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Big Eyes, Small Mouth (BESM): In the Shadows of the City - [Free Period] Valkyrie


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She watched them all leave for school. Part of her wanted to go, to immerse herself in the frivolous dreams of youth, but that wasn't for her. Not anymore. So she stood back in the temple, and watched them with sad, envious eyes. She smiled and waved if they looked back. If they didn't, she just watched.

When they were gone, she usually went back to bed for a bit, just to scrape out another couple of hours of rest. She spent more time patrolling at night; without school, she didn't need to rest so much at night. Skye was aware that she probably wasn't sleeping enough, even with her additional naps, but if she slept too long, she both felt that she wasn't getting enough done and she had bad dreams. So she tried to find a balance between health and comfort.

She woke up soon after and started on her daily exercises. It was all she did in her free time, until she couldn't swing her fists, until her legs shook. Then she had to stop, to rest, sitting under the trees that she had just been practicing under. When her arms and legs could support her again, she was up again, trying some more. At the midday, she paused for a cold lunch, and then started again.

When she truly felt that she was too tired for further progress, she went to the temple and helped clean. Usually she helped make dinner for the others, so that they'd have hot food when they arrived at the temple. Any leftovers would be passed out to be taken for lunch, or if the students didn't want them, she and the Priest could always find someone willing to take them. Another nap late in the afternoon left her ready for their nighttime activities.

With the fall of darkness, Skye went on patrol. She found that a lot of things still happened after dark; people foolishly out, the occasional demon and some crime. She worked until dawn, fighting and finding and leading people out of darkness and into safety.

Two weeks after her mother's death, she found herself on top of a building, a twitching demon corpse sprawled behind her. The full moon stood high overhead, and she remembered that the last time she'd seen it, she'd been a daughter and a successful student. She'd been so many things, and just for a moment, she wondered if she could go back to that.

Her fans hummed a little, turning slightly in her hands. They'd been doing that more and more recently, moving on their own. They usually only did it when she allowed herself to doubt and her course to waver. They wanted her to do this; wanted her to be the host through which they could kill and kill the Oni. "If I found someone better," she queried, holding up the fans in front of her, "would you let me go?"

The fans were silent and Skye sighed. "I guess that's a no," she said, expanding them and stepping off the edge of the roof. As the magic of the fans caught the air, Skye smiled at little. She could at least enjoy this. She wondered if she could share this with someone, and decided to try it sometime. She wasn't sure who; she didn't have any friends here. She wanted to find someone to share it with, but she finally gave up that thought. She really didn't need to consider her loneliness too much. She didn't have time for self-pity or wishes, not anymore.

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She had an idea of just how damaged she was the night she met Anzu and Rei. It was a moonlit night, only three-quarters full, but enough to see. Intermittent clouds created wells of darkness which whispered ominously, only to reveal that nothing was there. The others had gone back, returned to their beds so that they could get a decent night of sleep before classes in the morning. Skye was alone, but she didn't mind that anymore. She could blank out her mind, let it wander. She could let it think of nothing of real important, while she hunted the monsters of the night.

She idly walked, letting her feet take her where they would go. She'd found that attempting to plan a route did little, so she just let fate direct her. Or perhaps it was her own instincts that were guiding her now.

The screams tore the night, like Skye's own personal call to arms. She felt herself smile; not because she was happy that people were in danger, but because she liked killing the demons that usually caused the screaming. She rounded a blind corner and found what she was seeking; a small Cerberus had a couple of people cornered against a wall.

Skye brought one fan up defensively and spoke. "Denizen of the Underworld, surrender or die," she said calmly and clearly. She offered because she should, but deep inside, she hoped it wouldn't accept her offer.

She felt her smile widen when it growled, "Surrender to you?"

"Wrong answer," Skye said tonelessly. Her other fan snapped out as she cried the command and the whirling winds of death cut through the air. The demon bounced to the side and she only scored a glancing blow. In the next second, it coughed a fireball at her.

There would have been a time that she would have jerked away, moaning and whining. Today, she held her ground with stoic determinism, her fan held defensively before her. The fireball exploded against her shield. "Not good enough," she told the demon as she wound up the snap. With the command phrase piercing the air between them, she threw another burst of air at the creature.

This time, her hit was more substantial, and the Cerberus turned and ran, leaking bodily fluid. "Stay here," Skye ordered the two people without really looking at them. Turning, she ran after it. After just a few steps, she realized that she couldn't keep up, and she hopped into the air. From there, it was easy to catch up and just as easy to administer one last slicing attack that destroyed the demon. Banking back around, Skye returned to where she'd left the two people, dropping easily to the ground before them.

It was a mother, cradling her daughter. Skye felt something acutely, for the first time in hours: raging envy. "What are you doing out after dark?" she asked, and her voice was far harsher than it needed to be.

"I need to get to the hospital," the woman said, as the girl murmured incoherently. Skye eyed her, noting the flush and sweat despite the cool night air. "My daughter, Anzu, is very sick. I couldn't wait until morning."

Skye felt a terrible urge to leave them. Why should they have one another, when she didn't have her mother. Anzu wasn't that much older than her, and despite the fact that they were Japanese and her family German, all Skye could see is someone with the one thing in the world she didn't have. She pushed away the desire to leave them for the demons. "Come on, then."

"Thank you," the woman said as they fell into step together. "I'm Rei." She was quiet, waiting and when Skye didn't give the proper social response, Rei asked, "What's your name?"


"Thank you, Skye," Rei said. "We owe you our lives."

"Hmm," Skye said. "Next time, try to avoid going out at night."

"I will." Skye could feel the woman's eyes on her. "How did you do all that?"

"I did nothing," Skye said, putting weight on her words. "You didn't see anything tonight."

Rei slowly nodded. "Of... course," she replied after a long moment. "I thought you were a ghost."

"A warrior-ghost, maybe," Skye said, musing how close to true that was. Since her mother's death, she had felt as though she were half-gone, as if a veil lay between her and the rest of the world.

"Like the Valkyrie," Rei said. Ahead, the lights of the hospital came into view.

"No, not a Valkyrie," Skye said with a smile. "I've met one, and I'm nothing like her."

Rei blinked but didn't argue. "Thank you again... I can't say it enough."

"Take care of your daughter and yourself. You have to be there for her," Skye said, and left, before she betrayed herself by saying more.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Skye loved to fly. It gave her a sense of peace like nothing else; the chill brush of air, the solitude of the height and the freedom of movement gave her a sense of peace. However, it impacted her patrolling; she could miss things at the speeds that she moved at, and so high off the ground. So she limited her patrolling in the air, keeping things closer to the ground.

Again, the others had gone home, to their beds. Alone, Skye continued her work, her task given to her by birth. She wasn't happy about it, but neither was she sad. One of the first things she had forced herself to accept was that her mother hadn't died because Skye had been chosen. Her mother had been killed because demons were evil, because they liked to hurt people. It didn't matter that her mother likely had been targeted for special treatment, and likely had died because of Skye; if the high schooler allowed herself to believe that, she'd collapse into a spiral of guilt.

So she allowed herself this one lie: her mother was dead because demons were assholes.

Skye passed the mouth of an alley and glanced down it, then turned to head down it. It was dark and enclosed, the perfect place to trap someone who couldn't fly. Demons would love something like this. She stance was cautious but fearless as she stepped into the darkness.

Her diligence paid off. Further up the alley, a large form bent over a smaller; Skye frowned as she realized she was too late for the human, but at least she could kill the demon. "Surrender," she spat at the monster, "or die."

The Cerberus was smaller than others she had seen, but that didn't change the flutter of concern Skye felt. Still, she was confident that unless something went truly wrong, she'd be victorious. She raised her shielding fan and waited for the usual barking insult.

"I will surrender to you."

Skye stopped, blinking. "What?" she asked dumbly.

The Cerberus sat on its hunches. "I will surrender to you." It licked blood off its lips, its half-eaten victim still at its feet.

Skye stared, unsure what to do. A demon had done the impossible. It had given itself up to her, but now what did she do with it? They didn't have a prison for them. "Why would you do that?"

"Because I value my existence more than my freedom," it said to her, and even made the comment sound reasonable. "You and yours have killed many of my kind. I have no wish to join them."

Skye was still frozen. Finally, she said, "Renounce the power you gained through that pact, the one that made you like this." She was sure that would work, that would trip it up.

"I renounce my power," it said, dipping a head.

"Nothing's changed," Skye said after a moment. "You're still a demon."

"I have the power I have," it said. "I am your prisoner, and will gain no more."

That was it, the thing she'd been waiting for; with a shout of command, Skye attacked. It fought back, but she was stronger and able to get into the air, beyond the reach of its bite. With her airborne superiority, Skye cut down her surrendered prisoner.

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