|The Angel and the Reaper
Author: Miyako Nakamura PM
Intertwined with the clear rain were streams of red...Rated: Fiction T - English - Supernatural/Fantasy - Chapters: 5 - Words: 8,950 - Reviews: 7 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 03-03-13 - Published: 11-10-12 - id: 3073154
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Autumn came in a gust of wind, chasing away the warm temperatures and sunshine. Oxana lamented over the impending death of her little garden, but at least now she had Azriel's education to occupy herself with over the winter. As much as he insisted it was a pointless endeavor, she instated that graduation from the Schule would open new doors of opportunity for him. He was lucky, she'd say, to have the chance to overcome the misfortunes of his life thus far and make something better for himself than most orphans ever could.
That's how he came to be at the Schule on his own in the beginning of September. Other students hurried about around him, knowing where they were going and what to expect throughout another year at the Schule. Azriel was able to quickly figure out where it was he was supposed to go, and it took only a couple hours worth of lectures for him to admit that Oxana was right. He was ignorant of nearly everything. The day wore on with increasing dread like he was sinking into a deep hole. This can't have been where he was supposed to be, but he couldn't recall any hint to the contrary.
During the lunch hour he wandered about exploring the Schule's many corridors. He finally ended up in front of a large fireplace in what was the central hall of the great castle. Above the fireplace's mantel was a metal crest crossed with swords. Chandeliers hung high above. The ceiling was so high in fact that the corridors on two floors above overlooked the great hall, a carved marble railing and columns creating a balcony.
The fire was warm, and Azriel stood directly in front of it. The Schule would only get colder as winter set in. As he thought over the events of the morning, he suddenly felt like he was being watched, and a quick glance over his left shoulder confirmed his suspicion.
On the second floor someone stood, looking down at Azriel. It was a young man dressed in red and black whose blond hair hung over his eyes, obscuring his face. Azriel wondered how long he'd been there, watching. He made no movement until he was approached by a young woman. She had a small build, draped perfectly by her deep red dress, a black parasol in one hand. Her whole appearance seemed rather dark for a schoolgirl, and she seemed more like an ethereal creature.
"Jae, guess…" Her loud voice echoed as she was cut off. The young man, Jae, had clasped a hand over her mouth, but still did not look away from the figure on the floor below. Azriel turned and stared back.
The girl turned her head away from Jae's hand. Thick black hair cascaded past her shoulders in waves and curls and perfectly framed her delicate face. Azriel's eyes met hers and they stared in silence, her eyes wide in surprise and curiosity until Jae grabbed her arm, breaking their gaze.
"Come on, Lucretia," he said, leading Lucretia away by the arm down the hall and out of sight.
Azriel remained, unsure of neither what had just happened nor how he felt about it. He considered going after them, for nothing than to ask the man what his problem was, but decided better of it.
He spent the rest of the day in a daze. He didn't even try focusing on his remaining lectures, and it wasn't until the end of the day that he stopped thinking about that unusual couple. He was stopped by Professor von Offhausen on the way out of the history lesson. As the rest of the class left, Azriel walked over to the Professor's desk.
Von Offhausen shuffled through a couple books and took off his glasses before addressing Azriel.
"Herr Zelinske," he began. Azriel didn't say anything. Professor von Offhausen waited a few moments before continuing.
"It is by…shall I say a favor," he said, "that you have been allowed into this grade level."
Von Offhausen nodded. "Most of us, the professors that examined you, thought it would be wise to enter you at a lower grade level. Professor Meiritz however thought it would be a humiliation and had you placed among your peers," he clarified.
Azriel nodded, not entirely sure what von Offhausen was talking about, but it seemed to be the appropriate reaction. Meiritz…that was the professor Oxana spoke with privately, wasn't it? Azriel wondered if it was really her behind this grade level business.
"I wanted you to be aware," von Offhausen continued, "that you should not expect any babying from me. Despite what Meiritz may think whether or not you can keep up here…that will be up to you."
Azriel remained silent. Von Offhausen sighed, and put his glasses back on.
"I can offer you extra assistance within reason however." He picked up another book and dismissed Azriel with a wave of his hand. "That is all! You may go."
Azriel nodded again and left the hall as quickly as he could without running. The entire exchange was very odd, but Azriel decided not to worry too much about it. He passed through the central hall on his way out of the Schule. The fire was burning out now, as all the students had left for home already. He continued out the front doors and down into the valley without pausing. He had mostly forgotten about the two students who'd been staring at him until he caught a glimpse of them as he entered the town.
"Hey! Hey you!"
Azriel turned to see the blond Jae chasing after him, his female companion Lucretia following close behind. Azriel stopped, quite surprised by the sudden approach. It was quite a turn from just staring from a distance.
"You're the one living with Oxana, aren't you?" Jae asked.
"And you are…?" Azriel was taken aback by the fact that this Jae clearly knew who he was, and yet they had not been formally introduced, nor had he even seen this couple before this day. He wondered just how much of a reputation preceded him.
"Jae, Lucretia." Jae motioned with his head towards the girl. She had stepped forward and offered her hand.
"Lucretia Hartmann," she had started before her hand was knocked aside by Jae.
"What are you doing?" he hissed at her. She merely shrugged and looked down at her boots.
Jae looked back at Azriel. "You're not actually related to Oxana, right? She's awfully old."
"She's not old at all," Azriel countered.
"If that's what you like…"
"She's not older than 30," Azriel said, completely oblivious to Jae's insinuation.
"I see how it is."
"Jae, knock it off," Lucretia hit his arm.
Azriel turned to go, not at all enjoying this encounter. To his dismay, Jae followed asking questions like "What's your name? Where are you from? What are you doing here?" Azriel remained silent. He'd have preferred just being stared at to being assaulted by this highly annoying and persistent person. After a couple blocks Jae gave up on the questions and shoved Azriel into the side of a brick wall. With a hand on either side of Azriel's head, Jae leaned in close to his face.
"Jae! What on earth are you doing?" Lucretia shouted. She pulled Jae's arm, but he remained steadfast.
"I know what you are," Jae whispered. "I don't know what you want here, but you're not going to get away with it. I will destroy you."
With that he backed up and walked away. Lucretia looked back at Azriel with a distressed look on her face.
"I'm so sorry! He's not always like this, I promise!" she said before turning back towards Jae and running after him.
Azriel stood still for a few moments partly from shock and partly to wait for the piercing pain in his back to subside.
I know what you are… Jae's voice echoed in his head as he marched back up the other side of the valley to Oxana's house. Too bad Jae hadn't elaborated; Azriel would've loved to know just what it was he was, and why he should merit being destroyed.
When he reached Oxana's house the sun was low in the sky and the wind was picking up. There was no one inside, and he found Oxana outside in her garden collecting seeds from the dying flowers. She smiled when she saw him.
"Go set the table for dinner," she said. "I'll be right in."
He did as she commanded and placed on the table the least cracked plates and bowls he could find. Oxana had made him polish the silverware over the summer, so at least their spoons and forks were in fine condition. Oxana was indeed in only a few moments later and prepared a simple meal of vegetable stew. They ate in silence.
"How was your day?" Oxana asked as she cleaned her bowl. Azriel shrugged.
"Did you meet anyone?"
"Yes," Azriel replied. He didn't elaborate any further, responding only in nods and shrugs for the rest of the evening, until the dishes were cleaned and the sun had set.
He was still awake after Oxana retired to her room. He sat on the edge of the sofa in the parlor, thinking over the events of the day. Suddenly he stood up and lighted a candle. Something was slithering down the wall, something thick and black. He held the candle up but couldn't see anything. Only out of the corner of his eye could he see the shadows slithering down from every direction, making their way across the room and up the stairs.
"I know you're there!" Azriel said, chasing after it. "I know I've seen you this time, you won't—"
"Is something the matter?" Oxana had wandered out of her room and was standing at the top of the stairs. Azriel stopped abruptly, nearly dropping the candle.
"No," Azriel replied. "I'm sorry, I…"
Oxana smiled sleepily and turned back towards her room. "Alright."
"Wait," Azriel said. Oxana turned back towards him. "Can I ask you something?"
"Why would someone think you're old?"
Surprise then sorrow crossed Oxana's face. Her eyes drifted to the floor.
"I don't know," she said, walking into the darkness and closing the door behind her.