[identity profile] amylan.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] redpenwriters
Title: Greyscale
Author: [livejournal.com profile] amylan
Beta: N/A
Rating: K+
Genre: Shoujo, Fantasy
Notes/Warnings: None
Summary: There's a reason why Magical Girls are rarely grown up.
Length: 4237



Well, when in the underworld, there was only one person to ask about anything. “Lord Hadeeeeeees,” Selphi bellowed, running through the garden. “Lady Persephone, Lord Hardes, where are yoooooou?”

“Dear gods, woman, do you ever shut up?” Hades snapped, walking out of his temple. He rubbed his ears, as though Selphi’s yelling had hurt his hearing.

“Oh, Lord Hades, I was looking for you!”

“I didn’t notice,” he said irritably. “How did you get here? And what do you want now?”

“Ah…” Selphi thought for a moment, then bowed as low as she could. “Excuse me, milord, but I got here by accident. I was practicing teleporting, you see, and—“

“And you ended up here, I know,” Hades groused. “I know everything that you do now that you’ve signed a contract with me.”

“Really?” Selphi wrinkled her nose. “That’s a little perverted…”

He glared at the girl. “Teleport back to your room already and leave me in peace.” The god of the dead turned to re-enter his temple.

“Wait, wait, wait!” Selphi yelled, flailing her arms around as she began to panic. “I, um, I have some questions that I’d like to ask you, milord!”

“And what would they be?” he asked, now sounding bored. “Hurry up and ask, though I don’t guarantee that I will answer.” He sighed. “However, given the circumstances…well. I will bend the rules as I please.”

“What is going on with Arashi and Himeko?” Selphi asked. “Ami-chan said that Arashi allowed herself to be taken by a demon god and I saw what Arashi turned into during the battle, but I still don’t understand what’s going on.”

The god was silent for a long time. “Hm… That girl that has taken your partner, she serves a dark god from the ancient days,” he finally said. “A god of the night.”

“Nyx?”

Hades shook his head. “No, no. Nyx has long become part of the sky and faded away until nothing was left of her consciousness. No, this is a different god from a different pantheon – and he has made certain to keep himself fully intact – or as intact as is possible, considering his current condition,” he added on, almost as an afterthought.

“All right… What do you mean ‘considering his current condition’?” Selphi asked.

“His twin ate him.”

“…Lovely.”

“I have never understood the Aztec pantheon, nor do I particularly want to,” Hades stated. “If, however, you have some masochistic desire to learn about them yourself, then I suggest that you find the Elysium Fields. Huitzilopochtli seems to favor the area a great deal.”

Selphi stared blankly. “Hui-what now?”

“Huitzilopochtli. The Aztec god of death; he’s one of the many permanent residents of this realm and has been since that person –“ and here the god of the dead pointed upwards toward, if they had been standing on earth, the heavens would be, but instead there was just a shifting primordial blackness “- decided that many of the gods no longer had a place in the world, so sorry, and booted the lot of them down here.”

“I see.” Just another reason to be annoyed with God, she supposed. “All right, but what does this god want? What does Arashi have to do with any of this?”

“She has everything to do with this, essentially,” he responded. “That girl was looking for a host for her god to reside in. One with strong magical power, one that was easy to manipulate, one that – when properly coerced – would have an unlimited amount of hate and disgust for the world that currently is exists.”

Selphi’s eyebrows went up. “So, she does want to destroy the world.”

“Not quite,” Hades corrected. “He wants to destroy this world and remake it into his own image. And yes, you’re right, that is something that I would rather avoid if possible.”

“So what are we supposed to do, then?” Selphi asked. “It’s not going to be long before they’re ready for their final assault, right? And what about Arashi? She’s probably possessed by the god already.”

“Not quite. It’s true that she took in his essence, but that takes time to settle down. You need to hurry, though – I know that the end of the world will come in only another day or so if you do not do something quickly.”

“You seem to know an awful lot about what’s going on, milord,” Selphi observed. “Can you tell me where they are? Or show me or something?”

“I tend to concern myself in matters where the destruction of the world is imminent,” he retorted before laying a hand on Selphi’s head. Within her mind, there was the image of a deep, dark cave. “That is where they are. Go, and hurry.”

Selphi nodded, pulling out of the god’s grip. “Thank you, milord!” she said, giving another bow and preparing to teleport.

“Girl, wait.” She stopped in her preparations and waiting as the god produced a small silver key out of thin air. “Here. Use it in any lock and the door will open to this world. Concentrate on the door on this side and it will open to any door that you choose.”

Selphi accepted the key gladly. “Nice. Thank you, milord!” With another bow, she disappeared.
Hades shook his head, heading back into the temple. The fate of the world now rested in the hands of an 18-year-old girl. That was hardly a comforting thought.

***

Generally, it would be considered a bad idea to force awake a woman that could reduce a person to ashes in only a few seconds. However, the situation was becoming more dangerous, and so Himeko accepted the potential consequences and began to shake the other girl awake. “Aya-chan. Aya-chan!”

The girl let out a sleepy grumble and swatted at Himeko’s hand before curling tighter around the pillow she was lying on top of. Himeko frowned before shaking the girl again. “Aya-chan, wake up. Something bad has happened that could threaten everything that we’ve worked for!”

“So, what,” was the sleepy response. Aya rolled over so her back faced Himeko. “We will just make up for any lost ground in the morning. Leave me alone.”

Himeko chewed her lip in thought for a moment, but was then struck by a brilliant thought. “Aya-chan,” she began again, “Selphi’s become even more powerful while you’ve been sleeping.”

“What?!” In an instant, the blonde was sitting bolt upright in bed. There was a look of anger and hatred on her face that Himeko could only make out for a second before Aya hopped out of bed and grabbed the other girl’s hand to drag her out of the room. “Let us go. Whatever preparations are left over, let us hurry through them. I will not allow myself to be beaten by a worthless girl like that!”

“Right away, Aya-chan…” Himeko hid a look of amusement. She really does make my job easy sometimes…

***

“Tsunami!” Selphi yelled, flinging her hands forward. Almost without warning, there was a roar of water and a great wave appeared, towering over Selphi’s opponent before forcefully collapsing to the ground, leaving a sizable dent in the ground where the person had been standing.

“Now where are you?” Selphi wondered to herself, looking around. “Not to the sides, not above… then…” Realization striking, Selphi quickly jumped off the ground and spun in midair to land hard on a tree branch. It was just in time, too – a few seconds after she had gotten off the ground, the earth beneath her exploded upward and Ami popped up.

“Stop hoppin’ around so much, wouldja?” she snapped. “Yer not gonna need to with those two nutcases, anyway – it’s not like they’re the type to be all subtle and sneaky.”

“You never know,” Selphi replied. “Maybe they’ll have a sudden case actually thinking and making a plan for what they’re going to do.”

“Not bloody likely,” Ami muttered. “Anyway. Ya sure that this god o’ yers was right that the world’s gonna come to an end soon?”

Selphi shrugged. “How should I know? You’re the one that always seeing the future, aren’t you? Shouldn’t you already know the answer to that question?”

“I see every future, Waters. That’s not exactly narrowin’ things down,” Ami pointed out. “Though, yeah, some futures are more likely than others. Like the one that yer god saw.” She sighed, taking a seat on the ground and wincing as her joints popped. “I really think that we should bring Yamino with us. She could do a lotta damage with those dolls of hers.”

“There’s no reason to drag her in, though, is there?” Selphi asked. “I mean, granted, she seems to have a pretty big grudge against that Himeko girl – not that I can blame her – but I think you can take care of Himeko yourself, can’t you? Unless you have work to do at your temple.”

“Dad’s said that he wants me to take care of this mission personally,” Ami answered with a grim smile. “It’s better if I do as he says.”

“Right, and besides that, we both know that I have to take care of Arashi personally.” Selphi shrugged a little. “So we don’t need to bring Hitomi-chan in. And besides, it’s probably better if we leave her here to taking care of things in case it goes badly.”

“I got it, I got it.” Ami began to stretch out, wincing at the stiffness of her muscles. “It’s been a while since I’ve had a workout like that… Anyway, you know she’s gonna be disappointed about the whole thing.”

“She’ll get over it,” was the serene reply. “We all do.”

***

“All right, so…” Himeko took a deep breath, trying to calm the excitement burning in the pit of her stomach. “All that’s left to do is for you to do is to stand before my lord and allow him to judge you for your worthiness.”

Aya gave the girl a strange look. “I thought that he had already done that. Did he not already give me his essence?”

Himeko laughed a bit. “Aya-chan, even I have his essence. That simply means that you are his servant. To be his host, though, he must look you over and judge your strength and your purity.” She smiled reassuringly. “Don’t worry about it, though, Aya-chan. I’m sure that my lord will see the same things that I do, and will accept you as his only true avatar.”

The blonde still looked wary, but she nodded. “I suppose… Shall we go, then?” Before Himeko could respond, there was the sound of many bubbles bursting.

“Hi-de-ho~” Selphi sang out, releasing Ami’s hand to wave at the two girls. “Himeko-chan, Arashi-chan! You’re both looking well.”

“Waters…” If looks could kill, Selphi would have been buried six feet deep a long time again.
Himeko tugged at the blonde’s arm. “Come on, Aya-chan,” she whispered. “Let’s go! We need my lord’s help—“

“No,” Aya snapped, pulling her arm away. “I am going to settle this now, and I won’t let you get in my way, Himeko-chan.”

“But Aya-c—“

“No buts.” She walked forward a few steps. “Are you ready to die, Waters?”

Selphi gave a little shrug. “You’re a little late for that, but whatever. Sure.”

Ami looked over at Himeko. “Ya better not be thinkin’ of tryin’ to interfere with these two,” she called over. “They’ve both got some things to sort out between ‘em – ya might as well just take off.”

Himeko looked over at Ami fearfully, and then spun around and took off running into the darkness, calling over her shoulder, “I’m going to ask my lord for help, Aya-chan!”

“And that’s my cue to take off,” Ami noted. She shot a sideways glance. “Don’t forget yer duty, now, Waters.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Selphi replied, snapping her fingers. Watching the threads wind around her fingers with a small smile on her face, she continued, “You just go on and do your part, okay?”

“Whatever.” With an eye roll, Ami quickly took off after Himeko, disappearing quickly.

Selphi watched after her for a bit, and then turned her attention back to Aya. “So… I don’t suppose that you’re going to go ahead and give in to me, are you?” she asked. “I won’t kill you if you just surrender.”

“I will never surrender to you,” Aya spat out. “I will never give into anyone.”

“You’ve already given into someone, haven’t you?” Selphi giggled. “That god of hers… He’s just going to use you up and spit you out, you know.” She smiled a little. “I’ve done a little research. The Aztecs were very interesting… They didn’t seem to appreciate women much, just like nearly every other culture. As a matter of fact, they didn’t even see them as being worth the trouble of cutting out their hearts to sacrifice to their gods; they just chopped off their heads. Does that sound like the god that you wish to be fed to?”

“Liar,” Aya proclaimed. “You were always lying. First you lied about not dying—“

“Yep, you’re never going to drop that…”

“—And now you are lying to keep me away from the power that I deserve.” Her expression darkened. “The world is full of deceitful people like you. Once I have become a god, I will purify this world. I’ll eliminate the least shred of evil that I end up encountering in the world.”

“So your actions are completely altruistic,” Selphi said with a laugh. “How interesting. Well, it’s a very noble goal that you’re aspiring to, Arashi-chan, but I’m afraid that your ambitions are going to end here. So sorry.” Selphi slid her right foot back so she was standing perpendicular to the other girl. “Get ready, Arashi-chan.”

“I will not let an evil life form like you taint this world any longer,” Aya intoned. “Just as my ancestors did before me, so I will do now – slay evil immediately!” With that, Aya allowed herself to be consumed in flames, her clothing burning off as before.

“A parlor trick like that isn’t something that scares me, Arashi-chan!” Selphi yelled, spinning around. “Key of B major!”

The figure’s eyes seemed to narrow. “So, is that the trick…” Without another word, she began to send missile after missile at Selphi. Every time, the threads surrounding the girl would cut through the centers of them and disperse them harmlessly into the air. There was no physical damage to Selphi, but she was visibly beginning to sweat as the temperature of the air around her continued to skyrocket.

“What was it that you said to me, Miss Waters?” Aya taunted. “Your power is constantly in flux according to the amount of water you absorb, isn’t that right?”

“Dammit…” Selphi muttered under her breath. A grin forced itself onto her face. “That’s right, Arashi-chan! Smart of you to remember – you going to do anything else with that observation?”

“As a matter of fact, yes. Desert Winds!” the fiery girl yelled. Immediately, hot, dry winds began to circulate around the cave, dehydrating Selphi further. The water witch fell to her knees, clawing at her throat.

“Can’t breathe…” She wheezed.

“This is your divine punishment, Miss Waters,” Aya said softly, walking toward her fallen foe. “I am sorry that things turned out so terribly for you, but this is where your actions have led you.” She raised a hand up, the skin turning white-hot. “Goodbye, Miss Waters.”

“Goodbye, Aya,” Selphi wheezed. She suddenly pushed herself upright and moved her hands through their spell-casting positions to fling them toward the other girl. “Tsunami!”

Letting out a cry, Aya thrust her arm toward Selphi, but the other girl had already jumped backwards to safety, leaving the enormous wave to crash over the flaming body of Selphi’s former partner. Before the water could disappear, Selphi moved her hands again, this time finishing by pulling her hands backwards. “Backwash!” A second wave crashed through the room.

Now that the temperature of the room had returned to something fairly hospitable, Selphi had regained her good cheer. “Nothing like going to the beach when it’s hot out, you know,” she chirped. The water was slowly draining off of what Selphi now realized, listening closely, was a platform that the two girls were on top of. As more of the water ran off, the limp, wet body of Aya Arashi was slowly revealed, gasping for air.

Selphi stood over her former friend, looking at her almost pityingly. “I was as honest as I felt I could be with you, Aya-chan,” she said. “But you and I are just different. I’m sorry that things turned out this way – maybe things would have been better if I had died and stayed that way.” She sighed a little before smiling. “But I didn’t, and there’s no point in wondering about what if’s, hm? And now I have to complete my duty.” Kneeling down, she quickly scooped the girl up in her arms and walked to one edge of the platform. As her hearing had indicated, there was a set of stairs.

“What are you doing?” Aya said weakly. “What are you doing?”

“Well, you’ve left me no real choice here, Aya,” Selphi replied. “You turned against us, which pretty much signed your death warrant, and then you wouldn’t accept that you were wrong about all of this. You already have that demon god’s essence in you. I’m afraid that we can’t allow you to live; you’re too much of a danger, now and in the future. There’s no telling whether or not you’ll try to destroy us again sometime in the future. Sorry, Aya.”

“You are not sorry,” the blonde growled weakly. “You were never sorry. You useless girl… You will never be anything more than a slut in the end, you know…”

“Time will tell,” Selphi said cheerfully. “And you’ll never be anything more than a corpse now. Goodbye.” With that, the American unceremoniously dumped the girl over the side, watching as the girl’s body bounced and rolled down the stairs into darkness. She was silent for a long moment, then turned away slowly. “Now…” she muttered. “Time to go find Ami-chan. I hope she hasn’t gotten into too much trouble…”

At the bottom of the steps, there lay a broken and bloody Aya Arashi, struggling for breath. “…That girl…” she choked out, blood bubbling out of her mouth. “She… was right, after all…”

No, she wasn’t.

“Wh-who’s that?” Aya said around another mouthful of blood. “Show yourself.”

Poor girl. You don’t deserve to die like some dog in a ditch, the voice continued. There was a purring quality to the voice, though Aya’s ear didn’t really pick up on it, not in the condition that she was in. My girl, do you want to die?

“…No…”

And would you give anything for a second chance? For the power to make the world your own?

“…Yes…” With that final word, Aya stilled, her eyes staring glassily in the air before her.

The darkness of the cavern circled her body and began to slowly enter it, causing it to twitch as it did so. My dear girl, I’ll give you all the power you need… And in return, you’ll give me your body.

***

Meanwhile, Ami had been chasing Himeko for what seemed like forever before the girl finally stopped in front of a monolith. “My lord,” Himeko begged. “My lord, please protect me… My lord! Answer me!”

“I don’t think he can hear ya,” Ami remarked, coming up behind the girl. “I don’t sense any presence of that guy around here anymore… I guess he jumped ship and let ya take care of this problem all on yer own.” She smiled mirthlessly. “Typical.”

Himeko stood and looked down her nose at the other person. “How dare you,” she growled. “I’ll kill you for daring to sully the name of my lord and master!”

“Oh, please, kill away.” Ami opened her arms, inviting an attack. “If ya can, anyway. An’ there hasn’t been much evidence for that, has there?”

“Shut up!” Himeko yelled, dark energy gathering around one of her hands. “I’ll show you just how strong I am!” With that, the darkness coalesced into a black panther, which fell to the ground gracefully.

Ami was certain that it was planning out its dinner as it eyed her. “Nice trick,” she muttered. “I have one of my own.” She reached into the pockets of her coat, beginning to rummage around.

“No, you don’t,” Himeko snapped. “Attack!” As though it had been waiting for the command, the big cat immediately bared its teeth and lunged for Ami.

There was a clatter as Ami dropped something on the ground, and then whining as the panther found itself suspended in midair. Ami’s hand was held in front of herself, shielding herself from the blow that never came.

“What…”

Ami ignored the tone of wonderment in the other girl’s voice and began to trace the shape of a cube with her palms. Using the toe of her shoe, she flicked open the object that she had dropped to the ground - an ordinary wooden box. “Seal!” she yelled, bringing her hands together into her spell-casting position.

There was a yowl from the panther as it seemed to dissolve into black smoke, which was pulled into the box. “What did you do?” Himeko demanded, staring at the space that the panther had once occupied. “What did you do?!”

“Don’t freak out so much; geez, yer impatient,” the onmyouji said in response. Focusing now on the other girl, she repeated her gestures from before.

Himeko backed away. “No, get away from me!” she shrieked. “My lord! Save meeeee…” Her screaming faded away as Ami completely her calling of “seal” and the girl dissolved into smoke, just like her pet before her. Once the smoke had been completely absorbed into the box, Ami flipped the lid of the box closed.

“Now, don’t worry too much,” Ami said softly to the box. “Yer not gonna die in there. I haven’t figured out why, exactly, but you won’t, so don’t worry about that. Yer magic’s gonna be absorbed by the box, though, and then it’ll be given to me.” She smiled a little. “Thanks for the present.”

“Ami-chan? You in here?”

“Over here, Waters,” Ami called back, tucking the box away into her jacket before the other girl noticed anything.

Selphi walked over. “Okay, I’ve done my part. What about you; is that other girl still standing?” She looked around, as though expecting Himeko to be standing around in the shadows somewhere.

Ami shook her head. “I don’t know whether she’s standin’ or not, but she’s definitely not gonna be a problem anymore. I guarantee that.”

“Oh, good… I think?” Selphi looked confused. “Anyway—“ She was interrupted by the sound of rumbling above. “Now what’s going on!”

“Sounds like wherever we are, it’s collapsin’,” Ami replied, looking upward. “C’mon, let’s get out of here before we get crushed.”

“It might be kind of cool to watch it happen, though,” Selphi mused. “Oh, well. Come on!” The two girls grasped hands and dissolved into a mass of bubbles just as the roof of the cave crashed to the ground.

***

Millions of miles away from Japan, Touya Arashi opened the door to the penthouse hotel suite that he was renting for the time being. His younger daughter, Akemi, was sitting at the desk in front of the television, alternately doing her homework and looking up to watch cartoons. “Hello, father,” she greeted without moving from her position. “Did you have a good day at work?”

“Passable,” Touya replied, dropping a quick kiss on the top of his daughter’s head before heading into his bedroom. He let out a heavy breath and dropped his briefcase next to his bed, then tossed his cane onto the bed and began to undress. A wailing cry stopped his movements, though. “What in the…”

“By the way, Father,” Akemi called. “A few minutes ago, I heard crying from your bedroom. I thought that you should take care of it.”

Touya flipped the lights on to reveal a baby carefully tucked into the sheets of his bed. Frowning, he walked over and picked up the baby, and then felt the magic emanating from it. He knew this magic…

“Oh, what am I going to do with you…” he sighed.

***

Well, was killing her as lovely as you thought it would be?

“Shut up, you,” Selphi snapped, toweling her hair dry.

You’ve been anticipating this kill… I know I have. Why don’t you just confess already? It’s not a sin…

“Clearly we have different ideas about what counts as a sin and what doesn’t,” Selphi said flatly. Before any other conversations could take place, she turned to each direction of the hallway. “Night, Mom! Night, grandma and grandpa!” she called in Korean. With that, she entered her bedroom and flopped into her bed.

Come on, girl…

“Oh, just shut up and let me get to sleep, would you?” Selphi snapped. Sighing, she pulled the covers over herself and turned off the light before settling in for sleep.

“…Selphi…”

“I told you to shut up—“ she began to yell again, but stopped. That definitely wasn’t in her head…

“Selphi…”

With a shiver, Selphi burrowed into the bed and tried to ignore the new voice.

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