"So what you're telling me is: you need my help." She said when the initial shock and mild freak out session was over with. That had been lovely as she was the type of person to laugh when she was in shock. But now Seiga was businesslike again. In a way she hadn't been in a long time. Her arms and legs were crossed as she leaned her back against the wall. A white bandage wound its way up her arm, a sign that last night wasn't a dream. It was a casual way of standing, but the look she gave to Yue made him squirm inside. Ryo sat at the table, eating toast, drinking coffee and looking at his laptop of all things. It pissed her off. How could this guy make a conversation like this seem normal? How could he think it was normal? She turned back to Yue who was sitting, waiting patiently for to do something.
"So if you're God, and I'm Moses, who's the burning bush?"
"I'm not God, just a god."
"We're both Moses." Ryo interrupted, his eyes never leaving the screen.
"Well, really," Yue began, "He's the Mo and you're the Ses."
"The things you do to appease women…" And that was the last attempt to hold onto the reins of her temper. It was probably due to the last twenty-four hours of being bitten and then relocated and then, of all things, told that Yue was higher being of "Heaven*" that had gotten her all riled up, and somehow she could take that, but dammit she wasn't in the mood for a man who was going degrade her again. It took all of five seconds for Seiga to stomp across the kitchen and close his forsaken computer. And before he could even manage a squeal of protest she snarled, "Well at least he knows better than to piss them off."
Ryo looked like a fish that was trying to breathe on land.
Seiga whipped her head around and took one look at Yue, who was busy happily eyeing a dirty nail, before storming out of the house.
The men's eyes met. "Aren't you all powerful or something? Why do you let her do that?"
"Everything happens for a reason," he said shrugging, a light smile tugging at his lips, "Now go after her."
The scene kept replaying in her head. Part of the conversation kept echoing. She was sitting on a bench in the park. She was thankful that it was still summer and the nights were warm.
"Those things that you saw, they can only be seen in the dark."
"Well, I guess that explains them disappearing when the lights turned on."
"Yes. But listen, there's more than one type of darkness out there. It's just easier for them to roam free at night."
"What do you—"
"Doesn't really matter, at least you can see them." Ryo interjected a bit moodily.
"I don't want to see them," she snapped. Ryo shrugged her statement off and Seiga resisted the urge to just snarl at him. It wouldn't feel as good as screaming, but it was something. She glowered at Yue, her eyes demanding an explanation though he was already trying to give one. And Ryo wasn't helping things in any way either. This could have been a calm conversation. A civilized, albeit weird, conversation; however it could have been a calm one nonetheless. But no Ryo had to make Seiga look like a rabid dog, complete with raised hackles, about to rip either of their throats out. If the gods gave out awards, Yue thought, Ryo would most certainly win "Best Asshole."
"Anyways," Yue said clearing his throat, "they're the things that cut the red thread that connects us to each other."
"In other words, who we're going to marry."
"You're lucky your string was tied to your pinky and not your ankle."
"You may not think it Seiga, but you do deserve happiness. It's my job to help you get to where you need to be."
"Here." Seiga jumped, finally noticing the coffee cup that was hanging in front of her face. Brown fingers held it out for her by the plastic top.
"I don't want it," she said to Ryo.
"Well take it anyway, it's hot!"
"I said I. Don't. Want. It."
"You don't want a lot of things," Ryo retorted forcing the steaming cup into her hands. He sat down next to her. "But just take it anyway, Okay?" All the built up tension inside her melted away at his last words, as if she was unable to keep holding on to her anger. It left her feeling exhausted. There was a moment of awkward silence as she pulled her dark brown tresses behind her ear. It was an unconscious act for her, surely, but there was a scar at the base of her neck. It looked like a dog or something bit her. There were even little indents where the teeth sank into her flesh.
"What happened there?" He asked, pointing, slightly grazing at the scar. Seiga pulled away from his so fast, he blinked as if to make sure that she wasn't beside him anymore. She had scooted herself to the end of the bench looking at him with the most guarded eyes Ryo had ever seen.
When she realized what she had done, she seemed to deflate. Her hand hooked itself around her neck, shielding the scar from view. "My ex…" she began, "got a little too into it…" She chuckled, a little embarrassed, wanting to laugh it off. Ryo blushed, smiling shyly. Laughter was, after all, contagious. Besides, he was expecting a story with the moral of it being "ever since then, I've been terrified of dogs"; he wasn't expecting something like that. "I got mad at him too." She continued, "told him that until it healed, I wouldn't so much as kiss him."
"And what did he say?"
"Doesn't matter."She looked so far away then. Cold and distant, like the perfect ice sculpture. Ryo reached out to touch her, but then thought better of it. She didn't notice. "I always end up giving in at the end. Guess that makes me weak, huh?"
"Did you love him?"
"That doesn't make you weak."
She smiled at him, "thanks."
"It makes you pathetic."
"Thanks," she said sarcastically. Seiga sighed and rolled her eyes. As if she really needed someone to remind her that she had been pathetically in love with that kind of man.
The second time Seiga had ever lied to Desiree and Madison's mother was similar to the first time. Both times she had played along even if it was against her better judgment. This time the only difference between then and now was that this time she didn't get caught.
"Yue took her to his house after we left the hospital," Ryo said, and she resented him for being able to lie to someone like Mother so unabashedly. However, she couldn't just tell Mother, "So you remember that guy I had a crush on in high school? Well, not for nothing, but he's a god. And he and his little sidekick here want me to help them save the world." Yeah…it just could not happen.
Mother didn't say anything at first after Ryo had finished talking. She merely watched at Ryo gently led Seiga to the foam mattress, and didn't know if she was overjoyed that Seiga found someone new in her life or worried that it might take her away again after Mother had just gotten her back.
"You're working hard now, aren't you," Mother said using her teasing tone when Ryo had finally left. And even though it was portrayed as a joke, she couldn't help but be serious about it as well.
"I am not." Seiga grumped. "I've sworn off men for a while."
"Well you're doing a wonderful job."
"You're sarcasm is not appreciated," Seiga retorted. Mother laughed.
"What are you going to do when that Satan guy comes around?"
"You mean Tristan?"
"That's what the restraining order is for."
"Those things don't always work."
"Then PLAN B: THE BODY GUARD."
"Are you talking about that man you came in with you earlier? Oh, but honey, he's such a twiggy little thing."
"I'm sure he's got muscle on him somewhere."
"You going to sleep again?" Mother asked all joking aside, almost as if she needed to reassure herself. Yes, she decided. Rest after so long without it was probably better.
Seiga poked her head from under the covers "Do you not want me to?"
"Honey, I don't care what you do as long as the house is clean when I get off work."
Tristan appeared in her dreams again. She ran in the never ending hallway. On either side of her were door and doors and doors. Off in the distance, Seiga could see a door with a light simmering through the cracks. But it was so far away... Like the horizon, no matter how long she ran, she could never reach it.
His heartbeat, like hers, seemed to match the echoing of his footsteps. She recognized the slow steady pace of that beat. Just like how the rhythm of a dance song and love song were different. She remembered when she could rest her head against the safety of his chest, to listen to that love song over and over again.
"This heart only beats for you." And oh, God she wanted to scream, but if she could, she probably would have by now. If her heart beat any faster, it would stop. Her legs cried out their agony to her, but if she listened she'd never get away from him.
Seiga made the mistake of looking behind her. Why was he getting closer? Oh God…oh God…Maybe if she opened one of the doors she'd—
—Run down the isle of the local book store. Seiga looked behind her, finally allowing herself to slow down to a stop. Breathing had become difficult.
"You can't run from me forever," Tristan said. His smile took up his whole face, those brown eyes of his lit up. Seiga gave out a shout of surprise and fell backwards. There was a sinister feel about the lightness his face brought and how those dark words rang in Seiga's ears.
She crawled backwards first, managing a run as soon as she caught her balance. He continued walking to her. She saw the exit facing her, white light blocking any other sign of existence. She went towards it without second thought. Right into—
His waiting arms. She was too horrified to speak. Tears ran down her face.
"I'll never let you go." He said to her. The way his words caressed her like he had meant it kept her struggling. Maybe he had meant it then…maybe he still did. Oh God…oh God… "So don't ever leave me, ok?"
What had she said before? She remembered this scene from her memories. She remembered this park and how pretty and absolutely beautiful everything had seemed then. If she remembered correctly, she had nodded. "Ok," She whispered, "Ok." It was romantic and sappy, but she didn't care. She liked it. What had she done after? Tristan closed his eyes and leaned in for a kiss.
"NO!" She screamed and pulled away from his grasp. Again she landed on the ground. She'd have bruises again.
"Bitch," he hissed falling to his knees. She was too slow to get away when he reached out for her ankle. He pulled her towards him. She screamed, as if somebody in the park would help her. She screamed, and his words paralyzed her. "Did you think you could get away just by running?"
She made the mistake of looking into his eyes again. A flash of red where were the brown used to be shocked her. He smiled. Those unbelievably white teeth glowed. "You leave when I say you can…"
Seiga woke up dizzy and in desperate need of throwing up.
In the middle of cleaning Seiga decided that the house was slowly closing in on her. All the lights were turned on just in case those things came back for her. Sleeping during the day had become manageable at best, but at night was almost impossible now. Not only did she fear Tristan's wrath in her dreams, she had to deal with the shadow things when she awoke.
She had gotten so used to being alone when Tristan worked late at night, so used to it when Mother had to go see one last patient after it had gotten dark that Seiga had gotten to the point where the silence didn't bother her so much anymore.
But tonight was different. Tonight her mind played pranks on her. She was starting to feel paranoid. The false alarm of next door's little boy's shriek of glee had startled her so much she almost cut herself with the knife she was trying to clean. Seiga looked about the house, half expecting those pastille colored eyes to stare at her or shining white teeth to blind her, but the only thing that moved beside herself was the fan.
"There's more than one type of darkness out there…"
What Yue had said to her this morning rang through her head ever since she had woken up, and she was beginning to see what he had meant about that. How rich in darkness was the smell of fear? The thought made her hands shake.
So it was after the second time she got startled, by the phone no less, that she had decided that all cleaning of the house was to be postponed until after she had calmed down. And really, as dangerous as outside was at night, she decided to chance it. First the claustrophobia then the phone call. Yes, Seiga decided. Outside was definitely better than in.
"Cartwright residence," Seiga automatically answered. Silence on the other end. She was about to hang up from annoyance when his voice spoke.
"Seiga?" Tristan's voice sounded small and unsure. "Honey, have you been there all this time?"
Seiga caught herself nodding. "Yes," she said.
"I'll come pick you up." Seiga could imagine him reaching for the keys he had carelessly thrown on the coffee table. She knew those keys very well. Two had belonged to Mother's house, that is, before the locks had been changed. Two of them belonged to the locks of the apartment they used to share; one belonged to Tristan's job, one belonged to his car, and the last one…she didn't know what that one opened. She didn't really remember. She knew those keys intimately though. If ever there was an ally among a sea of enemies, the keys were it. They told her she had fifteen seconds to be awake to greet him when he walked through the door. They told her sorry when they were thrown about to whatever top it may be for the night. They told her "Hurry up! Last chance!" before he walked in. If Seiga listened well enough, she could avoid getting smacked for a night or two.
"Don't," Seiga finally said over the phone. It was all she could manage. Like saying "Ow," after the breath was knocked out of her. Don't…that word could translate into so many different sayings: "don't come here", "don't take me away", "don't come near me."…What Tristan heard was rejection. And a rejected Tristan was a dangerous Tristan.
"I-I'll call the cops," and cringed at how weak sounding it was.
"What's wrong?" He sounded worried. Truly worried, and Seiga's grip on the phone tightened. Fear coiled and settled in her stomach. She forgot to breathe. Damn him, she thought. Damn him for caring, damn him for having this effect on her. Damn him for pushing her to the limit…just damn him.
"Don't come," she said more forcefully and hung up the phone. She turned her back to the wall and slid down, hands over her face as she sobbed. Why couldn't she be stronger than this?
I wanted to tell you sooner, but I didn't know how.
"You look livelier feisty." For the second time Ryo's husky voice managed to break her out of her thoughts. Her heart caught in her throat. She looked beside her to find him matching her stride, and she took a moment to take in his features like she didn't do when he face was practically plastered to the computer.
She was reminded of the reason why women put beauty marks on their faces* when she looked at him. The natural beauty marks, there were three that she could see now. One was under his eye, at the highest point of the cheekbone. There was one under his lips above and off to the side of his chin, and there was one on his neck. His nose was big, but managed to make his face look like it belonged to a man. Not like Yue who could not only pass off as a woman, but a pretty woman. His skin was a semi dark shade of brown that was darker with a very obvious tan.
"Cat got your tongue?"
"You got a little something in your teeth," she retorted, not missing a beat. There was something about him that automatically made her defensive…made her more of herself than she wanted to figure out. She pretended to scrap her finger against the crack of her two front teeth. Ryo looked away from her, running his tongue over his teeth as if his taste buds were sensor rays.
"Thanks," he said when he was done. She didn't know if he meant it or not.
"What are you doing here?"
"I'd ask you the same thing if I knew I'd get an answer." Seiga stared at him, waiting for the silence to get to him. Ryo held a strong front for a while, but the wall eventually broke. Ryo sighed, "Yue sent me."
"Why doesn't he just come himself?"
"Look, I'm not going obey you as readily as others, but for information's sake, he's probably out doing godly things."
"Probably out doing godly things," Seiga repeated slowly as if she couldn't quite get it in her head to believe it. "Right…"
"Yeah, he's the god of something isn't he? In charge of the red string…he's probably out trying to tie fated lovers' strings back together." When the blank look Seiga gave him didn't leave he continued, "The one that's tied to your pinky?"
"Oh, I see. The one that Yue was talking to me about this morning while I was still in some form of shock."
Seiga didn't know if Ryo really thought about it for a moment or if he was just pretending, but all it took was a couple seconds before he replied, "Yeah, that one."
"I thought you were kidding around about the god thing. It's like you're playing a perverse game of superheroes. Gods are just dreams people use to justify the world."
"Some dreams come true," Ryo said quietly and Seiga gave him a look that clearly showed he was weird.
"Okay…" she sighed, "Look, I don't believe what you're telling me is true, but for information's sake, let's pretend like I do."
"Why are we supposed to help him? Why can't other gods help him with this type of problem?"
"Not familiar with Chinese literature, are you?"
"We're in America, Ryo," she retorted cynically, "what does Chinese literature have anything to do with us?"
"Ever watch the movie The Forbidden Kingdom?"
"The one with Jackie Chan and Jet Li?"
"I've seen it."
"It's semi accurate for a Hollywood movie* on something so ancient."
"What does this have anything to do with Yue?"
Ryo sighed. "It's because of Monkey that there aren't many gods who can actually get along long enough to work together."
"And another thing, Yue is a peaceful god that brings people together. He can't kill things. It's against his nature to do so. Just because he's a god and immortal doesn't mean he can do this alone. I don't know if the Jade Emperor* is really as useless as he is in the movie, but he tends to be much more of a ruler and less like a helpless old man in stories. But it doesn't matter because all this that Yue is doing, the Jade Emperor must have ordered it. And even if he didn't—it's like cleaning up after a child. You would give it away for someone to take care of it unless you were desperate."
"And we're the—"
"—Desperate part, yes."
"Ok, so what exactly are we supposed to do?" She asked.
"Long story short: You see them, I kill them. It's one set of powers that turned into two."
"So you can't see them," Seiga started.
"And you can't kill them," Ryo finished.
"Not for me. I managed to kill two of them already."
"How many are there total?"
"How many pairs of eyes did you see last night?"
Seiga took a moment to think about it. "Four."
"Yue told me there were five."
"And you killed two."
"So there's three now. It was on your arm last night. I might not see them, but I can still feel them. They're immobile under the light."
Seiga sighed and ran her hand over her face she was caught between wanting to know more and the urge to go home, even if home was closer to the cage Tristan had made for her. "How do you know all this stuff, anyway? One came to you before the others came to me, didn't they?"
Ryo was silent, but had the look of a little boy the cookie crumbs followed. He looked troubled all of a sudden, maybe a little paler, but it was hard to tell as all she had were the random working street lamps as lights. Seiga waited, just like before, for an answer. She could be patient if she needed to be. Unlike the first time, though, the silence lasted.
The stars were pretty tonight, Seiga realized. Her mind drifting off when it seemed like the question wasn't going to be answered. They dotted the sky perfectly against the city lights. She was reminded of camping when she looked at the stars…because camping during the night was like bonding time. Everyone lay huddled under the blankets, trying to keep warm against the cold night air. When the body heat of four or more people settled in the tent and everybody was warm, that's when the stories were told. That's when the reflections of the first day could be seen in multiple points of views. It was the time when the most laughter could be heard.
Giggling. Her arm burned. Something behind them moved. A gust of wind had her spinning behind her to face the darkness again. The throbbing started, and Seiga found her arm clutched tightly to her chest as if it could help make the sudden pain go away.
"What's wrong?" She didn't realize until his voice was beside her again that he had his arms around her in an attempt to keep her upright. Yellow eyes blinked at her, but this one held more mischief than the green eyed one did. She thought she'd die of fear when those blade-looking teeth smiled at her.
"Oooh," it cooed. "we hass two tonightss."
"What do you see?"
"It's the yellow one," she said. "Directly in front of us."
"Can ssee usss, yesss?" Yellow asked. It was cold, Seiga realized. Why was it cold in summer? Yellow moved closer to her, to them.
"Move back slowly," she told Ryo, who complied.
Yellow blinked, as if it needed to do so to shift its eyes away from her. It looked at Ryo and smiled. Sharp white teeth glinting at him. Seiga looked away from the light, Ryo continued to stare.
"Can you hear it?" She asked. Ryo nodded slowly as if distracted. His eyes shifting, far away.
"Poor Ryo-chan* wouldn't hurtss Maya would he?" It hissed in a most soothing way, "Notss poor Maya."
"No, Ryo-chan wouldn't hurt Maya." Ryo confirmed. His grip on her loosened. Seiga backed away, confused, but she didn't run. Yellow looked from her to him, blinking, cocking its head every which way, almost like a curious bird. When next it spoke, it was a woman's voice. All traces of its speech before vanished. "You promised to stay by my side forever," it was a pout, and Seiga almost laughed, almost. She didn't think those things had it in them to pout.
"Maya…" His voice seemed to caress that name. A soft whisper in the air. A tear fell from Ryo's eyes. He didn't wipe it away, just looked forward, trancelike. He just moved forward, reaching out his hand as if trying reach for someone far away. "Maya, I didn't mean to—I'm sorry…"
"Liar!" The force of its scream nearly blew Seiga away. It made her cry out, clutching her arm until the agony receded and once more it throbbed and burned. Ryo gasped, oblivious to the other's pain. Another tear escaped from his eye.
"Come on, don't be like that," his voice was small. He attempted a smile, but it only broke his face and made his tears fall faster. The typical face that a child made when he or she started crying. It made his handsome face into something ugly. Seiga couldn't help but want to comfort him. It was like the compassion she usually saved for Mother and her family swelled, reached out to him. She shook her head. When did he become important to her?
Or was that pity?
"Liar." And the giggling came back. Ryo didn't seem to hear it, didn't seem to be able to move. Seiga saw what she thought was Yellow licking its lips, but its tongue was just as dark as the rest of its body. The whiteness of its teeth blinked, as if out of focus, from left to right and then reappeared again in all its glory.
Yellow made a lunge for Ryo at the same time she reached for his hand to jerk him away.
"Ryo," she called to him, "Ryo, how did you kill these things before? What'd you do?" She was in front of him, barely managed to dodge Yellow's teeth. Barely managed it a second time. She kicked it in the gut when it jumped towards Ryo's hand. It whimpered like a dog.
"I killed her…" he whispered and it was so broken that a piece of her heart broke from hearing it. She didn't let that compassion show, "Uh huh, now you can beat me up all you want once you kill her a second time." Ryo turned towards her, a horrified look on his face.
"Yellow eyes! The thing with the yellow eyes! Ryo, it's after us! How'd you kill the other string cutter thingies?" Yellow jumped again. Seiga screamed, clutched Ryo's hand, and made him slap it away. Since she couldn't kill it, she'd make him do it. Yellow screeched, and looked it's way, eyes resentful. Part of its face had sizzled away to show the street lamp's pole, and only then did Seiga realize that the two of them had acted like idiots in a public area, but nobody was there, or seemed to care as much around midnight.
Yellow screeched, almost like a howl. Seiga saw its eyes widen as if being slapped was the last thing it thought of when it was told it was going to die. Smoke rose up from the air. The ground bubbled and then the darkness that was there disappeared. The eyes stayed for a little bit longer, even managed to blink before those also melted away, and with it, the constant pain in her arm. There was silence between the two of them. Seiga met Ryo's eyes and gave a small smile. She wasn't amused and gave her full power into her glare. Her nostrils flared. If it wasn't for those stupid tear drops, Seiga would have punched him.
"All you had to do was touch them?"
"Seems that way, right?" This time she did slap him. For sounding so much like he had known that all along. She left him staggering, off balance for a couple of seconds. When he turned his eyes to her he looked like a wounded puppy. His hand automatically coming into contact with his face.
"I'm going home," Seiga said. "You coming or are you going to just stand there with a retarded look on your face?"
* All gods reside in heaven. In Chinese/Japanese folklore, they even call it Heaven
* To lure the eyes to the most attractive feature on her face.
* Props for this because that usually isn't the case. Two things though, the staff that Monkey uses is supposed to only be carried by Monkey because it weighs 6.5 tons. The staff in the movie was used to bring fruition to a storyline. Anyway, everything in the beginning that Monkey can do, the stories say he can do. Second, the monk in the movie was someone that Monkey had to obey in Journey to the West. There's too much to explain about Monkey, but he's in a book called Journey to the West by Wu Cheng'en.
* He rules Heaven
* Japanese suffix used to identify the relationship of a person. The suffix "chan" is used for people one's own age or younger. There are many different types of suffixes.