When Love Turns Macabre

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Castle Walls

Mako had no need to sleep. He sat stoically in the cresting dawn light, his shadow stretched over Saphira as she slept, shielding her from the sun. He looked over his shoulder at the passed out mound with a curious hum. What was it that drew him to her? He had a hard time trying to decipher it.

Saphira stirred, lifting her head with the mess of hair covering her sleepy face so only her yawn was visible beneath the tangle. Mako chuckled, standing and retreating from the roof edge.

“What’s wrong? Did I fall asleep?” She asked, stifling a yawn. Mako nodded, placing a hand on his hip and watching her with amusement. She combed through her hair with her hands, wincing and growling at the tangles.

“God fu- Ow!” She winced. Mako stepped behind her and helped her free her hands. He combed the tangles easily with his nimble phalanges, careful not to pull too hard. Saphira yelped and squeaked at the sharp tugs, but the brush of his fingers gave her a comfortable feeling of bliss. Her pained yips turned to a small purr. She lost grip of her thoughts, everything fading to a nice, sweet, white noise.

“There. It’s untangled.” Mako hummed. Saphira couldn’t return from the blissful nothing right away. She blinked and stood fast, clearing her throat.

“Ah, right. Thank you, Mako…” She muttered, turning pink.

“Enjoy this. We don’t have much time before the demon gets here.” He said, looking over the streets as people filtered out of their homes. Mako’s gaze waved over the crowd, landing on the sight that made him bristle. As he rattled, Saphira poked out beside him and followed his gaze.

The gates lowered and opened to the procession of horses and carts carrying an unknown form hidden behind a curtain made of red, purple, and gold silks. Saphira gasped in awe, leaning precariously over the roof edge. Mako gripped her shoulder and pulled her back to safety. The people crowded the sidewalks watching the carriages roll with the figure obscured within. They chattered curiously to each other, wondering who could possibly be entering with such grandeur.

A flood of onlookers followed the procession to the castle courtyard. They halted before reaching the inner city gates. The guards stationed at the towers took careful aim, but the citizens never crossed the threshold. It was a sudden halt to the vast surge, the carriages halted at the castle doors and let off the figure.

Mako peered over the roofs and folded his arms. Saphira walked to the other end with her arms held out, balancing on the ledge.

“That guy was the demon, wasn’t he?” She asked.

“Yes. The one we need to watch out for,” Mako clenched a fist and searched among the buildings below, “just running in there will be stupid… we need to get you some weapons.”

“I don’t think I have any money.” Saphira scratched her neck. Mako dug through his pockets and hummed. Only the shell and a few assorted items remained, nothing of any real use. He pulled back from view, wary of their shadows cast on the ground. They were only as hidden as the sun would allow them to be.

“I don’t have any either…” He said.

“Well, you wouldn’t happen to have a buddy who can get us some weapons, hm?” Saphira pursed her lips. Mako hadn’t realized how unprepared they were. The buildings gave no clue as to their contents, everything below and around them unmarked and monotone. He paused and perked his head, raising finger as an idea formed.

“No, but I think I have an idea.” He took her waist and fluttered as he jumped from roof to roof, reaching the end of the building cluster and crouching. Saphira struggled a bit in his grasp, trying to pull herself out of the cage created by his boney arms. He wasn’t sure if her attempts were genuine, but neither was she. He pointed over the castle wall to a small shack, light gray stone and out of place compared to the dark, solid, intimidating castle beside it.

“That. There. That should be full of weapons.” He stated, firm and confident. Saphira saw nothing remarkable about the shack, shaking her head.

“There’s no way they’d leave anything in that.” She groaned. Mako thought of a way to prove it to her, but the best way he could think of was simply waiting to see who entered or left the doors. A familiar sight approached the slate walls. A hunter from the forest hauled their rifle over their shoulder and heavily sighed, pushing through the door and slamming it behind them. He straightened, smiling down at her.

“Seems they do,” He chuckled, “okay, my mirage only works so well on others. If we can get you a uniform I can change your face and hide myself. It should be a breeze to get the guns then.” Mako explained, tracing the air with his battle plans. Saphira watched him work and lost track of some ideas along the way. She tilted her head, trying to catch up.

“S-sounds like a plan.” Saphira nodded with forced confidence. Mako hops down from the rooftops, placing her safely on her feet once they landed.

“We just need a way to get that uniform…” Mako muttered. Saphira leaned and glanced past him at the castle’s inner gates, the people crowding the wide-open passage without breaking the invisible line. Their movements were far from intentional, a barrier had to be erected for such a flood to be effectively aligned.

“Maybe we could grab them when they leave through the crowd? You could mirage and grab him, make it look like he’s walking on his own accord to the back alleys?” She suggested.

“Let’s do it.” Mako raced to the crowd, no hesitation in the slightest. Saphira followed more casually, trying not to draw any attention to herself. She pushed through the bodies and watched the gates for any sign of guards. She kept her hood overhead, slipping and weaving to the front of the crowd.

Mako was trapped between a tight knot of people, growling and trying to get himself loose. Saphira whistled as a hunter approached the gates, the crowd separating in one smooth movement as they passed. Saphira found herself dumped into the clearing, tripped to her knees and blind to the hunter walking up to her with murderous intent.

“What do you think you’re doing!?” He barked, drawing the sword from his hip, the gun safely stowed away. Saphira pulled enough hood back to see the source of the voice. She shrunk, scrambling to her feet.

“I-I… I was just..!” She tried to pull an explanation out of the air, but she wasn’t so quick-witted. He raised his sword to her and swung, narrowly missing as she shrieked. The pained surprise on his face took her attention. His jagged movements straightened his back out and sheathed his blade.

“Y-you will come w-with me!” He barked, roughly spinning her around and shoving her shoulder to force her forward.

“What the hell are you-?” Saphira snapped her mouth shut, Mako’s hands holding the hunter’s arms to his sides, another set of hands forcing his mouth to say as Mako directed, a third set moving his legs as Mako pleased. She squinted, no bounds to her incredulity at this new power.

They left the crowds behind and hurried down to the back alleys, Mako’s Manifested hands splitting back into the coursing green of his soul, they threw the man into the wall.

“What the hell was that! Who are you?” He cried, eyes wide and darting between the human and any possible exits. Mako put his mask back on his face and dropped his Mirage, appearing to the frightened man finally. The hunter’s eyes widened at the sight of the towering reaper. Mako smirked, his sharpened teeth locked into place. His eye lights burned through the mask’s tint, appearing simply as green lights under a hood ascended by inhuman horns.

“Shut up!” Mako barked. He then sighed, stepping into beside Saphira and leaning down to her, “Try to get some info off him, we have a small chance.”

“It can’t be,” Hunter said once he gathered his nerves, “You’re protecting her?” Mako stayed silent. Saphira tossed a confused look at Mako before clearing her throat.

“Don’t worry about that. Do you know anything about a parcel?” She asked. He laughed, too boisterously for Mako’s liking. The hunter shook his head, pulling against the Manifested hands pinning him to the wall.

“You think I’d tell you anything about that?” He laughed again, “I fear Aleera more than death itself.” It seemed no answers would come out of this one.

“Just tell me if you have it!” Saphira demanded.

“Whether I do or don’t, you’ll never get it. Some black market thugs won’t even know what to do with the damn thing. It’s better spent in the queen’s hands!” He claimed, a cocky smile splitting the obvious fear on his face, his eyes always flickering over Mako before addressing her.

“She doesn’t meet the requirements. I haven’t even met her and I know it won’t work for her.”

“Oh ho? What makes you the master of the box? Slum rats don’t know shit, stop pretending you do.” He growled. Saphira slapped him in her flash of anger, teeth bared.

“It’s my damn box, dick!”

“It’s the queen’s, you have no claim to it!” He cried. Mako’s ethereal grip in the hunter’s wrists tightened, he loomed closer, his bones creaking with the tension of his anger. attempting to appear calm, Mako shook his head, summoning his scythe and raising it.

“Seems you’re doomed to die alone.” He muttered, dropping down and cleaving him in an instant.

“Mako!” Saphira shouted. Mako blinked, returning to his senses and bunching his shoulders. This interrogation was too loud.

“Stay there,” Mako answered finally, launching into the air without her. She scoffed and watched him vanish as he crested the buildings. Mako dropped from above and landed beside her, causing her to yelp.

“What were you doing up there?” She asked, brushing herself off.

“Watching for any guards,” He answered, “seems we’re in the clear…” His eyes caught something poking out of the hunter’s coat. Saphira followed his gaze, smirking and taking the sword and sheath off him. Mako absorbed the soul released by the body, taking it into his spirit strands and adding it to his power.

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