Demonbane Ltd presents
An Ah! Megami-sama fan fiction story
Disclaimer: Oh, My Goddess © Fujishima Kosuke, Kodansha, TBS and KSS films; AnimEigo, Studio Proteus, and Dark Horse Comics.
Part Three: Best Laid Plans
I shook my head, standing back from the smoldering remains of the journal. The tongues of flame licking at them were slowly diminishing.
My quarters, such as they were, had not changed in the… years. I had no doubt that it had been years by then. Even if I didn't know how many of those years had passed. The cot in the corner, the desk and armchair. A fire pit and a bathroom. The window looking out over the gray plains of ground bone that I'd first arrived on. Almost enough to make a fellow feel nostalgic.
Again, I shook it off. There'd be time for reminiscing later. If there is a later for me.
I gathered my things, donning clothes I thought I'd not have the chance to wear again. The old leather jacket looked about as well as it had back then, meaning not very. Still, it felt… comfy. In a melancholic sort of way.
Jeans, boots, tee and turtleneck…
I put everything on, and left. Making my way along the bone streets I was quiet, slipping through the crowd of Demons with little upset to it. Until finally I was at the Gate, and slipped through it, heading towards Obsidian.
Everything had gone… moderately well. The only thing that could have gone better would not be noticed for another few days either. I hoped.
And I could tell that it was also the only one that I had. Chance, that is. No more. I knew that I couldn't handle another loss of control. That the next time I was enthralled by something here, it would be the last. That I wouldn't break the loop one more time. The part of me that had found a twisted pleasure in the suffering of others, the recess uncovered by my time with J'nala, was not something I felt I could hold back if I were exposed to it again. It wasn't just a desire to be free that drove me, but a desire to retain something of what I had once been.
I stopped upon reaching my destination, looking upon the ebony spire of the Hall of Assignments with mixed feelings. Finally deciding that indecision was not something that I would do good to take up again, I started inside.
The Hall was filled, almost to the brim, with the city's residents. The myriad of shapes, sizes and races made for a good mélange, though humanoids such as myself were not rare enough to be privy to any special attention.
I stood in line like a good little hell-beast, and waited.
When it was finally my turn, I went up to the desk. Behind it sat a winged man, his skin marred with scars and his wings a midnight black. A Fallen, from what I recall. Angels choosing the opposite side. Nasty, powerful…
… Well, a Demon was usually more powerful than an Angel of any kind, but I wasn't exactly top of the line when it came to power so to me he was plenty powerful enough.
I laid down the assignment, a gem containing my tasks and such, which he picked up and examined.
"Griever, Demon Third Class… hmm … you're in luck, kid. You've rated Midgard duty."
I'd known before I'd gotten there, actually. But the formality was important, and the less attention I drew to myself, the better, and the easier to pull this little plan of mine off.
The next place I was to visit would the problem in all this. Oh yes indeed.
Even though I was only a Third, I'd need a Limiter. It's a law applying to both sides, mostly because even a Third without his or her Limiter is a force to be reckoned with. That is, if there were no failsafes regarding that matter. There were protocols in Nidheg that cut off a Demon who had removed his or her Limiter from the power conduit the demonic equivalent/offshoot of Yggdrasil maintained between itself and the registered Demons. Forceful removal attempts would result in immediate recalling to the Hells. The Limiter could also be used as a leash…
…but I had prepared.
A few minutes after my arrival I was out again, and feeling a little weakened because of the damn earring. It wasn't much to look at, an irregular metal band with several spikes here and there. Did they want extra insurance so that whoever tries to take it off physically gets bloody fingers? Maybe. Wouldn't count it out of the running in the possibility race.
Finally, it was time.
I wasn't going alone though, and that was another of my problems. Gorgon was a Second, and as ugly as his name. A big, stone-skinned monster with two wings and a long, flexible tail. If this guy was supposed to watch out for me?
I took the step, my foot going through the portal and landing beyond. I followed, and emerged…
…into a garbage strewn alley in a really dark corner of some city or other. Gorgon was close behind me.
Dammit, but I needed to be alone for this. Really badly. As glorious as it was to walk Midgard again, I wasn't interested in being pulled back again anytime soon, so the leash had to go. The beast had changed appearance though, forming its new shell as a somewhat dumpy sarariman…
…and I realized where we were. Not that this mattered, particularly. Not in the immediate present, anyway.
Had we landed in Nekomi, then yes, it would have. As it was, Tokyo was worse than some, but not as bad as a few others possible postings, so I could deal. So I thought.
Now, the power difference between a Second and a Third is pretty steep. A Second can blow up, say, an apartment building before he runs out of power and needs a recharge. A Third can blow up an apartment. A First can blow up a whole block if not more, but that didn't matter there and then since I wasn't dealing with one. Of course, that was with Limiters active. Last time a Demon had cut loose, the Limiter off, on the Earthrealm… well, ever heard of Tunguska?
"Hey, slow down!" Gorgon said as I strode in front of him. Hesitation wasn't something I could afford now, and I needed to get the timing just right too…
…his hand grabbed me by the shoulder, spinning me around to face his angered face?
…then he noticed my hands… his eyes widened… I didn't smile.
I opened it up. The gem in my hands was obsidian black in color, and full to the brim with power. It had been collected, little by little, from the souls in the Hells until it had been filled. That was a lot of power. A lot more than I could hold, and more than Gorgon could. He went sprawling back, the full brunt of the power in the gem manifesting as said power was used and released. The burned flesh shell dissipated as Gorgon wedged himself out of the wall he'd been smashed into.
But I could see that he was injured, one of his wings having shattered … I charged.
Hesitation wasn't something I could afford. It was all or nothing, just like going against a Stygian Winterbeast. It was so fast that you had to meet it head-on, lest it tear at you continuously and wear you down to the point where you're easy prey.
Gorgon would have simply crushed me, if I hadn't done this right then.
The familiar feel of the spike-knuckled gauntlets I'd claimed in the arena in Muspelheim wrapped around my hands, and I smashed one into my enemy's face. He reeled, brushing me away with one hand… or trying to. The blow was a powerful one and it struck me across the ribs, but it didn't throw off my balance. I did reel a little, but the next blow of my own bit into his belly, sharp spikes on the gauntlets going through stone skin and into the stomach.
While it hurt him, it wasn't enough to take Gorgon down. The Demon was just too strong for this alone to work, and I really didn't want to kill him… consequences would eventually bite me in the ass for that, I realized. The Doublet was still working after all, for Gorgon anyway. He on the other hand …
…nearly took my head off in a single swing, which I managed to duck due to a stroke of luck rather than skill.
Then his other hand rammed into my gut, the fist impacting heavily. I spat blood, but still reached forward. There was one sure way to push a God or Demon back, I had learned, to whence they came. You have to forcibly remove the Limiter. Roughly as possible as keeping a fire going on the main Stygian plains for an extended period of time.
This was it. Number two. My hand clutched at the Limiter on the Demon's ear, a second black gem held ready as well, and released the power in one short and vicious blast. It was enough… just… to rip the Limiter and most of the ear off the beast… which spasmed, energy coursing through it, and moved to attack… before a portal opened underneath it, pulling it in.
And then I allowed myself to simply collapse onto my knees, despite the condition of the pavement and such. It was both in relaxation and in preparation, as I brought the last gem from my stash up, and popped it into my mouth. Last chance, hombre. I had only managed to get three, and even that had been pushing my luck. They could hold shitloads of power, though, and as difficult as they are to obtain… you can refine about four in a century, usually. On Midgard, in any case. Not so in the Hells. In some places there at least. J'nala was going to note the three dummies I'd placed when I'd swiped these from him, eventually.
I steeled myself, squeezed my eyes shut, and let the power flow into me. And hoped that I was right, that this wouldn't send me back as it did Gorgon.
I didn't scream, but it was a near thing. It hurt. It hurt more than the first time I had Power coursing through me, when Sybilla brought me to the bone-plain and was "chastising" me. But I reached for the hurt, channeled it. I filled my body to the brim, so much power there that it would have been lethal to hold for too long. I only needed a second.
The gem rolled from my mouth when I collapsed against one of the walls, falling to the ground and dissolving midway. A sizzling sensation around my neck brought me back to my senses, and I tore off the smoking, warped metal that had just moments ago kept me from being fried by the excess energy I'd channeled. The runes of power I'd spent weeks carving were still glowing with a faint radiance as it hit the pavement. The onetime enchanted pendant and chain splashed onto the concrete as their physical form dissolved… a result of being exposed to far too much power and having that power suddenly cut off.
I felt a wetness on the side of my neck though, and my finger. My ear burned with pain, and I cast a brief look to the ground, where my Limiter now lay alongside Gorgon's.
It was done. And I was still there, not back in the Hells and most probably swiftly taken care of. Hild. I had been right in the assumption I'd based my plan of escape on. For whatever reason this happened, for whatever reason I'd been taken from my home, they'd set it up so I was exempt from some of the rules that governed them. Disjointed from the source that enforced them because of my origin.
Without the Limiter, and also a means for them to viably track me. That I knew of.
That had been what they wanted. Deniability, leverage, someone who could skim the rules at times because they had not been his rules from the very beginning on.
On shaky feet, I stumbled from the alley and into the streets? Shinjuku. Or at least it looked that way. I only had movies to go on. Damn good I was what I was, for once, since a Gift of Tongues was standard for the whole Demon package thing.
I could only smirk as I walked, and people made way. Six two isn't very tall, but here I was something of a towering presence? A towering presence that was bruised, that was bloody, and that looked downright… scary?
Not to mention my Demon-markings.
Yes, that's it. I savored the emotions around, nipping the fear from here and there, and moving onwards. I ducked into another alley moments after I was around a corner, leaned against a wall, and heaved.
My hands were shaking.
For a moment I stared at them, not knowing what in Hell's name was going on. I gazed, uncomprehending, at the bloodstained palms?
… I wasn't home, but I wasn't in Hell either.
Midgard. The Earthrealm.
And I was, for all intents and purposes, a monster.
Something I hadn't felt in a long, looong time suddenly surfaced…
Sick with it, head reeling, I stumbled deeper into the shadows, making my way into the guts of the Shinjuku district. No crowds. I didn't want crowds. I needed to think, to plan… somewhere to get away… I had to hide out… I was pretty sure they'd send someone after me.
"Oi, where the fuck do ya think ye'r going?!" I halted, leaning against one wall, and turned. I felt emotions flood from outwards. Indignation, anxiety, lust, anger, hate, and paralyzing bone-jarring fear.
Darkness was no obstacle, and the tableau I'd stumbled upon was revealed.
There is a universal constant in my world view. I don't deny myself anger, or any other emotion. And in an instant, I had gone from shaking like a leaf to … blank. Cold. That ice-hot shard was branded into my spirit, and held me for a moment.
I didn't listen, didn't hear.
My eyes never left the reason for my sudden anger. A girl, barely into her teens, on the filthy ground. Whimpering. The overpowering fear. One of the men pushing her legs apart.
I neither remember, nor do I feel it matters how many there were. Their faces didn't matter. I read their emotions easily enough. That was more than sufficient for me to know their intent. Not that I really needed to, in order to be able to tell.
I'd been stripped of many things during my time in the Hells. Remorse. Regrets. A great deal of my ability to trust, formerly not all that great either. Most ideals. Morality.
But somewhere, a little bit still remained. A few remains of what had once constituted my own code of ethics, glimmering against the dark.
When I was done, frost was covering parts of the alley, and others were wet and sticky with blood. One had tried to pull a gun? And I simply stood and sent as much overbearing, concentrated and distilled fear at him as I could pump out. He lost bowel control, bladder control, dropped the pistol and then collapsed, twitching.
Heart attack at twenty-three.
Bad living will do that to you.
Why? part of me asked, incuriously. There was no logic in doing this, no gain for me.
I told it to shut up as I tried something different and directed my gaze at the girl. Eyes met. And hers closed as she fell unconscious when I did the exact opposite of what I'd done to the man and coaxed the fear out of her.
It was odd to feel it again, at least in some form.
I turned. One was still alive, and looking at me as if I were the Devil incarnate. I don't think he knew how close to home he was hitting. He lay against a wall, and cradled a broken arm against his abdomen. Probably had a few broken ribs too.
I knelt next to him, and snatched him by the throat. He threw something through the gurgle, which sounded vaguely like a threat. Or maybe it was a plea for mercy? I didn't really care. Most Demons and all Gods are Empathic to one degree or another, and I could see and sense emotions clearly enough to know what would have happened had I not intervened. It was one of the things that still sickened and disgusted me.
The Stygian wastes had taught me to kill predators before they could become a danger, to not play around. The… thing… before me had, in my eyes, forfeited any so called "rights" to humanity the moment I'd laid my eyes upon him. And without the Limiter's restrictions about the Mortal Realm, I could use the method I had used there to take care of this animal.
I left his husk, drained of life, still sprawled against the wall. The girl still lay unconscious…
…it would be so easy, I thought, laying my hand against her throat. So easy. Her fear would be exquisite.
I grabbed the prone form, hoisting it upwards…
Shame I won't be finding out exactly how exquisite, some genuine regret coursed through me at that, as I cradled the unconscious girl in my arms.
I was a Demon. A Demon of fear, sorrow, and anger. A Demon of cold. License or no License, that was what I had been made into. Even if not as completely as the ones who had their hands in it would have liked.
But, I thought, looking down for a moment, feeling something slip down my cheek. Something wet. Something I hadn't felt in… a long time. Just maybe that isn't all I am.
I felt, deep inside me, something breaking.
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