words make no sense at all, of course; the statement holds no weight in a real life or death situation. It's more something one would say in an anime or a TV show, or just to be silly and sarcastic – it's a line you'd deliver with a cheeky smile and wink, and whoever it was thrown at would roll their eyes and put their hands on their hips and say something more realistic. That's what should happen, at least.
Except that Setsuna had said it with a completely straight face, voice laced with what Konoka is sure the other girl hoped was reassurance but was actually more like confidence, and with all the humor of a brown paper bag. That is to say, she actuallymeans that their being together is her fundamental reason to stay alive.
And in the wake of that seriousness, where Konoka should be worried and pissed off and demanding a promise, she's instead shocked into silence as Setsuna disappears back into the room and closes the window behind her, leaving Konoka on the roof with no company but the weight of Setsuna's words and her own fervent blush. I wonder if I said something wrong, Setsuna thinks briefly, Konoka's strange expression lingering in her vision for a moment. Her next thought is that she's surprised it's taking Shiro this long to get to them, but of course, that was just jinxing it. The door swings open and he glances first at the cell, eyes widening in surprise when his line of sight falls on the mangled door, and then finally his gaze rests on Setsuna standing by the window.
"How did you –" He starts, but stops himself. There's a moment of recognition, and when he looks at her again his expression is different. "An angel?"
"Not quite," Setsuna responds, keeping a wary eye on him as he paces slowly in front of her, keeping his distance. There's a machete in his right hand that's making her pretty nervous, and she wonders if she should lie to him or not.
"One like me, then?" He asks, maybe a bit hopeful. His fingers curl and uncurl around the handle of his weapon as he waits for a response.
"Um. Kind of."
"So why not help me then? You do know who her father is, don't you?"
"Yes…" she trails off, still trying to decide if a fight can be avoided or not. "I'm actually under orders from Lord Animus and one of his personal guards. I'm going to take care of it, just not yet."
"Lord Animus?" Shiro's eyes narrow and his pacing stops. "You know him? Who exactly are you?" That's a great question, Setsuna thinks. At the moment she's a lot of people: half-demon, guardian angel, human, office worker, lackey…
"I work for him. I'm not supposed to say anything other than that."
"Then what's your position?"
Setsuna hesitates. She doesn't actually know the names of the ranks, she realizes.
"I see," he replies thoughtfully, the muscles in his arms untensing. Setsuna almost lets out a sigh of relief, thinking she'd avoided violence for today, but suddenly she finds herself having to jump out of the way of the machete being thrown at her head.
It impales itself in the wall, and she scrambles to her feet again. Shiro walks calmly over to where she'd been standing and yanks his weapon out of the wood, cracking it in the process.
"You're lying. First of all, there's no way you'd be able to avoid the angels while being close to that girl." He examines the blade of the machete, running his fingers along the edge to wipe off the wooden splinters. "Secondly, that rank doesn't exist. And lastly," he lifts his gaze from the weapon to meet her eyes, and the rage on his face is undeniable, "Even if you're telling the truth, I'd kill you anyway."
Setsuna doesn't even have time to curse before he's swinging the blade at her neck. She ducks quickly and goes straight for the weak spot at his crotch, but one of his legs comes up and delivers a brutal kick square to her chest. Her eyes widen at the strength behind it, and her body goes flying backwards into the wall, her left shoulder taking most of the impact. He's way stronger than me, she knows, flexing her fingers and trying to decide if her arm is dislocated or not. It hurts, but she can still use it. When he comes at her swinging again, movements quick and structured, she grabs his arm to slow him down. There's no chance she's going to be able to stop him that way, but she manages a quick uppercut with her left hand before he overpowers her, tossing her once again into the wall.
"You're not going to win," He says calmly, staring at her from across the room. "If you'd been a demon I would've killed you quickly, but since I'm not so sure anymore, I think I'll take my time."
Setsuna manages to get on her knees, barely avoiding being pinned to the wall by the machete. He strikes quickly downwards before she can get away though, and she pulls her legs out of the way - better my arms than my legs - but feels the handle of the blade slam into the back of her left wrist. She grits her teeth and doesn't cry out, but Shiro can tell by her frantic scrambling to get away from him that she's in a good amount of pain now.
In her desperate attempt for distance she kicks her right leg out behind her, and with no small amount of luck, catches him hard in the knee. Setsuna can feel the joint pop out of its socket and Shiro curses, hopping back on one leg.
"You'll pay for that," he growls out, glaring at her. "For that, and for everything else. I'm going to make you suffer."
"I haven't done anything to you!" Setsuna yells back in confusion, cradling her left wrist in her right hand. Unfortunately, the statement just seems to piss him off more.
"You have no idea how much you've done to me," He snarls. "Angel or demon, you're partly responsible for what happened to me and my wife."
"What are you talking about?" Setsuna asks, mostly just to buy some time until she can think of a way to get out of this situation without dying.
"I'm talking about how that brat's father sent me and the woman I love back to Hell to be tortured. And why?" Shiro practically screams, gesticulating wildly even with the machete in his right hand. "For wanting a better life? For wanting a place to live that isn't a complete shithole? For wanting to be happy?"
He takes a deep breath and approaches her, and Setsuna backs up until she's pressed to the wall. She watches the machete warily, but it's his other hand that comes up to grab her by the neck.
"Do you know what it's like to watch someone you love get killed and abused over, and over, and over again?" His voice is strained in his efforts to keep himself from hysteria. "Tell me," He continues, leaning in closer, "What is your relationship with that girl?"
Setsuna tries to answer, but it comes out unintelligible thanks to the hand choking her throat. Shiro notices but doesn't relax his grip to hear her answer; he tries a different tactic instead.
"How would you feel if I killed her in front of you?"
Setsuna still can't answer, but the expression of panic and anger is enough of an admission. "Good," Shiro smiles at her, "I'm going to kill you two in front of each other. Then maybe you'll see."
He lifts the machete, planning to bash her in the face with the handle, but Setsuna, through all the numerous and creative tortures she'd encountered, knows that the one Shiro is describing is one she never wants to experience. He's still holding her up against the wall by her neck, so she lifts both her knees to her chin and, back braced against the wall, kicks both her feet outward with more strength than she knew she had.
She sees the look of surprise on his face just as she makes impact, and he lets go of her and flies backward, hitting the wall on the opposite side. Setsuna was not prepared, however, for the wall she'd braced herself against to give way as well. There's a noisy crack, and all of a sudden she's on her back, hanging halfway from the second story, and facing the sky.
"S- Setsuna?" Konoka's face peers at her from the edge of the roof. "Is he gone?"
Setsuna opens her mouth to answer but snaps it shut again at the feel of Shiro grabbing her ankle. He starts dragging her back into the room and Setsuna scrambles to grab hold of something, fingers finding purchase on the edge of the broken wall. She can hear Konoka's alarmed voice yelling at her to get on the roof, but with one of her legs in his grasp, that's rather impossible. Setsuna lifts her other leg and kicks him in the face – once, twice – and finally he lets go of her ankle.
"Fine!" He shouts, "You wanna stay out there? Go ahead."
Setsuna has about two seconds to wonder what he means before she feels his hands on her legs again – both this time – and without another word or any time to react, he flips her out of the hole in the wall and two stories down.
There's no time to land gracefully. There's a brief thought process – if I land on my legs they'll break, if I land on my back that might break, and my right arm is the only one uninjured now and I can't sacrifice that either, so – and then she twists herself in mid-air, landing on her injured left shoulder and wrist, and rolling a bit to help with the impact.
But the pain is excruciating. Setsuna's fairly sure her left wrist is in pieces right now, and it feels like her organs slammed against her ribcage when she'd hit the ground. Her vision is blurry and it's only Konoka's scream that keeps her conscious and semi-lucid – enough so to notice Shiro jumping down after her, and landing quite a bit more gracefully.
Konoka watches him approach the injured Setsuna, who manages to get to her feet only to fall back down immediately. Konoka stares down at the ground, thoughts rushing and panicked. I could try and get down, but I'd probably just get hurt or die and that won't help anything right now; but he's going to kill her if I don't do something, but what can I do? Damnitdamnitdamnit –
"Setsuna, don't you dare die!" She screams frantically, "You promised!"
The voice comes in broken and static-y to Setsuna's pain addled mind, like it'd been delivered through bad reception. Setsuna don't… die… promised…
"Oh yeah," she whispers, staring at the sky and hearing Shiro's footsteps get closer, "I did, didn't I?"
Setsuna sighs tiredly. It might be nice to just give up right now, but… With no small amount of effort she drags her tired body into a sitting position then struggles woozily onto her feet.
"You're going to fight me like that?" Shiro asks incredulously, looking her up and down.
Setsuna tries to move the fingers on her left hand and pain shoots up and down her arm, all the way to her shoulder, bringing her back to reality a little bit. "I'm going to try," she says tiredly.
Shiro stares at her for a moment, and if Setsuna had been more with-it right then, she might've seen the pity flash across his face. But she doesn't, and he charges her regardless, making an inward slash at her torso.
Almost lazily, Setsuna avoids the strike by falling forwards against Shiro's chest. Out of pure surprise he catches her, and she stands on her tiptoes and headbutts him right in the nose.
"What the fuck!" His hand goes up to his profusely bleeding face, and when it comes away covered in red he turns to Setsuna with renewed anger. Dropping the machete, he draws his right hand back and, too quickly for her to see exactly where he'd been aiming, punches like a loaded spring – right into her broken left shoulder.
She can't help the pained yell that rips its way out of her throat this time. Setsuna falls to her knees, clutching her shoulder, only to feel Shiro's fist connect with her once again – only this time it's in the face. Setsuna lets herself hit the ground this time, and she can see the blood from her nose stain the grass.
"That was for my face," she hears him say, and somehow still conscious, she watches his shoes walk away from her.
"This can't be happening," Konoka mumbles in disbelief, glancing wildly between Shiro and Setsuna. This is the logical ending, of course: that the bigger, stronger person with the weapon would win – but somehow this wasn't the ending Konoka had thought would actually happen. Because this, as it stands right now, means they're both going to die.
Her hands grip the edge of the gutter and she squeezes her eyes shut, trying to think of something, anything that could get them out of this. But with Setsuna down for the count and Shiro no doubt coming to get her, the only coherent thought in her head is I can't believe I dragged her into this – why am I so useless?
Shiro looks up at her from the ground and smiles. "You're next."
It's two words. Only two words, and not inherently provocative ones either, but they reach Setsuna's ears and her fingers dig into the dirt in anger. How can he do this? He and his wife were tortured in front of each other, and so what? So that makes it okay for him to do the same thing, even while knowing first-hand how much pain it would cause? Shouldn't he be trying to stop this kind of thing from happening?
"It doesn't make any sense." Setsuna whispers, eyes narrowed in concentration as she tries to reason through this and comes up short. The equivalent would be her trying to torture everyone she'd ever met for some kind of twisted sense of revenge, and that thought had never even crossed her mind.
She might not understand his logic, but she does know it leads to him torturing other people, and Konoka no less. Treat others as you want to be treated; that's what Evangeline said, right?
The kind of suffering she knows Shiro has in store for them is the kind she would give almost anything to avoid again – the kind that she knows should never exist, not for her, and not for anyone else either. So I'll make sure it doesn't, then. Hypocrisy might be Shiro's modus operandi, but all it's doing is hurting the people around him. And Setsuna is, quite frankly, tired of pain.
Besides, what Evangeline says, goes.
It's a struggle to even move her limbs, and it's even more of a struggle to do it quietly, but she manages. Setsuna stumbles to her feet, grabbing Shiro's abandoned machete along the way. He's standing and staring up at Konoka on the roof and saying things that don't quite reach Setsuna's ears. His hands are on his hips and Setsuna's sure there's a cocky grin on his face. She comes up behind him quietly, holding up a hand to keep Konoka from announcing her presence.
Just when she's in range, she makes eye contact with Konoka, her vision hazy with pain, and manages two words:
Konoka covers her eyes just as Shiro spins around, and Setsuna swings the machete, catching him in the throat. Blood sprays on the right half of her face and she can see the blood pouring from the wound on his neck and the blood staining his shirt and the blood everywhere, and she's glad Konoka closed her eyes because normal people probably aren't used to this.
People like her and Shiro though – this is their life. As if to attest to that fact, though he's bleeding out and dying quickly, one hand reaches out straight for her throat as if to tear it open with his bare hands. With the last of her strength and all of her anger, Setsuna drops the blade to punch him square in the chest. She hardly felt like she put any power into at all, so she's surprised to see him fly back and hit the wall of the house – but he doesn't stop there. Shiro's body flies straight through it, his limp corpse finally coming to a stop on top of his dining room table.
The wall, having had enough of this by now, decides now would be a great time to protest – by completely crumbling. Setsuna's wound-induced haze is broken by the sound of Konoka's scream as she comes tumbling from the roof, and without thinking or knowing or feeling, Setsuna sees the scenery moving, and the disjointed thought that I must be running goes through her head.
She catches Konoka in her good arm and the weight sends them both to the ground where they come to a rolling stop.
There's a brief pause, and Konoka stares half at Setsuna and half at the sky in shock.
"Sorry," Setsuna mumbles, snapping her back to attention. "I'm… getting you… all bloody…"
Although Setsuna had taken most of the impact, their roll had landed her on top of Konoka, supporting herself with one arm. Their foreheads are touching and Konoka can feel the blood – Setsuna's, Shiro's, she doesn't know – dripping down onto her own face. She wants to answer: 'it's okay,' or maybe 'don't apologize, you saved my life' – anything, really, but the words are all jammed up.
"Konoka… I think I… have to pass out," Setsuna's voice registers in her head. "But… are you… okay?"
"Am I okay…?" Konoka repeats, not knowing how to answer. Am I okay? She's about to pass out, but am I okay?
Maybe it's that. Maybe it's the complete lack of regard for her own well-being – they say that recklessness is charming, right? The whole bad boy thing works pretty well right now: the ripped button-up and the dirty jeans, the blood, the whole murdering for her thing… Or maybe it was what she'd said earlier – I can't die… I won't get to be close to you anymore – or, maybe it's her own adrenaline, and the hormones, and the situation – really, it could be any number of things.
All she knows is that Setsuna had come and whisked her to safety in the fantasy-like manner she'd laughed at herself for earlier. Prince Charming is a ridiculous term, that's true, and putting someone on a pedestal like that is just asking for it, that's true too, but damn if Setsuna isn't about as close as Konoka has ever seen right now. She'd run in wearing those clothes (I have better taste than I thought), looking as handsome or beautiful or whatever as anyone she'd ever seen, saved Konoka's life, gotten the shit kicked out of her in the process, and now she's asking if Konoka is okay.
Who wouldn't feel this way?
"Are you?" Setsuna asks again, and out of the corner of her eyes Konoka can see the arm supporting her start to shake.
"Yeah," she whispers. "I'm… great."
"Good… stay that way…"
Her arm finally gives out, and the last thing Setsuna sees is Konoka's worried face.