What the Future Holds - Chapter 77: Here I Am


Here I am, this is me
I come into this world so wild and free
Here I am, so young and strong
Right here in the place where I belong

It's a new world, it's a new start
It's alive with the beating of a young heart
It's a new day, in a new land
And it's waiting for me,
Here I am

It's a new world, it's a new start
It's alive with the beating of a young heart
It's a new day, in a new land
And it's waiting for me,
Here I am

-Bryan Adams, Here I Am


THE STORY, CONTINUED

Dearest Kei,

Did you see me? Everything has changed.

I need you now.

I miss you.

Ryo


I was in Limbo again. I looked around the dark, misty abyss and sighed. "Death!" I called. My voice carried, but nobody heard it. I began to walk, looking around. Limbo felt...strangely empty. For as many times as I had been here, there was always a feeling. Now, that feeling was gone. Limbo was empty.

"Hello," I heard a voice directly behind me and I jumped, turning sharply. "Who-" I stopped when I saw that it was Insanity. I hadn't seen him in so long, and he hadn't changed at all. Same clothes, same skinny frame, still with a wild grin and distant eyes. "You've changed!" He laughed and looked me over. I rolled my eyes.

"Insanity, where is Death?"

"I don't know," he said calmly, looking off into nowhere. "We haven't seen him in a long time."

This alarmed me, perhaps more than it should have. "So he's gone? Disappeared?"

"I don't know," he repeated, looking back at me. "Nobody has been here for a long time." Insanity clasped his hands behind his back and walked in circles. "I like that."

I watched him, shaking his head. "What? How can you say that? Insanity, if Death isn't here, then-"

"I can talk to Mindy then!" he snapped, glaring at me. "Death said I couldn't talk to Mindy. But now he's gone. So I can talk to Mindy."

I sighed, rubbing my temples. "How is Lust?"

"Married to Grief," he said. Whether he was being literal or not, I would never know. He looked at me and grinned wickedly. "You like to change things, don't you? Things can't just be simple with you, can't they? It's been 18,972 days since that day and yet you havn't settled down." He laughed. "Oh King Ryo, King Ryo..." He began to float away and I followed after him.

"What happened to Eclipse?" I asked. "My kingdom?"

He was laughing. "Eclipse, Eclipse! Emperor Eclipse, that's what he called himself. Ruler of the world!" He looked back at me and his multicolored eyes were slits. "I have fun in your world. So much fun! I'm powerful in your world. I work, I work a lot. I work with Famine, and Murder, and Grief, and, and..." he took a deep breath and then lay down on the floor, staring up at the black nothing.

"But what about my world?" I asked him, standing near him. He said nothing. Insanity's eyes were closed now.

"Shhh. Mindy is talking."

I rolled my eyes and stepped back. I knew I couldn't get anywhere. But what could I do? I knew Insanity well - I wasn't getting any information out of him. He spoke what he wanted to speak when he wanted to speak it. He sat down with his legs crossed and I sat behind him the same way. We sat, back-to-back, and simply waited. Of course, I had no idea what Insanity was doing, but I was waiting.

Soon someone else joined us - Lust. She appeared before me and I looked up at her. Before I could speak, she kneeled in front of me and rested her forehead against mine. She looked tired, so tired. She wore no makeup, but she was still beautiful. This was a haggard beauty, though. The beauty of a widow.

"I missed you," she whispered.

I blinked and realized that she wasn't talking to me. "I'm Ryo, not Death."

Her eyes snapped open and she stared at me. "By Gods, you're right," she whispered. She slumped back and sat in front of me, shoulders slouched and back hunched.

"We don't look that similar, you know," I said with a frown.

I only got a glare in return. I supposed that when women were desperate enough, they saw anything in anybody.

Silence. She sat there with me, gazing off into the nothing. "I'm sorry," I said at last, quietly.

"What?" she said.

"I'm sorry. About Death. I don't know where he is, and seeing as how he's usually the one who greets me when I die, I don't think he's planning to return."

"He abandoned us, what makes you think he'll come back to see your face?" Insanity asked.

I sighed. "This is true."

Minutes later another Evil appeared - Pride. He looked just as sharp as I remembered him. He wore a very modern suit that I had seen in department store windows, a striking red tie, sunglasses, and his hair was still trimmed and professional. He materialized out of nowhere, hands in pockets, and looked down at me. "Ryo! It's been so long."

I stood up, brushing my knees of for no reason. "Hello, Pride."

"You look different."

I raised an eyebrow and looked down at my form. "I'm not wearing twelve layers and a room full of gold."
"Ah!" He grinned. "That's it. I'd forgotten you'd fallen from grace."

He sat next to me, crossing his legs and placing his hands on his knees. "So what, pray tell, will you do now?"

"Well, first thing I'm going to do is come back to life."

"That is a good thing."

"And then I'm going to kill the bastards who killed me."

"That is also a good thing."

"And then I'm going to eat some of Minashi's waffles, because they're damn tasty."

"I can attest to that!" Insanity shouted from behind me. Not knowing what he meant or why he even decided to talk, we ignored him.

Pride cleared his throat. "So you are not going to stage a massive uprising of your kinsmen to take over the mortal society and create an empire of your own like you once had?"

Ah, so that was what he was getting at. Of course, he was Pride. He enjoyed influencing others, seeing their glee for a certain amount of time, and experiencing his own when their own power destroyed them.

Just like me.

"You had something to do with my down fall, didn't you?" I said accusingly.

Lust said, "it's safe to assume that we all did."

I looked at her. "You too?" I didn't see how.

She frowned. "My influence isn't just limited to fourteen year old boys staring at breasts, you know. Eclipse's lust for power...was one of my finest works." She smiled wistfully, and her words took me off guard. With how low-key Lust was, it was easy to forget that she was inherently evil and probably resented me the most out of all of them.

"So do you have any power with the world I'm in now?" I asked.

"Yes," Pride answered with a smile. "But we don't do much, really. Just a little nudge...they do the rest of the work themselves. Quite fascinating, really," he mused thoughtfully.

"Right, well," I cleared my throat. "Try to stay out of my life, all right?"

He laughed. "Impossible."

We exchanged a few more words before I looked down and noticed my feet had disappeared. "I think...I'm returning," I announced, noticing my legs were soon leaving as well.

"Pride?" I asked before I left.

"Hm?"

"What happened to Eclipse?" I knew that he knew. He knew that he knew.

He looked right at me and only smiled.

Moments later, I was alive again.


My eyes opened and I was staring at a white ceiling. I was in a bed, and it wasn't that comfortable. My shirt and jacket had been removed. My chest and left shoulder had been bandaged. My wings were out. Someone was holding my hand.

I looked at the hand and my eyes followed the path from the hand to the face. It was Minashi, sitting next to me. Here one visible eye was hidden from me, so I had no idea if she was awake or not.

"Minashi," I said quietly. My voice was hoarse, as it usually was after I came back to life.

Her head jerked up and she turned to look at me. "W-what? Oh, Ryo. You're awake." She sighed in relief. "Thank God..."

"What happened?" I asked. "Where are we?"

"You got shot," she said. "In the middle of the damn street, too." She sighed thoughtfully. "You're in the hospital. You were dead, and I had to beg them not to declare you dead."

"How long was I dead?"

"About three hours. Your heart kicked back into motion soon after rigor mortis set in."

I didn't know what 'rigor mortis' was, but I didn't ask. "Oh." I looked out the window. It was dark. "What time is it?"

"About three in the morning." Her replies were short and quiet. Something was wrong.

"Minashi..."

"What happened when you died?" she interrupted.

I reflected back on what had happened in Limbo. "I saw Insanity, Pride, and Lust," I said. "They said that Death had disappeared. Nobody is sure where he is or what is happening to the lost souls."

Minashi said nothing at that. She didn't know them like I did; I supposed that she just didn't understand what all this meant. "They still haven't found who shot you. Amy is having a talk with forensics now."

"I know who shot me."

"Who?"

"The Gods." I closed my eyes. "Though I don't know why they would shoot me..."

Minashi looked uncomfortable. She opened her mouth once, twice, about to tell me...then shut it. She then opened it again and sighed. "Ryo, when you died, something happened. You know, when you died."

"Yeah, I know. I died."

"No, I mean...well, when you died, the spell that was hiding your wings and ears and whatnot went away."

I raised an eyebrow. I could, slowly, see where this was headed.

"So, um, they kind of sprang out very suddenly."

"People were watching, weren't they?" I whispered, closing my eyes.

She nodded. "Only a few people were actually around us at the time, but once they heard the gunshot, well, it drew a crowd."

I thought about this. Amy's months and months of trying to condition me to being as human as possible, it was all for waste. Perhaps I should have been more worried than I was. I wasn't planning on staying in cognito forever, after all. It was only a matter of when I would reveal myself. For one, I wanted to master the English language and the American culture. I suppose, however, that the Gods answered that dilemma for me.

Amy entered the room with a cup of steaming coffee in her hand. It smelled delicious and I wanted a cup, even though I disliked coffee because it tasted too bitter for me. "You're awake!" She said, coming to my other side. "God, Ryo, you've had me so stressed!"

"I told you he'd come back," Minashi said next to me. "He always does."

"How would you know?" I asked her with a frown.

"I killed you once, remember?"

"Oh, right." I pursed my lips. "You almost got away with that whole thing, too, except you were careless."

She glared. "How the hell am I supposed to know that you are a lightweight?"

"Was a lightweight," I corrected. "I can hold plenty of alcohol now. And you didn't know about how picky I am with my hair? Really, Minashi." I would have crossed my arms except flexing my left one hurt.

"Hey, hey you two. You all can bicker about the past later. Right now we have a bigger issue," Amy said, playing mom. She looked at me. "You have this entire hospital in an uproar, you know that?"

"What, they've never seen a pair of wings before?" I asked. I cursed that witch who gave them to me.

"Not jutting from the back of a person who has really long ears! Oh, they've also never seen a person spontaneously come back to life after being dead for three hours!"

My lips pursed. I didn't quite know what to say, so instead I just replied with, "I guess they have now." She hit me upside the head for that.

"On another note," Amy glared. "They found the bullet that hit you, but they didn't find who shot you."

"I know who shot me," I said. I had a feeling I would be repeating that a lot.

She furrowed her brows in confusion. "Who?"

"The Gods," I responded.

She blinked once, then shook it off. She didn't believe me, but I didn't really expect her to. "Well, that might explain this then." She withdrew a small clear bag, and inside of it was a small, golden cylinder with a single point at one end.

"What is this?" I said, looking at it. I saw letters, but I couldn't figure out what it was saying. D-E-U-S E-X M-A-C-H-I-N-A.

"Deus ex Machina. It's a literary device, it roughly translates from Latin to 'divine intervention.' It's used in classical Greek stories and really bad fantasy novels. After your explanation...this makes more sense."

"Bastards," I whispered.

We looked up as the door opened again and five men filed in to stand at the foot of my hospital bed. Two I recognized as police officers. The other two were in white coats so I suspected they were doctors of some sort. Every single one of them looked incredibly uncomfortable to be in my presence. Amy went over and gave one of the officers the bag with the bullet. For a moment nobody said anything, and then I spoke.

"Can I help you, gentlemen?" I had learned the last word from CSI: Miami. Secretly, I was happy I was able to use it in context.

It was clear they had absolutely nothing to say. I believe they were terrified of me, even though I really couldn't do much having been shot.

"Well, you see, sir, um..." the doctors looked at each other, trying their hardest to be professional, but it was quite humorous how badly they were failing.

"They think you're strange and don't know what to do with you," said the nurse who had busied in behind them to check on my bandages. She didn't seem afraid of me at all, and I appreciated her for that.

"Thank you," I said to her as she checked various things about me fearlessly. I looked at the doctors expectantly.

"Yes, what she said," one of them finally said. "To say the least, we've never seen anyone...quite like you."

"No way," I said flatly.

Amy cleared her throat. "So, I suppose that it's too late to tell you that this is all just a really bad joke and that he's really human, and he can be discharged to go home?"

The doctor looked at her. "Considering that the blood we analyzed from him contain trace elements of arsenic, no."

Minashi stared at him. "His blood has arsenic in it?"

"What is arsenic?" I asked. I was ignored.

"Properties of it, yes. We're not releasing him any time soon."

I tried again. "Excuse me-"

"So what are you going to do, experiment on him?" Minashi stood up angrily, balling her fists and glaring at them. "He's not a toy!"

"Yeah I know I'm not!" I snapped at her loudly and everyone quieted.

"Minashi, go see if my son is outside," I grumbled. She would probably pace a little bit before doing that, and that was fine.

She stood up and left quickly. I sighed and closed my eyes. "I'm sorry," I said quietly to Amy. "I'm so sorry for all of this."

"It's not your fault," Amy shook her head. "You never asked for this to happen." At my silence, she spoke again. "Does this sort of thing always happen? Minashi said that you were known in your lands for your many lives, but..."

"Yeah. It happens a lot."

"What happens when you die?"

I paused. "Lots of things. Usually I talk to Death, or the Gods. Once I spoke to my mother. Another time I became Death - that was when I fully died and was given a funeral and all that."
"So why did you come back that time?"

"II made myself come back," I said, waving off the details. "It took me a century to figure it out and when I did I came back to a depressed nation and a son I never knew I had."

Amy was taking all of this in with a thoughtful gaze. "So, why you?"

"Huh?"

"Why you? I'm sure your life could write a story. You've been through so much. Why does destiny, or the Gods, or whatever, target you so much?"

I smiled for only a moment. "I've been trying to figure that out since people have been trying to take my life."

"How long has that been?"

"My mother died when I was two days old. So maybe three days after that?"

Amy gasped. "You were a baby! That's completely barbaric."

"Welcome to my life."

She sighed. "That's horrible. But you know, as they say, some will win and some will lose."

I looked at her and smirked. "Oh, Amy. One thing you should know about me - I don't lose."

Moments later Minashi returned with Riku and Lucille in tow. The minister was flushed and panting, and Riku's eyes were red.

"They wouldn't let us see you," Lucille said with a huff. "I had to tell them that you were dying and I needed to perform Last Rites in order to save your troubled soul from Purgatory."

"But Protestants don't perform Last Rites," Amy said with a frown. "And Purgatory isn't a canon belief anymore."

She shrugged. "Worked, didn't it? Anyways, Ryo, a nurse may come in to check your pulse, so if that happens, try to act as if I miraculously brought you back from the dead, okay?"

"But I did miraculously rise from the dead," I said. "At least, by your standards."

"Wait, you really did die?" Lucille seemed confused, but Riku behind her finally did something and pushed forward. He looked exhausted, and was wearing the same clothes from the day before.

"Father." He hadn't called me by that title in so long. Riku kneeled at my bedside, and, without saying anything else, gave a long sigh. In that sigh he seemed to release hours of repressed emotion that I can only assume he had been too proud to release before the others.

"I was asleep," he said. "I wasn't expecting you to come back until morning. Amy gets this call, and I'm barely awake for it but then she runs into my room and - and - and..." He closed his eyes and took a deep, long breath. "You were dead. Just dead! I know what they told me - you, mom, everyone - but you can't just die like that! It's not fair to me, don't you see that? You're all I have now! It's hard enough getting over mom, and then they take you too? I can't, I just can't..." his voice faded off when tears threatened to fall. Instead, I took his hand and tugged him a little bit closer so he was looking right at me.

"Look at me, Riku," I said firmly. He did, and his eyes had never looked more like Kei's than in that moment. It made me think of her, which made my heart ache, so I closed my own eyes. "I will never leave you, Riku," I said. "I cannot tell you what will happen next, but whatever it is, I will make sure we stay together, do you understand? We will soon find your mother - because I know that she is here somewhere - and then this madness will end. Okay?"

"But what if you die again?"

"Then I will come back to life again."

"You say that so simply."

"Because it is." I let go of his hand and looked back to those in the room. A nurse had joined us, and stood in the doorway slack-jawed at me. Whether it was my appearance or because I was very much alive, I couldn't tell. Perhaps both.

"Get used to that look. You'll see it a lot," Amy said to me.

"I am alive," I said to the nurse. "Though I would like water." She bustled off without a word. I never got the water I requested.

Within the hour my hospital room was crowded with black-suited men with sleepy eyes.

"Gentlemen," I said to them once all twelve of them filed in. Four jumped when I spoke.

"So you speak English?" one asked. He was fat with stubbly short hair.

"Little," I responded. Two had clipboards and paper and were writing things down.

"So, we'll start with where you come from. Do you have a name for your planet?"

I had never heard that word before, "planet." I cocked my head in thought, then turned to Amy. "What is 'Planet'?" I asked.

"Um, well, a planet is a giant sphere in the sky. Sometimes life is able to live on these planets, like this one. We live on the planet called Earth."

"I frowned. This didn't make any sense. The sky? We didn't live in the sky. The sky was above us. "We live in San Francisco."

She sighed, closing her eyes. "I know that, Ryo. Do you remember that round globe I showed you in the library when you first arrived here? Well, that is the entire planet."

"Kind of small, don't you think?"

"It's not to scale!" she snapped, and then looked back at the men, who were staring at us. "Sorry."

I looked back at them as well and took a deep breath. They leaned forward. "I don't know," I said.

"What do you mean, you don't know?" One of them asked.

I shrugged. "I don't know. Considering I just found out what 'planet' was one minute ago, I don't know."

The two men were writing furiously, while the others stared at me. "So, where do you come from?"

"A, um, island. Yes, island. Divided, um, three...regions. Yes. Humans, one region. Elves, other region. My race, third region." I was just short of grabbing paper to draw out a map.

"So, uh, what was the nature of your race?"

The interview process took two hours, to the point where I was answering questions with my eyes closed. They had asked me everything about my life, down to the smallest insignificant detail. Of course they hardly scratched the surface of anything important. Did I have parents? Why, of course I did, smart one. Father? Abusive and insane. Mother? Dead. Siblings? One, an older brother. Depressed. Other family? My second wife, who's gone. My son is over there looking at the fish in the glass. What happened to my first wife? Uh, it's a long story. But she's dead. How do I reproduce? Would you like me to demonstrate? Perhaps another time. Do I have a religion? Unfortunately, I do. What does that mean? They're abusive and insane, too. What was my government like? Absolute monarchy, as Amy said. Was I important in the government? Um, I kind of ran it. So I was what is now called a king? Yeah, sure, why not? How did I come here? I was an idiot who raged a war and my own general betrayed me so he could claim the throne for himself. It's a touchy subject. So why am I here? So I can eat ramen noodles, drink away my sorrows, and watch CSI: Miami. That's not a serious answer. Wow, really? I didn't know.

They knew to stop when I ceased trying to speak in English and just spoke in my own language. I was tired, in a foul mood, and had just been shot. What did they expect of me? A saintly nurse shooed them out when the sun began to rise and we were all mercifully allowed to sleep. I was out within minutes.


The next afternoon I was awakened by a nurse who wanted to change my bandages. She wore gloves and a face mask, and somehow managed to do the entire procedure without touching me. Even though I hardly moved, her hands were shaking from fear. Once I was fully awake, as she was leaving, I realized that nobody else was in the room. "Where are my friends?" I asked.

"Um, outside," she said, then shuffled off.

The staff's attitude towards me was making me angry. I wasn't used to being feared for doing nothing. Usually I was feared for at least opening my mouth, or brandishing my sword, or for killing someone, but not for just sitting somewhere. I decided to get up and move around. I had been through worse (I had been shot in the chest and poisoned after all), and I was feeling fine.

I stood up and put on what clothes I had that weren't hard from blood (namely just my pants, underclothes, and socks), and wandered out of the room. I took two steps into the white, brightly-lit hallway and was stopped by two tall men sporting the same face mask and gloves as the nurse. "You can't be out," one said firmly. "You are not yet well and you could still pose a threat to others."

A threat to others including you, I thought bitterly as I glared them down. "What do you mean, a threat?"

"Your immune system has not yet been analyzed. You could have a disease that may be harmless to you, but fatal to others, among other things."

I had no idea what they were talking about. Somehow, that made me even angrier. "What about my son?" I asked. "And the women with him? Where are they?"

"All quarantined."

"All what?"

"Sectioned off. You know? Isolated. Put away. For safety."

My face fell. The thought of Riku, who at this point was so vulnerable and so dependent on me, alone in a room with strange men poking and prodding at him... "That's unacceptable." I learned that phrase from the television, too. "I need to see him."

"Wait, that boy is your son? Like in blood?"

"Yes."

"We thought he was a brother, or a nephew-"

"He doesn't look that old!"

They looked at each other. "It's not him," one muttered. I almost slapped him.

"Go back to the room."

"No, I will see my son!" I shouted. This was hard, so hard. To be completely powerless and defenseless.

"We will bring him to you when he is ready. So please, lay back down."

I went back, defeated. I lay down on the bed, closing my eyes. "Wretched," I muttered.

Minutes later one of the government officials from the day before came back and sat down at my bedside. He had a clipboard and paper, but he wasn't one of the scribes that I could recall.

"Hello," he said kindly.

I looked at him.

He gulped. "Um, your...son? is okay. He's being very cooperative. We know you were concerned."

"I wonder why." I closed my eyes. "Why are you here?"

"Well, I was hoping to ask you more questions."

"About what?"

"What if we had a conversation this time?"

I stared at him. "I hardly speak English."

"You're doing fine. Shall we begin?"

"Fine."

He was smiling. "Tell me about yourself."

I was not smiling. "You're not serious."

"What?"

We began. I 'told him about myself,' as he requested. He asked about my father, and I told him what I could with my broken English. He told me about his life, too. I didn't quite care at first, but it was better than a straight interview. I told him about my race, and he told me some things about humans that I didn't know before. I taught him some of my language and he showed me some more English. At first the conversation was light and simple, but then it turned deep and provoking. He asked me about my religion. I told him I didn't like my Gods. He asked why. I told him why.

"Change religions then," he said to me.

"Change religions?" I asked, confused. The thought, to 'change religions' wasn't even within my frame of reality. To suddenly change beliefs, to deny something existing when you knew it did exist, seemed impossible.

"Yes. We humans do it all the time. If we don't like one religion, we convert to another one."

I didn't know what the word 'convert' was, but I figured it out. "How can people just...change what they believe?"

He smiled at me. "Two days ago I didn't believe that people with wings and arsenic in their blood existed. Now you're here, telling me about a strange island that nobody knows about where your kind is common."

I smiled as well. "This is true. But I am not a religion."

He stood up. "I promise you, in a month, you will be." He left then without saying anything else.

I wouldn't understand what he meant until a month later.


Three more days of talking with authorities, and in those three days I did not see any of Riku, Amy, Minashi, and Lucille. All I knew was that Amy was making a lot of phone calls, Riku was cooperative and was enjoying the Cheez-Its the nurses gave him, and that Minashi was being a hardass. Typical.

One day I had awoken to the sound of a doctor coming into my room. He stood at my bedside and waited for me to fully notice him, then: "We're going to take you out now."

"And do what?" I asked sleepily, rubbing my eyes.

"You have made remarkable progress in your healing. So far, all we have of you is what you and the others have said and a blood sample. We would like to investigate more, if you don't mind. Heart, bones, brain, the like."

"Will it hurt?"

"No, not that we can predict."

"Will it take long?"

"It depends, but we won't keep you for longer than we have to."

"And then when I'm done, I can go back home, right?"

He looked nervous for a moment, but nodded. "Yes."

"Fine." I didn't trust him, but it was better than being stuck here. I had learned that cooperation was my best friend in this situation.

So, the tests began almost immediately. They wanted a 'DNA' sample, whatever that was, and so they took one of my hairs (on the back of my neck; I wouldn't let them pluck one out themselves), and a swab of cotton in my mouth. They took photographs of my teeth - at least, I think they did since the machine they used was most certainly not a camera - and 'X-rays' of my body. More things that I didn't know, but none of it hurt too much. The entire process took one week and the whole time I was tugged, poked, and prodded more than I knew how to react to. The entire time, I did not see Riku, Minashi, or Amy. Lucille floated in and out, however she herself was busy with her work, so it was mostly me, the researchers, and the nurses. More English lessons, more talking about my homeland, Government officials in and out, jabbering at me in English that seemed like a foreign tongue. My television stopped working after the second day and I was transferred to a secluded, windowless room. It made me nervous and jumpy, but I could do nothing but put up with it. I missed my Riku, and my friends, and any scenery that wasn't a damn hospital room.

Finally on the sixth day, an Amy-shaped blessing walked into my room. She was holding a stack of papers in her hand and looked simply exhausted. I was sitting in my hospital bed, trying to figure out for the millionth hour why I couldn't get any channel other than Nigerian News Now.

"Amy!" I threw aside the remote and sat up promptly. "I'm so happy to see you. It's been forever, hasn't it? So much has happened. They ran all these tests and-"

"I know, I know." Amy sat down next to me with a sigh, looking over the papers still. "These are the results of those tests...I've been looking them over. Your body is...absolutely astounding. Your bones have the weight and consistency of a bird of prey, yet are still shaped like a human's. Your brain is...amazing. Your cerebellum is one and a half times larger than a human's, and your frontal lobe is fifteen percent larger than a human's. You have an extra organ near your left kidney which produces your white blood cells, since you lack bone marrow...when you sleep, you seem to fall into some kind of comatose state. Your brain becomes almost completely static and during all the sessions they monitored your brain while you slept, you never once reached REM sleep, but yet your brain seems completely fine. Your eyes, wow, your eyes are fascinating. You have half the amount of rods in both eyes and the same amount of cones, and in your right eye the optical nerve is almost completely severed. Despite this, your right eye still seems to be able to move with the left and it was written that...even though your right pupil never adjusted to changes in light, it did change with your changes in emotion...very interesting. You have a hearing range that rival's a bat - I would hope with your big-ass ears...Wow, it just goes on. Your internal organs are fascinating-"

"Amy." I stopped her before she could go on. My head was spinning. "I have no idea what the hell you just said."

"Sorry." Amy put the papers away. "In short, you're a scientific wonder. Not just you, either. They've been running tests on Riku, and trying to on Minashi. You all are. Human, but not." She smirked. "The world doesn't quite know what to make of it."

My face fell. "The world? I haven't left this hospital in weeks. How do other people know about this?"

Amy rolled her eyes. "Why do you think your television doesn't work? And why they moved you to a room that's smaller, more secluded, and has no windows? People have been lining up outside to see you. This is a public hospital, Ryo. Even though they've tried to keep you hidden as much as possible, it's pretty damn hard when you're so...noticeable. Twenty people saw you die that night on the street. Eighteen of them had camera phones on them, three of them video recorders. Remember when I told you about the internet? Well, that's what it's for. People know about you." She sighed. "I've made so many phone calls. To the White House, the FBI, MIB, the United Nations, you name it. World leaders have killed my cellphone minutes and I've been excommunicated from almost every Vampire coven. Not that I really care. The mayor of the city wants in, so does the governor of the state. The only people that have the answers are on this hospital wing, and they're trying their hardest to keep it that way."

I was staring at her in surprise. People knew. About me. Of course, not completely, but they knew enough. They knew that I wasn't human, that I had died and come back to life. They knew that I was hiding in a hospital. They probably even knew what I looked like. But Amy's last words struck something in me, something I did not like. "They're trying their hardest to keep it that way."

"Why?" I asked. "Why do I have to stay in hiding? Since they know-"

"No, they don't know," Amy hissed. "They can't know. Don't you get it, Ryo? The world isn't ready for aliens. We can create television shows and books and movies about them, and we can be fascinated, and we can hope, and we can dream, but we as a society, as a world, are not ready. We can't even accept each other. It's all over our history. War, genocide, ethnic cleansing...whatever you call it. People find differences in other people, fear that difference, and target them. Human beings, afraid of human beings. I know you're used to raging war against a different race, a different species, but we don't have that. Humans only have each other to hate, and they will continue to hate as long as they don't know about things like Vampires and Demons and Elves and whatever else you are used to. Because if that does happen, if we all suddenly came out of hiding...do you know how horrible that would be? Suddenly, people aren't hating Jews and blacks and Protestants and gays and Muslims...suddenly they're hating you. Do you want that? The hatred of an entire planet, thrust upon you? The scientists and nurses have been kind to you in the name of science, and the world governments will be kind to you in the name of diplomacy. But everyone else...they don't need a reason to be kind to you. They'll see you as different, and they'll fear you."

"How do you know that?" I demanded. "What if I changed everything? I could spark...world peace, or something-"

"No." Amy leaned close to me. "You must understand something about yourself, Ryo. About your kind. The name of your kind in your language translates roughly to 'divine power'."

"Yes, I know that," I answered. "When Death saw the birth of his race he thought they would become powerful enough to overthrow the reign of Gods in Heaven, so he labeled us divine. Of course, the Gods thought differently-"

"Yes, that's it." She frowned. "In ancient Greek, which is a really old language that nobody speaks anymore, the word for that was daim┼Źn. We still use that word today in modern English, though it has changed. Now, it is demon. D-E-M-O-N. That's what you are, Ryo. A demon."

"So?"

"Demons are bad in this world. In almost every religion and belief system there are demons. They're spirits, or minions of Hell, or tempters...just...bad. That's what they are. They're the evil of the world. Every war, every rape, every curse...all because of demons. If you go out there, tell them what you are...they'll know. You don't exactly look angelic, either. Dark hair, dark eyes, big black wings, white skin..." she shook her head. "You're every cliche storybook dark entity. They'll hunt you. And they won't stop until you're dead." She groaned. "God, this is like a bad episode of Doctor Who..."

"A bad episode of what?"

"Nothing."

Just then, one of the doctors entered the room with a researcher in tow. Before either of them could say anything, I blurted out, "I want to go outside. There are people out there? Let me talk to them."

They stared at me, and Amy put her hand over her face. "Did nothing I just told you seep through your head...?"

"I don't care, Amy. I can take whatever they have for me. I've been through worse. I can handle a little bit of prejudice."

"It's going to be more than 'a little' prejudice, you idiot!"

I ignored her and kept my eyes on the two men at the foot of my bed. "I want out of here."

"But we're not finished-"

"I don't care. We can do research later. I haven't seen my son in so long, or anybody that I know. He misses me, and I miss him. This is horrible, and I want out. I am perfectly capable of doing that."

"But-"

"I don't care whatever you have to say to me!" I said sharply. The sleepy monarch inside of me was beginning to awaken. "I am physically fine. I am mentally sound. You have no reason to keep me here. You will let me out, and you will tell whatever news stations are watching this hospital that I will be giving a statement to the public tomorrow."

"Tomorrow?" Amy squawked. "You can't do that, Ryo!"

"I can, and I will." I sat up and swung my legs around to stand on the floor, looking at the two men. "Tell me where my son is."

"We can't-"

"Tell me where my son is. Right now." In my voice there was no room for argument or even second-guessing. They were going to tell me where my son was, and that was simply the end of it. Slowly, the doctor pointed out the door. "Down the hall to the left, third door past the vending machines."

"Thank you." I left and walked bare-chested down the hall and followed their instructions. I went through a set of double doors and suddenly, I was in a very big, bustling hallway. Nurses and doctors and patients were coming and going and they all just stopped and stared at me. I looked at them all for only a second before continuing forward, trying to find the damn vending machines so I could get my son and get out of there as soon as possible.

I passed the vending machines and went down three doors. I slammed open the proper door, telling myself that I best as hell see my son in there or they'd all face the wrath of an angry "demon" or whatever it was I was called now.

Riku was there, laying in the hospital bed. He jumped at my violent entrance and stared. "D-dad!"

"We're getting out of here," I said simply, then paused. "Why are you in a hospital bed?"

"They found out I was anemic."

"You're what now?"

"Nothing. Blood condition. It's why I'm so pale."

"You're pale because I'm pale."

He just shrugged. I couldn't care. Amy was calling my name down the hall, no doubt to yell at me for suddenly dashing off into a busy ward of the hospital. I couldn't care about that, either.
"We're getting out of here," I said to him, going over and starting to help him to his feet. "They treated you right, yes?"

"Yes. Everyone was very nice. Why are we leaving?"

"Because I feel like it. I'm sick and tired of hiding in this damn hospital."

The door opened and Amy entered, glaring at me. "You can't just run off like that! This isn't a secluded area of the hospital, you know! Riku's only here because he actually blends in!"

I glared at her and went back to Riku. "What's it like outside?"

"Um. Sunny, low sixties, wind chill is-"

"Not the weather, you idiot." I hit him upside the head. "The people, damn it. Amy tells me that people know that we're here."

Riku rubbed his head, frowning at me as he answered. "Of course there are people outside. This whole hospital is in a fit and there are about six thousand people camped outside to see something."

My eye twitched. Six thousand. Six thousand. I went to the window and peered through the blinds, and I could see some of them. Milling around, sitting down, some even had tents. "That's not six thousand though," I said, looking out. Riku's window looked out onto a parking lot, and perhaps there were a few hundred. I saw police cars and some news vans among the masses.
"There's more on the other side," Riku explained. "We're facing only one side."

Amy was behind me. When she spoke, she sounded so desperate, so pleading; "Ryo, please don't do this."

I shut the blinds and sighed a moment. "What am I supposed to do then, Amy? We can't just tell all these people that I don't exist."

"Yes we can. We have before. What do you think I've been telling all these political leaders? That you don't exist. We've kept these secrets for all of human history. Legends of vampires and aliens and mythical animals...they're just that to these people. Legends. We can't...just throw all that away."

I looked back at her. "Amy," I said quietly, "it took over one million years for the Gods to accept my kind into heaven. I convinced them. It took six thousand years for the elves and the demons of my world to form an alliance. I did it. It used to be where people couldn't come back to life, especially not in the same body. I proved them wrong. Never in my kingdom's history was there such thing as an 'empire'. I had one. I only had it for two damn weeks but I had it. And now you're standing here, telling me that I can't do this. You need to understand something about me - I do things not because I can do them, but because I can't."

I looked at Riku then, "do you have your clothes and things?"

"Yeah, pretty much," he said, beginning to gather all his things together.

Amy shook her head, "Yeah, he can get out of here no sweat, but what about you? Everybody knows what you look like now."

"I'm not going out through the front door. I'm going out through the roof. Where is Minashi?"

"Wha- Minashi left...she was being uncooperative so they let her go. What do you mean, the roof?"

"The roof. I'll fly." I looked at Riku. "I want you to go back to Amy or Minashi's house. Whichever you prefer."

"Where are you going to stay?" he asked, moving to stand next to Amy.

"I'm going to City Hall and prepare for my speech."

I saw his jaw drop. "Speech? What speech?"

"I'm going to make a statement to the public."

Amy strode forward. "I'm coming with you. If you're going to do this, as much as I really hate it, I can't stop you. But I can help you prevent a catastrophe or a world-wide riot. Please allow me that."

"Fine." I grinned. "Would you like to fly with me to city hall?"

"I'll take the bus," she said flatly.

I patted her on the shoulder and kissed Riku on the cheek. "I'm glad your safe. Don't be an idiot." I looked at Amy and grinned. "Tomorrow at seven o'clock, city hall. I'll need you with me."

Riku stepped forward, "I'm coming too!" he said abruptly.

"Don't you care about staying anonymous?" Amy asked.

He shook his head, "No. I'm not human. I'm not part of this society. If my father is going to out himself, I will do it with him." He then looked at me and gave an uncharacteristic smirk, crossing his arms. "Believe it or not father, I'm actually proud of the blood I share with you."

His look was so much like mine, and it made me laugh. "What a shock," I answered, then nodded to them. "I will see you tomorrow then." I left the room.

As I headed down the hall, I noticed two frazzled researchers coming my way. Their pace sped up when they saw me. "Ryo! What are you doing out? We heard you stormed out! You must come back to your room!"

"Nope." I walked between them and took their shoulders, dragging them along with me. I was pumped now, and nothing was going to ruin that. "Come on, men. You always said you wanted to see me fly. Up for it?"

"W-what?" one of them said, stumbling to keep up with my pace.

"Yeah. Just flying around. You expressed an interest."

Suddenly, they were thrilled. "Yes!" one said. "That would be good. Let's get the team!"

"No, no not the team," I said. We were in the stairwell and I was leading them up two floors to the roof. It was windy that day; optimal flying conditions.

"We should hook you up," one of them said anxiously.

"No, no. Not now at least. I just want to stretch my wings out, you know?" I was walking towards the edge of the roof now. "I'll be back. You can watch me, see how well I do."

They looked at each other I could tell that they were nervous. Slowly, I grinned. "See you soon." I turned my back to them, spread my wings and ran a few paces before leaping off the roof.
I didn't go too far before picking up altitude, since I didn't want anybody to notice me below. I also didn't tell the researchers that I wasn't coming back. Not that I really cared about how long it would take them to figure it out.

I had been to city hall before. I passed it many times while taking the public transportation, and Amy had taken me to see it a few times. Of course, it took me some time to orient myself to the city again, because seeing it from above was quite different from a trolley down below.

I soon found it; a huge, richly decorated building with a dome on top. Columns and intricate carvings were on the facade with gold accents. Before it was a large lawn with trees and flagpoles.
There were three main entrances, but I took none of them. Instead I landed on a balcony on the second floor with a window slightly open. I pushed open one of the windows and slid into a meeting room.

I wasn't aware when I landed that there was actually a meeting going on in that meeting room. I slid in, with some difficulty because of my wings and the windows were sort of narrow and my wings were most definitely not, and turned to see about fifteen individuals around a round table who had all turned their bodies to face me. I straightened up and looked at them. Me, a shirtless, winged being who just flew into their meeting...their looks of shock were quite suitable, and for once, I didn't care. Let them see me. They'd see so much more of me later.
"The mayor's office?" I asked.

Slowly, one of the women pointed to the door. "Room...316."

"Thank you." I smiled at them and then left the room. 316. 3-1-6. I walked through the hall, passing politicians and interns and employees and they all saw me. They all saw me, and stopped, and stared, and I didn't care. I was through with Amy's games of hide-and-seek with the world.

Room 3-1-6 was one floor up and down the hall. I checked the knob to see if it was unlocked, and it was. I opened the door, to see a young man sitting behind a desk, writing. He looked up at me, looking startled as he saw me. His mouth opened to say something, but I cut him off.

"Mayor...Gavin Newsom." I most likely butchered the pronunciation of his name that I read on his desk, but I doubt either of us cared.

"You are..." he started, but he knew.

There was an empty chair by his desk. I took it and sat down in front of him now. Our gazes met, and he spoke first.

"How long have you been here?"

"September."

"Where do you come from?"

I sighed. Here we go again.

He had questions. I had answers. I told him as much as I could, which was pretty much the same thing that I had told the research and government officials and doctors back in the hospital. I told him about what I had done in the city, and about what happened on February fourteenth, and what I had done in the hospital since then. Then, after many long hours and a glass of water later, I told him about what would take place on the steps of city hall the next day at seven. At those words, I saw him turn in his big, plush office chair that was the kind to spin around and look out the window thoughtfully. A few quiet, tense moments passed and I had no idea what he'd say.

Mr. Gavin Newsom muttered a few things in English under his breath and then looked at me, offering the smallest smile. "Let's get you ready, then."


5:30 in the afternoon the next day, Amy and Riku pushed through the throng of people to see me. The night leading up, I had slept on a couch in one of the secluded rooms of the city hall, but I hardly slept. I awoke early with nearly an entire team of people who were responsible for this one statement I would make to the world. Outside the crowd of six thousand had moved from the hospital to city hall, and it had grown to twenty thousand. Streets were blocked off. Police had moved in for crowd control. News stations all over the world were in the city.
A button-up dress shirt had been gracefully provided for me, and it took two tailors to figure out how they would get it on my back with my wings. Finally, they figured out to cut and hem two holes in the back and it took three more interns just to get it on me. Of course, I would have told them that simply cutting out a large hole in the back would work, as it was what I did as a king, however their struggle was simply too amusing to me.

"Ryo!" Amy was dressed classy in a straight black dress, and Riku had a suit and tie next to her. I grinned at them, but Amy was not grinning back. "Do you know many strings I had to pull to get here? I had to show my teeth and your son's god damn ears to get in here. The governor of California is on his way and the President has reps watching this city like a hawk. Fuck it, everyone is watching this city." She took a deep breath and accepted a glass of water that a shaky intern provided.

"I have speech writers,' I announced proudly. "They're working out what I'm going to say to the people."

Her face fell mid-drink. "What?" Amy swallowed harshly and shook her head. "No way. I won't allow that. Where are these speech writers, eh?" Before I could say anything, she stormed off to find them, pushing through people.

Riku smiled at me soon after. "How are you doing?"

I shrugged. "I'm not nervous, honestly. I've been through worse."

He put his hands in his pockets and gazed off. "The whole world is going to change."

"Do you not want it to change?"

"That depends on how it changes."


6:00 in the evening Amy still was not back. The crowd had only gotten larger in that time. Everyone was rushing everywhere and I was on my second glass of water.

"You don't have to go out there with me," I said to Riku. The front doors were just down the hall.

"I want to," he said. A small smile slipped across his face. "I threw out my chances of ever having a normal life a long time ago. If you're going, then I am too."


6:30 was when Amy and my speechwriters finally approached me. Amy handed me the paper and I skimmed it over. She was right to council them - there were no big words that I didn't know. The content was fairly straightforward - who I was, that I came in peace, that I had been here for a while, so on and so forth. Nothing too groundbreaking, and nothing too revealing. There was also no mention of just exactly what I was.

I heard off somewhere that the governor had arrived, but I didn't care. I spent the next half an hour getting to know my speech.


6:57 was the time, and I had two police officers flanking me, Riku, and Amy. I was in the front. They offered to have a bodyguard just in case someone shot me, but I refused. Amy gave me a blue tie just before I went out so I would at least look "somewhat decent," as she put it. Riku was nervous, and Amy was nervous, and hell, the whole world was nervous, and I suppose that it was making me a little bit nervous as well.

"Ryo." Amy put her hand on my shoulder when we were steps away from the door. "Don't be nervous. Just say what is on that card, and that's it. And whatever you do, do not say the word 'demon'."

The double doors were pushed open and immediately there were flashes of light that took me by surprise. A podium was ten feet before me, and it seemed to take forever to get there. Cameras flashing in my face, and it was quite annoying, but I tried not to let it show beyond the initial shock. I wasn't sure how well I was succeeding.

There were people. So many people! As far as I could see, there were people. News reporters with their obnoxious cameras to the front, on the steps, and there were people covering the lawn and onto the streets and everywhere. I had never seen so many people.

They said nothing. Not even the news reporters. They were waiting for me to speak.

"Hello," I said into the microphone on the podium, and my voice seemed to carry forever. I looked down on at the card before me, and I was reading the words, but I couldn't understand them. I made out a few words, and it was then that I realized that it wasn't right, it wasn't me. These words weren't my own, and I couldn't have that. So, I looked up from the card onto the amazing mass of people, and I didn't look back down.

"My name is Ryo. I am not human, and I am not from this place. I have...been here for quite a while, living underneath the city for many years. I...have only been here since September. I live among the people, and I ride the public bus, and I run every morning. Many weeks ago, I was shot. I died. But, I came back to life. That has happened a lot in my life. I die, and I come back. I'm older than I look to you, and I don't age the same way." I took a deep breath and realized that I was bordering on rambling. I paused a moment, and the silence was so, so thick. Don't tell them what they want to hear, tell them what they need to hear... "I'm not here to start a war, or a conflict, or anything at all. I'm not here because I want to be. I have no purpose here, in this world, other than to live. I am here because of a coward. In my land...my kind was common. I was king. I had an empire. One of my...trusted men stole that from me. He sent me here. I don't know why, but the fact remains that I am here. The...place I come from is smaller than this world that you humans live. It was an...island, I believe you call it. We did not know what was beyond the Island. I do not know where it is in relation to this world - if it is on this world, or in another. There were three races where I came from - my kind, and Humans, and beings I have been told most closely resemble...Elves to you. I think that...is what you call them." I glanced over at Amy for a moment, and she was giving me a look that clearly asked why I wasn't following the script. I looked back to the scene before me and gulped, but my mouth was dry. Despite this, I forced myself to keep talking:

"I do not know if there are others like me in the world. I have...reason to believe that there are, however from what I know they have not shown themselves yet. I don't want my kind to hide anymore...I urge them to show themselves, please. I don't want to hide anymore. I don't want to hide my wings, my language, my behavior in order to fit in. I do not fit in as a fake-human, and I do not want to fit in. Please accept this, and please accept my kind. I do not want to hurt or control any of you. I only want to live. I have a family; a son, named Riku, and a wife, and a brother, and I have friends. These people are scattered throughout the world, I only hope. I pray that they are not dead. If you want me to leave, then I am sorry. I cannot do that, because I do not know how to get back. I am here to stay." I was exhausted suddenly. I had depleted my 'Speak English about myself to millions of people' quota for the day, and my stamina was spent.

Another deep breath, and I looked out at them all. Silence, utter silence. "That...is all I have to say. For now, at least. I will speak more. Later."

I was about to turn to leave when I heard a buzz of a commotion. The news reporters were stepping forward now, slowly, and talking at me loudly, trying to say something. I hardly registered any of them, except for one. His question was so simple, and so stupid, but it made me stop:

"You said you had Humans in your world?"

I turned and looked back at him. He was young, with a pad of paper in his hand, looking at me almost desperately. "Yes," I said.

"And Elves?"

"Them, too. That is what you call them, at least."

"So what are you?"

I was silent for a moment. The entire area had fallen silent again as well. In my peripheral vision, Amy was visibly holding her breath, staring at me with a panicked expression. "Well," I pursed my lips, and couldn't help but allow the tiniest smirk.

"I suppose you humans would call me 'demon'."

To be Continued...


FROM THE AUTHORESS


Din: -stumbles in, exhausted and shaking- Oh...my...GOD. Oh my god. Yes, I'm well aware of the fact that this chapter is, um...eight months overdue? Let's just say that I was pregnant with it. Just went through labor. Yup.

Ryo: -wipes the dust off- Don't keep me in the closet that long, please. Now my hair is all messed up.

Din: So, I'm sure you're asking, what the hell happened to Din? Well, after January, second semester of college started. I became an instant overachiever, overloaded my schedule, and got involved in like, six organizations on my campus. I was literally working from 8am to 9pm. THEN I went to Italy for 3 weeks, and that's actually where I wrote about 60% of this chapter. THEN summer came and my grandfather passed away. So, to say the least, my muses have been on vacation, my writer's block turned into a writer's building, and I was only able to finish this chapter out of sheer force and discipline.
tl;dr, these past 8 months have been the most stressful, back-breaking time of my life.
However, thank you all for not completely abandoning me. I rely on your kind words to get me through. The worst is over, so regular chapters should be up! The next one will be up really soon!

Also, apologies for how shitty this chapter was, and I'm sorry if there were any inconsistencies at any time. I wrote this over a period of eight months in varying moods, at varying degrees of how much I care about what I'm writing, etc etc. Any feedback would be lovely.

-PITCH TIEM!- I updated my profile. You should check it out. And my DeviantArt, too. I have lots of pictures up. 3 TheWanderer-Chan is my username. The link is on my profile.

Thank you all!

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