And as the world comes to an end
I'll be there to hold your hand
'Cause you're my king and I'm you're lionheart
-Of Monsters and Men-
Her mother calls her beautiful, her father calls her weak, her commander calls her strong, he calls her powerful, and her sister calls her wonderful.
The titles never seem to fit, in Aoi's honest opinion.
From the day she was born, she was expected, to be all those things, and more. Beautiful and weak as a girl, perfect and powerful as a soldier.
And when Shinya calls her Kureto's pet, something feels so right. Unladylike and improper for a girl, to be so loyal to a man who'll never see her as anything more than his. Cowardly and foolish for a soldier, to so willingly follow a commander who let's his men die. She'll take being someone's pet over being someone's weak and beautiful daughter, someone's strong and powerful soldier.
She just wishes that she could've, at least one, been that wonderful sister to Mitsuba.
When she first met Yuichiro Hyakuya, she didn't know what to make of him. This boy, the only survivor of the Hyakuya section, the boy who caused the end of the world that could've killed her, the boy who looked into the face of death regardless of what lay at the other side. She wasn't expecting anything, but she guessed Yuichiro Hyakuya had a habit of disappointing people.
He sides with them, but goes back on his word so quickly.
Mirai thrashes against the holds she's in, and Aoi feels, for what could be the first time in years, guilty, over what she's done. Throughout the entirety of the experiment, Kureto had always promised her she could leave at anytime.
"Many others have. I guess it's just all up to whether or not you're able for it."
And Aoi had nodded back then, so sure of him, of the experiment, of their allies. It worked so well, that the cries of Mirai Kimizuki just faded to the back.
The girl once smiled at them when they first met her, coming into the hospital room. She'd recognised the JIDA uniforms, trusting them instantly. Kureto was very charming with her, utilising the fact her elder brother wasn't stalking the room to talk over her life, how old she was, who meant the most to her. Her voice was so oddly optimistic, she spoke so fondly of her big brother, spoke so softly about her life, which now could be cut so short.
The halting decision that at one point she could've saved the girl so much is glaring at her. Her demon, that always rests at the back of her spine is just like this little girl, too innocent to realise the dangers of people who look like allies and friends and family, who in reality turn against you, or in fact, were never with you in the first place.
And when Mirai first opened her mouth to talk about her brother, Aoi found she was looking back in time, at Mitsuba, who knew no wrong from her older sister.
Back then, Aoi could've killed Mirai Kimizuki, and the future that lay ahead for her. Weeks later, Aoi could've killed Mirai Kimizuki again, and the future she could bring.
But Aoi didn't.
His lips drag across her shoulder in messy, long strokes, occasionally sucking on any freckles he finds in his journey. As a child she spent the day outside, hiding from her father, her mother, tutors, trainers, even little Mitsuba. It leaves her with hardened hands, a love of the colours changing in Autumn, a craving for the smell of fresh air, and a series of constellations etched into her skin, limitless creations to explore. Kureto takes his time with them, practically obsessing over their shape, hunting for them at the curve of her spine and the insides of her wrists. He's always been demanding, but as a lover, he almost acts more slowly.
"I've always worried that I'll break you." He says, to which she responds with 'You'll never break me sir.'
"Please Aoi," he smooths her collar out, shifts her around so she's straddling his waist on his desk chair. She's found another way for them to be level, and she enjoys taking in the sight of him, with his strong jaw and dark eyes, tousled hair and deep voice. "Call me Kureto when were together."
She let's his name fall from her lips like a prayer, careless devotion slipping through the syllables in ribbons. His smile widens, as does the grip on her thighs, when he finally leans in, meets her lips and sighs, one hand coming to unravel the blue strip of fabric keeping her hair together. Aoi presses her hips against his, rolling them until he breaks their kiss to moan.
His hands, rough and course come up to her shoulders that are still covered by her jacket. As well as a slow lover, he is also an understanding one, and meets her eyes as he pushes it off them. Her wordless consent is transferred in the way she cups the back of his neck, feels the shaven hairs prickle against her touch, shifts her hips so they practically sit chest to chest.
"Please." is all he says against her collarbone, pads of his fingers brushing the night sky that runs along her shoulders, down her arms and the crook of her elbow.
And of course, she let's him.
She learns, as time passes, not to worry about Mitsuba. After all, her sister is her only sibling, and Aoi knows Mitsuba likes to believe, against the truth of the matter, that they once loved each other. There is eight years between them, a stretch that when she'd been an only child for that long made it hard to adjust to a little sister, who not only was to love her unconditionally, but to rely on her whenever Mitsuba needed her.
And as a child, Aoi always ignored Mitsuba.
She still remembers Mitsuba running from Nagoya, her little band of traitors heading off into the melting pink sky. Before Aoi could stop herself, she'd yelled her name, hoping it could reach her, hoping she could turn back. Maybe all the hours she'd spent as the wonderful Big Sis could pull her back to them to salvage something close to a relationship. She cried out her name against her better judgement, part of her wanting to be the sister for her. She was just glad, so glad, that none of her worry and fear transcended her conscious to her voice, and that her sister's name sounded like nothing more than calling an order.
"Aoi," Kureto stepped behind her, ignoring the battle ongoing behind him. She stiffened, already ashamed for looking so weak. "We can't dwell on this, come."
He pulled her against his chest, letting her shock consume her that-yes this really was happening, the experiment succeeded, but so many are dead and now the Demon Moon Company is in three digit figures which is notgoodnotgoodnotgood- as she breathed against him. Kureto's arm seemed to protect her against the reality.
"We're going home now Aoi." He said, a soldier carrying the small, breathing frame of Mirai Kimizuki, another restraining Shinya as he thrashed.
She felt her legs give out, buckling under the weight, of not so much herself, but what they've done. She'd be fine tomorrow, ready to start again.
But first, she'd cry against him, and ask what exactly they've done.
Five days after Nagoya, she feels a small curve against her stomach, light, like it's not even there. Like it's not supposed to be there. There's no panic, only dread, and the horrible realisation that all of her and Kureto’s plans are now ruined.
“We’re going to be parents then?” He says after she tells him.
She nods in affirmation.
“And how do you feel about it?”
Honestly, it makes her skin crawl, that soon in her life there will be another person who must rely and depend on her. It’s doing it right now, living off her body. She can feel it under her uniform, looming above her, as well as the taunts from her family and his and how JIDA has always encouraged strong breeding to create stronger soldiers. Aoi has always known about Kureto’s wish for children, strong and noble, ready to become the next heir of his family, and above all, a boy, to carry on the family name.
But Aoi can already tell, that her child is a girl, who will grow up to disappoint them and break their hearts should they ever love her.
If she kept an ounce of love for Mitsuba, she’d want to keep her daughter from becoming the same.
But she doesn’t tell him, and except promises to do what he sees fit.
“I’ve always had a preference for women who aren’t as…” He pauses, raking his eyes up her body, different from when he looks at her when their alone, when he lets her call him Kureto and she trembles beneath him. “Obedient.”
It hurts more than she thought it would, if she had to be perfectly honest. She never thought to consider if maybe he has a fiancee from a branch Hiiragi family.
He stands up, comes around the desk and rests his hands on her shoulder. His gaze is softer, his smile light. Kureto rests his hand on the bottom of her ribcage, and feels how her skin has begun to swell under her uniform. He nods in approval, leaving a feather light kiss against her crown.
“I will stand by you Aoi, as you have done for me in the past.”
So in the end, she decides to keep it.
Guren laughs when her pregnancy becomes more obvious, almost two months after she told Kureto.
“You managed to get yourself knocked up huh? That’s one way to get promoted.”
She brushes him off, because after all, she’s a Colonel, Guren is only a Lieutenant Colonel.
“A real double whammy to the Sangu household for having not one, but two disgraced daughters, all within the span of two months-”
Aoi lets all her anger channel into keeping his arm twisted behind his back. He strains for a second, and huffs out a pained chuckle.
“I guess I annoyed you.”
She lets go quickly, fixing the flyaway hairs that obstruct her view. The Sangu Family are known for their tempers, a trait Aoi thought she beat out of herself.
Guren shakes his head with a sigh, running a hand through the loose onyx strands that frame his face. “Well, best wishes for the happy couple and all, and whatever broody son you get at the end of all this.”
She curses him, Mitsuba, Kureto, the entire Japanese Imperial Army, and anyone who thought of the Seraph of the End experiment.
But she chooses to save the small, kicking feeling on her left side, just centimetres under her heart.
When Shinoa’s Squad returns in their blaze of glory, Kureto tells her to stay on guard.
“I don’t want you or the baby hurt, that is an order.” Kureto said before sheathing his sword, once again resting his hand against her stomach. She nodded in his hold, as fleeting as it was, and watched as his crimson coat swished around her ankles.
For the past hour she has been sitting in his office, idly waiting with her sword drawn. The demon inside her will do nothing to the baby. Aoi finds herself strangely content with that.
Seconds later, the wall crumbles, leaving ash and debris in its wake. At the centre of the hole, isn’t Mitsuba, or the annoying Yuichiro Hyakuya, but Kimizuki Shihou, Mirai’s older brother. He looks angry and menacing, decked out in civilian clothes, and cloaked in a veil of pink fire. His dual swords are drawn as he charges at her. It clicks in Aoi’s mind, that he’s here for Kureto.
“I’ll kill you you bitch!” He roars and lunges, swords ready to rip through her.
The clank of metal on metal is the only evidence she survived. Her sword glints against his. Somehow, she has one hand on her sword, the other resting on her stomach, where her small swell is obvious to anyone with eyes. His dart down to it, and widen.
She nods. You won’t kill a pregnant woman, would you? Aoi says, her grip tightening around her midsection.
Kimizuki doesn’t let up on his hold, but the fire in his eyes don’t threaten her, not when Kureto Hiiragi is her master. She’s killed for him, will kill for him again, and just as Kimizuki’s guard drops when he hears one of his teammate’s cry, Aoi pushes the boy off her.
She’ll let him live, for the sake of Mitsuba, who might not hate her quite as much if she lets her friend live.
Mitsuba passes her as she picks up Kimizuki, Mirai in the arms of the archer on the team. She catches her sister’s eye, and doesn’t hesitate before sending a wave of blue flame towards her with a scream.
Months later, when the ragtag team of ex-JIDA members and vampires who are sick of this war and are distrustful of their leaders invade, Aoi is asleep at Kureto’s side. At the helm of the group is a determined teenage boy fueled by his friends love, a converted vampire, two formidable siblings-one with Seraph power, the other just really angry- an archer with something to prove, the youngest Hiiragi sibling with a scythe twice her height, and Mitsuba, Aoi’s strong and brave sister Mitsuba, who once called her wonderful, and believed she was the one to turn the evening night pink.
But now the morning sky is stretching to a blood red, and the old idiom of crimson skies in the morning bringing misfortune comes back to Aoi in glaring letters.
She joins Kureto in his bed as the group fight against the JIDA, Guren suddenly defecting back to those he never stopped calling his family, even after almost six months of separation. Aoi’s subconscious mumbles, what is family? The child resting in her womb, due in two months time, or those we meet along the way, with shining hope and unwavering loyal. She chose Kureto for his security, but if she wants to live, she’s on the wrong side.
She brushes some of the longer hair he has out of his eyes, his sleeping form undisturbed. They’d be lucky, she thinks, if this new army were to keep them alive until they can meet their child. Over the months, she’s grown quite attracted to the fairy tale idea that they end as victors together.
Kureto stirs, just as a sharp pain blossoms in her abdomen.
She’ll fight for that child.
The world has ended almost three times in Aoi Sangu’s life, once eight years ago, once not even a year ago, and once not even seven months ago. The world has almost ended, not by the universe it's suspended in, or the cosmos of spirituality that binds them in humanity, but because of humans, and their greed, their manipulative greed, and their desire to live. These traits can be good, when immortalized in the likes of Yuichiro Hyakuya, her sister, Kureto, and now, her child, who was born five weeks too early, but still lived.
A part of her celebrates her son. A part of her mourns the daughter she could’ve had.
She names him Sasuke, and hopes that whatever world awaits him is kind.
They say behind all great empires and ideals is a great man, overshadowing a woman who didn’t have enough sense. Aoi could vouch for that.
The day the JIDA and the Hiiragi family fell at the hands of the traitors was a day that some would regard as rebirth. The flood that refreshed Japan, cleansed the people of their wars, made peace between vampires and humans. A utopia where children could smile.
It’s Mitsuba who finds her in the rubble of the Hiiragi mansion. Sasuke, not even a month old cried as the battle raged, his mother’s sword next to them on what once was the throne of Tenri Hiiragi. She heard nothing as the world began to change, no horn of angels nor harp of demons, just silence, and the pained cries from her son.
And then there was Mitsuba’s cries, her battle-axe diminishing into the air.
“Mitsuba wait, she’s-” Kimizuki starts.
“She’s with Kureto, she’s the enemy!” Yuu cried, landing in front of the throne with a jump.
The pink haired boy pulled his collar, stopping him from going any further.
“Can’t you see the baby, or are you just that dense?”
“Buh, baby?” Yoichi lowered his bow.
Mitsuba looked at her sister, bottom lip set in determination. In the eight months since she last saw her little sister, the girl had grown. She was now almost seventeen, with her baby fat still clinging to her hips, and her hair still hanging from either side of her face. With her face set and her axe high, Mitsuba did the unexpected, and protected her sister.
You’ll have to get through me, the girl says to her team. We stood by Mika and Yuu. Mitsuba turned, gave her that same half-curved smile that showed her dimples. I have to do the same to my sister.
Yuu shook his head exasperatedly “Can’t fault that logic I guess.”
“I don’t think we should trust her.” Mika said, his sword still crimson from the day’s fighting.
“Quiet Mika.” Kimizuki snapped.
Mitsuba holds her hand out, tentative, but so trusting.
But that’s always how Mitsuba’s been.
So Aoi followed.
While waiting for her trail as an accomplice to the JIDA, Aoi is under house arrest, living in one of the Sangu Manors. Sasuke grows before her eyes, shining blue eyes the colour of the sky, dark hair that always stuck up at the back like a ducktail, round chubby cheeks from his Sangu genes. He toddles along, sings to himself outside, unknowingly watching the world rebuild around him. Three times a day, Kureto Hiiragi is moved from his maximum security prison to the manor to see his son. Watching the two interact is strange for Aoi, as Kureto acts as the perfect father he was destined to be. As a mother, Aoi is almost scared of the little boy who smiles at her. He reminds her of Mitsuba, who calls her wonderful again.
“Goodnight Sasuke,” Kureto says to his son “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Bye bye Papa! See yous’ tomurow!” Sasuke slurred from his bed, waving erratically.
She calms her son from the door, promising him that sleep at night is better in the morning. The boy nods, and sinks into the sheets, snores emitting in minutes.
“C’mon Kureto, say goodnight to the missus and we can head out.” Seishiro says, clapping his brother on the back. Shinya sits in the living room, waiting at the door for when they can go home.
Oddly enough, it was Shinya’s insistence that Kureto should be allowed see his son. Maybe he’s still bitter over his own childhood, but Shinya likes his nephew, buys him presents, and tells him good stories about his brother. They leave out the war with the vampires, as at the end of the day, Mikaela Hyakuya and Krul Tepes are some of his closest family members.
“Goodnight Aoi, I’ll see you in the morning.” He says, giving her a small smile, as if it could make up for what happened.
Aoi doesn’t know how to feel about him. His smile makes her heart lurch, but it's lost the original passion that drew her into him in the first place.
She nods, and joins her son in their room.
Being out of the army and into house arrest, Aoi feels like she’s regained her voice.
“Hey Sasuke! Sasu-Sasu Sasuke!” Mitsuba says, holding the one and a half year old boy up by his hands, his feet standing on hers.
Sunlight streams through her hair in beams, the overgrown vines creating a sanctuary for her in the corner of the garden. The small table she sits at is in the shade, where perfectly, she can watch her sister and son play in the grass, that to Sasuke, is a jungle full of things to explore. Sunflowers grow along the sides, towering above her son in an overhang, lilting to the steady sound of the stream water lapping in the rocks. The months she’s lived there has brought her love of the outdoors back, lets her hair blow in the wind, the flowers enchanting her with their colours. It feels like Aoi’s back in time, Mitsuba’s chiming laughter an indicator of the past they once had.
“Mitsuba,” Aoi speaks, directly at her sister. “Are you going to tell me now?”
Her sister settles into a frown, lifting Sasuke down to sit in the short grass, his toys littering around his small legs. Instantly, he’s encaptured by the soft dog toy, purchased for him by none other than Yuu-nii. Mitsuba motions her sister to join her, petting a hand over the boys spikes.
“C’mon, I don’t wanna yell.”
Aoi sits down, pulls Sasuke against her, and prepares herself for whatever news await her. Eight days ago, Guren Ichinose made a proposition to Kureto Hiiragi, that should he agree to surrender to the Japanese-Vampire Alliance, he will not be charged as a criminal. He was given seven days to answer, and Mitsuba is here to tell her sister the outcome. In the two years since the JIDA was overthrown, Mitsuba has grown into a young woman, now eighteen, with her own friends and family, and maybe, even maybe, a small crush on a certain hotheaded boy. Mitsuba doesn’t talk much about what part she plays in the rebuilding of the world, but Aoi believes she’s someone important, who stands as an example for others to follow, just like the rest of the members of Shinoa Squad.
“Kureto has rejected Guren’s proposal. He’s set to be executed in five days time.”
She’s more shocked at how for once, Kureto is lying down to accept defeat. She runs a hand through Sasuke’s hair, his soft mumbles in the sunshine making her smile. Mitsuba watches her sister intently.
“Aoi, no you can’t-”
“I promised to follow him into death Mitsuba.” Her response is curt, strict.
“You can’t! I won’t allow it!”
“Then I reject the proposal too. Brand me a traitor, I don’t care.”
Mitsuba’s eyes are full of tears “You have a son Aoi! You can’t abandon him!” and much quieter, Mitsuba chokes out how she’s felt the past year with her sister. “You can’t abandon me! Not again! He’s a chauvinist warlord that almost plunged us into hell Aoi! You want to follow that man!?”
Aoi bit back the judgement on her tongue. The Sangu family is not as weak as Mitsuba is. A true Sangu would never defect her army, never side with the enemy, never throw blood away to preserve a covenant forged in demon fire. In the fresh sunlight, Aoi notices that her son and her sister share the same vibrant, electric blue eyes.
Aoi wipes a tear from Mitsuba’s cheek. She’s not smiling, but she wants Mitsuba to understand what the death of the Last Hiiragi and his pet will do for the world. She’ll die defending her word, and his, that they were right, and the new world means nothing to them.
Because once upon a time, a demon told Kureto Hiiragi that the world was there to be his, and Aoi followed, because she believed he deserved it.
“Take care of him for me, won’t you Mitsuba? He’ll need you.” Aoi says, sitting Sasuke on her lap.
“Not as much as he’ll need you.” Mitsuba cries, burying her face in her sister’s shoulder.
They’ve never been particularly close, but something aches when Mitsuba pulls her close, and when Sasuke pats her face, calls her mama.
But she’s made her decision. She made it years ago, before he found the freckles on her neck or enjoyed how she felt against him. She promised to stand by him.
And die by him, she shall.
Minutes after Nagoya burnt, Kureto told her the tale of the man who was the only believer of God in his village. When the village he and his family lived in was about to be destroyed, God sent two angels to tell them to flee, but that they should not look back on the village in ruins, because the rest of the village did not believe in God, and would not be saved. So while the man and his family fled, his wife felt guilt for being the only survivors of their, and looked back upon her neighbors. In an instant, she turned to a pillar of salt. The woman looked back on the people she’d betrayed, and turned to salt.
Aoi learnt not to look back, not to feel for the people they left behind, in fear of what she could turn into.
Her rebellion is a silent one, to die in a world where the only goal has only ever been to survive.
I found God
I found him in a lover
When his hair falls in his face
And his hands so cold they shake