A/N: Rewrite 3.1. The story is finished and will be updated at least once a month (because of the current lack of time and will to live and totally unpredictable schedule). Check every 15 days.
Read & Review, please!
Listening while writing: Mercituo - Immediate Music (Runner's theme)
& Age of Empires - Immediate Music
SUMMARY: War of Wings between White and Black winged Angels ravages the Heaven. A more subtle war of White Crane against White Snake is going on in the mortal world. Surja's brother, Motou Kiyoshiel, the Wingless Angel, is caught in the middle of it all. Everything from his past suddenly tracks him down. His strength is needed. Will he find a good enough reason to fight the memories he left behind?
THE WAR OF WINGS
The Lair of Cain
"Remember, today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday."
- Dale Carnegle
[Day 5 (29th of May), Tuesday morning]
The energy drink jump-started Hermes' normal adrenaline level. If they were not riding in a straight line – if they were riding through the city streets, for example –– he could probably outrun their motorbikes. Sun was already high when they stopped on the abandoned path that skirted the forest all the way to its north. Road didn't go near the first trees. Nothing was built close to any vegetation. Except for Angel Hall – the only thing that stood at the unnatural looking border between the desert and wasteland, and the lush green grass and white-trunked trees.
He didn't complain much when Mars ordered him and Alders to wait outside while others replaced the bugs within the building. The door was unlocked. The middle of nowhere and gossip about this place clearly had their wanted effects. Half an hour later, his co-workers reappeared, looking no worse for wear. The White Snake clearly wasn't home.
Even with his good feeling about the mission's success, Hermes started when Mars announced they were scouting the forest. "You mean we're going into the forest?"
He almost missed the insult completely. Too worried about stepping into sanctuary of the birch-trees again. Last time he almost lost his cool. The moss-covered forest floor was like a dissolving sponge filled with Chi, and trees seemed to be holding it there, under their tops, like some kind of an invisible mist. It did strange things to his mind and body. Made his energy jump all over the place. "I don't think that's a good idea."
"Too bad no one cares what you think then," said Mars, pushing his bike forward, leading it towards the back of the building while chatting with Bouchard.
"Just do it," Chico said, simply shrugging and following the blonde douchebags.
Alders sighed and followed them without a word, Granger baring her crossbow next to her.
After that, Hermes didn't really have any choice.
"Now that's a weird looking jungle," Bouchard openly stared up at the treetops.
"Like I said -" Hermes started, but was rudely interrupted by Mars.
"Leave the bikes here! We'll only scout a mile or so in."
"… bad idea." Hermes finished quietly, sighing in defeat. Not that any of them listened.
He left his dear motorcycle next to Alders', grabbing his nunchaku from the back and putting on his knife holsters. His eyes met with Alders' for a second and he imagined she heard his worried voice. A shrug and a nod were exchanged in an utterly meaningless way. He steeled himself with a memory of his parents dead on the floor; blood that he tried to wash out; a circle with a snake branded in the hard parquet. If the White Snake wasn't here, it was in the Crater somewhere across this forest. He thought about leaving his squad behind and just run there, slaughtering everything he could find. He'd be dead before he even reached the tower.
They agreed which way who would take once they enter the forest. It would be optimal if they could get over this as fast as they could before the enemy had a chance of showing up. If they found them here, purity of White Hall would fall under suspicion and the bugs would be found. Hermes was supposed to head northeast, which suited him just fine. He knew a meadow in that direction and if any prints would be visible in this spongy-ground, it would be there.
They walked in and Hermes could feel the Chi seeping into his feet through the soles of his shoes. The trees were radiating. White and black birch with wide trunks of beech mixed here and there. Deeper in the forest, birch was rarer.
Stopping on the rock with least moss in sight, they agreed to return to the spot in half an hour. Hermes didn't wait for their conformation; neither did he give his own.
As he jumped up, grabbing the lowest branch of a nearest birch, he heard a sharp whisper of the word "jerk" behind him. He swung on the branch, grinning a cheeky grin back at the group and took off into the treetops.
Each step he took filled him with Chi. He could feel it building up and exploding inside of him. Making his heart beat faster; making his surroundings a blur as he passed them, yet sharpening the points he looked at directly. As he moved faster and faster, his breath entered his lungs in clear waves, making him shiver from energy with each one.
After a couple of miles, he suspected he was already past the meadow point, so he decided to trace-back and try to actually search for the target before moving on blindly. A few minutes later, he turned again, going back to the point that was mutual to his memory of the last visit of the forest. How hard could it be, to find a meadow in the forest?
Right before he managed the second turn, he felt as much as he heard a Chi-blast. A few moments later, a girl's war cry that sounded suspiciously like Alders, followed. He didn't realize that trying to determine how far and which direction the scream came from was a mistake, until he was nearly hit by a Chi-missile himself. It zapped the branch that was still swaying from his push-off.
He stopped on the next one, not even bothering to balance. He just sprung backwards again, as the wood beneath was hit with something electrical again. It didn't affect the tree; just glowed there for half a second before the spark died out. Cursing, Hermes pulled himself onto the bough overhead, getting farther away from the attacker on the ground. His eyes searched for the face, even though he already had his suspicions. Their eyes found each other.
"ARGH-HA!" Something jumped from the side and hit Oil-Hair so hard they both feel rolling to the ground. A stupid move if Hermes ever saw one, but he wasn't about to complain, even if it was Mars trying to pry the device from Oil-Hair's hands. The dumb idiot didn't consider that the thing was attached to enemy's forearm as a bracer.
Another sound of metal clanking reached his ears from between the trees and he decided to go investigate and possibly help his team in trouble. The whole thing seemed decided, however, to migrate his way and he found himself jumping off the branch just when a Fire-based attack sent it to splinters.
Alders yelled as she repealed the slashing katana with her crossbow, trying to spring it at the same time. The sword bent the hard material of the weapon, making the bolt fly in the wrong direction. Hermes stopped his movement on the ground just in time to feel the breeze of it as it pierced the wood of the tree trunk he was currently passing. He didn't even dare to breathe as he watched it sticking out of the hard surface.
"Missed," growled a deep voice from behind him, sounding disappointed. Hermes yelped as he came around, and jumped up like a frog as a mighty hand squished the moss he was standing on a second ago.
The jump was fluid, landing on the thin branch in a crouch, hands helping to balance his body on it. Something slammed up from bellow, making Hermes' world rattle. Seriously, the guy is even bigger than Taichi.
He turned to where the yell came from and saw Bouchard running to the girl lying on the ground at Kajai's feet. She was writhing. It took a while for Hermes to realize that he should be glad Alders was still alive. He saw what the Traitor could do just two days ago.
"Can't reach, Kajai!" came a very childish whine from the Bigger-Guy, who was glaring up at Hermes.
Kajai growled. "Do I have to do everything around here?" Sheeting his katana, he stepped up next to his companion, staring up at Hermes as well. Unlike the Bigger-Guy, his look was calculating. Their eyes met. Hermes' stomach clenched with unease as he saw the mild annoyance on the sixteen-year-old-look-alike face. He seemed unfazed by the fact that a squad of White Crane members were scouting their backyard and he was taking them down one by one with ease.
Fast as a lightning, Kajai pulled out his sword again while turning, blocking Bouchard's knife during the easy motion. Hermes was thankful that his co-worker's war cry caught both of their attentions, making an opening for him. He slid off the branch, hanging by his hands, swinging his legs, and sending a nice kick into the centre of the big man's chest. He let himself fall to the ground then, ready to jump to his neck and choke him into unconsciousness.
At least that was his plan. His feet did plant where they should, but when he pushed, the man didn't even seem to stagger, only took a surprised step back, turning his eyes back to his attacker.
"Oh, come on!" Hermes protested.
The punch sent his way missed him, as he let himself fall underneath it, landing back first in the soft squishy moss. The kick to his left side didn't overshoot, though. His body rolled until it hit a root. Moaning, willing the dizziness away, he mouthed an "Ow!", and got up to his feet. His head hit a branch above him and he wondered why the world suddenly hated him. His feet tangled into some undergrowth that covered the spongy ground. He tried to kick himself out of it, when he realized that it was already pulling on his tights. He opened his eyes, just as it wrapped around his left wrist and yanked him back down.
"Okay, that is it!" He was in a forest. The guy was clearly an Earth-wielder. Kajai was filled with Chi and hyper with it. Mars was most likely still trying to get the shock-gun off the Oil-Hair's arm. And there was still one person missing from the group of Jerkazoids, who could show up anytime. This was a forest filled with Power, branches and lots of place to move if you could manoeuvre right. The man who was trying to force him down was big, probably slow. Hermes was fast and he was awesome enough with his wielding to get this bear to the ground.
He shook his wrists as far as he could with vines wrapped around them to get the movement his wielding needed. It was enough. Red glowed. Vines dried out, caught flame, burned to crisp. He yanked his wrists out of the charred remains and snapped his fingers, lighting up a mix of Power and something more between his thumb and insignitor. He staggered up and stepped beyond reach of other vegetation trying to wrap around his body. The Power was fierce, it burned bright as he aimed his palm at the Bigger-Guy, forcing through that need for speed, need to run and ecstasy that such release brought. Red Chi laced with actual fire shot out.
The man threw his huge frame to the ground. Flames hit a moss-covered rock behind him. The moss sizzled, fire fighting a losing battle with eternal wetness around.
Hermes didn't care. He ran. Straight at the Bigger-Guy. Ignoring his co-worker's gasp as she slammed into Chico, tumbling both of them to the ground and out of his way. He jumped, angling his body to land on the guy's chest; his vision already pinpointing the pressure point that would knock the big ape out.
Except, he never reached the man's torso.
He was lucky he saw the thin staff cross his way before it was too late. His body already horizontal to the ground went into an inner fight of Chi and adrenaline. Momentum flowed through him, taking in around four inches of his surroundings. His feet touched the long iron stick, and his soles folded around it.
Using it for a spring, his body crouching in the unnatural position, he released momentum and shot like a bullet back into the direction from which he came. Turning his body head over heels in the air, his feet planted into the trunk of a beech tree. After the hard iron it felt soft underneath his shoes.
Another momentum. Impossible feat outside of this Chi-filled forest. Another spring. He gritted his teeth, trusting his hands to find the neck of the intruder.
The Bigger-Guy's saviour bent backwards, making Hermes fly over him. He wished he had enough breath to scream in anger as he met the ground again, his body sliding backwards. He had to dig his nails into the soft ground to stop his distancing.
The whole incident since he broke free of the vines lasted less than ten seconds. Hermes' eyes went from a-little-winded tall-meddler to completely shocked Bigger-Guy. Air forced itself back into his lungs. "Fuck!"
Kajai made his presence known by yelling – the act so unusual for him that it shocked Hermes into stillness. "Akira! Where the hell were you!?" He kicked Bouchard in the stomach, even if it looked like he would rather put his frustrations out on the tall man with the staff. He turned using his own momentum, slapping Bouchard's knife out of his grip with the heel of his hand. Hermes was lucky his adrenaline level was as high as it was; the blade was flying right at him. He barely dodged it and couldn't help but stare as it buried itself into the birch right up to the hilt.
The tall man, clearly named Akira, shrugged as if Kajai's anger didn't really matter; as if it wasn't a murder hazard. "Taking care of the other two pests."
Hermes saw an electrical bolt fly towards the unfazed man and hoped against hope. It missed him by an inch. "Watch where you aim that thing!" Akira yelled at the Oil-Hair and Mars who were still wrestling for the shock-gun.
"Akira, god dammit!" Kajai continued his tantrum, and the man turned his attention back to Hermes, who was already far in the treetops. Nobody could ever claim that his fight-or-flight response wasn't working as it should.
Panic was making him dizzy and he almost slammed into a tree trunk more than one time. It was a side effect of using two momentums in such a short time frame, he knew. He was just level seven. Level eight, if he was very optimistic. He didn't plan on trying out past momentum, though. Didn't plan on risking it going wrong. If he didn't yet reach level eight in a controlled environment, he sure as hell won't reach it here, Chi filled forest or not.
He realized he was heading in the direction he already scouted just minutes before. If he had more open space his chances would be better. He could move and jump without slamming himself into a hard bark like he managed to do three times in the last two minutes of running.
He jumped and swung himself onto a higher branch, perching on it like a bird, catching his breath. If he headed back and left, he could reach the edge of the forest, but it was a long shot he'd get past the enemy alive. He would be most alert on the clearing, and then jump into vegetation when all of the traitor-squad would try to surround him. He was good at getting out of group attacks. Speed was his friend.
But Kajai –
He heard a rustle and dived down, grabbing the branch beneath. His resting spot flew down past him, collapsing all the way to the ground. The cut in the wood was done with a surgical precision. Looking up, his eyes widened and he jumped backwards, catching balance on the smooth beech behind. He grumbled into his chin, "Speak of the devil."
Kajai huffed a little, but showed no other sign of frustration. And all that fury from back there disappeared from him as if it was never there. Hermes could swear the guy's hair was turning a closer shade to silver by the day. The boy-man looked down on Hermes as if he was a bug who might take too much of his time to chase and squish. Hermes would be offended by the contemplation if he believed his life didn't depend on the outcome of the thought about his unimportance.
"You lost?" The words made him jump. He was so absorbed into analysing his situation that he forgot his opponent could talk. Or that Kajai had one of the gentlest voices he had ever heard in his life. Everything about the guy screamed a friend, except for the katana he held in a relaxed position. And a memory of the look on his face back with that Akira-guy.
Hermes coughed to get his own voice back. He licked his dry lips. "You wouldn't, per chance, perhaps point me in the direction of the mansion?"
Kajai smirked. "You bugged the place?"
"Me, personally? No."
"Not worried about your friends? Only saving your own skin?"
"We don't get along that well. And personally, I like my skin better than theirs."
"Makes you different," Kajai nodded, his smile forming into a serious look of understanding.
Hermes opened his mouth and closed it again. He repeated this action, searching for anything to say. It seemed that Kajai was in a chatty mood. However, no matter how much he tried, all he could think about was the birch branch to his left. It would be perfect for him to swing himself up and jump onto the limb above the boy-man. He could bolt into the direction from which he came, maybe even pass the others without being noticed fast enough. No matter how strong Kajai was, he was still quicker when it came to running in a more or less straight line. He bit his lip in thought.
A tired sigh brought him back to reality. His eyes darted back to those big grey ones. "Going right won't take you anywhere, going left or backwards is going to make you end up in Akira's hands. And I think you already understand the folly of trying to get through me."
Hermes growled. "What would you have me do? Lie down and play dead?"
Kajai opened his mouth to answer that, but Hermes was already in the air. Left and up, he jumped over the Unspoken as a shy feline. The path across the treetops was clear as if it was a highway.
Three trees later, he realized his mistake when Kajai didn't even try to follow him. He was going through all the reasons why that was so and convincing himself to stop freaking out about it, when his ankle cut into an invisible string that snapped free, but still managed to send him sprawling face-first into a trunk. He clawed for something to hold on two, grabbed the end of a twig, heard a swish in the air, and immediately let it go of it. The iron rod that slammed into the bark above him made white and black pieces of it fly in every direction.
He ran up the other fork of the tree and launched himself into the air, trying to get as far away from his attacker as possible. He was above the treetops for total of a second, before gravity took over again.
Hands flailing, he screamed, searching for anything that would stop him from slamming straight onto the ground. Whatever he managed to take a hold of, broke under his weight. The pain erupted, making his vision momentarily dark as a branch hit the front of his ankles, on the same spot as the trap before. He might as well cut off his feet; after all, he was sure the agony couldn't get any worse.
The ground was approaching him fast. Using the turn of his body that the hit caused, he set up his landing as a runner would. He tucked his head to his chest and placed his hand correctly when he went into a roll. The ground wasn't straight however and he couldn't get his knee in the right position to stop. He did two extra turns, until he ended up in some bushes, knee finally on the right spot to prevent additional vertigo. He pulled a fern out of his hair before looking up.
He realized a couple of things simultaneously. First, he found the meadow. Rolled right onto it, actually. The ferns and tall grass he ended up in, grew at the very edge, occupying the shadows of the trees. Just a foot past that, there was grass grazed by whatever wildlife survived here, and forever dark green. Second, he could hear someone approaching from the right. Moving fast, snapping twigs that came between it and the location of his unfortunate crouch. Third thing Hermes realized was, that he was staring right into the brown eyes of a man called Akira, who was standing in front – towering over – him. A small smile was tugging at the tall-and-lean-man's mouth.
Hermes made to get up and act in any way adrenaline told him, but as soon as he moved, Akira aimed the end of the metal rod at his face, right between his eyes. Hermes froze. Staffs made great conductors, it was the first lesson anyone ever got at the Monastery. The threat didn't need to be voiced aloud.
He might start planning, thinking his way out of this, considering which way to dodge and what to hit. He might do all that, if his eyes didn't focus on the very end of the staff, where his attention locked onto detailed – yet deformed from the years of use –– protrusion in a form of a snake. He knew the shape better than the back of his own hand. He tried to wash the blood out of its negative dents in the floor of his kitchen so many times that he lost count.
Looking up again, eyes wide, his mind went completely blank as he stared at his parents' murderer. The tall man noticed the change in his look and the corner of his mouth twitched into an even wider smile. "I knew I saw that skin colour somewhere before."
Nothing came out of Hermes' widely opened mouth. Surprisingly, the first person he thought about was Tanaya he killed just a week ago. She was dark-skinned, yet still a couple of tones lighter than he was. The last Unspoken of White Crane, excluding Kajai. She wasn't born dark-skinned; her Fire-wielding turned her that way. Then, somehow, his brain finally made sense of what the bastard in front of him was saying. Mom. Dad.
Akira opened his mouth to say something more, but the final snap of the foliage brought Kajai onto the clearing, just a few feet behind him. "Akira!" Hermes had never heard him so pissed.
The said man rolled his eyes and sighed, but didn't move away. A green light started gathering around the part of the rod in his hand.
"Akira, you will NOT kill the man!" A swishing of the grass told Hermes that Kajai was moving closer. His mind was divided. One part wanted Kajai here, somehow certain that the boy-man will protect him from the grinning murderer. The other part wanted the man that killed his parents to give him his best shot, not caring if it would kill him in the process. "We have orders, damnit!" he yelled. "I told you, I'm gonna MURDER you if you mess something up again!" Hermes didn't doubt the truth behind Kajai's threat for a second. "Do you hear me, ANIYA?!"
The man in front of him twitched.
Hermes' whole form froze. Aniya? Suddenly, his stomach turned, but he couldn't move to empty it. Akira. Aniya?
The lean-man's mouth pouted for a second. "Yeah, yeah …" This eyes shone in satisfaction, though, and later his mouth followed with a knowing smirk. The green light slowly stretched all the way down to the other end of the rod, few inches from Hermes' forehead.
His mind formed one last thought. Dead.
The light became brighter before release.
A flash. It came from Hermes' left. He could see a crouched bulking form in his peripheral. Akira's grin was wiped off the face in a millisecond, surprise and pure fury replacing it, making his eyes sparkle insanely. "You!" It was whisper, sharp as the edge of a blade. Hermes felt a heavy hand fall onto his shoulder and another one grab his upper arm.
Aniya Taichi stared up at Aniya Akira and Hermes turned his head to look at his expression. It was empty of any emotion. More empty and cold than Hermes ever saw him, and he saw him play a detached teacher for years.
Without another word or twitch, light took Hermes. He flew through what seemed like a void of no time and place …
… until he landed on the very hard floor of the Monastery's garage.