Book 4, Chapter 15

When the demons disappeared, Sasha was sitting on a chunk of cement nursing a nosebleed he could have done without. It had started while Julian and Yoko were discussing the next move in their cross-city trek, and rather than say anything, Sasha had found a place to sit and wait them out. He was growing tired of the company and the hike, and with Julian’s attention focused on Yoko and not on healing him, he was beginning to feel the effects of the night’s activities. It was hard to breathe because of the dust, and the blood trickling down the back of his throat was making his airways feel raw.

He wouldn’t have even known the monsters were gone if Yoko hadn’t stopped speaking mid-sentence and turned to look around in silence. Sasha imagined him with animal ears pricked, listening for any noise. The image would have been cute if he’d liked Yoko much.

“What is it?” Julian asked, cocking his gun, assuming the worst.

“Sa'dzra-im has finally acted,” was Yoko’s answer.

Julian exchanged a glance with Sasha that clearly said he also had no idea what that was supposed to mean.

“Who?” Julian asked, moving over to Sasha and putting a hand on his shoulder. Now-familiar warmth spread through him and he straightened, wiping blood away. He had a feeling that he was only smearing it and making his face even messier. He couldn’t wait until he got to take a shower.

Yoko shook his head, and the dust from his hair formed a halo around his head. “My father.”

It wasn’t much in the way of clarification.

“What about your father?” Sasha asked, and then wished he’d waited for the Others to speak up. Listening to them, he just felt stupid. “Oh, Ashe-im-Torim.”

Julian frowned and opened his mouth to speak, but Yoko beat him to it. “Hn. He has destroyed the demons.”

Sasha would have liked to have been impressed, but the voices speaking in his ears were telling him much more interesting things about the dark god in question and about Yoko as well. He listened with his head cocked, watching Yoko and the Julian-phantom that was still hugging him from behind. It had taken some muttered questioning of the Others, but he’d gotten a fair idea of where that phantom had come from, and was less appalled by it now than he had been initially. It made sense that, given reincarnation of mortals and immortality of divine and semi-divine beings as universal facts, Yoko and Julian could have met at some point in the past. Especially if Yoko was as old as the Others were saying he was.

“Great,” Sasha said, standing up finally. “We can go home and I can take a fucking shower.”

“Assuming home’s worth going back to,” Julian said, crossing his arms over his chest.

Yoko turned an unreadable gaze on the two of them and let out a long breath. “Come.”

Without waiting for an answer, he walked away. Sasha couldn’t help noticing that he didn’t leave any footprints in the dust as he walked.

Julian followed without questioning him, looking lost in thought; Sasha tagged along a bit more reluctantly. He didn’t like having to accept Yoko’s ambiguous leadership, but if Julian was going, so was he. If he were left to find his way home on his own, he’d probably choke on the dust and die before he managed to make it through the alien landscape the city had become to anything recognizable.

“We will go to my home,” Yoko said as they walked. “It is outside this radius.”

“That’ll take awhile,” Julian commented.

“With you along, yes.”

He can climb sheer building faces, the Others said in answer to Sasha’s unspoken question. You should see what his brothers can do.

Sasha frowned. Yoko’s brother was dead. Julian had told him so.

The Others snickered at his ignorance. He had more than one brother.

Before Sasha could ask about this other brother, his companions’ conversation drew his attention away.

“Wait, you live in east eighth-sector. Why are you all the way over here?” Julian was asking. “Did you come when you found out about the invasion?”

Yoko didn’t answer right away. Sasha brushed away a few inquisitive ghost lights as he waited impatiently for him to speak.

“My brother said to me that I should be out tonight.” He spoke slowly, golden eyes narrowed.

“Your bro--” Julian frowned in thought. “I can’t remember his name.”

“Hiroki,” Yoko supplied. “Genwaku Hiroki.”

“God! Shut. Up.” Julian and Yoko looked back at Sasha and he made a face at them, and added, “It’s nothing. Everyone started talking at once, that’s all.”

Yoko gave him an appraising look. It was the first time that night that he’d directed anything but disinterest at Sasha. “You’ve heard this name?”

“The Others have,” Sasha said.

“Hn.” If Yoko didn’t know what he meant by that, he didn’t ask.

“I know the name,” Julian put in. “I remember Rabbit mentioning him. He works at the university.”

Yoko turned his gaze back to Julian. “Yes. He does.”

“So he’s the one who said you should come out here? Why? He couldn’t have known--hey, Yoko!”

But Yoko was walking away, veering off what was left of the street toward a nearby high-rise that had obviously been a site of demon attacks. Julian trotted after, calling his name, and Sasha followed more slowly. Yoko paused outside, eyeing the entrance, and then disappeared inside, scrambling over the debris-choked doorway like a goat with Julian and Sasha in tow.

He found Yoko standing in what had been the lobby area of the building’s lowest residential level. Julian was standing several feet behind him. Both of them had their eyes trained on the floor. Following their gaze as he drew near, Sasha took in the flowing symbol painted on the tile.

It’s a gateway, someone whispered. Sasha glanced around at the faces peering over his shoulders in rapt attention. They were uncharacteristically solemn as they looked on. He called them out through that.

“What’s--?” Julian started to ask, but again Yoko walked away before he could finish his question.

“Wait here,” he instructed. “It will be faster.”

Julian started to object, but the words died on his lips; as soon as he’d cleared the doorway, Yoko was gone.

“God damn it,” Julian said instead and crossed his arms over his chest. “What the hell is going on?”

“His brother did something,” Sasha supplied, and when Julian gave him a sardonic look, he added, “The symbol is a gateway.”

“It’s a what?” Julian looked from him to the emblem on the floor.

“That’s what They called it,” Sasha explained, shrugging.

“What’s that even mean, Sasha?” Julian asked, pinching the bridge of his nose in a gesture that clearly said he was getting tired of what he considered to be nonsense.

Sasha scowled at him. “How the fuck should I know? They never tell me anything that’s actually useful, and they never tell me the whole story. I’m just trying to be helpful.”

“You could just be quiet instead,” Julian muttered.

For lack of anything better or more mature to do in response, Sasha kicked a rock at him. It glanced off of Julian’s shoe and skittered out of sight across the floor.

“I have an idea. How about next time you be the Witness and I’ll be the Healer. It’ll be great, because I’ll be right there to hang over your shoulder and say ‘I told you so’.”

“Give it a rest,” Julian said. “I didn’t mean anything by it.”

“Oh, I bet.”

“You’re acting like a hormonal, teenage girl.”

At least one of the Others who was a teenaged girl began to make a fuss at that and Sasha put his hands to his head. “Whatever.”

“It’s a gateway.”

Sasha dropped his hands at his sides again and turned as one with Julian to look at Yoko, who was standing nearby. Neither of them had heard him approach.

“My brother did something,” Yoko added, looking from one of them to the other.

Sasha couldn’t resist shooting Julian a vindicated look as the little hero repeated his own words. He doubted there would ever be another moment in his life when he would like Yoko as much as he did just then.

Julian sighed. “What did he do, Yoko?”

“He brought us demons.”


Yoko shrugged, though Sasha could see an underlying tension in his posture. “He marked the area thoroughly with the sigil. The demons crossed the space between their realm and ours using these as portals.”

“So your brother is our enemy,” Julian said slowly. He frowned. “Wait, when you said before that Tokoyo had been killed--”

Yoko shifted his weight and interrupted. “I still do not wish to state my opinions on the matter.”

He didn’t have to, at least as far as Sasha was concerned. He couldn’t suppress a laugh and ignored the look Julian gave him. Yoko also turned his gaze on him, but Sasha couldn’t read it.

“Your family’s fucked up,” he said. “You guys have lived so long, that what? He just got bored? Decided to destroy half the city?”

Yoko looked at him in silence for a moment and then smirked a little. He had very sharp looking canines. Sasha’s laugh turned into a grimace; the midget had perfected silent communication.

“So your brother engineered this whole thing,” Julian said. “Why?”

“To force my father's hand.” Yoko glanced at the sigil on the floor and added, “I suspect.”

Julian started to speak, but Sasha interrupted him. He jerked his head at the symbol. “Wait, why didn’t anyone notice these things, if there are so many of them?”

“Humans see what they want to see,” Yoko said, leveling him with another cryptic gaze.

Sasha nodded. He knew that better than most, these days.

“As it stands, it is unimportant,” Yoko continued. “The dark god is made whole, so we’re one step closer.”

“To what?” Sasha asked.


Sasha stared at Yoko, who looked back at him with a veiled expression. He ignored the chatter in his ears, focusing on Yoko’s eyes. He had a feeling that everything he needed to know was there, if he looked long enough to see it.

“Your father’s name is Ashe-im-Torim?” Julian asked, making Yoko break his gaze with Sasha and turn his eyes toward him.


Julian frowned and shook his head.

“He is very close to you,” Yoko added, and turned away. “Come. We will go to my home. There is food there, and water. We will rest.”

He began walking, forestalling any more questions. Julian followed him in disgruntled silence and Sasha once again took up the rear, trying to think around the voices whispering in his ears. What had just transpired was very important. He just didn’t know why, yet.

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