Chapter 1:

Chapter One: Pitch-Black Brynhildr

Brynhildr Aria

Dreaming is a strange thing, isn`t it? I mean, think about it. We do it so often that we tend to not even acknowledge it when it happens, never mind understand it fully. We close our eyes, drift off into the clutches of sleep, and in an instant, our minds whisk us off to some faraway land: an imaginary place where anything is possible. Our darkest fears can be realized in the form of a nightmare, and sometimes, we can live out wonderful experiences beyond our wildest imaginations, all within the confines of our own heads.

It`s strange to think that while we`re in a dream, we usually don`t know we`re dreaming until it`s over. In that moment, the dream is our reality. And reality...perhaps that is the real dream all along. Like the Red King in Alice`s Through the Looking Glass. Are you simply an observer, standing by and watching him sleep, or are you yourself a part of his dream, destined to go out like a candle once he wakes up?

My name is Yuki Takanashi. I`m 19 years old. I like to believe I have a normal life. I was born and raised in Tokyo, but I moved to London to study at a prestigious university. After my classes, I pick up my shift as a waitress at a rather unsavory cafe in downtown. Between my studies and work, I probably spend more time sleeping than the average person. So needless to say, I have a lot of dreams.

But one thing that has always intrigued me is this recurring dream that I always have. I`m present in the dream, but merely as a spectator. I`m sitting in this white room, naked, not a scrap of clothing on my body. I`m chained to a wall, and in front of me is a large pane of glass. On the other side of that window is a man with messy brown hair and sharp, cat-like green eyes, clad in an elegant chesnut-colored trenchcoat and suit. He doesn`t move, he doesn`t talk to me, he doesn`t do anything.

All he does is stand there and stare at me, unblinking, like a statue. I`d call out to him, but I don`t seem to have a voice. I open my mouth, but nothing comes out. I can`t speak a single word, and neither does he. We just stand still, gazing at each other into oblivion.

I swear I`ve had this dream at least ten different times, and every time I have it, it becomes more and more vivid, to the point where it feels like I`m actually there, feeling the ice-cold floor beneath my feet and the metal shackles around my wrists. I don`t know who this man is or why he`s here, looking at me like a pet store display. And he never appears in any other dream except this one.

But even in my situation, I have this unrelenting urge to reach out to him, to touch him. I feel like deep inside, I know him.

And yet, I cannot reach him.

The hollow clang of the Big Ben echoed across the streets of London as I raced through the congested, bustling downtown sprawl, trying to get to the cafe in time for my shift. I`d get chewed out this time for sure if I showed up for work late again for the fourth day in a row.

My entire life felt like such a jumble. Sometimes I didn`t even know why I was doing any of this, or why I was even here. I was a stranger in a sea of strangers, in a country I didn`t recognize. Nothing seemed real. I felt as though I was living on another planet. I just went through through the motions, living through each day as it came in an empty, hollow existence. Why was I even doing this? What was the point of it all? At that moment, that was when everything became blank.

I stopped and noticed a scruffy, rough-looking blonde man spraying graffiti on a wall. He was disheveled, his clothes torn and ratted. Although he looked young, probably only a year or so older than me, his orange eyes were dark, seeping with a deep blackness like that of a man who had seen terrible things. I wondered why no one had come in to stop his vandalizing yet. Strangely enough, he actually turned to look at me. Our eyes met, and a shiver shot down my spine. He gave me a hard, ice-cold glare, like nothing I had ever seen. He gazed at me as if he were cursing me. What did I do to piss him off so much?

Thanks to the time I wasted staring at him, I was now ten minutes late. I took off, practically hearing my pay getting docked by the second. I ran well over a mile straight without even really watching where I was going. Of course, my negligence was bound to catch up with me soon enough. Before I got the chance to skid to a halt, I rammed into someone. I fell back, landing on my rear end. "Oh, I`m so sorry, I didn`t mean it...I swear I`ll be more careful..."

During my time in London, I had met my share of mean individuals, so I expected to get yelled at and called a bloody idiot, but instead, the stranger reached a hand down to me. He spoke in a voice as eloquent and smooth as satin. "Now, now, don`t get so jumpy. I`m the one who should be apologizing for knocking down such a petite young lady."

Tendrils of long, dark blue hair fell over my shoulders as the stranger helped me to my feet. My azure eyes flickered. Now that I was at eye level with the stranger, I was able to take in his full appearance. And when I did, I froze. My heart almost stopped in my chest. The hairs on the back of my neck stood upright, and the blood drained from my face, leaving me with a pale, ghostly visage.

That stranger...he looked exactly like the man from my dream. No, he WAS the man from my dream. There was no doubting it. The tousled chestnut hair, the precise emerald-green eyes, the expensive-looking brown trenchcoat and suit- it was all there. My voice died in my throat. I stood frozen, unsure of whether to be frightened or surprised.

He raised an eyebrow at me. "Something wrong? You look like you`ve seen a ghost. Are you sure you didn`t hit your head when you fell? The name`s Seishirou Kamui. How about you, hmm?"

"Seishirou...Kamui...?" I repeated. It sounded like a familiar name, a name people in my country would have. "I...I`m Yuki Takanashi. Sorry for running into you, and about before...I just thought I recognized you from somewhere, that`s all."

"Oh, is that so?" Seishirou quipped. "How intriguing. You know, they say it`s fate if two people meet like this. I`ll admit, you look a bit familiar yourself. Maybe we have met somewhere before, and we simply don`t recall it. The human mind is strange like that. If you`re running that fast, you must have somewhere to be, right?"

I was so absorbed by Seishirou`s mysterious appearance that I completely forgot that I was ten minutes late for my shift. "Yeah...actually, I`m kinda late for work..."

I wanted to talk with Seishirou more, to tell him about the strange dream, but I couldn`t waste more time than I already had. I gave a polite bow and said, "Again, I apologize. Today has been a very strange day for me..."

Seishirou grinned. "No worries. Maybe we`ll run into each other again sometime...if that is what fate has decided." Those final words confused me, but I didn`t have time to think about them now.

I arrived at the cafe, got scolded for my tardiness once again, and crammed myself into my stuffy, itchy uniform to start waiting tables. Aside from that, things seemed to be going pretty smoothly so far, which I wasn`t complaining about. After all the odd things that had occurred today, it was nice to have some normalcy. But still, I couldn`t shake off the nagging feeling that something strange was going on.

And then, it happened. Just as I got my latest order together, I noticed a familiar customer take a seat. It was Seishirou Kamui. I gulped. Fuzzy memories of that recurring dream resurfaced. Twice in one day? Was it just coincidence, or was this guy following me? Come to think of it, he didn`t have a very nice look on his face in my dream, and I was chained to a was it some kind of premonition? Was he planning on kidnapping me?

The sound of a customer`s voice snapped me back to attention. It came from a table where a trio of rowdy, most likely drunk men were seated. "Hey, Sugar Buns, you plan on serving us or what? We`ve been waitin` forever here!" I bit my lip and hurriedly served the three just to get them off my back. "Sorry for the wait," I apologized, feeling a little skittish.

One of the men began to taunt me. "Aww, don`t be shy. If you`re so sorry, you can always make it up to us. We can leave this place and have some fun, ya know. You might be a ditz, but at least you`re pretty hot." Knots curled in my stomach. I needed to get out of here. As I turned to walk away, the man flipped up my skirt, sending it flying into the air and cleanly showing off my panties to the entire restaurant.

The trio burst into a round of wild cackles and taunts. "Would ya look at that, Sugar Buns! Pink lace panties, that`s sweet! With a figure like that, you should be working in the red light district, not a cafe!" My whole body locked up in shame. Tears welled up in my eyes. I was so humiliated, I couldn`t even move. Everyone else in the restaurant was staring at me. I wanted to cry.

Just as I was about to take off into the backroom, a hand slammed down on the table behind me. It belonged to Seishirou Kamui. A hollow gasp escaped me, leaving me breathless. "Picking on a helpless girl, huh?" Seishirou growled. "And you call yourselves men? Humans really are all the same."

One of the customers bared his teeth. "Yeah? What`s it to you, huh? Go have some tea and crumpets, milksop!" He lunged at him, but in retaliation, Seishirou struck out and clutched the pervert`s wrist, twisting it until I heard a stomach-churning crack. He howled in pain, and his friends scurried in to his aid. "Wha-what the hell did you do?!" he wailed.

"I think you`ve learned two important lessons today, gentlemen," Seishirou declared. "One, never disrespect a lady. Two, be nice to people who serve you food. After all, they could spit in it or spike it with rat wouldn`t want that, would you?"

He flashed the stunned men a wicked grin, then spun around to face me. "I`m sorry you had to see that. Some people just don`t get it until they have some sense knocked into them. But hey, I think they`ve learned their lesson. They won`t be trying that again anytime soon. I came here because I was hungry, but now my appetite is ruined. Oh, well. Are you alright, Ms. Takanashi?"

I didn`t reply at first. I was petrified. I didn`t know who to be more afraid of- the three perverts who harassed me, or the mysterious stranger from my dream that had now come to life in reality. Slowly, I began to speak. "W-who...who are you? Why are you following me?" Seishirou frowned, clearly expecting a 'thank you' for his heroic efforts. "Following you? I don`t know what you mean."

I couldn`t believe him. All this was just too weird. I didn`t say another word. I turned away from Seishirou Kamui and took off into the backroom, anxiously waiting for him to leave- and for this miserable day to end.

Seishirou eventually left, and I was miraculously allowed to finish the rest of my shift without any more strange or humiliating encounters. By the end of the day, I was ready to go home and sleep. I feared what I would see when I at last closed my eyes and drifted off, but somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that was the least of my concerns.

At around 10pm, I stripped off my stuffy uniform and changed back into my casual clothes. I locked up the cafe for the night and left to head back to my flat. Walking through the lower streets of London at nighttime gave me an unsettling, eerie feeling. I couldn`t explain why, there was just a heavy strangeness in the air, like a miasma.

At this hour, most of the roads were desolate except for in and around the center of town, so I often walked home alone. The rank stench of emissions and industrial chemicals stung my nostrils. Plumes of mist settled in the lower areas like ghostly puddles, and insects swarmed around flickering streetlights. Far away, I caught the sound of distant, indiscernible chatter and barking dogs.

There was such an emptiness here. I might have been alone, but I couldn`t rid myself of the odd sensation that I was being watched by someone out there, shrouded in the darkness. I gazed up to the sky, but only a layer of thick black clouds greeted me. Even the moon was nowhere to be found. I almost never got to see the stars around here, thanks to all the light pollution. A dim twinkle or flicker on a rare night, that was about all.

A sudden chill sliced through the night, halting me in my tracks. I stopped in a pool of light cast down by a lamppost. My skin prickled. Every hair on my body bristled and stood upright.

I felt as though I were surrounded by walls of ice. And yet, not a gust of wind or even a slight breeze flowed past me. The air was utterly still.

I got the sudden, overwhelming urge to start running. From who or what, I didn`t know, but I just wanted out of this place. But I was frozen, locked in place by some unexplainable force.

A sound echoed behind me. The sharp, distinct laughter of a girl around my age. By that point, I completely lost it. I pulled my thighs taut and took off into the night. My dark blue hair whipped out behind me as I raced, and I wasn`t stopping for anything.

At least, that`s what I thought. A flash of pink blurred in front of me, and I dug my heels into the ground to skid to a stop. A young woman with long, sugar-pink hair and blood-red eyes accented by black eyeliner beckoned me. A heavy-looking maroon overcoat and ebony tights covered her thin, slender frame. Her lips twisted into a devious smirk, revealing a pair of elongated, fang-like teeth nestled in her top and bottom jaw. "I`ve been looking for you, Takanashi."

Every nerve in my body charged on the spot. My bones felt like weak wooden sticks. That girl...she looked like some sort of monster, or an alien. And did she know my name? "W-who are you?!" I snapped. "What do you want!?"

"Isn`t that obvious?" she sneered. "I want you. I must say, they really overestimated you. An S-Class Brynhildr? Don`t make me laugh. All I see is a weak, frightened little girl. This is way easier than I thought."

Brynhildr? What did that mean? And who were 'they?' "Look, here`s the deal," the pink-haired girl declared. "We can do this the easy way, or we can do this the hard way. The easy way is that you keep your mouth shut and calmly come back with me to the Admirabilis. But if you want to resist and try to fight me...well then, we`ll just have to do it the hard way, won`t we?"

I may not have understood a single bit of what this woman was talking about, but I did know one thing: I was not about to go anywhere with her. "I don`t think so," I growled, mustering up as much fake courage as I could possibly summon. "I`m not going with you, I`m staying right here!"

The mysterious maiden`s eyes flashed with a wicked gleam. She smirked. "Oh, that`s too bad. I guess we`ll be taking the rougher path, then."

The next thing I felt was a supersonic strike to the gut. In a split-second`s timing, I was blasted across the street, where I slammed into a lightpole and crashed down on my side. A horrific pain split down my spine. My innards felt like they had melted into mush. I clenched up and screamed out in agony. I was in so much pain, I couldn`t even begin to comprehend what had just happened. Less than a second ago, I trembled before the sinister pink-haired woman, and now, I had been launched over 20 feet away from where I previously stood.

The clink of bootsteps shook the ground in front of me as the girl strutted forward. But there was something different about her. Two long, radiant, curved horn-like appendages jutted from the top of her head. They looked more like phantom materializations than actual parts of her body. They didn`t appear hard and bony, rather, they seemed to be composed of a soft light, swirling with rainbow colors. I couldn`t describe them as anything less than otherwordly. I would have even called them angelic, if the one they were attached to wasn`t an utter demon. This woman...she wasn`t human.

She scowled. "Come on, this is pathetic. You don`t even try to put up a fight. How boring. If you really are the S-Class Brynhildr everyone`s been freaking out about, you should be able to stand just fine after being hit by such a weak telekinetic blast." Telekinetic blast? That was what I had been hit by?

The horned woman was finished waiting for me to move. She got down on her knees, pinned me between her legs, and latched onto my wrists. For such a petite-looking person, the amount of pressure she put on me was immense. Her body seemed to weigh a thousand pounds. I felt like she was about to snap my arms off. She snickered at me. "If I bring you back to the Admirabilis unharmed, Father will surely reward me...won`t he?" She leaned down and dragged her tongue across my neck.

At the wet, slimy sensation of her saliva on my skin, my heart skipped a beat. I wanted to grab at my chest, but my arms were pinned down, so I jerked back my head and gasped out. Nails of pain jabbed into every square inch of my body. A finger of flame traced my insides, searing every fiber of my being. A splitting pain cracked my skull, and I shrieked as I felt something begin to emerge, pushing out from my head and through layers of hair.

A blinding radiance enveloped me, and the pressure boiling within my body was released all at once in the form of a massive shockwave akin to a bomb blast. The pink-haired stranger was flung from my small form in an instant. Concrete cracked at the sound of my wailing voice, and the windows of nearby buildings shattered, sending showers of broken glass raining down around me.

When the intense energy dissipated and the pain ended, the ground beneath me had been hollowed out into a crater. I found myself standing upright, my toes hovering just barely an inch above the earth. As I turned my eyes upward, I could see the glowing curve of two pointed horns sticking up from the top of my head. They gave off an audible hum and a heat that radiated into my skull. All in all, they looked exactly like the pink-haired girl`s rainbow-colored horns.

My mind was blank. I couldn`t think of anything, not even an explanation as to why this was happening to me. Was this what she meant by 'Brynhildr?' I wanted so badly to believe that it was all just some terrible nightmare, that I`d wake up soon and everything would be fine. But that was not the case. This was no nightmare. This was really happening. Molten energy flowed through my veins. I felt like a goddess, and not in a good way.

About ten feet away, the horned girl stared me down, grinning wildly. "Th-this...this is incredible! Here I was thinking I was going to have a boring night, and now here you are, the S-Class Brynhildr, awakened for the world to see! I suppose I should have expected nothing less from my rival! This is going to be fun!"

She opened her mouth, and a swirling red light churned in the back of her throat. That light was ejected from her maw in the form of a screaming beam of sheer energy. If that thing hit me...well, let`s just say there wouldn`t be much left of me after that. But even with these horns of mine, what was I supposed to do? How could I possibly dodge or defend against a gigantic beam about to shred me to pieces?

As if by instinct, I jabbed out my palms. I didn`t will it, my body just moved on its own. I didn`t know how it would do me any good, it wasn`t like I could grab it in my hands or anything.

As I faced the beam staring me dead-on, I felt its flesh-melting heat, and stopped. It halted barely an inch away from my hands and dissolved into smoke.

The horned girl looked just as stunned as I did. "Wh-what?! You stopped me just like that!? But how?!" I couldn`t answer her. I didn`t have the slightest clue to why any of this was happening. What I wasn`t wasn`t human. My legs buckled, and I crashed to my knees. The power brimming through me had faded away, and now I was left as nothing but a hollowed-out shell. My horns were still there, but I felt like glass about to break.

"Tired already?" The horned girl sneered. "That`s a shame, I was really having fun, you know. Oh, well. Time to finish this up! Offensive Cannon!" She opened her mouth and let loose another red-hot beam of energy. But this time, I had a feeling my magic barrier wasn`t going to be there to save me.

A familiar voice cut through the night like a knife. "That`s enough, Amamiko!" The pink-haired woman`s cannon was disintegrated by an invisible force. I saw a look of sheer terror cross her face just then. There was a loud whooshing over my head, and before I could look up, the mysterious visitor appeared right in front of me. I felt my stomach drop.

Tousled brown hair, gleaming green eyes, a flowing dark trenchcoat... Two words escaped my quivering lips. "S-Seishirou...Kamui..." Sure enough, the stranger from my dream had made his third appearance. But...he wasn`t the same. A pair of radiant, curved horns much like mine grew out of his head, but if that wasn`t enough to make me want to scream, the wings spreading from his back definitely did.

Just like the horns, they were made up of soft light churning with rainbow colors, but rather than bearing feathers, the tips of those wings curled into a pattern of intricate, beautiful swirls and spirals that looked like something I`d see in an abstract painting. They almost resembled tattered, heavenly cloth. Neither the pink-haired girl nor I bore those angelic wings, but he did. One thing was certain: whoever this Seishirou Kamui was, he was not of this world.

While I was shocked and frightened beyond belief, Amamiko was horrified. Every drop of sadistic glee in her drained away, rendering her little more than a terrified girl with alien horns.

"S-Seishirou...what are you doing here?!" The godlike Seishirou casually slipped his hands in his pockets and replied, "I could ask you the same thing. Sigmund must be getting desperate if he`s sent his precious Amamiko down to Earth. That happens about as often as all the planets in the Solar System aligning. So...would you mind explaining what it is you`re doing to my Yuki Takanashi?"

For some reason, Seishirou`s mere appearance left Amamiko in a state of utter shock. She could barely work up the will to speak. "Father ordered me to take the S-Class Brynhildr back to the Admirabilis! He said he`d reward me if I succeeded, and I`m not going to let you stop me! I-I`m not afraid of you, ya hear?!"

Seishirou cocked a skeptical eyebrow at her. "You`re not? Well, your body seems to suggest otherwise. Dilated pupils, uncontrollable shivers, excessive sweating...if I`m not mistaken, those are all trademark signs of fear. Why is that, I wonder? Do I really look that scary to you?"

He showed his teeth and growled in a playful manner. "Oh, I see. You`re afraid I`m going to eject you. Well then, that makes total sense. But come now, who do you think I am, some sort of monster? I haven`t ejected anyone in years, and I`m surely not going to start again now. Unlike you, I`m not one for needless killing. Tell you what, Amamiko. Tonight`s your lucky night. You can run back to the Admirabilis, and you`ll get to live another day. You should be grateful I`m in a good mood. Next time, I won`t be so merciful. Especially if you plan on attacking Yuki again."

Amamiko finally decided to relent. She knew she stood no chance against such a powerful being. She staggered back and gritted her teeth. "F-fine! But this...this isn`t over!" Her horns retreated back into her skull, and she took off into the night, until she vanished among the mist.

Seishirou turned and took a few steps toward me. Instinctively, I pushed him away. "Get away from me! Don`t touch me! I know who you are...I`ve seen you in my dreams! What do you want from me?!"

Seishirou`s tone changed from harsh and taunting to calm and comforting in the blink of an eye. "Yuki, I know this is a lot for you to take in right now. I can`t begin to understand what you must be feeling, but you have to listen to me, alright? I`m not who you think I am. I`m not here to hurt you. I am a Kamui, and I came here to Earth in order to protect you. Above all, there is one thing you need to know- you are not human. This life you`re living is not real. You don`t belong here, and the other Kamui know that. You are powerful, Yuki, more powerful than you could ever imagine. If they get their hands on you, everything dies, do you understand that?"

I didn`t understand any of it. I couldn`t hope to, not in my state. It made sense- none of this was human. The horns, the wings, the earth-shattering blasts of energy- not one bit of that could be explained by any kind of human logic. But what was it?

At last, my horns disappeared. It was like a plug had been pulled. I fell back, and Seishirou caught me in his arms. He stroked my hair and did his best to comfort me. "Don`t worry, it`s okay. You don`t have to be afraid anymore. Just go to sleep." I weakly looked up, gazing into his emerald-green eyes. "If...I`m not human...then...what am I...?" Seishirou`s last words echoed in my brain as my eyelids sank shut.

"You are a Brynhildr." 

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