Okay, I've been having trouble writing my usual 'epics' so I've decided to start trying to write some of my less developed ideas as one shots. 'Libra' was inspired by more anime than I care to count, things like Full Metal Alchemist and Hellsing easily at the top of the list. I'd love to do more on this though, since Libra is too awesome a character to fully explain in something like this.
Its a little rushed at the end, but thats mainly cause I wanted to get it out before my Editorial Processes class. I failed ;
Even as I rub the bandage on my arm, I wonder if it really happened. Sitting on a swing under the bright sun, with children's voices in the air and a bill of clean health from the doctor, it seems like the story of a crazed fool.
But when the sun starts to set, and the smog in the air becomes heavy, my hand touches my bandage, remembering the mark hidden by cloth. I want to believe it was a simple mugging; I want to believe I know nothing, and that my memory will fade just like the wound.
But in my heart, I know I will never look at the world again, even if the proof fades, my memory will stay sharp.
It was only two days ago...
For Natalie, it was hardly a typical night. Despite it being her last day due to her argument with the manager a week ago, she'd been left to close the general store on her own, and the moon had been well into the sky before she could leave for her house.
She glanced at her new watch, deciding that the twenty minute long way was the best option. After being raised in the city, the girl was hardly foolish enough to skip to backstreets, no matter how much faster they were, and kept to the well lit, if rather quiet, streets she knew well enough to walk blindfolded. The night breeze was cool, a sure sign autumn was creeping into power, and she pulled her coat tighter, concentrating on the music coming from her earphones.
Enraptured in the sound, she bumped into a woman coming from the opposite direction. The stranger wasn't much taller than the girl in her mid-teens, but was sheltered behind a bulky leather coat. She looked more than a little irritated by the impact, and voicing a hasty "sorry", Natalie quickened her pace, barely catching the woman's "Be more careful" in her wake.
Natalie was almost halfway home when she heard a crash behind her. She swung around to see a dustbin on its side, a cat pawing at the open contents.
Natalie sighed in relief, and made to continue. She hadn't even gotten three feet when the cats yowl caught her attention. Her eyes found the bin, still on its side, but the cat was nowhere to be seen. But the bin's opening and the pavement beside it was covered in a glimmering liquid.
Natalie pulled her earphones out, backing away slowly. The moment she heard the sloppy 'thud', she bolted, throwing herself down the street. From the shadows, something flew after her. It sounded like wet flesh slapping against pavement, chasing after her with speed she couldn't comprehend.
Then, without warning, the slapping stopped. Natalie had barely seconds to register this before something slammed into her back, throwing her to the ground. She screamed, but her voice died as the pain of a thousand needles ripped through her arm. She was drowning in warm, clear liquid oozing from her attacker, paralysed from the pain in her arm. Her mind was screaming in terror.
'Not like this!'
Suddenly, as if someone had heard her plea, thunder cracked, and the weight on her back dislodged with the same force it had arrived.
Without the weight holding her down, and the pain in her arm lessened, Natalie tried to pull herself up, stopping when she caught sight of her arm. It looked as if someone had sliced it up with a carving knife, slices deep into her arm, yet already clotting, perhaps due to the clear liquid she was drenched in.
'Just what was that?'
She had to know, and despite the pain in her arm, tried to pull herself to her feet. She failed, crashing back down. She took a deep breath, ready to try again, when a strong hand grabbed her good arm and pulled her up.
The woman Natalie had bumped into barely ten minutes ago held the arm long enough to see that the girl could stand before letting go. Natalie watched as the woman kept her eyes trained on the shadows, focusing on the dark backstreet that connected to the other side of the road. Judging from the goo sparkling in the street light glare, her attacker had flown down there.
The woman cursed, turned her back on the alley. Natalie's eyes widened as the woman slipped on the safety of a large gun and headed towards her.
'Not thunder then' Natalie thought, remembering the sound she'd heard. 'Gun shot.'
The woman, once close enough, gave Natalie a once over, before grabbing the injured arm and studying it, much to Natalie's discomfort.
"Hey! That hurts!"
Dark brown eyes gazed at her, before dropping the arm.
"You were lucky I arrived in time. A minute later and you would have been a lost cause."
Clutching the wounded arm, Natalie glared at her unlikely rescuer. The long coat kept all but her head covered, and looked striking against pale skin. Her brown hair was slicked back, the ends just hitting the back of her jacket. Now that she was taking a good look, Natalie realised the woman was probably less than a decade older than her.
Realising she was still staring with undisguised curiosity; Natalie shook her head, and asked the question that would have been on anyone's mind.
"What was that?"
In reply, the woman looked into the dark alley.
This, obviously, didn't explain anything to Natalie.
"What do you mean?"
The woman stared at her.
"Exactly what I said."
She smirked, eyes on Natalie's wound.
"And you're going to help me catch it. For your own safety."
Natalie's eyes widened.
The woman's eye's narrowed. "You've been infected by the sin of Greed. It didn't have a chance to get it fully into your system, but give it a week, maybe two, and you'll be prowling the streets just like that devil. And that's if it doesn't track you down to finish the job itself."
Natalie's eyes swung to her wound before she glared at the woman.
"That's not funny!"
The glare was returned.
"It wasn't meant to be."
Try as she might, Natalie could see no humour in the woman's eyes, and found her knees wouldn't support her anymore.
"Get off the ground girl. You still have time; the infection is barely in its early stages. I kill this sin, and the infection will wash out. It won't have any power to increase, so long as you purify yourself."
Natalie looked up. "Purify?"
"Go to the church" the woman replied. "Confess your sins. And make sure you mean it. Sins can only attack sin. And you've got greed in your heart."
"No I don't!" Natalie yelled. "Okay, so maybe I want a few superficial things, that doesn't make me greedy!"
The woman yanked her up again, and started dragging her towards the alley.
"Believe it or not, I don't care what you did, and I don't want to hear your life story. If you don't believe me, fine. Just make sure to give me your address so I can get rid of you before you go infecting others."
Natalie tried to pull away, but found the woman's grip was iron clad. As they stepped into the darkness, Natalie asked one last question.
"Who are you anyway?"
By now, the woman's face was shrouded in shadow.
"They call me Libra, but you can call me whatever you want."
'They?' Natalie's voice whispered, before hearing the slap of wet flesh.
Despite hearing the sound, Libra did not stop. Merely clicked off the safety and kept going. It was a few minutes before she came to a halt.
"This will do. The Greed won't be able to resist this setup."
Letting go of Natalie's arm. Not that the girl was willing to go very far. The street was abandoned even by the moon, and she could hardly see her hand when it was inches from her eyes.
"Why are we stopping here?"
Leather rustled as Libra's surveyed the area. "Because to him, it looks as if he has the advantage."
"He was male once. Sometimes it's harder to refer to them as 'its'"
Natalie's eyes widened.
"What attacked me...was human?"
"Was human. Not any more. He got infected by a Pure Sin, and it consumed him. Now he's just a thorn in several sides."
Libra didn't need light to know that little piece of information has unsettled her 'bait'. That didn't however; stop her from raising an eyebrow at the next question.
"Did you know him?"
She sighed. "No, but I know who he was. Marcus Schifford. He was an accountant at a pretty large company. My sources say he was funnelling quite a bit of cash into his own account before he got infected."
Natalie tensed by her side, but before she could ask another question, the slapping noise increased.
Libra smirked, lifting something else out of her jacket and distancing herself from Natalie.
"Just stay right there."
Natalie paled, trying to see what direction the woman had gone in.
There was no reply, and Natalie felt her heartbeat increase as the slapping noise grew louder. She screamed as an inhuman roar screeched in her ear, and she felt something warm and clammy inches from her head.
Gunshots cracked through the air, throwing the attacker back. Before Natalie could guess how Libra had aimed in the darkness, a voice echoed through the street.
"Lamp of the First Day!"
And then there was light.
Libra watched as the girl blinked at the brightness, before getting a good look at her attacker. Panic clearly gave in and let the teen collapse to her ground, dead to the world. It was probably for the best.
Placing the lamp on the ground, she focused on the Greed, writhing and trying to get out of the light. How it had been allowed to get to this stage without her being informed was beyond her. The sin was naked, its skin all but gone, leaving raw flesh and sinew dripping from white bones. Its neck had fallen into its chest, and the face was nothing but teeth, as long as swords and as sharp as razors.
She cocked her gun.
"Time to rest in peace you miserable bastard."
She fired, expecting it to remain paralysed from the lamp. However, the Greed, eyes remaining closed, lunged for the still form of Natalie, the bullet missing by centimetres.
Libra's eyes widened.
She ran towards Natalie, shielding the girl as the sin crashed into her. It tried to leave her, trying to reach its victim, only to find a hand tightly clenched on a bare rib. Unable to leave it position, the Greed did what its only instinct allowed it to.
Libra hissed as the Greed began to feed, teeth grinding her coat to shreds. She fired her gun into the form on top of her, but despite the shrieks of pain from several silver bullets, the sin refused to die. Once the jacket was out of the way, the Greed's teeth ripped through her black top and into flesh. If he got deep enough, he'd chew her arm from her body, if she didn't give up beforehand.
But instead of screaming out in pain, the woman only smirked. Unable to understand, the Greed continued to grind into skin, before feeling the unmistakeable aura coming from the woman's body.
The sin jerked up, fear emanating from its body. Using its reluctance, Libra pushed herself up, still holding the rib. Her chest, though ripped to tatters, was devoid of blood, and began to heal at an inhuman pace.
"Foolish creature" she hissed. "You're just a waste product. Did you truly think you had a chance against a Pure?"
Fear completely took over the Greed's instincts, and it jerked back, hearing the snap of a rib as it tried to bolt. Libra's gun arm, fine apart from being covered in Greed's saliva swung into the air. She fired, hitting the creature in the back. Its head swung up in a roar of pain, and she took the shot. The silver bullet crashed through the skull like paper.
Sword like teeth shattered like glass as the form stood frozen for five seconds, before bursting into flame. Libra managed to get herself to her feet in time to see the remainder of the sin become nothing more than smoke and ash.
She rubbed her chest, already feeling the wounds heal.
"That was far too close."
Looking through the remnants of her jacket, she uncovered a cell phone in the rags. Pushing a number in, she lifted it to her ear, and spoke two simple words.
'Ugh, where am I?'
Natalie winced as she felt herself being carried, the pain in her arm throbbing with more force than she thought possible. As she opened her eyes, she came face to face with Libra.
Unable to answer, Natalie just nodded.
Libra looked away, towards the end of the street. Natalie followed the gaze, blinking as she spotted lights.
"My 'superiors'" Libra explained. "You'll have to talk to them."
"Wait" Natalie whispered. "The sin..."
"Is gone" Libra replied. "As long as you get to a confessional, you should be okay."
Natalie was silent, but tried to curl in on herself in Libra's arms. The older woman looked down to see tears falling from the girls face.
Natalie looked up, face red.
"It was that bastard of a boss" she choked. "He was paying me less than the guys in the store, even admitted it. So I took some cash out of the till every month or so, just to make things even. When he caught me, he said he'd sue unless I 'resigned'. I didn't think it was fair, but I didn't have an option. Then tonight, it was my last day. Someone had handed in this really fancy watch that we had to take to lost and found."
Natalie began to undo the strap of the watch on her hand.
"It's an expensive watch. I knew if I sold it, I could get a lot of money for it. And I never told the boss about it."
Once out of the alley, Libra set the girl down. Natalie barely seemed aware of the gesture, still staring at the watch she had taken.
"I'll take it to the station tomorrow" she whispered. "Right after I've gone to church."
Libra smiled. "At least your sin is easily redeemable. There are others who are not so lucky."
Natalie gave a sad smile, before frowning. She had been carried out, so she hadn't seen the damage to Libra's outfit until now. It was surprising that there wasn't a scratch on her. Her chest was almost bare, and revealed a strange tattoo. It was a pair of scales, one side heavily weighted down with black feathers. In the other, was a few white feathers. Libra noticed the stare, and sighed, touching the tattoo with regret.
"They say the black feathers represent all the bad in the world" Libra explained. "And the white represent all the good."
"So why have more black" Natalie asked.
Libra smiled. "I didn't choose to have this tattoo. It was decided for me. They say when the white feathers outweigh the black, the ultimate sin will be forgiven."
Libra gazed down, and Natalie froze at the deadness in the brown eyes.
"To go against everything Good stands for."
She looked away, and Natalie sighed as the woman that had saved her began to walk towards a man in the street. Taking a better look, Natalie realised that the street was filled with vans, filling the street with headlight glare.
"Agent Libra" the man greeted. "How did it go."
"There were some problems" she replied. "Things should never be allowed to get this far."
"I understand, but you took care of the situation?"
"Yes. Nothing I couldn't handle."
"Glad to hear."
"Oh, and I need a new jacket."
Watching the two converse, Natalie frowned. There was another tattoo on Libra's back. It was exactly the same as the one on her chest, only now, the white feathers outweighed the black.
Eventually, Libra left the man's side, and he headed towards Natalie.
"Excuse me miss?" he began. "I need to ask you a few questions."
Natalie however, kept her eyes on Libra's retreating back.
The man followed her line of sight, and smirked.
He caught her eyes and grinned.
"Ultimate sin can be forgiven, and it can be rewarded. In the end, people just have to decide what they prefer."
It was only only a few hours later before I had found myself in hospital, a pre-made story marked on my papers. As far as the hospital, and the police when they arrived, it had been nothing more than a simple mugging attack. The bite mark looked like knives, and nobody would believe anything else.
But I know. No matter how bright the sun, or how peaceful the world is, I'll know. There's something out there that is paying for another's sins.