Chapter 5: Shadowplays

What I dream is my own business and it shall remain that way.

- = -

Wings of Fate
Chapter 5: Shadowplays
By: Aaron Peori
Started By: John Evans and Ardweden

- = -

So, now I am to tell my story, am I? Should I start with waking up in
the morning and then some bland description of a 'normal' day? For me
that would be impossible. The others may have chosen to live their
lives of normalcy and complacency. They may cling to what they were
before, but not I. I had accepted what I am. What I had become. I knew
they would come to understand this as well, and that eventually they
would accept it... if they lived. No, let me skip ahead to a more
interesting situation.

It was not long after Judou and I had left the others. The streets, as
usual, were full of people and machines. Thier shadows mingled in the
bright sunlight like pools of ink that shifted and writhed on the
pavement before me. Buildings towered over the people beneath them,
casting a protective pall of darkness over their lives. Occasionally
we would pass a tree or bush or some other token effort to make the
city seem less like the pre-fabircated and uttely natureless place it

I didn't look up as I walked, so I saw nothing in the faces of the
people around me. Judou walked beside me in silence. Occasionally I
would glance up to orient myself. Finally I arrived at my destination.
Judou stopped with me and took a lasting look around as I slipped into
a dark corner nearby. When he turned to look for me he started and
spent several seconds trying to find me. Eventually I relented and
allowed my magic to reveal myself to him. He started at this and I
smiled inwardly, even if my outward face remained calm.

"Don't stand out there like a deer in the headlights, Judou," I
informed him with a quiet, detached tone of voice. "Get in here."

"What are we doing?" he said as he stepped in, he reflexively tugged
at his nose. I silently invoked my Resonance again and sat watching
the scene before me unfold. I had no time to answer his bothersome
questions at the moment. My undivided attention needed to be on the
landscape, lest I miss a vital clue. 

We had returned to the scene of the "incident". I watched as the
police stretched a yellow tape, with warning written in kanji and
English, around the bloody mark and grotesquely enlarged weeds that
were the only physical evidence remaining. One of them was
photographing the scene with the mindless precision of the well
indoctrinated and another was slowly working his way through a group
of eye-witnesses... taking statements or whatever it was they did. I
grimaced as I realized the police would soon have quite a good
description of Akari, and Shuukou. Still, what is done is done.

"I thought you said that we were going to test your theories," Judou
said into my ear. I dismissed him with a quick sideways look and went
back to my investigation. Soon enough I spotted what I wanted. There
was a van parked across the street, unmarked and painted in dull
whites. Two people stood near it, quickly assembling the complicated
audio/video equipment of the modern, two-minute, news bite. I grinned.

"Judou," I said to catch his attention. "Could you approach that
reporter? It would be very helpful if you presented yourself as a fan,
with the usual gushing and such. Perhaps asks for his autograph. Once
he is impressed he should be willing to interview and 'eye-witness'
like yourself."

"I'm not an eye-witness," he mumbled and pulled on his nose.

"Of course not," I said smoothly. "He will ask you questions, describe
the scene as best you can remember it from Shuukou's words. Then when
he is finished request a business car... he may offer it himself. I
hear that business people do this, it is something of a ritual with
them. Perhaps it establishes pecking orders. Once you have it could
you meet me back at my place." I paused and added a please as if it
were an afterthought.

He stared at me in silence for a few moments as I watched the scene
some more. I carefully noted every feature and face, filing the
information away in the back of my mind for retrieval and examination
later. Finally he left to do what I asked. 

I don't know what happened exactly, I didn't follow him. Judou was
competent enough and I could trust him to get what I needed.

Having gotten what I came for, I left. I moved smoothly, unseen
among the people of the city. I even took special care to practice a
new Resonance that worked on plants as well as people. Let it not
be said I do not learn after all. As I moved I thought. Tracking down
whatever was after us was going to be difficult, much more difficult
than any of the others realized. Whoever, or whatever, they were had
probably been at this much longer then we had and thus were much more
adept at hiding. Still, the fact that they had been willing to attack
Shuukou and Akari in broad daylight in front of witnesses might be a
good sign. It could mean they were desperate, that they needed to
eliminate us now instead of later. That information was of
little use to us until we found out -why- they were after us.

I arrived at my destination no closer to any answers then when I had
left, and, as such, I was in a bad mood.  I looked up at the building
whose shadow I had just entered and nodded. It hadn't changed much in
the days since I had selected it not long ago. It would still do. The
building was deserted, condemned and scheduled for demolition in a few
days time according to the notice in the front. I circled it looking
for all the usual signs of infestation, by vermin both human and
otherwise. Finding only signs of rodent type I stepped up to a side
entrance and put my hand over the lock.

It was a simple matter to disable the lock with a quick spell.
Letting the thing fall to the ground in the alley shadows with a
muffled clank, I stepped inside. My eyes went quickly over the
building and I noted that they had already cleared out all the lose
debris and would probably start knocking out supports soon. They
hadn't gotten that far yet, which meant there was nothing dangerous in
the place at the moment. Relieved, I wandered the building until I
found a room that was more or less intact. There was only one
entrance, and that was really what I needed. Stepping over to the
center of the room I began to work.

Stepping into the Resonance was a profound thing for me. I did more
than just casually touch it like the others, even Shuukou. I gave
myself to it, immersed my spirit and mind in the flow of all things as
the existed around me. It is hard to describe. Picture the world as a
symphony, a million, billion notes all being played in the most
complex and beautiful form that you could imagine. The song was awful
and magnificent at the same time. Or, to put it better, it was beyond
human concepts of such things. But within the music the various notes
formed sections and verses. One could amplify those notes, with the
right insight, and by doing so send changes repeling across the entire
symphony. This was the Resonance, as I chose to call it. By finding
your own unique Resonance you could shift from a note to an
instrument, changing the composition of the symphony as it was played.

I composed a masterpiece on the spot, one that only a very select
individual would ever hear. The physical sign of my work was a diagram
etched in the dust of the room. The symbol. when seen by lesser men,
would tease at the mind. Its shape seemed to defy logic in some
vague, unaccountable way. Still, it was necessary for my work. Finally
I stepped back to examine my work. I was exhausted but I dared not
rest now. This was my most vulnerable point-drained by my experience I
would be easy prey for whatever forces worked against us. After a
time, my energy returned and I could relax. I examined my work and
nodded. It would do.

I made my way back to my home and examined my wards to see if anyone
had entered while I was absent. Seeing that only Judou had, I entered.
He was sitting by on one of my chairs, absently playing with a rare
and valuable piece of Inca statuary that I had acquired a few days
ago, before all this had started. I stood in the doorway and looked at
him until he noticed me and got uncomfortable enough to put down the
statue. Relieved, but unwilling to show it, I stepped across the room
and deposited myself in a chair across from his. 

"Why did you lie to the others?" Judou asked me straight out. His
fingers twictched near his nose.

"Ah," I said. "Coming to the point, how unlike you." He just stared at
me until I felt the need to explain myself.

"I didn't want the others involved in this," I told him bluntly. "I
needed an excuse to separate you and myself from them and your comment
about the uncontrollable nature of your powers served as an excuse,
nothing more."

"So you can't help me control my visions?"

"You might well ask me to set the position of the sun in the sky, or
juggle the stars," I sneered. "I can not teach you what you can do
Judou. Each of us has a unique power, and only you can teach yourself
how to use it. I could point you in the right direction, but I think
you would not like the kind of roads you would have to travel. In time
maybe..." I drifted off and sighed. "Time we do not have."

"What did you want me to get this for then?" He produced a smallish
rectangle of stockboard and handed it to me. I let my eyes wander over
it. The name and the station are meaningless, but my awareness picked
up the traces of the owner's music on it. I smiled and Judou began
eyeing me like that time I suggested to him that we infect the physics
professor's computer with a virus. "What are you up to?"

"Something that the others wouldn't approve of," I said and turned the
card over. I walked over to a nearby desk and opened one of the
drawers. From this I retrieved a pen and block of ink. I stepped back
over to the chair and began to carefully to prepare. As my hands
busied themselves with their work  while explained the rest of my plan
to Judou.

"Our counterparts, if they wish to remain secret, will have to find
some way to explain away the incident our friends got into earlier
today. Since they planned this, I think they have already completed
their efforts in this respect. Now, in order to cover it up, they are
going to have to control two things: the police and the media. The
police are beyond our means to interfere with, but the media is
another matter. My guess is they won't bother wasting more effort than
they have to, which means they will make their moves on the reporters
who investigated the disturbance directly instead of working on their
higher-ups. That has the added bonus of leaving no real witnesses as

"And what does this have to do with that card?" Judou asked.
Sometimes, for a man with a mystical ancestry I would have killed to
obtain, he could be incredibly dense in these regards. 

"I am going to use this card as an arcane connection to the reporter
you took it from. I will invoke a magic with it that will cause him to
be drawn to a certain place. There we may capture him and examine him
in the hopes of finding clues to our conterparts plans, motives and

Judou looked at me in shock. The shadows on his face seemed painted on
and stood out sharply against his suddenly pale skin. Finally he
managed to grasp my intent and shook his head. "You can't do that!" he

"You're right," I said. "I can't, not alone."


"My skills are much further progressed than yours or any of the
others," I replied. "But my talents lie in specific areas. In order to
accomplish this I will need to assistance of one other..."

"Kenchi," Judou said.

"Quite," I said.

"Why not invite him along directly?"

"That would have made the girls suspicious," I shrugged. "I didn't
want either of them involved in this plan."

"Because you knew they would disapprove."

"Because I did not want to waste time on needless arguments of petty
morality." I began to draw a symbol onto the back of the card. A
perfect reproduction of the one currently sitting in a room some
kilometers distant. "You should be proud however Judou, it was you who
gave me the idea of combining talents in the way I plan to."

Judou was silent, the shadows from my meager lights making his clothes
seem to blend seamlessly with the chair. The effect was vaguely
unnerving, for my mind fancied I saw him perched, like a carrion bird
awaiting my inevitable fall. I dismissed the flight of fancy as
quickly as it occurred but wondered why it was I had dismissed such
obvious signs of his true heritage for so long. A puzzle for another
day perhaps.

"When do we call Kenchi?"

"Tonight," I said simply.

- = -

Eventually darkness crawled from the earth across the sky and the moon
shone behind a thin shield of clouds. The city, if it did not sleep,
at least it dreamed. I was in my study, tuning my old guitar and
playing a few chords while I thought of less important things. Judou
came into the room and looked at me with a smirk in his eyes that
never reached his mouth.

"I didn't know you still played that thing," he said conversationally.

"You don't know much about me," I responded civilly.

He nodded as if I had quoted some profound philosopher (if I had, I
did so unconsciously). "I'm just surprised to see you doing something
so... well, so normal I guess."

I put down the guitar and allowed my irritation to show briefly on my
face. "Would it make you feel better if you knew this was related to
my magic?"

"No, actually," he sighed. "I guess... I just..." I knew exactly what
he meant. He had hoped he had caught me in an act of 'normalcy' and
that this was a sign that he could become as skilled in his magic as
I, and yet still remain essentially the same. I knew better than that,
but then I had long ago stopped liking who I had been. Even before I
had ceased to be him.

No, I will not elaborate.

"Is there some reason you chose to interupt me?"

"Kenchi just called," he said. Ah, so that was who it had been. My
wards had responded to the call but I had not yet perfected them to
that level of sensitivity. "He'll be here in a few minutes. He was
delayed because Shuukou, well, left."

"Ah," I said. "More's the pity. Considering her condition, that
is not strange."


I looked at him. "Her magic has gained control of her," I said. "I
fear for her soul." I picked up my guitar and began to tune the
strings again. Judou jerked his nose ratrther violently and I
could practically feel his eyes boring into me. I ignored him-it was
easy, once you had enough practice. I was never going to end up
like Shuukou, I had made that vow the moment I had seen her and sensed
what she had become. I felt like the shadows burned into my skin at
the mere thought of it.

"What do you mean by that!" Judou stepped in front of me and towered
in the light. The shadow of his form completely enveloped me and I had
to admit he was a very imposing figure. "Explain yourself Soshi!"
There was genuine concern in his voice. I felt a bit of guilt at that.
Here he was concerned for her well-being and all I was doing was using
her as a yardstick to measure failure. Under that, deep in the core, I
felt something else, though. I didn't admit it at the time, and would
not admit it for a long time to come. But I felt envy at that moment,
and I am not afraid to admit that now.

"You all think Shuukou and I are the most similar, in terms of
connection to our talents," I sighed. "We are not-we are in fact
opposites. I have control, but she chooses to relinquish it. She gives
herself to the magic without knowing the risks. And there is nothing
you or I can do to stop that. I believe she will realize her error
eventually but there is always a chance..." I shrugged. "I should not
have mentioned it."

"No," Judou said with a growl, "You should have mentioned it

"We have no time for this Judou," I stood up. Unconsciously he stepped
back to allow me room. "We have work this evening. Go let Kenchi in."

A moment later there was a knock on the door. It didn't break the
tension in the room as we stood facing one another. Already I
regretted my words. But there was no way I could take them back, or
make Judou understand without him coming to understand it in his own
way. His shadow fell between us like a chasm and I realized that the
rift between us had grown larger. I don't regret that... I still had
what was important to me in the end, after all. I would have given up
much more than friendship for what I acquired then.

The knock came a second time, louder and more impatient. That broke
Judou out of his position and he began towards the front door. Before
leaving me he turned and with his eyes informed me that this was not
over, it was merely delayed. Then he left me and I sunk back into my
chair. I felt drained, but could not fathom why.

- = -

"You want me to what?"

Kenchi was an extremely bright young man. Oh he may not look it, with
his trendy demeanor and Joe Consumer attitude. After working
with him so closely I knew that he was an intuitive and sensitive
individual. His insights, when he came up with them, bordered on the
genius. But there were times where he could be as dense as a diamond
and twice as empty-headed.

"I want you to help me force a man to a certain location," I began
again. "I need you to..."

"No," said Kenchi. "Forget the technical details. They just make my
head hurt." He grinned at me and I just stared back until he grew
uncomfortable and proceeded. "I mean the part about using my Gift on
this card..." he waved the card at me. "I need eye-contact for
something this big..."

I sighed. "You've never heard of an arcane connection have you?" He
shock his head. "Trust me," I repressed a laugh at that. "Just do this
and it will work. Focus your magic at the card, picture the man who
held it in your mind..." Of course I was lying. I was goign to be
doing most of the work in terms of the connection here, I merely
needed him to be receptive.

"Okay." He stopped and glared at the card, as if expecting it to
suddenly develop eyes, or perhaps to advise him of the nature of the
gambit I was playing. The shadows on his face deepened as he bent away
from the light and concentrated. I reached out with my still fledgling
senses and felt his Resonance at work. It wasn't quite right, however.
The Resonance I had amplified with my magic was not changing...

"You're focusing inward," I told him. "Focus your 'Gift' on the card."
He glared at me and then went back to doing what I said. I was
relieved to see him beginning to catch on. Several minutes passed in
tense silence as Kenchi continued to work his magic. I focused myself
and drew my strength inward. Maintaining the magic while Kenchi worked
on it was tiring. It was like someone was rubbing sandpaper against my
skin, and the harsh pain served only to amplify my weariness all the
more. Then suddenly he gasped, his eyes fixing on the card. I saw his
pupils dilate as if suddenly exposed to a bright light.

"It's working!" he whispered in awe. "I can see him! He's alone in a
room and I can-"

"Hurry," I interupted. "Look into his eyes and put the picture of the
symbol in his head." I didn't know how much longer I could maintain
the connection. I was weakening much more rapidly now. I almost felt
as if Kenchi was... then it hit me. Kenchi was somehow drawing on MY
strength, my reserves of will in some way. I dared not mention this,
nor did I dare break the connection. But Kenchi had to finish quickly,
or else he would drain me dry.

"Wait," Kenchi said. "He isn't alone any more. There's someone... no
SOMETHING with him!" The raw terror in his voice echoed across the
room. "Soshi, break the connection! The thing can see us! Break it!"

"I.." I could barely speak. Kenchi was struggling to retain himself
and in that struggle was drawing more of my power. I couldn't tell him
that only he could break the connection at this point. Then he
screamed and leapt back. I felt the Resonance begin to unravel... and
then something else. It was horrible and alien and for a moment I knew
it, knew it better than I knew anything else. It was like a discord, a
false note in the symphony. I wanted to scream but I couldn't even
manage that. Then it came out, barreling through whatever mystic path
I had opened for it and appearing in the room like an angel of wrath.

I fell, numb and nearly lifeless, to the ground. I don't know if in
those final seconds I screamed or not. I could not remember much. I
remember seeing Judou try to come to my aid, but he found his path
blocked by the thing. It towered over him, a writhing non-mass of
living shadow. It stood in the room in defiance of all natural law,
and I could feel the dissonance it created in the music of the world,
much  more clearly then the last time.

The thing batted Judou away, sending him flying into one of my
bookshelves. I heard a crack but could not take my eyes off the beast.
It turned-I knew this despite seeing no change in its form-and came
towards me. It was going to finish me off, I knew. Then strong hands
grasped me and pulled me away. I looked with astonishment to see it
was Kenchi, dragging me towards the wall. The thing seemed undeterred.
It flowed across the room like an oil; in its wake, wood rotted and
the carpet cracked and faded.

" me you bastard!" I heard suddenly and realized the Kenchi was

"What?" I managed.

"You have to help me fight it!"

"I..." I was too weak to fight. Too weak to do anything... unless.
"Kenchi," I said in a voice I barely recognized as my own, so weak was
it. "Hold my hand and look into my eyes. Don't question! Just look
into them and concentrate..." I looked up and he looked down. Our
gaze's locked and for a moment I felt his strange power. I felt drawn
into those eyes, I wanted nothing more than to study them. I swore I
could count each individual blood vessel and map the tiniest flaw. The
play of light and shadow fascinated me, it still does even today. But
I forced my way past that and managed, drawing on some inner reserve I
didn't know I had to retain my sense. "Now... give me your strength!"

"Wha..." I didn't let him finish. Instead I stretched out and
performed my magic. I linked us, slowly unraveling the barriers
between him and me.  I took a tremendous risk, and normally I would
not have tried this under the best of circumstances. But the old
saying about desperate times must have some purpose after all.

I felt his strength inside him, his will and I was, quite frankly
amazed. Kenchi may seem weak on the surface, but underneath there was
a core of iron that he probably didn't even realize he had. I latched
onto it like a drowning man onto a log and drew it to me. He gasped,
he could feel the strength draining out of him. I didn't care, I took
more and more until I thought I would burst, until I felt like a
thousand miniature lightning storms raged just under my skin. Then I
turned on the beast, which was almost upon us.

To this day I'm not quite sure what I did. All I know is that the
thing stopped in its tracks, its form bound in place. Then I found
something, a link between it and... someplace else. I grinned as an
epiphany of understanding flooded my awareness. With a shout I blocked
the connection... and with a quiet shriek the thing vanished.

Then I was falling, down... and down into unconsciousness.

- = -

I awoke sometime later-I was not exactly sure how long. Judou was
sitting in a chair across from where I lay. He looked at me as I began
to rise and jerked his nose.

"How long have I been out?"

"All night," he said. "I thought you might be hurt..." He leaned over

"I am fine," I hissed and pushed him away. I looked around and noted
that Kenchi was lying on the ground not far away. "What of him?"

"He's also been out all night," Judou answered.

"Ah," I sat up. I was weary as I had ever been but I felt strangely
alive as well. I had discovered a new facet of this magic. I now knew
I could draw strength from others... and in that strength lay power. I
barely remembered what I had done and realized that if asked to
perform it again I might not be able to. Still, this filled me with a
deep, burning pleasure. "He may be asleep a while longer."

"What happened?"

"Something terrible," I explained, "And something wonderful." I
refused to explain further.

- = -

Author Notes:

I apologize for the lateness. 

Point to note: This takes place -during- Chapter 3 (and thus, before
Chapter 4), starting right after the meeting between the group in the
cafe breaks up and ending sometime the next morning.

Some of my pre-readers have said that some stuff in here doesn't make
sense. Maybe it doens't. I have no time to write more to clarify (and
don't think Soshi would either).

Thanks go to John Evans and Scott Schimmel for pre-reading.

And Dan Wood for posting this despite it being late.

Send responses to me via e-mail ( or on the
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