“Alright, you dumbasses! Time to take these pigs!” Greed screeched from the High Hill.
I looked over towards him from where I knelt in the grass with Tenshi. “Sunhigh already?” I grouched. I didn’t want to go see Greed after what had just happened. But at least after rocking and cradling Tenshi back and forth for a while, she had stopped crying and was starting to stand to her feet.
Her eyes were tired and defeated. “Come on, then,” she sighed, patting the grass off her knees. “Let’s go.”
“Tenshi…” I started, standing up and giving her an unsure glance. “You don’t have any souls to take today, right?”
She looked at me with confusion as her eyes flicked back and forth between mine. “N-no…?”
I placed my hands around her arms and sighed. “Then why don’t you stay here today?” I didn’t want to risk her getting hurt… especially if Hate came to take the souls.
Her eyes grew wide and confused even further.
“I just… I want you to stay here and rest, alright?” I cupped her cheek in my hand. “You said you didn’t sleep all that well, right? You should take a little nap.”
I felt her heart twinge with distress. “You don’t want me to come because I’m worthless…”
Pity fused with panic erupted in my chest. “No! Tenshi, that’s not– I’m just worried about you! You’re plenty useful!”
“How?” she croaked, averting her gaze down and away from mine. “I can’t help anyone. I can’t even take souls!”
I cupped the other side of her face with my other hand and turned her back towards me. “Hey! It’s not your fault nobody with your sin has died yet! That’s good if you ask me! And besides you… you help me!”
A faint curiosity perked in her eyes.
“I don’t know what I’d do without you, Tenshi!” My heart beat faster as thoughts of her raced through my head, and my chest swelled with an overwhelming feeling that I had no idea how to explain. I had no words to describe what it felt like, but I wanted her to know they were there. Hands still cupped around her cheeks, I wrapped them around the back of her head and brought her head down onto my chest, squeezing her tightly into a hug. “I don’t know what I’d do without you,” my voice croaked.
I felt Tenshi’s heart flutter in her chest as it was engulfed in everything I felt for her. Everything I felt that I didn’t know how to say, feelings I didn’t even know exactly what to call, and yet I felt them. And I let her feel them too.
Trembling, she wrapped her arms around my back and pressed herself even closer to me. Her heartbeat steadied as my emotions comforted her sorrows, beating in time with mine as it began to swell back with just as much of the feeling that mine was giving.
She swallowed and muttered, “Okay.”
“You’ll stay here and rest?” I asked, starting to stroke her hair.
Squeezing to me tightly as though not wanting to let go, she nodded. “Be careful.”
For some reason that amused me, and I let out a faint sigh of a laugh. “I’ll try not to piss them off with my face,” I assured her.
She laughed a little and pulled away, looking up to me with soft eyes. “Promise you’ll come back in one piece today?” She asked, concern filling her gaze.
I stroked the back of her head and smiled. “Well, I’ll try to.”
“Love!!!” A crackled, angry voice spat from the distance. “Where the hell are you?!”
With a sigh, I backed away from Tenshi. “That’s my cue,” I said, giving her one final glance before heading my way over towards the High Hill.
“Enzan!” She called after a second. I turned around to face her. “Thank you,” she whispered, soft, prawn eyes glistening.
Smiling, I let the warm thump in my chest be her welcome, and then I turned and made my way over to Greed, where I hoped I’d be able to walk away with my face still attached.
“Love!” He barked as I made my way up the High Hill. “Where the hell have you been? Come on, we gotta take these stupid things!” He narrowed his gaze confusedly at me for a moment. “Wait… where’s your sheep?”
I swallowed the lump in my throat. “Resting. She has no souls to take today.”
He snorted. “Like she ever does… Hell, I don’t even care. Let’s just take these things and go!”
“Wait!” Envy interrupted. “Where’s Hate?”
We all glanced around the group, but Hate was nowhere to be found. Greed turned his attention to the North West corner of the field where Hate usually stayed. Sure enough, a little gray lump still sat curled in a ball, facing out towards the fence.
“HATE!!!” Greed yapped. “What are you doing way over there?! Come on!!!”
Hate showed no response. I doubt he even realized what time of day it was…
“Damn, somebody go get him! And go get him fast before Kaid shows up, sheesh!”
“No!” I found myself yell before thinking. They all turned to me confused and curious. “Ah.. d-don’t bother him.”
Greed growled and narrowed his gaze suspiciously at me. “What, are we just going to leave his sloppy souls up in the sky for Kaid to spit at? I don’t think so! Somebody go get Hate!”
“No!!” I protested again. I could guess just how horribly that would go down for everyone, not just myself. “I… I’ll take them.”
Surprise lit their eyes. “You?” Anger spat. “Well why does Hate get a break? I don’t want to take my souls today!”
“Shut up, Anger! Who does want to take them?” Envy hissed, bonking him on the back of the head.
He hissed and clutched to his head. “Well, obviously Love does if he’s offering to take Hate’s, doesn’t he?!”
A mischievous idea sparked from behind Greed’s eyes. “Yes, Love does seem to want to take the souls, doesn’t he?” He took a few paces closer to me and sneered. “Well, in that case, why don’t you just take all of them?”
I suppressed a low growl in the back of my throat. I really didn’t want to get caught up in any violence today. “I’m only going to take Hate’s souls today because he isn’t well.”
“More like just to kiss his ass!” Pride jabbed.
“Yeah! I want Love to kiss my ass and take my souls too!” Anger huffed.
Envy snorted at the remark. “Anger, you need to think about what you say before you say it.”
“What? Oh, shut up, you priss! You know what I meant!” He glared at her, embarrassment sparking beneath his harsh stare.
“Don’t call me that!” She growled back.
“Shut up, both of you!” Greed yapped. “I don’t even care, let’s just make Love take the stupid souls and be on our merry ways! Sound good?”
Me? Take all of the souls? I flicked my glance upward at a sky hazed with blackened, purple souls, bickering and barking at each other. “I’m only taking mine and Hate’s souls. I refuse to take a single other.” Their liking to the idea of me doing all the work was downright slothful. Which I could understand for, well, Sloth, but come on!
“Don’t you defy my orders!” Greed growled. Stalking closer until we stood nearly face-to-face, he curled his lips in the beginning of a hiss. The only noise that rolled off his tongue, however, wasn’t a hiss at all, but an absurd kind of whistle, like air squeezing out through a tiny hole. Greed doubled over and dry-coughed into his hand from the weird sensation.
The others in the circle snickered and laughed at the funny noise Greed made. “That was such a terrifying noise, Greed!” Envy goaded. “Love must be scared shitless!” Laugher erupted among them.
Greed straightened himself, wheezing, and yowled in frustration. “Fuck off, all of you!” he spat. “Do you want me to make Love take your damn souls for you or not?!”
That shut them up instantly.
“I thought so!” Turning his attention back to me, he narrowed his gaze and let out a low grumble in his throat. “Do it,” he demanded.
I was torn between the urge to spit in his face or to simply take mine and Hate’s souls and leave the rest of them there on the High Hill to do it themselves. “Make me,” I spat after a second or two of harsh staring.
That was probably the worst possible thing I could have said out of all the things I could have said.
He sneered. “Gladly.” Snapping his fingers, he beaconed Gluttony to circle around behind me, like some kind of unspoken signal.
I whirled around to face Gluttony creeping up on me with wide open, chubby arms and bristled my wings defensively. There was no way I was going to let this go down like it had yesterday.
“Take them!” Greed yapped. “Take them or I’ll beat you ’til you do!”
I stood there for another moment, silent between the two of them. I really just didn’t want to deal with this today… and I promised Tenshi I wouldn’t get my face smashed in. Or at least that I would try not to. “Fine,” I caved.
Greed’s expression jerked with both surprise and something like disappointment. “What?”
I turned around and stared at him, disgust blaring on my face. “I will take them.”
“All of them?” He squinted, still hungry for a refusal that would give him the excuse to throttle me again.
“All of them.”
My conformity bothered him, even though I was obeying his orders. He just wanted to beat me up. “Well then… do it!”
With a deep, heavy sigh, I brushed past Greed’s shoulder and stood in the pile of sand at the center of the High Hill, where Izanagi’s body had first returned to dust. The others stared at me curiously as I shifted my toes through the soft grains. They hadn’t expected me to agree with Greed so easily either. It was much less fun for them this way, I guessed.
I really didn’t want to do this. Giving another glance to the sky, I closed my eyes and tried to estimate just how many there were up there. Thousands again. I really just didn’t want to do this, but if the pain of taking them all at once didn’t kill me, they would.
I reached my arm up to the sky, reluctantly. This was a lot of souls for me to take by myself… far more than I had taken on my first day here. Never the less, my palm began to glow a dark, ominous purple, and I commenced the hideous process.
Memories blurred past my vision, bickering and whining rattled my mind as the souls continued to fight with each other and screech for mercy from the depths of Hell, and my body trembled from the massive amounts of spiritual energy I was burning.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to take them all at once like I had before. Even though over the past few days I could feel myself becoming used to the technique, I didn’t feel as though I had enough energy in me to take them all.
My body didn’t seem to think so either. The longer I stood there burning energy, the more I shook and trembled, until the simple act of holding up my arm became difficult.
“What’s the matter, Love? Too much for you?” Someone’s snark voice pierced through my concentration. Snickers echoed around me.
Frustration and anger built up inside my chest at their remarks. As if any of them could even hope to take as many at once as I was! They knew how difficult taking souls was!
“He looks like he’s gonna pass out!”
“Shaking like a stupid kitten!”
“I bet he won’t last ten more seconds!”
“More like five!”
Their laughed jabbed at me inside the circle as though I was some sort of animal they were throwing stones at. Anger blared even more fiercely within me as each stone they threw bruised my flesh. Barely able to focus, my anger seemed to bring about the strength for me to keep going. More than just keep going; it gave me the energy to thrive.
“Shut up!!” I growled at them. My eyes still shut tight and energy jumping out of me in bounds, I flung up my other arm into the air. Suddenly, new waves of energy seemed to well up within me, and burst out as my other arm joined in the taking of the souls. Memories flashed twice as fast through my vision, becoming nothing more than a mesh of flickering color. I hissed as their painful bickering grew even louder and their cries even more pathetic.
My head began to throb. There was so much pressure from the voices and the memories and my energy that every part of me began to ache. How many more of these were there to take?
Within instances of the thought, the voices ran dry, and a familiar expanse of white engulfed me once more. No not this again. Facing the brim of Hell once was quite enough for me. I threw down my arms before its flames had the chance to tug at my ankles.
Catching my breathe, I looked up to the sky. Under a dozen souls remained, floating around lost and panicked.
“Ha! He couldn’t take them all, huh? Guess he isn’t as high as he makes himself out to be!” Greed jabbed.
His comment infuriated me. Exhausted as I was, I whirled around and stared him squarely in the eyes, boiling with rage. I was so angry, I couldn’t even think of words to say how angry I was, so instead I yowled. Yowled and hissed and spat as I tore at his robes.
Greed was taken aback by my reaction, and fear flashed in his eyes for a moment before he backed away from me. “Sheesh! Someone can’t control his temper!”
I couldn’t control my temper?! I clenched my fists. I knew Tenshi didn’t want me to fight, but Greed was being too much of a bastard. My palms began to glow once again, and the air around me shifted out in waves of wind as I surfaced more Spiritual Energy from within me somehow.
That seemed to spook them and they stepped back away from me. The flash of fear in Greed’s eyes surfaced again, and he fought to choke it down with a sneer. “Oooooh, I think I hit your sassy-little-bitch bone!”
I had no such kinds of bones in my body! “Fuck off,” I gritted through my teeth, reaching out to grasp Greed by the neck of his robes.
He flung his arms up jokingly in defense. “Oh, please don’t hurt me, ma’am!”
That was it. Raising a fist, I slugged him straight on the nose, spiritual energy raging through my limbs. Greed yowled and stumbled back, clutching to his face. He attempted to hiss, but nothing but his whistling sound came out, mixed with a variety of spits and curses. “Don’t make me say it again!” I warned.
Greed, nose now pouring with blood, gave me an angry glance. “I’ll say whatever the hell I want to say!”
I raised my fist again. Greed shrank back, spitting and wiping at the blood streaming down his face. “Forget you!” he growled. “You can deal with Kaid yourself!” And with that he turned and stumbled away.
“Some leader you are!” I spat without thinking again. Greed flinched and stopped dead in his tracks. “Abandoning us? What kind of leader abandons his duties? What kind of leader is too lazy to do his job and makes someone else do it for him? What kind of leader–“
I was cut off by a pair of blazing red eyes whirling around and lashing out at me, growling. Greed’s temper was far shorter than mine was. Before I could even acknowledge what was happening, we were on the ground, wrestling and scratching at each other in blind fury. The others around us yammered and squawked in amusement and startled gasps as Greed and I scratched and spat curses at each other.
“Go to Hell, Love!”
“You go first!”
Cackles hissed out around us, amused at our pathetic mesh of writhing bodies clawing and barking at each other. Suddenly, a loud noise erupted through the air, strong, fierce, and perhaps somewhat angry. DONG, DONG, DONG went the cross-shaped bell above the church. Within seconds, Kaid was forming out of the pile of Izanagi’s sand, and prying Greed and I apart forcefully.
“Stop this foolishness this instant!” He boomed. Silence shuddered around us. “Such crude behavior. I will not stand by and allow this. You are neglecting your duties.”
Our gazes shifted to the sky where the few souls still floated around, lost in their own misery.
“I have no say in the matter of the means you choose to take the souls, but I do require that you complete the job as ordered.” He released us from his grasp.
Greed snorted, wiping at the blood still dripping from his nose and averted his eyes from Kaid. “He started it,” he huffed as he rubbed at the scratches and burns along his arms.
“I do not care who ‘started’ it. The troubling matter is the failure to complete your task.” He reached out an arm into the sky and swiftly took the remaining souls. “I am required to report this to Izanagi. Please do try and redeem yourselves tomorrow.” He took a few steps back into the pile of remaining sand. “And do try to behave yourselves.” And with that, his body fell to dust and his spirit returned to the bell above the church.
We stood in silence a moment longer. “It’s Love’s fault we got in trouble,” Greed scoffed.
“My fault?! This wouldn’t have happened if you all hadn’t been too lazy to take your own damn souls!”
We stared at each other, anger and hatred battling between our eyes.
“Stop fussing! You two are like catty little girls, up each other’s butts and pulling each other’s hair,” Envy spat at us.
Greed gave her a look of absolute disgust. The others just laughed.
“I’m done with you, Love! Just… go back to your stupid sheep already and cuddle like the fat kitten you are! That’s an order!” He turned and stalked away, slapping Envy in the face as he went, to which she responded with a mocking hiss by whistling.
I was okay with this order for once. As the others began to disperse and go their separate ways, I let out a sigh. Tired from having wasted so much energy and aching from my fight with Greed. I couldn’t go back to Tenshi with all of these scratches… perhaps I should just wait here until they heal, then Tenshi would never really know that I got into a fight with Greed again, right…?
Not right. I didn’t like it when she hid things from me, so… I knew I had to face her regardless. Reluctantly, I made my way back over to the tree towards her.
She was sleeping. Softly and soundly on her side in the grass. Getting down to my knees, I came and laid beside her. She was so smooth and beautiful. I just wanted to hold her forever. I didn’t want to wake her, however, so I just watched as her chest rose and fell and her tiny little nose let out little breathes of air. She was just too utterly adorable to resist. I wanted to hold her and cuddle like the fat kitten I was.
Scooting closer to her, I gingerly placed my head on top of hers, nuzzling her head in my neck, and wrapped my arm around her. She stirred for a moment, shifting slightly and drinking in a gulp of air. She lifted her nose and bumped my chin a few times. “Enzan…?” she asked groggily, eyes still closed and drawing up a hand to my chest. “Is that you?”
I rubbed her back in response. “Maybe I am and maybe I’m not.”
She smiled. “Yes you are. You sound like Enzan, and you smell like Enzan.”
I didn’t know I had a smell.
“What is the smell of me?” I asked.
She took in another sniff of air. “You smell… like Enzan,” she said, yawning.
“Well I am glad I smell like me.”
“What do I smell like?” she asked.
“Tenshi smells like Tenshi,” I said. “Oh, and flowers.”
“Flowers?” She peeped, opening her eyes and leaning back to look at me. “What kind of flowers?”
I didn’t know what different kinds of flowers smelled like… “Like… all the flowers,” I said.
She laughed again, pressing her head back into my neck. “Okay. I like flowers!”
“Me too,” I said. “They are pretty, just like Tenshi!”
I felt her smile, and she squished closer to me. “Enzan, you’re so sweet. And you smell sweet too!”
“Aww, haha! Well according to Greed I’m a fat, cuddly kitten now too.”
“Well, you are the best fat, cuddly kitten I know,” she teased, wrapping her arm around my shoulder. “So how did it go today? With the souls that is?” she asked.
“Ah…” I didn’t really want to answer this question.
She leaned back suspiciously and looked at me with wide eyes. “Did you get into another fight?”
“K-kind of, ah–“
She took a closer look at me and noticed all the scratches along my arms. “Enzan, you are scratchied up all over the place!” she wailed.
“I know, I know! I didn’t mean to fight, but… Greed was being so frustrating!”
Disappointment and sympathy shone in her eyes. “What did he do?”
“He… he made me take all of the souls!” I gave her a pouty face.
“All of them??” she gasped in shock. “All by yourself??”
“Yeah! And then when I couldn’t take them all, Greed poked fun at me!”
“But that’s so mean!” She wailed.
“Yeah I know! So I punched him.”
“Enzan!” she scoffed, pawing at my face, sounding somewhat amused. “Punching is mean too!”
I squished my lips at her. “Only sometimes….”
She took her hand and pinched my cheeks together so that my lips were even squishier. “No, all times!”
“Ohkey, ohkey, all timeth,” I said through fish-lips.
She laughed and let my face go. Taking her hand she brushed it across my face and stroked some of the black strands in my hair. I watched her, amused, as she started to play with the strands, lifting them into the air and letting them flap back down to my head repeatedly.
What in the world was the point of this? I couldn’t help but smile from how silly she was being. The silliest of sillies, even. I had to tell her how silly she was. “Tenshi, you’re silly.”
She continued to play with my hair. “Enzan is sillier,” she smiled.
“NU UUUUH! I’m not the one playing with hair!” I teased.
She let another patch fall to my head and giggled. “I can’t help it, you are so soft!”
“Oh, now it makes sense!” I laughed.
“Of course it does,” she grinned, taking another batch of strands and flicking them into the air. “Soft as a kitten!”
“The fattest and the cuddliest of kittens,” I reminded her.
We laid together and giggled for a while at how my rank had exceeded calf and upgraded to fat kitten instead, according to Greed. I was making such progress in his eyes.
She took a deep breath to regain herself and started to stroke the little black strands of hair. “Enzan…?”
“How come only some of your hair is black?”
I stared at her blankly for a moment. I’d often wondered that myself. “Uh… I don’t know. Why?”
She started gently passing her fingers through my bangs, fixing her eyes on them. “I wonder why it isn’t all white like mine… or all black like theirs.”
“Well I… what difference does it make?” I looked at her confused. Tipping her gaze down to mine, her eyes were filled with unsaid thoughts. I wondered what she was thinking. Was it weird that my hair was half black and half white? Not one or the other? What did that mean? “I-is that bad??”
“Of course not!” she exclaimed. “Nothing is wrong with Enzan at all!”
I wasn’t so sure now. I sat up and scratched at my hair self-consciously. Pulling at my bangs, I tried to catch a glimpse of the white strands, but they were too far back on my head for me to see. I just simply knew they were there and that they were white, I couldn’t see them… but they were there.
“Stop fretting!” She nagged, getting up and taking my hands down from where they were pulling at my head. “There’s nothing wrong with it, silly! It makes you more special!”
I had a hard time swallowing what she said. She seemed to be the only one who thought so. I sighed and looked down to the tendrils of black hair that brushed off the sides of my face. Pure black. All I could ever see was the black. The color of the demons.
But for some reason, when everyone else looked at me, all they saw was the white. The abnormal, snow white that had made them single me out from the very beginning and shun me. They shunned and hated me even more so than Tenshi, and her hair was more white than mine was. I was glad that they weren’t as hostile against her as they were to me, but…
I looked up to her, uncertainty pooling up in my eyes. I’d never considered the fact that it might not be just because I had white in my hair… but because I had both white and black.
Why was I so different from everyone else?
Tenshi’s eyes beamed with regret. “I shouldn’t have made you think of sad things!” she choked, voice beginning to hiccup.
I felt her heart begin to pound in her chest as sadness welled within her. “No, Tenshi, don’t be sad! I won’t think of sad things anymore, okay?” I gave her a weak smile.
She didn’t look convinced. “I’m sorry!” she croaked.
“Tensh–” She flung her arms around my neck and trembled. “I like Enzan’s hair! Every single last strand! I like you just the way you are! You’re kindness, you’re courage, your pointy nose and your sweet smell! And every single last one of your hairs!”
Her heart swelled and pushed against mine, speeding up my heartbeat to match hers and giving into the comfort of her embrace. I buried my nose into her shoulder and wrapped my arms around her back. If I was an abnormal freak, at least there was one person who liked me that way. That was good enough for me. One was all I needed; she was all I needed.
With a sigh, I closed my eyes and let my worries settle back down in my mind. That’s right, I didn’t need anybody else but her. “Thank you, Tenshi…” I mumbled into her shoulder.
Her only response was to press herself closer to me, as she lifted an arm and began to tenderly stroke her fingers through the ruffled out hair on the back of my head.
I let my head droop onto her shoulder at her soothing touch, and took in a deep breath of her sweet, flowery scent. Exhaustion from my rampage a few minutes past was sinking in, and I could feel myself drifting to sleep on her shoulder, head buried in a smooth, soft blanket of snowy white locks.
Tenshi was the only one I needed.