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AkuRokuAU: The Razing 1/??

| Idea I've had floating around in my head for a while. It has little enough to do with it now, but it was originally inspired by listening to the Wicked soundtrack just a bit too much. >.> It'll be slow going, but I do plan to finish it. |

| Prose is mine. Characters belong to Square Enix and Disney, respectively. Yes, that is a Final Fantasy XIII-2 Hope Estheim cameo. Yes it's premature. No, there are no fucks given. :3 |




Beneath the howling, Cathedral gargoyles, paradise burned.

Above horned, stone heads, the perpetrator stood on the roof of the stone church, a silhouette centerpiece for the bright, silvery glyph he’d spent two days placing there. The Staff in his hand pulsed wildly and fast, and he tapped the end against the ground, on one of the silvery characters closed in bright borders.

Across the burning city, a horrific, predatory scream echoed through the black smoke billows.

Below, innocent people screamed and fled in terror, but no exit route would take them beyond the city walls now.

Bahamut screamed again, and a resounding crash shook the Cathedral’s Foundation.

To pave the Road, you must first Raze the land.

The Guardian screamed again, and the man took up his Staff and carefully stepped out of the Glyph. Sensing the hold on him fray and sever, Bahamut launched away from his task and made for the Cathedral with all speed.

Collided.

The ancient Cathedral stones fell apart from each other rapidly, surging en masse over Bahamut. The roof shook and slanted forward, collapsing atop it all as Bahamut roared and clawed his way out of the rubble.

The man on top went down with it, torn asunder by claws as large as he had been.



Axel woke in the usual cold sweat, gasping and sitting hunched over his bent knees. This time, someone was shaking him. Running a hand over his face, he tried to make out features in the darkness of the bedroom. “Professor Valentine…”

The old man was crying, trying to heft his son in law out of the bed. “Go, you must go, now!”

Axel let himself be pried from the warmth of the bed and put on the clothes flung at him. “Professor, where’s Avihs?”

“Who?”

Axel’s blood ran to ice. “My wife, Professor! Your daughter?”

A blood-curdling scream reverberated off the walls of the chamber, and the Professor resumed throwing clothes at Axel. “No, you must leave. Now. Quickly!”

Pulling another shirt over his head – just how cold was this night? – Axel was pushed toward, of all things, the window. His wand was retrieved from the bedside table and pressed hard against his palm. “I’m trusting you know a trick or two the Academy would have preferred you not learn,” Professor Valentine hissed.

Feeling disoriented to the point of slight vertigo, Axel gave his head a small, rapid shake, his jaw clenched and eyes squinting shut. “Professor… Avihs… She…”

“The Lady of Ice is here,” Professor Valentine interrupted. “You have no time left, and I assure you if the fall kills you, it will be a gentler death than what she brings to me! Go!”

The old man gave a mighty shove and Axel was thrust through the window pane into a rather balmy night, wand in hand and glass tearing his skin as he burst through it. He had enough sense to cover his face, and only looked back at the window when he began to fall. The Professor had been encased in shining ice, his expression desperate, arms still extended in the shove.

Four stories is not a long distance to fall, all things considered. The apparent Lady of Ice leaned out the window and looked at him as he fell past the third floor to the second, and his eyes found familiar features in her face.

Avihs.

Her hair was much longer than he’d ever known her to have, her skin blue with cold. Ice and exotic adornments covered her breasts, and a gilt, narrow belt held an elaborate, styled garment to cover her from the hips down, a cross between a wrapped sarong and a loincloth. She was stunningly beautiful, and not an inch of the Avihs he’d known, and loved, and married despite the sorrow it seemed to bring her father, now frozen and probably dead.

Axel closed his eyes, and passed the second floor into the first.

And released his wand, to drift out of reach.





While the rich and those of Bloodline resided in gilt and polished towers above all Zanarkand, beneath only sun and stars, there were those who occupied the basements and sewer tunnels beneath all avenues and rivers. Their hub ran beneath the city center, a hair to the northeast, and was affectionately and ironically termed the Clubhouse, and treated with the absent resignation adults usually reserved for forts built in trees by boys who thereafter barred girls for being girls, set up an arsenal of passwords, secret handshakes, and held infinitely important meetings about neighborhood goings-on and play-acting games. Except this Clubhouse was widely understood to the be the retreat of the unwanted – troubled orphans who broke windows in the shadows of the night for stale bread, old war veterans who were so crippled by horrors and bombs as to not even be able to blame the relatives that had abandoned them, diseased whores no one wished to touch. And everyone left it alone. The smell was unbearable, the filth incomprehensible, the corpses of the long or recently dead never piled at a great distance. The ignorant thought it a quaint hideaway for the delinquent youth; the disillusioned turned their eyes from the city’s festering wound of unwanted, glad that they didn’t stink up the streets and alleys pestering their betters for coins and bread.

In the deepest, most untouched parts of the Clubhouse’s network of tunnels filled with the groaning and miserable, life was being kindled in the rotting darkness.

“He’s a mess,” a man said softly, looking over the nigh-dead man that had been brought him.

Roxas Strife, known to the Clubhouse as the Sentinel, leaned against the wall next to the door, keeping watch in the dimness one torch allotted them. “I need him alive, Estheim. Can you do that?”

A talented and fast healer, Hope Estheim was Guardian Corps but sympathetic to the cause that had named Roxas Sentinel, and while constant trips down to the Clubhouse would be suspicious, and healed hobos and orphans downright alarming, Roxas could always count on him for a favor when he needed it. Which he did now.

Without answering, Hope let the gentle waves of magic swell up around him. He murmured a poly-syllabic incantation, and the glow transferred from him to the broken man he knelt in front of. Before Roxas’s eyes, the broken man was mended. Hope rose and walked toward the entrance. “Any leads, Sentinel?” He asked, as though the healing had been cursory, a matter of course.

“A woman named Avihs Valentine-Tarshil has vanished,” Sentinel said dryly. “Her father, Professor Grimoire Valentine, was found encased in ice around dawn. Nothing melts it, nothing chips it. He might as well be a corpse. Axel Tarshil was as good as dead when he fell from the fourth floor, saved from the fate that iced his father-in-law, the Professor.”

Hope glanced back at the healed man on the floor. “Right… And do you have anything of value?”

Sentinel frowned. “Avihs has no birth record.”

Hope crossed his arms over his uniform. “If that were possible, she wouldn’t have been able to marry Tarshil.”

“Their marriage was show,” Sentinel said, grinning now. “Axel Tarshil is Witchborn. It’s different from your foreign magic.”

Hope nodded. That much was true. Since his transfer to Zanarkand from Spira, he had learned their two worlds had very different magic, and very different attitudes toward it. Spirans brought in to Zanarkand were given special ID cards that acknowledged their brand of incantation spells and permitted them. Zanarkand magic was far more dangerous, highly unpredictable and history’s scapegoat for Chaos. Witchborn were given wands, disowned by their families as dead, and trained in their arts at the Academy, closely monitored by the Council. At the peak of their powers, they were castrated to stop the power from building and causing a loss of all sanity, followed inevitably by spilled blood. Zanarkand kept them because, neutered, they were useful.

After Hope had returned to the Corps to report on his standard checkup of the Clubhouse, Roxas stood astride Axel and knelt over him, almost sitting on his newly-mended torso. “Spiran magic really is something,” he said appreciatively, sliding a hand down from Axel’s exposed collarbone to his narrow chest then to his belly, near where Roxas squatted over him.



Axel looked up from his half of the dorm room, long limbs extended over his bed. “I hated you at first too, you know.”

Roxas shook his head. He sat on the edge of his bed, curled over with his elbows on his knees, his face propped up and buried in his palms.

Rising from the bed with a rustle of cloth and a squeak of the springs, Axel padded barefoot across the carpet between them and knelt before his dormmate, closing long hands around the younger boy’s wrists and moving his pale hands away from his face.

The sight that greeted Roxas wasn’t the visage of his long-time enemy, the laughing, graceful tease that had the sympathy of the whole school. It was the face of a man whose loved one was in pain, of a man who could do nothing to assuage the damage done.

Axel released one wrist to cup Roxas’s face in his palm. “I came to love you, Roxas Strife.” When blue eyes accused him, full of doubt and suspicion, Axel smiled, gently, and lifted himself a little even as he drew the boy’s face downward. He met Roxas’s lips with his own tenderly, moving slowly and savoring the moment for what it was.

Maybe all it would ever be.

Something in Axel’s mind whispered, “I told you so,” as he found himself shoved hard, falling backward onto the carpet. The fireplace, the only light in the deep midnight that brooked no sleep for either, sparked loudly on a few beads of sap left in the pine logs. Roxas was sitting astride his hips now, his face a tangle of determination and vulnerability, tears coming free now that distraction had eaten away his resolve to hold them at bay. He pinned Axel’s arms at either side of his head – and Axel let him. He might have fought back, but if it brought him peace to hit him, to take out his pain on him, so be it.

Roxas leaned down over him, and kissed him, his tears sliding down both their cheeks as Axel tipped his head up to return the kiss. Such happiness found him as they moved together, removing clothing and exploring more and more firelit flesh. The flames smoldered into coals as Roxas rode him from above, his scowling, cherubic face painted over with honest arousal and passion, cheeks stained red, his body bare and open. Axel thrust his hips eagerly, drinking in the sight of their joining, of Roxas’s arousal and the dimming firelight yet dancing across his pale skin. He came with a startled cry inside the tight heat of his companion, and Roxas was forced to still himself. Axel freed a hand and reached for him, pumping his shaft until bliss found him, too.

They had fallen asleep there on the carpet, and woke shivering in each other’s arms just before dawn, the fireplace cold and the slim window panes at either side of it revealing dim, grey pre-dawn and snow.

Two weeks later, Axel had been sold to a Benefactor, one Grimoire Valentine.





The benefit of being an illegal Witchborn was that you could use magic for a great many things and, because it was supposed to be secret, you had to be careful, but it was also rather unexpected and therefore vastly overlooked.

Roxas had, upon first finding the Clubhouse, taken up residence in one of the rooms deep in the labyrinth of tunnels. When this proved fatal to some of his belongings, he spent a week hollowing out a loft, far above and off any beaten path, with a narrow door he could lock and a secure, warm place to sleep. The situation begged both caution and haste, and it was a mix of both that brought Axel, unconscious and six years older than when Roxas had last seen him, to his hidden room.

He was lucky that Hope had passed through when he had. Axel had been dying, and Roxas had not the skill with healing magic he needed to save him. Hope did. The man was renowned for it, just as he was for somewhat using his position in the Guardian Corps as means to find someone he’d lost, a woman, as the rumor had it.

“Lightning,” Hope had called her. “You hear anything about her or a woman named Claire and you tell me.”

Roxas had kept his end of the bargain when he could, but even when he outright sought the woman, the trail was cold.

While Axel slept, he ate, and took stock of his garnered resources, committing to memory what he lacked or ran low on. Then he went into a separate chamber and bathed, using his wand. He was examining Axel’s wand when the man began to stir. When green eyes opened above tear-drop shaped black tattoos on his cheeks, Roxas turned his gaze to the wand. “Good morning,” he said dryly.

Axel yawned and sat up, then fell right back down in the bed. Roxas grinned from where he leaned against a dressing table, covered with notes and sketches. “That’s one of the interesting things about Spiran magic,” he observed. “They use the recipient’s energy stores to heal them as much as they use their own. You’ll probably be sore for a while.”

“My… wife…”

Roxas’s upper lip curled up in one corner, revealing a canine in his annoyance. “Avihs Valentine-Tarshil never existed. Or, to be precise, had false birth records. Glaringly false.” He wasn’t rubbing it in, it was true.

“She was real,” Axel croaked, and then coughed.

Laying the wand aside, Roxas got him a small cup of water and sat on the edge of the bed while Axel drank. “Real, sure. But she wasn’t Grimoire Valentine’s daughter. Not in the usual sense.”

Axel finished the cup and passed it back empty, a small shimmer of the old light in his eyes. “I taught you to do that, didn’t I? Your hair.”

Roxas’s eyes went up in reflex, and he patted the crown of upward spikes on one side of his head. “I guess you did.”

Smiling, Axel quoted himself from eight years before, “’Which clothes to wear, and I’ll teach you how to fix your hair…’”

“A lot of pity you had for me then, huh? Your dormmate deplored by the whole school for bunking with you.” Roxas shook his head. “Your father in law pushed you out of a fourth floor window, Axel. People don’t survive that.”

“So I’m dead, huh?”

Roxas nodded.

“And Valentine?”

Sighing Roxas gave him what, considering the circumstances, he could. “The same as you.”

“So he’s alive somewhere?”

“No,” Roxas said. “He’s encased in ice that won’t melt or crack. He’s as good as dead.” He slid off the bed. “If you’re going to survive dying, Axel, I need to teach you a few things. Or,” he said flatly, “I can kill you now and save you the pain.”