Pandora's Necklace by nicksgal
Summary:

A demon shrouded in only shadows. A ceaseless and persistent curse. An evil strong enough to be coveted by the Devil. A necklace ready to ignite. Without the box, what binds and drives demons and priestesses?



The sequel to Pandora's Box!


Categories: Fanfiction > Backstreet Boys Characters: AJ, Brian, Group, Howie, Kevin, Nick, Other
Genres: Action, Adventure, Alternate Universe, Fantasy, Romance, Supernatural
Warnings: Graphic Violence, Sexual Content
Challenges:
Series: The Legendary Pandora
Chapters: 37 Completed: No Word count: 155142 Read: 53861 Published: 12/10/20 Updated: 08/26/21
Chapter Thirty-Two: Ripples by nicksgal
“Brian!”

As Brian entered the otherwise empty arena, he glanced up at Minako waving with a broad smile on her face. You don’t look sick, but… He furrowed his brow.

“The demon father had begged us to stay as he began exhibiting signs of the poisonous fever as well. Maybe he thought we could do something for what he already expected to happen. It was… heartbreaking.”

It would be heartbreaking if you and Nick were sick like that...


When Brian neared, her smile vanished from her face instantly. “Brian, are you okay?”

I’m worrying her again… Brian inhaled deeply, then fixed a smile on his face. “I’m fine. Are you feeling well?”

“Just fine, Brian.” She cocked her head to the side as she swallowed, then glanced at the floor. “I guess I’m a little worried this won’t work at all... But I didn’t want to disappoint Nick. He’s still hurting and really worried already...”

I hate that he’s listening to Ashley, but it’s true… Nick focusing on Minako instead of Justin would be very dangerous for both of them. Especially if Nick’s injured and Minako’s sick… It’s good to have an escape plan too… But what if I can’t teach her? Then she’ll go with us and Kevin and I will have to take care of Nick, who will keep fighting anyway, and Minako, who might be too weak from being sick...

“Brian? Brian? Brian! BRIAN!” She shouted over his thoughts and grabbed his shoulder with a forceful shake.

Brian flinched and stared at her. “Just… thinking. Sorry.”

Minako covered her face with her hands and groaned. “Can we just talk about it?”

“Minako, I--”

“I knew it would get really awkward if it was just us together! If Nick was here, he’d make sure we were focused on the barriers… He would just keep smiling if it was going well or frowning if it wasn’t and tell us to keep working… I just didn’t want him to worry more…” Her groan continued to be muffled behind her hands. “It would have been fine if we told you... later though, not right then…”

We’re worried about the same thing for different reasons… Brian exhaled.

~*~



“Nick? Minako?” When Brian knocked on Nick and Minako’s door, only silence responded to him. He paused, then knocked again. “Nick? Minako?” Maybe they’re not there… He started to walk away and the door swung open behind him.

“Hi, Brian?” Nick stood in the doorway wearing only his pants, brushing his sweaty hair out of his eyes. “You okay?”

“Yeah, I wanted to talk to everyone about--” As he spoke, Brian turned back toward the door.

“Nick…” Minako’s voice called into the hall from behind him.

“What?” Nick glanced back over his shoulder. “Oh, right… Hold on a second?” Nick beamed as he handed Brian the ajar door.

“Sure?” Brian glanced in the room as he grabbed the door from Nick, spotting Minako sitting up and bundled in the linens while holding up her dress.

“Brian!” Minako pulled the linens over her head quickly. “Nick! Hold on a second with the door closed!”

Brian quickly averted his eyes and turned his back to the room.

“You didn’t see anything, right?” Nick’s mumble sounded slightly perturbed.

“I didn’t, I promise.” Brian held his hand over his eyes.

“Okay, good! Hold on a second!” Nick’s voice went back to the cheerful tone of his broad smile. “Minako, I’m sor--” The door closed quickly behind him, cutting him off.

~*~



“I’m sorry. I didn’t see anything, I promise.”

“That’s just not how I wanted anyone to find out… Madeline’s been dying to know and I haven’t told her. I was kind of hoping to talk to Renee about it first...” Her voice broke. “Whenever that is…”

“I didn’t tell anyone. It’s your business, not mine.” He put his hand behind his head. “As long as you’re both… safe, healthy, and happy, that’s what matters.” It’s probably better to focus on her worries and not my worries. I don’t want to scare her… Or upset Nick when she told him…

She lowered her hands from her face. “Thank you, Brian. We’re both good. It’s been really nice being here, even though Nick’s hurting and still trying to get stronger, but… he’s doing a lot better with our support and some time to himself. And you know him… he’ll just keep going forward.”

Regardless of the consequences. Brian chuckled.

“And we’ve also gotten some time to ourselves that we needed. Made plans and decisions… Relaxed and had fun… Lots of things… Thank you for letting us have that.” She smiled. “Of course we miss having you around and all our little daily rituals.”

After inhaling to calm the brief flutter of his heart, Brian patted her shoulder. “We’ll miss you too if this works. If you and Nick need time to yourselves, just say so. I know we didn’t have that luxury before in the castle and while we were traveling as much, but we’ll all give it to you when we can.”

“I know, but Justin won’t leave us alone forever. I’m… surprised we haven’t run into him or anything… It makes me a little uneasy. You too, right? That’s why you wanted to go?”

“It is. I wanted to give Nick the time he needed to process things, but the longer we wait, the more likely it is that Justin will come to us. And if we’re here with my family…” He swallowed. “I’d rather not put them in danger.”

“No matter what happens, your family will stay safe!” Minako clenched her fist and grinned. “I’m ready to try to help!”

“Channeling Nick?” Brian laughed.

“Yup! I can definitely keep going!”

Brian laughed again as he sat cross legged with his staff against his knees. “You sit too.” After Minako sat beside him, Brian breathed deeply, trying to calm the loud beating of his heart and the buzzing in his nerves. “I talked to my Grandfather and I think I’m ready to teach you… There’s a couple of things that I probably can’t share, but… We’ll figure it out together.” He stretched and inhaled deeply again. If I stay calm, she’ll stay calm. “Right now, your use of the barriers is pretty similar to all children before they learn, they come out when you need them.”

“After I’m already hurt.” She frowned.

“Children don’t always know that something will hurt, but they know that once they are hurt, they want to avoid further injury.” He patted her shoulder and smiled. “It’s okay. That’s the first step, knowing you can control them at all. Now you just need to find and call them.”

Minako wrapped her arms around her legs, then leaned on her knees.

“First, you have to turn your body into a fortress. Not a literal building, but sturdy and ready to defend against anything. Hard as stone. We learn to think of something absolute, that can’t be moved in the wind.”

“Like a rock?”

“You could if that helps.” Brian laughed. “It’s easier if it’s more personal. It’s not normally what I tell myself, but in the castle I kept repeating that I would be strong for you and Nick. It felt… more appropriate at that moment.”

“Do I tell you what it is?”

“You can, but if it’s only something you know, it will be easier for you.”

Minako furrowed her brow and held her hands to her heart, then exhaled deeply. “I think I’m ready.”

“Okay, I’ll do it with you this time. After you think of that absolute and unmovable thing, that’s when you’ll reach inside and search for the part that feels mobile. Then stretch and pull at that part until it comes out.”

“What does it feel like besides mobile?”

“A squishy web? A thin net?”

“I think... that helps… Let’s try it.” As Minako spoke, she wrinkled her nose.

“Okay.” Brian laughed and closed his eyes. “Think of your absolute thing.”

“Oh, wait!”

Brian opened one eye. “Minako?”

“You always tent your fingers, like this. Why?” She pressed her outstretched pointer fingers together and held them to the bridge of her nose.

“I like having a place for the barrier to go. We can talk about that next. Right now, just focus on trying to bring it out on purpose.” He shut his eye again. “Ready?”

“Ready.”

I am Brian of the Shields. He opened his eyes and smiled at the small barrier around him, then glanced at Minako and his smile grew. There’s a little shimmer around her. I knew she’d get it. The barrier around him shrank and vanished. “Can you feel this?” He poked her arm.

“It feels like a poke… but not on my actual arm…” Minako frowned. “But I can’t see the barrier… I don’t think it worked?”

“It did, the barrier’s just really close to your body.” Brian furrowed his brow, pressing his lips into a thin line before speaking. “This is what Ashley was doing with the barrier power, but it doesn’t give you a chance to react, it just protects your own body.”

“You can’t protect other people either.”

“Exactly and we teach that a barrier’s true strength is in protecting others. Try it again, but this time, try to stretch it once it’s out. Even just a little wider than your skin is enough for now. I’ll watch and make sure it looks right.”

Minako closed her eyes again.

I wonder what she picked.

The little shimmer appeared around her skin, then expanded about an inch.

Probably something about Nick if she’s catching on this quickly. Anything that helps her is fine. “That’s good. Try making it as big as you can.”

The barrier continued to expand until it brushed against Brian’s outstretched hand, then quickly shrunk and disappeared. Minako held her head and stared at Brian with glassy eyes.

“I know it’s tough. I wouldn’t normally ask this much of anyone first learning.”

“No, I get it. We have to be quick. Can I try it again?” Minako blinked several times, then smiled at Brian.

“If it dissolves again, we’ll stop.”

Minako closed her eyes and the small shimmer glinted across her skin, then expanded about an inch again.

“Perfect. Try holding that for a minute first.”

Minako clenched her eyes tighter and her hands shook in her lap as the barrier flickered.

“I know you’re trying to concentrate, but this might help. If it gets hard pulling or holding the mobile part, try repeating your absolute thing in your mind. It should help calm you and keep solidifying your body.”

“No, that helps, Brian. Thank you.” After a few moments, the barrier steadied around her body as she smiled. “What about your staff?”

“That would help too. I know you asked Howie about making something like it for Nick.” He glanced at his staff and held it tightly, calm washing over him as he ran his thumb along the metal. “For barrier demons, having a staff is both something we can physically feel and something deeply entrenched in our history. It connects us to all those powerful demons before us. It’s likely that Nick’s family had something similar in the past.”

“Is yours an heirloom?”

“Mine isn’t. It’s just made to look like the original. We still have it, but it’s mostly used by my Grandfather for ceremonial purposes, not everyday things. The one he carries every day is the same as mine.”

“What about your dad? Or your mom?”

“My father is currently preparing for ascension to the council, so he is…” This might be helping her concentrate, but I don’t think I can share details... “...busy with everything that entails. My mother is dead.”

“Brian, I’m--” The barrier around her flickered.

“It’s okay. All female demons live for only a short time compared to male demons. Some clans, it’s a little shorter, some clans, it’s a little longer. It’s sad, but we’re used to it.”

The barrier steadied again. “Is your grandpa in charge of the council?”

“Ritualistically speaking? A little. Not in the politics of everything though, that’s all equal.” He shook his head. “We can talk about all of this later though, including what kind of object might help you if you want. Try to make the barrier as big as you can again, then try to hold it.”

Brian reached out his hand and the barrier expanded to meet it, but flickered and shrank back toward Minako after a few moments.

Minako breathed heavily and gripped her chest, then stared at Brian with the same glassy expression. “Brian, I want--”

“We’ll keep trying later.” He clapped his hand against her shoulder. “Our time constraints will make it especially tiring, more than it already is. You’re doing great, but... “ He frowned. “Don’t tell Nick things you think he wants to hear. Not yet, anyway.” He glanced away from her. Actually, I’d prefer it if he wasn’t involved in this at all. Then you can make sure you’re depending on yourself.

“He’ll just worry…” She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “Or… He’ll want to do anything he can to help, but I don’t think he can… Brian… Do you think I’ll be able to learn enough to help?”

“I’ve never taught anyone before, demon… or human… So who can say for sure? What you’re learning isn’t very complicated for a barrier demon, not until you add the distance to it.”

“Brian, would an object really help?”

“More important than anything else, it has to be something that fills you with immediate calm and reminds you of who you are. Something personal that touches your skin directly is best. A lot of demons choose jewelry or weapons for that reason. A gift can be good too if it’s from a person who brings you calm or if it’s an heirloom from your family. Your ring might be a good choice unless you can think of something better.”

Minako fiddled with the ring as she stared at it.

“Just keep practicing and let’s plan on the same time tomorrow…” He frowned. “Unless you’re not feeling well…”

“Brian, I’m really fine, just tired. I promise!”

Hope so… I might have to keep checking on my own just in case. He tried his best to put a reassuring smile on his face.

~*~



The next morning, Brian and Minako stood in the arena again while Kevin watched them as he sat beside the entrance.

“How are you feeling today, Minako?” As Brian swallowed, his nerves remained tense, causing his smile to become a frown.

“Okay, just kind of exhausted…” She smiled. “It’s hard learning new things.”

“Are you getting enough rest?” Kevin stood up and brushed off his pants before walking over to her.

“Oh, you know… mostly…” Minako glanced at Brian, then quickly glanced at the floor and brushed her hair behind her ear.

Brian crossed his arms and held his head in one hand. Minako, I don’t need to know any of this.

“Um… It’s hard when there’s not real sunlight in here, so I’m just guessing when it’s time to sleep if I feel tired.”

Kevin ran his hand on his chin as he scrutinized her face. “Sleeping is an important and often overlooked part of training. You also need to give your body time to recover.”

“I’ll remember that, Kevin.” Minako smiled as she hugged Kevin’s arm.

She seems fine, but… Brian frowned. I’m just going to check. I hope she doesn’t notice. Minako has to be safe. As he held out his palm, a miniscule barrier formed in it then he flicked it toward Minako. It brushed against the air surrounding her and a dazzling light burst around her, then the tiny barrier bounced off of it. That’s… very bright. Like Nick. She’s probably fine, but...

“Okay, what am I doing here today besides reminding Minako to sleep?” Kevin crossed his arms and a small smirk quirked on his lips.

“I’m going to try to teach Minako to make barriers big enough for more than one person.” Brian gripped his staff tightly, hoping to hide the energy surrounding him.

“Nick didn’t want to volunteer?”

“Nick deserves a break, don’t you think, Kevin?” Minako winked, then grimaced before hiding her face in her hand.

“Nick would also try to be really involved, don’t you think, Minako?” Brian snickered, grateful that she couldn’t see it. “That’s why he left with Howie and AJ.”

“I regret bringing him up when he’s not here.” Kevin chuckled. “Okay, Brian. Let’s make some barriers.”

Minako uncovered her face and brushed a strand of hair behind her ear.

Brian cleared his throat as the warm smile returned to his face. “I thought having Kevin here would be helpful so you can try to get used to his aura. It might be easier for us to connect if you have a feeling for everyone that will be with me.”

“I need to be able to make the barriers bigger, don’t I?” Minako lowered her head.

“Exactly. That’s why I tent my fingers, so I can concentrate on my hands and pretend I’m pulling the barrier out from them.” He demonstrated the motions loosely.

After swallowing, Minako fixed her gaze on his face. “I’m ready to try my best.”

“Ready?” Brian tented his hands and held them to the bridge of his nose.

“Yup!” Minako copied his motions.

“Think about your absolute thing, focus the mobile part against your hands, then pull it apart and stretch it over yourself and Kevin. If it’s close to your skin, it won’t work.”

“Can I watch you do it first?”

Brian shut his eyes as he held his tented pointer fingers against the bridge of his nose. I am Brian of the Shields. As his powers sprung up from him, he pulled apart his hands so subtly that only his thumbs and pinkies moved fractions of an inch. Afterward, a barrier surrounded the three of them. Brian pulled his hands from his face and smiled. “Like that.”

“Brian, your hands barely moved!”

“A true expert.” Kevin nodded approvingly.

Brian chuckled as the barrier dissipated. “I’ve had a lot of practice. When I was first learning, I pulled my hands as far from each other as I could to visualize a larger barrier.” He mimicked his words, hurriedly spreading his hands apart while keeping his pointer fingers touching as long as possible. “If you need to make bigger motions that make sense to you while you’re learning, you should do it. But if big doesn’t make sense, don’t do it.”

“Okay, I’m ready.” After inhaling deeply, Minako tented her fingers and pulled them apart as a barrier formed inside them. She continued to spread her hands until the large barrier surrounded her and Kevin.

“Hold it as long as you can.” Brian scrutinized the barrier as he walked around it, scanning its entire surface area.

Minako grimaced as her hands shook, but the barrier continued to hold.

“You’re doing great, Minako.” Kevin patted her shoulder.

“Okay, let it go, then do it again.”

Minako closed her hands and exhaled loudly. “It’s tough, Brian.”

“I know. I’m sorry.” He frowned. “I wouldn’t normally be pushing you this much if you were just starting to learn, so just do your best.”

Minako swallowed, but responded with a firm nod. As she shut her eyes, she inhaled deeply and tented her fingers again.

I know you’re trying as hard as you can. You’re afraid of disappointing us. He furrowed his brow. What if I’m too harsh of a teacher? There’s just… no time. I have to keep testing you. Brian quickly tented his fingers against the bridge of his nose, then thrust the barrier forward as he pulled them apart and flung it toward Minako.

Her eyes shot open and she jumped backward as a shimmer of light appeared around her skin.

Good… He exhaled forcefully and glanced away, hiding the relieved smile on his face.

While breathing quickly, she cupped her trembling hands over her mouth and stared at him. “Brian…” The barrier surrounding her skin vanished.

Brian hurriedly averted his eyes. Don’t look at me like that… I did what I had to do. You and Nick wanted this. But...

“Are you hurt?” Kevin began scrutinizing and examining Minako’s skin.

“N-no…” She cupped her hand over her forehead as her face paled. “Still… just tired…”

“I can heal you if you want to keep practicing today.”

“Don’t.” My voice sounds too harsh…

“Brian?” Kevin furrowed his brow.

“We wouldn’t be together until the end. Minako shouldn’t be relying on you to heal her each time. She has to fight through it and get stronger.”

Minako glanced at the ground as her hands continued to tremble. “I’ll… keep going…”

Brian covered his face with his hand. “Let’s do one more thing, then we can stop for the day. We have to try combining barriers.”

“Just… tell me what to do… and I’ll do it…”

I scared her. Minako… I’m sorry, but we have to keep going. If this is really what you want, then I have to push you. And then it will work… or you’ll break… Brian grimaced, but quickly screwed his face into a more cheerful expression as he spread his legs wide to brace himself. “We’ll do it close first. Make a barrier, slightly larger than your skin and hold it. Then thrust your hand forward when I do.”

“Like a high five?”

“Sure?” Brian quickly surrounded himself in a barrier.

“Okay…” Minako lowered her head as she held her hands to her heart until a small barrier sprang up around her. She hesitantly glanced up at him.

“I’ll count to three, be ready. One. Two. Three.” He thrust his hand forward toward hers and their barriers combined into one.

Minako breathed heavily as she shifted her weight to her heels.

“You can let go of it.”

Minako exhaled loudly and crumpled into her hands at her chest. Her face beaded with sweat.

“One more time, but you stay by Kevin. I’ll stand further away. Do the same thing when I count to three.” He began walking toward the center of the arena. “Make your barrier as big as you can and pull towards you with your other hand, like wrapping yourself in cloth.” He glanced back at her. “Does that make sense?”

“Yeah, I think so...”

Brian walked a few more feet, then turned to face her as he formed a barrier around his body. “Go ahead and start. I’ll count to three.”

Minako tented her fingers again and pulled them apart as she formed a barrier around her body. It flickered and danced as her hands shook erratically.

It probably won’t hold. I could pull her into mine, but we’re practicing so that we can get out of Emeradotouhou… I can’t tell her that I can do that. “Keep breathing and stay calm. One. Two. Three.” Brian thrust his hand toward hers as Minako began motioning the pull.

As she pulled, the barrier continued to flicker, then vanished. Minako huffed and her hands trembled.

“It’s okay. We can stop for the day.” Brian swallowed. I pushed her too hard.

“Minako, are you--” Kevin started.

Minko nodded, then began running from the arena. She stumbled, but recovered quickly and disappeared through the crevice.

Kevin frowned as he stared after her.

She was too shaken up… If this even works at all. Brian held his hand to his forehead as he swallowed again. Is Nick asking the impossible? She’ll tell him and he’ll… act like I’m a monster...

Kevin crossed his arms. “She’s a human, not a demon. You’re asking too much of her in too short of a time.”

“I know. But it seems like the right way to split up and the only way she’d do it.” Brian gripped his staff tightly as he walked toward Kevin. “If Ashley is really dangerous, then we’ll all be able to focus on him more.”

“Brian…”

Brian clapped his hand on Kevin’s shoulder as he reached him. “Sorry, I’m going to speak to my grandfather. Thank you for coming today.”

Kevin furrowed his brow. “Any time.”

“I’ll talk to you later.” Brian exited the arena and hung his head. I’m not trying to avoid you, Kevin. I just need more personal advice this time.

~*~



“It doesn’t make sense that Pandoras can use demonic powers, but can’t train to make them stronger just like demons do!” Brian groaned and leaned back on his hands. “Grandfather, am I just a terrible teacher?”

Virgil leaned on his staff as he stared at Brian, then resituated on the cushion, glancing at the pool of water behind him.

“You can say it’s true, it’s fine.” Brian stared at the ground. I wanted to impress you, but...

Virgil stood, then leaned over the pool behind him. “Brian, what would happen if I dropped a pebble in this pool?”

“It makes ripples. Grandfather, maybe people aren’t supposed to--”

“Brian, what would happen if I dropped many pebbles in this pool at one time?”

“It would make lots of ripples. Grandfather--”

“However?” Virgil’s stare bore through Brian’s heart.

“But they would bump into each other and some of them would disappear.” Brian swallowed and glanced at the ground.

“You are teaching many simultaneous things to someone who is essentially a child in terms of how she can use demonic power. Some ripples are bound to overpower the others.”

“But Grandfather, we don’t have time to slow down!” Brian stood quickly. “We have to go to Emeradotouhou and Topazuseihou! We’re fighting a war! And if this is our best chance to keep everyone safe, we have to take it!”

“Brian, you are like the pool with many pebbles.” Virgil frowned. “This is unlike you.”

“Grandfather, it’s just…” Brian lowered his head. “I’m worried about all of them. Can I do enough to keep all of them safe? Defending might not be enough… But, that’s fundamental to our teachings...”

"You are feeling uneasy about what has always been absolute."

"No, it's still true, but it's not the only thing that is anymore.” Brian rubbed the back of his head. “Sometimes it feels less important, but then I feel terrible about that."

"There is nothing in our teachings that says only one absolute thing is allowed. It may evolve and change as you evolve and change." Virgil sat beside him again.

“Today I…” Brian swallowed away the guilt bubbling in his chest. “...shot a barrier at Minako, just to make sure she could make one without preparing. She looked at me like I had broken her heart, but I couldn’t warn her or...”

“In a battle, a shield is essential, but prolonged fighting with only a shield never ends with victory. To be truly strong, you must be willing to attack when attacking becomes necessary.” He grasped Brian’s shoulder firmly.

“I don’t know if I did the right thing… It made me feel like I betrayed her…” He stared at his staff as he gripped his fingers on it tightly. “And she’s not my everything, but I do really care about her and all of them.” He swallowed again. “Knowing Nick would feel betrayed hurt the most.”

“You promised her that you would prepare her, not that it would be simple or without danger. If she can create a barrier when a threat approaches and remain safe, then you have kept your promise.”

Brian stared at Virgil’s staff. “Grandfather, am I going against everything we are?”

“The primary purpose of a shield is defending, it is not the only purpose.” Virgil removed his hand from Brian’s shoulder.

“That’s not exactly what I meant… Togetherness is something we value above all else, but I left as soon as I could. I’ve been practicing attacking and creating barriers without words, even though those are two important aspects to our teachings…” As hard as he tried, his swallows did not settle his churning stomach. He shut his eyes tightly. “Grandfather…” How can I still feel like being in this clan is most important to me?

“Brian, do you know why we allowed you to leave?”

“Because you knew I was a cardinal demon?” Brian opened his eyes, but frowned as he stared at Virgil’s calm face.

“You had a calling beyond our clan. And when the clans were disconnected, it was less likely that they would think to look for you here. His Majesty did not even know where this cavern was until you brought him here. Do you remember why you wished to leave originally?”

Brian glanced at the ground. I do, but...

Virgil smiled as he walked back to the ring of chairs. After moving the center one again, he pulled up the rug and leaned down to the small door nestled in the floor. “Would you like me to remind you?”

“No. I remember. Grandfather, I really did…”

Virgil opened the small door and pulled out a long, wooden box. “There is no need to defend the choice. I support your decisions.”

“It’s safe here and I do… cherish having this home and our family to support me. But…” Brian pressed his lips into a thin line and swallowed. “...it always felt… empty.”

“Does it feel empty now?” Virgil closed the door, lowered the rug, and pulled the chair back over it.

“No. With all of you and them here, it feels safe and whole. It’s a place I would want to stay with all of them, but we have a mission and a purpose. So my loyalty to them...” Brian gripped his staff tightly as he trailed off.

Virgil sat back on the cushion and set the long box between them. “You are allowed to treasure both callings. They are not mutually exclusive.” He gestured to the box. “Go ahead.”

Brian reached toward it, then pulled his hand back. “Grandfather…” Is this...

Virgil pushed the box toward him, then rested his hands against his staff.

Brian pressed his hands against the edges of the box and lifted the lid. As he ran his hand along the plush sapphire linen that lined the box, he swallowed again. The staff inside resembled Brian’s, but also featured a webbing of sapphire strands spread across the golden discs that hung from the center. Brian pulled his hands back quickly. “Grandfather!”

“Take this with you. Let it serve as the reminder that you are Brian of the Shields and Brian of the Sapphire Demons. Decide what that means.”

Brian clutched his own staff tightly. “Grandfather, I couldn’t! You have earned this! My father is trying to earn this!”

“There is one thing I did not mention about the Celestials’ visit here. My father said that they inquired about our mage and ancestral weapon. They implored him to give it to him when the time was right.”

“How did they…” Brian furrowed his brow. Why would they know our clan’s prophecy?

“As I said, we were once quite close.” Virgil gently pushed the box toward him. “And unlike your companion, their memory was quite long. I am humbled to follow their urging and honored to have you bear this.”

Brian bowed his head as he clutched the box. “I humbly accept your honor, Grandfather. I will bear this with pride on behalf of our clan.”

Virgil reached out and tousled Brian’s hair. “My grandson, you are worthy because of your calling and because you are Brian.”

Brian gently set the box back on the ground, then wrapped Virgil in a tight hug. “Thank you, Grandfather! I love you.”

“I love you too.” Virgil patted Brian’s back as he held him in a warm familial embrace beside their ancestral heirloom.

End Notes:
...And now we know why Brian was being so weird! That was the first scene I had planned for this chapter and the one I would have added into Chapter 27 if I'd cut the sex scene. The idea of Brian walking in on the aftermath made me laugh for days when I initially thought of it, so it had to stay in the story in some shape or form.

This chapter came from both the need to get Minako up to speed on demonic powers, but also to put Brian in a position where he wasn't just support and comic relief. I've said it before, everyone has their own things going on. And as Nick's foil, Brian's always been sure of who he was. Now he's questioning it. That's a big PBox question... how do you define yourself? The answer is different for everyone. And more that that, it's something that defines all their character arcs across the story. Anyone have any guesses on what these definitions might be? Or maybe share yours.That's all I have today, see y'all next Wednesday!
This story archived at http://absolutechaos.net/viewstory.php?sid=11583