Chapter 3: Maiden

Naoko got out of the taxi slowly while her driver hurried to take her luggage from the boot. She stood looking at the large, ivy-covered gates, even as three men in black came through it, looking at her as an intruder. The cab driver put the bags next to her and got into his taxi, putting a hand on Naoko’s shoulder as he passed her.
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Chapter 2: Unfocused

The young woman danced in the studio alone. Her knee-length white dress twirled as she turned, executing each move with grace and style. She enjoyed the dance simply for its sake now, away from the eyes of her students and peers. Her movements were not precise, but rather, flowed. Lost in the simple sensuality of the dance, she dipped, twirled, and hopped. Alone in the silence of the studio, she allowed herself to imagine her dancing in the garden of her childhood, where she had been discovered. In that garden, sheltered from the bright early morning sun, she had begun her first dance, clumsily but joyfully. She had moved because she wanted to, not because others had told her to.

When she had been discovered, there had been a huge ruckus. She was forbidden to dance alone there again, and was taken away and made to go for dance classes instead. The classes had brought out the talent lying beneath her first dance, but she had never been allowed to dance in any surrounding of more than 70% plant and animal life, for when they had taken her out of the garden, the early spring frost had melted and the garden bloomed as though it was summer. She had thought nothing of it then, but it pained her that she could not dance there any longer.

She could hear nothing but the silence in the studio, which was perfect to her as it meant that she would be able to follow the music within her mind clearer. To an observer, she danced to a quick, summer tune, her movements bringing to mind the heat of a summer’s day, with the lazy clouds floating above and the happy babbling brook. She did have someone watching her though, but he was not there as an observer. He raised the long range gun and kept her in his viewfinder as she danced. He would not have time to hit her again; he would only have one chance. If she knew he was there, he would probably be dead.

It was at the precise moment his finger touched the trigger that a flock of birds flew overhead, one dropping a feather that landed in his sights. When the feather fell, he had shot, missed, and had a dagger in his forehead. He did not miss completely though; his bullet had lodged itself in the woman’s shoulder. She fell, clutching her shoulder, but the bullet was not too dangerous she thought and so she made herself walk out of the studio, seeking help.

~~~~~Read More »Chapter 2: Unfocused

Chapter 1: Firefly

There were only two women in the room when he entered. The one sitting sipping her tea quietly was a honey-blond with her hair pulled back neatly in a ponytail. Her violet eyes were half-lidded, hidden behind long lashes. Every movement was delicate and langorous. She looked like the very picture of health, at least compared to the other woman who was standing. She looked worn and harried, her long red hair tinged with streaks of gray. There were puffy circles under her bright green eyes, and new wrinkles on her face that he had not seen before. He made a mental note to send the woman on a vacation; they could not afford to lose her. For now though, it was time to hear their reports.

“Have a seat, Valerie. Good afternoon, Aira. Valerie tells me you have something to report?” he took a seat across Aira while Valerie sat off to his right, forming a triangle. His tone was formal and his question was more of a request than an order.

“Yes, Master Kishan. I have received confirmation about the orders Lady Naoko requested me to investigate. They are being channeled to a house owned by someone who seems to call himself a bomoh,” Aira had pushed the tea set away, switching from the seductress to the businesswoman in a blink. “I have not been able to speak with him yet, but from what I have heard and seen of his effects, he seems to be nothing more than a charlatan. The only lasting effect he has on those he treats seem to be their wallet. Their changes seem to be more psychological rather than actually magical. I’ll only know this after I meet with him though. A patron of mine has arranged for me to be “examined” by him the day after tomorrow,” Aira continued.

“Is he the religious lifestyle type?” Valerie spoke up, her tired voice sounding far more watery than usual. He made a mental note to have Valerie examined. It would sound like her sore throat had not left her.

“Yes and no. He’s not actively seeking followers. From what I heard he was actually trying to dissuade them from following. His followers insist on the treatment though. He is called Pak Darai, but I do not think that is his real name. I’ll be able to give a better picture once I see him day after tomorrow,” Aira’s tone did not give anything away, but Kishan thought he detected a hint of respect from the younger woman to the older lady. In many ways, Aira’s admiration of Valerie was obvious, even if the younger woman often snapped at the older.

“Whose teaching does he follow?” Kishan spoke after a few moments’ thoughts.

“A mixture, but he seems primarily to lift things off Thanatos’ dead cult,” that made Valerie pay attention.

“Which cult are we talking about, Aira?” Kishan asked very gently.

“The one that the Goddess Celeste took over,” Aira’s reply made Kishan and Valerie turn to each other in alarm.

“Aira, I want you to take Valerie with you. She’ll be able to confirm the ties to the cult. Don’t inflitrate the cult though. That’s not what you’re supposed to do and I do not want you to take the risk. Valerie, confirm the cult’s ties if possible. I’ll need to know if we need to cull him,” with those words, he stood up and left the meeting room, leaving the two women to work the details out.

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Prologue: Armoured Angel

The water running over her skin felt heavenly. Aira raised her face to the warm water, letting it run over her face, washing all traces of makeup and sweat. Over the sound of running water, she could hear voices. One of them, she knew, would have been her client for the evening, one of the bigger names in business who had deep-seated ties to the various politicians in the country. She did not know and did not care. Her job description did not require her to do much during the appointment, but the preparations before it often taxed her. Still, she considered herself lucky. Aira was in such demand that she was able to pick and choose who she slept with, and she was very particular about that.

By the time she got out, she knew, he would have left, the men already having searched for any recording devices she might have kept of their encounter. The only thing that could have fulfilled that requirement was her handphone, and Aira had already removed the SD card prior to the appointment. On its own, the phone did not have enough memory, but Aira was not on a data plan without a reason. She would have her recording, but unlike the clumsy downfall of a local politician from down south, she was not recording for cheap political stunts.

When Aira finally came out of the bathroom, she found herself alone and the door locked. Taking her time, she found her fee in a nondescript brown manilla envelope, in fresh notes and wonderfully thick. A quick flip through one of the stacks found that all the notes were coloured and none were plain white paper cut to the size of the notes. She smiled. Gold would have worked just as well, but she would use cash for now. With the recession coming, she would rather keep her money in commodities. Their value lasted much longer than mere cash, which could disappear overnight. Smart courtesans did not keep their eggs in one basket.

As she pulled on her clothes, her phone rang. She answered it automatically, her husky voice sounding subservient. Once she had received her orders, she left the room, remembering to reattach the small video camera hidden nearby. They would not have known that the camera had been deactivated until they checked the recording, and by then it would have been too late.

No one ever suspects the devil under the angel.