The Aves of Maria

Verson 2.5

First draft: Started- January 16, 2010, Finished- June 22, 2010

First draft written as a fanfiction to the manga/anime Death Note.

Completed first draft can be found and read by following the Fanfiction dot net link in the author's profile.

Second draft: Started- April 20, 2010, Revamped- October 17, 2010, Finished- TBA 2011

Short Summary: After his father's stroke, Atsushi Maki meets Christian follower Maria Fujitaka. Atsushi is falling fast, but is this love or something much more sinister?

Long Summary: Genius college-student Atsushi Maki's father has just had a stroke. In response, his mother drags her children straight into prayer, where Atsushi meets the lovely Christian, half-American woman, Maria Fujitaka. Attraction is immediate, and as time wears on, Atsushi is convinced that this must be love, no matter that Maria's age is almost double his nineteen years. But at his heels is a parasite, a wicked imp that calls itself Amanojaku, and this young man's late first love is led down a much more sinister road, one that leads straight into the pits of burning obsession.

Warnings: This story will contain religious themes and situations and, later, sexual themes and situations.

Alea Iacta Est –The Die Has Been Cast

19 year-old Atsushi Maki was an atheist. Despite the profoundly traditional and superstitious mannerisms of his family, Atsushi was a man who focused on logic and what could be seen with the human eye, what could be put together or dissected by human hands. He preferred facts: cold and unmovable as mountains. Although religion went hand-in-hand with history, it defied many facts of logic. With its water-walking messiahs and bathroom-licking demons, Atsushi cast it aside and did not bother with it.

This did not mean, however, that it was so easily erased from his life. His parents and sister were spiritually connected enough: his mother most strongly of the family. She leaned heavily into Christianity, like a tree branch burdened by an overabundant wealth of fruit; with one foot and hand firmly rooted in the ancient Shinto and Buddhist beliefs that made up the foundations of Japan's history and culture. In Atsushi's youth, the lean had been enough for their mother to dress the family up in clean clothes each Sunday and pull them along, crusty-eyed and yawning, to the nearest Christian church for a meager mass and then to a Shinto shrine on the way back home. The children were doused twice in one day with holy water, which always made his sister, Anju, end up in tears because it left her hands dry and pained, and left Atsushi with memories of holding her sticky palms after she spit on her fingers to ease her discomfort.

The weekly event evaporated as the children grew, pushed aside to make room for the pursuit of excelling grades and their swelling awareness of the world around them. Atsushi used the excuse of homework while Anju grew adept at faking fevers and stomachaches to the point where she actually suffered them at the very mention of the word "church." Their father was a detective, and when he was on a case the Emperor himself wouldn't be able to coax the man from his work, never mind their mother or the day of the week.

However, when their father's job finally caught up with his age and struck him down with a stroke, nothing less than her own hospitalization could have kept Hamako Maki from rushing off to pray, dragging her two unwilling offspring behind her like a woman possessed.

Sitting through mass, after going so long without, was nearly unbearable. It was easy enough to tune out the monotonous, half-singing drone of the priest, his thin white hair frizzing about his head in a misty halo, but the emotion-heavy Western architecture, musty smell, and hard-backed benches left Atsushi in a state of acute stiffness. The carpet, he noted somewhat morbidly, was a shade of red that resembled dried blood. Anju wouldn't stop fidgeting, her pointy elbows jabbing into his side every time she shifted. Their mother had sobbed herself dry beforehand—a wonder that her sleeves weren't red—but her sallow face and depressed demeanor drew unwanted attention.

Anju wiggled in her seat again, and Atsushi resisted the urge to jab her in the ribs in retaliation. He was the perfect son, and as such was above such acts of pettiness, no matter how appealing. He sufficed himself to glaring down his nose at her, but the newly minted high school student was oblivious to his burning stare as she played a lonely game of Cat's Cradle with her necklace.

Chidingly, he reached over and smacked her wrist in warning. Anju's face snapped up to his, fingers paused. She glared up at him, but he met her challenging stare without blinking.

'Just try it.'

Her pink lips puckered, eyebrows twitching in one last, stubborn twist of defiance before caving. She slouched unladylike against the bench and untangled the necklace to replace it around her neck. She crossed her arms, pouting, while her brother oozed arrogant victory beside her.

Atsushi knew too well how to get what he wanted.

Satisfied with his sibling's submission, Atsushi straightened and pretended to pay attention. The priest must have said something about Noritaka's stroke, because the air pressure in the building dropped as every person present gasped and turned to focus their bright, pitying eyes on the three Maki's. Hamako flushed at the attention and as the priest continued to belch pretty praises, Atsushi surmised that the one foot his father had in the grave was no doubt trying to whirl madly at the moment. Noritaka was humble in a way that Atsushi could never be.

He scanned over the faces on the onlookers, a challenge underlying his expression. They looked away, wincing in guilt for their dumbfounded gaping—guilty that they let themselves be caught—or simply besieged by the young man's overwhelming presence: back straight, shoulders thrown back, and eyes proud and defensive. His ego seemed too big for the building. As they looked away, one by one turning their attentions back to the balding pastor, Atsushi's gaze settled and lingered on a woman.

For a moment, he thought her to be a Western immigrant, but it quickly became obvious that it was not so. Though her hair was naturally blonde—right down to the roots of her hair, to her eyebrows, the pale, honeyed shine of her eyelashes—her face was Japanese: oval face, and full, sushi lips, single eyelids.

A half-blood.

She was clad in perfect, unblemished white, and he felt the feeble stirring of childhood memory flutter in his mind. He knew of this woman. Of their own accord, his eyes sought out a shining halo or set of enormous snowy wings.

The room moved. Apparently the priest had dismissed them all and the sermon was over, for everyone stood and stumbled as a single organism, their noisy murmurs breaking the hush. Although some left without a backwards glance, the majority of the churchgoers swarmed around the Maki family, spouting out sympathies. Hamako nodded solemnly, accepting handshakes and hugs and promises that would never be fulfilled. Anju stayed in her seat, only rising when Atsushi pulled her up by the arm. He ignored the sharp pinch it earned him.

The woman that had captured his attention moments before was among the group encircling his mother, and hung back until the number had dwindled to a sparse few. A golden cross lay heavily upon her breast.

The yellow-haired woman gently gathered Hamako in her arms and Atsushi was somewhat surprised to see his mother's strong front crack.

"How are you holding out, Hamako-san?" The half-breed woman asked.

Hamako breathed slowly, staving off tears. "I'm… okay. Terrified, but the doctors say that Noritaka will make a full recovery, so I just need to keep myself busy until I can get him home."

The mysterious female tsked. "Not entirely healthy, Hamako-san. A woman doesn't need to stretch herself so thin these days, you know. You'll come to my home for tea on Tuesday and we'll talk, us two women, yes?"

Hamako took a breath and steadied herself, ending the embrace with a weak half-smile. "Yes, Maria-san. I would like that."

Atsushi cleared his throat, calling the two women's attentions to himself, and bowed. "I do not believe we have been properly introduced, ma'am. I am Hamako's son, Atsushi, and this is my sister, Anju. Pleasure to meet you." Hamako glowed a little with motherly pride.

The women beamed—Atsushi felt his chest seize—and returned the greeting. "Wonderful to meet you, Maki-kun, Maki-chan. I am Maria Fujitaka."

'Beata Maria.' The Latin came, unbidden, to the forefront of his mind. He knew Maria, he realized, though indirectly. She was as constant a figure in the church as the pastor; his mother took tea with Maria regularly and occasionally his father as well. In his childhood, he had dismissed her as just another adult and forgotten her, but Atsushi was no longer a child.

Maria continued smiling. "I'll extend my invite for your mother to you two also; should you need a willing ear, you are welcome to visit me, whether it is worry for Noritaka-san or anything else." She turned back to Hamako and embraced the woman briefly once more. "I need to go. I'll see you Tuesday, Hamako-san."

On the way home, they stopped at a Shinto temple. Anju complained of dry hands while Atsushi silently waxed philosophic on the existence of angels.

...To Be Continued...