It was Denjo’s idea to wait until sunset to proceed with any plan of action due to the fact that he couldn’t stand the light and I couldn’t take much of the Earthen summer heat. That seemed perfectly logical until I realized that I had to linger around Denjo’s strange, barren mansion hideout for the rest of the day. I hadn’t lingered around and twiddled my thumbs for an entire day probably ever. The LYS always gave me something to focus on from the moment I arrived on Earth. I was constantly busy throwing myself into quests and missions to get me to the Gold Rank I was at currently.
Needless to say, the next eight hours were the most awkward and uneventful moments of my life. Denjo offered me the same guest room that I had “slept” in last night, but there was nothing up there but a bed and an empty closet to stare at. I laid down on the bed for a few hours to catch up on some rest, but I never actually fell into a deep sleep. It was just an irritating string of light naps that didn’t really satisfy my lack of energy.
Back at the LYS, when there were no quest tags readily available, I usually spent my spare time in the training dojos or at target practice. Even though I had only seen a portion of this empty mansion, I assumed that there had to be some place to hone fighting skills or at least release some pent up aggression physically.
I left my torn jacket on the guest room bed before I tiptoed downstairs to search for Denjo. I was conscientious of stepping lightly so my boots wouldn’t scuff the marble floors beneath me. As I made my way down the hall, I turned right towards the kitchen. I passed by the sink where my single bowl and spoon from this morning were drying before I declared that no one was here. It made me ponder why Denjo lived in such an elegant place all by himself. There were no dishes of his own lying out to dry like mine. Everything was neat and tidy, as if it hadn’t been used in years. Why did Denjo need such a large living space if he was all alone? What was the point of it all? Had someone lived here alongside him before?
I moved forward towards the next room, which appeared to be some large living area with several couches and tables. A grand piano was off in the corner of the room with the lid shut over it. I walked around the large white rug that was lying on the floor to keep everything as clean as possible.
After exiting the living room area, I found myself walking down another elongated hallway that branched off into several different rooms. There was a room specifically designed for washing clothes, a library room full of several tall bookshelves that lined all of the walls, a quiet study room with a single desk and chair inside, an elegant bathroom larger than the guest room upstairs, and a mysterious door at the end of the hallway that would not open.
If I was really curious, I probably could have easily crafted an ice sword strong enough to impale the wood and break down the door. But I didn’t want to come off as nosey or obnoxious, so I simply turned around to walk to the other side of the mansion.
“I see you’ve explored the east side of my home,” Denjo smirked.
Instinctively, I leaped backward a few feet, not expecting him to have been right behind me. Had he been following me this whole time?
“Holy Janaiah, what in the-” my face flushed bright red, realizing that I had let him see me flinch. I was a soldier and a Gold Ranked LYS member, and one thing I took absolute pride in was the ability to stay calm and collected. Now that had all been shattered in a small moment of vulnerability.
“Would you cut it out with the whole disappearing and then reappearing behind me type of foolery? It is not appreciated,” I scoffed.
Denjo’s smug look had lingered on his face before he apologized.
“I’m sorry for frightening you.”
“I wasn’t ‘frightened,’ you just… caught me off guard,” I pouted irritably.
“It appeared as if you were searching for something?” Denjo suggested, trying to change the subject of our conversation.
“Oh, uh, yeah… It’s still light out, and I can’t sleep. So… I was curious about where you train in your free time.”
“Yeah, like work out? Punch and kick things to hone your physical capabilities? That kind of thing?” I reiterated.
“Oh, right. I practice on the trees and stumps that surround my home, but only while the sun cycle is active on the opposite side of Earth. It appears as if it is still bright outside, so I wouldn’t advise doing that due to your… temperature needs,” Denjo explained.
I lowered my eyebrows in suspicion of the way he spoke about me. Clearly he did not understand the ice angelic race. But then again, I didn’t really understand his dark angelic race either. Nevertheless, I brushed it off and took a deep sigh. In this whole entire building structure, there was no proper place built for training. How inconvenient.
It was after a longer moment of silence occurred between us that I began to notice Denjo’s appearance more closely. He had changed out of his old torn clothes from this morning into a newer black jacket and plain gray shirt underneath. However, this jacket seemed to have been specifically designed for an angel like him, since his large Guardian wings were neatly displayed behind his back instead of folded up inside the jacket. The ring that hung around his right horn had disappeared, and his stringy hair appeared a lot more soft and well groomed than before. He must’ve cleaned himself up while I was trying to sleep.
“Well then…” I trailed off, “What is there to do until nightfall?” I inquired, hoping I might be able to spark back up our conversation from before.
“Usually, I read books from the library,” Denjo said.
I huffed in annoyance, realizing that he wasn’t thinking the same things I was thinking.
“Would you like to browse more thoroughly through the library? Most of it is Earthen literature, but if you can understand the written English language, some of it is intriguing.”
“I’m not really a bookworm…” I admitted. “Well, at least not in English, but I highly doubt you have anything in Janian.”
“I’m assuming that’s your native tongue?” Denjo asked.
“Uh, yeah…” I mumbled. “What, um… what is your native language?” I managed to ask. It was very apparent that I was trying too hard to be friendly with him.
“Wouldn’t you like to know,” Denjo smirked, evidently noticing my awkwardness.
I averted my gaze from his smug looking face as I felt my own embarrassment set in. The knowledge of him and his Caelestic kind was interesting, but I wasn’t going to beg for him to answer my questions. I could always do my own research on him when I returned to the LYS.
Before I could even try to spark up more unnatural conversation between us, Denjo turned around and traveled into the library room on the left. I discreetly hurried after him, wondering what he was going to do. As I stepped inside, I expected him to only be a few feet in front of me. However, upon entering the room, I gawked at the sight of him already hovering on the opposite side of the library. He was floating near one of the taller bookshelves and appeared as if he was looking for something specific.
Nervously, I fanned out my own set of wings to flutter up towards him. Each flap closer to him made me notice how large his wings really were compared to mine. His fanned in and out with such ease and grace. Each feather swung smoothly like crescent moons in perfect unison with the next. The majestic flow of such dark, healthy looking feathers was perplexing to me. I was almost jealous, yet somehow frightened by how unnatural they looked.
“Here,” Denjo said, which broke my gaze from his Guardian wings. My eyes shot down quickly, hoping he hadn’t noticed my staring before I brought them back up to meet his. His hands were extended out towards me with a thick, leather book grasped between them.
“What is that?” I asked, hesitant to take the book into my own hands.
“It’s a book to read while we wait for the sun to set.”
“That thing looks like three dictionaries folded into one.”
Denjo pushed the book further towards my hands. “It will interest you, just give it a glance,” he insisted.
A wave of confusion lingered on my face as I gradually took the book out of Denjo’s hands. It was lighter than I expected it to be, but the dust that had seeped into the front and back cover coated all of my fingertips making it hard to hold on to. I brushed the dust off from my hands onto my pant legs before I hovered down to the ground and steadied myself. Upon opening the first page, I noticed that the writing was in a language I did not understand. It looked like an ancient scripture of some sort if I had to guess from the font and ink used.
Denjo fluttered down next to me to look over my shoulder. I glanced up at him, even more, perplexed than before. As I went to turn the next page, I noticed Denjo’s hand move behind my back. His fingers gently gripped onto a single feather on my left wing, which then caused me to pull away from him instinctively. The abrupt movement yanked the feather out from my wing, causing me to retract them both behind me. I suppressed a yelp and glared at Denjo angrily.
“What are you trying to do?” I growled. “You can’t just do things without explaining what you’re doing first! Keep your hands to yourself!”
It took Denjo a second to process what I was saying since he didn’t respond for a long moment. His face almost looked embarrassed for a second before it quickly faded away.
“I’m sorry,” he began. “If you want the book to translate itself into a language you understand, it needs a portion of your DNA to absorb and process.”
I squinted at him with suspicion in my eyes. “Books can’t perform such a task. This thing is made of some type of plant or wood.”
Denjo seemed amused by my confusion for a moment. He flipped to the next page in the book to show me what he was talking about. The page looked less like ancient paper and more so like a hollow opening. Inside the book was a deep, onyx shaded feather, which I could only assume was Denjo’s. Hesitantly, I grabbed a hold of the feather and brought it closer to my face to inspect it. However, once the feather left the box, all of the writing on the page suddenly vanished. My eyes grew wide in horror and astoundment.
“What… what is…?” I muttered, now nervous to be holding such a strange book of what I could only assume was magic. I placed Denjo’s feather back in the box, and the words gracefully wrote themselves back onto the page effortlessly.
Denjo then offered my own plucked feather to place inside the hollow opening. Anxiously, I made the exchange and took my own feather from his hand. Upon placing my DNA into the mysterious book, olden Janian scripture began to write itself on the page. I flipped through the first half of the pages, wondering if every word had been translated, and found it to be true. This sorcery made me nearly drop the book onto the floor, but I adjusted my grip and blinked a few times to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating.
I was tempted to read the words aloud, but I was so in awe of seeing the written Janian language that my mouth hung open pointlessly. At the same time, my mind was subconsciously translating the Janian words into English which made it difficult to read at a normal pace. I could barely even process the words that I was reading in my head.
“Historical Narratives of the ‘Kah-lee-sy-stic’ Planet…?” I translated into English, the one language that we both understood.
Denjo glanced over at the words I just read, puzzled by my pronunciations. “I’m assuming there is no word in your language for ‘Caelestis.’” he laughed softly.
“Or your book isn’t as magical as you thought it was,” I grinned, trying to brush off my embarrassment.
“Does it at least interest you?” Denjo retorted.
“Yes, actually…” I admitted. “But I don’t understand why you would entrust me with this kind of information. You’re a rogue, and I’m assuming you’d want to stay a rogue for the remainder of your time here on Earth. What makes you think I won’t just translate all of this and enter it into a database for my chief to read up on later?”
“I don’t really mind if that happens. Nothing in that book specifically mentions my existence on Caelestis or Earth, so I’m safe from your chief. Plus, you would be breaking your own deal if you mentioned my whereabouts once you leave here.”
“Huh…” I trailed off, realizing he made some good points. I didn’t actually plan on handing this information over to the LYS since they would probably wonder where I obtained the book from. But it was interesting to know Denjo’s precautions about giving me the book.
The next few hours were spent translating poorly written Janian into English with the help of Denjo’s previous knowledge of the book every now and then. The first few chapters I read explained what Denjo had already told me a few hours ago. Caelestic Angels were a pure-blooded race, but did not act upon the purity scale. Their existence was hidden from other angelic societies in fear that they would be targeted and killed off. Half of their planet was inhabited by “standard” dark angels, while the rest was protected by the Dark Guardian Angels. One chapter even went on to explain how highly respected and glorious these Dark Guardians were, and how their wingspan outmatched even the purest of angels from planets outside the Allcarius galaxy.
It wasn’t until the fifth chapter that I began to learn new information. The text spoke about a Dark Guardian Angel’s purpose, and after years of extensive angelic training, a soul would be assigned to the Guardian by their council at 18 years of age. This soul could be from any planet in any galaxy, and it would be that Guardian’s life duty to travel and watch over that soul until it passed on into the afterlife. Once their services were no longer needed, Guardians were expected to travel back to Caelestis and reproduce one single offspring to keep their family bloodline alive.
At this point, I stopped asking for Denjo’s help in translating since I could fill in some of the blanks. But I glanced up at him after finishing the chapter to wonder what happened to him and the soul he was supposed to protect. Denjo must have noticed my staring as he then glanced up at me with a muddled look on his face.
“Do you need help with a word?” he asked.
“No, I…” I trailed off, not knowing what to say to him. This topic clearly made him uncomfortable before, so I didn’t want to bring it back up again.
“I guess I’m just on information overload,” I fibbed, closing the book and placing it snuggly in my arms. “It appears as if the sun has set,” I pointed out, gesturing towards the windows that displayed a portion of the outside atmosphere. “Maybe we should release the Aejin?”
Denjo eyed the windows and noticed how dim the sky had become. He stood up from his seat and placed the book he was reading back on one of the shelves. “Perhaps you’re right,” he said. He looked down at the book in my arms and offered to put it back on the shelf for safe keeping. I handed it over to him and exited the library. Once Denjo returned the book, he caught up with me outside of the room.
The two of us made our way to the outside of the mansion, and Denjo led me over to a tree that stood right next to the side of his home. The branches hung in just a way that allowed any woodland creatures to climb up onto the roof if they so pleased. But the main purpose of being in the tree was to keep watch for the Aejin’s escape. Denjo motioned for me to climb up the tree as he came closer to the house to flip a switch on a side panel. I gracefully swung myself upwards to find a good hiding spot amongst the leaves, while Denjo magically teleported beside me. I repressed a sharp gasp, forgetting that he could do that.
“How long does your flight endurance last?” Denjo whispered.
“I… I don’t know? A few hours, maybe?” I replied back softly.
Denjo nodded at my response, seeming okay with that answer. I turned my gaze away from him to watch the house. At any moment, the Aejin would notice his opportunity to escape and flee the scene. Or so I thought that would be the case…
I waited with anticipation for a good five minutes, leaning forward on the thick branch beneath me with eyes tracking the ground back and forth. The blood in my legs wasn’t circulating very well, so I adjusted my position in the tree as quietly as I could. Denjo shot a peculiar glance at me, telling me to sit still with the look in his eyes.
Seconds later, the both of us turned our heads towards a rustling sound near the side of the house. I stiffened my position on the tree and scanned around the area frantically. Before I could process any noticeable movements, Denjo had already dropped out of the tree and onto the grass. He took a large leap forward before his wings extended outwards and lifted him off the ground. I couldn't spend too much time being dumbfounded, so I jumped out of the tree and followed directly behind him.
The two of us flew a few hundred feet straight upwards before we began tracking the supposed Aejin. I squinted at the ground beneath us, but I couldn't locate the creature very easily.
“What are we after? I don't see him,” I asked.
“It has transformed. You can see it near the group of flat rocks over there,” Denjo explained, pointing to his left.
I glanced over to where Denjo was gesturing and spotted a dark set of wings in the distance. After looking more closely, I realized that the Aejin had transformed into an identical replica of Denjo. The same dark feathers, stringy black hair and loose grey jacket. I didn’t understand why the creature would want to look like its captor, but at least now I could keep a close eye on it as we soared.
We didn't have much trouble chasing after it for the first ten minutes. It was smooth sailing while we made a conscious effort to keep our distance so he wouldn't notice our presence. However, once we reached a heavier forested area of the woods, things became complicated.
Denjo’s wingspan was too wide to fit in between the trees, so he was forced to hover above the forest to prevent injury to his wings. Without much time to discuss what to do, I decided to stay below the tree coverage to keep an eye on the Aejin look-alike. I tucked my wings inward to protect them from the stray branches that stuck out from their tree trunks.
As I quickened my pace, I could feel the wind pull through my hair and cool off the back of my neck. That was one of the many advantages of having short hair - it never hindered my performance. A warrior could never be distracted by frivolous things such as her looks, and I didn't really think long hair was attractive anyways.
The trees ahead of me grew thick and turbulent, causing me to slow my pace to a calm glide. In order to keep up with the Aejin, I had to swerve in several directions to avoid sharp bladed branches. The aftermath of the setting sun finally dimmed to a dark blue, making it even harder to see what I was doing. After a few branches jabbed at my outer feathers, I swung down near the ground to avoid any serious damage. At this height, I was nearly eye-level with the fake Denjo. Once we reached a clearing in the trees, I pushed off the ground and shot upwards to bring myself back to the real Denjo.
“How far does this forest extend?” I asked as I came closer to Denjo so I wouldn’t have to yell.
“Based on the direction this creature is traveling, we’re going to be here for a while. It's heading out towards the main city.”
I blinked a few times, surprised by his response. An Aejin congregation had been hiding out near the city this whole time, and I never located it? What did that say about me as an LYS agent? Or more importantly, what did that say about the LYS organization as a whole? Not a single member had successfully located an Aejin cluster for the entirety of my time here on Earth. I felt a knot tie itself in the pit of my stomach.
The next hour or so was uneventful. Once the trees tapered out, I could feel my wings begin to ache and grow heavy. Residing on a semi-peaceful planet had set back my flight endurance quite a bit so that I might have overestimated my abilities. Nevertheless, I kept on despite the aching and focused in on watching the Aejin’s movements. Now that the trees were out of his way, the Aejin used his fake angel wings to lift himself off of the ground.
“Wait, what?” I muttered.
“What is it?” Denjo asked, turning his head towards me.
“Aejins can shapeshift… but all of their powers are still their own. They can’t adapt any abilities without soul-linking.”
“Maybe Aejins have evolved since the last time you dealt with them?” Denjo suggested.
“That’s not…” I trailed off, forgetting to finish my thought. Without taking much time to think, I swooped downward to reach the ground. Denjo followed my lead, confused by what I was doing. We both had stuck a rough landing before I turned to face him. “If we’re all in flight, it’ll be easier for him to spot us.
“You seem troubled,” Denjo pointed out, clearly ignoring the situation at hand.
I didn’t know how to respond to his concern, so I ignored him and began trailing the Aejin from the ground. Even though he didn’t know me very well, Denjo was fairly skilled at sensing the emotions in others. And he was right; I was concerned about the Aejin. There was no way that the Aejin race had adapted the gift of flight within the last seven years - it was impossible. That Aejin was a soul-linked one, controlling someone’s body against their will and using them for their wings. I clenched my teeth and swallowed hard, trying to rid myself of the lump forming in the back of my throat. This whole situation was absolutely sickening.
After walking for a few minutes, I began to realize how warm this planet actually was. At least while flying, I could enjoy a cool breeze. Here on the ground, I could feel the heat emitting from the Earth’s crust. The soil beneath my boots was soft and cakey, so I had to use more effort to trudge along at an appropriate pace. But no matter how fast I went, Denjo always remained two steps ahead of me. It was beginning to irritate me.
When the two of us finally reached the outskirts of the city, the Aejin landed to avoid drawing attention to himself. Denjo and I slowed our pace so he couldn’t sense our presence nearby. As soon as we stepped onto the streets of the city, a surge of confidence flowed through my body. I finally recognized my surroundings and no longer needed to rely on trusting Denjo as my source of navigation.
We trailed the look-alike for nearly 20 blocks before he took a sharp turn down an unfamiliar alleyway. However, when Denjo and I went to turn down to follow him, we both slapped up against an invisible barrier. I stumbled backward and rubbed my forehead irritably.
“What in the…?” I mumbled, confused by what had just happened. Denjo took a step back to assess the situation.
“It appears to be some kind of force field…” Denjo muttered as he placed his hands on the hidden wall. His finger tips began to release some of the dark plasma particles that he had used before, but they quickly dissipated into thin air. This seemed to frustrate Denjo.
“There are very few surfaces that are impervious to dark energy….” he murmured. “Of course this has to be one of them.”
I stepped forward and shot a beam of ice in a diagonal pattern to avoid backfire, which was much appreciated when the ice reflected right off the barrier and smacked into a street light. “I guess my ice is useless as well,” I noted as I pressed my lips together. I placed my hand on the invisible barrier and let out a long sigh. Was this the end of the line? Had we just let an Aejin go for no reason? Had we really been outsmarted?
I didn’t have much time to digest anything or figure out what to do before I spotted a faint figure emerging from the inaccessible alleyway. My feet shuffled back and I prepared myself for a fight, but Denjo didn’t seem too worried about whatever was coming our way. As the being loomed out of the darkness, I could finally put a face to the figure. He was tall, maybe just a few inches shorter than Denjo, and had bright blue spiky hair sticking up on his head. I couldn’t tell if he was an Aejin or just a regular human, but the sweat dripping down his forehead told me that he was in a panicked state of mind.
Once he locked eyes with mine, he began to slow his pace down to a halt. From the looks of it, I could only assume he was lost and confused. But then again, it all could have been some ploy to put our guards down.
“I don’t… mean any harm…” he panted, heavily out of breath.
“Empty your pockets,” I growled, not falling for his helpless demeanor.
Without any hesitation, the guy pulled his pockets inside out and unclenched his fists to show us his empty palms. He even unzipped his own jacket to show us that nothing was in his possession. I scrunched my eyebrows together in suspicion, still not completely convinced that this guy was innocent. But as I glanced at his hands, I noticed navy tinted blood stains on his knuckles. Maybe he wasn’t a threat after all…
“Where did you come from? What is this barrier that is separating us?” I asked, nearly interrogating the man.
“I… I don’t really know where I am and I don’t know what barrier you’re talking about,” he explained. “Who are you? Where are we?”
“Step forward,” Denjo said, ignoring the guy’s questions.
“What, why?” he asked, befuddled by Denjo’s commands.
“Just do it, and then we can determine if you are trustworthy.”
The man stepped forward shakily, putting one foot slowly in front of the other. After about seven steps, he came into contact with the invisible wall that stopped him from coming any further. “Wh-what is this…?”
I could feel relief spill over my body at the sight of this guy not being able to pass through the barrier. With the events that had occurred within these last two days, it was hard to tell who was worth trusting and who wasn’t. At least this guy wasn’t an Aejin.
“What’s your name?” I asked in a more friendly tone of voice.
“How should I know that you two are trustworthy? You didn’t answer my questions when I asked,” he defended, stepping back from the barrier.
“Well, we can’t pass through this barrier either. Apparently only Aejins can. Look,” I explained as I placed my hand on what seemed like nothing. I pushed my body against it to further prove that I was telling the truth. Denjo copied my actions to give this guy some confidence in us. “My name is Sakura Myuniva, and I am a member of the L.Y.S. Do you need help? How did you get here?”
The man’s demeanor suddenly changed as soon as I introduced myself. “I was captured by an Aejin and brought underground before I was able to break free… My sister and I split up, and now I need to get back to the L.Y.S. building to warn the Elite’s of this Aejin’s location. But, I guess I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.”
“Wait, so you’re an L.Y.S. member as well? Why don’t I recognize you?” I asked.
“My name is Zeta, and I’m pretty new to the organization. I’m only a Bronze ranked member… But my sister was the one who got us into this Aejin mess. I just kind of went along with it to keep an eye on her, but now I can’t even help either of us.”
“Well…” I hesitated to look at Denjo, wondering what he was thinking. He was a Guardian after all, so I could only assume that he felt sympathetic for Zeta and his situation. But being that he was a rogue, I couldn’t tell if he was willing to get involved with the L.Y.S. or not. “I will help you; I’ll figure something out.”
“And how are you going to do that?” Denjo asked as he glanced over the impenetrable barrier.
“I… I’ll ask for help from the LYS. I’m certain this barrier is not an Aejin ability, it looks like an adapted power. Possibly wizardry or something similar… Just, standby until I come back. And wait to see if any Aejins come in or out. We’re not going to let this opportunity slip through our fingers…” I said.
“Sakura…” Denjo hesitated to glance over at Zeta before he turned his gaze back to me. “Don’t bring an army.”
“I won’t; I promise,” I reassured him before I turned around and took flight. I knew Denjo wasn’t comfortable with my plan or with being around LYS members, but we didn’t really have a choice. Besides, I had just the wizard in mind who would be perfect for the job.