A Scream that Pierced the Night
A new day had dawned and much had changed. The group, which now consisted of four members, was making their way to school. James and Jaycee walked side-by-side, while Sage and Aiko did the same, but did so from behind at a sizable distance.
When they arrived at school, Aiko decided the group had spent enough time together. “We’ll see you guys later,” she said. “Sage has something he needs to do.”
“Are you sure it can’t wait?” asked Jaycee.
“He has to go to the bathroom,” said Aiko.
“Hey,” exclaimed Sage.
“Okay,” said Jaycee. “We’ll see you later.” And with that, she and James departed.
“What’s wrong with you?” asked Sage. “Why did you tell them that? Are you trying to embarrass me or something?”
“I don’t know why I said that. I guess I just don’t want to be around those two right now. It’s complicated, to say the least.”
“You mean you don’t want to be around James.”
“Yeah,” replied Aiko. “You saw how quickly he changed back to normal after his wings turned black. What’s to stop him from changing back again now that his wings are white? It all just seemed too easy. I mean . . . it was just one kiss.”
“I hate to doubt James,” said Sage, “but I’m a bit wary of him, as well. It seems the only one who trusts him completely is Jaycee. For her sake, we’d better keep this to ourselves.”
“If we told Jaycee, she’d hate us forever,” said Aiko.
“I don’t know if she would take it that hard. But we should do our best not to let her know how we feel.” With that said, Sage began his trek down the hall.
“Where are you going?” asked Aiko.
Sage cleared his throat before answering. “I have to go to the bathroom.”
After Sage was out of her sight, Aiko spotted someone familiar from the corner of her eye. It was Hikaru, who was scanning a flyer on a nearby bulletin board. Aiko went to her but was paid absolutely no attention. “What is this cultural festival?” asked Hikaru, showing that she had indeed noticed Aiko’s arrival.
“Well, it’s a way for the school to raise money for all of its clubs,” explained Aiko. “All the booths are run by students. They set up games and serve food. It’s gonna be a lot of fun. We’ll all be there. Why don’t you come?”
Hikaru said not a word in response to what Aiko had suggested.
“Why not go with Daisuke?” asked Aiko. “You two are . . . uh, well, what exactly is your relationship? Some people think you two are brother and sister.” Aiko then let out a nervous laugh. “Others think you might be something else.”
“I am the Sword of Heaven, Daisuke is the Sword of Hell,” said Hikaru.
“I know. But what are you to each other?”
“I am the Sword of Heaven, Daisuke is the Sword of Hell,” said Hikaru.
Daisuke arrived. “We have a meeting,” he said.
Rather than going with Daisuke, Hikaru kept her attention focused on the flyer. “I think I would like to go to this cultural festival,” she said. “It’s going to be . . . fun.”
Daisuke grabbed Hikaru by the arm with such force that a yelp burst from her.
“Hey, take it easy,” said Aiko.
“You should not involve yourself with things that do not concern you,” said Daisuke, who then forcefully took Hikaru with him.
Aiko restrained from any further involvement, but only because something startling had occurred to her. “They can feel pain,” she thought.
Daisuke took Hikaru to the vice principal’s office. As usual the room was shrouded in darkness. Only the thinnest beams of light managed to penetrate through the blinds, making Vice Principal Takagi virtually invisible.
“It was so good of you to bring your sister with you,” said Vice Principal Takagi. “She is your sister, isn’t she?”
Daisuke gave the question no reply.
“Well, either way, your relationship is irrelevant to what I have to say. You see, I have a proposition for you, Hikaru. Why attach yourself to the side that’s going to lose? Join me, for our victory is inevitable.”
“A weapon cannot choose its master,” said Hikaru.
“The first time you took your sword forms, you chose us.”
“We chose nothing,” said Hikaru. “We were propelled by destiny. Your masters were the ones who made that decision for us.”
“I see,” said the vice principal. “Daisuke, make her join our side. She’ll listen to you. You’re her brother.”
Daisuke did nothing but remain silent.
“Very well. You want destiny? Then I’ll give you destiny. I can make you two closer than you’ve ever been before. I can make you one. How much closer can a brother and sister get than that?”
“A weapon cannot choose its master,” said Hikaru.
“Has anyone ever told you that it’s rude to repeat the same thing over and over?” asked Vice Principal Takagi.
“As long as we have a master, we can never belong to another,” said Daisuke.
“You’ve made your point,” said the vice principal. She then made her way to the door and opened it, prompting her guests to leave.
Jaycee happened to be passing by Vice Principal Takagi’s office.
“Oh, Jaycee,” said the vice principal, prompting her student to come to a stop. “Word is that you and James have renewed your relationship.”
“I guess we have,” said a now blushing Jaycee.
“I did try to warn you about him, didn’t I, Miss Annadale? I told you that he was no good for you. I told you he would only end up hurting you. He’s just like all the rest. Here one day, and gone the next.”
“I’m the only one who believes in James. Not even Sage and Aiko trust him. They haven’t said it, but I can tell. But nobody knows James the way that I know him. He’s the kindest person I’ve ever known.”
The chimes began playing, cuing students to get to class.
“You should get to class now, Miss Annadale,” said the vice principal. “And try not to get too attached to that boy. I have a feeling he won’t be around much longer.” With that said, Vice Principal Takagi entered her office, shutting the door loudly behind her. “He chose you over me,” she whispered. “And for that, James has to die.”
That weekend James and Jaycee invited Sage and Aiko out for a day of amusement. Sage had been willing to give it a try but Aiko answered for the both of them. She had blurted out that she had tickets to see a show that was in town for only a few days. But the truth was, Aiko was planning on spying on James and Jaycee. But she could do nothing without a partner in crime, which Sage eventually agreed to, though his reason for taking part was to make sure Aiko stayed out of trouble, not to play the part of a spy.
James and Jaycee’s first stop of the day was the miniature golf course.
Sage and Aiko watched the couple from behind a gathering of bushes. Both novice spies were decked out in matching trench coats and fedoras.
“Tell me again why we’re wearing these ridiculous outfits,” said Sage.
“Because a spy has to look the part,” said Aiko. She then retrieved a pair of binoculars from her coat and zoomed in on the couple. “I can’t believe this,” she said. “When I asked Jaycee if she wanted to come here, she said no.”
“Wasn’t that the day she had to go to the dentist?”
“It was. Can you believe she would rather go to the dentist than spend the day with me? How fun can a dentist possibly be?”
Jaycee was having trouble making proper contact with the ball, so James stood behind her and aided her with her grip. The duo then combined for a perfect putt.
“He’s standing right behind her.”
“What?” exclaimed Sage, ripping the binoculars away from Aiko so he could better see what was happening. What Sage had failed to realize was that Aiko still had the binocular strap around her neck. The instant Sage had pulled them away from her, Aiko began choking.
“Sage,” said Aiko in a strained voice. “Let go of the binoculars.”
“You weren’t kidding,” said Sage. “Those two are really getting up close and personal.” Sage then began adjusting the binoculars to better his sight. “I can’t believe how well these things work. I can see everything as if I were standing right next to them.”
“Sage,” wheezed Aiko.
“What is it?” asked Sage. “I didn’t bother you when you were spying on them.” Looking over, Sage realized his folly and released the binoculars.
Upon catching her breath, Aiko berated Sage with a prolonged verbal attack. The uproar was more than enough to catch the attention of James and Jaycee, who began scanning the area for the source of all the noise. Realizing this prompted Aiko to grab a hold of Sage and pull him and herself down and out of sight.
After miniature golf James and Jaycee had lunch outside one of the city’s finest cafés. A few tables away from them sat Sage and Aiko. To conceal their identities further, the pair had added sunglasses to their ensembles.
A pizza for two was set before James and Jaycee. It was after the pair had taken their first bites when Aiko’s stomach growled so loudly that James and Jaycee began looking around to see where the sound had come. Sage and Aiko immediately concealed themselves with newspapers.
“I’m so hungry,” said Aiko.
“Then order something,” said Sage.
“I didn’t bring any money. I’m gonna starve.”
Sage reached into one of his coat pockets and retrieved a sandwich. He then handed it to Aiko. “Here,” he said, focused on James and Jaycee, “we can share this.”
“Share?” asked Aiko, mouth already stuffed with the whole sandwich.
“What’s wrong with you?” asked Sage. “Now what am I supposed to eat?”
“Don’t blame me. I don’t think clearly when I’m hungry.”
“Then you must be hungry every minute of the day,” exclaimed Sage.
“What’s all that commotion ?” asked James.
Jaycee went to the table where the ruckus was coming. What she found was Sage and Aiko, who were pulling on each other’s faces. “Take back what you said,” demanded Aiko. She then noticed Jaycee. “Oh, hi, Jaycee,” she said, sunglasses hanging off one ear.
“What are you two doing here?” asked Jaycee. “Why are you dressed like that?”
“Uh, we’re just a couple of tourists,” said Aiko, fixing her sunglasses.
“It was Aiko’s idea,” said Sage.
“Sage,” exclaimed Aiko, who immediately covered her mouth in a vain attempt to conceal her true identity. “I mean Harold.”
“You two were spying on us,” said Jaycee.
“Please don’t be mad at us, Jaycee,” said Aiko, hands clasped together in an imploring fashion. “We’ll do anything you say. Just name it and we’ll do it.”
Aiko was good to her word. Sage was also good to Aiko’s word. The day of the cultural festival, they joined James and Jaycee in a booth selling fried noodles. It was set up by the baseball team to earn money for the upcoming season.
As further punishment, Sage and Aiko were forced to wear paper hats, while James and Jaycee were allowed to keep their dignity and go without the accessory.
On Jaycee and Aiko’s shift at the counter, the members of the baseball team who had taken them out on a date all those chapters ago in their lives arrived. The girls would soon find that filling their stomachs was the last thing on the boys’ minds.
“Uh-oh,” whispered Aiko.
“How’s it going, girls?” asked the blonde one. “Getting a lot of business?”
“It was nice of you to volunteer to run the booth for us,” said the one with brown hair. “If you girls aren’t busy later, maybe we can repay the favor.”
“Oh, would you look at that?” said Aiko, looking at her wrist, which happened to contain no watch. “Our shift just ended. Hey, guys, it’s your turn to work the counter.”
Jaycee and Aiko moved aside to reveal James and Sage, both of whom were holding very large knives.
“You want us to take care of these two?” asked Sage.
The blonde and the one with brown hair took that as their cue to depart.
“What was that about?” asked James.
“They must not like noodles,” said Aiko before letting out a timid laugh.
The next few hours went by without further incident. Numbers of students patronized the booth. And despite the novice rank of the cooks, many commented on the high quality of the dish. Some even came back for multiple helpings.
All was going well until the first signs of night appeared.
“How can I help you?” asked Aiko, whose focus was on something else when the booth’s latest customer arrived.
“What I want isn’t on your menu,” said Alenia, who stood brazenly at the group’s booth. Despite the fact that she was keeping her wings concealed, Alenia still drew much attention. Her skin-tight red outfit brought upon more looks than any wings could.
“What the hell are you doing here?” asked Sage, who looked more than ready to jump from the booth and into battle.
“Settle down,” said Alenia. “I didn’t come here to fight.”
“Then why are you here?” asked Aiko.
“I just came to give you an invitation,” said Alenia, focused only on James.
“An invitation?” asked Aiko. “To what?”
“Why, to a fight, of course.” She then pointed at James. “With that one, in particular. To be honest, he’s the only one I’m concerned with now.”
“And what if we refuse?” asked Jaycee.
“You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to,” said Alenia. A frigid wind then blew across the school, knocking objects over and sending chills through everyone caught in its path. “But if you do refuse me, then an army of demons will descend upon this place. And they won’t hesitate to kill everyone in sight. Now, is that what you want?”
“You’re nothing but a coward,” said James.
“That might be so,” said Alenia. “But cowards tend to live far longer than heroes.”
“Alright,” said James. “I’ll fight you, but this fight will be between you and me. Don’t even think about getting the others involved.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” said Alenia, turning her back. “You know the routine. Just look for the light. It will tell you where I am.” Alenia then turned back around. “Oh, and one more thing. I recommend all of you go home before the battle. There’s something important you should see.” Alenia then turned her back for the last time and took her leave.
The four did as Alenia suggested. They left the festival and went to their homes. Jaycee, who had James with her, was the first to reach her destination.
“So, what are we looking for?” asked James, following Jaycee into her apartment.
“I don’t know,” said Jaycee, passing by a picture of she and her parents. “But if Alenia wanted us to go back to our homes, then there has to be a reason for it.”
The two inspected the living room, then the kitchen but found nothing out of the ordinary. So familiar with her home was Jaycee that she would have noticed if a piece of furniture had been moved in even the slightest.
“Anything wrong in here?” asked James, following Jaycee to her bedroom.
“No,” replied Jaycee. She then took a long look at her surroundings. “I don’t understand this. Why would she send us here?”
“Probably that woman’s idea of a joke. She probably thinks this will be the last time any of us gets to see home.”
“Let’s go meet the others,” said Jaycee.
On their way out James and Jaycee passed by the picture of Jaycee and her parents. The instant the two had made it outside, Jaycee’s parents vanished.
Sage had made it home quickly. At first glance he found nothing out of the ordinary. “Mom,” he called out. “Are you here?”
Sage cautiously made his way through the apartment and to his mother’s room. Nothing could have prepared him for what he would find. His mother’s bedroom had been completely stripped. It was void of any furniture, and the usually cluttered closet was bare.
“What’s going on? Where is everything?”
After rushing out of his mother’s bedroom, Sage noticed the picture of he and his mother in the living room. It nearly knocked the breath out of him when he found his mother was no longer in it. All that was left was a young Sage smiling and holding a soccer ball.
Aiko was the last to arrive home. Her home looked just as it always did. “Father,” she called out. “Father, where are you?”
Upon reaching the second floor, Aiko went to her father’s room. “Father,” she said, knocking on the door. “Are you here?” After receiving no answer, Aiko entered. Like Sage, Aiko found her parent’s room completely empty.
“What is this?” asked Aiko. “What’s going on!”
Aiko’s breathing became frantic. If she failed to calm herself, Aiko would surely pass out from the stress. Aiko calmed a bit when she found a picture lying face down beside her. She picked it up and found it was a picture of her father and mother during a happier time in their lives. Before her very eyes, Aiko’s parents disappeared. She lost her grip on the picture and to the floor it fell, shattering the glass on impact.
Aiko ran to her room, passing several empty pictures on the way.
On her dresser was a picture of Aiko and her twin sister Akiko. The young girls were dressed in matching kimonos. “Akiko,” whispered Aiko, refusing to allow tears to fall. Aiko was then forced to watch Akiko vanish from the picture. This caused Aiko to tremble so badly that the picture slipped out of her weakened grasp and back onto the dresser.
With an irate scream, Aiko swept her arm across her dresser, knocking everything to the floor. She then picked up her television and hurled it as far as she could. Being nowhere near content, Aiko then kicked the life out of her computer.
“What good is any of it?” exclaimed Aiko, going to her closet. She then proceeded to rip apart numerous articles of clothing. “What is this worth to me now?”
After ruining much of her clothing, Aiko knocked over a chest of drawers. “None of this is even real!” she screamed. “None of it!”
After running out of energy, Aiko fell against her bureau and began to weep. On the bureau was a frame containing half the pictures she had taken with Jaycee. Aiko took hold of the pictures and gazed at them until her tears stung her eyes shut.
Having followed the familiar pulsating light, James and Jaycee made their way to the top of the second tallest building in the city. There was no one waiting for them.
“Why are we the only ones here?” asked James.
The sound of footsteps behind them prompted James and Jaycee to turn around. It was there where they found Sage and Aiko, both of whom looked extremely upset.
“Sage, Aiko,” said Jaycee. “What’s wrong?”
“My, what an odd place to find my students,” said Vice Principal Takagi, who was now standing at the far end of the roof. “May I ask what you’re doing out here?”
“Ms. Vice Principal?” asked Jaycee. “Why are you here?”
“Didn’t I just ask that question?” asked Vice Principal Takagi. It was after those words were spoken when a demon rose up behind her from the side of the building.
“Behind you!” exclaimed Jaycee.
“What is it?” asked the vice principal, turning around. “Well, would you look at that, a hideous demon. I wonder what it could possibly want.”
“Run,” pleaded Jaycee.
“Just a minute, Miss Annadale.” The vice principal then focused her attention on the demon. “Be a dear and tell the others that I’m going to be finished soon.”
The demon flew away.
“Now, where was I?” asked the vice principal, who was immediately consumed by a swirl of black smoke. “Ah, yes, that’s right.” When the smoke had cleared, Alenia was left in Vice Principal Takagi’s place.
“No, it can’t be,” said Jaycee.
“You have to admit,” said Alenia, “it was pretty obvious. A pair of glasses and a different hairstyle, how could you not see through that disguise?” Alenia then pointed at James. “That one could have told you exactly who I was. But after relinquishing half of his power, that information was lost to him.”
“It was you,” exclaimed Aiko. “You’re the one that did this to us!”
“I take it you found something not to your liking when you went home,” said Alenia. “Well, you can hardly blame me for that.”
“What are you talking about?” Jaycee asked Aiko.
“Our lives,” said Sage. “They’re not real. Everything we thought was real was just a lie. Even our families were a lie.”
“I’m not the one who did this to you,” said Alenia. “The one who sent you here is the one to blame, not me. But why take this as bad news? In this world, there has to be pain, there has to be suffering. If not, then there could be no joy. But there are those who suffer more than others. These are the people who make it possible for others to experience happiness. And you four are those kind of people. All you’ve done since returning is suffer. But by doing so, you’ve taken so much pain away from others. If only the fools in this world knew what you’ve done for them. They would forever be in your debt.”
“Shut up!” screamed Aiko, making her way to the front of the group. “This is all your fault! None of us would be here if not for you and your plans!”
“What’s it going to take to get this through your thick little skull?” asked Alenia. “You keep putting the blame where it doesn’t belong. All of you, as well as me, are here because of James. Had he just chosen a side a thousand years ago, then none of us would be here now. To think, he had all that time and he still made the wrong choice.”
“Then you failed,” said James. “So why not go back to where you came from?”
“Because if I go back empty-handed, very horrible things are going to be waiting for me. Failure is one thing that is not tolerated where I come from. But I can get back in my master’s good graces if I bring your head back as a trophy.”
James placed his hand on Aiko’s shoulder. “Let me take care of her,” he said.
“Don’t let her get away with what she’s done,” said Aiko, whose tears were making it difficult to see. “Make her pay.”
Just as James had taken his first steps toward Alenia, Sage stopped him. “Wait,” he said. Sage then summoned the Sword of Heaven. “You’ll need this,” he said, tossing his magnificent weapon to James.
“Are you sure?” asked James.
Sage nodded. “It rightfully belongs to you.”
“Thank you,” said James.
“How perfectly things are working out for me,” whispered Alenia. She then called upon her Sword of Hell. “I’ll soon have what I really came for.”
“James,” said Jaycee. “Please be careful.”
James gave Jaycee a nod before approaching Alenia. He stopped just short of her, then spread his white wings. Alenia did the same with her wings of black.
The cherry moon took its place as master of the night.
“A battle as important as this one shouldn’t take place on the roof of some building,” said Alenia. Without warning she shot into the night sky. James was hesitant at first, but he soon followed his foe high above the earth.
The combatants had soared into the sky so quickly that it took only seconds for them to disappear from sight.
During her ascent, Alenia came to an abrupt halt. James did the same.
“I hope you know that this is where the journey comes to an end for one of us,” said Alenia. “And I don’t intend to die just yet.” Alenia then flipped backwards, plummeting head-first toward the earth. James did the same and was soon face to face with Alenia, who wasted no time unleashing a swing of her Sword of Hell. Only barely was James able to defend himself with his Sword of Heaven.
“You don’t know how important this is to me,” said Alenia. “I’m going to attain what was thought unattainable for a demon. I will soon possess the power you once possessed. If not for that miserable heart of yours, you would still have it.”
“How will destroying me gain you this power? You failed. Do you really think you’ll be rewarded for anything you do now?”
“Oh, I don’t intend to be granted this power as some kind of reward,” said Alenia. “It’s something I have to earn myself. And this is how I’m going to earn it!” Alenia then let loose with a barrage of strikes, each of which James blocked.
Alenia brought an end to her assault and continued to plummet.
“I should have known not to challenge someone to swordplay who was more skilled than I am. I should have just played dirty from the start.” After those words had been spoken, Alenia let loose another strike. James succeeded in blocking it, but immediately after doing so, he watched as an extra pair of arms burst from Alenia’s side. They were quickly put to use as the new pair of hands grabbed James by the wrists.
“What is this?” asked James.
“You haven’t seen anything yet,” said Alenia. Another pair of arms then thrust from her side. Alenia immediately used them to grab James by the throat. With her original pair of hands, Alenia pried the Sword of Heaven from James’ grasp. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’ll just be taking this now.”
Jaycee, Sage and Aiko could see something in the sky. It was faint but everyone knew what it was. James and Alenia were falling from the heavens at an astonishing rate, and it was certain that the impact they were about to make would be tremendous.
“Get behind me!” exclaimed Jaycee. After Sage and Aiko did as they were told, Jaycee put up a transparent barrier around them.
The combatants slammed into the roof, sending large chunks of debris flying through the air and creating an immense cloud of dust. Jaycee’s barrier worked to keep she, Sage and Aiko safe, but nobody could tell in what state James was.
“James,” exclaimed Jaycee, trying desperately to see through the dust.
After the dust cleared, all that was visible was a mass of black and white wings. They then began to separate, revealing a most horrific sight. Alenia was looming over James, her Sword of Hell plunged deep into his chest.
“James!” screamed Jaycee, who wasted no time in rushing to him.
“My god,” gasped Aiko who, along with Sage, stared wide-eyed.
Rather than finishing off her opponent, Alenia removed her sword, then floated into the sky. “I got what I came for,” she said, holding a sword in each hand. She then flew away, quickly disappearing into the darkness of the night.
“James,” groaned a sobbing Jaycee, taking him into her arms.
“Jaycee,” said James. “I’m sorry.”
“No,” said Jaycee. “There’s nothing for you to be sorry about.”
“There was so much I wanted to show you and say to you,” said James, tears falling from his eyes. “But because of what I became, I never got to. We lost so much time. That can never be undone. And for that, I’m sorry.”
“We can get that time back. I can save you.” She then placed her hand on James’ wound, consuming it within a bright blue light. No matter how hard she tried, Jaycee could do nothing to heal James. “Why isn’t it working?”
“It’s too late,” said James, who began fading away.
“No,” exclaimed Jaycee. “It’s my fault, not yours. If only I hadn’t been so afraid to tell you how I felt, things wouldn’t have turned out this way.”
“It’s not your fault,” said James, placing his bloodied hand on Jaycee’s cheek. “What’s important is that we know how we feel about each other. The time we spent together may have been brief, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. That’s something I can’t regret.”
“I can’t lose you again.”
“We’ll see each other again,” said James. “I know we will. Somehow, somewhere, we’ll be together.” James’ hand then slipped from Jaycee’s face. “Goodbye, Jaycee.” And with that, James vanished from the world of the living.
“Jaycee,” whispered Sage.
Aiko buried her face in Sage’s chest and clutched him tightly.
Jaycee timidly touched her face where James had placed his hand, staining her fingers with his blood as she did. Jaycee’s eyes then bulged and her breathing became erratic.
Much to the collective dismay of the others, Jaycee turned her gaze to the sky and unleashed a scream that pierced the night.