If you're earthbound
Grab my hands and you will see
We'll make you spellbound
A feeling of relief and you´ll be free
The countless galaxies are swarming with life
A peaceful existence without strife
An existence without strife
"Ara'miza! Ara'miza, stop!" Sainan struggled against the guards, trying to get through. The sound of the drums echoing from the balconies of the room seemed to pulse through him. If only he had his magic! Ah, but it and his freedom had been traded for the heavy amulet that hung around his throat, a necklace he was unable to remove. "Please, stop!"
Ara'miza smiled coldly. "What is wrong, Sainan? It is your fault he is here, after all. You led him to me."
"Don't kill him!" Behind Ara'miza Niko slowly pushed himself up on his elbows, tilting his head back until he could peer through his bangs to meet Sainan's eyes. His face was torn, the youth and beauty that had been there before covered under blood. He said nothing, merely gazed at Sainan. Sainan uttered a strangled sob. "You promised me!" he told Ara'miza. "You said if I came here you wouldn't bother him."
"I hate to tell you this, my dear boy, but…I lied." The lady moved towards Niko, long silky skirts trailing behind her. One hand gripped Niko's bladed staff. She lowered it, pressing the blade against Niko's face and turning it until he was looking at her instead of the struggling Sainan. "Where is your smile now, little White?"
"Obviously I'm not wearing it."
She smirked, raising the blade. The drummers watched closely, preparing to stop when the deed was done. "Any last words, then?"
"None for your ears to hear."
"Die, then." She shrugged and swung the blade down. It flashed in the light before ripping cleanly through Niko's body.
Sainan screamed, watching the body of his beloved slowly sag to the ground. The drums stopped, and the guards released Sainan. Ara'miza smirked, tossing the weapon down onto Niko's corpse. Sainan stumbled forward, sinking to the ground and grabbing Niko's head, holding it close to his chest. His sobs went unheard in the wild cheering of the crowd. "Oh stars…Niko…" he gasped out in between his tears. There was no way to describe this pain that was eating him from the inside out. Niko was gone, killed because of him. What was there left to live for? He tipped his head back, gazing up at the night sky that shown down through the ceilingless room. "Wait for me, Niko! I left you once, I won't leave you again." As his head lowered, his eyes fell on the blade draped across Niko's body. Without a second thought, he plunged it deep into his body.
Yohji was dimly aware of an excited knock at his door. Hanging somewhere between sleep and consciousness, he managed to crack a green eye open to peer at his clock. 7:34. He closed his eye again with a disbelieving grunt. Whatever it was, it could wait a few hours. He sighed softly, trying to sink further into his mattress and the dreamworld, ignoring the knock that came again.
The next thing he was aware of was somebody bounding onto his bed. "Yohji-kun! Wake up!" He groaned, grabbing the covers and yanking them over his head. Didn't Omi have any common sense? What did he think he was doing coming in here so early?
~Damn…Should've locked the door last night.~
"Yohji-kun! It's time to get up!"
~It is not,~ he thought, unable to get the words past his lips. Omi was shaking his shoulder. What was up with the kid? Excited, childish glee was evident in his voice. What was so good about today? Was it Saturday? Was it snowing? Was school cancelled? ~Stop shaking me! Go away!~
Omi abruptly changed tactics, peeling the covers back. "I brought you coffee, Yohji-kun!" Yohji forced an eye to open and glared balefully at Omi. The boy was perched on his bed, sitting cross-legged, just inches from Yohji's pillow. He was smiling broadly and holding a steaming mug. "I made it just for you!" he added, ignoring the glare. "Come on! If you don't get up the breakfast will get cold!"
Yohji finally managed to open his mouth. "That's what microwaves are for. Go 'way." He closed his eye and turned his face into his pillow. ~Jeez…~
"But Yohji-kun!" Omi protested. "Today's an important day! Please?"
Was it Omi's birthday? Aya's? Ken's? His own? No…What was so important? "Go wake Aya up."
"I already did."
Yohji paused. Omi had woken Aya up? The redhead had been planning on staying in bed until eight today, since he'd been up so late at the hospital. Aya-chan had shown some good signs last night- her hand had moved. Aya had spent most of the night there with her. Ken had taken the morning shift so Aya could catch up on his rest. "Does this have to do with Aya-chan?" he grunted out.
"With what?" Omi paused. "No. Now come on!"
Yohji groaned again, finally opening both eyes. What a pushy kid! He slowly, painfully, pushed himself into a sitting position. Omi beamed and handed over the mug. Yohji accepted it and reached out with his other hand, pushing Omi off the bed. Omi yelped as he landed on the ground. Yohji smirked into his coffee. He felt a bit better after that.
"That was unfair, Yohji-kun!"
"So was waking me up before noon on my day off," Yohji muttered, finishing his coffee in just a few gulps.
Aya and Ken paused halfway down the stairs when they heard Omi's yelp. Ken grinned and glanced towards Aya. "Sounds like somebody doesn't want to get up, hm?" he asked.
"Aa." Aya continued on his way, reaching up with a hand to rake his fingers through his sleep-tussled bangs. He was hoping Omi had a good explanation for all of this. The boy had woken him up by knocking on the door and poking his head in, telling Aya it was time to get up and eat breakfast. When Aya had calmly pointed out that he was not getting up until he'd had at least six hours of sleep, Omi had retaliated by saying Aya had the morning shift.
Omi had forgotten the shift change. Omi never forgot things like that. Then there was the way he was acting- so childishly excited over something, ranting about it being a very important day. There was nothing important about today, and Aya was dead tired.
He and Ken stepped into the shop area and hesitated. The
interior was decorated. Sparkly designs were cut out of a thin paper and were hung all over the place by thread. Ken scratched his head. "Um…?"
Omi came bouncing down the stairs, dragging an irritated Yohji with him. "I think the kid got into my coffee," Yohji muttered as he yanked free of the youngest assassin's grasp.
"Omi, what's with all of the hanging things?" Ken asked, reaching up to touch one. It spun when he tapped it, sparkles glistening as the light caught them. "They're pretty, but what are they?"
"Decorations!" Omi answered glibly, heading towards the kitchen.
The rest of Weiß watched him go. Aya frowned faintly. Omi _was_ acting like he'd gotten into coffee. He was so excited and jittery. Omi, while being the youngest, had never looked like this, had never looked like he was bubbling over with excitement. Omi was better contained than that. Aya scanned his memory, trying to figure out what was so important about the day. He came up blank.
"Come on!" Omi urged, poking his head out of the kitchen.
They crossed the shop, Yohji muttering darkly the whole way about how his sleep had been interrupted. Aya was the first into the kitchen, with Ken right behind him and Yohji in back. As Aya crossed the room to his seat at the table, his eyes scanned the room. The table was covered with an odd assortment of food: platters of fruits, bread that looked to be made from scratch, sliced meat, and some other side dish that Aya didn't recognize. It was a meal that obviously took hours of preparation.
"Am I missing something?" Ken asked as he sat down, eyes going over the food eagerly. "What's all this for?"
"Ken-kun!" Omi nearly dropped the drink pitcher he was carrying. The surprise in his voice made all three men look at him. "Don't tell me you forgot!"
"Um…Forgot what?" Ken asked, eyes darting to his equally clueless teammates.
"Today is EimHew!" Omi seemed almost scandalized that Ken didn't know. "You _forgot_?" He looked over at Yohji and Aya. "You guys, too?!"
"Well, forgive my ignorance, but…What is EimHew?" Yohji asked, leaning back in his chair and frowning faintly.
Omi's hand began to shake. Aya was closest, and realizing the boy was about to drop the pitcher, reached out and took it from him. Omi's wide eyes locked with Aya's. Hurt, sorrow, and pain danced in those eyes, and Aya found himself unable to look away. It was Omi that broke the gaze, whirling away. His hands, suddenly restless, began to undo the strings of the apron he was wearing. "It's…it's the eighth day…" His voice was pained. "One of the most important holidays…"
"Today is not a holiday, kiddo."
"Are you all right, Omi?" Ken asked, worried. He stood and crossed the room to where Omi stood. "Omi?"
Omi tossed his apron aside carelessly. Aya's eyes followed it as
it fluttered to the ground. Another strike against Omi. Omi always hung his apron up. Aya studied his youngest teammate. What was wrong with the child? Omi was tugging at Ken's shirt- gently, but with an undercurrent of urgency. "Did I get the date wrong?"
"Eim-whatever isn't a holiday, Omi."
Omi stared at him, wide-eyed. "But…I thought…"
"Thought what?" Aya asked calmly.
Omi ran a hand through his hair and exhaled noisily. He closed his eyes and was silent for a few minutes. Finally he sighed, and the other three could see tension leaving him. He opened his eyes again. "Gomen, you guys." He offered them a half-apologetic, half-embarrassed smile. "You ever have those dreams that are so realistic you get lost in them?"
"I do!" Ken offered immediately, receiving a grateful look from the younger teen.
"Aa." Omi nodded, glad for the understanding. "I had the weirdest dream last night…I could have sworn that today…" Omi laughed quietly, a sheepish sound, going to fetch his apron. "I'm really sorry, you guys…Sorry, Aya-kun."
"Hey, that's all right." Ken smiled at him. "The food looks really good, and it's not every morning you'll cook us a big breakfast. We can consider it a celebration for the news on Aya-chan. How about that?"
Omi grinned. "Arigato, Ken-kun." He left the room to hang up his apron.
Ken exchanged glances with Aya and Yohji. Yohji waggled a finger by his ear in a gesture that clearly meant he thought Omi was off his rocker. Ken glared, sitting down again. Aya ignored them both. Omi returned to the room and took his seat, and they began to serve themselves. Ken looked towards Omi as he cut the loaf of bread. "This doesn't look like store bread."
"Ahh, it's not. I was up really early so I could make it."
"I didn't know you knew how to make bread." Ken took a bite out of his slice. "It's good, though!"
"So, Omi…What is this?" Yohji was poking at one plate that contained the food Aya hadn't been able to name. He lifted a small piece of the juicy looking thing and wiggled it around. Droplets of liquid went everywhere, spattering Ken.
"Oi!" Ken protested, shielding his plate.
"That? I'm not sure. I think I saw it in a cookbook somewhere. It came to mind when I was trying to figure out what else to have." Omi served himself some of the meat and began to cut it into bite sized pieces.
"Nice party," a feminine voice spoke up. The four turned to see Manx move into the doorframe.
"Hello, pretty lady," Yohji greeted, grinning.
"Who managed to get him out of bed?" Manx asked, raising an eyebrow in amusement.
"I did," Omi spoke up. "How are you, Manx-san?"
"I'm fine. So what's the occasion?" the red-haired woman asked, entering the kitchen and eyeing the food. Ken offered her a slice of bread. She accepted it but did not eat it.
"Ahh…Aya-chan's doing better," Omi answered with a bright smile. "She moved her hand." He wiggled his own.
"Hm." Manx pulled a folder out of the woman's briefcase hanging from her shoulder, setting it on the table between Aya and Omi. "There's your newest mission."
"Is there a tape?" Omi asked, wiping his hands on a napkin.
"No." This response caused the four assassins to glance at each other. "Everything you need is in this folder." She tapped it with a well manicured fingernail. Aya lifted the folder and opened it. The first thing was a plastic sheet of photographs. "Here's the case," she said to get everyone's attention. Aya closed the folder and the four turned to face her, breakfast forgotten for the moment.
"Last week a small war broke out between two cults: the Cult of Myrr and the Cult of the Stars. This is a very touchy mission, as both cults are highly religious." Manx gave a delicate shrug with one shoulder. "Religious reasons make for good excuses to keep people away from persecutions. You all remember Atani?" They nodded. Atani had gotten away with two murders because of religious factors. It had been a complicated mess, one none of them liked to think about.
"Innocent people are being murdered. We believe it is the Myrr who are committing these murders, but we cannot be positive. There is not enough evidence to put either cult away, not even enough to bring them under light of interrogation. All we know is this: they must be stopped. The Stars are trying to raise the 'twin stars' from the dead, and the Myrr are trying to raise their goddess, a woman they call Ara'miza. Whether or not they can actually do what they are aiming for remains unknown.
"You have one weeks in order to stop them. They are in the middle of a two week religious holiday right now, and on the final day they will try to raise their respective leaders to kill each other. In that folder you will find the names and places of the murdered victims. That is the only concrete information you will have to go off."
"That's it?" Omi asked incredulously.
"That's what I said, Bombay."
"They sound like a bunch of crack heads to me," Yohji muttered.
"How many murders?" Ken asked.
"Sixteen so far- two a day. The most recent two were killed just an hour ago. Remember your timeline. Stop these cults, even if it means wiping both groups out entirely. Is that understood?" Nods. "Now, who's in? Bombay?" A nod. "Siberian?" Same reaction. "Abyssinian?" He met her eyes in silent affirmative. "Balinese?"
"Are there any women eighteen or older?"
"There are women in the cults, but the victims so far have been only male. I would suggest you take this mission, Balinese. You might find yourselves needing all four on the job."
"If you put it that way…" He grinned. "Who can refuse such a pretty lady's request?"
She turned to leave. Omi stood. "Manx-san, would you like to bring some food back for you and Birman-san? We have plenty!"
"Omi made the bread himself," Ken put in.
Manx hesitated. Omi quickly put together a plate and covered it, handing it over. He fell in beside her to walk her to the door. "Two weeks will give us plenty of time," he assured her. "The biggest problem I see will be trying to shy around the religious things."
"Yes. Be careful." She paused and pointed to some of the sparkling decorations. "Those are pretty. Do you mind if I bring some back? Birman's office is looking plain." He reached up, freeing a few from their small hooks, and handed them over. She gave him a slight nod. "Arigato, Bombay."
"Enjoy your food!" He held the door open and she stepped out. As she headed away he closed the door and returned to the kitchen. Aya was going through the folder again. "What's in there?" Omi asked, taking his seat.
"Pictures. Names. Places." Aya set it on the table.
Omi picked up a loose picture, holding it up to gaze at it. The boy looked to be younger than him and was sprawled on a concrete floor. His eyes were wide open and full of fear. There was a cut on his forehead- the cut that had killed him. Omi lowered the picture, feeling queasy.
"This interrupts my girl hunting plans," Yohji muttered, disgusted.
Ken nodded in agreement. "What bad timing. I was supposed to help the kids with a game today."
"Quit your moaning," Aya told them flatly. "There are eight places and three of us. Ken will pick two and you and I will take three." When it seemed Yohji was about to protest, Aya fixed him with an icy glare.
"Arigato, Aya!" Ken said, relieved. "If I go quickly enough I'll get back in time for the game. So…just scope the place out and see what the family has to say, huh?"
Aya nodded. Omi took a sip of his drink. "After breakfast I'll begin researching, then, and see what I can find on the computer. Lets all meet back here at seven to compare notes, all right?" The others nodded.
"Now, Ken said brightly, "let's not let all this food go to waste!" With that, he dug in, and the others followed suit.