Chapter 52:

Calm Before the Storm


Crimson liquid flowed like a river from a shattering wet thump. Life was quickly extinguished at that moment, pierced through the heart with a long blade. The blood soaked blade left held out the front of the chest. Demosthenes’ wide eyes were left frozen as he collapsed to his knees with only the blade of a sword keeping him from hitting the ground. The metal retracted from his corpse falling slowly to the street, the field fading away.

Yuki’s eyes were held wide open in shock seeing the man that had effortlessly beat him taken down by a sneak attack. Out of the shadows of night stepped Ayumi with a cold empty expression in her eyes looking down upon Yuki. “…worthless…”

Chapter 52 – Calm Before the Storm

Once Ayumi finished healing him, Yuki pulled himself back up to his feet. While his body had been completely repaired there was a hollow feeling inside him that he could not shake. It made his head hang, keeping a dark shadow over his eyes. He couldn't look at Ayumi. “…Ayumi…” There hadn't been a single word spoken between them since she started to heal him. Even now he was finding it difficult to speak.

All that his mind could do was recall the last minutes of what he had thought to be his life. They replayed endlessly for him, making his body remember the ripping pain. His hand laid upon his chest feeling the cold moist cloth soaked in his blood. ‘…I should’ve died…how many times now?’ He painfully clinched his torn shirt with his hand. ‘…I wasn’t able to do anything…’

A black void began to surround him, removing the world around him. Any awareness that he might have had still was quickly snuffed out as he retreated into his mind. ‘…I wasn’t able to beat him…’ Like an old camera reel, the battle replayed for him. ‘…he was just toying with me…’ The clashing of blades pounded out of the imagery making his eyes twitch in reflex. He shut his eyes. ‘…I was useless…’ Yuki turned his head away thinking that he could escape it, while the video continued to play ceaselessly.

“Please save me, Ayumi!” Yuki’s voice from the video said.

Yuki's eyes quickly snapped open in shock at hearing the words. He was forced to look towards the image to see how pathetic he looked. ‘…I can’t do anything…without her…’ The words felt like massive weights stacked on him making it impossible to move. His eyes glued dully staring at the memories. It crushed him. He could not resist. There was no strength left in his body. The world seemed to be getting further away from him. Yuki was no longer willing to chase after it.

A sudden loud noise boomed around the void cracking everywhere on the surface. It beckoned to Yuki. The boom occurred again even more violently than before, but this time he could feel something faint on the edge. Dull ripples became sharp and stabbing. The feeling had turned to pain spread across him unfocused and clearing away the darkness. “…what’s going on…”

“I see you’re back…”

Yuki couldn't see what was going on, but had a strange feeling about him. When his eyes came into focus he found himself in Ayumi’s house. It took him another moment to realize that he was in her room and lying on her bed. He quickly pulled himself up off of her pillow. ‘…why am I in Ayumi’s room?! And on her bed?!’ Yuki connected eyes with Ayumi finding her to be surprisingly close to him, leaning in from the edge of bed at him. “Ayumi! I-I…Why am…I?”

Ayumi pulled back, relaxing into a tall stance with her arms crossed. “I brought you back here.”

“By yourself?” Yuki couldn't help but look her up and down, having trouble imagining her carrying him through the street.

She gave him a quick nod, not changing expressions, as usual. “I couldn’t leave you in the middle of the street with blood covering your clothes.”

“My clothes!” Yuki looked down at his clothes, finally what changed. He had been so focused on his change of environment that he hadn’t taken the time to notice them. One look had taken much longer for him as he was locked in gear unable to react. He looked blankly over at her. “Got nothing in yellow?”

“Laundry day isn’t until the end of the week.”

“And your powers couldn’t make something?”

“Between covering for you at school and protecting, I’m running a little short. Besides, it's not worth the trouble.”

Yuki turned a little in the bed showing off different sides of the white sundress Ayumi put him in. “Do I at least make it look good?”

“I see you’re fully recovered.”

His hand absentmindedly rubbed his chest. “I forgot to thank you for saving me.” Distant echoes of the fight pounded at the back of his mind. Their weight hung over him, waiting.

Ayumi stood up and walked over to the other side of the room. Leaning against the wall, she stared at him. A sigh escaped her lips. Nothing changed. “I’m just doing my job. You should focus on yourself.”

Images of Demosthenes haunted him. The spear rammed through his chest before disappearing like a phantom. “Even when I put in the effort, I get my butt kicked.”

“It’s not about the effort. That fight didn’t change anything. You’re looking at the wrong lesson.”

“What lesson? I didn’t run like you said I do.”

“You’re missing the point. It’s not a matter of standing your ground.”

“Then what is it?!”

“You’re afraid to fight.”

‘How could she?’ Yuki felt the weight on him grow even more intense than before. He couldn't hold his head up. Every part of him was shaking uncontrollably. Escape was all he could think about, but none of his muscles would even budge on him. It took everything that Yuki had to summon up breath to speak. He struggled and grasped at the tendrils of memories that threatened to tie him down. In a low voice with certainty he spoke, “You’re wrong. It’s not fear.”

There was a narrowed gaze from Ayumi reading into his words and body to understand the meaning. She missed something, but the words didn’t lie. “What is holding you back then?”

The threshold had been broached releasing a taste of memories held behind a wall in his heart. It all came in a flash that shook his body making him sweat. An undesired past crept in his chest. He had to stop quickly before he was lost in the sea. Yuki clenched his fists fighting to keep himself. ‘I can’t say it…but she’s not going to leave me alone…’ There was a push that came from his body allowing him to look at Ayumi once more. “…I…I made a promise…”

‘…a promise? Why’s this so important to him that he’d rather die than break?’ Ayumi stepped towards Yuki giving him her full attention. Curiosity wanted to know what it was that shackled him and prevented him doing what he needed. “A promise? What was this promise?”

“I can’t…I can’t say anymore!”

“I need to know, Yuki! If you don’t face this now—“

“I said no!” Yuki pushed himself away and rushed past Ayumi planning to leave the room. However before he was able to reach the door the entire room turned to ice, sealing him. “Thought you didn’t have enough…” He rotated back looking at Ayumi’s back.

She pulled around to look at him determined to pry the secret from him. “You’re not leaving until you answer my question.”

‘…this isn’t right…’ Yuki checked the door out of the corner of his eyes, seeing the thick ice that encased it. He had no chance of breaking it. “This doesn’t concern you, Ayumi!”

“We’re partners, Yuki. I need to understand!”

Each word backed further into a corner. There was nowhere to run or escape from her room. “It was…” A dark room suddenly appeared in his mind briefly holding a foreboding feeling of familiarity. The beep of medical equipment crept into the fringes. “…It was…I-I promised that…” There was a bed in the room with the curtains drawn. “…I wouldn’t hurt anyone again…” Resting in the bed was a covered figure darkened by the lack of light in the room.

Yuki had spoken so broken and softly through his choking that Ayumi couldn't understand him. “What?”

The flashes that he received felt like they were each placing weights on his chest making it impossible to breathe. He knew what he was seeing, but he couldn't admit it. He would not admit it. “I said I promised I wouldn’t fight anymore!” Ayumi held her words simply staring at him leaving Yuki to the pressures he held. “So now you know…” Yuki began to move back to the door with the expectation that he would be let go.

“Who?” The distance between them seemed to be growing in spite of it not physically changing.

The question came as a strange one for Yuki as he didn’t know the context. All he did was tilt his head back towards her. “Huh?”

“Who?” Her question was repeated with the same tone as before to Yuki.

“What are you talking about?”

“Your promise. Who did you make it to?”

The room returned to his sight once more, making him blink. A frail hand was reaching out from the bed towards him beckoning him, calling him forward. Only the head and shoulders of the person in the bed could be seen weakly looking at him.

‘…Yuki…promise me…’

Yuki jerked away from the vision snapping back to reality. He was caught staring at Ayumi being left with nothing but to answer her question. “…it was…my mother’s last wish…”

The ice faded away from the room returning it back to how it had been. Ayumi allowed Yuki to leave the room. He was quick in reaching the door, wanting to be freed from the atmosphere of the house that exhumed memories. The house’s door was open and Yuki half way down the sidewalk before Ayumi stood on the threshold. “You’ll end up dead holding on to that promise.”

Yuki stopped in his step, but refused to face her. “I thought it was your job to protect me so I can save your people.”

“They’re your people too. You don’t belong here.”

“I don’t even know where they are. They aren’t my people.” He started to walk away out to the street, but was stopped once more by Ayumi's voice. It hadn’t been the words that halted him; it was the weakness that trailed through her tone. Everything froze for him. He felt emotion coming from them like he was not familiar with Ayumi.

“How can you say that to them?!” Ayumi shouted back at him, nearly choking on her words looking like she was on the verge of tears. “They’re suffering! They need you!”

He had become compelled to turn to face Ayumi. When he saw her face it left him stunned in shock to actually see her in such a state. There was never a moment that he had seen since he met her that he could feel such passion and emotion in her voice. “A-Ayumi…I…” Yuki had to pause just to collect his words, not certain what he should say. “I don’t know…my family, I can’t leave them.”

Ayumi came running down the sidewalk falling into him looking into his eyes. The pained look of rejection reflected in her eyes that stared at him. “How can you say that?! You belong with us, we’re your family!”

Yuki didn't know what to do any more with how hysterical she was acting in front of him. It was so out of character for Ayumi that Yuki was left paralyzed and started to have empathy for her. “But Ayumi…they—“

“They aren’t your real family!” Ayumi shouted in desperation, no longer able to keep from crying into Yuki’s clothes.

Hearing Ayumi say that would normally have upset him, but he could not be angry with her seeing her now. He could only hold on to her in silence feeling so empty at that moment as though he was guilty of being uncaring and heartless.

Across the neighborhood between the light of the streetlamps a darkened figure walked away. When they had finally stepped into the light it could be seen as Demosthenes. He casually left the neighborhood not looking back. “…Eudokia… This could be more difficult than I thought…”