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Cataclysm

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It's said before that the eyes in the sky indicate the Gods— and only Gods, watching above. Typically, they occur at the site of divine intervention. However, they can appear when they get interested in a specific scene in the narrative. For example, an epic battle or when two significant people meet. 

 

However, what is interesting is that as far as my research is concerned, not everyone sees them. My companion doesn't experience these judgmental eyes as I do. However, she mentioned that our Hero did. Therefore, if Karen managed to see these prophetic eyes, does that mean the Villain can also? The Seer, I have no doubt, can see them but is that all? The only connection between the four is their unique relationships to the Gods. The Villain and Hero are the core parts of any prophecy. The Seer and the Catalyst are tools made from divinity.

 

But that can't be all of them, right? Surely there is more… No living prophetic story shows this aspect of the prophecy. Even then, Mahiru mentioned that Karen didn't see it until I… 

 

 

There should be more to understand this, not only how to know how it appeared but how to remove it. 

 

Memoir #10 - Eyes of Gods by Tsuyuzaki Michiru 

 

~

 

Shiori woke up, haggard of breath, unable to see properly. Dark haze lingered around her eyes, and she staggered to a sitting up position. Nightmares. That was all Shiori has been getting in the past few days. Nightmares and bruises and whatever Rui wanted to bring through the pits of hell that she dubbed "Training." 

 

Days after the initial wake up to this reality of the prophecy, Shiori could still remember the night that began this. The way Michiru knew her last name, her parents. The person who tried to kill her was training her to be better with her powers. That night was a mess, a cruel, horrible mess. 

 

Shiori hated that memory; she hated Michiru. Every time she closed her eyes at night, she would picture her red eyes glowing wild and mad in that tavern. Either that or the way she screamed out how her parents died for this prophecy.

 

Shiori exhaled, combing through her hair tying the long length to a ponytail. She glanced out of the cave they temporarily lived in; the sun was shining high and made it clear that she was already late. Dawn was when she practised after Rui was aware of how little she actually knew. 

 

Day and night, Rui would make her run around, gaining her stamina, then she would try to attack her, to force her wind powers to appear as they did before. It wouldn't work. Shiori would tell her that she couldn't control the wind, Rui would get mad, and they would do some sparring. She would walk to dinner with a new layer of bruises across her arms, legs and shoulders. 

 

"Shiori dear?" Michiru asked, making Shiori jump from the sudden appearance. She peeked out from the cave entrance, pushing away the curtains she placed there to give a better sense of privacy. She smiled at the Hero, her red eyes almost glowing in the shadows. "Are you alright?"

 

Shiori shook her head, standing up as she took the spare clothes from the clothesline on the further side of the cave. "I'll be fine. Just give me space to change." 

 

Michiru nodded, glancing at the Hero before walking out, "Alright but Rui is on a run, waiting for you."

 

Shiori held back a growl at the mention of her trainer. She removed her nightshirt, the cold breeze made her hiss, her bruises weren't ready for another training session. Then again, she realised as traces of the prophecy echoed in her mind, she might've never been ready. 

 

Be weary of blondes who can seal fate 

 

Be cautious of red eyes and what they create

 

And just like that, everything made sense. 

 

Michiru was the Villain of her prophecy. 

 

With that thought, Shiori shoved her shoes on and bolted from the cave. Michiru was already gone, and it did nothing to calm her. All this time, the Villain was right there, hiding right in front of her. There was breakfast near the fire, cold and old, but it was enough for Shiori to swallow down before rushing to her training ground near the river. 

 

It was obvious now that Shiori thought about it more. Michiru had red eyes; the prophecy mentioned red eyes. The prophecy mentioned to be cautious around the creation, and Rui was right there. Sure, she also had red eyes, but she was nothing like Michiru. Rui was rude, an asshole, but she was too emotional to be manipulative; she was too forward to be cruel. Michiru acted more of a villain than Rui, saying almost flippantly words that would always turn Shiori's mind upside down. 

 

Michiru was old enough to know cruelty, and even though Shiori had just met her, she knew that whilst Rui could be crude-- she wasn't cruel. 

 

Fueled by the past and their rage. To right the last prophecy's wrongs.

 

Both of these lines indicated a lot about Michiru, even if the latter was extremely jarring. For all Shiori knew about the last prophecy, and whilst she rebelled and didn't go to the classes a lot in the temple, she knew a lot. Most importantly, she knew Mahiru was the only current survivor. Which meant, if Michiru was part of the last prophecy, Michiru was on the side of the villains that unknowingly survived.

 

Everyone on the Hero's side was destroyed in the final battle with the Villain, caused by the unnatural relationship between the Catalyst and the Lover. That was what they taught at school at the temple. The others didn't know that Mahiru was the Lover— and that Mahiru's wife, the presumed Catalyst, was dead. 

 

Even when Shiori only realised the former fact about Mahiru being the Lover on the evening of the divination ceremony. Shiori could never forget the way Mahiru mourned for her wife. It's an unspoken thing, the way Mahiru longed for her. Unspoken but constant, like the way the world would spin on an axis. Even saying her name proved too much of a burden for Mahiru. 

 

"My wife liked to claim she was never a romantic, only considerate." So spoke a long-forgotten memory of Mahiru tending to the flowerbeds back when Shiori was ten years old. One was empty and bare, but the other held a display of forget-me-nots and other sentimental flowers. "She's a bit of a dense and difficult thing, but I think I understand what she meant now."

 

"Is that why you don't say her name?"

 

Mahiru paused, silent in a heaviness that even now in her 20s looking back, Shiori doesn't understand. "I don't say her name out of privacy. The person I know and love is not the same person everyone talks about and hates. So for her sake, even when she's dead, I will not share her name. It's a secret I will take to the grave. That's what I mean by understanding her words, not romantic, only considerate."  

 

Shiori shook her head, removing the memory. She had no time to be blinded with nostalgia, not when her life was at risk by the Villian Michiru. 

 

Sure the entire theory of Michiru being the Villain could flop the second it's revealed Mahiru had a second wife after splitting with the Catalyst post tragic prophecy. But that could easily mean that Michiru was the last prophetic Catalyst. Except now, she would no longer be the prophecy's Catalyst if that was the case. 

 

People in the past prophecy wouldn't retain their last role, so it would be likely her Mark would be transformed into something else, such as the Villian. This was also taught in the temple, something to reinforce the change. 

 

It was also the reason Claudine and Fumi pushed to explain why they changed their name. They were no longer Yumeoji Saijou— a family connected by the last names of their mothers. One became Saijou Claudine and the other Yumeoji Fumi. Each took the name of their mothers, and both expected Shiori to choose one too. She took neither and did what all other orphans did when the plague hit them. She had a blank space for a family name. 

 

The sound of rushing water pulled Shiori out of her thoughts, and her feet slowed near the river. A quick glance shared that Rui wasn't here yet, which meant that she would be taking instructions from Michiru. 

 

...

 

What would Rui be if Michiru was the Villain? It was clear that in terms of hierarchy, Michiru was at the top but did that mean Rui was a victim like Shiori? Or was she part of this whole scheme to make her miserable? 

 

Shiori remembered how hostile Rui was towards her and how visceral charged her glares were when Michiru pushed and forced the idea that Rui should be the one to train her. Could Michiru talking about Maya and Nana cruelty to her sisters be a reflection of herself? Was she being cruel to Rui and using her as a scapegoat? 

 

 "What are you doing here, Hero?" 

 

Shiori stood up straighter, her shoulders tense as she whirled around to the sound. Near the ridge, back in the trees, Rui was staring down at her from her vantage point. In her hands was her usual stick and in the other three bottles of potions, juggled on one palm. 

 

"Taking a break," Shiori answered as honestly as she could. She'll decide later if Rui was a friend or foe, not right now, not when she has too little information. 

 

"Already?" Rui scoffed, walking down the side of the hill onto the flatter lands below. The sound of the river nearby acted as white noise, save for the occasional chirps of birds and the flops of fish jumping. "I considered you sleeping in late to be your break."

 

The corners of Shiori's mouth moved up without realising. "Does that mean I can do it again tomorrow?"

 

At once, Rui's red eyes narrowed. "Don't push your luck, Hero." She threw something at Shiori using her underhand toss. Shiori leaned forward, cupping her hands to catch it as it hit her chest with a soft thud. 

 

Shiori brought the vial to her face. From the colour and basic training she learnt under Mahiru, she had a feeling this was a health potion from the pink pigment. Yet the back of her mind reminded her that acidic potions could be any colour. "What's this?"

 

"Just because you couldn't handle the heat doesn't mean you're getting off easy," Rui said as she placed the other two health potions away to the side before stretching her arms. "A health potion so you can continue in your best condition. Michiru's orders."

 

Shiori eyebrow's furrowed. Why would Michiru give her anything like that? Did she notice the bruises? If so, how did she know? The thought left a knot in her stomach, stripped of everything sane and left being tangled. "Why?"

 

Rui huffed, growling under her breath, "You think she tells me anything?"

 

"Considering you're her only lackey," Shiori said before popping up the cork and downing the content in one go. To Shiori's surprise, the taste was similar to Mahiru's own health recipe, with its hint of honey loosening the regular acquired taste of medicine. At once, the bones in her skin shifted, loosening all of the joints and all of the aches. "I would think so, yes."

 

Shiori rolled the empty glass vial away before turning at the sudden heat drawn to one particular space. Rui stood there, smoke rising from the ground, the grass at her feet folding onto itself as black tainted their burning skin. Rui stood there with her eyes pulsing with a bloodlust hue, the tips of her fangs bare with a controlled snarl. 

 

"Lackey…"

 

"Am I wrong?" Now it was Shiori's turn to narrow, taking in the scene with extreme caution. Mahiru warned her once, back when people used to judge her and harass her just because she was related to her sisters. Another person's reactions to things they can't control could tell a lot about them. If that was the case, what did that say about Rui? 

 

"You act like you're in charge," Shiori continued, throwing out a sharp cut of her own tongue as she sneered at Rui. It was a huge gamble to torment the person who regularly beat her with her eyes closed, but the reward would be worth it. Besides, she was the Hero— she wouldn't go down so easily. "But really you're just doing everything she's saying. Do you even have any thoughts of your own?"

 

"My current thought is that you don't deserve that potion," Rui snarled. Her right eye twitched as the heat around them flared, the tension in the air melting to something indescribable. Yet whatever flared was only secondary to Shiori's attention, not when she focused on Rui's nails growing out into claws, ripping apart the battered leather gloves she wore. Well, that explained why they looked so broken all the time. "Not when your arrogance doesn't even match your skills."

 

The rip echoed in the heated space, and Rui smirked, unfazed at the way her gloves fell to the ground. Shiori flinched at the unconcerned nature, recoiling then inwards at how quick she was to be scared. Then again, with the red eyes, bared teeth and claws that didn't seem human, Shiori realised it was normal to be this unsettled.  

 

And yet, Shiori took a deep breath, the wind blowing around her as she looked forward to the challenge head-on. "So you're willing to beat my skills into me, still bruising from yesterday's spar like a dead horse?"

 

Rui let out a cold chuckle, and grey smoke curled like an overflowing wine glass from her bottom lip. "You learn quickly when the lessons are embedded in you."

 

Shiori felt the wind rush and dance down her spine. Her words almost echoed-- amplified by the unspoken relationship she had with the wind. "Speak from experience?"

 

That shut Rui up, stitching the mouth together as her eyes quietly fumed. In the heat of the madness, the clear calm before the heatwave, Shiori noted that small reaction and filed it away for the future. Maybe Rui was a victim like Shiori. Maybe she was being controlled, possessed. It seemed surreal that only after a few words, after giving away a health potion, Rui would get this riled up so quickly. It was unnatural, more unnatural than Rui's claws or fangs or smoke. 

 

"How's your control?" Rui asked as she stalked forward in slow, heavy steps. 

 

"Why does it matter to you that I can control the wind?" Shiori bit back, startled by the sudden question. It was one of the things Shiori was told to learn but failed. Meditation didn't help, thoughts didn't help, no runes or anything that Shiori could use to control this so-called power she had as a hero. "I told you already, I can't control it like you think I can."

 

"How's your control?" Rui repeated, her stride picking up the pace. 

 

"It doesn't listen to me!" Shiori yelled, her eyes widening at how Rui was quickly closing the distance.

 

"How's your control!?"

 

"I can't control it—" 

 

The declaration became quiet as Rui lunged at Shiori, sticking an arm out as flames spiralled past her shoulders, wrapping around the elbow before jetting out from her clawed hands. Shiori instinctually raised her arms to shield herself, the wind acting as a barricade before Rui landed her lunge with a roll, her clawed hands reaching for Shiori. 

 

Shiori dodged to the side, missing the blast of fire once more. Legs then danced, stepping back to the side, her wind adjusting her position and keeping the flow even when Shiori knew she stumbled at one point. Each time, Rui was on the attack, smoke wrapping around her neck like a clump of melted wax as she stepped closer and closer. 

 

Shiori's eyes steeled themselves, and she positioned her feet, standing her ground as Rui attacked once more. Shiori, this time, swerved her head to the left, parts of her wavy hair burning away into nothing as the wind was quick to snuff it out. Her hands, however, blocked Rui's arms, trapping them briefly before punching her square in the stomach. 

 

The wind barreled in her arms pushed Rui to the back of a boulder; a large shriek of stone cracking signified the defeat of the exchange. Shiori herself skidded across the ground, the back of her ankles deep in mud. Her breath was heavy, deep and left her panting despite not losing any breath. Green eyes marvelled at her hands, rough and coarse but never powerful, not like her own sisters. 

 

"That seemed like control," Rui coughed as she rose herself up to her feet. "Finally there's something there worth a being a hero." 

 

"Only because you're trying to kill me!" Shiori yelled back, her anger rising once more at Rui's carefree attitude. 

 

Rui laughed. She wiped the dirt off her cheeks with the back of her hand as she looked down at her shirt. The suspenders were already ruined, one already dangling, so she ripped it away from her like it was a necklace chain and tossed it to the ground. 

 

"If I wanted to kill you—" She exhaled, shifting her muscles that groaned and creaked with the motions. Rui opened her eyes. The feral crimson shade oozed with a pulsing light, quivering with bloodlust and hatred. "You would've been dead by now." 

 

At this, Shiori smirked— unaware of the many eyes, secret but watching, in the skies. Unaware that she wasn't acting like herself but more of a simple puppet, unaware of her own bodily ache as the wind continued to crowd her like a hurricane. 

 

"Prove it."

 


 

"Oh Mahiru," Michiru murmured to herself as she sat near the fire pit across the cave entrance. She wanted to stay before, but Rui needed her opinion, so she left and talked to her. They had another disagreement that Michiru had already forgotten, and she gave her some health potions. By the time she came back to the base, Shiori was already gone. 

 

"What would you do here, my love?" Michiru continued to whisper. The heel of her left palm was pressed to the corner of her lip, reminiscent of the way her wife did to calm her. In front of her, a regeneration potion swirled in an iron cauldron. 

 

Things were not going well, and it was hard not to find herself at the biggest fault. Despite the training, Shiori didn't progress, and Rui was getting more agitated by the second. It was almost a ticking time bomb. Was she being too involved? Maybe, but she couldn't just allow Rui to kill Shiori, not when she finally realised that her eyes had Aiai's defiance. That they had the same green shade of her kind mother, Reo. She can remember them now. 

 

"How about you Karen?" She asked, a sad smile on her face. The ghosts of the past will not listen, even when Michiru has planted the flowers. After Rui became an adult and the prophecy started, no petals ever bloomed. The only ones that did for her were Aiai and Reo. "How about you Hikari? You were a Lancer but you taught Karen to be more of a hero than a mentor ever would." 

 

Underneath her feet, Michiru caught a glimpse of a mushroom growing and scowled. She trampled the fungi underneath her heel and stood up. 

 

"Maybe I should've asked Shizuha," Michiru laughed, taking her staff and rocking the pot instead of stirring. She sighed, calming the waves that threatened to overspill against the rim. "A dead villain teaching a broken catalyst ways to teach the new Villain. By a sentence alone that makes little sense." 

 

"Aiai's and Reo's youngest girl is the hero," Michiru continued to speak as her eyes glanced at the alchemy pot roasting over the fire. "Their eldest daughters were manipulated by that bastard Seer. And perhaps, they're on their way to kill me." She laughed at the assumption and moved her greying hair out of her eyes. It's been a while since she had a haircut, but she was never good with scissors. 

 

"Did they kill you already Mahiru?" Michiru murmured as she killed the flames underneath the pot before carefully dropping the pot against the mountain of ashes and charred wood. "No, I would've noticed if the world was a little lighter than before." Her flowers would also bloom had she been killed-- it's the only bare plot that would make Michiru's heart lighter. 

 

"Maybe I should've saved them?" Michiru sighed before shaking her head. She could barely survive when she left the temple all those years ago. "No— the children would've died long before I would reach Primus all those years ago. I would've killed them just like I killed—" Michiru shut her eyes, taking a long exhale before she ducked her head. Her hair flew forwards, hiding the way water lined her eyes. 

 

"Oh Mahiru, you were always a better parent than me," She gasped. Her heart, fragile and weak, doubled its pressure. The ache was familiar, as was the memory. Michiru wiped her eyes with the palm of her hand. "So what would you do if you failed your child a second time?"

 

Michiru was not blind. She knew what Rui wanted from her. She knew what she wanted when Michiru abandoned her as a child ages ago, and she knew it hadn't changed when she came back for Rui. But still, it was dangerous for a person like her to raise children. Even more so to raise the child that would grow up a villain, doomed to be hated by all humanity. 

 

On some days, that made Michiru glad that she was never fully human due to technicalities— not with her divinity warping her to an unnatural life. That meant Michiru, on the technicality that she wasn't human, would never hate Rui. But on most days, Michiru despised that side about her. Gods never made good parents, and whilst Michiru was not a God— her snippets of divinity proved that she had this one thing in common with them. 

 

She could not be the parental figure Rui wished for, not when there were more graves in her name than humanity. The fragility of her weak human heart would not allow it. Rui already had a mother, and her last name is a reflection of that already. She can't be her parent, not when she already tried to abandon her. Parents don't abandon children; cruel people do-- which is why Michiru does all she can to make up for it. 

 

Still, it hurt Michiru. Rui was nearing the edge of her restraints, and she couldn't do anything. She couldn't even make the potion needed to calm her, to slow down the pain. The tattoo on her back was all she could, but even that had its limit. 

 

Michiru opened her eyes, absentmindedly glancing to the sky and all the thoughts crumbled at the blackening pillar of smoke. Her heart dropped to the ground, landing softly across the grass until she stood up, crushing the valves and arteries underneath her boot heel. 

 

"Rui…"

 

At the name the world decayed, the grass died to a path that even stone couldn't set and save. The fire next to her decayed and returned to ash. Within a breath Michiru ran, her feet barely touching the muddled mess of grass and ground. She gripped her staff tight, using it to pole vault over vegetations and anything that stood in her way. 

 

"Please be safe," Michiru whispered on repeat, pleading the words like a chant or a prayer. "Please be safe Rui, I swear." 

 

The sound of an explosion, the cry of birds and the heavy rush of air and smoke forced Michiru to lift her hands up to her face with a grimace. Her eyes glowed with the haunting look of crimson as the earth sank, rotting to her feet as her catalyst mark on her stomach burned like acid. 

 

And yet Michiru continued to move, keeping one hand up as she held her staff in the other, sweat pouring from her head. Her washed-out blonde hair shifted to silver tresses, a notion of her catalyst powers overpowering the medication she used to keep it at bay. 

 

A typical catalyst power would protect her and those she cared about as it once did when she was younger. Nowadays, her power was the complete opposite, she can speed up time as usual, but she can only destroy the entire life around her. And just like the original catalyst power of protection, Michiru couldn't control when the decay wanted to act out. All she could control was her emotions— a common instigator for a flare of decay and the damage control. Still, decay had its uses sometimes, at least when it wasn't trying to destroy her body from the inside out. 

 

Once her power decayed the possible soot and smoke and flames, Michiru lowered her hands and dashed forward. She barely could stop herself at the foot of a ridge bringing up an arm to shield herself from another explosive attack. 

 

Right in front of her, near the riverbank full of broken boulders, singed grass and leaves burning in nearby charred trees, was the Hero and the Villain fighting. It wasn't an efficient fight, both people were making sloppy mistakes, but it wasn't a brawl like what happened in the inn. It was a brutal showing, a display of aggression and domination. It made Michiru sick. Then it made her furious when she saw the polka dot image of eyes scattering across the skies. 

 

"Oh you sick bastards," Michiru snarled before she threw down her staff in between them before jumping down, rolling forward to land safely. 

 

 She caught their attention briefly before they continued to focus on each other. Shiori's clothes were ruined, her sleeves shredded with claw marks ripping through. Rui herself was rid of her jacket entirely, and the patches of black rose from the depths of her skin. The off colouring looked like burns, but it was a sight to make Michiru's skin pale. It was a miracle enough that Rui's shirt was still holding on. 

 

Michiru growled as she slammed her hand to the ground. The rot erupting from her hands spread out in streams, cracking the earth and turning it to mud and muck. Shiori and Rui slipped and tumbled in the rotting decay as Michiru rushed towards them, unfazed by her own makeshift terrain. 

 

She started with Rui first, standing in a guarded stance as Rui shot up to her feet and blocked the first jab. She then dodged the second before lunging a fist at Rui's abdomen. Rui hissed, and before she could do more, Michiru kicked out her leg, grabbed her arm and tossed her to the ground, ignoring her heart tearing itself apart when Rui cried out in pain. 

 

 She turned to Shiori, her actions not as kind as she swiftly dodged her set of attacks. Left, right-- duck when the wind decided to lodge a heavy tree branch to the back of her skull. It moved upwards when it missed avoiding Shiori, but it gave enough blindness that Michiru jumped and kicked in her spleen hard enough to create some distance. 

 

When she landed back on her messy rotting land, Michiru stubbled-- her heart beating too fast for her to calm. She swiped the sweat from her brows, swallowing down the blood clawing at the inside of her throat. It had been a while since she did this, any of this. The martial arts she learnt from her childhood, "The Insistituion", and using her Cataclyst powers as a weapon. 

 

Still, she was not done. As Rui and Shiori stumbled back to their feet, Michiru threw two different potion bottles up in the air and kicked her staff with her feet. In the next beat, she spun her staff, hitting them both with one end whilst ducking the rain of glass shards. The second both fluids fizzled at one end, Michiru stuck it into the corroding dirt and ran. She needed a 10ft circumference of a circle and fast. 

 

"Rui calm down!" Michiru yelled as Shiori stared at her, the wind blowing her hair up. Never had green eyes look so vicious, but poison could come in any colour, Michiru supposed. "Remember your training!"

 

"YOU MANIPULATED HER TO DO THIS!?" Shiori yelled, and Michiru forced herself to stay calm despite the sudden spike in her heartbeat. Manipulation was a  strong word.  But what was more terrifying was that it was Shiori's first thought— it wasn't training, it wasn't mentoring or teaching— it was manipulation. 

 

"WHAT'S WRONG WITH IT?" Rui screamed back. More black marks appeared on her skin, disfiguring her appearance. "HUH HERO?"

 

"Rui you're not helping," Michiru growled underneath her breath, ignoring the headache on the new information Shiori spilt. Michiru shouldn't think of scenarios when she couldn't calm the raging fight, but the implications meant dangerous things. She shook her head, glancing more at Rui's condition than anything else. Her shirt was on, even from the back, which meant she was around 80%. Too much for her to be comfortable with. Hopefully, when she was finished with this rune, Michiru could stop her before it was too late.

 

"EVERYTHING IS WRONG WITH IT!" Shiori roared, the wind amplifying her rage and her visceral hatred, blasting it as an attack on its own in Michiru's direction. "EVERYTHING IS WRONG WITH YOU!" 

 

Rui snarled and launched another fire attack. This time flames burst from her mouth as she screamed. She then ran, sprinting with a look of determination to kill that Shiori mirrored in turn. 

 

Michiru wasted no time, her hair rising to the sky as she grinned, sharing too many teeth, too much despair and too much energy. The Gods would not win this time. The second the circle was completed, she stabbed the ground with her staff. At once, the gem on the staff, the gem on her shirt and in her eyes glowed. It shimmered once before sending out a shockwave that silenced the entire air and ground. 

 

 Steadily, the gods watching with their giant eyes in the sky were pushed back, clouds flickered before returning to normal. The fire in the trees silenced itself, shrinking into nothing within seconds. The wind froze before dropping all of the broken wood down to the ground. In the distance, wood dropped with a splash, burnt bark turning to driftwood— and then all was quiet. 

 

In the centre of all the chaos, the decay still bleeding out to the grass underneath, rot and fungi sprouted as sprinkles of blood rained down on the soft earth. Michiru heaved, rising— staggering to her feet in a stumble forward. She coughed once, blood spurting out in a heavy gush. She grimaced, wiping the already dark clots from her lips from the back of her sleeves. 

 

Ah, she forgot she wasn't marked,  not yet , for this prophecy. Still, she wasn't going to die just yet— not today. 

 

"Rui," she gasped, leaning heavily on the stick as she swallowed down the blood rising from the back of her throat. She grimaced at the taste, her shoulders shaking as she continued to march forward. She needed to make sure Rui was okay, damn herself all she wanted but Rui— she had to be okay. "Rui!?"

 

In front of her, curled up in an armadillo stance, the brown locks of her hair loose and covering up the small display of her bare back was Rui. The black discolourings were gone, her nails were long but dulled, and her fangs as short as it once was. She was safe. She was fine— Michiru could breathe in peace. 

 

"Michiru?" Rui coughed, her eyelids fluttering to stay open before opening wide in a panic once she accidentally rolled on her back. A scream of agony tore through her lungs as her back arched, desperate for any distance. 

 

"Rui!" Michiru reached out to grab her, hesitated upon glancing at her own bloody hands, before settling to nudge her with her stick. Rui grabbed the end, wincing and used to heave herself up to a sitting position. The jacket was gone, her black shirt was ruined and piercing past the fabric was the daunting red pulse of the Villain's mark. 

 

"I'm sorry," Rui hissed through the pain and gritted teeth. Sweat dripped from the sides of her head, pooling and dripping down at the tip of her jaw. "I tried Michiru, I tried to be kind but—"

 

"It's okay," Michiru cooed, passing Rui a health potion she should've saved for herself but didn't. "You're okay now, just rest alright?" 

 

"I…" Rui ducked her head in shame, the voice wavering in the ocean's depth of shame.

 

"I'm going to check up on Shiori," Michiru said. She took off what remained of her cloak and draped the clothing over Rui's shoulders gently, careful to hide but not touch the exposed mark. "I want you to stay here okay?" 

 

"And don't blame yourself," Michiru added quickly just as she turned around, facing Rui once more. The sight of Rui's eyes, a washed-out red from the lining of tears and the darting away in shame made Michiru's mouth dry. "I should've gotten here quicker, I should've done a lot better to help you even when I know I shouldn't… so please Rui, be kind. Not to Shiori but to yourself too. Kindness is a thing all humans deserve and you're human too." 

 

Rui nodded, her body shaking and drew her knees to her chest. She buried her head there, clutching the hems of Michiru's jacket like a lifeline. Michiru supposed that would do for an answer now, even if it was neither a yes, or a no.

 

Taking her stick and another heavy stride forward, Michiru hobbled her way to the other side of the battleground. The wind still acted up, fluctuating in both its strength and distance. Funny enough, the decay did nothing in return. It was almost muffled when Michiru reached the eye of the hurricane— a crumbled form of Shiori on the ground. 

 

Except Shiori's form wasn't exactly crumbled, nor on the ground. It was cradled, floating a centimetre off the ground as she rested like she was asleep. Her hair was a wild entanglement of blonde curls and locks, and there was a pendant on a chain around her neck, a rose with an angel wing. 

 

Much like Rui, the Hero's mark on her chest was pulsing a violent golden light— fluctuating like a dying lightbulb. And on her shoulder, exposed by the rips and tears of Rui's attack, was a sight that stopped Michiru's heart for a moment. 

 

A tattoo rested on the exposed skin, a diluted figure of two pointed stars that gleamed brighter with every shudder of Shiori's body. Almost as if it was enjoying her agony. Even blood from the claw wound above would trickle and skirt around the image like it was something to be afraid of. 

 

This tattoo was the mark of The Institution, a name Michiru thought had died long before Shiori was born. 

 

"Mama…" Shiori whimpered, her brows tousled together as she cried in her sleep. "Don't let the Temple take away onee chan and kuro nee..." 

 

"Oh you bastard Seer," Michiru hissed under her breath as she took in the scene, her hands shaking in rage, hatred and fear. The Institution was now the Temple, the acclaimed place that Michiru feared, the one that taught Shiori's sisters-- The sole place that held the Eternal Seer. 

 

This explained so much, and yet Michiru couldn't help but quiver at the hauntingly familiar brand on Shiori's skin. And, even though she disfigured her own copy, her shoulder ached at the haunted memories. 

 

Lost in the discovery, Michiru looked up, and in the eye of a hurricane, a single eye crossed and stitched with a faded  Seers  mark on its iris, stared back.