[identity profile] stormymood.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] arashi_exchange
A piece of rainbow for [livejournal.com profile] renchan27 Part 1


Title: Knowing You’re Worth It (aka Ohmiya Mortal Instruments AU)
Pairing: Ohno Satoshi/Ninomiya Kazunari
Rating/Warnings: NC-17 (Sex and some gore-ey action. Not simultaneously.)
Summary: Nino and his best friend Aiba are Shadowhunters and the Heads of the Tokyo Institute. Nino leads a pretty average Shadowhunter life: Fighting demons. Keeping the world safe. Filing bureaucratic paperwork for The Clave. Meeting Ohno Satoshi, a simple yet oddly mysterious man, changes Nino’s life for what he hopes is the better.
Notes: Dear renchan, you gave amazing prompts. I was conflicted about which one to write but got really inspired and then carried away with this one. I’ve taken a lot of creative license with the universe so I hope it doesn’t ruin the fic for you. I’ve tried to write it so that people not familiar with the verse can also read it and understand what’s going on (but I wrote an intro to MI anyway). A big thank you to my beta reader A-san who is neither in the MI nor Arashi fandom but has held my hand through the entirety of this fic. It’s the longest fic I’ve ever written on sole authorship and would have definitely died/dropped out if not for them.
Intro to the Mortal Instruments Universe:
The Shadow World exists alongside the human world hidden in plain sight using glamours or are invisible on default?!? So much about this Universe I don’t get.
Glamours are basically voodoo magic making things appearing to be other things.
Demons are evil and exist.
Shadowhunters/the Nephilim are angel-human hybrid demon warriors. Basically, human beings with the ability to fight and do a limited amount of magic (aka acquire superhuman powers). Runes are symbols they draw with steles (kind of like wands) to be able to have superhuman powers. Runes, usually invisible to mundanes can look like tattos.
Downworlders are hybrids of any combo of demon + human/angel or all three. Basically every creature: werewolf, vampires, warlocks, faeries and the rest fall under this.
Human beings are called mundanes because why not.
parabatai are supremely-bonded Shadowhunter warrior pair- yes premise for all the ghei feels
The Clave is like some strange Nephilim governing body that seems to do more harm than good usually. Idris is the hidden country for Nephilim.
The void is the parallel demon world where demons live.
Magnus bane is the High Warlock of Brooklyn. Valentine Morgenstern is evil.



Of course, Nino thought wryly, of fucking course, this place turned into a dance club after 11pm. No way could Aiba, energized from a night out demon hunting, ‘just sit down and drink at a restaurant Nino, pleeeaaasseee.’ This was Nino’s fault really for believing Aiba and his well-meaning manipulative heart; he deserved house music blasting in his ears and people sweating all over him as they leaned over to get drinks. His only solace was that this place served really delicious drinks, generous with the alcohol, and so he was already a little buzzed on his second drink. In fact, he was a little glad that Aiba was probably letting out his energy so that Nino wouldn’t have to deal with it later.

Yes, Nino thought licking the sugar off his lips, this is for the best.

The problem was that it was so loud that it was a little hard for Nino to be in his head. He needed to think. He needed to think about so many things. Things like paperwork, diplomatic meetings, demon killing, patrol delegation and which of those he absolutely needed to do tomorrow and how late he could justify sleeping in after battling five demons between two Shadowhunters tonight. Aiba was an amazing Shadowhunter but a shit administrative worker, so as the co-head of the Tokyo Institute that responsibility fell almost entirely on Nino.

Nino just needed to think: some thoughts, some work thoughts, certainly not thoughts about the man spacing out two stools down from him, tucked into a corner, ploughing through drink after drink like his stomach was some kind of alcohol abyss. There’s a couple making out next to him, taking up the two stools between them. A part of Nino, the shy sober part of him, is glad that they’re there so that there is some sort of obstruction between him and the man. He’s glad he can stare, at the man’s slightly downturn profile, his pouted lips and rounded cheeks. Nino is rather enjoying the way his short dark hair is curling towards his ears, but doesn’t quite reach it. His ears, look nice too, soft, like Nino could just lean across and nuzzle into his neck and press kisses into his-

-a glass clinks down in front of him.

He jumps up at the bartender suddenly standing directly in front of him, pushing a drink towards him, a clear blue one, ‘I didn’t—

‘Courtesy of the gentleman down there.’ He grabs the drink first because ohmygosh free drink!!!!! and then turns to his left to see that the couple making out is gone and there is a clear line of sight to the man previously spacing out. Right now, he’s raising his glass, clear blue like the one he gave Nino, with a tiny smirk on his face; like he knows exactly what Nino was thinking about before the drink came his way. Nino gawks at him for a while before he has the presence of mind to raise his own glass and gulping half of it down.

It burns on the way down but doesn’t feel too bitter on his tongue. Tequila, Nino thinks, and blueberry. Nino can feel the fruity aftertaste after a few seconds, wonders if this will be enough fruit to get Sho off his back about vitamins. He’s distracted from the image of Sho trying to shove orange juice down his throat by a sudden warmth next to him. He’s rather proud of how he doesn’t freak out by the sudden proximity of the man he really, really wants to make out with.

He gives in, leans in, suddenly a little nervous about how his breathe is probably just a gust of Tequila at this point, and whispers, ‘thank you’

Lovely, simple, to the point.

Nino is so proud of himself.

His suaveness earns him a slight giggle and the man leans in closer, closing the gap between them just that much more. Nino’s glad that his breath comes as a gust of tequila as well. Nino likes tequila, loves tequila in fact. He is sure they are just going to keep leaning in until their mouths land on each other. He likes this, this is a brilliant future for him.

The man whispers, ‘you’re welcome.’

Nino stops for a second and giggles, which sends the other giggling as well. Is it really this easy with people? Nino usually hates people, hates talking to them, hates how they have one nose and two holes just sticking out of their faces. But Nino likes the nose that’s almost pressed against his cheek. He can see it protruding out straight and curling down like the beak of a tiny, tiny bird and it is just so cute.

Nino admits, he might be just a tiny bit drunk. So of course, he needs to be even more drunk. So he finishes off the rest of his drink before giggling again and saying, ‘S’good.’ The man’s face lightens up as he pushes his unfinished glass towards Nino, gesturing to the bartender to give him another one.

‘Yeah?’ he asks.

Nino takes the glass obediently-free drink!!!- and drinks, ‘Yeah.’

When the man smiles, Nino’s head spins a little, ‘I’m glad you like it. You were staring at it really intensely.’

‘That’s not what I was staring at.’

The air suddenly gets a little heavy between them and Nino’s stomach is churning. He’s either going to throw up or propose to-to-to-he doesn’t really know what to call him. But it doesn’t matter anymore because everything about the guy in front of him comes into sudden focus, his uneven eyebrows, sweeping lashes, down to the hair follicles on his cheekboneless cheeks.

‘Yeah?’ he whispers and the breath lands on Nino’s lips.

‘Yeah.’ Nino says before softly closing the distance between them. Nino feels a smile against his lips before the other guy snorts and breaks the chaste kiss. He moves away just barely so that he can thread his fingers through Nino’s hair. Nino is pulled into a more insistent, definitely more satisfying kiss.

Nino’s stomach seems to settle down a bit as one of his hands finds purchase on the other man’s shoulder. He’s able to leverage himself a little better then, pushing into the kiss and tilting his head so that the slide of their lips is easier. Nino sighs then, getting comfortable, and is a little surprised at the press of a tongue against his lips.

Nino can’t help moan at that, allowing the tongue inside. A little stupidly, he thinks about how nice this is. It’s been awhile, not just kissing a stranger but having butterflies in his stomach, feeling giddy with excitement and not just over whether half the Clave was going to be executed or not. When he’s pulled in closer with a hand on his waist, Nino teeters on the edge of his seat, desperate to get closer, wrapping both his arms around the man’s shoulders.

It’s been awhile since Nino’s been wanted.

He breaks the kiss for a quick breath, only to dive back in like he couldn’t get enough of the other man’s mouth, and he realizes that it’s been awhile since he’s wanted someone too.

As engrossed as Nino was, his sharpened Shadowhunter senses felt the immense ball of energy hurtling towards him even before Aiba had collided into them with his obnoxiously happy giggle and a ‘Woooooo, Ninoooooooooooo I thought you’d be sulking all night.’

Nino wants to snap at Aiba for breaking up a mind blowing make out session but he can’t help being affected by the pure joy emanating off Aiba. To his horror though Aiba pulls the guy he’d been making out with into a hug as he says, ‘Thank you for breaking his dry spell.’

The man looks at Aiba for a second, realizes he’s being completely serious and to Nino’s relief doesn’t walk out on them. Instead, he pats Aiba’s hand around his middle and says, also completely seriously, ‘You’re welcome. It’s my pleasure.’

Nino has a sinking feeling as he looks at how comfortable the two are with each other. The last time Aiba had approved of one of his partners, they had convinced him to dye not just his hair but also his eyebrows blonde.

‘Nino! This is Maureen.’ Aiba gestures to his side with his head because to Nino’s horror his arms are still wrapped around the guy Nino was making out with. Nino finally notices the girl with bushy, curly hair standing next to them. She waves shyly and Aiba finally, finally turns his attention to his own hook up, leaning towards her and kissing her on the cheek, ‘Maureen is-’ Aiba stops for a moment, Nino can see Aiba working through his drunken haze to compute the fact that they are in a mundane club so he can’t just blurt out his true identity. ‘Maureen can see my tats!’ he settles on finally.

That was the signal that someone could see the scars from his runes, which only people from the Shadow World could see. Nino nods at Aiba knowingly. Mundanes, like Nino’s hook up, couldn’t see the scars because Nino and Aiba were hiding them with glamors.

Trust Aiba to find someone from the Shadow world in a mundane bar, ‘So she’s coming home with me-us!-to-uh-see them more closely. Do you want to come?’ The last question Aiba directs at the guy-Nino still doesn’t know his name. Nino wants to hit Aiba, there’s no way he can bring the guy back to the Institute and reveal the entirety of the Shadow World to him. But he wants to continue making out with him so much so that he thinks paying for a memory erasing spell might be worth it.

He shakes that thought off.

‘To see your tats?’ The guy asks with a sly smirk at Aiba. Nino bristles and wants to point out to him that Aiba has a date already. He wants to remind him that a few seconds ago, it was Nino’s face he was glued to. So clearly he’s committed to only flirting with Nino tonight.

‘No silly! To see Nino’s!’

‘You have tats?’ This one is directed at Nino who at this point just wants to lay his drunk head onto the counter and possibly expire there. Instead, he says, ‘I don’t!’

‘Aaaah’ He looks a little disappointed. Unfortunately, catching onto this Aiba is quick to rectify the situation, ‘But! He has other things you can look at.’

‘Rea~~lly?’ He’s smirking at Nino now and Nino knows that somewhere in his future this man and Aiba will lead him to his death. But he finally bestows mercy on Nino’s mortification, ‘I’d love to look at Nino’s otherthings.’ His lips curl around Nino, like he’s trying the name out and likes it. He realizes that he’s never really told the other man his name either. Nino feels a little lightheaded from the way his name sounds on his lips, ‘But I have to get going.’

Wait. What?

Before Nino can say or do anything else--stop him, get his number, throw his body at him, offer Aiba’s kidney in exchange for a date – the man has slid out of his seat and disappeared through the crowd.

Aiba looks a little stunned and then says guiltily, ‘Sorry?’

Nino just shakes his head at Aiba in a way that he hopes is reassuring and not angry, ‘It’s okay.’ He turns to Aiba’s date and can’t help but bite back his disappointment at the flash of her beautiful brown eyes, ‘Let’s go Maureen.’

Aiba disappears with Maureen as soon as they arrive at the Institute. He can hear Aiba’s giggles and occasionally Maureen’s from the general vicinity of the second floor. Nino hopes that Aiba hasn’t stumbled into his room by mistake again. Unlike Nino, Aiba scores a lot which is fine since Aiba tries harder and his net is much more far-reaching. Usually if Nino meets someone attractive enough to wonder if Aiba has slept with them or will sleep with them, he probably already has or will. Nino obviously doesn’t have a problem with Aiba’s promiscuity, he’s just seen Aiba’s bare ass much more often that he’d like. He also doesn’t get how Aiba can be so indiscriminate. He can see someone and decide he wants to sleep with them without wanting to know more about who they are. Aiba never stopped to wonder if they were Downworlders. It’s probably because even if they were, Aiba wouldn’t care.

He certainly doesn’t care that Maureen is one.

Not that Nino cares either. Aiba can sleep with whoever he wants. But they just don’t know that much about Maureen. She could be dangerous.

He stops to grab a bottle of water from the fridge and takes two aspirins from the medicine cabinet. He grabs the entire bottle to take to his room just in case he needs it in the morning. Feeling slightly proud at how practical he’s being despite everything spinning around, Nino stumbles to his room and flops onto his bed, waiting for the head rush to subside before shedding off his clothes and curling around his blanket.

His phone dings then.

From: Ohno Satoshi
Hope you got home okay~~

Nino is confused for a bit, before he realizes Ohno must be the man from the bar.

The man he made out with at the bar.

The fact that he should find this really creepy crosses his mind for a second but for some reason it fits Ohno perfectly. Mostly he’s just happy to have his number. And now a name to put to the fantasies he most certainly will be having.

To: Ohno Satoshi
I did. Good night, creeper.

From: Ohno Satoshi
I must have put my name wrong in your phone ;)

Nino manages a chuckle before drifting off to sleep. It doesn’t bother him that he doesn’t know much about Ohno Satoshi either.

~*~

Nino doesn’t really have a headache per say but he wakes up feeling like he’s been run over by a truck. He’s pretty sure it has more to do with the consecutive late nights he’s been pulling over the sudden influx of demon activity in Tokyo rather than last night’s drinking.

He trudges down the stairs to see Aiba and Sho already in fighting gear. Before Nino can start stripping, Sho shoves a plate of eggs at him, ‘Take your weekend, Nino. We’re handling this.’

Normally, Nino would argue but he is pretty sure that the only thing he’d be able to do in a fight right now is be a Nephilim shield. Maybe with a strength rune Aiba would be able to hurl him at a demon like a weapon, possibly bludgeoning it to death. Otherwise, his arms feel like noodles at his side and he’s feeling sluggish, his brain processing information at a snail's pace.

‘So what’s the deal?’ He decides to let Sho and Aiba just tell him what needs to be done.

‘Demon activity near Yokohama.’ Aiba looks way too gleeful for someone having to fight after a night of partying. He’s caressing the hilt of his seraph blade, like he can’t wait to use it.

‘And a missing person who’s been found has reportedly stopped eating and leaving home.’ Sho informs him, which makes more sense because Sho hates fighting demons.

‘I’m sure MatsuJun would love you accusing him of turning mundanes into vampires.’

‘I’m not accusing MatsuJun of anything,’ Sho grits his teeth like the thought of MatsuJun disgusts him a little, ‘I’m just following up on intel about a missing person.’ Nino thinks Sho is a little too hard in MatsuJun, the leader of the Tokyo vampire clan. The guy is alright if a little eccentric.

Sho used to live at the Institute with them before the old Heads retired. Due to his natural diplomatic skills and pretty stellar fighting abilities, despite his reluctance to fight, Sho was offered the position as Head. Both Nino and Aiba had thought that was what Sho was aiming for since the very beginning but he had surprised them all by turning down the position and moving out. Now he lives in an apartment close to the Institute and works for Nino and Aiba part-time while simultaneously working as a free-lance journalist. They see him on television sometimes.

‘And that’s why you’re carrying a seraph blade? For intel?’ Sho manages a small smile at Nino’s jibe but before he can respond Aiba has wrapped an affectionate arm around Sho’s shoulder, ‘He’s gonna join me after, for some good old fashioned demon slaying.’

Nino digs into his breakfast with an approving shrug, reassured that neither of them are going to cause a war or get killed.

‘By the way, Yoko called and said the meeting with the werewolf clan needs to be pushed back till later in the evening.’ Aiba informs him.

‘Great. Enough time for you to get back.’

‘Aaaand. For you to find last night’s cutie from the bar.’ Aiba adds suggestively. Even though Sho is trying to act nonchalant and uninterested, Nino can see him perk up in interest.

‘I’m not going to use the latest Shadowhunter technology to stalk a mundane.’

Aiba pouts at him. For some reason Nino doesn’t feel like telling them that he has cutie’s number already. It’s too early for Aiba and Sho to start the big brother act. Mostly Sho, Aiba just wants him to have sex.

‘Man I just want you to have sex.’ Aiba says two seconds after Nino finishes having that thought. Nino sometimes wonders if he’s so connected to the idiot because they’re best friends and have known each other since the beginning of his memory or because they’re parabatai and that’s the curse of having this stupid bond.

Thankfully Sho steps in, ‘Aiba-san, we really need to get going.’

Nino pulls his phone out once they’ve left.

To: Ohno Satoshi
Aiba thinks you’re a cutie.

He doesn’t really expect it but the phone buzzes a minute later.

From: Ohno Satoshi
You’re friend from last night? He’s cute. Do you want to set me up with him?

This bastard. He typed quickly.

To: Ohno Satoshi
No.

He had put in an exclamation point after ‘No’ at first and decided it looked too desperate and ended up using a period instead.

From: Ohno Satoshi
Good…Then? ;)

Nino took a deep breath. Seriously if this guy ditches him again or tells him he’s busy this weekend Nino will just stop. One measly kiss. By measly he means electrifying but...that’s like whatever. Kissing strangers is always like that. Right?

Right???

To: Ohno Satoshi
I’m free this afternoon.

From: Ohno Satoshi
I’m feeding pigeons in Ueno right now.

To: Ohno Satoshi
…And?

From: Ohno Satoshi
You should come.

Nino’s going. Of course, he’s going. Giving into whimsy and in this case, terrible date ideas, is his specialty. After all, Aiba Masaki is his parabatai and best friend and Nino’s willpower is paper-thin. He complains a lot to make up for it. But he doesn’t say that he’s going until he’s there. Ueno is huge so he needs to know Ohno’s exact location and he texts him to ask. Nino hopes Ohno that has been squirming with anticipation up until now, regretting not inviting Nino out to some fancy and expensive restaurant.

But if Ohno is panicking there’s no trace of it either in his reply text which is just the entrance number he’s closest to or his face when Nino sits down next to him.

‘You know only 70 year old retirees do this, right?’ Nino says as way of greeting. Ohno smiles but doesn’t comment further to Nino’s jibe. Damnit, it had taken Sho at least 10 years to learn to not engage with Nino when he was being cheeky and sarcastic. Ohno seems to have figured it out already.

Looking at his expression, as he’s calmly throwing crumbs at pigeons, serenity seems to be his thing. Collecting this tiny bit of knowledge about Ohno is rather exhilarating.

‘Nice to meet you. I’m Ohno Satoshi.’ Ohno says with a pleasant smile on his face. He only looks at Nino briefly before he turns his attention back to the pigeons. And yeah, he is just as beautiful in the daylight as he was in the dim lighting of the club. In a way, Nino’s glad that last night wasn’t all just alcohol. He still can’t explain why three seconds of Ohno’s smile makes him flush. It must be the heat. Even though they’re in the shade the breeze is somewhat muggy. Nino decides he’s getting a hot flash like a pregnant lady, and definitely not blushing because ‘last night’s cutie’ smiled at him.

When the silence stretches, Ohno looks at him again and Nino’s insides squirm. Eventually, Nino realizes, that Ohno was waiting for him to reply to his earlier statement. Ohno wanted Nino to introduce himself so he could find out his name.

Finally, some leverage.

‘You’re not getting my name that easy! I need to be woo-ed.’ Ohno nods, like Nino’s strange reluctance to not tell his date his name is completely expected.

Ohno buys him ice cream.

It’s a relief against the heat but also because it is hot, the ice cream starts dribbling down Nino’s hand and he can’t lick it up fast enough. He’s feeling sticky and gross. Nino wonders idly if this is Ohno wooing him. Ohno, on the other hand, just pops the entire popsicle into his mouth and has appeared to have finished it in 10 seconds. Nino’s ice cream might be melting because he’s too distracted by the knowledge that Ohno probably doesn’t have a gag reflex.

Ohno looks at him distressed for a moment before he pulls Nino’s hand with the ice cream dripping all over it and just starts eating the ice cream, making sure to get the drops from the sides of the cone. And Ohno’s tongue is pink against the vanilla and closer than is good for Nino’s sanity. When Nino says ‘Oi!’ and attempts to eat some of it as well Ohno only responds with ‘you’re wasting it’ before he’s back at it. Usually, Nino thinks he’s pretty expensive to woo but right this instant with Ohno’s tongue inches from his own mouth, Nino is feeling pretty wooed. With ice cream and a greedy, pink tongue.

They finish the cone together and Nino finds a public restroom to wash the stickiness off his hands. When he returns to their bench Ohno is dozing off.

‘Oi! Ojii-san!’ Nino says loudly, directly into Ohno’s ear. Ohno startles and Nino laughs at him. Ohno pouts. Nino finds that way too adorable. He’s only just a wee bit worried that Ohno thinks he’s mean. But Ohno’s mood seems to lighten as soon as Nino’s sitting beside him, their shoulders brushing.

They talk some more and judge the couples that walk by, pointedly ignoring that they are technically one of them. Eventually, he lets Ohno take his afternoon nap. In probably every other case, this would make for a terrible date but Nino kind of enjoys the familiarity of it. They’re not trying to impress each other. He pulls his DS out and has to bite back a smile when Ohno’s dozing head thunks onto his shoulder.

He’s sorry when he has to leave and shakes Ohno awake to say goodbye. They stare awkwardly at other for a second until Ohno clicks his tongue and drags Nino close to him. The kiss is chaste and lasts only a few precious seconds. But it's sticky sweet and makes Nino’s stomach flip. He’s probably grinning like an idiot.

When he’s back at the institute Aiba and Sho are already there and there are bandages wrapped around Aiba’s wrists. Nino feels guilty, usually he’s able to sense when Aiba’s in danger. Stupid parabatai bond and whatnot.

Maybe he was too distracted on his date. Maybe it wasn’t worth it if he was letting his friends down.

‘Shit dude was that demons?’ He hopes he can keep the guilt out of his face.

Aiba smiles sheepishly. ‘I might have fallen down.’

‘Onto glass shards in an empty alleyway.’ Sho supplies helpfully to quah Nino’s guilt, ‘But no, no demons. Heavy presence though, I’m afraid there’s going to be some sort of rendezvous soon.’ Sho is typing away on one of the screens. Nino can see that he’s running one of the demon sensing programs. ‘I’m trying to get some probable locations. But we’re going to need a warlock to pin this down.’

‘I’ll call Toma!’ Aiba offers.

‘I’ll call him.’ Sho decides, ‘You two prep for the meeting with the werewolf clan. The New York delegate is here so you can’t just wing it cause you’re good friends with Yoko’

A thought crosses his mind before he can leave to do prep, ‘What about the missing person that doesn’t eat?’

‘Diarrhea.’

‘MatsuJun would love that.’

‘He. Won’t. Find. Out’

~*~

He raps on the door to the werewolf clan’s hideout three times, waits five seconds, then seven more times. It’s an abandoned toy warehouse. Or maybe just an ordinary abandoned warehouse the clan then decorated with toys. Nino was always a little fuzzy on the details. The clan’s leader, Yoko, was a little eccentric. In fact, Nino isn’t exactly sure who the clan alpha is but they’re all a little on the eccentric side. Their main contact person, Yoko, opens the door.

‘You’re supposed to knock eight times on the last one.’

‘Why do you even make us do this? Can’t you smell us or something?’

‘I’m pretty sure that’s a CCTV.’ Aiba points up to what is obviously a camera trained right on the entrance.

‘It’s more fun this way.’

Nino quashes down on the urge to hit Yoko upside the head. Even though normally, he wouldn’t think twice about it, it wouldn’t do to hit the supposed leader of the Tokyo werewolf clan on an official meeting.

Yoko straightens up and looks more serious than Nino’s ever seen him, ‘The New York delegate is waiting.’ When they walk through the door that Yoko is pointing at, Nino immediately wants to bury his head into the floor. Possibly, also his body.

Trust Aiba to hook up with, out of every person in Tokyo, the New York werewolf delegate.

‘Maureen!’Aiba screams and to Nino’s surprise Maureen stands up with a pleased expression.

‘Aiba.’ She says, much less enthusiastic but clearly pleased, ‘It’s so nice to see you again.’ Aiba has the presence of mind to shake her hand and not pull her into a bear hug like Nino was afraid he’d do. Nino is glad though that Aiba is one of those sweet, generous one-night stands and not a ‘kicks you out right after’ asshole. From what he’s heard from past significant others, his considerable prowess doesn’t hurt the good impression either.

Nino shakes her hand next and Maureen nods at him, indicating that she remembers him too. In fact, she looks a little sympathetic and Nino remembers that as far as she remembers his pull had run out on him. If only she knew. Usually, Nino loved goading, but for some reason he decides to keep quiet, spurred on by the fact that this was still a political meeting.

If Yoko was curious how they knew each other, he doesn’t show it. Instead, he prompts Nino and Aiba to read out the Clave’s new policy and terms of Downworlder relations.

Maureen clears her throat, ‘Clearly, the werewolf clans feel like an alliance is for the best,’ she pauses to nod at Yoko who nods back, ‘Shadowhunters have proved their commitment to the continued survival of all creatures during the war and your terms of the Accords are mostly satisfactory. However, we, the werewolf and vampire clans, feel like a sign of good faith would come through more representation and intellectual exchange.’

‘The vampire clan? You’ve talked to MatsuJun?

Maureen nods, ‘We both feel that the more we interact, the easier it will be to get past the huge amounts of prejudice in the Shadowhunter community against us. And vice versa. We’re trying to organize the other Downworlders to join in this way of thinking but of course we need the Clave to be on board or its all for naught.’

‘What are you thinking?’

‘Representation on the Clave itself and scholars in the Academy in Idris.’

Nino didn’t think it was a bad idea. Really, he thought it was only fair. Downworlders amassed an immense amount and variety of powers and it was nearly impossible to fight demons without their help. Even before when the Clave refused to recognize them officially as allies and equals, Shadowhunters would go to Downworlders for help all the time.

But.

‘That doesn't sound easy. Maybe allowing a few scholars, the Clave might go for but to have Downworlders sit in as part of the Clave? Nephilim are creatures of tradition and the Clave is the ultimate keeper of those traditions.’ Nino didn’t particularly want to sound like he was against their demands but it was also his duty to remind them what they could expect. Throwing out an alliance because they got too greedy was, in his opinion, the opposite of combatting prejudice.

‘That’s why we need the individual Institutes to put pressure on the Clave. Here…’ Maureen pushes a document towards them, ‘We’ve drawn up this proposal and its being handed to every Shadowhunter Institute; we would like you to take some time to read it through and back us up on this. Questions to be directed to your local clans of course.’ Maureen doesn’t falter in her speech, probably practiced to perfection. Nino was reassured by the fact that the clans had discussed through their demands and had drawn up a proposal. Nino pulls the document towards himself to skim over it so he can address any glaring errors; he pushes it towards Aiba so they can look over it together

‘It says that you only require a werewolf and warlock representative,’ when both Yoko and Maureen nod, Nino continues, ‘you said you’ve already talked to MatsuJun. How can I be sure that he’s okay with it?’

‘How sweet of you to be concerned about me, Ninomiya-san.’ A voice emerges from the shadows startling Nino, ‘but I agree with the terms.’

‘Geez MJ! Do you have to be such a creeper?’ He asks annoyed, even more so that Maureen and Yoko are trying to suppress smiles.

‘It’s more fun this way.’ He says, parroting what Yoko said to him earlier. But Nino knows just as the knocking thing was a test to see if they would follow Downworlder rules, this was a test to see if he cared about their interests. Whether they could trust him to represent their claims to the Clave. He’s glad he passed and is just a little wistful at the oblivious Aiba, still pouring over the document, who automatically has all their trust. He looks at the looks of utter concentration on Aiba’s face as he’s still reading and thinks no, not automatically.

‘Vampires are stuck in a bit of a civil war over Camille Belcourt and we can’t spare anyone for Idris. There is, however, a five year revision clause to protect our interests.’ MatsuJun explains.

‘So you have an idea who these reps will be?’ At the silence that ensues Nino feels like he fumbled somehow, so he continues in a placating tone, ‘I just wanted to know, to make a fair judgement about the proposal.

‘Nothing is set in stone but Luke Garroway from the New York clan has stepped up for the task from the werewolf side. Unfortunately, none of the high warlocks are available presently to commit…’

Nino raises his eyebrows in a please continue gesture. By this time, Aiba was done with the document and is leaning in intently as well.

‘But there is one High Warlock not accounted for. He’s been missing for some time now and if we could just find him. Maybe he’s just bored enough to go for it.’

‘You seem to have a really solid plan there.’ Nino remarks sarcastically, ‘maybe just leave the warlock thing out for now. Might be for the best.’

‘No. The Nephilim are the most indebted to warlocks and in turn warlocks have the best knowledge of the Nephilim psyche and politics. We have to try for this.’ Nino thinks about the fat check he writes Toma every month, even after the ‘friendship’ discount and cringes. He doesn't agree that he’s indebted to warlocks per say but it rings true that out of every Downworld creature he interacts with, Toma knows the most about what the Institute does.

‘Fine. I trust that you’ll find this High Warlock who doesn’t want to be found.’ Nino sighs and tucks the proposal neatly inside his folder. Yoko, Maureen and MatsuJun exchange unsure looks.

‘Actually, Nino.’ Yoko starts, ‘We’re hoping that you might be able to find him.’

‘Me?’

‘Yes. We’re looking for the High Warlock of Tokyo.’

~*~

Ohno takes him out to ramen for their next date. Nino doesn’t particularly like ramen but Ohno loves it and Nino is starting to find out he enjoys that, Ohno’s excitement about things. He’s generally quiet but has these sudden bursts of excitement that makes Nino’s insides flutter. Nino doesn’t like ramen but he likes how Ohno’s face lights up on the first bite. Ohno ends up eating most of his bowl too while Nino picks at the gyoza. The beer is delicious and cool against his throat but warms up his cheeks and he laughs generously at Ohno’s antics.

Ohno isn’t particularly hilarious but he’s rather odd and does odd things. Like how Ohno doesn’t like negi but eats it anyway because he doesn’t want to disappoint the owner and his nose crinkles with every bite of it. Managing a half-hearted umai after every bite. He’s also offended when Nino picks out his yolk and demands that Nino at least try to break it into his soup.

He’s still laughing at Ohno when Ohno takes his hand and doesn’t question where Ohno leads him. Nino doesn’t think Ohno has any particular aim and he’s not complaining about spending more time with him but they eventually stop in front of Ohno’s apartment.

‘This is me.’ Ohno says and Nino laughs again.

‘Usually, you’re supposed to walk your date to their apartment.’

‘You won’t tell me your name, I didn’t think you’d give me your address.’ Nino knows that Ohno is right. It’s not like Nino doesn’t want Ohno in his living space. Oh, he’d very much like that. But the Institute would only look like a broken down shrine to Ohno because of the glamour and Nino can’t exactly explain why the insides look similar to the Naicho headquarters.

Furthermore, inside he’d have to deal with Aiba’s nosing around. Maybe, this is why Sho moved out. Maybe he was dating a mundane in secret, too. They must be very serious by now, if they were dating since Sho moved out to be with her. Nino finds himself wondering if he and Ohno will get to that point.

‘Oi’ Ohno is waving his hand in front of his face, ‘Do you want to come up?’

Nino’s a guy, so he can guess the range of things Ohno wants to do once they’re up in his apartment even though Ohno’s eyes are wide and innocent. He doesn’t really mind. He wants the same things. Ohno will have to give him beer first though and maybe some snacks.

Nino needed to be wooed after all.

Ohno heads straight for the fridge as Nino is still putting on the guest slippers. He follows Ohno to the kitchen. It’s as though Ohno can read his mind because there’s two beer cans on the counter and Ohno is cutting some tofu into little bite sized squares. The image fills Nino up with a warm glow and before he knows it, ‘Ninomiya Kazunari.’

Ohno stops cutting, ‘huh?’

‘My name. Ninomiya Kazunari.’

They breathe for a few seconds.

And then.

‘Would you like bonito or nori on your tofu, Kazu?’

The lust that courses through Nino at the way Ohno says his first name so casually unsettles him. He can’t really think of an answer over how lightheaded he feels.

‘Or would you like both…Kazu-chan?’ Ohno takes a step towards him, like he can tell how close to pouncing him Nino is right now. He probably can.

Ohno tilts his head with a small pout.

He definitely can.

Nino doesn’t have to bother hiding it then. In two strides Nino’s pushed Ohno up against the counter.

He wants to say something witty, let Ohno know that he’s not buying his coy little games. But really he wants to kiss him. So he does. Even though Nino pushes against him hard in sealing their lips together, Ohno hooks a hand around his shoulders and slows the pace down to sliding, lazy kisses. It’s warm and he’s tingling everywhere they brush against each other. Nino knows what he wants though. He slides his hands down to cup Ohno’s ass and pulls their hips fully together. Nino has wanted to cop a feel ever since Ohno had walked away from him the other night at the bar. It feels as magnificent in his palms as it had looked. He squeezes. Ohno grunts and Nino pushes his tongue past Ohno’s lips. When they break for air Ohno says, ‘Bed?’ Nino nods and Ohno pulls him towards the bedroom.

Suddenly Ohno stops and Nino’s chest bumps into his side, ‘The tofu will go bad.’ Ohno whispers worriedly and Nino laughs as Ohno scurries to put the tofu in the fridge. He’s back, sliding his hands around Nino’s waist and leads him hurriedly to his bedroom.

Ohno pushes Nino down on the bed and doesn’t delay in climbing on top of him, pulling him into a searing kiss. When Nino opens his mouth with the intention of sliding their tongues together, he yawns instead.

Nino looks up at him in horror and Ohno for all of ten seconds stares dumbstruck. But then there’s an upturn to his lips in the start of a smile, soon he’s guffawing, holding his sides as he shakes with it. He slides off Nino and has curled into him as he laughs; Nino hits him upside the head.

When Ohno finally stops, he wraps an arm around Nino’s middle, ‘It’s okay if you sleep, you let me nap last time.’ Nino wants to argue but now that he’s lying down his eyes are starting to drag close. He and Aiba had spent most of the last three nights pouring over the Institutes transactions and work log book to find signs of anyone or thing that would clue them into the identity of the High Warlock of Tokyo. Nino is running mostly on coffee and willpower at this point. They haven’t found anything useful so far.

Soon he’s drifted off, warmed by beer and Ohno’s body curled around him.

~*~

He half expects Aiba to be making lewd comments about him spending the night out but when he checks around the Institute, Aiba is fast asleep in his room. Relieved, Nino picks up the pillow Aiba’s thrown off the middle of the night and gently edges it under his head. Aiba stirs, ‘good morning,’ he murmurs and Nino says it back, urging him to go back to sleep with a gentle pat to Aiba’s head.

Aiba snuggles in deeper into his blankets, ‘Sho’s coming at 10. I’ll wake up then.’

‘You still have 2 hours.’ Nino whispers as he’s tiptoeing out of the room.

Aiba’s sleep heavy voice stops him, ‘Don’t think I didn’t notice you weren’t home last night.’ Nino’s heart sinks at the promise of a thorough questioning in Aiba’s words.

Nino distracts himself from the impending Aiba inquisition by looking up all the people he doesn’t recognize from the Institute transaction logbook. He spreads out a couple of encyclopedias and his laptop with the online Shadow world historical database.

It’s mostly for show though. He’s just thinking back to how cute Ohno looked sleeping. He couldn’t help but press a chaste kiss goodbye to Ohno’s lips. He’s pretty sure Ohno wouldn’t mind. He’s still spacing out when Aiba walks in. He’s nursing a coffee and still in his pyjamas.

‘So?’

‘Nothing warlock-like yet.’ Nino announces.

‘Very funny, Nino. You’re happy, texting all the time and now you spent the night outside the Institute. You wouldn’t even stay over at Sho’s slumber party. Who’s the guy?’

‘You mean when you passed out on his couch after drinking too much and I didn’t want to deal with Sho’s immense ‘no homo’ while in bed with him?’

‘Sho isn’t ‘no homo.’ A far reaching sexual prowess just makes him nervous.’

‘My sexual prowess has thus far reached nothing’

‘Hence, my point that he wouldn’t- Nino don’t change the subject.’

Nino sighs, ‘I’ve been seeing the guy from the bar.’

‘What bar? Oh wait-you mean you found the cutie from the bar!? Why didn’t you tell me?’ Aiba switches from excited to mildly hurt in a second while asking the last question. His coffee swishes dangerously in the mug he’s jostling about. Nino puts his laptop back in its case with a sigh.

‘It’s new. He’s a mundane. I just generally wanted to keep him away from all the Shadowhunterness.’

‘Wait so I can’t meet him?’ And Aiba looks like such a kicked puppy that Nino can’t bear it any longer, ‘I didn’t say that. I just don’t want him getting into any crazy shadowhunter stuff. It’s bad enough that I’m hanging out with him. He just has no way of protecting himself.’

‘There’s ways around that, you know.’

‘Aiba I’m not going to tell him about our world after a week of dating! He’s going to think I’m crazy.’

Aiba scratches his head, ‘You could always rune up his house without him knowing. Maybe we should ask Toma.’ Nino chuckles, ‘I can’t afford Toma.’ He replies even though he’s sure Aiba was joking. At least, Nino’s sure that he’s mostly joking.

‘Hey tell you what. If you promise not to follow us on a date, I’ll introduce you two. I can bring him to Sho’s or something.’

Aiba mock gasps, ‘You want to introduce him to Shokaa-san?? You must be serious!’ Before Nino can throw something at him the alarm at someone approaching the Institute goes off. They hurry downstairs even though it’s probably just Aiba forgetting to enter Sho’s expected arrival into the security system.

But when they check the cameras, it’s Toma. Toma never comes to the Institute without being called. Nino has a sinking feeling as he opens the door for him.

‘I’ve been tracking demon activity like Sho-kun asked and I think you should see this.’

‘This?’

‘Well there’s an immense amount of demon energy. Like greater demon level, like two greater demon level energy coming from this one area. But it’s daylight so I can’t exactly see any demons. I’m not sure what that means and I’d really rather not go there alone…or you know, at all.’ Toma is jittery and sputters through most of the speech. Toma’s nervousness doesn’t bode too well for whatever it is they are going to investigate but Nino pushes that to the back of his mind as they pull on their gear. Aiba has run off to get them seraph blades, while Nino is drawing strength and agility runes on his arms.

‘Toma, portal us there.’ At Toma’s dubious look Nino clicks his turn and makes a hurry gesture, ‘we don’t even know where to go. You can leave after you take us.’

Toma is opening a portal by the time Aiba comes back and throws him a seraph blade. The blade glows bright blue when he catches it and Nino swishes it twice, testing it before tucking it into his gear. It’s bigger than what he would have selected for himself but Aiba likes to go in with his guns blazing.

‘Let’s go guys,’ Toma says holding out his hands for them to take. They don’t know what place they should be imagining when they step throught the portal, so they’re banking on Toma to get them there. Nino hopes Toma doesn’t freak out and take them back to his apartment instead.

The air hits him in the chest like a physical shove. It’s thick and he has a hard time breathing, It’s not very sunny out but the heat feels smoldering. He sees the portal close and Toma hasn’t left through it. Nino knew Toma’s nonchalance for their safety was put on. Toma inches closer to him though and the three of them huddle back to back as they take a look around, mind sluggish and body feeling heavy despite the agility runes.

Nino suddenly realizes where they are. He passed this street coming back from Ohno’s apartment this morning. For the first time Nino does something he’s never done before.

He panics.

He feels a ripple. He knows the other two feel it too because they collectively move away from it. But Ohno’s apartment is around the corner, just past where they can feel the energy emanating the strongest.

‘Toma! Toma, I need you to go somewhere!’

The next ripple sends them to their knees on the street. They stand up quickly, but they really, really can’t move around much.

‘Nino, I think we need to leave.’ It’s Aiba whispering in his ear. He didn’t know the three of them had huddled so close together. Aiba knows as well as he does that their job is to neutralize every demon threat they encounter but they’re not going to be of much use like this, unable to move.

‘Toma I think you should take us back.’ It’s Aiba again.

‘No! we need to figure out what this is.’ Nino says, ‘And Toma needs to-he can’t just say that he wants Toma to be Ohno’s personal bodyguard-he needs to go, he needs to make sure the neighborhood is safe.’ He’s a Shadowhunter and no one human life is more important than the other. But if he can’t directly ask Toma to protect Ohno he can make sure it happens anyway.

‘Fuck Nino! You guys will die if I leave you.’ Toma has his hands up like he’s trying to shield them from the energy, but there’s sweat pooling at his temples and his hair is sticking to his forehead. It doesn’t seem like he’s succeeding too well. Aiba has his blade out and is slicing through the air. Aiba has pushed their little huddle the tiniest bit closer to where they feel the energy coming the strongest.

‘Nino! Nino! Call Sho! Warn him! Tell him to bring back up!’ Aiba looks frantic and Nino thinks he might be screaming but his voice comes to him as though from a great distance, small and tinny. They’re inching closer still, Aiba with his frantic swishing and Toma’s shield around them. Nino’s got his blade in one hand and his phone in the other. He’s slicing through the air too and he can feel himself cutting through thick, almost liquid something. He means to call Sho, he really does.

But.

‘Oh-chan?’

‘Nino? Nino?’ Ohno screams his name out the second time sensing something is wrong by how faint Nino sounds.

‘Oh-chan!’ He says again, stronger this time, for Ohno. He needs Ohno to believe him, ‘Oh-chan! Are you home? Don’t leave your house!’

‘Nino? Nino, where are you? Are you here?’ Nino doesn’t really register much around him, doesn’t really hear Ohno talking to him or Aiba screaming at him to call Sho. But he remembers the sketches strewn about Ohno’s floor when from when he stayed over.

‘Oh-chan! Close all windows and doors!’ He doesn’t know if Ohno can understand him, doesn’t know if he’s slurring, ‘Listen! You’re good at drawing, right? Draw crosses and any religious symbols you can think of all over—’

He sees the phone a few feet away from him and realizes that he’s on the ground. The earthquake has knocked him down. Nino’s face feels warm and it’s not just the thick air this time, his vision is clouded with the blood trickling into his eyes. The Shadowhunter in him has his blade still clutched in his hand. It comes in handy when he catches a demon ready to jump him from the corner of his eyes.

He sticks his blade out and by freak luck pierces into the demon’s mouth, flared out in a big square that’s taken up most of its face, teeth bordering the entirety of its giant mouth. He can feel its enormous worm-like body squirming on top of him. In a burst of strength he didn’t know he could muster at this point, he flings the demon off him and pierces the blade through its heart. The demon is starting to disappear but he can see that even before he attacked it, the demon’s skin was slowly blistering and disintegrating in the sun. He lands on his hands and knees and he’s fighting off unconsciousness.

He can see Aiba fighting a few steps away from him and frantically looking for Toma. But he can’t see much through the haze of sweat and blood.

Finally, everything goes dark.

~*~
He’s too used to waking up at the Institute infirmary to be surprised anymore by the bright green walls being the first thing he sees in the morning. He is a little surprised, though, that he’s waking up at all.

But he’s the most surprised at the slightly drowsy look and rounded cheeks he sees juxtaposed against those green walls instead of Aiba’s teary, grateful face.

‘Oh-chan?’ He murmurs and Ohno smiles wanly, like the worry still refuses to leave him although Nino is awake. There’s a lot of questions as to Ohno’s presence next to his bed, holding his hand. Suddenly the thought that Ohno got hurt flashes through Nino in a panic.

Before either of them can say anything else though, Aiba’s teary, grateful face makes a dash towards Nino and he’s launched himself on top of him. Nino wants to tell Aiba he’s heavy or push him off, be a little mean so things feel normal. But dammit, he feels kind of teary too. He really thought he would die back there and he knows just how hard that would be for Aiba.

‘Aiba-san’ Ohno’s voice chimes in softly after a few breathes, like he isn’t sure if he should interrupt them, ‘I don’t think Nino’s ribs have exactly healed yet.’ Nino only feels the searing pain through his chest when Aiba scrambles off him, spouting apology after apology and wiping at his tears haphazardly. Nino wants to know a million and one things. About how he survived, how they got out, what exactly all that was and what the fuck Ohno was doing inside the Institute calmly like he’s been around the Shadow World all his life. But Ohno is humming softly, rubbing soft circles on the inside of his wrist and Nino is just so tired.

Before the next thought forms in his head, he’s asleep.

The next time he’s awake, his head is much clearer and there’s a distinct lack of pain. Ohno protests when he sits up suddenly, pulling his hand away from within Ohno’s own. Nino runs with the last thought that was in his head before he fell asleep, about how comfortable Ohno is at the Institute.

‘What are you?’ Nino spits out. He doesn’t mean to sound quite so accusing or angry. His heart twinges at the look of shock on Ohno’s face. When the silence stretches, Aiba, who Nino only now notices was also in the room pipes in, ‘He drew your iratze.’

‘My iratze? Then you’re a Shadowhunter?’ Nino’s rage and his need to be gentle with Ohno, to understand him are at war with each other. His rage seems to be winning, if Ohno’s crumpled face is any indication. But Nino doesn’t relent, doesn’t reach out to link their hands together again, like he wants to. Liars never bode well for Shadowhunters in the long run. He doesn’t care if Ohno healed him and probably saved his life.

‘I’m not.’ Ohno says and takes a breathe. Nino should know that Ohno isn’t done. That he talks slowly and takes his time but the next question is out before he can help it, ‘Then how did you use a stele? How can you draw runes?’ Ohno cringes at the barrage Nino sends his way and a hand comes to rest on Nino’s shoulder. It’s Aiba and Nino deflates a little under the touch. Nino doesn’t know if the intention was to calm him or support him but Nino feels steadier, a little less likely to bite Ohno’s head off.

Ohno takes a deep breath and he speaks faster this time, ‘I have Nephilim blood. But I am not a Shadowhunter. I can only do certain things, like using steles but runes don’t work on me.’ He looks around and finally finding out what he’s looking for walks across the room to pick up a seraph blade. It flickers a few times in his hand but doesn’t light up like it would for a Shadowhunter.

He drops it.

‘I’m not Angel enough.’ Ohno adds a little self-deprecatingly.

‘Then what are you?’ Nino says it softer this time. He tries to make it inquisitive and not accusing. But it doesn’t work. Nino doesn’t know who or even what he was dating this whole time. It shouldn’t matter, it doesn’t really matter but Nino likes to know the situation he’s in. His life is not easy, not just in terms of mortality but also in terms of keeping up traditions and expectations. In many ways, his job and societal status was just as important as his life.

It was the same for all Nephilim.

If Ohno was part of the Shadow World then he’s seen Nino’s runes, he knows what Nino was. He should know why the truth would be important to Nino.

‘Did you know who I was? That I was Head of the Tokyo Institute?’ Ohno looks a little ashamed when he looks down. Ohno not being able to look at him makes him even more angry.

‘Nino I was too busy fighting off demons. He saved your life by healing you.’ Aiba isn’t siding with Ohno, he’s only stating fact but he says it softly, placatingly. Nino needs to calm down for the sake of his own injuries if not Ohno.

‘Leave.’

And it’s the thousandth time today that Ohno looks like Nino’s punched him in the gut. His jaw falls a little open like he’s just gasped and his fingers tremble as he grabs his jacket. He stands there for a little bit just looking at Nino. He’s almost about to say something but doesn’t. Nino realizes that he’s waiting, for Nino to show some sign that he still wants him back at some point, to allow him to touch Nino or kiss him. It bothers him that he can read Ohno already, has gotten used to decoding the vast amount of things the man would rather leave unsaid. But Nino doesn’t relent to either Ohno or the prickings of his own heart.

Ohno leaves.

Nino heaves out the breathe he’s been holding.

‘That’s not how I imagined being introduced to your boyfriend,’ Aiba says, it seems like he was trying to crack a joke but it comes out strained instead, ‘Or you know re-meeting him, I guess.’

Boyfriend.

He’s just fought with his boyfriend. Nino doesn’t know enough about relationships to predict whether that was a fight a couple can come back from. He lies back down, suddenly tired.

‘How long have I been out?

‘Two days.’

‘Breaking up within the week must be a new record. Even for us.’ Nino tries to joke because he definitely doesn’t want to cry. Aiba chuckles to humor him, ‘You don’t have to break up if you don’t want to.’ Aiba hesitates again which is strange since tact isn’t Aiba’s finest point, ‘He was here the whole time. He really cares about you.’

‘I need to be briefed.’ Nino does what he knows best, goes straight for the business.

‘Sho’s making a powerpoint. I saw him minimize MS Paint when I walked into the room.’

‘Great.’ Nino says wryly.

Aiba chuckles for real this time.

When Aiba leaves, Nino notices for the first time that Toma is napping in the bed next to him, curled up in a bright pink blanket that matches his own. Sometimes Nino regrets letting Aiba take charge of the infirmary renovations and restocking but Toma looks adorable curled up in his fluffy blanket. Naturally, Nino throws almonds at him until he wakes up.

‘Did anyone tell you, you’re kind of an asshole.’ Toma says around a yawn.

Nino laughs, ‘I’m bored, entertain me.’

‘You just don’t want to think about your boyfriend.’

Also low on the tact? Toma. Nino is surrounded by idiots.

‘Well, consider it punishment for eavesdropping.’

‘I could tell you a story.’

‘The story of how we got here?’

‘I thought Sho is drawing you a picturebook.’

‘That’s exactly what I’m worried about.’

Toma laughs as though he knows exactly what Nino is talking about. The last time Sho ‘drew’ them a tactical plan Nino was waiting under a tree that was actually supposed to have been a dumpster and Aiba spent the evening chasing raccoons instead of a man with glasses.

Toma takes a deep breath and stares at the ceiling like he’s thinking, ‘Let’s see. From what I remember, when that earthquake or whatever hit, cracks started appearing on the street and we were suddenly swarmed with demons. Aiba started killing the ones closest to us and the sun melted the rest. They were coming out of some sort of rift with The Void and I sealed it just barely, draining most of my energy. That’s when I passed out. I don’t know how we got out of there.’

‘A rift with The Void?’ Nino curses inwardly, ‘is that why there’s so many demons lately? What fresh hell’ Toma nods miserably before picking up the almonds Nino threw onto his bed and popping them into his mouth

When Sho pulls in Aiba and a projector an hour later, he looks like he’s the one in need of being in the infirmary. Sho’s hair is messy and there’s a bit of stubble on his chin. Which means he hasn’t been sleeping much and his morning routine is messed up. He gives Nino a hug before clearing his throat and starting the presentation as professional as ever.

He pulls up a map of the area where they were attacked and Nino can see the word ‘POW!’ in a sharp edged cloud probably signifying the exact location. Toma snorts next to him, quickly turning it into a cough. Sho starts by pointing at a skull that he’s drawn a street down the ‘POW!’

‘That is what I believe was the location of a rift with The Void before Toma closed it. I’ve been monitoring that location since then and there’s a faint amount of demon energy coming from there that has been getting incrementally stronger.’

‘I don’t think my seal was strong enough.’ Toma blows out a raspberry, ‘I’m really young, you know? I don’t think at only 80 years I have the kind of power to seal such a big rift between parallel universes.’

‘Thank you for solving that mystery. I’ve been in touch with the other Institutes that have reported an above normal demon activity this past month. Once they knew what they were looking for, we managed to find one or two more of these rifts.’ This time he pulls up a table of all rift locations so far, accompanied by a world map with more little skulls, signifying what Nino thinks are affected Institutes.

‘The demon attacks have cooled down these last two days in Tokyo but the data from the monitoring software is indicating some patterned energy increments. I think there are more, maybe smaller rifts around Tokyo and we might need to conduct a sweep around Japan once the Clave can manage a team together. As you know, personnel is really low on this after the war.’

‘What’s causing these rifts?’

‘I think the war caused some kind of concentrated energy ripple through the dimension keeping this world and The Void apart. This is just a theory though, none of the other Institutes seemed to have found a better explanation.’

‘And? Do we know how to permanently close them?’

This time Sho looks at Toma for the answer.

‘Were the other rifts closed permanently?’ Toma asks.

‘Yes, there was a complete shutdown of demon energy from those locations.’

‘Who made those seals?’

‘The affiliated High Warlocks.’

Toma scrunches his nose, ‘Sorry guys. That’s your answer. I’ve got at least another 200 years before I reach that status.’

Nino’s heart sinks. He knows where this is going, ‘Can we request the assistance of any High Warlocks?’

‘All known High Warlocks are closing rifts at their own locations.’

‘Just great.’




Follow the link for part 2

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