Crimson Fate

In a world, where gods, demons, and humans have learned to co-exist, along with many more of the supernatural, Riku Cinder Sherwood must realize his fate to protect, become the guardian of the daughter of Devil Salem Nightingale, Selene Nightingale, whilst finding his own place in life.

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31. Chapter 30

Chapter 30

 

  

 

 

 

 

Riku lay in his bed for several moments before mustering up the strength to slide out of his bed. His eyes fixed to the ceiling, right arms behind his head, his left lay across his stomach. Today was the day that Salem had specified for the ‘meeting’. He, of course being still so new to all of these things, had no idea what it was for, or even meant. He sighed, wincing and feeling his body aching from sitting up. He rubbed his jaw, where Alvis’ fist had connected. Massaged his thigh, where Alvis’ knives punctured, still wrapped in tight bandages from the day prior. He carefully moved his right leg to the edge of the bed, taking a deep breath before standing up.

Staring in the bathroom mirror, just after spitting the water from his mouth he used to wash out the tooth paste off his teeth, he carefully peeled back the Band-Aid stuck to his right cheek. He shut his eyes tightly, almost tearing up from the stinging pain clinging to his skin, seeming reluctant to cease. He slowly made his way down the stairs, slowly raising his leg up, gently and carefully setting it back down on each step. He huffed a sigh of relief at the bottom. He opened the fridge. Almost empty. He remembered the money his mother had sent him most recently should set him for the few weeks left of the month. He sighed, spotted an almost empty carton of eggs, judging about three or four left. A small bag of shredded cheese, mostly empty, a decent amount resting at the bottom of the bag. A single frozen sausage patty. He lit the stove, a pan on top, with an exhausted face.

“Yo, coming in.” Cross slid the front patio glass door open, sliding it back closed behind him. He untied his tan army boots, taking them off and placing them by the door. He removed his matching trench coat and hung it over a chair at the dining table. “Don’t you work this weekend?” Riku asked, not really turning his head to greet him, keeping his eyes focused on frying the egg. He grew accustomed to Cross’ periodic visits to check in on him. “I already finished grading all my papers.” Cross helped himself to the home’s coffee maker. “Make sure to go to bed at a decent hour, its Sunday.”

“I can try. I have some meeting today; don’t know how long it will take.” Riku replied, sliding an English muffin down the canals of the toaster. Cross paused, turning to him with a raised eyebrow, confusion spread across his stubble infested face. Riku spotted his puzzled gaze. “Some gathering involving Devils, Gods, and their guardians. Since I’m Selene’s I’m required to go.” He muttered a curse, burning his finger on the hot muffin that was ejected from the tanning box it was imprisoned in.

“Are you nervous?” Cross poured sugar in his coffee for what seemed like a good ten seconds. Riku stopped, his handful of shredded cheese just above the almost complete English muffin breakfast sandwich. “Well…yeah. It feels like they really think I’ve committed to this.” He sighed, shrugging, placing the finishing touched on the breakfast, placing the crisp hat of the muffin on top. “Are you?” Cross stirred his coffee to dissolve the sugar, his spoon clanging against the glass mug. Riku continued eating, not really wanting to answer, stalling, as he was not sure himself. “Just don’t do things so halfheartedly. Selene wouldn’t be very thrilled.” Riku’s raced and skipped a beat, as if running, tripping and falling off a cliff.

The clock sounded the twelfth hour of the day. Riku sprung from upstairs, finally dressed and heading for his shoes sitting in front of the sliding door. “When you’re done, lock up for me.” He called to Cross, sliding the door after him, slinging his sword’s carrying sleeve over his shoulder and heading down the street. Selene was waiting for him just above the hill. He slowed his jog, coming to a walking stop in front of her.

“What are you doing meeting me here?” He asked. She smiled, holding her hands behind her back. “It’s a surprise! Come look!” She waved him to, gesturing for him to follow her. Riku watched, a curious tilt in his head as she hopped and skipped on ahead. She turned around to see if he was following, which only enticed her to coax him more and more with more arm waving. He gave up on figuring it out and granted her wish. She led him down the same road that supposedly led to her house. But instead, she made a left. Riku grew more curious. After a while of walking, the clustered neighborhood grew spacious rather suddenly. Houses were larger, more space between them. Fewer apartments. She stopped in front of one of them, arms outstretched like shouting “Tada!” for the reveal.

It was a dark wooden house. The shop that Salem ran previous was a small building to the side of the house, yet still connected, a sign in front reading “The Nightingale Café!” with neon colors. Upon entering the main house, some of the interior was reminiscent of the Nightingale’s house. Once you entered, there was a rack for shoes to be kept. Not far, a small nightstand with an old fashioned wired home phone resting on top. Immediately to the left was the living space, taken over by a TV towards the back, a to either side, a small table between them, two chairs at the end of both couches, and a coffee table in the center. Across, to the right of the phone, the kitchen was lit up, and beyond that the dining table, and a sliding door leading to the back yard. Down the hallway beside the kitchen was a bathroom to the right. Directly across from it was a set of stairs. Further down the hallway resided a room at the end, and one to the left. At the top of the stairs was a rather small second floor, comprised only of a bathroom to the left at the top of the stairs, a room straight ahead, and around to the right of the star case, across the small space of room, was yet another room.

Riku blinked. It was a lot to take in, yet strangely felt redundant, repetitive, and familiar. “This house looks the same! Just slightly modified! It’s almost more like a temple.” Salem jumped from the kitchen in laughter at the sight of Riku’s startled face. “Of course. We transferred all our stuff via the Infinity Key. And used a bit of magic to remodel.” He seemed to chuckle in self amusement. “Magic? I thought it wasn’t magic. Which is it?!” Riku rubbed his finger tips along his forehead, confused, amazed, but mildly irritated. “Don’t you like it?” Selene cocked her head as she asked. “It does feel homey.” Riku chuckled, rubbing the back of his neck. “You think so?!” Selene’s mood suddenly brightened, eyes shimmering, smile bright, and glossing over his words. Creepily enough, Salem had joined her, mimicking her perfectly.

“Shall we have lunch before we leave?” Esther emerged from the kitchen, a platter topped with plates of small, nicely and cutely triangular sandwiches. Salem and Selene were immediately directed away from Riku. Esther handed them both plates stacked with sandwiches, about four if his eyes were correct. “That’s a lot of food.” Riku could hardly get the words out, astonished how many sandwiches two people could eat, and just how fast they could devour them. “Don’t you know? Demons have different metabolisms than humans. We need more food!” Selene explained, using a napkin to wipe her mouth, most of her sandwiches already gone. “T-true…I still am not quite accustomed.” Riku replied. Esther offered to make him some as well; he declined, as he had eaten before arriving.

Salem gulped down the last of his sandwich. He chugged down a glass of what looked like orange juice. He wiped his mouth on his sleeve. “Right! Shall we go?” Selene held out a small cloth to Riku. He gazed at it, confused, unsure what it was supposed to be. He didn’t eat, unless his breakfast had remains on his face. “It’s your uniform I gave! Remember I wanted to stitch it up?” with one quick flap of her arms, the cloth unfolded into the cloak that was slightly over Riku’s size. “Whoa! How did you get it to be so portable?” Riku held it in his hands, casting his eyes from the uniform, to Selene. She put her finger to her lips. “It’s a secret.”

“You are to wear that to the meeting. So people know you are at least with us.” Salem pulled out a small key from his pocket. Most likely the Infinity Key that he used to transport them to the hospital. Riku was still putting his cloak on when Salem inserted the key into the front door. Once opened, it was nothing like the hospital. Beyond the door way seemed to be a completely different world. It was like a massive citadel. The floor was a ruby marble, the walls a bright ivory. The room was massive. The ceiling looked down on them as if they were ants, held up by large, towering white stone pillars on either side. People were flooding in from a gigantic doorway, assuming filled in by doors just as big. Ahead of them, through another large doorway, two huge sets of stairs, layered in red velvet carpet, circled around another set of stairs going down. Everyone was heading up.

“It’s something, huh? And this is only part of the Pandora Citadel.” Salem’s voice reached Riku’s ears through all his mesmerizing. Riku turned around to face him, but bumped his head into someone’s chest. He stumbled back, looking up at the tall figure. A man, his silver hair in his face. He used a hand to push the strands of hair away. His immersing, hypnotizing, dark violet eyes and piercing, diamond shaped pupil stunned Riku. “Lucius, he’s with us.” Salem seemed to step between them. It took a moment for Lucius to break his starring. “Ah, Nightingale. This must be the new guardian.” He went back to peering at Riku. Riku tried his best to look away. He felt like he was being sucked in, warping, and dissolving in darkness. A woman with glasses and ginger colored hair tapped Lucius on the shoulder. “Sir. Our reservations.”  Lucius broke away. “Ah, you are…” she whispered, seeming to have her eyes pointed in Riku’s direction. She shook her head, turning to walk away. Lucius nodded, trailing after her. “Oh, Nightingale. Let’s see if your boy can take It.” he spoke just after he left the scene.

“Who was that?” shuddered Riku. “Lucius Tenebris. A high class Devil like myself. I’d be wary of him.” Salem caught Riku, his hand on his shoulder, to stabilize him, as he was dizzy from Lucius’ piercing stare. “Come! We have seats to attend to!” Salem led him and Selene up the giant flights of stairs. At the top, was the view of a bowl shaped room, stands and seats above the room. Even higher, were individual seats closed off in rooms, yet able to view whatever spectacles took place, almost all reminiscent of an opera house. The highest ringed floor had only one large room, draped in black lace curtains. And beyond, he could just barely make three large seats. He kept gawking, suddenly realizing Selene and Salem might have drifted off. He swiftly turned around, knocking into a figure. A high pitched yelp came from the body he heard hit the floor at the same time he did. “I got to watch where I’m going…”

A girl, older than him, hair the color of cherry blossoms, sat on her bottom, rubbing her head. “Ah! I’m sorry! I wasn’t paying attention!” Riku stood, holding his hand out to her. She looked up, her green irises surrounding a diamond shape pupil, striking the focus of his gaze. A demon. He slightly longer, pointier canines added to the assumption. “I am a ditz at times!” She laughed, but her face sank and became serious. She hopped to her legs. He heard the sound of sniffing as he felt her eyes trail up and down, left and right, all around him, studying him. “Say, could you be?” she perked up, straightening her posture, looking over her shoulder. “Sorry! I got to go!” he watched her skip and bound away behind the top row seats, up a flight of stairs, and into a room above. Another girl sat in the chair. This feeling and scent. Her Devil perhaps. He could not make out any features. A black lace curtain hung in front of her and she held a fan, holding it in front of her face.

“Riku! There you are!” Selene caught his hand and started pulling him up the flight of stairs and in the back of all the rooms. A plaque above one of them read ‘Nightingale’, and it was the only booth to have two thrones. Selene sat in one, and Salem in the other. Riku peeked around, seeing if he may have missed a chair. “Sorry, but guardians stand. And stay alert. You are our protector.” Salem said. Riku sighed, just thinking that his legs might not make it through this meeting. “If you have to go to the bathroom, I would go now, Riku.” Selene said. “It’s just down the hall from where we came up here. You’ll remember the way back, right?” Riku nodded. Anticipating this event to take place for about as long as school was in, he decided it was best to go now.

He traced his steps back where they started. Down the hall, he remembered. Just before he was going into the bathroom, he was stopped by a loud, deep voice. “Hey, shrimp!” a generic insult he has been called for his height. He turned around. Three demons, people has not met, towering over him. “You reek of human. What are you doing here?!” Riku’s eyes widen. They could smell his human blood. And he was in his demon state, so his appearance was a likely candidate for giving him away. “Humans aren’t supposed to come here!” they closed in on him. Riku felt his back press against a wall, no way to go. One of them raised his arm. He yelped in pain, yet another figure showing up. A tall, thin man. His amber hair off to the side of his face. A short fellow approached them from behind. His dark red velvet hair covering most of the left side of his face. He had tattoos that looked like stitches all around his neck. He put his hand on one their shoulders, two rings covering his knuckles.

“It wouldn’t be a wise decision to cause such a ruckus.” Spoke the taller man. He stared at the three offenders. After a moment they suddenly started walking the other direction. “Umm…thanks for the help.” The man held a hand out to Riku, who was slumped down against the wall. Riku looked up at him curiously, before taking his hand and being helped onto his feet. “You have human blood in your body, no? I would be careful. Some still go against the treaty between all three worlds.” He fixed the cuff on his suit, and straightening his collar. “My name is Ash. My friend is Dyst. You must be the new guardian.”

“I’m Riku. How did you know?” Riku brushed himself off and tilting his head back, as Ash was a great deal taller. Ash smiled, brushing his hair with his fingers. Dyst raised his arm to pull his cigarette free from between his lips, more stitch tattoos on his wrist and forearm. “The show will start soon. You should return to the Nightingales.”  Ash gave him a grin, turning back with Dyst at his side. Riku opened his mouth to call after them, but his words were stuck and faded away like a tablet in water. How did they know who he belonged to?

Riku returned to the Nightingale booth. “Just in time!” Selene said. The lights dimmed, but the lights above the stage below remained bright. Alivs and Embry rose up from below the stage, their hands chained, and angel warding symbols all over the chains. The lights shining above focused their eyes on them. The crowds grew quiet. A gentle, female voice came from the highest room, behind the lace curtains. “Alvis. Embry. You both are on trial for the assistance of a traitor.”

Riku bit his lip. This couldn’t be right. His talk with Alvis, made him out to be someone who wasn’t like that. He was loyal and followed the rules. He couldn’t be a traitor! And Embry. He’s known her since middle school. Backstabbing and betrayal weren’t programmed in her. Someone had to be rigging it. Or their judgments were false, or unfair. The hidden voice came again. “As punishment, both traitors shall be terminated as to avoid further corruption to Pandora.” Riku’s eyes widened. He lost himself. He stepped forwards harshly, slamming his fists on the railing, shouting over the sea of bodies. “No! That’s not fair!” all heads shifted to him. A beam of light shined on the Nightingale booth.

“Riku! What are you doing?!” Salem whispered. Riku gulped, and then cleared his throat. “They had no idea they were being used! Execution isn’t fair! Did no one else have a say?!” murmurs broke out amongst the crowd. The voice was silent. This time, a voice that sounded closer to an old man echoed over the room. “Boy, who are you? Step onto the stage.” I’ve done it now. Those words crossed Riku’s mind over and over while he walked down the steps. The lights followed his every move until they were fixed upon him once his feet reached the stage. Riku took a deep breath. His arms and legs shook. He could just die from the embarrassment and anxiety. But people he knew were in trouble, and that was enough for him to suffer through it and do what he thought right.

“I am Riku Sherwood! The guardian of the Nightingales!” Riku answered the voice’s previous question. It let out a pondering hum. “You say we should terminate their punishment? Not their fault?”

“Exactly, sir! Barachiel was manipulating them!”

 

“Yet, the traitor Barachiel has gone missing.”

 

“So you pin this blame on his victims?” the voice was silent again. It suddenly returned in a roar of laughter. Riku gulped, blinking confused. He felt as if his legs were about to give out any second. He clenched his fest and dug his heels into the wooden stage. “You have spunk kid! How about this, we’ll do an old fashion vote maybe?”

“Why not let them go?” A new voice brought itself into the equation. Riku looked behind him in the direction he heard it from. He spotted the pink haired girl from earlier. But this voice came from the girl next to her in the chair. “Or maybe. You have a sword on your person. Kill yourself. Or, your friends. Doesn’t that make this little farce amusing? You claim to have such devotion to them. If you do not kill yourself, we’ll kill them, maybe. So many interesting choices.” The girl snickered behind her fan.

“Enough! Who is speaking?!” The gentle female voice, not grown irritable returned. “Riku Sherwood! You will combat a warrior of my choosing! If you win, we nullify their punishment. If you lose, it will carry through, along with you. Come!” The lights swayed their eyes to the stairs. Yet another girl was making her way down the stairs. Her long silver hair bounced with each step. Her ice white eyes seemed to be trying to freeze over Riku’s body. Another demon he has run into.

“No! No, no, no! Why her?!” Salem held his breath, leaning over the railing, nervous sweat beginning to rain down his face. Riku tilted his head to Salem’s voice. “Be careful, Riku.” Alvis spoke. “She is one of the most experienced in combat in Pandora. She is far more lethal than I.” Riku shuddered, growing pale and eyes wide at Alvis’ statement. “People call her Lightning Blade Kirin.” The girl stepped onto the large stage. As soon as she did, Alvis and Embry were lowered down below. Riku rushed to their aid, trying to reach his hand out to catch them before descending. The floor closed above them, prohibiting him from snatching them.

“It’s no use struggling.” Kirin spoke soft and stern.

“What?!” Riku whirled his head around.

 

“I will end this in less than thirty seconds.” She reached her pal hands behind her, then whipping them back out, two large daggers occupying her hands. Riku struggled to quickly remove the carrying sleeve from his sword. His hand stuttered, dropping it, then jut yanking it off. He swiftly turned his body around, ready to draw his sword. No time. There was no opportunity to even draw. Kirin rushed him, her blades spinning in her hands. Riku felt the surge of azure lighting strike his body like blades in both arms and legs, skull, and chest. He felt his eyes roll back, his body shivering and aching. He couldn’t feel his legs, the room spinning and growing dark. His body bent back, landing with a thud on the stage. “Riku!” Selene called.

Kirin huffed, turning to make her way back up the stairs. Salem and Selene rushed to Riku’s side, holding him in their arms. “Your majesties! That wasn’t a fair fight! Riku is only a novice!” Salem howled up to the thrones above. Riku tried to move, his body felt like needles were being injected into his skin, and each time he attempted to sit up, they would expand in his body and pulling at his flesh. “Wait! One more time!”

“That is enough! You have passed. Even once chosen by a Devil or God, Pandora must approve. What I have seen here validates your position as a guardian. I will decrease their punishment accordingly. Meeting adjourned.”

Those were the last words Riku had heard. All he saw was black. Then Kirin. Slicing him down, like someone rewinding a scene from a movie. Over and over. Until the cackle of a familiar voice. A girls. Who? It was familiar. That’s right. From the meeting. Meeting? The trial of Alvis and Embry. Told to kill himself. Or they would die. All he saw was eyes. Crimson eyes fixed with a diamond shape pupil. The ever growing louder of her laugh. Until Alvis and Embry turned dead, laying in a puddle of their own blood that stained their suits. The dream suddenly switched stories. A man loomed over him. Patting his head with a smile, saying his name. It seemed to echo. “Riku. Riku.” It came again, but this time it was female. Younger. He looked to his side. A young girl. Red hair, black locks strung over her shoulders. She smiled down at him. They held hands. He looked forwards. Fire.

He woke himself, screaming. He breathed heavily, starring at the blanket that covered him. His blanket. It only startled him more. He swiftly raised his head, whirling it around in every direction. He was in his room. “Riku!” Selene slowly opened his door. She sighed in relief to see him awake. He leaned forwards, sliding his legs around to the edge of the bed. The room spun. His dream replayed itself in his head. He fell to his knees, gripping his hair, his head hitting the floor. “Riku!” She put her hands on his back. Her words did not reach him. Other voices kept his ears busy. The man and girls voices. Constantly spouting his name in his ears. “Riku. Riku. Riku! Riku!” it felt never ending. The same things he saw in his dream continuously played, putting him back in the nightmare. He let out a scream. Selene wrapped her arms around him.

“Riku! What’s wrong? There isn’t anything to worry about!” her voice sounded like someone shouting to him at the opposite end of the tunnel. But he could soon see her running from down that tunnel. Getting closer and closer. It was as if his eyes were reopened. He watched her cling to him tightly. He slumped against his bed. “How did I get here?” He asked after a while, soft and quiet. “We brought you home soon after the trial.” Selene answered, not looking up at him. “I came to tell you to come down stairs.”

Riku followed her sluggishly. The lights hurt his head. He squinted and used his hand to shield the brightness. He spotted Salem in the living room. And Cross. And his grandfather. He froze at the sight of him. He couldn’t remember the last time he had visited. He was sipping on a glass of coffee. He let out a long winded sigh. He spotted his grandson and frowned, setting down his cup.

“Riku. There is something I want to discuss with you.”

 

“What? That I’m a demon?” everyone went quiet.

 

“So you know.”

 

“Were you planning to tell me at all? Huh?! I always thought Selene had turned me into a demon. But it was later contradicted by my own specific demon powers. Salem mention me being one fourth demon. I’ve been a demon from the start. Is that what you are telling me?” the room remained noiseless. Dead silent. Not single creak in the house, or movement from a body was heard. His grandfather nodded. Riku didn’t want an answer. He didn’t want his entire life up until now to be flipped upside down, even more so than it was now.

“I had no choice but to keep it from you. It was safer.” Riku slammed his fist against the wall. “Lying to me, deceiving me was the safest way? Safest way to what?! You’re telling me my life was all a lie. It was fake, wasn’t it? Making me live like someone I wasn’t! You hid it from me! You’re never home, but when you do come home you drop this on me?!” Riku looked up, expecting an answer. But there was none. Only a smile and tears. Riku’s eyes widened. As expected. No excuse. Riku dashed past them, threw aside the door and ran down the street.

He had no idea where he was going. He found himself on the top of the hill. A familiar spot. A fateful spot. This was where he had saved Selene from that oncoming truck. He stood at the edge of the road. In the distance he heard the engine of a car. From the corner of his eye he saw the headlights. Just one step. One step off the curb and…

“Riku!” Selene shouted, tightly raping her hand around his wrist and pulling him away just as the car sped past. He forgot how unconsciously strong she was. She threw him right into the lamp post on accident, almost bending it. Selene sat on her knees in front of him. She raised her hand and slapped him across the face. “Why would you go and do a thing like that?!” her voice was hoarse and tears were pooling down her cheeks. “That’s absurd! How dare you!” She began batting his fists against his chest. “If you left, I would be all alone again!” it clicked in Riku’s mind. He had been alone for all he can remember. He remember Selene always sitting by herself. Talking to now one. Until he came to her house for dinner that one night. Yet she had also brought radiance to his gloomy days of loneliness.

“If you want…you can stay with us for a while. I know its hard being alone…” Riku nodded. She wasn’t wrong. It felt like it was killing him day after day. He had been staying at the Nightingales from when school started, until it was dark outside, only going over to his house when he slept. It took everything he had to return. Cross and Salem, even his grandfather were still in the living room. He zipped past them, rummaging in his room for the essentials, and throwing them into a bag, Selene downstairs giving them the run down.

Toothbrush, deodorant, backpack, journal. He brought enough close to last a normal person a few days, but since we wore most of the same things, it gave other pairs of clothes chances to get washed by the time he had to switch outfits. He spotted the anti-depressant pill bottle sitting on his nightstand. He hesitantly picked them up, looking at them before placing them in the bag. He slowly walked down the stairs. Cross had left. Salem and Selene stood by the door. “Ready?” Salem spoke softly.

“Is this ok with you?” Riku asked, feeling guilty for not bringing it up with him sooner. Salem nodded. “Guardians are usually supposed to live with their masters.” Riku exhaled, taking a step outside the house. The jingle of keys came from his pocket, his grandfather sliding them in his pocket. “Do be careful.” Riku bit his lip, turning his head away and heading outside with Selene. Salem remained for a moment. “I’ll make sure he visits. Send letters at least if you make any progress.” He nodded. “You heard her, correct. The girl that spoke to Riku from the booths. It was her.” Salem felt his throat tighten slightly, eyeing Riku’s grandfather. “My one and only request. Riku and her.  Do not let those two meet.”

The entire fiasco below in the Riku residence was like play to the invading spectator, enjoying the view from the rooftops. A silver mesh of liquid squeezed itself out of Riku’s bedroom window. It hovered through the air, rippling, pulsing, and slurping around like ooze. It found its way to its home. A large, thick, open book being held out, welcoming it. It collided with the pages, seeping into the paper. Bold black words began inscribing themselves, all detailing the past events of Riku. “Ah! Such knowledge! Such fun!” the female spectator began cackling, he tall witch hat swaying back and forth on her head.

“Devola, you weren’t given permission to play with his head.” The witch themed girl jumped and turned her head. A taller, older woman in a sleek, tight black dress had her arms crossed, scowling at Devola. Devola gave her a sickened sneer. “What do you want, Seres? I’m just having fun!” Devola whined, kicking her legs like a child. A large, bulky man stood behind Seres. “Looks like, Goliath is here too. Must be a party!”

“Kill.” Goliath muttered. “Kill. Kill. Who can I kill?” his voice was deep and gruff, lacking motivation. Each one seemed different. But their eyes and hair. Their hair as dark as a moonless night. Their eyes a piercing gold, their sclera pitch black. “Come. Master doesn’t want you to interfere with the subjects.” 

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