Author's Note: This story was partially inspired by Taylor Swift's songs Haunted and Speak Now. During the writing for Part 1, however, I listened to Requiem for a Dream and Sad Violin. I was going to make this a long one-shot, but it feels more natural to break it up into a Part One and Part Two. I hope to get the second part up within the next few days. While I did a spell/grammar check, I didn't thoroughly scan over this chapter before writing - if there are odd mistakes/wordings, please don't hesitate to point them out so that I can correct them when I look back over this later.
Constructive Criticism is always welcomed.
Disclaimer: I have never and will never claim any rights to Kobayashi-san's works. I simply play with them for fun and amusement.
Requiem for Heaven's Radiance
Mako had never been nor ever wanted to be that girl.
The clingy, forever-pining-after-a-guy-she-could-never-have-kind of girl who seemed to have no semblance of self-respect much less any dignity.
No, she had always been rather proud of herself for the way she had handled her relationships – calmly, collectedly and just as willing to hang out with friends or spend the evening alone as she was going on a date. As far as she was aware, she had always been a level-headed and well-balanced individual who knew how to divide and compartmentalize her life like the best of them.
Of course, in her line of work, Mako had to keep her life – and relationships – balanced or all hell would break loose. Literally.
Mako was a demon hunter and a damn good one too.
The women in her family held a long-standing tradition of the profession, and by Mako's generation, had perfected it into an art. Anyone with a demon problem could be directed to her family's home when needed, though they didn't advertise their profession either – too many conflicts with governmental bodies, law keepers and the occasional village idiot looking to cry out for "heretics" and "witches."
In fact, aside from her family, Mako had only ever let her childhood friend, Kotoha, in on her secret and that had been when they were five years old. Closing in fast on her 23rd birthday now, she knew that was one hell of an exceedingly short list for the last eighteen years.
There had been another she'd considered telling once, but the pain that came with the memory of that time, that person was still too raw for her to even reminisce about.
Which was why she was so frustrated about it at the moment, mooning over a lost love like one of those insipid girls in a pop song. It made the embarrassment that came with her frustration almost too much to bare.
Mako sighed quietly into her parfait, spoon softly spinning round and round, creating ribbons of dark chocolate syrup through her ice cream as her spoon gave a soft, occasional clink as it brushed against the glass bowl.
"I'm sorry," Kotoha's soft voice broke into Mako's melancholy.
She blinked, startled out of her thoughts.
"You have that look on your face again," Kotoha clarified. "The one that says you're thinking about that day and," she bit her lip, "I didn't want to bring it up, Mako, I swear, but you have to know what's going on with him now."
Mako flushed, her gaze now refusing to meet her friend's, one that was sure to be filled with a sympathy Mako didn't know if she could stomach. Against her will her gaze instead settled on the crisp white card in her hand. His wedding invitation. To someone else. She wasn't sure if emotions churning through her stomach were from rage, embarrassment or disgust, but she knew she'd be lying if she didn't admit that there was a healthy bit of despair mixed in there too. Apparently, even a year after their breakup, she still loved him. She still loved Takeru.
She had known Takeru for years through Kotoha's boyfriend, Chiaki. Once their hangouts had become a regular thing, Takeru had brought his friends Ryunosuke and Genta along. They even managed to draw Takeru's cousin, Kaoru, into their tightly-knit group. The seven of them had eventually become closer than friend, more like a family.
It had taken months for Takeru to work up the courage to ask Mako out. Something she suspected Kaoru had a lot to do with otherwise he might never have taken the initiative.
Takeru had admitted with a flush that Mako had just seemed so independent – so strong and mature that she had intimidated him. Mako had blinked openly at his statement before blushing herself and muttering about how she had thought the same about him. They'd shared a laugh at that and after the initial awkward first dates they'd eventually transitioned from friends to a couple. They fit together so seamlessly – two pieces of the same puzzle, two halves of the same whole.
Or so Mako had thought at the time.
And that's why, to her ever-living humiliation and heartache, when Takeru had insisted on talking to her that day with an uncharacteristic stutter and a flush she could almost feel through the phone line, she had believed that this was it. The day everything was going to change. The day she would tell him the truth and he would still love her anyways.
She hadn't told him of her true profession yet – too terrified of his response to let the words slip past her tongue, but with a bolster of support from Kotoha she had managed to screw up enough courage to tell him that afternoon. After all, if he was going to propose, Mako wanted to make sure Takeru knew exactly what he would be getting into in a union with her.
And, naïve as she was, she'd honestly believed he would be okay with it, a little shocked perhaps, but that he'd take it in stride, possibly even stating something along the lines of already having suspected something of the sort. Heaven only knew how often she'd been summoned from their bed in the middle of the night, or was suddenly whisked away on trips around the country for "family business."
But like the fool she now knew she was, Mako had expected too much, trusted too much, hoped for too much.
They'd met in the park.
Bright, warm sunshine mingling with a cool breeze, warning that summer was at its end and autumn was fast on its heels. But the trees were still bursting with green, the birds gaily chirping along to their own familiar tunes, and Mako had felt the rays from the sun warming her like the beautiful, wondrous feeling inside her heart.
If she let herself think about what was about to happen, that she'd be finally sharing her innermost secret with Takeru, she was scared witless. But the thought of finally relinquishing her secret to him brought a long overdue relief that had kept the terror at bay. The added thought of what Takeru had planned also made her so giddy she was nearly light-headed from it.
Perhaps that was why she hadn't seen it coming. Maybe she had been flying so high inside that she had failed to see the warning signs creeping in upon her like the cool breeze that was trying to slip its way down her neck to chill her from the outside in.
Her first warning was that he had been late. Takeru was never late. He was either exactly on time or early, something she had both admired and appreciated more than he probably ever knew.
Mako knew she probably didn't have much time – every minute counted and was priceless to her. Her parents' untimely deaths had shown her that with startling clarity.
Her second warning had been when he greeted her with an awkward hug, dropping all physical contact with her immediately after.
They weren't the kind of couple for public displays of affection, but even so, when they were together, it was as if some invisible force held them together. It was like a magnetic force orchestrated by another power.
She'd blinked, confused by the move but had been too busy with her own feelings by then to give it much thought. When Takeru had looked like he wasn't sure how to start Mako had instead taken a deep breath and plunged ahead, feeling like she was going to burst if she didn't confess right away.
"Takeru, there's something I've been meaning to tell you for a long time now."
He had dropped her gaze then – another warning sign she had neglected to notice at the time, chalking it up to nerves. "Me too," he had told her.
"Takeru I –"
"Can I go first?" He'd interrupted.
Mako's jaw had snapped shut. Butterflies began to swarm inside, but she had nodded. She'd carried her secret all her life; she could wait a few more minutes. His interruption had given her pause, however, and she had finally begun to study him more intently. She couldn't pinpoint it exactly, but something about him was…off. She had shrugged away the feeling. If he was as nervous as she, then acting slightly out of character was normal.
"Mako, we've been together for a long time now and I really care about you," he had started, his eyes darting about like they couldn't settle on any one thing for long lest his nerves get the best of him.
Mako had flushed, certain this was it, heart pounding loudly in her chest.
"And you know I would never try to hurt you, right?"
She nodded, a little confused by the question but he pushed on.
"And – that's why – Mako," he had scratched the back of his neck anxiously in a nervous gesture. "I think we should break up."
Mako had stood in stunned silence for several long minutes, the blood rushing to her head as it tried and failed to process the simple statement. "What?"
He had avoided her gaze. "Something's happened," he'd tried to explain. "You see, not too long ago, I met this girl and –"
Mako had taken a full step back in reaction as if his words had given her a physical blow. "A girl?" Where other girls would have gone into high-pitched hysteria, Mako had stilled into a deadly calm, her voice dropping to just above a whisper. "You were cheating on me?"
"No, no!" He had insisted fervently. "I haven't known her that long. We just met, but she's – I mean, I told her that it wouldn't be right – I didn't want to see you get hurt or lie to you – so I told her –"
Mako had held her hand up then, cutting off his stream of explanation, or lack thereof really. His mumbling and stumbling had only encouraged her stillness to strengthen, to shut her down from the inside out.
When the world became too much to bare, when the things she saw on the job were so horrendous that they nearly pushed her to her breaking point, Mako's long-honed instincts kicked in, forcing her to concentrate instead on breathing past the moment so that she could finish what had been started.
She'd looked at Takeru with a blank façade, her posture seemingly relaxed and controlled even as she'd felt the raging, bewildered emotions rising like a tide somewhere deep within. She had been fairly sure her heart was still beating, but if it wasn't, she wouldn't have been surprised. Certain things can only take so much pain before they stop working altogether.
"I understand," she had told him with a calm that belayed her inner turmoil. "Apparently this is as far as we go. May the two of you be happy together."
She'd turned on her heel then and left as swiftly as she'd arrived, not even bothering to glance back one last time, too afraid of what she'd see, and absolutely certain it would have broken her where she'd stood.
Mako had called herself all kinds of stupid after that day.
It had helped marginally that their friends had been just as shocked by the news as she had been.
Kaoru had been livid. She'd refused to even acknowledge the couple's presence at first out of respect for Mako, but when Mako had seen how much that hurt Takeru she'd managed to convince the younger woman to at least speak to her cousin. Kaoru had done so, grudgingly, but still refused to even so much as look at "the other woman," and it had eventually created a permanent rift between her and Takeru, something Mako had been truly dismayed by and felt partially responsible for.
Mako had tried to hang out with their friends after, but whenever Takeru brought his new girlfriend around, the stiff and awkward air that had permeated the group had begun to weigh too heavily on her shoulders.
When Takeru had proposed to the girl a mere four months into their new relationship – right in front of Mako no less – well, Mako had finally hit her limit. She had somehow found the wherewithal to sound out a hollow, "congratulations," before making up an acceptable excuse and fleeing as fast as her legs could carry her.
Mako hadn't really had the heart to be around the happy couple since.
She'd made a handful of attempts at Kotoha's urging for the first couple of months following the proposal, telling her how much everyone missed her, but had long given it up by now.
She hadn't really seen anyone aside from Kotoha and occasionally Chiaki in the last six months. She simply couldn't stomach it.
It had felt like more than just losing Takeru. It had left like losing her family all over again.
Mako's parents had been demon hunters. Her father had been brought into the family business after his marriage to her mother. They had both been killed on the job when Mako was nine years old, leaving her in the care of her strict and foreboding grandmother.
Mako's grandmother was impressive, the oldest living matriarch of their kind. Their line of work usually guaranteed a rather young and short life span, but her grandmother was as tough as they came – with the scars to prove it.
She'd met Takeru, of course, and to Mako's intense relief had approved of him. After the breakup, however, she'd sniffed, citing old age for her misjudgment and quickly dismissed him from her mind, ordering Mako to do the same.
Mako had soon discovered that the demand was easier said than done.
But when her emotions threatened to get the best of her, Mako had turned to her training – which turned out to be often – throwing herself into her work so that she could forget, if only for a moment. It was hard to dwell on lost love when a demon with wicked nails was trying to claw your face off.
However, as miserable as she felt, Mako wasn't suicidal. Her renewed focus and determination had even garnered an approving comment or two from her grandmother – a world-shattering act in its own right.
And Mako was proud of her work as of late. The distance she herself had created had turned into strength. No clinging, crying young woman to be found here.
So when Kotoha had invited her out for a treat and a chat, Mako had felt a small, if quiet smile back on her face. One that wasn't forced for the first time in she really didn't want to remember how long.
But then Kotoha had slid the invitation across the table. The one with Mako's name written boldly across the envelope. The invite itself was a frilly, lacey mess – obviously Takeru's fiancée's choice and not his.
She felt the now familiar pang that accompanied the thought of Takeru's choices and pushed it aside, along with the invitation before absently turning her ice cream parfait into something more resembling cold soup.
"What happened with Takeru – it's over, Kotoha," she told her friend softly. "I don't have time to think about it anymore."
Kotoha bit her lip, her voice quiet, almost anxious. "Mako, the invitation is addressed to you. You should come too."
Mako was already shaking her head. "I can't, even if I wanted to. Work has been very demanding lately; I don't have the time."
"Then make time," Kotoha's clipped tone, so out of character for her usually buoyant friend, finally garnered Mako's full attention since the ugly parchment had been pushed in front of her.
"Is everything okay, Kotoha?" Mako asked delicately, more than a bit wary. Her friend's eyes darted about furtively, causing Mako to lean forward in faux casualness to her friend.
"Mako," Kotoha dropped her voice to barely above a whisper, causing Mako to strain her ears to hear. "I think Takeru's marrying a demon."
Mako blinked a couple of times in response before letting out a shaky laugh. "I know bridezillas aren't the easiest of people to deal with, Kotoha, but –"
"No, you don't understand!" Kotoha gripped her friend's arm tightly. "I think she's a real demon."
Mako shook her head in exasperation. "Kotoha, our breakup was hard enough, but this is ridiculous –"
"Mako!" Kotoha frowned, irritation and a trace of panic evenly laced throughout her tone. "Takeru's not himself anymore. He's – something's wrong."
Mako dropped her gaze back to her melted dessert, her voice soft. "Sometimes people change."
"He doesn't smile anymore, Mako. Or laugh. We hardly ever see him. He's completely fixated on her," Kotoha's voice caught in her throat, causing Mako to look back up at her childhood friend. "It's like she has him on a leash – like he's under a spell or something." She gazed at her friend imploringly. "Ever since you left – it's all changed! She's horrid, Mako. The things she says and does," Kotoha shook her head. "And it's like Takeru doesn't see or hear it, like he can't."
Mako bit her lip, torn between wanting to ask more and wanting to dismiss the entire thing as ludicrous and walking away while she had the good sense not to chase after another woman's man. The tears that had begun to well up in Kotoha's eyes were what finally convinced Mako to walk away from the conversation.
"What do the guys think?"
Kotoha's gaze fell, her voice quiet with sorrow. "Chiaki finally had enough about a month ago. He and Takeru got into a huge fight. He told Takeru to get his senses back together and get rid of, well, he used a lot of colorful names for her, and," she winced, "they haven't spoken since."
Mako sat back in shock for a moment before finding her voice. "What about Ryunosuke and Genta?" She didn't need to ask about Kaoru's opinion. She knew the young woman was still barely tolerant of Takeru, let alone his fiancée.
Kotoha shook her head. "They can't stand her either, but they said he needs help, and they're willing to put up with anything if it means keeping as close of an eye on Takeru as they're allowed to."
"Allowed to?" Mako's brow rose in question and surprise.
Kotoha nodded once. "Lacey doesn't allow Takeru out much anymore. At least, not unless he's with her, and even then he follows her around like a lost puppy."
"Or a puppet on a string," Mako murmured quietly to herself.
Kotoha nodded, watching with relief as Mako finally let the information sink in.
"There's just one other thing," Kotoha continued and the hesitancy in her voice had Mako looking back warily. "I told Kaoru about your family." Mako's brows raised high on her forehead. "You know how she and Takeru have always had a bit of a sixth sense?"
Mako nodded silently.
"Well, she confessed that she'd felt something wrong from the start, but hadn't been able to place what it was," Kotoha rushed on. "But after we compared notes, and I suggested something maybe unusual, something beyond normal human acts was behind it…" She faced Mako steadily. "Kaoru thought about it – with that look on her face – and agreed." She shook her head. "I couldn't believe it, that she'd so readily agree that something unnatural was at cause, but," she bit her lip again, her tone dropping near silent once more. "It's that bad, Mako."
Mako felt a chill run down her spine. While it was obvious Kaoru had a sixth sense about her, the realistic young woman had always simply chalked her deductions to logic and finely tuned instincts. For Kaoru to accept something otherworldly meant that she had run out of all other options or explanations.
"When she asked what we could do about it, I told her I knew of a family who could help," Kotoha continued. "Kaoru was really wary about dragging others into the situation, but when I told her it was your grandmother who was the head of the family," she shrugged and a small, genuine smile curved her lips. "Kaoru simply nodded and agreed to let me bring the problem to you."
"Did you tell Kaoru that I was in the family business, too?" Mako asked, with a mix of curiosity and trepidation.
The smile widened on Kotoha's face. "She was relieved it would most likely be you taking on the case. She said it explained a lot."
Mako let out a deep breath, one she hadn't known she'd been holding – though from the tension in her shoulders, she had been holding it for a long time – possibly for years.
"Well," she slid her hand through her hair and sighed heavily. "I had considered telling her after I told Takeru, but better late than never I suppose."
Kotoha was nearly grinning from ear-to-ear as Mako inspected the wedding invitation more closely now, recognizing the handwriting across the front.
"I'm assuming Kaoru is the one who invited me then?"
Kotoha nodded eagerly. "We knew Lacey wouldn't invite you and Takeru couldn't, so Kaoru took it upon herself to snatch one of the horrid things and hand it to me to give to you." She smiled. "It'll be easier for you to get in as a guest rather than crashing the wedding, right? Kaoru says she'll officially hire your family for the job, but only if you're the one to take the case, Mako."
Mako nodded. "In some ways I'll stick out like a sore thumb – everyone will know me there, aside from the bride's family," she still refused to call Takeru's fiancée by name for reasons she still refused to look too closely at, "but because everyone knows me I wouldn't be spotted as an obvious intruder at a private event." She took a deep, steadying breath before releasing it slowly.
"Okay, I'll take the case," she agreed. "But if it turns out she's human, I'm walking out, Kotoha," Mako warned sternly. "I'm not going to breakup Takeru's wedding if she's nothing more than a vile shrew."
Kotoha's lips quirked at the term, biting them together to keep her laughter in and as she tried to keep her face straight.
"I mean it," Mako's tone was as serious as Kotoha's had been when trying to get Mako to listen in the first place. "If she's human, I'm out. If that's the kind of woman Takeru wants to be with than it's his problem to deal with – not mine."
"And if she's a demon?" Kotoha ventured.
"Then I'll kill the little bitch myself."