Eyes of the Apocalypse — Prologue

…what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

— William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming

August 4, Thursday.

Kohaku knocked gently on the door.

“Mistress, how are you feeling?” she asked, as she came inside.

“I’m alright. I do feel the moment is rather close though. The contractions have begun to start.” It has been nine months after all, Akiha thinks. She had been thinking of leaving the mansion forever and moving on with her life when she realized that Shiki had never truly left her after all. There had been a storm of controversy throughout the family when rumors of her pregnancy began to spread, and after about four months such rumors became impossible to deny. She wondered how she managed to keep control of things in the face of constant pressure from the other branches of the Tohno family.

Kohaku entered, worry and concern replacing her normally ever-present smile. Behind her, Hisui followed, her face similarly worried. “Shall we call the doctor, Mistress?”

“I think the two of you can handle this.”

The twins exchanged a look, and Hisui scurried down, probably to fetch what Kohaku would need for what was to come. Akiha could feel the contractions mounting, returning with ever-increasing frequency.

“Mistress, your water has broken!” Akiha’s face contorted with pain as she fought the urge to scream. She began taking deep, rhythmic breaths as the doctor advised. Shortly Hisui returned with surgical instruments, gauze, and a basin of warm water. Akiha continued to push, her face twisting still more in agony. Hisui extended her hand, and Akiha squeezed it so tightly both their hands turned white. The pain finally turned so great that she could stop the urge no longer, and let out an ear-piercing scream that echoed throughout the mansion.

“I can see the baby’s head!” Kohaku exclaimed. Akiha ground her teeth still harder, and with one final push, the baby was out. “It’s a boy, Mistress!” Kohaku cried, as she cut the cord, swaddled swaddled him, and placed him on Akiha’s chest, who was breathing a sigh of relief.

“He shall be called Shiki.”

* * * * * * *

Ciel looked at the red-haired mage walking beside her in disgust. She was, after all, a member of the Church, and the Church had always harbored animosity against the Mage’s association. However, these were orders that came directly from the Vatican, as the birth of Shiki’s child by his stepsister Akiha was a matter of great concern to both organizations, and apparently they agreed to set aside their historical enmity for the time being.

“Is this the place, Ciel?” the mage asked, as they stopped before an imposing gate with the kanji for Tohno, 遠野, inscribed on a plaque on one of the posts.

“Yes.” She rang the bell. A few minutes later, a young maid with short reddish hair and blue eyes appeared. “Who may be visiting the the Tohno Mansion?” she asked, her face expressionless and impassive.

“I am Ciel,” she said, “and this is Aozaki Aoko-san.”

“We have been expecting you.” The gate opened, and the maid beckoned for the two of them to enter.

In the sitting room, Akiha was waiting for them. She stood to greet them. “Well, well, well. I never expected to ever see this in my life. A member of the Mage’s Association and a dog of the Church together in anything but combat to the death.”

“Tohno-sama, this is, after all, a matter that touches both our organizations,” the mage named Aozaki Aoko explained.

“Please, sit,” Akiha gestured. “Hisui,” she motioned to the maid with blue eyes, “bring our guests some tea.” The maid left to obey.

“So what about my son is so momentous that it would bring together two groups that have been at each others’ throats for the past thousand years?”

“Both of us had had an acquaintance with your brother,” Ciel began. “I would, in a manner of speaking, call him my friend,” she said, noting the line of anger that appeared on Akiha’s brow. “Aozaki-san over here has had some acquaintance with him as well.”

“I had seen him at the hospital eight years ago during the incident that should have taken his life, and I had noted his unusual powers. I gave him the glasses which he used. I would have come to take them back, however, it would seem that such glasses, an artifact of powerful sorcery, may well be needed here before long.”

“So what was my brother’s power, really?”

“He possessed what we would call ‘Mystic Eyes of Death Perception’. He could see lines over everything, which, if he were to cut them, would result in the target’s immediate and irrevocable destruction. The glasses which I gave him had the power to negate the effects of any Mystic Eyes, including those of your brother. Without those, I believe he would have lost his sanity.”

“So those are the ‘lines’ which he spoke about…” Akiha mused. “For such help as you have given my brother, you have my thanks, Aozaki-san.” She gave a small bow of her head. “So what interest do the two of you have in my son?”

Ciel spoke. “I have, in my observations of your brother and you, noted that Shiki did not have much in the way of family resemblance to you.” The fact that Ciel had used her brother’s first name, without an honorific suffix, caused Akiha’s brow to furrow in anger. “Practically the only thing similar between the two of you was that you both had black hair. His demeanor was also very much unlike your own, as I managed to observe in the brief time I had known both of you. His powers resembled nothing like the strange powers that seemed typical of your bloodline, as both our records and those of the Mage’s Association show. His powers seemed more similar to those cultivated by a clan of demon-slayers known as the Nanaya, which coincidentally was mysteriously exterminated ten years ago.

“Furthermore, the newspapers eight years ago seem confused in reports about the state of your family at the time. They seem to indicate that Makihisa Tohno had three children, and one of them was killed in the accident, and the other, presumably the Shiki we knew, survived but was in critical condition. We must know the truth, Tohno-san. The true heritage of your son is something of utmost importance. If he is the incestuous love child of the Tohno clan, something not entirely unprecedented in your family as I am sure you are aware, then his fate, while most likely a terrible one, is probably of small concern to us, that is, if your family policy of exterminating those who have strayed from the path of humanity is still in force. If, on the other hand, your son is the child of the Tohno and Nanaya bloodlines, that is a rather different matter.”

Hisui returned, bearing a tray with a pot of tea and three cups. She poured tea into all of them, and departed silently with a bow. Akiha took her tea, and had a small sip. She let out a deep sigh. “It is as you suspect, Ciel-san. Having access to the forbidden family histories I knew who he really was, and one night we had each other. We later managed to destroy my true brother, who was, I believe, the real vampire behind the killings last year that you were after, but our efforts at destroying him left me weakened and soon to succumb to the demonic blood within me. Eight years ago I gave Shiki half of my life to save him, and he then used his powers to sever the part of my life I gave to him to return it to me.” She could feel tears coming.

There was a long silence between the three at this revelation. “We see,” Aozaki said. “In that case, we would like to see your son, Tohno Akiha-sama. We will collect blood samples and do some simple tests by your leave to determine what his nature might be. This confluence of the Tohno and Nanaya bloodlines has even managed to produce signs in the heavens that our astrologers see with great dismay. We shall return within about a week to let you know of our findings and recommendations.”

Akiha closed her eyes. “Very well then. Do what you must. If my son’s birth is sufficient to create a truce between the Church and the Mages, something must indeed be afoot. Do not harm my son or I swear that you shall pay dearly for it.”

They went upstairs to the room where the baby Shiki was. The child was asleep, with another maid watching over him. She had exactly the same face as Hisui downstairs—evidently they were twins—however she had amber-colored eyes rather than blue, and was wearing a kimono rather than a normal maid uniform, with her short, red hair tied by a white ribbon.

“Give your syringes to Kohaku. She will carefully extract some of Shiki’s blood for you.” They did as Akiha ordered, and Kohaku carefully extracted a small amount of blood for each of the small syringes that Ciel and Aozaki provided, taking care not to wake him.

“I shall perform a magical scan on him.” She took a small piece of blank parchment, placed it at the foot of Shiki’s cradle, and began tracing a magical seal into the air above him and whispered some words. They could see a light envelop the child briefly, which flew upwards and down to the parchment, upon which strange characters appeared.

“It will take us roughly a week to make our analysis and determinations,” Ciel said. Until then, please do not be worried. We thank you very much for your cooperation, Tohno-sama.”

* * * * * * *

They returned a week later as promised. “Tohno-sama,” Aozaki began, “We have completed our analysis and as might be expected, your son has some unusual characteristics, which will probably manifest as supernatural powers. We are at a loss to characterize exactly what they might be since it would seem that some of young Shiki’s characteristics are unique and have never before been seen, even in the two thousand year history of both our organizations.

“Nevertheless, it will most likely be some years before any of his latent abilities, whatever might be, awaken. We need perform no further action at this time, and he may remain with you if you so choose, or you may give him to Ciel and he may be raised in one of the Church’s orphanages if you so desire.”

“Never!” Akiha answered, anger in her eyes.

“That was only a possibility,” Ciel replied, “which we put forward out of consideration for the scandal within your family that your pregnancy and childbirth had brought. In any case, we request that by the time your son is six, his education be given over to one of the schools run by the Church, so that we may keep a closer eye upon his development. When the time comes we will recommend a list of schools from which you may select.  His powers may not manifest for several more years. We will be in touch regularly. Both the Church and the Mage’s Association have great concern over your son.”

“Very well. I thank you. My son’s welfare is most important.”

Hisui guided them outside the mansion,  and after they had walked a short distance away, Ciel spoke.

“You didn’t have the heart to tell her either, Aozaki-san.”

“That child has a terrible destiny, Ciel-san. Both your Church’s and our own Astrologers knew this once the exact date, time, and location of his birth were known.”

“Terrible it may be, but not certain.”

“Indeed. And that is why we are having this unprecedented cooperation between our normally inimical organizations. The time of tribulation approaches, and in that boy’s hands may well be the fate of all humanity.”

* * * * * * *

17 Years Later
Wednesday, March 28

“…And that concludes today’s lesson.  Please be prepared for a quiz next time.”  Ciel began collecting her lesson plans and other papers, trying not to make it look obvious that she had her eye on Shiki Tohno in particular.  She quit the Burial Agency after the boy’s parents had finally destroyed Michael Valdamjong Roa permanently, and she spent the following years pursuing a degree in education.  Even with stellar marks she had to fight to gain admission to the teaching staff of Our Lady of Zion Academy, and in the end she even had to use her influence in the Vatican, but to watch how this boy would grow was priceless to her.  She finally began to age after Roa’s demise, albeit slowly: in reality she was past forty but looked less than half that.  She looked so young that her co-teachers joked that she could almost pass for a student.

Shiki began collecting his things, bringing some of them to his locker behind the classroom.  The boy truly resembled his father, from what she remembered of him seventeen years ago.  He even wore the same glasses, given to him by his mother when he turned eight, although they probably served just about as much purpose for him as her own glasses did, since if he had any Mystic Eyes their power was still dormant as far as anyone knew.  A tutor from the Mages’ Association saw him every other day under the pretense of helping with his studies, but in between actually tutoring Shiki that person’s true task was to characterize the boy’s latent powers and his development.  From what she knew his current tutor was a girl hardly older than Shiki himself, who nevertheless distinguished herself recently in some incidents in nearby Fuyuki City and was apparently a rather capable mage.

She watched him engage in idle chatter in the back of the classroom with one of his friends, Haruhi Seikan.  She was one of the brightest and most admired students in the school, heiress to the wealthy Seikan conglomerate.  From what she knew Shiki and this girl had been close friends from at least middle school, and judging from the way she looked at him…

“Sensei,” a voice called to her, startling her out of her thoughts.  “Yes, Kanato-san?” she answered, as another of her students called to her.  Her name was Meimi Kanato, another smart, popular, and beautiful girl much admired throughout the whole school.  She was the daughter of a prominent member of Parliament, and this thought made her realize that this school where she taught catered mostly to the children of the upper classes.  Meimi asked some clarification on finer points of Latin case declensions that were the subject of the day’s lesson, which she was only too happy to give.

She exited the classroom after Meimi was satisfied, and saw Haruhi head towards the music club rooms as Shiki was met by his tutor.  She was indeed young, not much older than Shiki himself, dressed in a red blouse with long sleeves, with her black hair tied in twin tails.  She led Shiki down to the school library and she followed, trying to see what they would be doing.  She would likely receive a full report of their findings soon enough but all the same she wanted to see for herself.

Concealing herself behind a bookshelf, she saw Shiki and his tutor at a table.  His tutor spoke in a low voice: “Before we go over your lessons, Tohno-kun, we will perform those tests we started doing last week again.”  She took out a pack of cards, which Ciel recognized as Zener cards, widely used in parapsychological experimentation.  She shuffled the deck a few times and laid it on the table.  She took one card from the top of the deck, and Shiki answered: “Wavy lines.”  She turned the card over and made a note on her pad.  It was a square.  Another card.  “Circle.”  It was correct.  Another.  “Star.”  But it was a circle.  “Cross.”  But it was a star.  This continued until the deck of 25 cards was exhausted.  While Ciel could not completely follow his performance she could easily see that his overall hit rate was only about 20%, about what one would expect if he were completely ordinary and just making guesses.

“Now, please take off your glasses.”  Shiki shook his head, looking down. “I know,” the tutor said soothingly, “but don’t you feel it would be better that we understand what is happening?  That is what these experiments are designed to do.”  He nodded and with shaking hands took off his glasses.  The tutor shuffled the deck several times, and the experiment continued.  Shiki’s eyes began to lose focus as the experiment began, this time, he managed to get all 25 correct, without one single mistake.  He seems to have some sort of precognitive ability, because neither he nor his tutor should have had any prior knowledge of what the card would be.

Shiki made a move to put his glasses back on, evidently nervous, but the tutor stopped him with a raised hand.  She shuffled the deck again, but this time, without Shiki’s knowledge, she also prepared a spell of some kind.  The first few cards he once again called with perfect accuracy.  At around the twelfth card he hesitated, and said: “Cross.”

Just as the tutor was about to turn over the card, he said, “No, star.”  And indeed it was a star.  The same thing repeated for the next thirteen cards, with his first call being no better than guessing and second call being 100% accurate.

“Alright, we are finished with this experiment for the day.  Please put your glasses back on.”  This Shiki did with evident relief.

“Now,” she said, “can you describe to me what you could see?”

“It’s difficult to put into words,” he said, his voice hesitant.  “You know how I told you that I could see the card as if you flipped it over, moments before you actually did so?  I didn’t mention that it was also as if I could see you holding it in every possible orientation.  I didn’t think it was important.  After the twelfth card I could somehow see all five possibilities flickering in my vision, so I tried to guess, and it was only as you were going to turn the card over that I could see it clearly.  And how was it that we had seven star cards?  Shouldn’t there only be five?  But why did I see seven?”  So he had noticed that.

The tutor responded by spreading out the cards in her hand and showing that indeed there were only five stars, indeed only five of each type.  It was the effect was the spell the tutor used.  She was choosing which card would appear, but, she only made her choice just before turning it over, which is why Shiki’s first choice was guesswork, and his second choice was correct.  Very interesting, Ciel thought to herself.  She supposed they could be called Mystic Eyes of Fate Perception, although she had never before heard of such a thing, at least none of the Church’s many records on magical and sorcerous phenomena that she had read ever described anything like it.  Those sorcerous glasses provided by Aozaki-san would definitely help here, as anyone who could see the myriad branchings of the present into the future might well go mad even more certainly than someone with his father’s type of Mystic Eyes.

“Tohno-kun, please keep your glasses on at all times.”

“You don’t need to tell me that.”

“Is there anything in particular you wanted to study further from your lessons?”

He shook his head, evidently shaken by what had just happened.  He gathered up his belongings as the tutor pocketed her cards, and they left.  The tutor turned briefly in Ciel’s direction, sharing a brief look at her, her green eyes locking onto Ciel’s deep blue eyes, and they wordlessly exchanged a hint of terror at the boy’s unprecedented ability.  Prescient visions and prophecy were of course not unheard of: there were the various time-worn oracles like astrology, the tarot, I Ching, and other tools of that nature, which practitioners managed to employ with varying degrees of success, as well as those few who actually had true precognitive visions, but it seems that this boy’s abilities were on another scale entirely.  Comparing those to what it seemed this boy could do was like comparing a butter knife to the legendary Excalibur.  It was as if the twisting nexus of all possible fates of all things were laid bare by his Mystic Eyes.

She thought to herself that perhaps the world needed such a guide in these dark times it seems about to enter.

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Published in: on June 24, 2012 at 13:11  Leave a Comment  

Hello and Welcome

Hello everyone. I go by the handle Stormwyrm, and while I’ve actually used this tagline to blog serious stuff under my real name in the past (it should not be difficult to divine it), I’m planning to reorganize my online personae so that my hobbies and less serious stuff go under this moniker, and stuff I write under my real name gets my more serious, professional work.

I have pretensions to writing, so a lot of what you’ll see here are my original stories and fan fiction, or at least that’s the plan.

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Published in: on June 19, 2010 at 17:12  Leave a Comment