Chapter 1: The Demon Momoka
She never cared what others thought of her. Not really. Her kind was not made to torment themselves over other's opinions. Compassion for others was regarded as weak and pathetic. It was for this reason Momoka had managed to avoid slander from her kind for almost two years. For the past three months, she has been free to do nothing but eat and sleep. Even though she had an endless obligation, she preferred to live life the way she wanted. And nobody cared.
It was then by some odd force that she found herself in front of a stranger's farmhouse. It was a peculiar place. The single isolated house sat beyond a dirt-filled road in what appeared to be in the middle of nowhere. It was quiet, empty, and if it wasn't for the single lone Plymouth car sitting in the driveway, one would think the place was uninhabited, abandoned even. The old farmhouse was complete with a giant piece of land that grew nothing but weeds and bushes. A dried up garden sat in the front, its fences collapsed and twisted as if ran over by a tornado. The storage house was chained and locked as if the owners had no plans to use it anytime soon. Momoka yawned, recalling the morning's rather one-sided conversation. What was it that had persuaded her to tag along to a place like this?
/I've heard about you,\ an excited voice had awoken her early in the morning sun. /You're the one who lives among the humans. Working hard for our Master, never returning to the Underworld. I actually admire you... or would have...\
The voice dropped.
She rolled to her side, feeling her stiff bones line up with the hardness of the wooden boards, and squinted open an eye. The porch floor stared back at her, covered in mold and still wet from the morning dew. A piece of wood had chipped off where she laid and grass was growing through its cracks. Her eyes rolled to the ceiling, then to the sky, and finally, back down to the columns that supported the porch through all these years. Her nose twitched, smelling nothing but the country air. Did she imagine the voice in her head?
Her eyelids fell back to a close. She was drifting off to sleep once more when a shadow came across her mind's eye. She sat up on her belly, her eyes wide and fully awake. The porch column came into focus, and she wondered for a second why she was so startled. Perhaps she had a good reason to be.
This time, she was not alone.
Something sat beside the column. Something long and brown with six legs. Something with huge bulgy eyes that glared back at Momoka with disdain. Its mouth opened on all four corners as if trying to speak. They both knew it could not, and yet, Momoka heard the words clearly in her head.
/…This is insulting.\
Momoka casually circled around a mailbox post in front of the driveway, giving the raised flag and the cluster of letters and flyers stuffed into the compartment not the slightest bit of curiosity. Her once fine and tidy coat was now covered with crumbs of dirt and dust that blocked out the shine of a healthy glow. She was a slender short-haired tabby, appearing no more than two years old. The aura of confidence in her round yellow eyes sparked a youthful nature as she gazed up the driveway to the old homestead. For a while, she did not move. She was waiting for something, something that could not be seen with the naked eye. In the tranquility of the day, it seemed impossible that anything was going to occur. But Momoka knew better.
A high-pitched scream penetrated the air, springing off the nesting crows on the roof. The farmhouse door swung open and a woman wearing a bright green dress ran out in haste.
"He's possessed!" she cried in a voice trembling with fright. "He's possessed by the Devil!"
The woman threw herself into the car, her bare feet hardly inside when the engine sprung to life. It reversed out of the driveway and onto the street, spouting out a cloud of smoke as it zoomed out of sight.
The cat shook her fur until satisfied all the dust has been blown off. She stretched, unbothered by the scene that had unfolded before her. If anything, it was simply a short interruption to the peaceful silence that resumed as quickly as it was broken. There was nothing to be concerned about. The woman would return some time later, likely accompanied by a priest or an exorcist of some kind, only to find that her relative has returned to normal. The demon would have lost interest and left a long time ago. She has seen it all many times before.
An amused laugh filled her ears. She did not bother to search for the source for she knew full well whom it was. Besides, it was being projected into her mind probably from yards away, a deep voice that vibrated against the fragments of her skull causing each word to echo over and over before dying down. She shook her head in annoyance. The sensation was rather unpleasant.
/You saw that, Momoka?\ the voice spoke proudly. /You saw that? Tell me you saw that full-body takeover. I scared her good!\
The cat rolled her eyes. All demons were the same. They loved to brag how they picked on the vulnerable, manipulating them to do whatever they could come up with and compete among themselves for the most extravagant. Only a few demons had the ability to commit a full-body takeover where the human's entire personality and body would be under their control. Those who managed to perform one successfully were praised, but they were also the ones who loved to brag. This demon was no different. He had personally invited Momoka to watch his performance, personally guaranteed it was going to be a success, and personally gloated that Momoka would learn something from watching. The only reason Momoka agreed to observe was because of the words the demon uttered this morning, and although she could not remember the exact impact it had on her—enough of an impact to drag her away from laying on the porch all day—she knew her way of life was being threatened and that was enough.
Her ears straightened at a small noise coming from a clump of grass beside her. She knelt down until her chin brushed against the ground, finally spotting the creature. A grasshopper chirped in response, gazing up at her with huge bulgy eyes.
/That boy was too easy! A piece of cake. He didn't even try to resist! Even you could do it, Momoka! Hah!\
Momoka's tail twitched in irritation at the last sentence. She has been out of the action for a while now, but that didn't mean she was any less experienced than the rest of them. To hear such a statement coming from a demon who could only take the form of this tiny creature before her was beyond aggravating. Her muscles tightened as she envisioned herself pounding down the tiny insect, squeezing his guts out until he admitted who was the greater demon. How fine would it be if she could teach him a lesson.
A thunderous vibration cracked open the ground before them, catching their attention. Red light oozed out of the gap, a thick burning smell accompanied the heat of the waving air, making Momoka's nose cringe in disgust.
/Oh, oh, I get to go back!\ the grasshopper jumped in excitement. /What honor! Wait until I tell everyone how easy it was!\
The crack did not excite Momoka the same way. Quite a few had opened before her, inviting her to jump down to the Underworld to reunite with the Devil after a successful deed. In the Underworld, demons were subjects to the Devil, who provided physical bodies to otherwise wandering spirits that could not secure a body on their own. The Devil would then send them back to the surface with a task to prove their loyalty. Those who succeeded in completing the task will be able to return to obtain even stronger bodies that took them closer to gaining equality with God. The cycle was well known and obeyed by every demon in existence, and yet Momoka has never been to the Underworld once. She has turned down the gateway every time.
This time, the gateway was not here for her, but rather for the grasshopper. The tiny size of the crack fit the insect well.
/Well, I'm out of here!\ the grasshopper saluted without a second thought. /The Master awaits!\
The grasshopper jumped towards the crack. Momoka sprang as fast as her reflexes allowed, clasping the grasshopper between her paws and pressing him to the ground. She leaned down, squinting into a crack between her paws, wondering if the impact was too much for the grasshopper to handle. Has she squashed the insect dead? A pair of antennae popped out, and the grasshopper chirped. It seemed the insect was still alive.
/Wha-what's the meaning of this?\ he demanded angrily.
Momoka would have grinned if she could. Slowly, the cat grew in size and began to transform. The dark fur on the cat's body shrunk down into the skin. The pointy nose flattened into the face. Her legs and arms grew long and sturdy. And her paws stretched out hairy fingers that wrapped themselves around the grasshopper one by one. The grasshopper's eyes widened as he gazed into the pupils of a half-human-half-cat creature.
/You're... you're an Elite!\ he gasped.
She stood crouched before him proudly; short black fur around her cheeks wrinkled together into a smirk. She was a girl of about twelve years of age. Cat ears pointed out behind strands of long black hair that fell to her shoulders. A furry tail swung lively behind her back. Although not perfect, the ability to transform into a human was a rare skill among the demons. Only the Devil was able to perfect it, and Momoka, although able to draw out the human shape, was still covered in black fur that made up the shape of a vest and shorts. But it was already enough for the grasshopper to be gaping in awe.
"What's the matter?" Momoka sneered in a voice that resembled a human girl. "Can't you turn into a human too?"
The grasshopper's head bobbed side to side. /The… the portal!\ he suddenly cried out. /It's closing!\
Indeed, the crack was beginning to fill with lava. Soon the lava would harden and the gateway would be blocked, making it impossible to transport any demon to the Underworld. It did not concern Momoka. She brought the grasshopper to eye level, her yellow eyes pierced into the grasshopper's soul (if it had one).
"That's not a big deal for you, now is it?" she teased. "Seeing how talented you are, surely you can make another one appear."
/Momoka!\ the grasshopper demon cried out angrily.
Her grip tightened around the insect, making him struggle for air. "I'm still waiting for that human shift."
/I don't get it,\ the grasshopper gasped. /If you're an Elite, why aren't you entering the Underworld? Why have you stopped pursuing humans?\
"Is that all you think about? Or is that bug brain of yours limiting your capacity?"
Momoka grabbed the sides of the grasshopper's head with two fingers, hanging the creature in the air as the legs scrambled to get a hold of the ground.
/I'm going to report this! Treating your fellow demon like this… you can be sure you're getting reported!\
"Fellow demon?" Momoka laughed. "Sorry, but I don't remember being categorized together with the likes of you. I'm not a simpleton who preys on the weak, who takes orders blindly just for some million-year-old feud. Get it straight—I've pursued more humans than your six legs could count and I know what these humans are capable of more than any of you would bother to care. I don't need your little show-and-tell to teach me what to do."
/You're… are you sympathizing with humans? No demon would sympathize with humans!\ The grasshopper wiggled violently. /Wait until I tell them. Just wait, you excuse for a demon. Your days of fooling around are over! Wait until... wait a minute…\ The insect's body froze as a sudden realization hit the mind of the tiny creature—a realization so great, so perfect, that even the demon wished he had a mouth capable of showing a smirk. /You're in love with a human, aren't you?\
"What?" Momoka exclaimed, having never heard something so insulting in her life.
/You're in love with a human!\ the grasshopper hooted. /A demon who actually loves a human!\
Momoka could feel her teeth clench in rage. "I am not—"
The grasshopper slipped from Momoka's grasp, falling into a clump of grass. Momoka slammed her palm on the clump, but it was too late. The grasshopper was already gone. Momoka jumped to her feet, her eyes darted left and right in search for the insect, noting that the gateway to the Underworld has already turned to a solid crack in the ground, noting that the insect couldn't have gone far in such a short time. Her cat ears picked up a small shuffle and she threw herself into the bushes before her, landing on her tummy just as the grasshopper flew out into the open.
/Ha! Missed me!\
Long legs sprung the grasshopper into the distance, and Momoka let out a growl of frustration. "Come back here!"
She sprang after him, into the field of long grass and weeds, into the vast land full of small hills and trees. Her human form changed shape with each step she took. Her arms became shorter. Her spine became horizontal. She jumped onto all fours. Tall grass brushed against her fur as she dashed through the field. There! She could see the grasshopper clearly now. The insect was still springing away, springing and flying with his tiny insect wings. But the black cat was much faster. Soon, Momoka was on his tail.
/Ooh, I'm shivering!\ the grasshopper mocked. /Shivering with laughter like the other demons once they hear about you!\
She leaped, but the grasshopper managed to dodge impact. He disappeared into the grass, reappearing again in the air a few feet away. And again Momoka leaped. And again the grasshopper hid into the grass. It reminded Momoka of a human game she had seen at a local arcade. Young boys were hitting a plastic mole with a hammer each time it popped its head out of the machine. She wished right now she had a hammer, and the grasshopper's next reappearance would mean a bang in the head or, better, a squash right back to the Underworld.
/Think you're fast? But wait!\ The grasshopper disappeared into the grass. /Where did he go?\ He reappeared in the air. /There I am! Oops.\ A paw swung past. /Nope, not today.\
Momoka landed on her feet, panting with exhaustion. The grasshopper was flying further and further away, soon becoming only a small dot in the distance. Momoka knew she had to keep going. There was no way she was going to let the grasshopper off that easily after making fun of her pride.
A patch of trees came into sight, following the line of a narrow creek that divided the neighboring fields. She was sure this was the direction the grasshopper had gone, but where was the tiny insect? With a color the same as the tree bark, he could be camouflaged anywhere within the trees.
/About time you got here.\
The grasshopper was spotted at the base of a tree, his eyes seem to be gazing in Momoka's direction as if he was anticipating her arrival. Momoka hissed and he jumped onto the bark, looking down at Momoka from a safe distance above. /Just give up. You know you can't catch me.\
Momoka gathered her momentum and leaped. Her claws dug deep into the tree bark and with each spring upward, Momoka was climbing the tree towards the insect. The grasshopper jumped again, further up, keeping his eyes fixed on the black cat who was coming closer and closer. Finally, he jumped onto a branch and backed to the edge. The leaves shook violently, the branch bent under the weight. Momoka was right behind him, ready to pounce.
/Don't get stuck up here for too long, kitty cat,\ the grasshopper snickered.
The insect jumped off the edge. Momoka was about to leap after him when a flash of brown whooshed across, startling her. The grasshopper screamed in her mind. /No, let me go! I'm no bird food! Help!\
A robin landed on the branch of a neighboring tree. It began to aggressively hit something dangling from its beak against the bark. It took a moment for Momoka to realize that it was the grasshopper and some surface animal has just decided to have the demon for lunch. The demon's cries dissolved, partially because their distance was too great, and partially because the grasshopper was too busy dealing with the bird to emit any telepathic cries. The bird flew off, struggling with its meal.
Even if the job wasn't completed by her own hand, Momoka couldn't help but feel a ray of satisfaction. She could sleep well tonight knowing justice has been served. Momoka turned back to the tree… and immediately realized her mistake. She was close to thirty feet above ground and looking down from that height made her feel queasy. She cursed to herself, realizing she has been tricked by the grasshopper to climb that high. It would seem that the grasshopper was smarter than she gave him credit for.
She gazed around for a path down. She could climb down tail first, but it was an awkward position to be in. She meowed for help, but there was not a single human being for miles. Perhaps she could use her human form to climb down, but she had never tried the act before. From what she has seen, humans were notoriously awful at climbing trees.
A shuffle in the leaves above caught her attention. Squinting, Momoka caught sight of something white hidden inside. It had a feathery quality, perhaps a bird of some kind, but from the looks of it, it appeared too big to be a bird. She meowed again, and again the figure moved.
Was it an animal?
Momoka formed a telepathic sentence in her mind and sent it off. To her surprise, the message broke apart as it reached the figure, almost as if there was a barrier preventing telepathic messages from being received. It was a rare phenomenon. There was not a demon or surface creature that could prevent the transfer of mind messages.
Which meant whatever it was, it was neither a demon nor a creature from the surface. What could it be?
As if to answer her question, a face popped out from behind the leaves.
"Oh, a cat!"
The face was that of a human girl, a girl with a round face and a round chin. Her soft features emphasized a gentle nature, her wide eyes showed curiosity and enlightenment. Curly blond hair sprung against her shoulders, hair that seemed too good to be true, too neat to be real. And it can't be real. The face was too small for a full grown human girl. Proportionally, her body would be just slightly bigger than Momoka, perhaps about the size of a human baby. And her wings…
Momoka took a step back. The figure's wings had spread out of the leaves, white wings that resembled those of a white dove. This was no human. This was…
"What a pleasant surprise to find one here!" the girl sang, gliding out of the leaves.
Her white dress blouse, gently floating along with the air, was as white as her feathery soft wings. She appeared to be glowing; barely any crease nor shadow could be seen in her clothes. Momoka's eyes followed as the figure landed gently on the branch before her. The branch did not shake, not even a leaf fell. It was as if a gentle hand arrived to hold everything in place.
"Have you come to share my sorrows?" the girl whispered.
The black cat stood frozen, having not the slightest idea of what to do. She was incapable of human speech in this form, and if she transformed, she risked giving herself away. She wondered for a second why the angel—yes, that was what it was—was so much as bold as to show up before her, and although no one would be able to tell the difference between Momoka and a surface creature, the angel was taking a huge risk just by attempting to speak with her, and being exposed as a demon was not within Momoka's desire. What would happen then was almost impossible to predict.
Angels and demons were not known to get along. Often they came across each other fighting over a person's fate. Because most demons were in the form of surface creatures incapable of human speech and angels could not receive telepathic messages, demons and angels had no direct communication with each other. They could only communicate using a person as a medium, although demons could hear an angel's word without the need of such a thing. It was hardly a fair battle and only the friskiest could win. There were one or two occasions where Momoka had heard an angel working against her, but just like demons who could hide in a corner, angels were also hardly ever sighted. They were remarkably shy beings. Humans would consider themselves extremely privileged if an angel was to decide to show up before them.
"You must have a wonderful owner," the angel spoke, making Momoka's ears prickle up. "An owner who feeds you, pets you, takes care of you, loves you. Isn't it wonderful to have someone like that?" The angel leaned forward. "I hope you will never experience rejection."
Their eyes met. A glimpse of sadness from the angel reflected itself in Momoka's eye, shimmering with the brightness of the sun. It was a strange sensation. There was a calming effect within the stare, almost assuring Momoka that the angel was not something to be afraid of; almost assuring her that there was no danger in the world.
The angel stepped forward and reached out a hand. Welcoming the gesture, Momoka pointed out her nose and closed her eyes. She could imagine the angel's fingertips just inches away, reassured herself once again that there was nothing to be afraid of, and waited for the gentle touch. For a moment, the fingertips in her mind turned into the familiar hands of her caretaker.
The angel's gaze switched to curiosity. "Can… can you see me?"
Momoka's eyes snapped open. The angel stood before her with her hand out in a waving posture as if trying to test Momoka's sight. Her expression was filled with confusion and Momoka suddenly understood why. For the second time that day, she realized she made a mistake.
"Ah, you can see me!" the angel cried out, gliding back to the edge of the branch. "But I'm not supposed to allow you to see me! Wait a minute, I'm not letting you see me! How is it that you can see me?"
Angels were invisible to everyone except demons. And the angel has just figured out that she was not invisible to the black cat. Without a second thought, Momoka began to transform.
"You're a… a…" The angel gaped at the transformation before her. "Demon!"
She spread her wings. The tree branch shook as she lifted herself into the air in haste, flying up into the tree top, trying to get away.
"Wait, come back!" Momoka managed in the midst of her transformation. "You've lost something. I have too!"
Leaves fell from the sky. By the time Momoka's eyes adjusted to her human body, the angel was already gone. She squinted into the leaves, hoping to see spots of white. "But nothing is ever truly lost," she whispered, more to herself than anyone else.
Sunlight shone through as a light breeze spread the leaves apart. Light shadows danced around Momoka in a hypnotic rhythmic circle. The rustle in branches settled. A wave of silence crept through. It was as if the angel was never here.
"How do you know I've lost something?"
Momoka turned to the voice. The angel was hovering in midair. She was keeping her distance, far enough that Momoka could only see her with her eyes, but close enough that Momoka could hear her clearly. Momoka shifted her position in the tree, keeping her legs and hands tightly wrapped around the branch. Being a human stuck on a tree was as awkward as trying to climb down as a cat. It felt as if she could lose balance at any minute if she were to let go.
"Your eyes. They say it all," she replied.
Perhaps the angel interpreted the words to mean something more than intended, for, at that moment, the angel's eyebrows narrowed. She puffed out her chest. "And of course you would be able to tell, being a demon and all," she barked. "Tell me, was it fun to take over the body of a helpless boy in the middle of despair? Or did you do it because I was there and failing miserably at getting him to listen to anything I have to say?"
Momoka could feel the heat rising within her. She was trying to be nice, truly trying. And for an angel. For an angel who resembled herself more than she would like to admit. It was the last mistake she'll ever make.
A sudden crack interrupted any foul words her lips were about to emit. Instead, she peeked behind her and groaned. There was a split in the branch. The limb was about to break under her new weight. Her human form was turning into a nuisance.
"Hey, a take-over, you say?" Momoka tried hard to smile. "I haven't done that in a while."
The angel tilted her head. "But the boy…"
"Yes, the human boy. The human boy who got possessed by a demon…"
"Ah, the grasshopper. You don't have to worry about him." Another crack lowered the branch even more. "Hey, how about—"
"It wasn't you?"
Momoka quickly shook her head. "Like I said, I haven't done a take-over in days. I've given it up."
The angel studied her, not moving from her spot in the air. The half-human-half-cat creature was wrapped around the branch, too afraid to make even the slightest move. Even if it was a demon, its current state was almost pitiful to watch.
The angel cautiously flew over and landed on the branch just before Momoka, who gave her decision a nervous gaze. "The boy's name is Aaron," she said. "His father went missing overseas about a year ago, and oh, what a toll it was on him and his family trying to find out if he was still alive! Aaron even wanted to travel to Europe to find his father—and I was going to guide him—but he never made the trip. A few months ago, the message finally arrived. His father was killed in the war. It has been a hectic ride downhill ever since. Oh, and I am—or was—Aaron's guardian angel. My name is Beatrice."
A guardian angel? Unlike regular angels who were free to wander from human to human, guardian angels were assigned to one single human being for the human's entire lifetime. As a result, they tended to form strong bonds with their human counterpart, something the demons dreaded for as long as they have existed. But Momoka did not dread. She did not find the angel's words to be a waste of time. She understood them clearly.
"So I was right."
"He rejected me," the angel continued. "I failed as his guardian angel and he rejected me. I could do nothing but watch as he got devoured by that demon."
"It's a serious matter. Guardian angels are suppose to protect their human for life. If I can't do that, I won't be able to stay. And all those times they laugh at me and say, 'ol' Beatrice never learn' and shake their heads—well, in some ways they'd be right because no matter what I do, I always mess up. And poor Aaron," the angel sniffed. "He'll never be the same."
Momoka sighed. "I wouldn't worry about it that much."
The angel wiped away a tear. "Why's that?"
"Because nothing is ever truly lost. Humans are forgiving creatures. You just have to wait. One day he'll come crawling back to you and everything will be back to the way it was. You'll see. Just go have fun, enjoy your freedom, and quit worrying. No one will even realize you were gone."
For a while, it was as if the angel was lost for words. And then it happened.
The branch snapped.
The angel lifted herself up into the air, flinching as Momoka plummeted to the ground with a cry. The only cushion was the green grass that badly needed a trim, but that did not stop Momoka from crashing to the ground and rolling to a stop on her spine.
"Ow," she moaned.
"Are you hurt?" the angel cried out from above.
"I think I broke my tail," the demon replied as she lifted herself up.
"Oh, but... humans aren't supposed to have tails."
"Hey, I was working on that." Momoka pulled the limb tail out from under her butt. "Not my intent to break it off."
The angel giggled. The demon wasn't terrifying, but rather as funny and empathetic as the human she once loved. A heartened feeling washed over her as she floated down beside the demon. "Did you really mean what you said? About him taking me back one day?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah. Sure," Momoka muttered, busy stroking her tail for comfort.
"I just have to wait until then, right?"
"Yeah, suit yourself." Momoka waved her tail to test its elasticity, frowning at its lack of response. "I hope wolves don't come after me while my tail's like this."
"Wolves?" Beatrice exclaimed.
Momoka glanced curiously at the wide-eyed angel. "What? It's not like you got anything to worry about."
"Ah, but… "
Momoka suddenly sprang up. "I know. I'll let the town folks take a look at it. They can fix anything."
Before Beatrice could say anything more, the demon ran into the field and spread out her arms to welcome her new-found freedom. The angel watched her in silence, admiring the light breeze blowing against her dark fur and the grin forming on the demon's face. White parachutes of dandelion seeds sprung into the air, parading behind the demon as their yellow counterparts watched on with wonder. They encircled the half-human-half-cat creature, twirling, spiraling, engaging with her in a bonding dance while she leaped and laughed. How care-free did the demon look.
Nothing is ever truly lost.
The sweet scent of fresh grass blew across the field, bringing in a nature mingled in perfect peace and harmony to the angel's nostrils. A part of her wanted to follow the cheerful demon girl, to forget all her troubles and step into the care-free environment. But another part of her thought that maybe she didn't belong there, maybe she shouldn't be fooling around. Was it right to just wait without a further plan of her own? Was it really all right to be at ease while others were perhaps suffering? Perhaps everything she wanted was for a demon…
"Hey, you coming or what?" Momoka called to her from across the field.
The angel could feel the corner of her lips lifting up, her previous concerns dying down in a flash. "Really? You mean it?"
"Sure. Someone's got to show you how to have fun, right?"
"Yeah!" Beatrice laughed and flew to Momoka. "Oh, I'm sorry, but I never—"
"My name is Momoka," the half-human-half-cat creature grinned, heading towards the road. "Momoka, the demon. Just so you know, this is new for me too. It's not every day I get to play with an angel!"
Author's note: Hello everyone and welcome aboard! Hope you've enjoyed the first chapter. Let me know what you think!
Oh, and originally I used the greater than and lesser than symbols to signify telepathic dialogue, but it seems FictionPress can't display those signs. If anyone knows how to get them displayed, that would be really helpful. Or else, this will be forever stuck with the dreadful '\' sign (EDIT: Now it's '/' and '\'). Muhahahaha.