768: Moonwalkers (Part 6: A Gift Of Justice)
The she-wolf blinked in the sunlight as it rose over the mountainous horizon. It cast startling light on the ocean which caused it to dazzle her eyes, so she looked away. Hawk stirred nearby, curled in a nest he'd made of uprooted grass and sticks. He yawned and blinked the sleep from his eyes.
"G'morning," he rasped.
The she-wolf only nodded. She stood and stretched and sniffed, beginning her search for a light meal and water. With Hawk, she was sure she wouldn't have to wait for a Leviathan to bring down her game. That was one advantage to having the other direwolf as a companion.
"Where are we headed?" Hawk wondered as he sat up. He began to shake the sticks and dirt and grass from his pelt.
The she-wolf stepped out of her bed – which had been nothing but some soft ground – and told him, "We walk until the grass turns to stone, and the stone turns to grass again."
Hawk cocked an ear. "So you believe that Gray Moss really saw your journey?"
"Not necessarily," the she-wolf replied. "I believe that he dreamed of something – whether the Gods sent it to him or not, I can't be sure. But I have learned to believe in my dreams... so why should I not believe in his? Whether or not it is where I must go is arbitrary; I go where my paws take me, and my paws ache for stone beneath them for a while. I may not know where I'm going, but my paws do, as does my heart. They will guide me."
Hawk took all of that in and then said, "Fine; to the mountains it is, then." He stretched and plodded towards the ocean. "First, though," he offered, "we should find some food. I smell elk."
"And I smell danger in that," the she-wolf admitted. "We shouldn't take game that treks too close to the ocean. As one direwolf it is easy to escape a Leviathan... but as two? Should one appear, it will be much harder to get away."
"Understandable," Hawk decided. He lifted his nose and began sniffing again. "I'm not scenting much else, though."
The she-wolf stood and ventured into the wood, following her nose. Hawk, startled by her sudden movement, nearly tripped over himself to follow. Sniffing lightly, the she-wolf followed the scent she had found – sharp, coppery, and it made her mouth water – through the trees until she came upon the source.
It was a pegasus, its back legs shattered to pieces by some powerful force. The she-wolf looked on the sight with anxiety in her belly. What could hit such a lovely pegasus down from the sky? Nothing, that was what. Not even Elven arrows could strike a pegasus, they were so swift and graceful in the sky. It was a crime amongst Elves to even harm one – the two were wonderful friends, and the pegasi had often flown with Elves on their backs in old times.
"Wow," Hawk whispered.
The she-wolf's stomach was conflicted – part of her wanted nothing to do with this meal that seemed to have just appeared out of nowhere, but another part of her was hungry. Her mouth was wet and dry at the same time and she flattened her ears, confused.
Hawk took a step forward, but the she-wolf stopped him. "No," she said.
"B-But!" he stammered.
"No," she said again.
The she-wolf approached the pegasus. His eyes were showing their whites and he let out a loud, pained whinny, but the she-wolf looked upon him with sympathy. Such a majestic creature...
She put him out of his misery. The pegasus jerked three times before stilling, his large head resting a pool of his own blood. The sight of it both enticed and sickened the she-wolf.
Hawk took another step forward, but the she-wolf snapped her teeth at him, and he stepped back again, confused. The she-wolf turned to the pegasus and closed his eyes gently with a brush of her nose.
She lifted her head to the sky and growled, "I want no gift from you." She wasn't quite sure who she was talking to, but she knew that she was angry with them. So angry, in fact, that her fur would not lie flat until she turned away and walked a fair distance from the dead horse. Confused, Hawk followed her.
"Um..." he began, when they were a fair distance away, "what was that about?"
"I'm not sure," the she-wolf replied. "But we will find food elsewhere."
Nikolai walked with AA, feeling very wary. He didn't like the way that people looked at the two of them – or the way they looked at everyone else. He especially didn't like the way they were looking at AA... or the body he was residing in.
"We should get out of here," Nikolai suggested.
"Nonsense," AA insisted. He turned to Nikolai and gave him a smile. "Do you think I cannot sense all the negative emotions around these people? I can. I am not unaware..."
"Then can't you at least, like, make them happy or something?"
"No, of course not!" AA replied, astonished. "I mean, I could – but I decided long ago not to force someone's emotions to change. It's unnatural and can have horrible affects on people... much in the same way as removing the gray from your eye would ruin your mind and eventually drive you mad."
"What are you talking about?"
"Oh, nothing all that important," AA chuckled. "I just won't alter people's emotional states, that's all."
"Well, fine; but what exactly is it that you hope to accomplish by sticking around this place?" Nikolai wondered.
"I want to see people again," AA confessed. "All kinds of people – the good, the bad, the neutral – all of them. You Humans are so intriguing to me; you have no idea..."
"Well, I guess I just have no idea how you can think people like this are interest-!"
Nikolai was cut off by the sound of someone screaming. With a hand on Shinri, he turned and found that AA was suddenly gone from his side. He waved his hand in the air where he had been like an idiot, as if he was really there and his eyes were simply being tricked. Another scream caused him to curse and run towards the source.
He followed the source down the road a few blocks and around a corner. There, a young woman was being surrounded by a group of rather large men in dark clothing. The woman was small and frail-looking, surrounded by them all, with her clothes torn and her look disheveled.
Standing in front of her, her only shield against half a dozen men, was AA, calm as ever.
What the hell do you think you're doing?! Nikolai thought.
"Move, pipsqueak," one of the men growled, brandishing a crude knife. "This is none of your business... but if you want to be part of the show, then by all means, try and stop us."
Nikolai's blinker stone burned against his chest as he watched AA smiled slightly and reply, "Justice shall be done."
"She said four words and I'm already sick of her mouth," another of the men decided. He raised a small hand gun and aimed it at AA's chest.
Nikolai acted much faster than he thought he could. He slipped into the aether and rushed up to the man holding the gun. He slipped between the crowd of angry men and knocked the gun from his hand. It fell to the ground with a soft, musical sound that disrupted the silence of the aether.
He pushed himself back into reality, finding that the man who had held the gun wasn't taking too kindly to having dropped it so mysteriously. Nikolai drew Shinri and backed himself up beside AA.
"Are you fucking nuts?" he asked quietly.
"Get this young woman to safety," AA entreated. "You may not want to bear witness to this."
Nikolai opened his mouth to protest, but found no words with which to do so. He turned to the woman and held out his free hand, begging, "Come with me. Hurry!"
She didn't hesitate to grab his hand and stand. Her knees were weak but she seemed all right but for a few cuts and scrapes. The men didn't get to harm her too terribly – yet. Nikolai grasped her hand tightly and went to push through the crowd, but they blocked his way. The woman gasped in fright as two men formed a thick wall of flesh between them and an exit.
Nikolai stared the both of them in the eye, holding Shinri tightly. He slipped into the aether for just a moment, letting go of the woman's hand. He heard her gasp in shock as he disappeared from reality. Nikolai took advantage of both her confusion and the two men's and pricked the men's souls with Shinri's tip before returning to reality.
The two men screamed and collapsed, clutching their bodies in fear and anguish. Nikolai grasped the woman's hand more tightly and stepped over them to escape. He took off running with the woman until they were around the corner once again. The woman went no further than that, collapsing into a ball of fright and tears.
Nikolai sheathed Shinri and knelt beside her. She was incredibly wary of him, until finally she stopped sobbing and said, "You... you must be an angel... an angel sent from God to save me..."
He wanted to tell her differently – that there was no one God and in fact there were far too many to count, and that he was definitely no angel – but he couldn't bring himself to do it. If that was the only way her mind could rationalize it, then he wasn't going to try and change her way of thinking.
"Your friend... is she...?" the woman wondered, still sobbing. "She appeared so... so suddenly..."
Nikolai looked around the corner to find that AA was gone. Four of the six men were suspended in the air by a great silver light that nearly blinded Nikolai to look at. The two that he had wounded were also glowing, but were glowing as they lay on the ground. Suddenly, they all disappeared, no trace of them left behind.
He looked away to find that AA was standing before him again, a solemn look on his face. Without saying anything, he approached the sobbing woman and laid two fingers against her forehead. She looked up at him and her eyes glowed silver for but a moment. Then, she closed her eyes and slumped against the wall. AA removed his fingers from her and then looked at Nikolai, his eyes sad.
"What happened?" Nikolai asked, though he already knew.
"Justice has been done," AA promised.
Nikolai had the sense not to pry any further. He took AA's hand in his and shivered before leading him away from the scene. He frowned and said, "I'm sorry."
"For what?" AA wondered quietly.
"For thinking ill of you," Nikolai answered. "You know, for the whole... Shinri thing. I'm sorry."
AA gave him a small smile and then said, "Do not change your mind about me on account of what you have witnessed here. Keep to your convictions, Nikolai Miles. They are a very important thing to have constant as you get older, you will find..."
"So... what are we supposed to do?" Sicil wondered, looking away from the letter. "Yuugata just wants us to help with this... war?"
"I see no problem in it," Ajax admitted. "You've helped him before, haven't you?"
"We have," Istanbul told her. "So did the Draygoons and the Zver. It seems he wants our help yet again in dealing with whatever Yamata no Orochi comes up with at the end of this little grace period they've been given."
"I'm sure we can handle this," Ajax said strongly.
"We cannot act until the Elders consent to this," Istanbul reminded them. "Last time we fought it was all isolated in Serenity Valley and the battle didn't last too long. But who knows what kind of trouble Yamata no Orochi will stir up? This could endanger all of our kind, not to mention the Zver and the Draygoons. We don't know what we're going to be up against this time – I can safely assume that it won't be a group of Shadows. These are characteristically evil Gods that we're dealing with here, and they're striking both Earth and this world. They're not going to pull any punches."
"It's your decision in the end, coz," Sicil began, "but I think that our men and women can fight whatever it is that this God wants to throw at us."
"As do I; and have all my confidence in your medical team," Ajax admitted. "You chose well in them."
"He said that a small group of Protectors will be coming here to defend the other world with us, while the rest defend Earth," Istanbul recalled. "Should we send forces to Earth to help?"
"Earth is full of Vampires and other creatures who can fight," Sicil spat. "We shouldn't waste our time trying to defend that place."
Ajax slapped him on the backside of his head. "Cool yourself down, Sicil," she said. "If Earth falls, so does the other world."
"So then what do we do?" Sicil asked, looking to his cousin.
Istanbul sighed and admitted, "We can't do much of anything until Bateau comes to discuss this matter with us. We need his and the rest of the Elder's approval before we can even agree to helping Yuugata..."
"Bateau won't need much convincing to help little Yuugata," Ajax insisted.
"I know," Istanbul agreed, "but then there's the preparations – the training will have to be completed more quickly than you expected, Sicil. I want as few casualties as possible."
"You know I'm on it," Sicil scoffed, annoyed. "I'll whip those twigs into shape."
"Also, we should send a bird to Lofty Peak."
"Lofty Peak?" Ajax blinked. She was at least old enough to recall where Lofty Peak was and its significance. She looked at Istanbul queerly, as if she were confused and unsure of this course of action. "Are you sure?"
"If this is as serious as Yuugata has made it seem, then yes – I am sure," Istanbul told her. "We will need the aid of our old friends the pegasi of Lofty Peak. I'll send a letter to their matriarch and see what I can come up with in terms of negotiations."
"Very well," Ajax decided. "I will prepare the other physicians. Whether we agree to help little Yuugata or not, there will still be fighting on our world... and likely it will invade our walls. I will not stand by, agreement or no agreement, while our people suffer."
Istanbul smiled at her. "Thank you, Ajax," he said.
"Don't thank me," the older Elf said crossly. "You younguns always seem to think that just because we live for a long time that we're impervious to all sorts of damage. Well, we're not – and many of you will figure that out before long!"