Daughters of Darkness III: Mia? (2/4)


Ryo groaned and staggered out of bed, trying his best not to go flying over a slumbering White Blaze’s back as he had so many other mornings. He couldn’t exactly place who was calling him out of bed at such an ungodly, early hour, but he knew he was gonna be VERY mad at them. The pounding of fists compounded growing anger, every blow hitting him like a cutting wound. He finally seized the doorknob and angrily tossed the door open. Before he could get out the angry profanities that lingered on the edge of his tongue, a massive figure shoved him aside and promptly slammed the door. Ryo staggered back slightly before glancing in the corner and finding his assailant cowering by the window. A wave of overjoyed confusion engulfed him.

“Kento!?” Ryo called, his happiness showing through his exhaustion.

“SSSHHHH!!!!” Kento hissed, keeping one eye on the window as he shushed his friend. White Blaze stood up and walked over to Kento, nuzzling his thigh and purring. “Go away!” he hissed again. “They’ll hear you!”


“The chickens!” Kento yelped it as if it were the most obvious answer in the world. “They’re after me! And if they hear you, they’ll go after both of us! You gotta help me hide!”

“I thought they ate you! You were just lying in the driveway and---....” Ryo just shook his head.

Kento smiled proudly. “I FOOLED ‘em! I let ‘em carry me back to their nest and ESCAPED!”

“I CARRIED you into the HOUSE!! You were DEAD!”

Kento shook his head wildly. “Nonononono. NO. I outwitted the chickens. I made ‘em THINK I was dead. Smart, huh?”

“I called your folks. I told ‘em you died! What’ll I tell them, that you escaped evil chickens?!”

“They’ll understand. Just keep your voi--Oh, God, they’re back!!” Kento peered anxiously out the window, a look of panic etched on him. “Ryo, don’t let ‘em eat me!! They have curry.”

Ryo stifled his impending laughter at the thought of Grilled Kento in Curry Sauce and tried to put on his best supportive expression. “I can’t really help you with this, man. Maybe if White Blaze sticks with you they’ll go away.”

“No, they’ll eat him, too! You gotta help me! They’re vicious!”

“Okay, okay. I doubt they can get into the house, so just stay inside, and you’ll be fine.”

“Can I stay in here? They can’t see in here,” Kento whimpered, peeking out the window. “My God, they’re huge.......” His left eye started to twitch.

Ryo grimaced slightly; he never really liked to share his room with bipeds, especially someone as slovenly as Kento--he EATS in BED, dammit. Still, it’s just wise not to refuse the requests of a man running in terror from giant purple chickens. “Uh.....sure,” Ryo reluctantly agreed. “But White Blaze is staying with you.”

“Okay, thanks,” Kento whispered, not looking away from the window.

Ryo just shook his head and left. Who in their right mind would be scared of giant purple man-eating chickens?

**You’ll be glad to know I’ve had a change of heart.**

+What? You won’t hurt them?+

**No, I won’t KILL them. I LIKE hurting them. This is FUN!**

+You sadist! Remember, you promised...+

**Of course. After these jokers, I won’t have to do anything.**

The back door slammed shut, and the sound of footsteps and loud smalltalk was audible in the kitchen. Mia glared as she glanced over her shoulder; couldn’t they enter the house in a more civil manner, without shouting at top volume? She grumbled deep in her throat and returned to her dishwashing. Ryo looked up from his tea and stared at her. He’d never heard her grumble before.

“Is it still red?” Rowen’s cheerful voice asked.

“Oh, yeah,” Sage Date sighed. “It was the left hand, wasn’t it?”

“Oh, YEAH. She always bitch-slaps with her left!”

“You know, maybe you wouldn’t KNOW that if you’d stop grabbing her skirt and snapping her bra.”

“Ugghh,” Mia grimaced. “What a pig.” She glared at Ryo. “Why aren’t YOU in school?”

“ ‘Cuz it’s vacation,” Ryo asked, his confusion showing. “We don’t have school for the rest of the week. Sage and Ro were in town.”

Mia forced a smile. “Of course. I forgot.”

“Mia, is something bothering you? You haven’t been acting yourself lately.”

“I’m fine. I’m just a little sick, that’s all.” Ryo stood up and placed his empty mug in the sink full of soiled, soapy water. “You have to give me more, don’t you?” Her voice was devoid of the good humor that he was accustomed to hearing in her sentiments. As a token of appeasement, he leaned over and gently kissed her cheek; she blushed slightly and smiled.

“I’ll finish this,” Ryo offered, draping the dish rag over his shoulder. “You should rest.”

**Your choice makes sense, sweetie. Don’t make me regret this.**

The television droned on with the day’s news. All of the important stuff was over, and all that was left to report on was the fluffy human interest stories that existed solely to eat up time. Rowen didn’t care; so long as he had his physics to complete, he’d be preoccupied. Sage, however, was a different story. He sneered at the television and grimaced with every word the bleached blonde anchorwoman squeaked. The last thing he needed to hear about was the nearing date of Sadie Hawkins Day; every girl in school would be stalking him, bugging him, stripping him both mentally and literally--he HATED it. He sighed and shook his head; as he glanced to the left, he saw Rowen suddenly look up and smile at him with a look he knew well--the look of a lovesick schoolgirl. His eyes shot open with an expression of pure alarm, and his stomach turned.

“Y’know, I’ve always liked you,” Rowen said in a timid voice he had never before used. Sage swallowed hard.

“Rowen...” Sage nervously started.

“No, I-I’m Allee. And since it’s Sadie Hawkins Day, and you’ll be busy, I just wanna do one thing.”

“Alle--MMMMPPHHHH!!!!” Sage tried to jump back, but he was too late. Rowen seized his face and locked him in a sickeningly passionate kiss, managing to invade his protesting mouth. He pushed him in vain, unable to break away; Rowen’s arms held him in too tight and protective an embrace. Sage studied his face as best he could--he was ENJOYING this. With that realization, he found the strength to shove his friend away. For a moment, he gasped for air before he had calmed down enough to address his assailant. “What were you DOING?!!”

Rowen started to hiccup little sobs and stare at Sage with doe-eyes. “You don’t like me?” he sniffled.

“What got into you?” Sage stammered, still not out of his shock. A bitch-slap against his cheek effectively did it.

“You’re nothing but a great big MEANIE!” Rowen sobbed as he dashed away into his room. Sage stood up and opened his mouth to protest, but a wash of pure nausea stopped him. He dashed off towards the nearest bathroom and slammed the door.

“Sage?” Ryo asked, pounding on the bathroom door. It had been at least an hour since he heard it slam, and he was justly concerned. “Are you okay?”

“Jush uh sekkuh...” Sage said, his mouth full of something. Ryo placed his ear to the door; he could hear brushing. He opened the door and found Sage at the sink, violently brushing his teeth. Two emptied bottles of Listerine, four rolled-up toothpaste tubes, a destroyed toothbrush, and a readied bottle of Lysol detergent sat within his reach. He spat into the sink and twisted his head under the running faucet, chugging the water; he looked up, water cascading down his face and soaking his shirt. It was quite the odd sight; Ryo couldn’t help but stare as Sage wiped his mouth on his sleeve. “Pass the Lysol,” he sighed.

Ryo yanked the bottle of Lysol behind his back and tried to hide his shock. “No!”

“C’mon, I need it. I gotta get rid of that TASTE...”

“What taste?”

“Rowen KISSED me!” Sage exclaimed, suddenly looking a little green. “Not even a little kiss--he FRENCHED me! He’s a nice guy and a good friend, but I’m NOT into that!”

“It’s okay,” Ryo said, safely tucking the Lysol away in the bathroom cupboard. “You should go lay do--”

“CHICKENS!!!!!!” Kento bellowed from behind a nearby closed door, terror gripping his words. “MY GOD, THEY’RE RIGHT OUTSIDE!!! THEY KNOW WHERE WE ARE!!!”

“SHUT UP!!!” Rowen whimpered, words soaked in sobs. “MY WORLD’S FALLING APART, AND YOU’RE SCREAMING ABOUT CHICKENS!! NO ONE CARES ABOUT ME!!” He deteriorated into whining sobs.

“They’re both in my room, aren’t they?” Ryo asked nervously. Sage just nodded sympathetically. “Damn.”

“QUIT CRYING!! THE CHICKENS’LL FIND US!!! SHUT UP!!!!” Kento shouted, both scared and angry. As he yelled, White Blaze slunk in and hid by Ryo’s side.

Ryo petted his tiger, sharing his anxiety with the equally nervous beast. “It’s okay. Sage, why don’t we get the speaker phone?”

“Hello?” Cye’s voice asked over the speaker phone. Ryo and Sage sat up.

“Hi, Cye?” Ryo asked. “Could you come home now?”

“And bring Hellspawn with you?” Sage added.

“Don’t you start calling her that! Is there a problem?”

“Uhm, yeah,” Ryo started. “Kento’s alive and deathly scared of giant chickens. Rowen’s sobbing hysterically in my room.”

“And he just tongue-kissed me,” Sage added. A snicker echoed over the phone. “It’s not funny! He thinks he’s a girl named Allee!”

“But, they’re not hurt, right? They’re both okay.”

“Define ‘okay’,” Sage grumbled. “Look, there’s just general oddness around here AGAIN, and we KNOW who’s at the root of this, so send her back here and make it stop before someone gets hurt.”

“NO. I have a nice evening planned and an even nicer rest of the week, so I’m NOT leaving.”

In the background of the opposite end, Ayame’s voice asked, “Cye, who’s on the ph--.......What are you wearing?”

“This? It’s just my subarmor,” Cye answered meekly.

“I like it,” Ayame purred.

Cye laughed nervously. “Uhm....guys.....I’ll call you tomorrow.” The call ended abruptly, and Ryo and Sage sat around the droning of an off-the-hook speaker phone.

Sage pounded the “redial” button with no effect. “Dammit, he disconnected us...” he muttered. “What now?” Ryo thought long and hard--as long as he could before the panic started.

“BACK!!” Kento shouted frantically; the sound of breaking glass sent an adrenaline rush through Ryo’s body. “BACK!! I’M GONNA DEEP FRY YA IF YA COME ANY CLOSER!!” The underscore of Rowen’s high-pitched weeping didn’t do much to soothe his nerves.

“I’ll be right back,” Ryo blurted before he sprinted back towards the bedroom. He frantically yanked on the doorknob, but it refused to budge--it was locked and jammed. “Kento, what are you doing in there?! Open the door!!”

“THAT’S JUST WHAT THEY WANT!! I CAN’T!!” The sounds of further destruction tore into Ryo’s mind, and he visibly winced with every din. It was going to be a LOOOOONNNNNGGGG night.

“Hey, Ryo,” Kento’s familiar voice said in the darkness, no longer screaming maniacally at imaginary chickens. “Wake up, buddy.”

Ryo flickered his eyes open from a sound sleep and found himself....... restrained. He was no longer on the sofa or in his pajamas; instead, he was in old street clothes and tethered down to an antiquated wooden table by a system of leather straps and rusted chains. His friends loomed over him, all smiling wickedly. A surge of pure dread raced through his body. He started to struggle a little, but the leather proved too tight and the chains too painful. His friends almost seemed to be enjoying his distress; he shuddered, suddenly cold.

“Is he awake?” Cye asked; since when had he come home?

“Looks like it,” Kento answered. The two shared a pair of wicked, cold grins. “That should make it more fun.”

“What?” Ryo asked, looking up. A hard swat hit his side, leaving a red, aching gash in his flesh and tearing his shirt; he yelped in pain, eliciting a string of cruel grins from his surrounding friends. He scanned the group, unable to find who exactly hit him.

“No talking!” a familiar voice echoed in the abyss. The four young men bowed in obedience.

“Mia?” Ryo called out, confused. Another hit tore into him. “.......Why?”

“Mia isn’t here anymore,” the voice said. “It’s just me and my little assistants now. You don’t have much longer here, child.”

“What are you talking about?” Ryo braced himself as another hit cut him, his face a pained grimace of restraint. “Who are you?”

“Mother Night sent me a while ago.” In perfect synchronization, the guys knelt down in deep reverence. “I have your compatriots, and soon I’ll have you. This Mia of yours can only hide you from Mother so long. Gentlemen?”

Ryo peered up as his friends returned to their feet, now holding rusted and stained knives. “Guys, what are you--....” They raised the knives over his body in an almost ritual stiffness, their eyes glowing with an inhuman light that sent him into another fit of futile struggles despite his pain. “Guys?!” he almost shrieked, his fear too apparent. The satisfied grins returned to their faces as the knives dove at his unprotected chest. He closed his eyes and screamed; a few tears flew from his eyes as he winced.

“Ryo!!” Sage’s frantic voice shouted as he shook Ryo’s shoulder. Ryo’s eyes shot open, and he instinctively checked his chest for knife wounds. A quick scan of his surroundings found him back on the sofa in his cotton pajamas, and Sage was kneeling at his side, devoid of the menace he had so silently held in his dream. “There’s a problem with the others.”

“What?” Ryo moaned, still not entirely within his surroundings.

“They’re not here anymore.”

Cye stood on the sands, admiring the setting sunlight as it reflected off the ebbing tide. The evening breeze caressed his serene face, and he smiled at the quiet girl in his arms. Ayame closed her eyes and rested her head against him with a gentle nuzzle; she clutched his hands with hers, even though his were covered in his subarmor. The two silently agreed--there was nothing that could destroy this moment.

“You don’t mind my armor?” Cye asked, catching Ayame’s attention.

“Well, the pointy stuff scares me, but this is nice,” Ayame mused, stroking his arms ever so lightly.

“Stop that,” he nervously laughed. He stared out at the crimson sun as it was swallowed by the waves. “Your turn. How old are you?”

“This is.......... COMPLICATED.”

“I don’t mind. It’s not like anything’s urgent right now.”

“Alright. Bear with me, please. This body is sixteen years old, and that’s what you know as Ayame. That’s the name Aaron gave me, but it’s not my real name. My real name is Venefica, and.........I’m........” She bit her lip and whimpered. “I’m over three thousand years old. But I’m not Venefica anymore,” she hastily explained. “She’s the demon, so she’s not in me. She’s with Mother Night--that’s the mother of my line.”

Cye pulled his arms away from Ayame and slowly twirled her around to look her in the eyes; he almost seemed angry. “You’re THREE THOUSAND years old,” he dully echoed.

“OVER three thousand years old, but that’s only as Venefica, and I’m NOT Venefica anymore.” Ayame looked at her feet, trying to avoid his gaze. “I really should go now.”

“No.” Cye grabbed her arms and held her in place; she jerked once with a backwards step--a token sign of resistance. “Tell me if I get anything wrong. You’re NOT really Ayame, and you’re NOT sixteen. You’re REALLY Venefica, and you’re OVER a few thousand years old?” Ayame nodded. “But NOW you’re not Venefica, because she’s the demon, and you’re not a demon anymore.”

“That’s it.”

“Where’s Venefica?”

Ayame sighed and stalled, failing to hide her anxiety. “I......don’t know. She’s probably with Mother, so we really shouldn’t worry.”

“Well, that explains........”

“Why I’ve ruined everyone’s lives?”

“I wouldn’t phrase it that way...” Cye looked away to the sand dunes and grew confused as a pair of figures scaled their minuscule heights. “What’s he doing here?” he muttered to himself.

“Cye!!!” Kento cheerfully shouted as he approached. He was disheveled and tired, yet he displayed a triumphant smile. “We escaped! We ESCAPED!!” he bellowed, his words almost drowning out the moaning surf.

“From WHAT?” Cye asked.

“Ryo! He’s leaving us in there for the chickens.” Cye stared blankly, prompting the need to elaborate. “The big, hungry, purple chickens.”

Cye smiled, trying to humor him. “Oh, THOSE chickens. Good thing you escaped.”

“Yeah, I mean, I was just locked in there and told to stay in there by Ryo, and he didn’t care if the chickens got me, so I came by train. They CAN’T TAKE the train!”

Cye smiled politely and nodded before turning his attention to the second visitor. “Hi, Rowen.”

Rowen cocked his head and wrinkled up his nose. “Do I LOOK like a ‘Rowen’?” he snipped in a girlishly sarcastic voice. “I’m ALLEE, okay?”

Cye’s smile completely faded. “No--....y--......ah--......... Why are you here?”

“ ‘Cuz Sage is a big JERK! I asked him out, and he runs off looking at me like I’m.......HIM!!” He pointed sharply at Kento. “So I just wanted to get away.”

“Okay...” Cye turned back to Ayame, who witnessed the entire spectacle with visible alarm. “I guess we should go home.” She nodded frantically.

**Mother wants that one back....Is there any way I can get him?**

+I’m not telling.+

**Fine, then, I’ll take your little sweetie.**

+No! You agreed you wouldn’t hurt him!+

**I KNOW, and I don’t WANT to hurt him, but if you don’t tell me how to reach that last guy, I’ll have no choice BUT to.**

+You don’t want to hurt Ryo?+

**......No. I don’t like to see THAT kind of pain.**

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