A/N: French? I'm taking French for Language! Although it's quite hard and German was a lot easier to study… Too bad I didn't get a chance to finish studying German back then. Cliché, huh, Tomonari? I'll try getting a bit better, but I've just been suffering a recent bout of long-term writer's block, so please understand it's not really the best thing I can recover from. ^^ Sorry! I'll try to make it better. Thanks for the advice, though.

Heartaches

Chapter 2

I think I was dreaming.

I dreamt that I was playing the bagpipes back in school, with Emiko jeering at me, her face stretched into a series of smirks and taunts. Bagpipes? I don't think I even knew how to play the bagpipes. Anyways, I got sent to the principal's office for causing disruptions with my playing, and when I entered, Akamatsu Kan was standing there, smiling at me. He was the only person in the room.

That was when things started to get a teensy weird.

First of all, a window was open, allowing the wind to rush into the stale air of the office. There was an odd but familiar scent in the room. The wind picked up, and soon, it was ruffling our clothes and hair. Strands of my pale blond hair blew past my face, making it difficult to see, but the room was slowly darkening, pulsing with an eerie shadow. I was starting to get scared, and the sweat was standing out on my forehead, soaking through my clothes.

Akamatsu's smile had disappeared from his face, replaced with unnatural…detachment. The room was getting unbearably hot, although the wind blew at our faces, tapping my spine with icy fingertips. Papers and books were tugged from the neat desktop, swirling in a hurricane above our heads. A book nearly clouted me on the head, and I narrowly avoided it by ducking.

Akamatsu seemed untouched, though, and, when the wind let out a howl, his eyes met mine. Their blue, seemingly liquid, pupils gazed into me, contracted and shrank into a dark black. When the wind let out another fierce scream, he let out a howl to match its own. It reached into me, withdrew, and I felt a burning sensation in the pit of my stomach, such as the feeling that ignited whenever you accidentally erased a beloved game off your computer and had no means of getting back the CD.

The sweat was growing, but my voice was torn from my throat. My muscles were tight, unable to move. I was frozen in place, and I watched helplessly as Akamatsu screamed and screamed. The wind seemed to have developed a life of its own, and had curled around Akamatsu relentlessly. His hair and clothes whipped in the wind. Tiny scraps of fabric rushed at me. I batted them away, fighting against the wind.

But my eyes remained riveted on Akamatsu. He had hunched over, his back bent like an aged crone, and the cloth at his back tore like paper. He had wrapped his arms around himself, his screaming faded, and his eyes were open, staring at me. They were beautiful. Then, out of his back grew two large bat wings, hooked and black, and, as they spread with the sound of a wrinkled sheet of canvas being straightened, his mouth stretched into a manic grin, canines stretching to extend over his bottom teeth.

Then, out of the blue, a pair of smoky-blue black eyes appeared in my mind.

I screamed…

* * *

…And woke up.

In bed. In the dark. With no clothes on.

Gah! Who the hell had undressed me? But then I noticed that I was, in fact, not naked, but wearing shorts and a t-shirt – or so it had felt like – and I took a quick peek underneath the sheets to make sure. Yup. Dressed. What a relief. But they were definitely not the clothes I had on before I was asleep. I had fainted, right? But what had I fainted of?

I couldn't remember a goddamned thing.

Oh, God. My bones ached. The chill was seeping into my skin like a wet fog. I was cold and clammy. My knees felt shaky. What had happened?

And then the dream came back. I shuddered at the memory of Akamatsu's wings. I drew my blanket tighter around my shoulders as I sat up, the numbness in my brain dulling. But had they been real? Had it been some sort of prophetic dream that said Akamatsu was evil or such?

Oh, stop it, scolded a voice in my mind. It was just a dream, that's all. No need to get so worried.

Why was I so tired? I felt like I had been running a thousand miles, for the least. I stood up, my joints creaking as if I had arthritis, and I winced at the grinding of my abused kneecaps. What had abused them, exactly? Then I remembered. I was opening the door…fell flat on my face…then there was a pair of eyes…

I stopped. A pair of eyes? I struggled to recall the memory, and slowly, it surfaced. A pair of intense blue-black eyes. The same eyes in my dream…and the same eyes that had appeared on my very doorstep. But how long was it ago? Was it a night, two, three nights ago? I couldn't remember. But there was something else in the air.

A faint scent.

The scent of cologne and cigarettes.

* * *

Dear Seki,

The time is approaching for the new age to begin. You will decide what is its fate. Long ago, this age existed, but had long since vanquished due to complications. It was the Age of Challenge. It was an age where people rose to face their greatest fears and displayed their magnificent skills at acquiring The Prize. It was an age where every one of them must overcome, destroy, and learn to deceive and fool. You must begin the show, Seki. The age is sorely missed in the world. It was a Golden Age…

Regards,

A friend

* * *

I explored the house I was in. I wasn't in my house, but in a strange apartment that was totally foreign to me. When I went outside, I could only see a strange street, bordered by dark houses and buildings, and a couple of scantily clad male and female hookers. Needless to say, hookers scared me to death. So I resolved not to go out anymore. Simple, right?

It was simpler than I could have hoped for. The kitchen was small, moderately furnished, and the cupboards were filled to the brim with flour, Betty Crocker desserts, bananas, oranges, chips…you name it, and the cupboard had it. The bathroom had dozens of toilet paper and a new toothbrush. The closet supplied a small but essential stack of clothes.

You know what was strange? I was living more comfortably in a strange house than I ever had in my parents'.

So I didn't run away.

School was something I didn't worry about. I felt a sliver of guilt at staying, but it suited me. Besides, everyone hated me there, so why should I bother?

It was not until the fourth day I had stayed that I began to feel some restlessness grow in me. I had been caged in for four mornings, two nights. And the other note had arrived, via the window. It had warned me about the Age of Challenge. The Age was something I had taken a slight interest upon, and so I did more research…

…And came up with nothing. Zilch. Nada. Null.

A computer stood in my room, and I had often opened it to play a game of solitaire or hearts or pinball. It served for research, but I hadn't turned up anything…until the fifth day arrived. No, my results didn't arrive in the form of a website with the title 'Age of Challenge' splashed across its borders. It came in the form of a scent of cologne and cigarettes.

It was late at night, and I had dozed off in a comfortable armchair in the living room, sitting across the blazing fireplace. The air was chilly, and the branches of the trees outside had finally shed their leaves and welcomed the cold embrace of winter.

I awoke from another dream, this one much more ridiculous than any other – as I had dreamed of playing the flute, and, when I had played a note, a spit wad flew out the end and up the music teacher's nostril – and the book slid off my lap with a thump.

I jumped and looked around nervously. The room was silent and empty, except for the crackling of flames from the fireplace. I watched it for a moment, then stood up and heaved a dry cough. My throat felt patchy, and my tongue felt like a carpet. I needed a drink of water.

I softly padded down into the kitchen, feeling my way through instinct, and opened the fridge, a cold blast of air greeting me. As I sipped my water, I glanced out onto the balcony. The kitchen had a small black door that led to a rather undersized balcony that was squeezed into the nook between the next building and my apartment.

I opened the door and stepped out.

The frigid air bit at my skin immediately, nipping with sharp teeth at my warmth. I shivered, but slowly breathed in the crisp air. It helped relax the tension. I leaned over the black railing and stared at the ground below. It overlooked the small yard that was formed by the squeezing and crowding of the buildings, one of which was mine. A door in the ground floor of my building led directly to this yard.

I was thinking of home when…

…I smelled it.

The scent was odd. The cologne used was, perhaps, a scent of flowery perfume, but the smell of cigarette smoke made it enticing, while alone, the cologne might seem dull.

On any other time I smelled the scent it was faint. But now, it seemed overpowering. It wrapped itself around me, mingling in my hair. I shivered. There was someone else on the balcony with me. I felt his presence before I saw him. I turned and stared straight into intense blue-black eyes, shaded with thick smoky lashes and a careless fringe of dark hair flopping into them. The hair waved around his head in a casual hairstyle, as if he hadn't combed it for weeks.

I damn near screamed.

He remained silent, only inches away from me, his head tilted as he studied me with a smirk on his face. Then I recognized his smell. Cigarettes and cologne. Jesus pissing Christ, did hunks have to pop up everywhere? Akamatsu was hard enough to get out of my head…and this guy was going to be harder.

"Who the hell are you?" I demanded, grasping the rail.

He tilted his head again, with an incredibly big smirk on his face. God, I hate people who smirked at me like they were on top of the world. His hands were in the pockets of his black leather coat, which was whipping in the wind, open. "I'm Haru."

"Then what are you doing on my balcony?"

"Funny." His smirk widened, impossibly. "I don't remember this apartment ever being yours."

"Well, I certainly don't remember it being yours either," I remarked with equal sarcasm. "I don't even know you."

Which wasn't true. Of course, I knew his scent. Just not…his face.

He took a step closer to me, studying me intently. "Of course you know me," he said. He ran a hand through his carelessly tossed hair. "I'm the pizza dude who deserved the long wait, remember?"

"Er…"

I wasn't sure what to say next. I was practically mesmerized by his tantalizing heat and scent. What was I supposed to say? Like, 'Uh, I remember you, but will you please get out of here because you're seriously creeping me out'? Nuh-uh. Out of the question. I mean, even if there was a thief on the balcony, rudeness wasn't something that appealed to me.

But he interrupted my non-existent sentence.

"I suppose that you're alright, are you?"

"Where am I, anyway?" I blurted, finding my tongue. I ignored his question…for now.

"Hmm…let's see. Somewhere in Munich, Germany," he mocked.

My brain took a few moments to register what he had just said. "WHAT?" I screamed. I couldn't believe it. One minute, I was in bed dreaming of Akamatsu turning into a monster, safe back in Japan, and the next I was living quite comfortable in Germany. What the hell was I doing here?

He stared at me, gentle amusement on his face. Then, he gripped my shoulder and shoved me into the kitchen. I nearly stumbled, but before I could turn and glare at him, he had closed the balcony door and had gotten into the apartment uninvited.

He turned to face me and indicated a chair. "Sit."

It was more of a command than a request.

I sat. He sat.

We stared at each other.

I fidgeted.

"Stop fidgeting."

I stopped fidgeting.

Then he spoke, his voice another mystery, veiled and haunting, but a light tone to it that made you want to listen. "Seki, you must understand."

Must? That word again. Always in the notes. Must do this, must do that. Was there no end to must?

But he must have caught the look on my face, because he leaned forward and placed a hand on each of my knees. I stared down at his dark blue eyes, swimming in a liquid gaze. Hypnotizing was the first word that came to mind.

"Seki, please, understand. You were brought to Germany for a mission. And the mission must be fulfilled. If not, there are consequences."

"Such as?" My voice sounded so tiny next to his, but he didn't seem to mind.

"Such as the world ending."

"You're kidding," I laughed. But I saw that he wasn't. He was deadly serious. No smirk on his face. The smirk would have been more comforting. He leaned back, shedding his coat and revealing a white shirt and jeans underneath.

"I'm not," he stated the obvious.

I threw up my hands. "Okay, so now, the whole fate of the world depends on me, am I correct?"

"Yes," he said simply.

"Stop saying short answers! Stop saying yes, stop saying no!" I yelled. "I want explanations. I want to go home."

"Where is home?"

That stopped me short. Isn't it a miracle that, in such few words, that someone can immediately squash your sense of reason? It was exactly what happened. Perhaps that's what caused me to trust him. He seemed to have an answer for everything, and, for that, I was content.

"Go on."

He got up and paced the room, back and forth, back and forth, his hands folded over his chest. His head was bent, his face barely seen from the dark hair that shaded him and the bare moonlight. I followed his movements. He had a way of moving about when he spoke, when he explained, or when he told something important.

"It's better for you to understand the basics before we move onto the present." He ran a hand through his hair again. "Long ago, perhaps before Christ was born, demons roamed the Earth, free to wreak havoc. Don't get me wrong: some of them are good, but all in all, the majority wasn't."

"And there's a main demon that's a source of all this problem?"

He looked at me. "How'd you guess?"

I shrugged. "Storybooks. Same old story. Another demon trying to take over the world. Someone trying to stop him."

"Well, yes, I guess it's like that." He paced again. Back and forth, back and forth. "There was a demon. His name was Requiem. A funeral song. Perhaps it was fitting. There was death wherever he came. He was crazy, wild, and he needed to conquer the world and feel power."

"Why?"

"Because every weakling needs to feel power. And that was what Requiem was. A weakling. Nothing but trash and all talk."

"But you just said that he killed everyone…"

"I didn't say that," he interrupted. "I said that there was death wherever he came. Because of his henchmen. His henchmen were stronger than him, but he made them believe that he was superb. So they were scared of him, and were frightened into doing his dirty jobs. But pretty soon, you can't just live a dream. It will turn on you, some time, and then you'll have to pay the price. Requiem's henchmen found out what he was, turned on him, and hunted somewhere else. Weak and powerless, he soon began to crave the power that he had dreamed of." He looked at me. "Am I boring you?"

"A little. It's just all the same story."

He seemed irritated. "Okay, fine. The story's finished. He was attacked, stabbed to death, and buried in a temple, which was lost a few decades ago. Now, they say that he's going to rise again, and you'll have to stop him."

"Why me?" My plea sounded rather desperate. I was practically begging for him to lie to me. But he didn't.

"Because you're the only one who can stop him. You have the power to defeat him."

"But if he's such a weak idiot, then why is everyone getting so worried about him?" In truth, I didn't know who everyone was, but that was for later. I had questions about his story. And about me.

"Because he's gotten stronger, a lot stronger, than what everyone hoped for. Pretty soon, he'll kill. And he'll find out the pleasures." He stretched luxuriously. "I'm Haru, and I've been sent to help you…tame some of your abilities. And train you," he added.

"Train me? Abilities?" I gave him a confused look. "What're you talking about?"

"You have powers."

"No, I don't."

"Yes, you do," he said, firmly, grasping me by the arm and pulling me up. "And I'm going to help you. But first, we have to get an update on our mission. Then we're out of here."

I watched him walk out of the kitchen, and, when he was only a half step away from disappearing out of sight, I called, "What are you?" It was a stupid question. But something made me ask it. Perhaps it was because he didn't seem so human. Maybe it was those eyes…

He turned, his eyes boring into mine, their liquid intensity striking me as hard as a slap to the face. "I'm an angel," he said gravely.

* * *

A/N: Thanks to all who reviewed again, and, to whoever was curious, I did erase a beloved game off the computer. The Sims Superstar, Unleashed, Livin' Large, Hot Date, etc. because I was going to install Sims Makin' Magic. That sucked big time, since I have no other way of recovering the other CDs since it's in the Philippines. Mind you, that wasn't good. XD