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Thread: Twin Moon

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    The Quiet One Twin Moon Andromeda's Avatar
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    Twin Moon

    Author’s Notes: Before you go on too far I want to explain something really quick. For those that follow my work, you know I’m writing Shift currently, but you also know it is a very long series. So as a way to hopefully keep what little of my sanity still remains I will be working on a side project. It won’t be at the same pace as Shift, but I’ll still be working on it. Well the problem has been solved and I’m doing Twin Moon as some of you probably figured out by the update. Due to the less frequent nature of the updates I’ll be making for Twin Moon the chapters will probably be longer than that of Shift, which will fit into the idea of monthly manga traditionally being longer than weekly manga per chapter.

    Something else I want to note, I’m tackling this story in a completely different manner than all of my other stories. This mainly means that my style for this story will be different. It’s still going to be very familiar, but with one major difference. You know those narration boxes in manga? I’m going to be including those for this story because I’m going to be doing a pseudo-first-third person mix. It’s still really going to be third person, but the main characters will talk to the reader as well, but only through those narration boxes. I’m still trying to settle on what’s going to work for it since it is technically a third dialogue type. I want it to be readily identifiable so I’m going with bold letters right now, but I’m afraid it’s going to be really distracting. It’s a battle between making it readily identifiable without making it annoying or glaring as you read and distracting from the piece over all. If you have suggestions for ways to do it let me know.

    The last thing will be just a heads up, but both main characters will be talking to the reader. Yeah, it’s going to be weird like that. But since the focus of the story is going be both of them and not simply one or the other I felt it was important that they were both the narrator. Which I am planning on using to comedic ends frequently. It’s going to be a crazy ride so stick with me and let’s see where things go!

    Thank you! I hope you enjoy the story!

    Series Details:
    Name: Twin Moon
    Style: Shounen/Shoujo Manga
    Genre: Shounen/Shoujo/Harem/Reverse Harem/Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Comedy/Romance/Action/Adventure/Drama/Gender-Bender/Shounen Ai/Shoujo Ai
    Rating: Teen (Violence and Sexual Situations)
    Complete Summary: (SPOILERS) Mitsuru and Tsukiko are your average sixteen year olds, well maybe average is not accurate. Mitsuru is very short for a boy his age, even the girls are taller than him and he’s not had a lot of luck with girls or life in general, just your average loser. Tsukiko is very tall for a girl, she’s taller than most boys making her difficult to approach, and has not had much luck boys or life as well, an average loser. However, on their sixteenth birthday they’re attacked by a stranger in the forest during a rain storm. They are trapped in a cave forced to take up swords from an altar to defend themselves and then everything is hazy to them. Now they can’t seem to get rid of the swords, which happen to be haunted by spirits. Their luck is even worse that they discover that the spirits can take over their body causing them to change genders. Then demons start appearing from a portal and strangers are filling up their house. Suddenly Mitsuru is surrounded by girls with an interest in him and Tsukiko is surrounded by boys with an equal interest in her. Their normal lives have just become a nightmare that they wish they can wake up from.

    * * *

    The stars of destiny are painted by the brush of fate. Since the beginning of time this has been the way it has always been done. But what happens when there are two brushes? What becomes of destiny when the direction is uncertain and lost? In such uncertain darkness what can possibly be found?

    The dense forest that hugged Mount Higashiyama in the afternoon air was thick with humidity. A long day was threatening rain with each passing minute. Clouds in the sky held darkening gray bottoms pretending to look innocent as they strolled across the land. Peaceful silence was remaining undisturbed through the green blanket. Only the infrequent chirping of birds broke the canopy.

    Deeper in the forest, the mountain was beginning to break through the overgrown greenery, a distant scream was being shut out by the trees. The scream weaved through the trees hoping to be heard by someone that would save them. It was a desperate plea. One that went unanswered as it was dragged against its will further in to the abyss. Their fingers and clothes ran ragged attempting to break free from their towering abductor.

    After the yelling had continued endlessly for nearly twenty minutes the kidnapper came to stop. It had gotten to the point where they could no longer take it and turned around yelling back. “Would you quit screaming, Mitsu! Ugh! I’m going deaf!”

    “But we haven’t taken a break yet, Tsuki! I’m tired!” A haggard looking boy in a black high school uniform was bent over trying to catch his breath. Across from him was a girl wearing a navy blue high school uniform of the same school glaring crossly at the boy.

    “That’s me Mitsuru Sakakibara. My kidnapper over there is—“

    “I’m not a kidnapper! I’m Tsukiko Sakakibara.”

    “We can’t be stopping, Mitsu!” Tsukiko grabbed on to Mitsuru’s arm once more and began pulling at him. He stumbled at first, but began to move on his own. The panting from his lips had only begun to slow by the time she resumed her urgency.

    “People say she’s my twin.”

    “It’s a joke, Mitsu. Honestly, we aren’t even close to being twins. I’m over thirty centimeters taller than you!”

    Mitsuru had managed to finally catch up to her side despite all of the pulling she was doing. He was still having trouble breathing with the pace that she was setting for him. However, it became very clear with them side by side the significant difference in height between them. An arrow pointed off the length being nearly thirty centimeters. Tsukiko was very tall for a girl, but that also meant that Mitsuru was quite short for a boy as well.

    “That’s an American foot for those that don’t know.”

    “They know!”

    A low rumble from above barely trickled down into the forest. The clouds that had been feinting innocence before were beginning to grow tired of their tricks. Those gray bottoms had become darkened and faint light could be seen jumping through the growing clouds. “We need to hurry! My life depends on this!”

    Tsukiko broke into a full sprint that left Mitsuru a crumpled towel being held on to by her. All he could do was cry for mercy with tears streaming behind him. “I’m sorry, Tsuki! I knew and it’s all my fault! I’ll take your place for you!”

    The grave tone in her voice spoke forward being blown into his face. “You can’t, Mitsu! I must do this myself!”

    “…but, Tsuki…”

    There was a long ill silence between them as Tsukiko skillfully navigated the forest avoiding exposed roots and changes in terrain. Ahead of her was a break in the forest revealing divine light. It was a light that would save them. She was just in time.

    Her feet came to stop atop a shallow cliff that rose above the surrounding forest. The view it presented was a striking sight to behold. In the distance the sun was being shut out by the approaching storm carrying rays of divine light across the small town below.

    “Beyond this forest is the town of Mashita, a rural community in the far northeast part of Japan. Tsuki and I had only known life to be that town and this mountain.”

    “I made it barely! We have to hurry or it’ll still be too late!” There was a darkly serious expression on Tsukiko face as she stared at the landscape stretched out before her. At her side, always dependable, was Mitsuru holding an equally stern look on his face with his fists tightly shaking at his side. “Ready, Mitsu?”

    “Ready, Tsuki!” A dark cast object was removed from Mitsuru’s pocket that shined like a blade as he approached Tsukiko. He had to keep his hand from shaking with the support of the other as it raised above his head. It held in the air about to strike with her within his arm’s reach. “Let’s do this!”

    “Right!” The determine eyes in Tsukiko knew what she had to do and accepted it. There was nothing else she could anymore. It was her fate and she had to accept it. She closed her eyes as Mitsuru’s arm was plunged down. The seconds passed slowly for her feeling the last breath escape her lips as she snapped her eyes back open. Her arm whipped out a large sketch book that she turned to a blank page. Next to her Mitsuru was already furiously putting pencil to his paper to capture the scene before it was lost.

    “We had an assignment from our art class to draw something a week ago.”

    “But I kept putting it off and off despite Mitsu nagging me. So we had to rush to get the work done today.”

    He did not let his eyes leave the page as he was transferring the view. “You know we could have prevented this if you had just listened to me and stopped procrastinating, Tsuki.”

    Tsukiko hand jerked for a moment hearing Mitsuru’s ‘I told you so’, but she kept drawing knowing the little time that they had. “I know!

    “…and…”

    “You know what day it is right?” he said not skipping a beat in his sketch.

    Her hand slowed down when he mentioned it to her. “Yes, I know!”

    “Today was our birthday. For the both of us we would be sixteen.”

    “It was just another reason for their jokes. We have the same birthdays, know what the other is thinking and always together. I guess if it wasn’t for the height and gender we might be twins.”

    Only a few minutes had passed on them before a drop of water wet Tsukiko’s paper. She tried to wipe it away only to have to fight another wet spot. “What’s going on?! Why is it raining?”

    Mitsuru had already tucked away his sketch book under his uniform’s jacket. He could not hold back his look of disbelief from hearing that she had already forgotten about the rain. “You knew it was going to be raining, Tsuki…that’s why we were rushing.”

    “What? No! But I’m not finished!” She quickly became flustered trying to find a way to protect it from the light rain that was quickly becoming a downpour.

    “Let me, Tsuki,” said Mitsuru offering a hand to her. She immediately knew what he was meaning and gave it to him. He made it disappear under his jacket with his own. Mitsuru quickly began to look around starting to panic about a place out of the rain.

    “This way, Mitsu!” Tsukiko said offering out her hand. She had found something that would keep them dry nearby. Tsukiko guided him back into the forest and around a steep face of the surfacing mountain. In front of them stood a tall and narrow cave adorned with countless seals and charms. The entrance was clear for them allowing them to get in just as thunder crackled outside. It had momentarily lit up the cave interior to reveal it to be a long narrow passage nearly completely covered in paper charms and seals like the entrance.

    Seeing the interior made Mitsuru unsettled backing towards the entrance. He could not understand it, but there was a strong feeling that he was unwelcome. “M-Maybe…we should find another p-place, sis.”

    Tsukiko glared over at him disappointed, but not surprised, by his fright. There was an uneasiness that she was feeling from the place as well, but she was not about to let it get to her. “Stop being so afraid, Mitsu! Besides we don’t have anywhere else to go…I how many times have I told you stop calling me sis! You’re too old for that!”

    “Mitsu would always call me ‘sis’ when he got scared. Old habits, I guess. Since we were young we’ve always done everything together. Except, we aren’t children anymore…”

    “But I really don’t like this cave, sis!” Mitsuru was so scared he was in tears pulling at his jacket with his teeth to try to keep his nerves. His legs were knocking together violently in fear. The noise that they were creating quickly got on her Tsukiko’s nerves.

    Her hands lunged across the gap pinning him at his shoulders against the cave wall. She stared at him for a moment having paused in her determination after seeing him so closely. “Why don’t we try going further in, Mitsu. Maybe it’ll be safer…” Tsukiko tried to focus on giving him the courage to begin moving. The connection in their eyes gave him the strength to walk.

    They slowly made their way at a cautious pace through the dark cave tunnel. Mitsuru insisted on holding Tsukiko’s hand so that they did not get lost. “Grandfather’s going to be upset with us.”

    “It can’t be helped. Today was the last day we had for the assignment.”

    “I said we should have done it a week ago!”

    “Stop reminding me! …I had other things I needed to do!”

    “But we’re missing our birthday! Grandfather was making his special curry for us.”

    Both of their eyes glazed over for a moment thinking about their grandfather’s famous curry. He did not make it very often, but he always made sure to treat them to it for their birthday. Unfortunately, they were thinking about food and realize how long it had been since they had eaten last. It turned into depression and gloom in their faces. Tsukiko had quickly turned to face Mitsuru catching him by his jacket. “Why’d you have to bring that up, Mitsu?!”

    The two sketch books slid out of his jacket hitting the cave floor. “I’m sorry, sis! I won’t mention it again!” Tsukiko’s low grumbling stomach caused her to release Mitsuru from her grasp. It allowed him to bend down and pick up the books to insert back under his jacket. When he went to stand the dim light from the cave suddenly went out as another presence was detected. Mitsuru looked up to Tsukiko trying to find her in the darkness and hoping she was noticing. “Uh-um…sis?!”

    Tsukiko was rubbing her stomach with her hand ignoring his initial calls. “What?!” she said snapping at him quickly before feeling as though someone had just walked over her grave. The feeling ran cold down her back unlike anything she had ever felt before. Her eyes glanced over to where the cave entrance should have been, but covered only in darkness. ‘What’s going on? What’s this terrible feeling?’

    There was suddenly a long drawn out ringing of metal in the cave, echoing endlessly as a haunting tune. Caught eerily in the light shined the sharpened edge of a blade much longer than a knife, but too short for a sword. It was their signal to run.

    “I can hardly remember what happened next, but we were followed by the presence deeper into the cave until it came to a dead end.”

    “It’s following us, sis!”

    “I know!” she said quickly not needing him to be stating the obvious. Her eyes darted around the opened chamber frantic for anything to defender herself with. The end of the cave had spilled out into a widened round room that appeared manmade. Papers still covered all of the walls feeling of great importance. Yet as far down into the cave as the room was it was lit by an unknown source. There were no candles or cracks in the rock to allow light in. It was completely sealed and still there was light. She could see, but it made little difference. Nothing could be found.

    Tsukiko barely saw the blade move through the air in time to knock Mitsuru out of the way. She tripped over as she protected Mitsuru from the attack narrowly avoided it. However, they were both on the floor with nowhere left go and completely defenseless. ‘What do I do?! I can’t let it end like this!’

    “It was at that moment we both felt something that we couldn’t explain.”

    “Something was beckoning us. Calling silently.”

    They turned their heads away from the blade that was threatening their lives and looked behind them. Resting in the ground crossed against each other was two sheathed katana. Neither of them knew why it seemed that the swords were calling to them, but they did not hesitate. They reached out their arms in a desperate wish to live. The moment their hands touched the sheath a blinding light enveloped the entire chamber beaming light out the entrance in the rain. They held on trying to pull at them as everything around them the shook violently. Then everything went black.

    Chapter 1 – The Birthday Present

    “I think while I was unconscious I dreamed…”

    “…dreamed something was burning. What was it?”

    Tsukiko was the first to wake up. Her hand rubbed her hair through her dark brown hair trying to calm down the thumping in her head. ‘What happened? Am I alive?’ She looked around the chamber trying to see what had happened, but the room was empty as it had been before. Only the sourceless light illuminated the walls. Their attacker was gone. Tsukiko lifted up her other hand to find it holding the sheathed katana that she had grabbed before from the back of the chamber. ‘Well I’m not going question good fortune…’ She placed the sword back against the wall along with the one in Mitsuru’s hand. Neither of them was theirs to take, it was merely an act of self-preservation. “Thank you,” she said politely giving thanks to whomever they had belonged to.

    “…ugh…What happened?” Mitsuru said slowly as he came around. He spun his head around side to side looking for Tsukiko, finding her back by the wall. “What you doing?” He stood up dusting himself off and walked over next to her.

    “I was just giving my thanks.”

    “Oh, they protected us? Where’s my manners!” Mitsuru fell in line with her quickly apologizing and thanking them as well trying to catch up with Tsukiko. When they finished they agreed to keep it to themselves, everything worked out even if it was weird. There was no need to dwell on the matter. They picked up their sketch books and walked into the tunnel of the cave until they reached the entrance. In the time that had passed the rain had all passed with a thick layer of moisture on everything. However, the sun had already fallen down and evening was approaching.

    Mitsuru screamed in panic with his hands pressed through layers of his black hair holding his head. “We’re so late! Grandfather’s going to kill us!”

    “With everything that’s happened I forgot! Our birthday dinner! Come on, Mitsu!” Tsukiko grabbed him by his wrist and sped down the mountain and forest as quickly as she could. Mitsuru was left wailing behind her for dear life. He crashed in the side of the old shrine as Tsukiko went through the entrance.

    The ruckus that the two made echoed through the shrine grounds turning an old man’s head. He was inside the old shrine’s small house that was built for the shrine keeper to live in while maintained the shrine. “Oh my…seems that they’re finally home.”

    Both teenagers charged through the very small home and dropped themselves at his feet. They were shaking fearful and apologizing repeatedly for their tardiness. “We’re sorry, Grandfather!” said Tsukiko weakly.

    “We were up at the mountain for an art assignment, Grandfather! I told Tsuki we should have gone sooner and then it started raining!”

    “Mitsu!” exclaimed an enraged Tsukiko. She rose up from her prostrated position and grabbed Mitsuru by his uniform collar. “You aren’t supposed to tell him that!”

    “I know, but I can’t lie to Grandfather when he’s looking at me like that!” (Mitsuru Vision) A demon’s eyes glared down at him with a commanding presence that required no words. It was a visual interrogation that broke him along with the towering stance and flaming background. (Reality) Their grandfather was holding a simple smile on his face trying not to become embarrassed by the actions of the children he watched.

    “I don’t know where they get this cruel image of me,” he said softly to himself while letting them sort things out. “It’s almost insulting that they think I’m so scary.” After they had wrestled enough their grandfather stepped in grabbing the two of them and separated them on to their own spots. “That’s enough excitement for now, you two. You’re making a poor impression for our guest.”

    “I’m sorry, Grandfather!” they both said in absolute terror and going back to prostrating themselves.

    “Stop getting so scared or I’ll really give you a reason!”

    “Yes!”

    Mitsuru recovered to look up from his bent over position seeing a figure behind their grandfather. “Who’s that, Grandfather?”

    The old man found his composure and raised his hand to clear his throat. He shifted his position to the side to reveal a young woman seated at the table on the floor politely sipping green tea. “As I was saying, we have a guest. She came to see the shrine.”

    “Grandfather is the shrine keeper for the Hyobanshi Shrine.”

    “So he gets a lot of visitors, though usually during the day.”

    “I’m sorry for disturbing you then. We’ll leave so you have privacy,” Tsukiko said standing up and beginning to pull Mitsuru along with her.

    The woman placed her tea cup on the table softly and looked up at the two of them. “You can stay. I actually came to ask some questions about the Hyobanshi Shrine.”

    “Questions?” Mitsuru said suddenly appearing on the opposite side of the table next to their grandfather. He was immediately drawn in by curiosity.

    Tsukiko blinked and looked between her hand to the table trying to figure out how Mitsuru had gotten out of her hand. “Mitsu! It’s not polite!” She walked over to the table quickly pulling at his collar again.

    “Tsuki! What’s wrong with you? She said it’s alright to stay.”

    “Come on, Mitsu!” she said with even more insistence in her voice. There was urgency in her light blue eyes that started to pull him away. However, before he was able to stand up there was a very loud grumble through the room that unhinged everyone. It sounded as though a demon was roaring out a battle cry. Everyone turned their heads like they were rusted socket accompanied by painful squeaks. Their eyes focused on Tsukiko, who was suddenly turning red in the face before collapsing to the table with her mouth hung open drooling.

    “I forgot we haven’t had anything to eat yet!” He jumped up from his spot trying to save her from exhaustion. She began to pass out from hunger only making him panic even more. “Grandfather!”

    Their grandfather was already moving towards the kitchen that was openly attached to the main room that they were in. “I’ll warm up the curry. Please only lightly entertain our guest.” He had a calm relax everyday tone in his voice as he went to work in the kitchen.

    Tsukiko had recovered her body enough to sit back up joining Mitsuru at the table with the woman. Mitsuru tried to figure out the woman a little since it was unusual for someone visiting the shrine not to be interested in prayers, wishes, good luck or something else normal. She was wearing a blue turtleneck with jeans and a well-worn canvas bag set next to her. All with her medium brown shoulder length hair and straight cut bangs with bright green eyes made her out to seem completely normal, but there was a silent charm about there that he could not place. There was a child-like glow hiding underneath her mature exterior that gave her a mysterious alluring quality. Mitsuru was still feeling confused, but he quickly remembered his manners. “I’m sorry! I didn’t introduce myself! I’m Mitsuru Sakakibara, pleased to meet you!”

    “I’m Tsukiko Sakakibara!”

    “Oh! So you’re brother and sister then!” the woman said with a realization looking at the two of them. There was a pause when she tried to compare them (significant height difference).

    “No! We aren’t!” Tsukiko said defensively having a vein on her head pop up in frustration.

    “This happens a lot when we introduce ourselves, but it really gets on sis’ nerves when people mistake us for siblings.”

    “We look nothing alike! It’d help if you stopped calling me ‘sis’ too!”

    The woman leaned back from the table with a pensive expression. “Sakakibara? Why does that name sound familiar?” She zoned out for a moment paining herself trying to answer her question, but coming up empty. A minute later she realized that they were both staring at her with the expectation of her making introductions as well. “Right! Sorry about that I zone off pretty easily!” she said rubbing the back of her head looking embarrassed. “I’m Chie Okazaki, thank you for having me!”

    “Miss Okazaki? You said you had questions about our shrine?” Mitsuru’s curiosity brought the conversation back to the original reason for the woman’s arrival.

    “That’s right! I’m doing some investigation on ancient Japanese History and there’s some questions that I have about Hyobanshi Shrine that might help me.”

    Tsukiko became interested as well being drawn into the conversation. “Investigation? You writing a book or something?”

    “It’s research for my thesis.”

    “You’re a college student?” asked Mitsuru making the connection quickly.

    Chie nodded to the both of them as she lifted up the tea cup to drink again. “That’s correct.”

    Tsukiko turned to look over at Mitsuru, who also faced her. She leaned over to him whispering softly. “She looks a little old for a college student.” Mitsuru could not help but nod in agreement to her, as he had been thinking the same thing.

    The hand holding Chie’s tea cup tightened causing her finger to pierce the cup as the remaining tea dripped down. A glint shined from Chie’s eyes as her eyebrows fell down becoming ridged and angled in anger. Her proportions grew as she stretched across the table summoning fire and thunder behind her. “What did you two just say?” she carefully said glaring at them intently.

    They were both speechless, but she pressed them for an answer forcing Mitsuru to speak. “We-ah-um-I…thought you were…older than a college student!”

    “How old do you think I am?!” she bellowed to him crushing the tea cup in her hand as more veins popped up in anger.

    Tsukiko pushed Mitsuru aside laughing trying to soften the mood. “H-He means a pretty young lady like yourself didn’t look like a college student to us.”

    Chie’s hand released the pieces of the cup to the table and suddenly flipped on a shining smile for them. “Oh my! Thank you!” She pulled back to sit politely at the table as though nothing had happen. Their grandfather joined them immediately after serving curry and rice to everyone, her smile never changing. Mitsuru laid exhausted on the floor mats still trying to recover.

    “Mother…father in heaven…I learned a very important lesson today…women are scary!”

    “Never mention age you scatterbrain!”

    The atmosphere began to settle out between Tsukiko and Mitsuru with Chie. Their grandfather was quietly sitting at the time keeping himself removed. However, Mitsuru chimed in to restart the conversation. “So Miss Okazaki…what’s your research about?”

    Chie had been very quiet the entire time continuously eating. Her plate was already empty before either of the others were even half way done (hadn’t eaten in two days). She dropped her spoon on the plate before stretching. When she settled back to face them her expression was serious once more. “I’m trying to prove that demons use to roam ancient Japan.” The entire room became disbelievingly silent as they stared back at her with blank eyes waiting for the punch line that never came. Chie was calmly sipping from her (new) tea cup as though she had said nothing strange.

    It took a while for Mitsuru to regain enough of himself to function. ‘I can’t believe she said that with a straight face! But I think she’s serious!’ He looked over at Tsukiko trying to find what he could say to the woman, but found himself having trouble forming words. “D-Demons?”

    “Like from Japanese Mythology?” Tsukiko asked having to check to make sure she was understand correctly.

    “They aren’t a myth!” she said emphatically with her hands.

    “Do you have any proof?” questioned Tsukiko again.

    “Not enough yet. However, I know it to be true and I’ll take as long as it must to find the proof. Demons have walked the Earth, I know it!” While she was trying to reassure them of her determination it only left them even more stunned. They all had to wait to take pause seeing that she was being completely serious about what she was saying.

    Mitsuru still had to ask her something knowing that she was being so certain. “Um-er-eh…Miss Okazaki?”

    “Yes?”

    “Why are you interested in our shrine?”

    She finished drinking her tea and placed the cup on the table. “I believe that Hyobanshi Shrine holds a secret.”

    Their grandfather broke from his non-participation to look over at the women. “Are you referring to the legend of the Demon’s Door?”

    “Ah, so you do know the story, old man,” Chie said leaning over to him. A sparkle in her eye was starting to show as became eager.

    “Demon’s Door, grandfather?” asked Mitsuru becoming curious himself. He had never heard their grandfather speak about it and yet this woman seemed to know. The title sounded a little frightening to him, but he wanted to know.

    Their grandfather nodded to his audience as he began to recall the story. “Yes, it’s a very old tale passed through the shrine keepers. It’s more meant to entertain children, but it seems you’re interested.” He shifted his eyes momentarily over to Chie seeing almost child-like features starting to appear on her face. It made him close his eyes for a moment before resuming. “As the story goes, long ago demons would roam the earth passing freely between the demon realm and the human realm. They ravaged the land and spread fear in the people. Even the average demon was too much for a man to handle and they roamed in as many numbers as did the humans. There were a few warriors strong enough to battle the demons as equals, but even they were not enough to protect all of the villages across Japan. So the powerful priest Hyobanshi came up with a plan. He had great spiritual powers that surpassed the strength of the demons. Hyobanshi lured as many demons as he could to one location and there he slaughtered hundreds. It’s said by morning’s light the demons that lie dead stood equal in height to Mount Higashiyama. At this point Hyobanshi was exhausted from his battle, but was determined to fulfill his plan. Using his remaining spiritual power and the demon mountain, he fashioned a door made from demons. This door became a gateway between the two realms forcing the demons to only be able to enter the human realm from the gateway. His sacrifice limited the demons that could pass through as well strength of them bringing peace to all of Japan. In ancient times it was called the Demon’s Gate, but it later became known as the Demon’s Door. The Hyobanshi Shrine is said to have sealed and housed the Demon’s Door, a feat that Hyobanshi himself was unable to do. That is the origin of this shrine, Mitsuru and Tsukiko.”

    “Grandfather…why didn’t you ever tell us?” Tsukiko said, having returned to herself during the telling. She did not understand why he had kept it from them. The story felt very important.

    “It wasn’t time yet, but I believe it is now.” He stood up from the table appearing to be fatigued from the story. Before he left the room he paused at the entrance. “Young miss, you’re welcome to stay here the night. It’s getting quite late out and it’s a long walk back to town.”

    “You’re very kind! But I hate to impose on you!”

    “Not all! Guests are always welcome. Mitsuru. Tsukiko. Please show our guest the visitor’s room.” Once he was finished he walked out of the room heading to his own to rest.

    The two teenagers stared at each other for a moment before looking over at their new house guest for the evening. Neither of them were too certain about the woman, since she seemed to have completely believed every word from the tale that they were told. They knew it was just a story that never really happened, but Chie was trying to prove demons really existed. It left them a little uneasy about her. However, they were not going to question their grandfather’s decision and stood up together.

    “The visitor’s room is in back,” Tsukiko said offering to lead the way. Chie nodded and walked with the two of them through the short hall. The house had only three bedrooms and the main room with the kitchen attached on. However, it was only meant to have two bedrooms. One was for the shrine keeper and family with the second being for any overnight guests. Their grandfather split his room up for them, so it was only half the size of the guest room.

    Tsukiko opened the door for her before stepping aside. Chie paused at the doorway and turned to look at the two of them. “You call the old man your grandfather, but he’s not related to you is he?”

    They both nodded to her silently before Mitsuru spoke up. “He adopted us when we lost our families.”

    “We’ve been with him since we could remember. So to us he is our grandfather,” finished Tsukiko.

    “I see. Thank you for your hospitality.” Chie politely bowed to them before closing the door. They were still not certain what to make of her, but left to clean up after dinner. After clean up, the remainder of their homework had to be completed in the short time before they went to sleep.

    In their room, they had only enough space for the two futons to be laid out. For them sleeping together in the same room was no stranger than sitting at the same table for dinner. It was a natural. However, with all of the excitement of the day it was difficult for them to sleep. The room was lightly lit by the moon as they stared at the ceiling together.

    “Hey, sis…”

    “Stop with the ‘sis’ already, Mitsu.”

    “Sorry…”

    She exhaled a long breath knowing that she had to ask what was on his mind or he would never get to sleep. “…What?”

    “What do you think of Miss Okazaki?”

    “She’s weird,” she said plainly not giving it much thought. The impression that the woman had given during dinner did not leave much room for hesitation.

    “But don’t you think it’s sort of cool to be able to believe in something so strongly?”

    “I guess, but it’s a little strange to be believing in demons.”

    “But grandfather always said to look for the good in people.”

    “Yeah, but I’m not sure that’s exactly what he meant when it comes to her.”

    Mitsuru became silent after that trying to go to sleep. The thoughts that spun in his mind began to fade away and he was able to relax. He moved from dream to dream peacefully. However, one had come to him feeling strangely real. His body was floating in the air with nothing surrounding him, and then a voice called out to him. A voice of a young woman was speaking to him that was sweet and smooth like a song. “Who’s there?”

    Materializing from the particles in the air the woman appeared to him. She had a mature adult look while still not being more than a few years older than him. Her long gray white hair floated in the air to tremendous length with an elegance only matched by her clothes. The young woman drew closer to Mitsuru reaching out her hands gently touching the sides of his face as her eyes stared deeply into his. “We finally meet at last!”

    He could not help but blush a little with her being so close to him, but did not realize it. “Wh-What do you mean?”

    “You’ll understand soon.” The woman pulled away as though she was being dragged by an unseen force.

    Mitsuru flailed trying to reach out to her as he tripped over himself. “Who are you?!”

    “It’s coming!” Suddenly, the entire void burst into flames completely engulfing the woman until she burned to ash. Mitsuru was forced to watch helpless in horror. A dark menacing voice reverberated around him drilling into his mind making it impossible for him to ignore. It felt like his heart was about to burst from beating so fast and his skin boiled from the heat. He was burning alive.

    “No!!” they both shouted throwing themselves up from their bed covers. Sweat covered their faces. They stared at each other trying to recover their breath from the nightmare that they had apparently both experienced. It took them several moments to get their voices.

    “Ever since we were young we’ve always had a fear of fire that we couldn’t explain.”

    “There was something about that dream that felt too familiar as though connected to that fear.”

    “Did you—“ Mitsuru began.

    “See fire consume me?” finished Tsukiko. They were wide eyed trying to hold themselves together from the experience. Dreams had always been worse for them, but it had felt so real to them that they could not shake the feeling. It left them shaking. Even now they thought they could feel the flames licking them causing them to jerk in paranoid reaction.

    It took a while for them catch a breath that they did not choke on. “Did you see the same woman I did?”

    “I saw a man, but it seems that it was the same.”

    They took a moment to settle themselves down and get their surroundings. The night was still wearing on in the dark house as they had to stand up. ‘It was so real,’ they thought walking around the room trying to calm down. Once they had relaxed enough to think straight they realized that there was something off. In both of their right hands was held the swords from the cave that they had pulled out. They yelped in surprise dropping the swords on the ground to take cover on the other side of the room.

    “Didn’t we leave those in the cave, sis?”

    “Y-Ye-yeah, I thought so.”

    “Ouch! That hurt!” declared a man’s voice softly that came from neither of them. It left the two pale as a sheet as they watched one of the swords bounce and shift on the floor.

    The other sword caught up quickly. “You can’t feel pain, dear!”

    “Oh, that’s right! Old habits!” he said starting to laugh embarrassed at himself.

    At this point the souls of Mitsuru and Tsukiko were nearly leaving their body when they were snapped back to life. They realized that the swords were moving and talking. So there was only one course of action left to them. They tossed Mitsuru’s bed covers on the two swords and hid under Tsukiko’s covers together shaking violently praying that it was all just a dream. Fear kept them from daring to look out from the covers, but the suspense was starting to get to them. Sweat was pouring down their faces and soaking their clothes with each second that passed by.

    “Hey! This is where you went!” the male sword said suddenly appearing in their covers pretending it was a game.

    Mitsuru and Tsukiko let out a deafening scream as they grabbed on to each other for support. They tried to kick the sword out of their covers, but the other appeared as well only terrifying them even more. The fear could not keep them in the room any longer and they fled their room. Their feet stomping and yelling should have been enough to wake up their grandfather, but when they arrived in his room, out of breath, he was still sleeping. “Grandfather! Evil swords are chasing us!” they said in unison standing over his futon.

    There was a stirring sound from their Grandfather providing them a moment of relief. However, he leapt up throwing off the covers holding a bo in his hands and his eyes charged with the fire of a demon. “Back! Foul Demons!” He ran out a flurry of attacks with the bo at both of them making them retreat to the hall.

    “S-Sis! I think Grandfather still asleep!”

    “I know that already! Just run!” Tsukiko tried to start running, but found that she was losing traction with Mitsuru. The door to their grandfather’s room, which they had closed on their escape, exploded into pieces upon the assault of numerous flurries from the bo. They were barely able to dodge the debris as they dropped to all fours and fled down the hall.

    “This is the reason why we’re so afraid of him.”

    “Because we know that beast is hiding inside him only surfacing when he’s asleep.”

    “But he refuses to believe us. No matter how many times we tell him.”

    In the noise, Chie had woken up and opened the door. “What’s going on—“ She was met with the aftershock from the bo causing her robe, worn over her underwear, to be ripped to shreds. It left her collapsed on the floor trying to recover her dignity as the house became even noisier.

    “Grandfather, please wake up!” Mitsuru cried as they were being chased around the perimeter of the house. Tsukiko had disappeared from his sight after exiting the house leaving him to flee alone praying to survive the night. Upon his eighth orbit an extended arm yanked him in a new direction giving their grandfather the slip, momentarily. “Please don’t hurt me!” he shouted, but the hand covered up his mouth to keep him from yelling. He was forced to turn around to discover that it was Tsukiko. “Sis!”

    Tsukiko dropped her elbow on his head becoming irritated. “Stop with the ‘sis’!”

    “But what’re going to do about grandfather? He seems even more tired than normal.”

    “Yeah, he hasn’t woken up yet…” Tsukiko said starting to trail off in her words trying to think of a plan. Unfortunately, their plans usually involved hiding until it was safe. However, she did not think that was going to work for them.

    “He must sense it,” a man voice said in a serious tone analyzing the situation.

    “What?!” the two said startled once more by the arrival of the talking swords. They had nearly climbed the wall of the inner shrine that they were hiding in when they noticed the swords on the ground.

    “If you keep running away we can’t—“ the woman began in a calming voice before she was cut off by them screaming.

    Suddenly, their grandfather showed up at the entrance of the shrine casting a dark shadow over the room. It caused them to scream again even more violently. Then behind them the earth shook and the back half to shrine exploded into chunks of wood. A foul odor leaked into the remaining shrine followed by two yellow eyes. When they looked over to see what was breathing so hard that it was rattling the wood of the shrine they could not help but scream again. There was a massive brown-orange colored creature looking like an oni from classic Japanese Mythology.

    The two teenagers kept turning their heads to the three different things that they were scared of no longer certain what terrified them the most. They faced each other and interlaced their hands together starting to pray for them to wake.

    “Can someone…

    “…wake us up?!”

    As they were about to faint from fear, their grandfather charged forward. Thinking that he was going for them, they took cover on the floor trying to be hidden. When the sound of the bo pounding in the distance confirmed their safety they turned to look. Their grandfather was attacking the towering beast with all of his might, but it did not seem to be having any effect on it. In the last strike the bo snapped, falling away, as he was thrown through part of the shrine. “Grandfather!” shouted both of them.

    The beast took a heavy step forward bringing its attention to them. They were too frozen in fear to move with their lives being threatened. A large club in its right hand rose up into the air speeding downward to crush them. Neither could watch further closing their eyes only to hear a resounding ringing around them. Cautiously looking, they saw that the two talking swords were blocking the club from hitting them. There was a bright glow coming from the swords beginning to surround the two of them providing a warm comforting sensation over them.

    “Take hold of us!” the woman said.

    Tsukiko and Mitsuru stared at each other with uncertainty. They were being talked to by a couple of ancient swords that they found in the back of a cave. Hesitation still was strong in their hearts.

    “You must hurry!” the man said.

    An explosion of light knocked back the monster having it collapse in the pile of debris that used to be the shrine. The swords floated closer to them within arm’s reach of them with the silent sound of asking to be taken. They stood up from the ground, still holding hands, staring at the swords. Behind the swords thumping and pounding from the monster starting to move again increased the urgency for a decision.

    “Tsuki?”

    “Mitsu?”

    They nodded firmly to each other and stepped forward separating to face the swords. Each sword moved to the respective bearer as they reached out their hand to clasp the sword. The brown-orange beast stood up knocking away the debris ready to charge forward when a white light expanded over the entire area. It blinded the monster unable to move until the light faded. When it was allowed to see again there was two streaks of silhouettes that passed by it appearing behind it knelt. The creature turned its head in confusion towards the motion, but in a delayed act both of its arms were cleaved off causing its body to collapse to the ground.

    The two shadowed figures finished sheathing their swords with a click and stood up. Moonlight danced across the field illuminating them in very elaborate clothes with layers of robes, decorative metal, hanging jewels and embedded jewels matching those of that appeared in the dream Tsukiko and Mitsuru had. However, it was not Tsukiko or Mitsuru standing in the ruins of the shrine, but the people from their dream. A young man, of gray white hair that fell to the shoulders and tied back with orange colored eyes, stood next to a young woman, also of gray white hair and orange eyes but her hair fell in length to the ground and rested in lengthy loops weaving through the grass.

    ‘What happened?’ Mitsuru said with his voice echoing in his mind, but not his lips. He tried to look around, but felt as though he was no longer in control of his body.

    ‘Why do I feel so weird?’ Tsukiko asked herself trying to speak.

    There was a snap inside them feeling as though they were suddenly injected into their own body. Mitsuru moved around no longer feel like he was numb all over. He could see the dead monster laying on the ground, but not remembering killing it. ‘Did we do that?’

    Tsukiko turned to look over at Mitsuru, but leapt back in surprise. “Who are you?” she shouted to the person next to her.

    “Huh? What’s wrong, Tsuki?” he said turning upon hearing her voice. However, he had the same reaction and leapt backwards in shock. “Who are you?!”

    “It’s me, Tsukiko!”

    “It’s me, Mitsuru!”

    “Mitsu?”

    “Tsuki?”

    “It’s your voice, but why do you look like a woman?” Tsukiko said staring at a young woman that she had never seen before and trying to figure out if she should be confused or embarrassed.

    “And you look like a man, sis!”

    “What?” She had immediately pulled away fearing what she was seeing to have happened to her. Tsukiko quickly did the only thing she knew to check her body. She grabbed her chest looking for breasts that were not to be found, but rather a flat chest that felt a little muscular under all of the layers of clothes.

    Mitsuru watched becoming a little embarrassed before he looked down at his own body unable to tell through all of the clothes if it was his or not. His hands nervously raised up needing to know for himself. He swallowed quickly starting to sweat again as his hands drew closer. It was almost in range when Tsukiko leapt the distance between them and grabbed both of his hands stopping him, a heavy streak of red flushing her face. “You’re a woman, Mitsu! Trust me!”

    “But what’s going on?”

    “I don’t know…perhaps something to do with the swords.”

    “Correct!” the male voice said as the sword at Tsukiko’s side glowed in response.

    “You two were infused with so much of our spiritual power that your bodies changed to the form that it’s used to,” the female voice said from Mitsuru’s waist.

    “But why aren’t you switched?!” Tsukiko exclaimed as a plea.

    “I don’t know!” the man said cheerfully as though it did not matter.

    Tsukiko and Mitsuru shoulders could not take it anymore and fell as their clothes slipped a little in disbelief. However, before they could do anything more their bodies suddenly began to shine brightly. The light was brief and once gone their bodies had been returned to them. They ran their hands over their face and body really quick to check.

    “Everything’s normal again!” Tsukiko declared with Mitsuru nodding in agreement.

    “Aww, the fun’s already over,” the man said.

    “What?! You’re still here?”

    “We’re not going anywhere!” the woman gleefully said.

    “What?!” they both shouted before going into depression from fearing that they were telling the truth. Their legs had soon gave out on them causing them to fall against each other sliding to the ground sinking further into depression from the thought of being haunted by talking swords.

    “It’s not that bad!”

    “That’s because you’re not the one being haunted and changing genders!” Tsukiko whined to the voice. She started to cry at her misfortune and almost joined by Mitsuru, but they were interrupted by a loud roar behind them. The armless monster was standing once again quickly running after them planning to crush them with its last breath. Mitsuru and Tsukiko were not able to react from the surprise and growing fear. They hugged each other too scared to do anything as it drew in reach of them.

    At the last moment a shadow streaked across them slicing the monster across the chest. As the beast fell it vanished into dust leaving nothing behind but the wreckage it had caused. They blinked confused by what had just happened trying to understand it all.

    Tsukiko looked over at the shadow as it stood up to face them. Covered in black apart from the face was a tall young man with deep piercing black eyes. He had long legs and perfectly elongated figure with a face that made her suddenly feel warm. She could feel her heart painfully pounding in her chest for a reason that she could not explain with each step that he took towards her. The strange man that had just saved her was standing before her kneeling down with a stretched out hand. “Are you hurt?” ask the man with a gentle yet deep voice that only helped to make the entire image shine and sparkle the longer Tsukiko stared dumbfounded.
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  2. #2
    The Quiet One Twin Moon Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Twin Moon

    “U-Um…no…um…thanks,” she said meekly feeling strangely weak suddenly. Tsukiko took the hand offered to her standing up, almost not on her own, while Mitsuru continued to stare confused. She was left speechless in front of him. ‘Why is my heart pounding so fast?’

    Mitsuru pushed himself up coming over to her aid, but left feeling useless next to the stranger. He turned his head over to the man wanting an answer. “Who are you?”

    “My name is Katashi Higashiyama,” he said politely addressing Tsukiko only. “And I’m your true love.” While having a graceful appearance there seemed to be almost no emotion in his face when he spoke the words leaving the two to sweat in embarrassment for a moment before reacting.

    “Wha-Wh-What?!”

    “Who’s says that one their first meeting?! And with such a dead face! What’s wrong with him?!”

    Tsukiko was petrified in an instant not knowing how to react. Her mouth was hung agape while the man back off and stood back up to his full height, which was still shorter than Tsukiko (she was still about six centimeters taller). A weak sound would come from her statue features infrequently as Mitsuru was left stunned as well.

    “Hey, what’s going on out here?” said Chie, having found her travel clothes to wear. The entire incident went completely oblivious to her.

    “I didn’t have the courage to tell her the truth...”

    “W-Well…you see—“

    “What am I doing outside?” their grandfather said finally awaking up. When he stood up and looked around the shrine grounds his eyes widen in shock. “What happened to the shrine?!”

    “G-Grandfather, I-I can explain…I think…” He looked over to Tsukiko hoping that she was normal and could save him from explaining it himself. However, she was still lost to the world. ‘Please tell me this is a dream!’ he shouted in his mind as he looked to the night sky.

    * * *

    The morning came for the Hyobanshi Shrine area and its residents were already starting to get breakfast. Tsukiko and Mitsuru both had school and their grandfather was still very silent about his shrine. They were all sitting at the table eating rice for their breakfast. However, there was a look of frustration and confusion upon Tsukiko and Mitsuru. Sitting next to Tsukiko was the young man from the previous night, Katashi. He had insisted on sitting next to her. Chie, who did not seem to want to be out done by the newcomer, was seated next Mitsuru. Their grandfather was between them at the third side of the table with them all tightly occupying three sides of the table.

    Mitsuru looked over to the woman having to ask. “How come you’re still here? I thought you were leaving in the morning?”

    “But I can’t leave now! My research has only begun and this place is so interesting!” she said glowing like a child.

    “What?! B-But we only have one guest room!”

    “Grandfather said he didn’t mind me staying as long as I wished!”

    “As long as you wished?!” Mitsuru said in disbelief. “Why are you sitting next to me and why are you calling him Grandfather?!”

    “Oh my…” said she turning away starting to look embarrassed leaving Mitsuru to sigh loudly.

    “And you!” Tsukiko exclaimed poking the man with her chop sticks to keep him away from her. After everyone had calmed last night and return to sleep the stranger stood as a guard at her door making it difficult for her to sleep. “Stop getting so close to me! I’m grateful you helped us, but why are you still here?!”

    “Because I’m your true love,” he said once again with no emotion while still having a surprisingly charming face.

    “Stop saying that! It’s so creepy when you say it!”

    The spirits of the swords resting on the floor at the fourth side suddenly appeared faintly from the hilt in full human form. They both shifted a little and leaned in closely to their owners only making them even more depressed. All the while everyone else did not seem to pay it any mind, as though it was normal.

    “What is happening to my normal life?!”

    “Why are so many people living in our house now?!”

    To be continued…
    Omake Theater
    “Hey! What’s this!” said Kichiro. He was one of four figures gathered around a small desk belonging to a meek and haggard looking person seated in an office chair. The long haired bespectacled person in the chair was the creator of the story.

    “It’s the first chapter and we’re already being forgotten!” shouted Hisoka.

    “I know this is a harem and we’re just the friends that get ignored!” Etsuko grumbled.

    “But I thought you were changing things! You said we’re going to have larger parts in this series!” Kiyome said remembering.

    “W-Well yes, you’re going to have important roles, but you’re their friends from school! And there weren’t any scenes at school in the first chapter!” the creator explained from their chair.

    “I’m only here because you said you were going to be different from all of the other harem out there!” Kichiro glared.

    “It is different! Look its shounen and shoujo together!” The creator showed pages from the first chapter to illustrate the point.

    “But we’re the best friends of the main characters. Harem series always ignore us.” Hisoka said closing in.

    “Yeah, we’re important to the story too! But we’re always seen from the sidelines as the cheerleaders!” Kiyome pined.

    “H-Hey, I know! I’m changing that! I promise! Honest!”

    “We better be in the next chapter!” Etsuko threatened.

    “I’ll write it down right now! See!”

    “We better be!”

    “What’s wrong with you guys? I didn’t make you to have violent personalities! You’re supposed to be nice people!”

    “That’s what happens when you’ve been let down too many times by series!”

    “Why are you all becoming yandere types?!” The creator was suddenly glowing with strange pride in the usage of the word.

    “What?!”

    “Why do you look so proud when you used that?”

    “I just learned the word while I was working on this! There’s so much about manga I still don’t know!”

    “Should you really be so happy about that?”

    “You’re the manga creator, right? Shouldn’t you already know terms like that?”

    “We’re trusting our future to this weirdo?”
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  3. #3
    The Quiet One Twin Moon Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Twin Moon

    An old bus that had seen its fair share of use painfully groaned to a halt at the marked stop. Behind it on the road was the dense forest that surrounded the base of Mount Higashiyama. The road itself looked more like a dirt path that barely managed to follow a line woven between the trees. The travel was made exciting enough without the bus that felt like it was going to collapse if someone applied even a little pressure to the tape, glue and hope that held it together.

    Fortunately, the road improved greatly out of the forest just in time for the bus stop to make it appear as civilization was dominant, even though it was a tenuous balance. The rusted and severely lacking oil hinges screeched an awful sound like a harpy on death’s door. Despite the fatigue of the bus’s door it opened quickly from an experienced handler of the bus, the elderly Mr. Kakinomoto (a career bus driver, age 68). None of the passengers on the bus knew if the bus or the driver were older, a scary thought the more one considered it.

    Being a more rural town, Mashita drew in many people from the surrounding area that lived alone or as a family. During the day they would travel into the town for their shopping or business. The first stop in the town was for the students. A few girls and boys stepped down, the boys in tan or black jacket and pants uniforms with the girls in sailor uniforms of matching design of green or blue.

    The school they attended was only a few blocks away and what was called an elevator school. Due to the size of the town it was seen best to hold everything together to save on space. So the elementary, junior high and high school buildings all stood on the same property. Mashita Public School held students for all grades and they simply graduated to a new building as finished what was normal elementary and junior grades. The junior high boys wore tan uniforms with green trim while the girls wore green uniforms. In high school it was the same uniform but black with blue trim for the boys and blue for the girls, a little traditional, but it was rural.

    Coming down the stairs of the bus next was a very tall high school girl that made even the boys look short. She was the tallest person in the school at one hundred ninety-one centimeters. Her blue and white school uniform flowed smoothly as she left the bus. Her dark brown waist length hair was loosely held back with an old pin of simple make. It looked like she had spent very little time tending to her hair as wild strains flew about already. Long shaped bangs formed around her forehead and cheeks close to her jaw line looking to surround her bright blue eyes in a trap. Set atop her head just behind her bangs were two errant hairs with a willful life of their own that refused to be seated almost looking like antenna.

    “I’m Tsukiko Sakakibara. I’m a first year high school student with a fairly normal life living with my grandfather who adopted me. However, on my sixteenth birthday something strange happened. In order to protect myself I accidentally awakened the spirit of a man contained with an ancient sword.”

    Following in closing behind Tsukiko was a boy on the opposite end of the height scale, if such a thing existed. He was fortunately not a midget or anything so severe, but he only managed to be eye level with Tsukiko before he took the first step down while still being in the bus. It was difficult to believe that he was a high school boy coming in at a very embarrassingly short one hundred fifty-nine centimeters (can’t even manage one sixty). In his black uniform, the only sign that told people he was older than he appeared, he stepped out quietly joining Tsukiko’s side. His short, slightly messy black hair was stubborn to move in the gentle breeze that swiped through. He had to adjust to the light for a moment allowing his dark brown eyes the time not to be blinded by the morning sun.

    “I’m Mitsuru Sakakibara. I’m a first year high school student with a fairly normal life as with my grandfather who adopted me like sis. The same experience happened to me except that the ancient sword I have contains a woman. It’s very embarrassing thinking about it, but when it happened I turned into that woman. Sis had the same thing happen to her in reverse.”

    Mitsuru stood in stride with Tsukiko, though he had to keep a faster pace with her long strides. It was difficult, but something that he had become accustomed to doing. She did normally walk a little slower than she would have liked to keep with him.

    The sea of students that walked in from nearby areas of the town crowded around them. It had already been an extremely stressful morning for Tsukiko so being caught around a mob worked on her last ounce of patience. “Why do they have to so many students!?” she exclaimed in frustration. Her voice was enough to give her a little room even scaring a couple of little kindergarteners.

    “Tsuki, it can’t be helped that it’s the only school in town.” Mitsuru tried to calm her down patting her a little, but it was less than effective. In reality, it worked against him only turning her developing anger on him. The sight made Mitsuru sweat a little. “S-Sis!”

    “Stop calling me ‘sis’!” Tsukiko’s voice roared over everyone clearing her an easy path and nearly turning Mitsuru to stone in fear. However, when she saw everything that she caused it made her sweat a little in embarrassment and pull back her emotions. Her path was still available and that made her a little happier. She sighed loudly to herself trying to calm down. “And why does the bus always have to drop us off here? The old man makes us walk three blocks even though he goes around town still! I swear the senile old man doesn’t know his left from his right!”

    “Well at least we get a chance to walk and enjoy the weather!”

    She glared over and down at him quickly not pleased by his overly optimistic view. “They already make us walk around more than this on the school grounds just to get to our building!”

    “It’s not too bad sis, at least you can see where you’re going.”

    “I guess…”

    The brick wall that ran the entire length of the school was quickly approaching them. It had been aging like most of the things in the town, slowly and stubbornly. New work was done on the school at irregular times when it was necessary, but it was left in tradition as much as the people often were stuck in it. At the crowded gate were several teachers checking the students as they came in.

    For Tsukiko, she tried to walk past without getting stopped, not really in the mood for the teacher to bother her when trying to get into the school. Unfortunately, it was not a good day for either of them today as Mrs. Shiskikura called out them, “You two! Sakakibara!” They both tried to keep on going, but she pushed through the crowd to stop them. “Sakakibara!”

    Mitsuru had been pulled along by Tsukiko turned towards the teacher. “Mrs. Shiskikura! Good morning!”

    “Good morning.”

    “It’s a very nice day today isn’t it?” Mitsuru said cheerfully with a bit of an infectious quality that made others a little more pleasant. “How are you today, teacher?”

    She smiled back to Mitsuru a little out of instinct. “I’m fine. Thank you!”

    “I’m glad!” Tsukiko grabbed Mitsuru stopping him from saying anymore hoping to get away from the teacher while was distracted.

    “Hey, wait!” Mrs. Shiskikura grabbed Mitsuru by his arm tightly. “What do you think you two are doing?! Bringing weapons on to school grounds is a violation of school rules!”

    “What weapons? I’m not carrying anything like that!” Tsukiko protested turning to face the teacher quickly. However, Mrs. Shiskikura pointed her index finger down at their waists to what had drawn her attention. It was the old swords that they had found in the cave the night before attached once more at their sides.

    The two kids looked at each other with a moment of panic. They then took them off and eagerly put them in the teacher’s hands. “Please keep them forever!” they said in unison as they dashed off trying to put as much distance between them as the swords as possible leaving only a dust cloud in their wake.

    Mrs. Shiskikura stared from the gate dumbfounded by their reaction and willingness to give up the swords. She looked down at her hands and then back again at them trying to understand. The next moment she looked back the swords had disappeared. “What?! How did they?!”

    “Unfortunately, the swords we found…”

    “…seems that we can’t put them back.”

    Chapter 2 – End of Normal Days

    Once Tsukiko had run far enough away that she felt comfortable with stopping she checked on Mitsuru. He was breathing heavily from the sudden frantic actions. Tsukiko sighed a little catching her breath as well. The other students were still passing around them near the entrance leaving them a little in the way. “Darn it! I thought we had left those things in our rooms under all of the boxes in the house!”

    The shared room of Tsukiko and Mitsuru back their home in the shrine revealed a pyramid of poor construction. Cardboard boxes and anything else that was heavy enough to be found in the house had been piled up haphazardly. However underneath it all there was an outlined blinking showing where the swords had been, but were clearly missing.

    Mitsuru yelped loudly before Tsukiko clamped his mouth shut with her hand. He pointed down at the sword that was back at their side making Tsukiko retreat back in depression. “I guess no matter what we do we can’t escape them…” Mitsuru removed the sword from his side and stared it with his hand wrapped tightly around the sheath like he was trying to choke it. “You’re going to get us into trouble following us around like this!”

    A ghostly image of the woman’s head extend out from the hilt of the sword to face him. “There’s nothing we can do about it! It can’t be that bad! In my day it was honor to carry your sword at your side everywhere!” The carefree attitude that she was taking to their predicament was not improving the mood.

    “I don’t know what day you’re from, but it’s illegal to carry a sword! I could get arrested!”

    “I don’t see what the problem is. They wouldn’t dare arrest brave warriors such as us!”

    Tsukiko leaned over getting in the face of the woman. “You aren’t helping matters! I demand you tell us how to get rid of you!”

    “Why would you want to get rid of me? Beautiful and sweet me?”

    The attempt at innocence had only made Tsukiko even angrier. She grabbed the sword above Mitsuru’s hand rattling the metal with how tightly she was holding it. “That’s not the point!”

    “Umm…sis…”

    “Mitsu!”

    Mitsuru grabbed Tsukiko to get her attention back up to the small crowd that they had gathered from passing students. The focus on them and the talking sword made them sweat a little before turning blue. Mitsuru pressed his hand on the woman’s face trying to get her back inside the sword in the middle of her protests. Tsukiko laughed nervously trying to think of a way out. “Umm…y-you see…”

    “Good morning, Mitsu!” Out of the crowd stepped a high school boy along with two girls and another boy. He walked a little closer drawing some of the attention away from with, mostly the girls. The various admirers smiled as they saw his shining black wisp-like hair flowing with his movements gently tapping at his neck. “You decide to take up cosplaying, Mitsu?” he commented as he noticed the samurai sword that was at his waist. The boy peaked around Mitsuru with her sword drawing his attention as well. “Oh you too Tsukiko? Sort of weird for your tastes.”

    Tsukiko narrowed her eyes at him in frustration totally ignoring the dilemma. “What do you know about my tastes, Kichiro?”

    Mitsuru jumped in between them to cut them off quickly. “Yeah! I saw this really cool show last night and I made sis wear it with me!”

    “Yeah that sounds about right!” Kichiro laughed a little patting Mitsuru on the shoulder.

    When the other three students came out of the shadows the mood for the crowd suddenly changed. Girls were pushing their boyfriends along as though trying to rip them away. Others hurried out almost like they were in fear. “It’s Numata and Hatakeda! One’s bad enough, but both of them!” The rest rushed along looking away even at the sky if it helped them.

    Kichiro looked around at the empty grounds outside of the school. Awkward silence was the only thing that managed to stay. ‘Those two are a deadly combination as always…’

    Tsukiko grabbed Mitsuru with her arm around his neck pulling him in towards her. “What do you think you’re doing saying that?!” she whispered to him. “How could say something so embarrassing like that?!”

    “It’s better than them thinking they are real. If they think the swords are fakes we might be able to get away with it.”

    “I’m not saying I’m cosplaying!”

    “But sis!”

    “Enough!”

    Kichiro joined in at their side looking a little too curious for his own good. “Discussing cosplay tips?” He smiled mischievously like he was already plotting something in his mind.

    Taken off guard by him Tsukiko could only stutter a little in front of him. “Y-Yeah! Life as a samurai isn’t easy!” When she realized what she had just said she froze in terror. ‘What’s wrong with me?! I can’t believe I just said that! I’m going to die from embarrassment if this continues!’ The feeling of wanting to sink into the ground and run away had grown incredibly potent in Tsukiko in such a short time. Tsukiko collapsed over into Mitsuru arms a moment later losing all of her strength.

    “Sis!” Mitsuru yelled trying keep her from falling over.

    “Wow, she’s even easier today.”

    “A Sharp and decisive blow,” commented a girl with narrow black eyes and modest length of hair that was tied back with a large red ribbon that seemed to contradict the sign of innocent it could have brought to the girl.

    “Thanks, Kiyome! Would seem her sword was not as sharp as mine.”

    “Indeed. A samurai must be prepared at all times.” Kiyome joined the side next to Kichiro looking down at the slowly recovering Tsukiko. “You’re going to need to practice more before you can perfect your cosplay, Tsuki.”

    “C-c-cosplay?!” The words were enough to turn her back into a liquid mass in Mitsuru arms with a critical hit having been delivered.

    “Great timing as always, Kiyome!”

    “Sis!”

    “Geesh, teased them enough for the morning?” interjected the other boy in the group that had remained fairly quiet.

    Kichiro shrugged over to him and straightened up a bit. “Not as much fun when it’s this easy though. Keeping to the shadows as usual Hisoka.”

    Hisoka adjusted his glasses back on the bridge of his nose with them catching a little glare from the sun. The painfully thick lenses made it impossible to seen underneath to his eyes. No one had ever seen his eyes before since he always wore the glasses. Unfortunately, they were square black frames of the worst kind that only made him look like a nerd. “You two are so alike sometimes I’m surprised you’re not dating…”

    “Yeah like that’d ever happen,” Kichiro said sharply before walking away leaving them alone.

    Kiyome followed shortly distant from him. “I’d pick your words more carefully next time…nerd.”

    A vein popped up on Hisoka’s forehead in an instant when he heard her use the taboo word. He raised his fist into the air towards the disappearing Kiyome. “I’m not a nerd! I just have poor eyesight!” Steam was already starting to rise from him. It was something that he fervently denied every time that he heard someone mention it. Unfortunately, it had become such a sore point for him that he would go into a blind rage as the slightest mention, even if it was not about him. Most students in his class knew never to speak the taboo word around him. A painful lesson learned by some.

    “Where’d Kichiro and Kiyome go?” questioned Mitsuru finally rising up from the ground. He had brought Tsukiko back together letting her stand on her own feet once more. Mitsuru looked around the once more trying to find them and not quite taking note of how empty the grounds were yet. “Hisoka? Is something wrong?” He could see the red veined face of Hisoka still fuming over what had happened.

    “Nothing!”

    Before anything more could be said Tsukiko jumped to attention towering over everyone. “What time is it?!” Everyone looked around at each other for a brief moment before the first bell for homeroom to begin sounded off. The answer was given. “We’re going to be late! Hurry!”

    * * *
    Morning classes were about as they could be expected. The fake siblings had their share of issues to deal with. Once more a teacher tried to take away their swords. It naturally failed for them and they ended up being forced to stand outside of the classroom holding two pales of water as punishment for breaking the rules. Tsukiko still refused to give in to the suggestion of it being a costume. In the end they both were left with sore bodies and almost no classes for all of the trouble that the swords caused.

    Tsukiko continued to tried to find new ways to lose them. She had tossed them throw a window, dropped them in vents, given them formally to other people as gifts, tied them down to steel supports of the school and still nothing worked. All it accomplished was her being tired. “Darn these things! Never letting me enjoy a moment of rest!” Her hand was attempting to choke the life out sword once more ignoring how futile it was.

    The young man of her sword appeared out of it a little with her hands being conveniently placed around his transparent neck. He looked like he was turning blue a little as though it was actually having some effect on him. “I can’t breathe! P-please stop! I-I…” Tsukiko’s hold had gotten tighter until he suddenly stopped moving and looked like he was unconscious.

    Tsukiko jumped back dropping the sword. “I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean it! I was just so…” She tilted her head down feeling regret over her actions of having killed a ghost. It took her a minute for her to come to a realization that changed everything. “Wait a minute! You’re already dead!”

    The spirit of the man chuckled to himself having found amusement in tricking her. His lifeless appearance quickly changed back to how he had looked before. “I couldn’t help it!”

    “Why you…” Tsukiko’s hair seemed to stand up on end as she became furious at the ghost and sword. “You’ve been tormenting me all day! And this is how you treat me!” The flaming background around Tsukiko was enough to turn the pale spirit a little blue in fear not expecting his joke to be taken so far. No amount of display of fear was going to be enough for her. She grabbed the sword and flung into the cement outside of the school. The sheath flew off as she brought it back for another swing leaving the blade bare to take the next strike.

    “Ow! That hurts! Stop it!”

    “You can’t feel pain remember!” snapped Tsukiko in a surprising moment of clarity. She began to swing it wilding around at the building and anything that she could find. Anger turned into the hope that breaking the sword would end the curse upon her. Sadly, the sword remained unharmed by anything she did. Only her hands were blistered in pain from the numerous strikes she took with it. She was forced to drop the sword collapsing to the ground. “…why…why…must you…” Her voice broke a little on the words as the day’s stress had simply become too much for her to take.

    The spirit of the man stepped fully out of the sword with a more somber expression. He walked over to Tsukiko and knelt down next to her resting a pale hand on her back. The man remained quiet to give her the time she needed.

    “…why…I just want a normal…life…” She looked up at him seemingly on the verge of tears. “What did I do to deserve this?”

    He looked into her eyes trying to ease her troubles. “It’s a burden of destiny that we all bare.”

    “Why me?” she pleaded up to him.

    “This became your path the moment you drew my sword.”

    “Who or what are you?”

    “My name is Tsuneo Shigenoi guardian of the Kimon.”

    “Kimon, you mean the Demon’s Gate?”

    “Yes, it’s my job to kill any demon that trespasses into the human world. Or was when I was alive.” He called the sword over to him placing it out in front of her between them. There was a bright glow of blue that slowly engulfed the sword. It pulsed resonating with the two of them. “All the power I possessed when I was alive is held within its blade. I’m yours to wield.”

    “…mine to wield…” Everything she was being told had started to calm her down and give her focus. Tsukiko did not think it possible, but the night before had shown her a lot more was possible than she believed. ‘Destiny…Kimon…I’m not ready for this! I can’t be some demon slayer!’ She wished it would all just fade like a bad dream. It was just a nightmare.

    “P-please don’t make me!” beseeched Tsukiko. “I-I just want to be a simple girl.”

    “I think that’d be a little difficult with your height,” Tsuneo commented casually trying to add some levity. Unfortunately, the remark about her height was quite the sensitive subject for her and the flames of anger returned sharply as she glared at him. “Sorry! It was a joke! A joke!” He could see that he was not convincing her to remain calm. The man flailed his arms panicking witnessing her becoming more frightening than any demon he had slain. “I’ll be serious!”

    Tsukiko stood up with the last of her depression fading away with her rising fist. “I show you my emotions and this is what you do! You can’t be serious even for a minute!” The spirit tried to flee the scene as she looked ready to pounce. She managed through sheer force of anger take a hold of him and dragged him back into range. Her furious fist flew at him.

    In the moment of impact a massive blast and cloud erupted from around them blanketing more than twenty meters of the school grounds. The ground shook and the cracking of the cement crawled out. As the dust cloud was forcibly pushed out from the epicenter Tsukiko raised out of it with a shocked stunned expression fix on her face. “D-did I do that?!”

    Her answer came quickly in the form of an earth rattling roar that vibrated to her very core. She became very pale in response. A foul odor lingered out as one that no one could ever forget. ‘It’s like last night! Mitsuru!’ Tsukiko took a step back planning on running away. “Is it the same one from last night?”

    “No,” replied Tsuneo flatly appearing next to her. Enough of the cloud had cleared to reveal the upper part of the cause. It was brown-orange oni much like an ogre that had appeared in the shrine the night before. Breaking through the clouds was a very large battle axe that for its size looked normal, but easily was two times larger than Tsukiko. “An Oni, the lowest class of demon. Mindless and savage, it survives purely on instinct.”

    “There’s more than one of them!?” She felt like it was a bit of a stupid question, but it was all like a story that it could not be real.

    “Yes, there are countless Oni in demon world and the most common demon that tries to enter the human world.”

    “But why is it here?”

    “They sensed strong spiritual energy. It probably sensed you and your brother. You’re like a giant beacon and it’s all they’ll see. They’ll go after the strongest first driven by their base instincts to feed.”

    “Everyone in school is in danger because of me!”

    “That’s one way of looking at it.”

    Tsukiko backed away from the oni. The realization had set in to her making her afraid. ‘It’s my fault. Everyone…what can I do?’ She did not want to be a part of anything that was happening. It had to be a dream. She just had to awake up from it. Then everything would be over. She could complain about the painful seats on the bus to school. She could get stressed out over her late homework. The teacher would yell at her. It would be the way things should be.

    Her eye frantically looked around becoming more terrified as the oni began its heavy stomp towards its prey. ‘It’s going to kill me!’ Tsukiko’s entire body was shaking and sweating. She had nothing she could do but let it march upon her. It would wake her from the dream.

    The monster’s wretched breath blasted the ground around Tsukiko’s paralyzed body. It was strong enough to kill the stray weeds breaking through cracks in the ground. The battle ax had already been lifted above the oni’s body when it was standing before Tsukiko. A crooked toothy grin came over the oni’s face as it sensed tasty prey. In the next second the ax flew down in a streak shattering cement and blasting another dust cloud. The oni sniffed the air searching for its prey in the cloud only to find it too far away.

    Tsukiko’s body glowed brightly for a moment before fading away as she lay on her back totally without will. Tsuneo leaned over her breathing a sigh of relief that he had managed to use his energy to deflect the ax away just in time. “What do you think you’re doing?! Are you trying to get killed!?”

    Her eyes were completely lifeless staring back at him. “…a dream…wake up…must wake…”

    “This isn’t some dream, girl! You’re really going to die if you do nothing!”

    “…nightmare…”

    “Tch…she’s totally gone and I can’t protect her like this.” The spirit looked over his shoulder at the stalking oni that had found its target once more. He stared back down at Tsukiko becoming desperate for anything. “What about your friends? Or your brother? You going to leave them alone?!”

    “…Mitsu…” Tsukiko blinked her eyes slowly still empty of any light. ‘…but what can I do? This can’t be real… I just have to wake—‘ Suddenly in her mind a picture of Mitsuru flashed before her smiling. ‘…Mitsu…’ A spark of light in her soul revived. Her light returned her sight reminding her that she was lying on the ground. In the distance there was a glowing signal that called to her, her sword.

    She stood up slowly with life returning back to her. Tsukiko felt the ground quaking under her as the oni stalked closer. She ignored the spirit next to her and broke into a run for the monster.

    “What do you think you’re doing?!” Tsuneo tried to catch up to her so that he could stop her from making a mistake, but it already too late. She was in range of the oni and it was taking a swing at her. However, he could see that she was not actually running at it, but by it to the sword that had been cast aside from earlier.

    Tsukiko managed to avoid the attempt made at her and reach the sword. It pulsed back at her calling to her. There was still some hesitation in her heart. ‘…I don’t want this…’ She kneeled down over the sword slowly stretching her arm out. ‘…but I can’t forsake them for my own selfishness…’ Her hand clasped the hilt of the sword, the blade already bare. Tsukiko hefted the weight into her two hands straightening herself up to stare over at the oni. She gave a sorrowful looking smile on her face to no one in particular. “My normal life ends here…” She charged towards the monster still turning around from missing.

    The spirit gasped at her recklessness. “Don’t! You aren’t even using your spiritual energy!” He sighed heavily to himself seeing that she was too focused on what she was doing to even hear him. She was closing in on the monster with a perfect chance if she was properly skilled with the sword. “I don’t have any choice…” Tsuneo’s body glowed white briefly before disappearing into the sword. His vast spiritual energy spread down the tip of the blade until engulfing even Tsukiko completely.

    The moment the blade sank into the oni all they were was a bright blue light. A long digging slash from the sword carved through the beast cleaving it in two before it began to disappear into particles of energy.

    Brilliant gray-white hair blew in the wind from the figure crouched on the ground. The full heavy formal kimono of Tsuneo was draped over his physical form. As he rose up from the ground sheathing his sword Tsukiko’s eyes opened slowly. She had quickly realized what happened and jumped around the school grounds panicking over the young man’s body she was standing. “You did it again! How could you do this to me again?!” she said with his face turning bright red from her embarrassment.

    “It couldn’t be helped. I had to help you with the way you were charging in blindly!”

    Tsukiko hid up against the wall of the high school building hoping to stay out of sight. “But everyone at school could see me!”

    “I can’t see anyone.”

    “Give me back my body immediately!” A white light flashed around the body and revealed Tsukiko’s own figure and school uniform once more. She checked everything really quickly before rushing into the school hoping that all of the noise would be ignored. If it was not she wanted to be somewhere else when people arrived. ‘What am I going to do?! Anyone could have seen me! Oh please let it be safe!’

    When Tsukiko arrived back at class the bell for new classes was ringing. ‘I hope I don’t get kicked out of this class too… Please just let me have one normal class!’ She sat down in her seat shuffling through her belongs preparing for the next class that would soon begin. She could see Mitsuru returning as well and considered telling him what had happened, but she hesitated.

    “Did you see that really cute guy wandering outside?” a female student in the class shouted to her neighboring friend.

    “One of the upperclassmen?” her friend replied.

    The girl shook her head quickly. There was a bright glow in her eyes like she had just seen something that had completely changed her life. “He wasn’t wearing a school uniform. He had this fancy looking kimono.”

    “I didn’t know you were into older men,” the friend teased.

    “Hey! He had to be a teenager! I didn’t get a look at him, but I’ll never forget that beautiful silver hair and soft white skin. He was the most beautiful boy I’ve ever seen…” The girl was starting to get lost in her fantasies of who the teenager that she might have been.

    Tsukiko had only been paying half attention to the nearby conversation, but she jerked alive hearing about the silver hair. She could not think of anyone in the school that had silver hair, since it was an unnatural hair color. ‘Silver hair and outside! Was I found out?!’

    “Should you really be calling a boy beautiful?”

    “I think I’m in love…”

    Tsukiko began to sweat heavily. She dropped her head loudly against the desk in disbelief. ‘What am I going to do?!’

    “Dear mother and father in heaven…my normal peaceful life is over! Your daughter, who’s never been in love before, has another girl in love with her. This is so embarrassing! I’m never going to be able to get married!”

    To be continued…
    Character Profile – Mitsuru Sakakibara

    Name: Mitsuru Sakakibara
    Age: 16
    Gender: Male
    Height: 5’3” (159 cm)
    Weight: 109lbs (49 kg)
    Hair Color: Black
    Hair Style: Short and a little messy
    Eye Color: Dark Brown
    Appearance: He is short, skinny and pretty much unnoticeable over all. He looks like a wimp.
    Personality: He is shy in public and keeps to himself allowing him to be dragged around by his best friend. However, he is also a very kind hearted person who looks out more for others than himself, which is often why he gets dragged along.
    While he is shy, the girls of the mansion tend to bring him out of his shell. And he’ll get frustrated with them and yell. He will even question their actions rather than simply accepting what is happening, as he normally would.
    Likes: Tsukiko, Grandfather, Curry,
    Dislikes: Fire, Embarrassing Situations, Being Short, Eel
    Curious? There's no limits but your own imagination.
    Don't know how to roleplay, but want to learn? Visit Here!


    2007 and 2009 Best Writer of TFF and 2009 Most Creative Co-Winner



  4. #4
    The Quiet One Twin Moon Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Twin Moon

    The classroom experience for Mitsuru turned out to be very similar to that of what his sister had experienced. That was at least until he was on his own. He tried to follow Tsukiko when she ran off trying to dispose of the sword down a vent, but had tripped over something in the confusion. Mitsuru groaned in his pain on the floor for a moment before trying to find Tsukiko, she had disappeared out of the hall. “…sis…”

    “…oh…” a meek voice managed to summon up from the floor.

    Between the fluttering of papers, Mitsuru finally realized that he had knocked someone over. He turned his head away from the hall and looked down to see that he was laying on top of a girl, who was trying desperately, yet incredibly timidly, to let him know that she was down there. Once Mitsuru understood, he jumped up off her and landed seated on the floor with his knees fold up under him looking very polite and embarrassed. “I’m so sorry, Etsuko! It was all my fault! I wasn’t looking where I was going!”

    Etsuko slowly pulled herself up from the tiled floor. As she rose, she made sure to keep her face turned mostly away from Mitsuru view focused on the papers that were throw everywhere. She kept her voice silent afterward despite how frantic and worried she was over the mess that she had made.

    When Mitsuru saw her scrambling around for the papers on the floor, he pulled out of his position to help her. “I caused you such a mess, Etsuko!” Through his insistence, they were able to clean up the scattered papers quickly into a thick pile. He saw Etsuko already neatly tapping the sides to get them in line for her to start to carry again. Mitsuru leaned over and picked up half of the stack.

    She reached out her hand trying to take the papers back. “W-why are you taking my paper?” Her shaking hand could not even make it half the distance to Mitsuru before she stopped.

    “I caused you trouble for running into you. So I should help you carry it back to make it up to you.”

    “But don’t you have class? I’ll get you into trouble if you help me!”

    Mitsuru looked away for a moment having remembered in that instant why he was not in his class. The thought made him depressed, but he saw Etsuko and changed his expression quickly. “It’s fine! The teacher sort of gave me permission to be outside!” He tried to hide his embarrassment behind awkward laughter.

    “Oh?” She tilted her head a little towards him, but snapped back away from him when she realized that she was getting too close. However, when Mitsuru extended his hand out to help her off the floor she rotated herself almost completely around.

    A little sweat appeared on the side of Mitsuru’s head from watching Etsuko. He did not completely understand why she acted so strangely in front of him. ‘Right! I forgot about that!’ Mitsuru closed his eyes and approached her again. “It’s okay now, Etsuko. I can’t see you.”

    “Oh I’m sorry! I should probably explain about Etsuko!”

    “…alright…” Etsuko still carried reluctance, but saw that Mitsuru was true to his words. She accepted his hand and stood up. “…I’m sorry…Mitsuru…it’s all my fault…”

    He took up a spot at her side and a little behind, how she preferred. Even in spite of it all, he still smiled even if she never saw. “It’s fine. You can’t help it.”

    She hung her head down looking at the tile floor, a typical habit for it (also the reason she has a lot of accidents). “…but…”

    “See, there’s something special about Etsuko…”

    “…if only…no one saw me…”

    “…when any guy looks into Etsuko’s eyes they become bewitched by her.”

    Mitsuru kept close to her making sure to keep an eye out for anyone or thing that she might bump into on the walk back. Fortunately, classes were in session so no one roamed the halls. Most experienced students knew of her and steered clear of her when she came in sight. Rumors circulated that her accidental gaze had ruined ninety-nine relationships, but it sounded like an exaggeration to Mitsuru. He had difficulty believing it, since the problem her eyes caused her turned her into an extreme introvert afraid of speaking to almost anyone. He heard that her eyes sometimes even worked on girls making her even more scare of people. It made him wonder how Tsukiko befriended her, but ever since she was the only one that Etsuko felt comfortable around.

    Once they returned to the classroom, he handed over the papers to Etsuko. He did not want to intrude on another class, especially carrying a sword around. If his teachers could not stand it, he doubted others would either. “Have a good day, Etsuko.”

    “…t-thank you…”

    Chapter 3 – The Goddess, the Nerd and the Schemers

    After the incident with Etsuko, Mitsuru only wanted to return to his class. He had not been able to attend any of them fully. The teachers eventually noticed. His current class remained in session and so he could only wait for the next bell to ring and let him inside.

    Mitsuru found a wall nearby to sit against. His punishment to hold water filled buckets had run out in the confusion with Tsukiko and he did not really want to resume. He let out a sigh as he waited.

    “So she your girlfriend?” a female voice asked from below.

    Subconsciously, Mitsuru held the sword in his hands letting it rest partly touching the floor. When he heard the voice, he did not immediately put it together, but reacted embarrassed by the question turning slightly red in the face. “Of course not! She’s Tsuki’s best friend!”

    “But that shouldn’t stop you.”

    “Hey now!” Mitsuru turned down to face the voice, still caught in the words and not the situation. However, he quickly realized that it was the spirit of the sword speaking to him. Her ghostly face floated away from the hilt of the sword staring at him a little too close for his comfort. He dropped the sword and screamed in surprise. Unfortunately, the teacher to the class that he rested next glared down at him for interrupting. “I’m sorry for the disturbance!” he shouted as he ran away, ignoring the sword. Once he felt secure, he paused to take in air.

    “You know I’m starting to feel a little depressed always being screamed at.”

    Mitsuru yelped again and jump away from the sword. His proximity to the stairs made it even more difficult as he nearly tripped. Recovering at the last minute, he grasped onto the railing and stabilized.

    The sword jumped up with her face popping out of the hilt again. “Like that! I’m not that scary am I?” Her face looked ready for tears. Her timing could not have been any worse for Mitsuru, as the shock of her appearing made him lose his hold. He actually fell down the stairs and collapsed in a pile at the landing. “Really now…” The sword laid on top of Mitsuru’s crumpled body staring at him.

    He flailed his arms around trying to get the sword off him, while ignoring the pain in his head. “You are when you keep randomly appearing in front of me!”

    “Well if you just calm down for a moment and listen to me!”

    “Then back away from me a little! It’s unnerving seeing a ghost!”

    “Oh I forgot didn’t I! My name is Mitsuru Sakakibara. I was a regular high school student until sis and I found these swords in a cave and released their spirits. Now because of that they follow us everywhere and can make us transform into them if they use their spiritual powers.”

    After a calmer conversation with the woman, Mitsuru returned to his class at the sound of the bell. When he returned, he saw Tsukiko already seated. He noticed the sword next to her. Like him, she had not been able to get rid of it. However, the longer that he watched her, her expression changed to one of worry and fear. Mitsuru became concerned about what was wrong with her, but could not do anything as the teacher entered the room. He quickly sat down and prayed that he could stay out of trouble for one class.

    Thankfully for them, the class was art, the assignment that they had rushed to completed needed to be turned it. The teacher was fairly relaxed and did not take note of the swords with them. Both of them did make the best effort they could to hide such an item, but at a length of nearly a meter, it was challenging. While not the most educational class, they were grateful to have made it through. Lunch came after and gave them a break.

    Mitsuru prepared to open his lunch on his desk as he usually did and eventually joined by Kichiro and Hisoka, but Tsukiko grabbed him by the arm and dragged him out of the classroom. The remaining friends stared between them a little confused.

    “I guess we’re eating on the roof today,” remarked Kichiro.

    “This is Kichiro Yunokawa, one of my best friends. Even though we were in the same school system, I did not meet him until he was in my class as first year high school students. He doesn’t talk much about himself, but he’s usually pretty easy going.”

    Kiyome nodded to him picking up her lunch. “That seems the most likely. Tsukiko’s seemed more stressed out today than usual.” She began walking out of the class followed by the two boys. Routine with them seemed so set as Etsuko came up behind them. The sign of the walking away with their lunch gave her all she needed to know and she closed in behind them using them as a shield through the hall.

    Hisoka gave the two of them a shrug. “Isn’t she always high strung though?”

    “Being the tallest girl in school can be quite the curse, huh?” commented Kichiro, tilting his head over at Kiyome.

    “Careful not to say that around her though.”

    “Kiyome Kasamatsu is one of sis’ friends. They only met recently as first years, but seemed to get along really well. Kiyome is part of the student council, but I don’t know what she does for them. She’s never told me. She’s very mysterious.”

    “Yeah, she’s pretty touchy about that, but not nearly as someone else I can think of.”

    Changing from impassive to annoyed in less than a second, Hisoka’s eyes narrowed and darkened looking over at Kichiro. “Trying to start something at lunch?”

    “That’s Hisoka Numata, my other best friend. We’ve been friends since junior high school. He has a lot of problems with others, but I don’t think people give him a chance. He’s actually very friendly, as long as you don’t speak the taboo word.”

    Kichiro smirked a little and waved his hands to deflect the glare. “Just making an observation.”

    Idle conversation passed the time until they reached the roof. As expected, they found the siblings over in the corner of the roof in a deep argument. They made their approach to them and Kichiro had to make a quick tease to insert themselves into the group. “Exchanging tips for cosplaying?”

    “What?!” exclaimed Tsukiko, who’s debate with Mitsuru did not seem deep enough for her to not hear Kichiro. Her face immediately when red with embarrassment and shattered any further hopes of continued conversation with Mitsuru.

    With the opening made, they sat down around in a rough circle. Etsuko made sure to use Tsukiko as a shield from the others and ate half turned away from the group. The meal started out fairly normal for everyone. Tsukiko made light conversation with Kiyome and Etsuko while Mitsuru talked to Kichiro and Hisoka. As a group, those in their class considered them one of the odder sets of students in the school. Etsuko and Hisoka both existed on the fringe of the student body because of their uniqueness. The openness and acceptance of Mitsuru and Tsukiko were the main reasons they became friends so quickly. Kichiro and Kiyome were a different sort and their reasons for being friends became clear in time.

    Part way into the lunch, Tsukiko noticed something that turned her blue. ‘What’s she think she’s doing?! She’s going to expose us, again!’ Across from her, Mitsuru sat calmly eating and laughing as though nothing was wrong. Next to him, the woman that haunted him was sitting at his side looking as though it was the most natural thing in the world. In fact, she sat surprisingly well mannered with perfect posture as though well trained from a wealthy family.

    Tsukiko began to sweat heavily seeing her out acting as if nothing was wrong. She snapped around the circle trying to see if anyone had noticed, but no one said a word. Her lips shook and rippled as the fear built up in her. Tsukiko wanted to shout over at the ghost, but knew that it would draw attention to it. She stretched out her leg moving towards the woman trying to get her attention. The position with her leg made it awkward for her to keep her balance and the sweat on her face made it difficult to focus. However, Tsukiko jaw dropped and she lost it completely when she saw Mitsuru hand over part of his lunch to her. She could not take it anymore and slammed her hand down on the roof. Tsukiko stretched out into the center pointing at Mitsuru and the woman. “What do you think you’re doing?! Mitsu! She’s out right there! And you just...” She turned her arm to point over at the spirit. “And you’re just out! And everyone can… And how can you be eating if you’re ghost!” During the excitement from Tsukiko, Etsuko kept herself skillfully hidden in her shadow.

    Mitsuru smiled back to his sister and offered more to the spirit. She graciously accepted his offer. Both acts made Tsukiko face become even darker. “…s-sis… it’s ok. I’m just letting her spend lunch with us. It’s fine.”

    “What’s fine with this scene?!”

    “We were able to work out our differences. I felt bad that she had to stay in the sword the entire time. So I thought it would be fine if she came out during lunch.”

    “Thank you very much! Please take care of me!” she said while bowing slightly to everyone. The rest of the group politely bow slightly to her and continued eating as they had before.

    Tsukiko let out a gasp looking around as their friends completely ignore something so unnatural. “You guys are just going to accept this?! I mean she’s a ghost! It’s weird, right?!”

    Kichiro’s closed eyes raised an eyebrow to her. “I think you’re the only that seem to think it is weird.”

    “Agreed,” added Kiyome, “There something wrong with someone wanting to join us for lunch? I didn’t think you were so narrow minded, Tsukiko.”

    “Fine with me…” chimed Hisoka, in a tone that said he clearly did not care.

    “B-but…” She turned around to look at Etsuko, who still tried to keep herself removed. “You’re scared right, Etsuko?” Etsuko was her last hope, she was terrified of everyone that she did not know. She would have Tsukiko’s back on the matter.

    Etsuko timid voice barely escaped her lips, but Tsukiko heard still. “…s-she looks lonely…”

    ‘Even Etsuko?!’ Tsukiko crumpled back dropping her hand to her lap in defeat. Everyone was insane.

    However, she did not get a rest as her spirit erupted from his sword and sat down next to the woman. “Well if you all don’t have any problems! Thank you kindly!” He warmly greeted them all before sampling the food that Mitsuru gave her.

    A vein popped on Tsukiko forehead at the sight of him. “You insensitive jerk! What makes you think you’re welcome here!”

    He gave her a dejected look for such harsh criticisms. “That’s so mean! You’re trying to keep me away from my beloved!”

    Tsukiko leaned to him raising a finger to him in anger. “Now listen here after all you said to me what makes you think you can… Wait, what do you mean beloved?!”

    “Her, what did you think?” he stated matter-of-factly. He pointed his finger over at the woman spirit. “She’s my wife.”

    “Wife?!” exclaimed Mitsuru and Tsukiko.

    “What we didn’t tell you?”

    “No!”

    “It’s true!”

    “Urgh…” Tsukiko collapsed back to her seat. Dealing with them was exhausting. She stopped caring about it and decided to focus on her food.

    Mitsuru held his chopsticks in his mouth a little concerned about how Tsukiko took the whole event. ‘I didn’t mean to make it worse, sis… I just wanted to give you less to worry about…’ He thought back to the conversation that he had with his spirit. When he said that they had come to an agreement, there was truth to the words. Though a little different than the front that he gave Tsukiko. The whole thing still unnerved him, but he bore with it for her sake.

    “That good enough?” she asked Mitsuru floating away to about a meter in distance from him. He nodded to her slowly still showing signs of fright in his face. “Now that you’re calmer. Can we have a straight talk?”

    “Talk?” He had a lot of a questions for the spirit, but had not really imagined her being so rational. Mitsuru barely knew her, but they had only ever acted carelessly and childishly continuously joking. The sight of her being serious made him a little nervous as though he was about to receive terrible news, as if he would be dead in a week because they were bonded together.

    “Yes, with everything happening we haven’t actually spoken seriously. My name is Hisako Shigenoi.”

    “Miss Shigenoi…I’m Mitsuru Sakakibara.” The seriousness of the dialogue made him change his attitude with her. He forgot that she was a ghost and saw a woman sitting across from him. He bowed quickly as his loss trapped him. “I’m sorry for screaming!”

    She could not help but sweat a little seeing him act so different than before. “I did tease you. So I guess it’s expected. I imagine you have a lot of questions for me.”

    He had not really thought too hard on the matter. Any questions that he might have had disappeared quickly whenever they appeared. When he tried to sleep after the incident only unease filled him. He never had a chance to question his situation. Mitsuru crossed his arms and thought carefully on the subject trying to figure out what was important to him. “I guess the easiest one is why did this happen?”

    “Unfortunately, that is one question I don’t know the answer to. I don’t know why I’ve become linked to you. I’ve been asleep since I’ve been attached to this sword.”

    “Then can you at least tell me who you were before being attached to the sword?”

    “I was the guardian of the Kimon. It was my task to protect the human world from the demons that tried to enter.”

    “Guardian…” Mitsuru held his next question as he thought further. He was not sure of what he expected in asking. The answer seemed almost normal and very similar to the story that his grandfather to him. As he thought about the spirit and their situation, Tsukiko came into his head. He knew how much it bothered her. It did not feel pleasant for him, but he could only imagine how hard it was for her. Mitsuru looked over at the spirit. “Can you do something for me?”

    “What is it?” She became a little curious seeing the change in mood from his expression.

    “Well, can you pretend to get along with me?”

    “What do you mean? You make it sound like I don’t?”

    Mitsuru turned his head away from her looking a little flustered. His fingers pushed back and forth against each other fidgeting. “I mean the jokes and surprises. At least around Tsuki, could you make it look like we’re doing well?”

    “You mean your sister? Why? What’s wrong?”

    “Well, I don’t want to cause her to worry anymore than she already does. If she can see that we’re getting along it’ll be less that she has to be worried about.”

    She stared long at Mitsuru measuring his words and sensing his feelings. The earnest wishes of his made her smile a little. “Very well. I can see you care about her a lot.”

    “Thank you!”

    Mitsuru kept up his smile for Tsukiko, even though it felt like it might be useless for him. He hoped that in time things would set down and return to how they used to be for them. He would do everything he could to push things back to being normal.


    ** ** **
    Afternoon classes ran a little smoother as well. They had developed more skillful methods of concealing the weapons. The class did not make any comments about them having it from the morning. So they were able to pretend nothing happened. Tsukiko was thankful that the teachers did not exchange warnings. She did not have any confidence in them talking their way out of the weapons, especially given how the morning went.

    The ending bell to school came as a relief to Tsukiko. Any other day she might not have minded staying around and chatting or hanging out in town. But the stress in her body had put its toll on her. She never realized how tiring being tense could actually be. As much as she wanted to leave immediately, her body actually felt comfortable in the chair. ‘I guess I can spare a few minutes. Mitsu hasn’t returned yet…’ In her exhaustion, she did not realize the class had ended until a few minutes after and in that time, Mitsuru disappeared. She figured he was just talking to Kichiro, nothing to be worried over. Her eyes closed and the darkness welcomed her.

    “Hey sis!”

    “…uh-huh…”

    “Sis! Tsuki! I need your help!”

    “…I said stop with…the ‘sis’…” The words crawled out of Tsukiko’s mouth. Her head hung of the back of the chair and her body stretched out not fitting under the desk, the legs hovered several centimeters off the ground.

    “Sorry, but I need your help!”

    “…what is it…” Tsukiko started to open her eyes a little when Mitsuru shook her shoulder. When she realized that she had fallen asleep, she snapped awake. She looked around the classroom, empty for all but Mitsuru. Blinking and trying to get her bearings in the room, she finally looked over at Mitsuru. He looked upset and then she remembered the tone in his voice. She jumped up to her feet, towering over him, and looked down. “What’s wrong? Something happen?”

    Mitsuru looked ready to cry with how concerned he looked. He then presented a stack of papers in his hands to her. “We need to hand out papers!”

    Tsukiko fell over to her desk, barely holding on to the top to keep her from collapsing to the floor. She recovered quickly though and leapt back to her feet with a vein popping on her forehead. Her fist rose only slightly restrained. “Why doesn’t your attitude match your request?! You had me scared for a second!”

    He hung his head a little staring at the papers as he brought them back down. “I’m sorry, but we need to help Etsuko…”

    “Huh? What’s she got to do with this?”

    “She was asked to hand out papers to people for the upcoming tennis meet.”

    Tsukiko took a moment to process the sudden change in direction. None of it made sense, but one thing did click with her. “Who would make Etsuko hand out papers? She’s terrified of people!”

    “That’s why I need your help!” He presented the stack again to her.

    “Why didn’t you start with that in the beginning?!” An image of Etsuko hiding behind the school gate with a hand poking through the bars holding papers with a low unsettling voice pleading to passing students entered Tsukiko’s mind. She shook her head free of the thought and focused back on the papers. Tsukiko took them from Mitsuru without a second thought. “Right! We can’t let her experience any more trauma. Let’s go, Mitsu!” She charged out of the room with fire in her eyes.

    “Coming!” Mitsuru raced after her trying to keep up with her determined spirit.

    Out of the shadows of an extruded column of the wall, Kichiro surfaced. He watched the two eagerly disappear from the halls and make their way out to the school grounds. The voice of Tsukiko reached him clearly in spite of the distance. “Your handiwork again, eh?”

    “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” replied Kiyome, as she walked away in the opposite direction. “I just see two students enthusiastically helping to promote the tennis team.”

    He gave a smile and a little chuckle thinking about the scene. “Have you heard the rumor?”

    “Rumor?”

    “The school’s considering cutting the tennis team due to lowered interest and poor performance.”

    “Is that so?”

    “I heard that the sports committee will be attending some of their practices and meets to make a final judgment.”

    “You’re very well informed, as always, eh? Kichiro?” Kiyome disappeared into the shadows of the hall leaving him alone.

    He grinned a little knowing that she already left. “Scary woman,” he commented to himself with a shrug. Kichiro approached the window watching the two desperately trying to pass out the papers to every student they found. He stifled a laugh seeing the two. “Well it is pretty good entertainment. But you could have just asked them directly.” Tsukiko chased down a couple of boys forcibly putting papers in their hands before they fled the grounds. “But they wouldn’t be trying so hard if it wasn’t her.”

    ** ** **

    Exhausted and panting heavily, Mitsuru and Tsukiko leaned against the gate of the school. They finished with all of the papers. With all of them handed out, they felt relieved in knowing that Etsuko was safe and spared from the dilemma. However, it did not seem that they could rest. A female student, a first year as well, came running out of the school screaming.

    “Someone help! There’s a crazy boy in the photography club room!”

    It alerted the two of them quickly. Even though they did not have the energy to stand, they called out to her from their seated spots. “What’s going on?”

    The girl became relieved to have found someone answering her pleas. She quickly rushed over to them and paused panting out of a breath. Once she recovered, she leaned her head up from her bent over position. “He’s destroying the classroom!”

    “Who is?”

    “I don’t know, but he’s some nerdy looking guy. I can’t understand what’s he’s yelling about.”

    Tsukiko jumped up suddenly having the energy to stand again. She looked down at Mitsuru pulling at him to stand. “Come on! That’s Hisoka! Someone must have said the taboo word!”

    Mitsuru waved his hand to tell her to go on without him. “He’ll calm down eventually. You know nothing’ll calm him down until he gets it out of his system.”

    “Mitsu!” She thought back to how upset that Mitsuru was over Etsuko. Comparing the two situations made her confused. “Why is your attitude not matching with the situation?! This is serious!”

    “But you know how scary he looks when it’s like that!” His face had nearly turned completely blue already thinking about Hisoka. As his best friend, he had seen how he gets far too many times.

    However, she did not take no for an answer and dragged him to his feet. “We’ll take care of it!” she shouted back to the girl as she left for the school. Once inside, the sound of an earthquake and typhoon going off from the second floor made even Tsukiko turned a little blue. She had seen him act violent in the past, but it still surprised her each time. ‘He’s normally so docile and nearly impossible to anger.’ Another quake in the ceiling, that knocked dust free, sped up her feet to catch him. ‘Who made the mistake? I thought everyone already knew about the taboo word!’

    On the second floor, when they came within a classroom of the Photography Club an explosion of glass and chairs burst out in front of them. Tsukiko stared in stunned shock at the destructive power of Hisoka. She felt her legs shaking and rattling, while also very warm suddenly. She did not think that she was so scared of him. However, a glance down found that it was actually Mitsuru making her shake. Her hand grabbed him by the coat of his uniform and pulled him up to stand on his feet. “He’s your best friend. You have to calm him down!”

    “But he’s scary!” he declared before hiding behind Tsukiko.

    Tsukiko felt a little bad for him knowing how Hisoka was in such a state. But they needed to stop him before anything more got damaged. A desk flew out of the hole in the wall and broke apart on the wall with a relieved whimper. She felt a little bad for the furniture. “W-Well maybe we’ll just look to see if we can do something.”

    He reluctantly agreed to her idea. In cooperation with her height, she leaned her head in above Mitsuru’s letting on their faces peek into the classroom. Hisoka had trashed the entire room, as they expected with the room mostly abandoned. However, a boy and a girl huddled in the corner trying to avoid being targets to Hisoka’s blind rage.

    “—shortsighted! What’s your problem with wearing glasses!? You’re wearing glasses over there! Does that make you one too! Who ya calling so nerdy that he can’t even do a pushup because he’s too weak to end lift his own body! Who’s so blind can’t even see a centimeter in front of him without windows for glass, they’re so thick! Who’s—“

    Tsukiko and Mitsuru sweated a little listening to the rant that Hisoka carried out. Neither of the two students even said a word, but that did not seem to stop him. “We have to do something, Mitsu.”

    “Yeah, but what? Tsuki, I don’t think he can even hear anything right now!”

    She lifted her hand up to her chin to think as they convened back in the hall. The unnatural strength he got during his rage made any normal solution impossible. Tsukiko glanced over at Mitsuru suddenly thinking of something. “I think it might work…”

    “Huh?” The door slid up startling Mitsuru away from the room. However, Tsukiko’s hand reached out and grabbed his collar dragging him into the classroom. He tried to turn his head around to look at her to get an answer, but found it impossible from his position. “What are you planning, Tsuki?” Her silence that refused to answer made him panic. “Sis!?!”

    Tsukiko gritted her teeth as she came close to Hisoka. His current blind rage cast a chair to the other side destroying club equipment. The wake of the chair whipped her hair around. A little sweat dripped down her face from the near miss. Her face narrowed and turned sternly serious. “This is my only card I can play! I choose you, Mitsu!” She threw him down in front of her a meter away from Hisoka.

    “I’m not a pocket monster!” Mitsuru shouted, flailing his hands.

    She stared into the depth of a soulless demon with no humanity and red furious eyes. A frightening sight for her, but she kept her ground in his quaking approach. The sight of fresh targets brought his full attention on them. Smoke seemed to billow from his mouth in anger with his tanned skin. The room became dark isolating the three from reality. “Please Hisoka! Return to normal!”

    Mitsuru saw him raising a desk up to throw with no concern for his target. He crossed his arms over his face not able to watch. “Please stop! It’s me, Mitsuru! Your best friend!”

    “Stop Hisoka! You wouldn’t hit, Mitsu would you?”

    “Huh?! Mitsuru?” Hisoka came to a sudden and rough stop. The desk fell out of his hand as he blinked in confusion. “What are you doing here, Mitsuru?” He looked down seeing that he was sort of floating in the air. “Why are you flying?”

    “That’s me!” Tsukiko barked, annoyed with his recent bout of amnesia and airheadedness.

    “Hey, what’s going on? Why are you holding, Mitsuru?”

    “…Hisoka…”

    Mitsuru looked back at her wanting to be let down. “You know he can’t remember when it gets like this. And can you set me down…”

    “Oh!” She placed him back on the floor and took up on the left side of Mitsuru. “Yeah, I know.” Crumbling of the wall from the classroom distracted them all away and back to the real problem. While they already knew everything that happened and faced the Demon Hisoka, the thought of the consequences of a destroyed classroom made them panic. “We need to get out of here!”

    Across the school, Kiyome walked back to the student council room. She noted the quiet atmosphere that returned to the school. However, before she entered the student council a student called out to her. “What’s wrong?”

    “The Photography Club is wrecked, Kasamatsu! They’re saying that it was the nerd Hisoka Numata!”

    “So that’s what the noise was about. Thanks for reporting it to me. I’ll be pulling it out of the Numata fund. Let them know the student council will pay to have it fixed.”

    “Yes, ma’am!” The student departed her company and rushed off, no doubt back to the Photography Club.

    Kiyome nodded to herself. Her hand pressed on the door of the room. “The room was old and they were complaining about needing a new room. Guess this is good fortune.” She smirked a little and stepped into the room.

    ** ** **
    The bus ride back to the shrine felt relaxing and draining for the two. They did not even notice most of the bumps. The siblings leaned against each other half asleep the entire trip back. When they stepped off the bus and finished the long walk back to the shrine they came to a stop. “I was looking forward to coming back…” Tsukiko began, staring at their home.

    “…but then I remembered that we have guests…” finished Mitsuru.

    “Dear mother and father in heaven…please pray for your son to survive the week!”

    To be continued…
    Omake Theater
    “Hey! What was that all about?” yelled Hisoka picking up the creator from their desk.

    “Yeah! You promised us that we would be in the next chapter,” added Kichiro.

    The creator held up the pages from chapter two. “But you guys are right here! See?”

    Kiyome grabbed the pages. “You gave us a minor role in the chapter!”

    “You said that you were going to be different, but we’re still getting the same amount of screen time as friends in other harem series!” snapped Etsuko.

    “I couldn’t help it! I was planning on using you more, but I sort of got side tracked with Tsukiko’s character and well. It was good character development for her!”

    “But you didn’t even properly introduce us!” shouted Hisoka.

    Etsuko grabbed onto the creator and leaned in. “The way you presented us the readers must think we’re terrible friends that just tease or ignore them!”

    “I think they’ll think worse of you how you’re acting right now,” the creator whispered to the side.

    “What?!”

    “Hey now! I realized my mistake, honest!” The creator shuffles through papers and pulls out a paperclip bound stack of pages. “See here look! This is the new chapter three! I really get to explore your characters a little more. You all get proper introductions too and are true to your personalities!”

    The four grab it out of the creator’s hand and stare at it flipping through the pages quickly. They look between themselves after finishing and nod before leaning back at the creator. “This is still not enough! We need more screen time!”

    “You’re not the main characters! It’s still Mitsuru and Tsukiko’s story not yours!”

    “You made a promise with us! We’re only here because you said this would be a different harem than the others that forget us!”

    “If this is just going to be the same as the rest we’re leaving!”

    The creator searches frantically for paper pulling out a pencil and half-crumbled sheet. “I-I give you your own chapter! With you as the point of the view to expand your characters! How’s that?! Please stay! I need you for the story!”

    “We’ll get our own chapter?”

    “Mitsuru and Tsukiko won’t be in it at all?”

    “Definitely! I promise!”

    “I guess we can stay for a little longer…”

    “Thank you!”

    “This is a promise though! You break it and we’ll break you!”

    “Yes! Yes! I promise!” The creator turns away from them and looks down. ‘But I’m the one that created them. Why are they threatening me?’
    Curious? There's no limits but your own imagination.
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    2007 and 2009 Best Writer of TFF and 2009 Most Creative Co-Winner



  5. #5
    The Quiet One Twin Moon Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Twin Moon

    An awkward atmosphere filled the space. The talk of calm winds blowing or bright sunlight was pointless, in fact only an aggravation. If one really wanted to speak of wind, it was stale, if you had to insist on knowing about it. So stale that even in the coldest of days it still felt like a hot summer’s afternoon. It just sat and festered until all you wanted to do was itch yourself raw and spend the rest of the day bandaging yourself up for the terrible mistake made. Perhaps that over stepped the bounds, that paints a really disturbing picture. It was unbearable, really unbearable.

    And before you even start asking about that oh so wonderful sunlight that should be out, just stop there. It was too bright to be even considered helpful. No clouds stood around to block it out. So the rays just blasted down and baked the wood planks until going barefoot made blisters. It was terrible, really terrible.

    So just stop thinking about it, now!

    Anyway, the mood in the shrine for the morning was frigid, a recently common occurrence. Even if it was all one-sided, it did not stop the atmosphere from changing dramatically. It never used to be so difficult for them. It used to be a calm and relaxing time. All they did was eat and maybe have the odd fight or two. They were like siblings given they grew up together since before they could remember. That was how it used to be, that was true.

    However, the mornings had recently changed. The table turned out full, which normally would not be a problem. The company present was the problem. What became the norm for the morning was an uncomfortable group of seven. Fitting around a low square table, their grandfather sat at what could sort of be considered the head of the table, but only because he always sat in the same spot. No one else shared the side, but it became clear the others held different interests.

    On his right sat the strange emotionless wonder of a man, Katashi. While bearing zero emotion either at or away from the table, he still managed to have a surprising air about him. Tsukiko would never admit it to him, but he actually did look very handsome and sometimes even beautiful. All this was so long as he kept his mouth shut. Unfortunately, the moment his mouth opened it all fell away. If a man could ever be considered like a doll, he definitely did an amazingly good job of making the effort. Apart from her grandfather, he was also the only man she knew that came close to eye level with her. The thought left her a little uneasy and uncertain.

    Following around the table, Katashi did not sit alone. Of course (not by choice), Tsukiko sat next to him. This mostly came from her finding the spot to sit first and him following her. He actually seemed to wait on her to pick. He just hovered around looking aimless until she sat and then he moved in with surprising speed that might have been teleportation. Tsukiko would switch spots repeatedly before breakfast was served, but never escaped his speed or determination. She could only relent to her hunger and stay. No further away from her, her spirit of the sword sat on her right around the corner on a new side of the table.

    His recently declared wife, the female spirit that inhabited Mitsuru sat next to Tsuneo, the male spirit. Finishing out the remained fourth side of the table, Mitsuru sat with Chie. He set a place for the spirits and offered tea to Chie. She disappeared during the day on what she called research. None of them knew where she ran off. However, by the time night fell she always returned with the expectation of being fed along with everyone else.

    This was morning life.

    Chapter 4 – A New Home

    “Hello! I’m Mitsuru Sakakibara. Following the pattern, sis would have done the introductions, but she’s busy.”

    Breakfast was in full swing for everyone. Tsukiko kept quiet since the start, an unusual occurrence. While everyone noted it as a little odd, they carried on. Mitsuru served up those around him trying to keep the peace at the table. “Did you want more rice?” he offered to Chie.

    “Oh yes, thank you!” She eagerly handed over her bowl to him. “It’s been so long since I’ve been able to eat like this!”

    He smiled to her taking her bowl. “I’m glad that you’re enjoying yourself.” He popped the lid off the rice cooker and scooped out more for her. “It’s always good to be able to eat with friends.”

    “Definitely! Food is so much better with good company!” She accepted the bowl back from him and handed him the bowl in return.

    “You see on our birthday, we accidentally awoke two spirits asleep in ancient swords we found in a cave. They now inhabit our bodies causing us to transform into them.”

    Mitsuru unconsciously accepted the bowl and started to pack more in. He paused in mid scoop looking down at the bowl. After examining the bowl, he looked over at Chie. “Didn’t I just give you a bowl?”

    “Did you?” she asked with her eyes shifting away. “You sure you didn’t just imagine it? You were looking distracted while we were talking.”

    “I guess…” He finished it a little uncertain and handed it back to her. She returned it back to him empty immediately. Mitsuru went to filling it again and paused once more. His eyes shifted over at her and down at her stomach. “You…”

    “Hmm?”

    “How many servings is that?”

    Chie turned a little on her knees to look at him with an insulted look. “What are you implying?”

    “W-well, we’re running out of rice…”

    She put the backs of her hands on her waist and leaned over at Mitsuru. “I’ll have you know I’m a growing girl still! I need three full meals a day!”

    “Growing?” questioned Mitsuru with an incredulous look in his eyes.

    “Are you saying I’m old? Think I’m an old lady who’s over hill and has to watch her figure because she ain’t young anymore? Who did you think’s so old that her breasts are sagging and is so senile that she needs help just walking!”

    “I didn’t say any of those things!” Mitsuru panicked and handed over the bowl filled up with rice again. He closed his eyes and turned away hoping that the pain would be over quickly. However, when nothing came he tempted his fate to look over at her. He saw that she accept the bowl and speedily went through the rice in a matter of a second. She handed it back to him. His relief accompanied a little sweat dripping down. He twitched in his face a little not sure how to react and just gave in refilling it. The nearly empty cooker reminded him how low on food they were. ‘She’s going to eat us out of our home...’

    Chie sighed with the last bowl and let out a gleeful cry. “I’ll never get tired of that rice! So awesome!”

    “In addition to them, we have gained two more guests staying at our shrine the same day. It has nearly been a week since and I fear sis is reaching her limit. Today is our day off from school.”

    Mitsuru sighed a little to himself, but could not help a smile watching her. The carefree nature in an adult seemed a little warming to watch, even if he could not help but wonder if it was a good thing. She seemed happy at least. Unfortunately, his thoughts went back to their food concerns. “…the rice…”

    The youthful adult tilted her content face over to Mitsuru from the floor. She grinned at him. “I could stay here forever if the food is like this. You cook all the time, Mitsuru?”

    “We all take turns. Though I’ve been cooking this week…” The stress that Tsukiko went through with the spirit and at home, he felt that doing everything he could to lighten the load would help. Unfortunately, it did not seem to be doing anything for her. He worried if it was all fruitless.

    “…Mi-tsu-ru…” sang Chie from the ground. She pulled herself over towards him a little, stretching out her hands to reach for him.

    “Eh? Yeah?” He started to lean away from her a little, becoming uneasy with the atmosphere.

    Her cheeks and nose started to turn red followed by a very pleasant grin unlike before. “You’ll keep making more breakfasts for me, right?”

    “W-why do-do you look like you’re drunk? We don’t have any alcohol at the table!” He pushed himself away from her the closer that she came to him. When her hand pressed on his leg, it made him yelp in surprise in an oddly higher pitched voice. He caught himself quickly and turned a little red with the thought that a strange sound came from him. Unfortunately, the time he wasted on himself gave Chie all she needed to ensnare him.

    She had her arms around his waist and resting her head on his lap. Unnoticed by everyone, across the table Tsukiko’s silence forced her to start turning all shades of red that existed and ripple her lips in trying to remain silent. Chie drunkenly grinned at Mitsuru. She playfully ran her finger down his cheek. “You’ll cook again, right?”

    Mitsuru’s face turned bright red nearly becoming a light. He released another squeal from his lips that he immediately regretted. “…y-y-y-yes…”

    Chie jumped up around his shoulders and hugged him. “You have no idea how happy that makes me!” Her finger ran circles on his cheek in a strange mesmerized appreciation. She suddenly giggled. “You know you scream like a girl. You’ll make a good wife one day with your cooking!”

    “W-w-w-what!? What are y-y-y-you saying? I-I-I-I’m a boy!”

    She patted his head, still hugging him. “That’s okay! Nobody’s perfect!”

    “Huh?! W-w-wait a minute!”

    “You know I can fix that!” the female spirit chimed. Her face held the uneasy mischievous look that certainly spelled doom and misfortune for Mitsuru. Chie grinned looking over at a welcoming accomplice. Hisako raised her hand and tapped his head. The point where she touched shined bright blue and rippled waves down his hair turning it silver and flowing to the ground.

    “Eh?! Hey!” Mitsuru caught the edges of the hair dropping down around him and recognized it immediately. He tried to protest, but Chie’s body on him prevented him. “Please stop!”

    “Oh! Such fine hair!” She reached up carrying a tuft of the hair in her hand. It slowly cascaded down her arm with her increasing smile. “But you’re still missing something!”

    A bright excited look gleamed in the spirit’s eyes upon hearing Chie. “Oh you mean this!?” She quickly drew her hand down Mitsuru until leveled at his chest. Her finger poked him and drew away as it expanded.

    Chie clapped her hands together pleased by the gift. She rubbed up against him knocking into his altered chest. “You’re all complete now!” She paused a moment before grabbing with both hands tightly. After a few seconds, she finished and turned back to the woman. “They’re a little small though.”

    The spirit tapped her finger to the side of her face pondering the comment. “I guess you’re right. This is part for boys and if it isn’t unrealistic they won’t be happy, huh?”

    Between the embarrassing noises he made, Mitsuru tried to get control of the situation. It had already gone too far and they were about to take it over the line. Annoyed veins popped out on his forehead as he sought to find his strength. The present of Chie holding on him made it difficult and slowed his struggling. Even before he had a chance for defending himself or escape, the woman, he thought agreed to be play nice with, already worked her magic once more. He felt the extra weight, but she crossed the line. It gave him all of the strength he needed to stand up and throw Chie off him. “That’s enough—“ A loud crack slammed down on top of his head bulging his eyes out in shock and confusion. Mitsuru’s head slammed down to the table not knowing what happened next, fortunately, there were two main characters present.

    Unfortunately, it was the second one that knocked out the first. After she watched what they did she could no longer be silent. Tsukiko snapped her chopsticks between her fingers watching the last thing they did to him. She could not stand him taking it all and doing nothing. So she acted taking the sword and scabbard from the floor and wielded it. “Stop it now!” she yelled at the top of her lungs, drowning out anything Mitsuru said. She aimed for the floor planning only to startle them into stopping. When she heard a painful crack and her swing cut off too soon, she knew something was wrong. It took her a moment to blink and see what happened. Once she saw she hit Mitsuru instead, she dropped the sword. “Mitsuru! I’m so sorry!” She reached out to pick him up, but they got in her way.

    “Mitsuru! Are you hurt?!” Chie grabbed the half-conscious Mitsuru and held on to him tightly. She quickly examined him for injuries. The blood that heavily dripped down his face with a dazed look in his eyes was all she needed to know. “What do you think you’re doing hitting him?”

    Tsukiko quickly changed her attitude when confronted by Chie, the source of the problems. “How can you ask something like that when you were…were?!”

    “Were what? We were just having a little fun.”

    “A little f-fun?!” Even the sound of the words was too much for Tsukiko consider. She had restrained herself as Chie was a guest of them, but she stepped over the line. Tsukiko could not hold back her anger anymore, guest or not. She pulled up her sword still held firmly in its sheath. “What part of any of that was fun for Mitsuru?!” The sword swung down with a clear target.

    Chie’s face immediately sobered up. Her hand grabbed the scabbard stopping it with no effort. The surprise on Tsukiko’s face made her grin. “Don’t think I’m weak just because I look good.”

    Frustration built up in Tsukiko with her failure. The shock quickly wore off and fueled back into energy. It shook through her arms making the sword rattle, still held by Chie. Tsukiko’s head tilted down with a shadow covering up her eyes. “How dare you… …trample over Mitsuru’s… …kindness!” Force of will channeled spiritual energy from her body into the sword. It suddenly began to glow with Tsukiko’s energy pulsing.

    Sensing the change in the pressure, Chie let go of the sword and back away. “Hey now! It’s just a joke!”

    “Just a joke? A joke!” Tsukiko screamed aloud and charged over the table with no regard for manners. She pulled the sword back throwing the scabbard behind her. Katashi skillfully leaned his head away from the incoming strike and continued with the meal. The target of her anger in front of her, Tsukiko sprinted for Chie swinging her sword wildly. Each swing released some of the energy stored up as a wide beam that blasted across the room with tremendous destructive force. Chie managed to stay ahead of it, but sweated and looked a little excited. “Stand still so that I can teach you a lesson in manners!”

    Chie dodged away from the next incoming attack. “I think you need to learn some manners before me! Didn’t your parents teach you not to put your feet on the table?” A taunting smirk rested on Chie lips for only a moment. The next blast came out tenfold larger and faster than she expected it. She did not have any chance to evade, but it did not hit her. It blew past her, but came close enough to leave her face warm from the friction in the air.

    All of the energy stored disappeared from Tsukiko and she panted dropped the end of the sword to the floor. “Watch your tongue,” she snapped accompanied by a glare. She paused trying to catch her breath. Tsukiko started to lift the sword back up, but a heavy hit knocked in the back of her head. “Hey—“ She could not finish her words as she turned around and saw her grandfather glaring at her with the eyes of a demon.

    “What do you think you’re doing swing your sword around carelessly?!”

    “B-But…she…” The words barely came out of her mouth unable to respond against him.

    “Look at what you did! Half of the shrine is destroyed!”

    Tsukiko turned around looking at their home. Pieces of wood timbers fell down to accent the crumbling state of the structure. A moment before she remembered it all being completely clean and normal. They were eating a normal breakfast. Nearly none of that remained in sight. The kitchen only had water from the broken sink spraying out. The counter and cupboards all disappeared to twisted sticks of wood. Their guest rooms no longer existed and only part of their rooms stood still. The roof creaked and groan with the lack of supports.

    She had no words to speak after seeing everything that she caused. The sword in her hands dropped with a dull clattered to the floor. Her mouth hung agape. Tsukiko could not believe the destruction that happened. In fact, she really could not believe it actually was real. It sent her into disbelieving shock. Her head turned with a stutter back at the table. Rising from unconsciousness, Mitsuru surfaced behind the table rubbing his head. She caught sight of him and pleaded for the correct answer. “This isn’t real right? All of this is for the sake of comedy and it’ll be all better in a minute, right?” Her eye twitched catching the sight of her grandfather again.

    Mitsuru sighed and winced in pain from the large round bump popping through his hair. The spirit already slapped a bandage on it in a cross, not that it helped. He pointed up to his head at the bump. “This is physical comedy.” His hand stretched out to the kitchen, the most ruined. “That’s reality. This isn’t that type of series.” He let out another sigh and shrugged. “Most of things that happen in this series are real and not done away with a hand wave. I’m sorry.” Mitsuru then clapped his hands together praying for his sister.

    “I don’t act as though I’m dead!” snapped Tsukiko, leaning in from her spot. Her protest turned silent very quickly as her grandfather became more prominent. She pulled away wishing to flee to the peak of the mountain behind her. However, she knew that she did not have such a chance. Tsukiko did the only thing she knew that she could do. She drew her feet back eying her surroundings cautiously. Only one chance existed for her. If she failed it would all be over for her. She felt the sweat dripping down her face. Her chance slowly drifted away the longer that she refused to act. Delaying long meant an even worse fate. The muscles in her legs prepared, as she knew she had to move. The tension mounted tighter.

    Tsukiko jumped into the air. Everything released in the moment as she prayed for success. She came down to the floor hard in full prostration. “I’m so sorry, Grandfather! I’ll do anything! Please!”

    Apart from their grandfather and Katashi, everyone fell over in surprise. The blank empty look on Katashi almost looked a little like he felt left out. Mitsuru raised his hand up pushing over Katashi, who joined them on the floor. He looked content in their company.

    They all started to recover from the shock. Their grandfather moved over to stand before Tsukiko. None of them believed him to do anything horrible to her. However, it did not stop them from concern. In mute anger, he grew in height beyond even his unusual stature. The power of the demon in his eyes seemed to cover his face and body in pitch black. His very presence seemed to block out the sun and threw them into midnight with crimson clouds hugging the globe over them. Such a presence, they feared what he might do. He stretched out his hand in a firm stance. They knew it would happen, whatever punishment he planned to deal.

    Everyone leaned forward in anticipation. They looked more nervous than Tsukiko, who already bled sweat as if she swallowed two liters of water in an instant and her body forcibly looked for all exits to drain itself. The long seconds of waiting did not help her either. She glued her face to the floor, so nothing was visible to her. Only the feeling of his presence told her that he still stood by her.

    When his hand finally reached her shoulder, it all shattered away. The image and emotion disappeared with only their grandfather presence. “I guess we’ll need to rebuild…”

    Everyone fell over again, minus Mitsuru who had a flat expression on his face. He looked around at the others, even Katashi, who seemed to have pushed himself to mimic the others. Mitsuru sweated a little looking at his empty face. He then leaned against the table and sighed. “Twice, really? It was back-to-back even, how much of a surprise can it really be. It wasn’t even that much of a joke.”

    Chie pulled herself up looking a little disappointed. “Since when did you become a deadpan snarker?”

    “Yeah, you’re not acting like your usual easy self,” added the female spirit. It was difficult to tell if she was being stupid or blunt in her response. Both came equally sharp.

    Mitsuru pulled the two women up and seated them to the right flank of their grandfather. “I wonder what might have changed my attitude…” He glared at the two of them. “I think there’s something you two need to do.”

    Their grandfather looked over at the three of them. His eyes widened a bit as he thought about the situation. “Oh, our guests no longer have a room to stay in. I am sorry for the inconvenience.”

    “Oh don’t worry!” Chie waved her hand dismissing his need for an apology. “She blew them up, nothing you could do about it.” She laughed a little in response.

    An annoyed fist knocked into Chie’s head from Mitsuru. A fresh bump appeared on her head. “Don’t talk so casually like you had nothing to with this! This is all your fault to begin with!”

    The female spirit nodded in agreement with Mitsuru. “Yes, you should apologize—“ She was cut off quickly by a fist against her head as well. A small tear welled up in her eye as she looked over at Mitsuru.

    “You aren’t any more innocent in the matter than her.”

    Imploringly, the spirit looked up at Mitsuru with a mixture of confusion and sadness. “I really miss the doormat type.”

    Another vein of annoyance popped up on Mitsuru’s forehead ruining his image further. “Careful with what you say.”

    Pleading along with the spirit, Chie tugged on Mitsuru’s shirt with a surprisingly cute and innocent appearance. She almost could have passed for a high school student with the way she reshaped her features. Unfortunately, the words that left her mind betrayed her. “Yeah, this is out of your character type! You’re supposed to be the wishy-washy protagonist that never gets mad regardless of what happens to you.”

    Their whining was enough to push him over the edge. He pressed his fists down on their heads roughly turning his hand in small circles against them. “I’m normally like that! But even Buddha would lose patience with the way you’re acting!” After he finished punishing them a little for their actions, he pushed them toward his grandfather. They looked back at Mitsuru confused, but he glared at him with eyes that told them to stop acting like children.

    The two women stumbled at the feet of the old man. He was not even glaring at him, but his massive height towered over them with more than enough unintended menace to shape them up quickly. They both prostrated themselves before him. “We’re sorry, Grandfather!”

    He stared down at them in silence. It was hard to know if he was pensive or angry with them. He already seemed to forgive the damage that Tsukiko caused in her anger. However, they were the instigators of everything. There remained uncertainty on if he placed blame on them. Their grandfather still said nothing for more than a minute. “I think I know someone in town that will give me a fair rate.”

    Silence continued awkwardly for everyone in the remains of the room for another couple of seconds. They all waited for the joke to drop, but it never came. Once they realized that everyone sweated a little not knowing how to react. Unfortunately, Katashi fell over again miss reading the situation. Mitsuru pulled him back up to work things back to normal. The sight of the room reminded him of the difficulty of that happening.

    “There’s another option,” considered the male spirit as though thinking to himself out loud. He held his hand up to his chin thinking deeply on a matter that suddenly grabbed the attention of the rest. After a few seconds, he motioned over to Hisako. She glided over to him with curiosity in her eyes. He leaned over to her whispering in her ear. They exchanged a quick conversation beyond everyone’s ears. “…should be possible, right?”

    “It’ll use a lot of power.”

    “Can’t really be helped.”

    “Guess not.”

    The two ghosts stood up with their discussion concluded. They nodded to the other and looked forward at the group. “We’d like to offer a solution.”

    “A solution?” questioned their grandfather. Curiosity had already infected everyone, but it made them all lean a little more on their knees.

    “Yes, we know of a place that we could offer to you as temporary housing.”

    “Really?” asked Chie, nearly leaping with excitement. “Where?”

    Mitsuru cocked an eye up to the two of them. “It’s nothing strange or weird, right?”

    “So suspicious!” complained Hisako. She leaned down at him with her hands resting on her hips. “Don’t you trust our good will?”

    “With your track record?” replied Tsukiko in a flat disbelieving tone.

    The male spirit, Tsuneo, waved his hands to deny their claims. “We did cause you troubles. So we must do the honorable thing and mend what we have broken.”

    Mitsuru and Tsukiko still had their doubts, but they both looked sincere. They wished to trust them rather than keep second-guessing them. Therefore, they gave in and accepted the offer along with everyone else. An important question quickly came up. “Where is this house?”

    “Oh it’s more than just a house!” she corrected. “It’s a magnificent mansion!”

    “M-Mansion? Where?”

    The two spirits looked between them in thought. They seemed a little uncertain about the question. Their silence made everyone else a little uneasy about the answer that they would give. Tsuneo turned to address everyone with their consulting finished. “We’re still a little off our bearing with so much having changed since we were alive. But it is near the base of the mountain.”

    -X- -X- -X-
    Morning disappeared long ago. Afternoon had firmly set in. The whole group traveled through the forest that hugged the mountain. They followed the spirits that eagerly led the way. An hour of walking left everyone weary and doubtful of the constant reminders that they knew the way. After two hours, it became clear that they went in circles and had become lost.

    Hisako leaned over to Tsuneo to exchange words again. This happened periodically on the trek. Each time it sowed more unease amongst everyone. Their uncertainty did not help matters. “It’s this way, right?” She pointed off in the distance through a set of ordinary appearing trees. It looked no different from the last twenty groups of trees.

    The male spirit held doubt and confusion in his face as he stared at it. “What about those?” He shifted their sights further to the left. Unfortunately, he spoke with no more certainty than she did. Any confidence they had was long spent.

    While they tried to get their bearings the rest of the band of homeless vagrants rested. The siblings forced Katashi and Chie to sit together, not wanting to deal with the stress. Opposite of them, Mitsuru and Tsukiko sat with their backs against the trunk of a tree. The morning events did more to fatigue them, especially in Mitsuru’s case. It only took him a minute before he laid on his back.

    Tsukiko leaned over to look down at him. When she started hearing his slightly labored breathing, she became concerned. “You alright, Mitsu? This sort of walk shouldn’t be tiring you out that much.” For most of their childhood, the forest was their home and playground. So the walk had little effect on them.

    “My back’s been killing me for the last hour. I feel so heavy so some reason.”

    Her expression turned flat at her words. She restrained her disbelief as much as she could with him. “…I wonder why…”

    “Yeah, I wonder if its growing pains…” He massaged his shoulders trying to work out the knot in his muscles.

    Struggling with the frustration, a vein bulged from her tightening fist. “Really?! Have you forgotten your situation already?!”

    Mitsuru looked down at his body and laughed. “Oh right! That makes sense!”

    The carefree attitude of Mitsuru forced a sigh from her. She still could not believe that he went back to his usual self so quickly. Tsukiko pressed her back into the trunk and crossed her arms. “That’s why I told you to find support.” She cursed her inability to do anything to help him.

    “But no one owns anything this size! It’s not exactly normal.”

    “I know…” she muttered. ‘Can’t believe that they did that to him! What were they thinking?’

    “Well it’ll go back to normal in a few hours she said.”

    “Sounded like she was just guessing.” Their break ended with the motioning from the spirits. They thought they found the way, again. Tsukiko hoped that they actually did find a place. She already felt bad from destroying their home. ‘I hope Grandfather forgives me…’ At her side, Mitsuru was still laying on his back looking very comfortable and relaxed. He had a small grin on his face. ‘So carefree…’ Tsukiko leaned down to offer him help. “Feeling better?”

    He quickly took her hand up and jumped back up to his feet. His body felt a little lighter suddenly. A quick check on his body disproved his first theory. Mitsuru shrugged it off glad to be feeling better. “Yeah, much. Don’t know why, but lying down was really nice!”

    “I’m glad, but you look a little too energized…”

    Mitsuru tilted his head a little at Tsukiko. “Do I? I just feel great all of sudden.” He looked around the garden of trees that surrounded them. They felt warm and inviting in a way that he could not understand, but feel. He stepped out away from them coming up to a large trunk that stood out from the rest. Its trunk had grown to such size that it would have taken at least three people to full encompass it. The longer that Mitsuru stared at it the more detail from the bark he found. Cuts and tears, not from age, but like a history of past incidents lined it. The great tree had a grand history from the surface. Even without touching it, Mitsuru sensed a pulsing life from it. A familiar sensation of comfort bubbled up. “There’s something here.”

    “Mitsu?” Tsukiko jogged over to him trying to figure out what pulled him away. The closer she came to him the stranger she felt. For a moment, she paused in her step trying to understand what coursed through her body. “…it’s familiar…”

    His sister’s words turned his head back feeling the resonance. “You’re feeling it too?”

    “…yeah…it’s weird…but I think I…”

    “…know this place…”

    “Hey, you two!” yelled Chie from a distance, “If you keep standing around we’re going to leave you behind!”

    They looked at each other for a long moment in silent decision. The feeling they both had brought them to their answer quickly. They quickly glanced back at the small group and disappeared into the forest in their own direction.

    Chie staggered a step forward in surprised confusion. An awkward cry for help yelped behind her. She turned quickly to find the spirits dragged away from them into the forest against their will. “What’s gotten into them?” The old man and Katashi both looked at Chie as though waiting for her to act. She ground her teeth bothered with the turn of event and bolted after the fading spirits. “We’re not getting split up at least! Even if we are lost!”

    Through the dodging of trees and prayers not to lose sight of the spirits’ glow, they managed to keep up. Eventually, they caught up with the two, but only because they stopped. Before Chie or the others had a chance to say anything, they found themselves in a large clearing in the forest. The size of the clearing should have been something they crossed in their wandering, but none of them saw it before. However, the size did not stop everyone. Spread throughout the clearing was the ruins of an old structure.

    Grass grew up around wood planks covering most of the area in green. What the grass failed to cover, flowers, vines and even trees sprouted up latching onto anything possible. Nature had reclaimed what used to be a massive building. It was difficult to know how old or even how long along the place had fallen apart.

    Not one to ignore ruins and historical interest, Chie jumped out ahead of everyone. She had the glow of a child on their birthday as she jumped around the ruins. Her sketchpad was already out in her hands and a smaller notebook pressed open with her thumb. She could not be stopped.

    Mitsuru and Tsukiko stared blank faced at the ruins. They felt a strange sense of awe and familiarity, but thought it misplaced. Neither of them knew how to react or why they found such a place. Tsukiko stepped out cautiously as if she tempted fate with her boldness. “Even in all of our exploring…”

    “…we’ve never seen this place before,” finished Mitsuru.

    The two spirits floated around the area with a look of nostalgia painted on their faces. They had almost become like children as well. After a few minutes of floating about, they returned to the two teenagers. “Thank you so much for finding our home!” They bowed deeply showing their gratitude.

    Neither could react clearly, as they taken aback by their sincerity. Mitsuru managed a nod and awkward word with them. Tsukiko felt she should rethink her opinion of them. ‘Maybe they aren’t so bad…’ She still had one concern. She looked back at the overgrown rubble. “Is this the mansion you were looking for?”

    “Oh very much so!” Tsuneo replied eagerly.

    Hisako looked over her shoulder at the ruins. “I guess because it’s like this we had so much trouble locating it.”

    “Yes, it’s not giving off almost any spiritual presence.”

    “I’m sorry,” said Tsukiko, offering as much earnest feelings as she could. “To find your home like this…”

    Tsuneo waved his hand dismissing her need to apologize. “That’s fine. We’re just glad to see it. We feared that it might have turned out like this, but we hoped the spiritual wards would have protected it from time’s hand.”

    “Oh well,” shrugged the woman, floating off a little. “These things happen.”

    “You’re taking this awfully well considering…”

    “That’s because we’re going to be rebuilding it!” he exclaimed.

    “What?!” questioned several voices.

    Mitsuru jumped in with a protest. “But that’s going to take longer than fixing up the shrine!”

    Both spirits shook their heads. “No, this will take more spiritual power than originally planned, since it’s destroyed. But we can do this.” They approached their respective owners and met gazes with them. “Though we’re going to need to use your bodies for this.”

    Another unexpected behavior from them made Mitsuru and Tsukiko take a step back in surprise. They did not think that they would actually ask rather than just take. Tsukiko looked over at Mitsuru to deliberate between them quickly. The fact of them being homeless made them willing to accept their offer. “This isn’t going to hurt or anything?”

    “We’re using our powers for this and bodies. You may feel a little tense, but most of it will be transferred to us.”

    “So you’ll be in pain?” asked Mitsuru, “How much?”

    Hisako put her hand on Mitsuru’s head. “It’s ok. We haven’t done this sort of thing before. So we’re only guessing, but you don’t need to worry. We’ll be fine.”

    “But it could be a lot,” protested Tsukiko, “You don’t know!”

    “Showing concern for your tormentor?” Tsuneo teased. He caught the flush that ran across her face before she turned away to hide it from him. The spirits laughed a little between them before settling down. They approached their vessels looking for a final answer to begin.

    “Don’t over do it.”

    “We won’t.” He smiled to her and disappeared into the air. Thin trails of energy spread on the winds before completely vanishing. Another moment later Tsukiko’s body shined brightly covering her body and masking it from sight. When it dissipated, Tsuneo stood before them.

    “Good luck!”

    Hisako nodded to Mitsuru and faded away. Following his display before, Hisako surfaced from the reveal. “Ready?” She received the confirmation from him and they both leapt through the air. Their long kimonos flowed on the winds like butterflies made from the very rainbow. They landed near to the ruined building slamming their scabbards into the hardened earth. The impact rang out over the grounds and echoed through the trees rising to an unusual crescendo that reverberated back to the center. Its return bounced it back repeating the tone acting as though it sealed within.

    Their position and stance remained unchanged for more than a minute with the sound rising. Suddenly they unsheathed their katana half away from the scabbard and stopped. The tone changed in the air as though in response and added with the existing key. They then slammed the katana back down clicking the metal of the guard to the throat. An entirely different key was created to build together. Each motion they made grew the melody until it felt like an orchestra filled the space.

    Chie worked to recover her jaw from the awe she felt. “I can’t believe such a beautiful song could be created like this.”

    “Hmm…” groaned the grandfather through slit for eyes. His eyebrows rose for a fraction of a second as they seemed to figure something out. “…I see…”

    “Do you know what they’re doing?”

    “I’ve heard stories about a method of ward creation that is invoked by song. But, it is merely regarded as myth as no evidence has ever been found to back it up. If there was anyone that might have practiced such a technique they would have been alive during the Yayoi Period.”

    His words sent a bolt of surprise through Chie’s body. She turned around to face him to get a read on his face. The flat serious and unwavering tone pierced through her. “That’s more than two thousand years ago!” Chie ran up to him grabbing him by the collar of his kimono. She pointed over to the two reborn figures. “Are you saying that they’re from the Yayoi Period? The same time as when Demon’s Door was created!”

    He turned his features grave as he tilted his head down to meet her. “You are well researched, but that is merely speculation. Even I don’t know when it was created. Our oral history does not go that far back.”

    “They could have known Hyobanshi himself!”

    “There’s the chance. However…” He pointed his index finger out from under his sleeve back to the ruins. The sight knocked Chie to her knees. A massive array of magical circles existed where nothing had before. The surface of the ground out to the edge of the clearing was covered in a single circle with countless symbols, characters and geometry designs throughout. Dozens of layered circles ran in different circles and directions all circumscribed. In the sky, built as a dome, a multitude of circles surrounded the clearing. Each circle glowed pure white casting its rays into the center.

    Chie found her legs no longer had any strength to stand. She could only watch from her spot and stare at the wonder. Near her legs, she found a small circle and array of vectors within while surrounded by characters. “These characters, I’ve never seen kanji like this before!”

    “That’s because they haven’t been in use for more than a thousand years. I’ve only barely seen a few of these from monuments on the shrine grounds.”

    “I can’t believe it…”

    From inside the bodies, Mitsuru and Tsukiko found themselves so detached from everything that they found themselves together in another dimension, as best as they could explain. They stood floating together a little uneasy about what might be happening outside. Mitsuru held hands with Tsukiko for a sense of unity and companionship in the lonely void. All they could do was trust.

    Tsukiko grinned a little for reassurance. “It’s not too bad, huh? Just feels like standing under a waterfall.”

    “Y-yeah, it’s not too bad.” However, they spoke too soon. A massive weight of pressure through the air slammed down on them and pierced every pore of their body. Mitsuru felt his knees buckling already only have a second. “S-sis!”

    She gritted her teeth through the compressions and weight. Her hands tightened around Mitsuru’s for support as she saw him weakened. Yet, she could not even hold them together for more than a few seconds. She dropped to her knees a moment after him. “…I-I…thou-ght…I-I…told you…”

    “…I-I’m…s-sorry…” He clung to her as she hugged him back. They fought through the weight holding together for a time that lasted forever. Once it finally released them, they collapsed still clinging by the hands to each other.

    Outside, they finished the work. The spirits collapsed to ground and their appearance faded away. Mitsuru and Tsukiko returned to their bodies, but remained unconscious. Chie and Katashi rushed over, feeling freed from bondage, to pick them. Their grandfather walked over to them. He stood at the foot of the steps into the new home granted to them. He paused in judgment of it. “I think this is bigger than the Emperor’s…” His eyes gazed down at the two of them. “…this is a bit overly generous…”

    “We slept for the rest of the day.”

    “We could not express enough words of gratitude for such a home, however…”

    Morning breakfast concluded with barely an incident. The spirits remained asleep still in their swords leaving the two siblings only have to worry about their guests. Everyone’s moods were in good spirits allowing things to run smoothly. Mitsuru and Tsukiko were very thankful for a simple and average morning.

    They yelled down the very long hall to their grandfather announcing their departure, “We’re leaving now!”

    “Have a good day at school you two!” he shouted back.

    “Here’s your lunch Mistress Tsukiko,” a maid said handing over a cloth wrapped lunch.

    An accompanying maid next to her responded with another lunch, “Master Mitsuru.”

    They accepted their lunches and slid their feet into their shoes. The two maids waved at them in their departure. Mitsuru and Tsukiko smiled to them and slid the door closed. They stepped out from the porch and down the steps. A long stone path wove its way through the forest guiding them. The good breakfast and cheerful morning energized them. They felt it was the start of a perfect day.

    Two steps later they stopped. Their faced turned blue in realization.

    “We’re even farther away from town now!”

    To be continued…
    Name: Tsukiko Sakakibara
    Age: 16
    Gender: Female
    Height: 6’3” (191 cm)
    Weight: 142lbs (64 kg)
    Hair Color: Dark Brown
    Hair Style: Waist Length, with two hair antennas and fairly long bangs that shape around the face.
    Eye Color: Light Blue
    Appearance: She has a rather plain average appearance while still being pretty and is strong with an athletic build.
    Personality: She is aggressive with Mitsuru, who is weak willed, dragging him around and tends to be standoffish as a girl due to her height and quickly angered personality. However, underneath all of that she is a kind, polite and caring individual that does actually look out for other’s well being and will quickly sacrifice herself to help someone. She has just taken to being aggressive since Mitsuru tends to be a little too easy push around.
    Likes: Mitsuru, Grandfather, Curry, Romance Novels, Salmon
    Dislikes: Being called ‘Sis’, Fire, Being Tall, Otaku Culture, Pink, Squid
    Curious? There's no limits but your own imagination.
    Don't know how to roleplay, but want to learn? Visit Here!


    2007 and 2009 Best Writer of TFF and 2009 Most Creative Co-Winner



  6. #6
    The Quiet One Twin Moon Andromeda's Avatar
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    More than a week passed since they moved into their new home. Life seemed to have calmed down a little. They still had random invading demons that they fought back, but if that was worst, their new life had to offer they accepted it.

    As expected of the new chapter, it is morning. A very early morning, due to the fact that they had a longer commute into school. Their only fortunate luck was that something happened to cause the bus’ schedule stops to include their mansion. So they still had the same ride.

    However, Tsukiko was still asleep. The sun still had to work through the forest to reach them at such a time. It did not stop her personal maid from walking into her massive room to open the curtains. What little sunlight burst into Tsukiko’s personal room. The mansion had an exterior that was very Japanese, one to make warlords of the feudal era jealous, but the interior mixed between modern and traditional.

    Tsukiko’s room had a large modern bed, rather than the simple futon she used to have in the shrine. Unlike her room in the shrine, which was shared by both Mitsuru and her, she shared it with no one. She liked the thought of having her own room. While she never would have asked for one, it made her happy to have it. The only thing that bothered her was the size, it was easily the size their entire home. She felt it unnecessary and almost conceited to make a room to such a size.

    Even with all of her stuff moved over, thanks to the maids, she could not even fill the room. The gap between everything only made the room feel lonely. It made her feel like she did not belong in such a place.

    “Time to wake up, Mistress!” sang the maid. A young woman in her early twenties, she appeared the picture perfect image of a traditional Japanese woman, as did all of the female staff. The maid hung up a freshly cleaned school uniform for Tsukiko on a hook on the wall near her bed. She did this while in route to Tsukiko’s bed. “Mistress.”

    Tsukiko slept peacefully, still not used to the schedule change. The soft words from the maid did nothing to change her state. She required more direct action. As the maid became used to doing, she leaned down to the bed resting her hand on Tsukiko’s head. “Mistress Tsukiko, you’ll be late again,” she spoke, softly in Tsukiko’s ear.

    It had a delayed reaction of a few seconds to process, but Tsukiko’s eyes shot up. She flung herself up from her bed with only one thought in her mind. “Late?! I can’t be again!” Tsukiko jumped up out of the bed frantically looking around for her things. “Just one thing, I need one normal thing!”

    The maid smiled a little trying not to sweat at seeing her flitter about worried. “Your uniform is over there, Mistress,” she offered, pointing with her hand.

    “Right! Thanks!”

    “Hello, I’m Tsukiko Sakakibara. Ever since I accidentally destroyed our home, we’ve been living in this new mansion. Not much has changed, but Mitsuru and I have come to accept our fate as guardians of the Demon Gate.”

    Half way through dressing, the doors of her room slid open. At the floor, a maid politely sat legs folded seeking something. “Mistress Tsukiko, may I intrude?”

    Tsukiko already had her skirt on, but felt a little awkward in mid-motion with her uniform. “W-What do you need?” It was less about the exposure for Tsukiko, though that bothered her as well. The thing that got to her was having servants waiting on her ever word. She never had anyone with her in her home other than Mitsuru and her Grandfather. Their new home was filled with servants whose only existence literally was to serve them.

    “I’m told that all of the servants are recalled spirits that faithfully served the family before, but it’s still unnerving. I can’t do anything anymore.”

    The maid stood up, granted permission. It took Tsukiko a little bit longer, but she finally realized why the maid looked familiar. She was Mitsuru’s maid that followed him everywhere and did everything for him. Tsukiko grinned a little thinking about all of the times she saw Mitsuru fleeing in embarrassment because the maid joined him for baths.

    “I’m unable to wake up Master Mitsuru.” She walked without a sound over to Tsukiko’s bed. “He’s missing from his bed.” Her hand rested on a lump in the bed, that otherwise would have just been scrunched up blankets.

    Yelping, Tsukiko jumped over to her bed and ripped off the blankets and sheets. The bed stripped bare, with its covers on the floor, Mitsuru slept curled up. Tsukiko raised her fist up shaking at the sight of him in her bed. She did not know how long he slept next to her, but it did not matter. “…mi-tsu-RU!” Unfortunately, yelling did nothing to awake up Mitsuru (probably because he’s accustomed to her voice).

    “It’s been like this every day since we moved in.”

    The fact that Mitsuru did not even flinch at her only made Tsukiko angrier with him. Her hand developed an angry vein that grew large the tighter she squeezed her hand. “Mitsuru…we have our own rooms…yet you still…”

    The maid placed her hand on Tsukiko’s shoulder trying to calm her emotions. “Please, Mistress. Allow me to wake him. It is my duty.” She did not wait long for an answer before moving into action. Climbing into the bed, she moved smoothly to lay down behind Mitsuru, still unaware. She pressed in touching her body to his back and leaned over to whisper in his ear. “…Master Mitsuru…”

    Twitching and quickly turning red, Mitsuru looked uncomfortable as it started to drill through him. She finished him off by pressing in further with something very soft. Mitsuru jumped up out of the bed immediately realizing something was wrong (the maid was blessed more than Tsukiko in a certain area).

    His maid redressed herself, acting completely unaffected by the whole thing as though it was a natural action. Tsukiko, however, disagreed already redirecting her emotions. “What do you think you’re doing?! That’s not what you should be doing to wake him up!”

    “I’m only carrying out my duty. I’ve woken up my Master. Out of the six other varied attempts, this seems to have produced the best results.”

    “But that’s not how you wake someone up! What do you think this is, a harem manga?!”

    Still seated on the bed next to Mitsuru, the maid continued her back and forth with Tsukiko, though fully clothed. “Actually it is one last I checked. And considering this chapter is focused on you, this is probably going to be the only service the male fans get.” She grinned a little looking back at Tsukiko.

    Stuck in the middle, Mitsuru felt lost and very scared. “…sis… I-I didn’t mean too again…”

    She could not take it any longer with her bottled up emotions. “Get out of my room now! And take your perverted maid with you!”

    “Can you really be saying that in your situation?” A finger pointed out the fact that Tsukiko had forgotten to put on her blouse in all of the confusion. She stood yelling at the two of them in only her bra and skirt.

    Tsukiko’s face immediately turned red. Blue flames erupted around her body to demonstrate her emotions. She shot up her voice again. “Out! NOW!”

    Chapter 5 – The Hero of Justice

    Rather than spending unnecessary pages further angering Tsukiko, the time was now the afternoon. School concluded only a short ten minutes prior and Tsukiko was nowhere to be seen. Mitsuru stood at the entrance of the school faithfully waiting for her. One should feel sad for him, however Tsukiko needed the pity more (at least she felt that way).

    A quick replay of the day’s events explained everything for Tsukiko’s absence. After yelling at Mitsuru to leave, she dealt with another rowdy morning breakfast. Her annoyingly emotionless, yet oddly handsome, burden stuck to her side. He still insisted with empty words that they were destined. Tsukiko did not understand his motive, but wished that he would just remain quiet. She did not mind staring at his face, so long as he did not speak.

    Passing the flickering whims of the female heart, Tsukiko’s school life smoothed out. They carried their swords around in cloth sleeves and pretended to be part of the kendo club. Kiyome managed to get them signed up on paper, but incurred their attention. The kendo club insisted that they take part in practice. They chased her around the school on their free time.

    Thus her current situation, which was that she needed room to herself. She did not even want to go home in her mood. All the new mansion did was make her uneasy and remind her that all of the problems started because of the swords. Wondering around the town felt her only option. It made her sigh. “I’m sixteen now… Here I was hoping that I might actually be able to normal things like fall in love… Not even a single confession…”

    “That’s probably because they’re scared of you. You’re unnaturally tall, especially for a Japanese girl,” commented the sword, not blocked by the cloth he rested inside.

    A flaming aura lifted around Tsukiko. Her eyes turned slightly to the shoulder the hilt of the sword rested on. “I thought I told you to be quiet today.”

    “…yes, ma’am…” The sword turned a little blue at the sight of Tsukiko’s fearsome presence. ‘…she’s scarier than Hisako…’

    “I can hear your thoughts.” Her sword rattled a bit and finally turned completely silent. Dealing with her sword made her sigh again. “I get no peace.” She only wanted one day free from all of the chaos. It had only been a little over a week since it all began and Tsukiko felt her sanity slipping away with each passing second. She did not know how long she could survive.

    However, she wanted to forget about it all. That was the plan she had in mind anyway. Tsukiko stood on the corner of a small street, which amounted for the town’s major thoroughfare. She knew the town was small, but she already felt her expectations of a long relaxing afternoon draining away. The sight did little for her confidence.

    Tsukiko tightened up her fists and pumped herself up. She slapped her hands against her cheeks. “No more negative thoughts! I won’t let anything get me down! I’m here to forget all of my troubles!” It might have sounded like overused words of empty meaning, but like any good classic, it worked. She already felt the self-assurance paying off (possibly just because she wanted it to work, rather than being genuine).

    An improved mood worked through Tsukiko’s body. She laughed a little with her hands resting on her hips. “This’ll be great! I will go to a shop have a snack and relax! It’ll be perfect! Nothing remotely bad will happen!” Tsukiko kept laughing thinking about how happy she was able to be with a calm normal day that any girl would want.

    Unfortunately, fate did not like arrogance, even when she might have earned a little rest. A good reminder would be never say nothing can happen. Once again, like any good classic, it was an ill omen the moment Tsukiko opened her mouth.

    They had quite amazing timing as well. She had only just finished speaking when something fell from the sky and crashed into the ground next to her. A dust cloud blanketed the area and swarmed around her feet. It made her take a step back uneasy about what might have killed her. Before any thought that Tsukiko’s luck summoned to her a fallen god to her feet, destroy the idea. No such thing happened to her.

    At her feet was something more mundane and troublesome. “Ouch, I almost didn’t save it,” commented a voice that disregarded any sort of effect of their action. While still unseen, going by the voice Tsukiko knew it was male and young. He had a rough wild sounding voice, but at the same time something soft and gentle about it.

    She would have called out to help, but froze from her near miss situation. However, they did not seem to need her help as they stood up from the cloud masking them out. A cool wind swept through stirring Tsukiko back awake and focused on what stood in front of her.

    Before her was a tall, though Tsukiko still surpassed him, teenage boy close to her in age. His eyes had a wild look to them, but the earnest grin on his face clashed with them. The dirt smudged across his face from the fall did little to ruin his rare features. If anything it only seemed to improve his looks, doing nothing to stain the glow about him.

    Tsukiko caught herself a little stunned looking at him. Her mouth could do nothing, but her thoughts sped ahead of her. ‘…so beautiful…wait, what am I saying?! But he really is… No! I have to stop!’ She stared longer at him in the spare seconds she had not realizing how long her gaze lingered. ‘I guess hot guys really can fall from the sky…fall from the sky?’

    Her mental facilities finally started functioning again and snapped her out of her trance. Yelling from above directed her eyes away from the boy. ‘…huh?’

    “What do you think you’re doing?! You broke my window and awning!” A middle-aged woman leaned out from a second story window with a frying pan in her hand waved around threateningly at the teenager. The window glass around her was shattered and a trail of destruction from a torn awning and some other debris left the storefront of home in chaos. Once she looked down point at her awning the sight made her snap with several veins popping up on her forehead. “Look what you did! How am I supposed to sell that! I’m coming down and you better still be there young man!”

    The teenager suddenly looked a little blue in the face and started looking around the street. “I can’t be caught!” He looked back around at Tsukiko and quickly checked her out. “Here!” His hands forcibly handed over something to her and then he ran off.

    Convenient timing had the woman exiting her shop just as the boy disappeared between two buildings. She glanced around at the crowd still holding her frying pan. The sight of a stunned Tsukiko drew her attention. She leaned down still fuming from the incident. “Hey, you! Did you see with that hooligan ran off to?”

    “Huh? I-I…” Tsukiko felt everything moving too fast for her. She only wanted a peaceful afternoon. Her words failed to come out.

    The emotions began to bleed off the woman allowing her to see clearly. “Tsukiko? What are you doing here?”

    Recognition and familiarity snapped Tsukiko back to reality. She realized who yelled her. “Mrs. Morioka! What just happened?” Hopefully, reality would be a little more normal.

    “Nao was playing up in the attic and one of her toys fell from the window. It was on the roof still so I was going to have my husband get it later when things slowed down, but this young man just barges in claiming he heard my Nao crying. Before I could get him out of my home he’s already on the roof! Can you believe that! Just barged into my home, at least he took his shoes off! And just jumps out knocking the toy off and goes after it! In process his foot kicked in my window and destroyed my awning! How am I going to do business with the front in this shape!” Mrs. Morioka continued to ramble on about her frustration of her business and the crazy jumper that ruined her day.

    Several minutes passed before Tsukiko felt she had an opening. She opened her hand remembering him hanging her something. In her palm, a small stuffed animal toy revealed itself. She could not help by sweat a little thinking about what he did for something so unnecessary. ‘Even if it fell it would only get dirty and they could clean it up. Why did he even react like that?’ However, Tsukiko felt that she should not dwell on it too much longer. Mrs. Morioka did not have an off switch, as she suddenly remembered.

    Tsukiko lifted up her hand to Mrs. Morioka. “Was this Nao’s?”

    “Oh, yes it is! Thank you for recovering it, Tsukiko!”

    Passing off the toy, Tsukiko worked her way out of the conversation. She bowed politely to the woman. “I should be going and let you get back to your store, Mrs. Morioka. Sorry for troubling you.”

    “It’s fine! You’re always welcome here.” She already started to try to keep the chat going, but Tsukiko quickly escaped from her grasp. It left Mrs. Morioka the only option of watching her leave. A bit of a sigh escaped her lips. “I wish more of the young kids were as polite and well-manners as her.”

    Tsukiko sighed as well once she felt she was far enough away from the woman. “Why can’t I just have one peaceful day? Is that too much to ask?” She briskly walked into a different street on the hunt for a quick snack.

    The nearest thing for her was a convenience store. It did not originally sound appealing, but she no longer cared. ‘Anything’s better so long as I can forget…’ Unfortunately, Tsukiko did not even make it to the entrance of the store before something blew past her. She slapped her hands down to keep her skirt from flying up with the wind in the wake. ‘What the…’

    “Someone stop him! He’s got my dog!”

    Regretting it almost immediately, Tsukiko turned to look in the direction the blur went. Her face turned flat and aghast as she saw the same crazy person from only a few minutes ago. This time he had a dog clawing up his face. ‘No! I just want peace!’ She turned away and walked in the opposite direction only hearing faint words.

    “Don’t worry, miss! I’ve rescued him from the evil person!”

    “That was my husband!”

    “Oh…”

    ‘Peace…peace…’ Tsukiko marched off trying to find a new place to go and get something to eat. A place where she had no interruptions. She found a nice little café, that was a little out of her norm, but looked quiet. At least, until he tried to help a shy waitress taking trash out. She ended up buried and the trash thrown everywhere.

    Her next attempt faired the same as the previous. Every time she tried to escape him, he always managed to be doing something stupid near her. She could not go anyway without him appearing. ‘I just want things to be quiet for two seconds!’ Unfortunately, no one heard her pleas.

    Shouting from down the street distracted everyone, even Tsukiko. She already knew what to expect as the teenager appeared. However, unlike other times, someone seemed to be chasing after him. He had a frightened expression as he tried to keep ahead of the angry man. Tsukiko sighed again watching him. “I’m going to regret this…”

    ‘Look at someone’s heart,’ advised her Grandfather, recalled from her memories, ‘Don’t just see with what only your eyes can see. There is good to be found in even the darkest of souls, you just have to see it with your heart and not your eyes.’

    ‘I know Grandfather and any other day it would have been the first thing, but I haven’t had a rest from the crazy and unreasonable for days!’

    ‘Tsukiko!’

    Tsukiko turned a little blue jumping in her spot. She looked a little over her shoulder swearing that he was standing behind her. “I know!” Tears of pity for her situation poured down her cheeks. ‘That’s not fair to yell at me during a memory! Wait a minute, how can you even do that?!’

    ‘I don’t think that’s something you need to be worrying about right now.’

    “Huh?” Tsukiko looked up to see the fleeing teen almost on top of her without any signs of slowing down or change course. She let escape a yelp from her lips before her body acted on its own. As he came into range, she grabbed on to his clothes and pulled around to make him disappear in the alley between two storefronts.

    It was fast and fluid enough that it looked like he just vanished from sight, something he already had a habit of doing. The man chasing after him ran past the two of them not even stopping to check the alley.

    Tsukiko turned her head to the side making sure that the man was out of sight. She sighed deeply resting her head against the wall. ‘That was close.’ Her hand pressed up the wall relaxing slightly. However, the wall pushed back on her hand and then on her body. Then the wall was suddenly warm, alive. Tsukiko eyes shot open in panic knowing immediately the situation she found herself. In spite of knowing, she still turned her head back to check.

    The young man she saved stood hardly a few centimeters away from her face. She never been so close to another man that was not Mitsu. Her face quickly turned three shades of red. Every part of body froze. Her heart jumped unable to stop pounding. ‘What am I doing?!’ Tsukiko’s eyes were so wide she thought that they might fall out. ‘I need to move! But I can’t!’ Panic flew around her mind.

    Finally catching up to the scene, the teenager looked up at Tsukiko a little. “Thanks, Miss. You saved me from the clutches of the forces of darkness.”

    Suddenly, Tsukiko felt everything from to a grinding halt. ‘Forces of darkness? N-no-no-no-no…’

    He grabbed Tsukiko by her arms to put a little more distance between. After he got some distance, he bowed his head for a couple of seconds. “I must apologize for not having recognized an ally of justice. I mistook you for a servant of evil, I’m sorry.” He bowed with his body to complete his formal apology.

    Tsukiko took a step back. She did not like the distance of where he was going. His apology made her awkward enough, but to hear the words from his mouth. She just kept repeating her chant in her mind. ‘No-No-No-No…’

    The crumbling handsome and charming of the young man continued fall apart as he spoke. “You did well to disguise yourself. Not even I could see that you were on the side of light!” He looked quite proud of the praise he bestowed upon Tsukiko. “You pretended to be a stalker following me, but at the right—“ A right uppercut flew out of nowhere sending the teenager flying away into the clouds.

    “I can’t believe you thought I was a stalker! I’ll have you know I’m a pure hearted girl!” Tsukiko panted heavily after she finished her attack.

    Appearing from the sword sleeve, the spirit retorted, “You know you just stole someone else’s signature move, right?”

    “I don’t care! It was necessary!”

    A meteor fell next to Tsukiko kicking up dust and debris. Clouds coughed from the epicenter splashing the area in a thick white fog. It took several seconds for it all to clear. The young man appeared to have fallen back to earth. He also managed to land on his feet and not look anymore damaged for the travel. In fact, he actually looked excited. “That’s amazing! You must be gifted with the fist of justice!” He reached out clasping both hands around her fist.

    “Eh?!” She tried to jump back, but the alley only gave her so much space. The reaction she got from him knocked her off guard. His face leaned in beaming with excitement. ‘T-too close!’ Tsukiko felt her face turning red again. She fought with him to put some distance between them. However, she found him to be unusually strong, making it difficult for her to keep control on the situation. She resorted to her last chance. “Y-y-you’re way too close!”

    He suddenly backed up, giving her plenty of room. “Oh, sorry about that! It’s the first time I met another ally of justice! So I got a little excited.”

    “That’s alright,” she answered, still a little confused. ‘That actually worked?!’ Everything moved too fast for her that Tsukiko still did not understand the situation. She tried to backpedal everything and slow things down. “So what were you trying to do?”

    “I was helping the man that passed by.”

    “But why was he chasing you?”

    The young man had to think about Tsukiko question. He scratched his head and rubbed his chin covering most of the bases for thoughtful poses, while still not coming to an conclusion. However, that did not stop him from making a very dramatic pose when he figured it out. “I helped him grab his hat that blew away when a strong wind came by, however it seemed his hair flew off to when I went to grab his hat. So I went for his hair too. And in a strange bit of unfortunate luck, the bench he sat on broke knocking him into the air. So I caught him, but his newspaper went flew then. I went after that as well. After I collected everything for him put him on his feet again, I saw his dinner has fallen on the ground so I picked it up for him and gave him a thousand yen. I then departed, but he ran after me.” He nodded in agreement to the events, which he rattled off almost faster than any girl ever could. “I’m sure he felt obligated to thank me, but I require no thanks for my work. I had to be off, there was no doubt other terrible evils afoul elsewhere in this town!”

    Tsukiko could not manage a word in response to him. Her face froze in disbelief, unable to react. It turned her expression flat the longer it went until she felt two-dimensional.

    She shook her head to snap herself back to reality. ‘So he tried to help the man get the hat, but in the process knocked off the man’s toupee along with his newspaper,’ Tsukiko thought, deducing the actual events not seen through the strangely colored glasses of the teen. ‘Likely, when he went to grab it all he stepped on his the bench breaking it launching the man into the air. Which ruined his dinner, set on the bench as well.’ It all made sense to Tsukiko and made her feel bad for the man.

    The answer sorted out, Tsukiko looked over at the teenager. She sighed a little with the full sight of him in view. ‘Another hot guy with a personality that destroys his image…’ Tsukiko knew that she was not exactly looking for love, but she still wished she could find someone that was not afraid of her. All the ones not afraid of her held worse flaws. ‘Still, he’s got his heart in the right place, even if he is accident prone…’

    An angry voice from the street interrupted Tsukiko thoughts. She immediately knew who it had to be and looked back over at the young man. ‘He’s going to find us if we stay here!’ Tsukiko started to panic a little. She poked her head into the street view trying to see how close he was to discovering them. ‘I don’t want another scene! I’ve got to get him out of here!’ Tsukiko turned around and grabbed a hold of his arm. “We need to leave!”

    He lingered a little on Tsukiko, finally picking up on the voice. “But I hear someone yelling. There could be trouble!” He started to pull back on Tsukiko trying to approach the street.

    ‘No…don’t!’ Tsukiko struggled with his crazy strength dragging her along with her feet sliding along the ground. ‘You’ll just create another incident!’ She closed her eyes hoping for something. She tried to think of anything to stop him. ‘This guy’s too set on helping people regardless of the reason!’ Tsukiko plead for anything to happen, but an idea suddenly came to her. “Hey, there’s a child over there in danger! We need to help him!”

    “What?! A child in danger!” He spun around immediately, which his justice meter overwhelmed his previous urge. His eyes searched out the alley, but could not find it. “Where did you see the child? Did the force of darkness kidnap him already?”

    Tsukiko sweated a little as she stared at him. ‘He looks so serious, I feel bad tricking him like this. But it’s for his own good.’ She swallowed a little working up the energy to keep her lie going. Adding a little dramatic pointing, she threw out her arm down the alley. “I saw him over there! We need to hurry!”

    “Led on!”

    Her face turned a little blue from her acting, but she charged off holding on to his hand. She had to keep him close. Tsukiko directed them out of the alley and ran through the streets a little getting themselves further away from the man. Once she felt they reached a safer distance, she started to act like she lost the trail. She turned her head back for a second to see how he was reacting. ‘He’s so trusting…’ The look on his face was so worried and determined it bad Tsukiko feel worse about deceiving him.

    The streets calmed down and they were out of danger. Tsukiko no longer needed her front. They were safe. ‘I’ve got to end it now.’ She swallowed slowly figuring out what to say. “Hey…listen, I’m so—“ The teen was not paying attention to what she was saying. He still desperately looked for the child. Tsukiko felt her heart tense up. ‘He’s so honest and pure…I can’t…’

    Tsukiko pulled away from him putting some distance between them. She looked down the street trying to find her words. A few blocks away, she saw a police officer helping out a family. Tsukiko clapped her hands together to pray for forgiveness. “Hey! There’s the kid! It looks like the police got them before us!”

    He stretched out a little to look out where Tsukiko point. Everything in his face looked relieved at once. He relaxed a little standing next to Tsukiko. “I’m glad! Even if I couldn’t help!”

    “…yeah…” Tsukiko could not look at him. ‘I’m sorry…’

    Not missing a beat, he started to walk away. “If justice has been served here I must be off!”

    “Hey, wait!” Tsukiko stretched out her hand for him, but stopped herself short. Her mind ran through the questions and guilt. ‘I have to do something!’ When he looked back at her, he had the wide eyed look as though she had just find something for him. The sight of his face forced her to look away. “…say, I uh…sorry you…” Tsukiko kept stumbling over her words. ‘What’s the matter with me?! I just need to say it, but I can’t look at that face…’

    Unfortunately, Tsukiko’s incomplete sentences made it difficult for him to understand her. He started to turn away again, but Tsukiko grabbed his arm impulsively.

    She held her head down. “…I…you…I mean…” She still could not say it. “Do you want to get something to eat?!” Tsukiko’s face jerked back and turned red all at the same time. The words caught up to her so fast. “I mean, as an apology. You know, since I stopped you…from being able to…help someone…”

    He did not seem convinced with her offer. “I don’t mind! As long as justice was served that’s all that matters to me!” He gave her a proud pose.

    Tsukiko felt herself starting to come unhinge around him. “P-please, I insist! My treat!” She ran around behind him and started to push him in the back.

    “But there might be other people in need of help…”

    “I can detect danger. It’s fine for now.” Her face went flat again at her mounting lies. ‘Why am I doing all of this?’

    “I guess—“

    “Good! Heroes need to take a break as well!” Tsukiko kept pushing him down the street. She found themselves a quiet shop away from all of the troubles. Their entrance attracted a lot of attention due to both being quite tall and Tsukiko dragging him around. It sent whispers through the restaurant.

    After they made their orders, Tsukiko began to relax. She leaned a little back in her chair trying to collect herself. Unfortunately for her, it was also at that exact moment that she realized what she had done. Sweat poured down her face in panic. ‘I just dragged a boy to a restaurant to have a snack! What am I doing?!’ Tsukiko dropped her head to the table putting her arms over top. Her thoughts screamed in her head preventing her from hearing the boy talking to her until it was too late. When she realized that he was talking to her, he was already only centimeters from her face staring at her in confusion. The sight made her face go completely red and jump back in a new form of panic. “What are you doing so close to me?!”

    “Well you looked upset by something. So I thought you might have detect some evil in the area. You said you could pick up on danger.”

    “Huh?!” She already forgot about her lies. It took her moment to catch up to him. Tsukiko nodded roughly to him. In all of the excitement, she did not realize until she felt of the stares on her. Their little scene attracted the attention of the entire restaurant. It made sweat and laugh nervously. She sat back down and pushed the teen back into his seat. “Right,” Tsukiko redirected, “We haven’t introduced ourselves yet. I don’t know who you are and I suspect the author’s tired of not saying your name as well. I’m Tsukiko Sakakibara.”

    “I’m terribly sorry! You’re absolutely right! I’m Masanori Aida!”

    “And you’re a hero of justice?”

    “That’s right! I go wherever there is evil lurking! If there is darkness, I shall shine a—“

    “Yes, I got that part already,” she interrupted, motioning with her hand to dismiss his monologue. Something bothered her about his presence. ‘Considering his recklessness I would have noticed him before.’ She quickly put it together. “You’re not from around here, are you?”

    The young man (wanted to do one more time) shook his head, while appearing a little surprised. “Amazing! How did you know? I just arrived in this town today!”

    Tsukiko turned away from Masanori having a little trouble with his naivety. “We would have noticed you in earlier chapters if you have been,” she mumbled.

    “What’s that?”

    “Nothing! So how come you came to Mashita? I imagine there’s evil to fight in your hometown.”

    Masanori suddenly became strangely quiet. He normally would have replied immediately to Tsukiko with an answer, but he hesitate. An oddly serious expression washed over his face before disappearing once more. He gave her smile acting as if nothing was wrong. “I felt an evil presence from this town! So I came to investigate the source! It seems I was right in coming! There’s a great amount of evil at work here!”

    The response he finally gave made Tsukiko sweat a little. She saw he took the answer a little too seriously. “You don’t say…” Tsukiko wanted to get away from the current topic a little, to something more normal. “How old are you?”

    “Fifteen, why?”

    “A year younger,” she noted, “What about your parents. I imagine they’re worried about you being here.”

    For a second time, Masanori expression darkened and turned serious. It looked even more grave than the last time. He did not seem to come out of it, unlike before. “I’m an orphan.”

    Tsukiko flailed her arms about panicking of her insensitive question. “I’m so sorry! I shouldn’t have asked!” It became quiet quickly between them. An awkwardness spread at an infectious rate preventing new conversation from starting. Tsukiko wanted to say something, but did not know where to even begin. She thanked the waitress for saving them with their orders.

    The food improved the atmosphere around them allowing Tsukiko to start some casual conversation. It felt like it was going better. He responded to her chatter and did not appear crazy. ‘I can actually have a normal conversation with him. Like this he’s not too bad. He can be normal boy.’

    Their meal eventually had to come to an end. It felt too abrupt for Tsukiko. One minute they were eating and talking, then the next their plates will empty. The waitress gave them their receipt and Tsukiko paid for the both of them. Masanori continued to protest with Tsukiko, but she won out.

    They found themselves back outside. Tsukiko no longer minded walking with him a little more. She even smiled a little feeling better about her afternoon.

    Masanori came to a stop abruptly. He looked over at Tsukiko. “I should be going. I’ve stood around too long.”

    It came from nowhere. Tsukiko knew it could not last, but she wanted it to go a little longer. “Yeah, I’ve taken up a lot of your time. Sorry for the trouble.” She bowed to him, apologizing again for reasons he never knew.

    He tried to dismiss her need with his hand. “No, that’s fine! You did nothing wrong! I can’t be everywhere saving everyone! I know that much…” Masanori trialed off at the end of his words, as though plague by something deeper. He refrained from saying anything more.

    “That reminds me!” Tsukiko spoke, “I was wondering something for a while now. What made you decide to do this? Help people.”

    Her question made him a little distant, but he did not suffer from it for long. “It’s just a calling. It was something I knew one day that I had to do!” Masanori clinched his fist to reinforce his resolve.

    There was more hiding behind his answer, Tsukiko saw as much. However, she knew she could not pry so early. “Well then from one ally of justice to another, something my grandfather always told me. You can help someone to stand, but you can’t help them walk.”

    “Huh?” He tilted his head in confusion. It was clear from outset that the advice went over his head.

    Tsukiko sorted through her thoughts to find a way to explain it easier. She raised her finger with a lifted arm as she began her explanation. “It means that helping someone in need is good. However, you can’t always being helping them or they will always rely on you. Sometimes people need to stumble a little to learn.” It started to get through to him, but Tsukiko saw he still needed more. He did not understand why she told him the advice. “What I’m saying is be mindful of who you help and how you help them. You don’t need to help someone through every small thing that happens. Wait for something important, when you’re needed the most.”

    The gears turned in Masanori’s head absorbing Tsukiko’s advice. He looked up to her a little seeing her differently. “I see! Thank you very much! As your junior, I will take your advice to heart!” Masanori turned around and started to run off.

    Tsukiko called out to him, “Masanori!” He turned his head back at her. “If you’re unsure if they need help, just ask them!” Masanori nodded to her and ran off, quickly disappearing. ‘Hopefully that’ll reduce the chaos in town…’ Tsukiko stared down the street still thinking about him, even though he already left. ‘I hope I see him again…’ She felt a strange beat in her heart that made her jump for a second. It snapped her back to reality. ‘What am I saying!?’ Tsukiko began her walk back to the bus stop.

    “Still, he wasn’t so bad to talk to. There was something fun about being with him. I don’t understand it, but it was just a feeling. A feeling I had no words for.”

    The bus ride back into the forest came with the usual bumps and quiet company. She felt fortunate no one else was traveling. It gave her the peace of mind to think. Masanori remained on her mind long after he left. He troubled her mind. ‘He’s hiding something, something terrible I fear…’ The incidents in town replayed for her. ‘Something about him is strange, how could he fall a few floors without so much as even a scratch?’ The more she thought seriously about him, the less she knew. A mysterious aura surrounded him covered up by his energy, justice-loving attitude. It was easy to miss with the pace he set. ‘Just who is he?’

    Tsukiko leaned to rest her head when the bus suddenly lurched. She did not have enough time to react before the bus jumped off the old road and slammed into a tree. The impact knocked Tsukiko to her feet on the floor of the bus.

    “…Urgh…” she moaned, slowly recovering her senses. Another jump in the bus picked her up. Tsukiko looked around the bus trying to draw in her surroundings. The tree the bus crashed into warped the metal and torn into the side near the middle of the bus. What used to be bench seats a minute ago, where now torn pieces of leather and ancient metal crushed into the ceiling. “What happened?” The bus leapt once more nearly throwing Tsukiko into the seat in front of her.

    Eminent danger rushed her priorities. She checked the front of the bus for the driver. The old man did not move or even try to call for help. “Hey, Mr. Kakinomoto!” Tsukiko stumbled around the bus try to make it to him while the bus tossed her about. “Old man! Can you hear me?” She climbed over the wreckage in the middle forcing herself to keep moving despite the uncertainty around her. “Mr. Kakinomoto!”

    She reached the front of the bus and the drive was in sight. Her arm stretched out for him, nervous about his lack of movement. “Mr. Kakinomoto?” Tsukiko placed her hand on his shoulder causing him to shift sharply making her jump and yelp together. Once she calmed down, she saw his blank face and blood dripping down his forehead. ‘He can’t be! He’s not…d-dead! Please no!’ Tsukiko shook Mr. Kakinomoto trying to wake him, but nothing changed. Panic fought against her reason. ‘He’s got to be alive! Just unconscious! He’s probably got a pulse still!’ Tsukiko rushed to confirm it. Her heart screamed in her throat unwilling to settle down. The bus refused to stop shaking for her. ‘Please…’

    Suddenly, a rank odor issued forth through the open bus windows. It nearly suffocated Tsukiko with a mere breath. Her eyes widened immediately recognizing the smell. It made her heart sink deep into her stomach. ‘An oni!’ No sooner than she thought it, a roar tore through the forest ringing her ears. It was close enough to rattle the metal and leave it singing long after. Tsukiko closed her eyes finding herself praying. ‘Please! Please—‘

    A light erupted from the bus destroying the glass. From the front windshield, a shadow streaked through the air just as the oni appeared crushing a tree in the process of walking.

    Tsukiko found herself a safer distance away with Mr. Kakinomoto in her arms. She did not question her fortune and put the elderly man down. While placing him down, she was finally able to confirm a shallow pulse. ‘I’m so glad! He’s alive!’ Tsukiko turned back towards the ominous odor pouring out from the oni. “I’ll make you pay for this!” She charged towards the demon. Shouting at it, she drew its attention and split off from just before it slammed a massive club into the earth.

    The wounded earth gave Tsukiko a little extra push in her step as she ran away from the oni. It slowly turned around and began to follow her, drawn by the attractive spiritual energy. Tsukiko tilted her head back to confirm the oni. ‘Good, follow me!’

    Leading the oni away from the crash site, Tsukiko drew it out into an empty part of the forest. She came upon a small clearing. It felt the right size for her. She slid around to come to a stop and wait for the oni to arrive. ‘Come get me, monster!’ Tsukiko reached out to pull the cloth wrap for her sword out from being slung over her shoulder. She quickly undid the tie at the top and drew down some of the cloth. The hilt of the sword appeared while she firmly held the cloth and sheath inside.

    Tsukiko drew her foot back widening her stance. She pulled back the cloth and sheath to bare the sword under the moonless night sky. The katana came free as she tossed the unnecessary parts behind her. Just in time, the oni stormed through the break in the tree line. One tree was uprooted and tossed over Tsukiko, clearing her by a few meters. The force was enough to blow her hair around her. Tsukiko tried to steel herself before the behemoth. ‘I already made my peace with this… Besides, this monster hurt Mr. Kakinomoto!’ She clamped both hands down on the hilt and drew it over her shoulder preparing to strike, a little hesitation still lingering in her body. “One. Single. Strike.”

    The oni continued its reckless charge at Tsukiko with club up high. They both planned to bet everything on one attack. The next few seconds would decide everything. However, it did not play out as such.

    A meteoric impact slammed into the oni knocking it down. The force sent its head and upper body digging into the earth chew up chunks of dirt. Clouds of smoke covered the area preventing any chance of seeing the cause.

    It did not take Tsukiko long to figure it out as she heard them speak. “O’ foul demon of darkness, your evil ways have gone on long enough. Only one with a wicked heart would dare to hurt an innocent life. It will be the light of justice that will burn away your sins! Repent now for I’ve come to smite you!” If the monologue was not hint enough, Tsukiko recognized Masanori’s voice immediately. He carried the same deep booming voice that stretched far without end.

    After hearing him finish his monologue, Tsukiko drooped a little in her stance with sweat dripping down. He was embarrassing enough to listen to when it was not serious, it only sounded worse with a real scene and danger on the line. ‘That idiot! There’s a limit how far you to take the defender of justice!’ Tsukiko did not have much time as she saw a dark figure appearing through the clouds. She tightened her hold on the sword preparing for the oni.

    Not completely defying her expectations, it was Masanori that stepped through. He strutted out making use of the cloud and destruction around him to add great flair to his entrance. Masanori began walking towards Tsukiko, but stopped suddenly pounding his fist into his palm. “Right! I forgot, she said I should ask if they want help first! Hey, young miss!” Ignoring the fact it was Tsukiko, he dug his hands into the pockets of his pants and stood before her managing to actually look surprisingly cool. “I’m the local hero of justice! I sensed danger and came to give you aid. Did you desire my help?”

    Tsukiko did not know where to even begin with him. She stared at him slack jawed and bewildered by his complete lack of common sense or even a sense of danger. “I guess you do learn,” she muttered, not even thinking. As a first response, it did little to change her mood or even the situation. What changed the situation was the oni breaking free from the earth. It roared once more, sounding angry. The oni charged towards the both of them. “Hey, Masanori! Get—“

    “Know your place!” Masanori interrupted, following up with a back handed fist that sent the oni tumbling. He stretched out his hand to keep Tsukiko from speaking before turning around. Each motion continued to manage to strike the perfect pose for him to keep his cool stature. The oni seemed no more worse for wear from the last hit as it did from the first. When it stood back up wanting more Masanori withdrew some strips of paper from his robes. Masanori charged forward not wasting time.

    Silence only remained in effect on Tsukiko for a couple of seconds before she started shouting. “You’re no match for it! Masanori stop!” Unfortunately, her voice never reached him. A little bit of disbelief filled her watching him actually keeping pace with the oni and throwing about the papers in his hand, to no effect. She reaffirmed her hold on her sword and started to run before the male spirit interrupted her by appearing.

    The spirit surfaced with only a hand and his head. “Wait, look at this.” He pointed at one of the papers on the ground.

    “What about it?” She reached down with her off hand to retrieve the paper. It looked a lot like the ones in Masanori hand. The closer she looked at it the more it seemed like a talisman her grandfather used. “There’s something familiar about this, but strange as well.”

    Staring closely at the paper talisman, the spirit muttered a few things and then turned back to Tsukiko. “This is a sealing talisman or at least is meant to be one.”

    “Meant to be one?”

    “There’s a mistake.” His hand point at the ink on the talisman. “See here, whoever created it got the incantation wrong on the talisman. This won’t do anything.”

    Tsukiko expression turned to stone for a moment as she looked over at Masanori. “He probably saw it in some book or manga and imitated it. Figures…” She tucked away the useless talisman and charged after the two fighting. It was up to her.

    The spirit hovered up next to Tsukiko’s shoulder keeping her company. “This is not something he would likely find in a book. It is very close to the real thing. This talisman had a single purpose sealing a demon’s power. Only demon hunters and priests would know how to create such a talisman.”

    She kept running to try to catch to Masanori and the oni. Their fight dragged deeper into the forest. A glance went over to the spirit as she responded to him. “So you’re saying he’s a demon hunter or a priest?”

    “No, a real demon hunter or priest would never make a basic mistake like this, but he’s likely descended from one. They would have the knowledge of how to create such a talisman.”

    “That fits him,” Tsukiko said, with a smirk. She could see the two in the distance once more. ‘I’ve got to end this before they wreck the whole forest!’ The sword hummed in her hands, almost responding to her desire.

    “Get down!” yelled the spirit.

    “Eh?” Tsukiko looked up in time to see a shape coming at her. Her legs were already lowering, giving her the only reason she escaped. Whatever it was blew over her head whipping around her hair. Tsukiko turned back around skidding in the earth, as she did. “Masanori?!” she shouted, surprised to find him carving a path of destruction from his impact. She changed her objective immediately and went after him. “Masanori! Are you hurt?”

    Coughing a little, Masanori emerged from the debris. He seemed largely unharmed, but bruised up from his fight. “I’m fine, young miss! The forces of darkness can’t hurt me!” Masanori started to go into his monologue again, however a sharp strike from Tsukiko’s hilt interrupted him.

    “Enough with the speeches and brave front!” Tsukiko barked, though her voice shook a little as she berated him, “You can’t beat it!”

    Finally catching up to parts of reality, Masanori realized that Tsukiko was acting unusually familiar with him. “How do you know me? Have we met before, young miss?”

    “I know it’s night, but don’t you recognize my voice?”

    Masanori jumped back, reality fully rushed through his brain. “Tsukiko Sakakibara?! The ally of justice!”

    “…yes…” she responded, a bit reluctant.

    He reached out hugging Tsukiko firmly, ignoring his surroundings and the approaching oni. “So you detected the evil and came out too! Are you planning on helping me defeat this great evil?”

    The imminent danger the oni presented forced Tsukiko to referring from everything she wanted to say to him. “Yes.” The answer made her hurt deep inside, but she fought through it. “I have a plan, but I’ll need you to distract it!”

    “Right!” Without even questioning Tsukiko or even asking for the plan, Masanori jumped out in front. He side stepped a swing by the oni and charged in immediately on the counterattack.

    Tsukiko felt a little relieved by his simplicity and trusting nature. She grinned a little watching Masanori.

    Interrupting the moment, Tsuneo broke his silence. “What’s your plan?”

    “Cut it in two!”

    A drop of sweat formed behind Tsuneo. “So no plan.”

    “I’m going to kill it. That is a plan!”

    “I guess…”

    “It worked in the every time before.”

    “Then I’ll grant you my spiritual energy.”

    “No! I don’t want to turn into you again! I’ve had enough of that!”

    “I can grant you a portion of my power. In smaller amounts it won’t change your appearance.”

    Hesitation surfaced in Tsukiko. The image of Tsuneo in her mind came to her. She remembered the time at the school and the rumors caused by it. It made her shake her head to try to forget. However, the rampage of the oni and Masanori forced her hand. “You sure it won’t?”

    “I shouldn’t, I think…” He disappeared from her shoulder with the sword already starting to glow.

    “What?!” she yelped, already fearing for the worst. The glow from the sword expanded out to cover her hands and quickly her arms. ‘Please. Please. Please.’ It grew to surround her and a soft white light blanketed her figure.

    In the distance, the oni started to turn the situation around on Masanori. His position worsened quickly, deepening the danger. Tsukiko clinched the sword tightly and leapt out of the light, suddenly feeling much lighter. She soared through the air wielding her sword, shining brightly in the dark night.

    A flash of light and arc of destruction came next. Tsukiko landed away from the oni. The sheath materialized over the sword closing with a clear click of metal. She dropped her arms to her side, holding the sheath in one hand, finishing her motion. Behind her, the oni split in two from the shoulder down the chest in a diagonal motion. It quickly began to fade away to leave no proof of its existence behind.

    “Amazing!” shouted Masanori, who managed not to be speechless, while still in awe of Tsukiko. He rushed over to her side to congratulate her. “You truly are an ally of justice! I shouldn’t expect any less from my senior!” As he moved closer to her, Masanori got a better look of Tsukiko. She donned a heavy multi-layered kimono, several eras out of fashion, not Masanori cared. “And you can even transform! You’re a paragon of justice!”

    Tsukiko sighed listening to his ramblings. The sound of his voice made her feel exhausted. ‘Maybe I spoke too quickly about wanting to see him again…’ She found the cloth protector to have traveled with the sheath. It made things simpler for her as she tied off her katana. The spiritual energy disappeared from her presence causing the kimono to particularize.

    Masanori stretched out his hand towards her when she began to turn away. “Where are you going?”

    “Home,” she replied, she almost sounded defeated in spite of the victory.

    “I’m pretty sure I heard him saying some other things, but I was too tired to listen. It felt like the last embers of hope were stamped out. I’m never going to find someone normal…”

    To be continued…

    Omake Theatre

    “What’s up with your heroine here?” Kichiro demanded, from the creator.

    “What’s wrong with Tsukiko?” asked the creator, they started pointing out her strong points in her defense, “She’s strong and independent, maybe a little too quick anger and overly sensitive about being normal—“

    “Hey!” protested Tsukiko.


    “Exactly!” interjected Etsuko, “She’s the wrong personality type!”

    “Why’s that?”

    “Why are you against me?!” Tsukiko implored.

    Hisoka stepped in with the answer. “Because you’re breaking with the proper archetype for an otome or reverse harem story. Tsukiko’s more suited for a typical shoujo romance story.”

    “Proper archetype?! Why you!”

    “Exactly! The heroine has to be protected and saved by the hot men in her harem,” added Kiyome. “The female readers must be able to see the handsome men in pain and with their shirts off!” She started to become a little lost by their fantasies, but returned to reality(?). “Masanori did not even so much as get a tear in his robes! I demand the male fan service!”

    “Agreed, minus the fan service,” backed Kichiro, “Give me female fan service though.”

    “But it’s just his introduction, I gave you an attractive image and he looked cool.”

    “Not enough!”

    “Hey, don’t ignore me!” Tsukiko snapped, “I won’t be made useless and whimpering!” The creator nodded in agreement. “Besides I’m not the only breaking type! Mitsu is useless and pathetic all the time!”

    “…sis…” cried Mitsuru.

    “Actually that’s on type,” corrected the creator, “The hero of a harem is generally useless and only good for cheering up the depressed romantic interests.”

    “…I have feelings too…”
    Curious? There's no limits but your own imagination.
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    2007 and 2009 Best Writer of TFF and 2009 Most Creative Co-Winner



  7. #7
    The Quiet One Twin Moon Andromeda's Avatar
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    Heavy panting and sweat filled the air. Heightened tensions made it difficult breathe. The tightened space made every touch, each sensation even worse. Soft muffled groans barely escaped as though trying to conceal their source. They could not let anyone hear. It would be the worst possible time to be discovered. The fear of discovery did not stop their thrashing about. Bumping and knocking never stopped, they could not stop.

    Then liquid sprayed everywhere followed by a high pitch scream of surprise.

    Muffled through the door, a familiar voice left, “I can’t believe you Mitsu! You couldn’t hold yourself just a minute! You’ve got no stamina!”

    “I-I-I’m so so-s-s-sorry, sis!” replied another familiar voice. “I couldn’t help it! You were…”

    Outside a couple of passing students caught the tail end looking concerned. They whispered between each other looking a little fearful. That quickly changed when the door flew open. Both girls put their hands over their eyes expecting the worst.

    “Geez, Mitsu, look at the mess you made!”

    Unable to see, their imagination went into overdrive causing one girl to faint, her heart too pure to accept the notion. The other girl’s face immediately turned red with embarrassment filled in by curiosity. Enough curiosity for her to peak through her fingers.

    Before the young girl’s eyes made her cheeks flush, but for a different reason. A pool of water spread out across the floor behind Mitsuru, who’s face was drenched along with upper part of his uniform. Clinging to his neck was the handle of a metal pale that rested like a hat, hovering just enough to leave his face visible. A dazed, but not quiet unconscious look filled his eyes. On top of him was Tsukiko with a coil of gardening hose wrapped around her and Mitsuru. Further complicating the scene, a mop, likely from the pale, fit between them just out of range of Tsukiko’s face.

    “Urgh, that’s hurts.” Tsukiko’s only free hand rubbed her head. She turned to pull herself up, to get off Mitsu, but it only dragged him along with her. Fighting with the hose only seemed to make the situation worse, closing the gap between them. “Stupid thing…”

    Tied up, Mitsu only had his voice. “Please stop, sis! It’ll only make it worse!”

    “It can’t get any worse,” she insisted. Through sheer determination, she stood up, taking Mitsu along with her. Unfortunately, his momentum carried through and she did not have balance in her feet to stop from falling backwards.

    Already guessing where things might go, the female voyeur shut her fingers again. Her friend still had not recovered.

    “Huh? It’s like strawberries,” noted Mitsu.

    “Yeah, but it’s still too wet…”

    “It’s just how it is though.”

    “Guess it is.”

    The female student reached her limit and passed out next to her friend. They appeared positioned as though holding their hands in comfort.

    “Still why does our school use strawberry scented hand soap?” Tsukiko questioned, as she wiped away the spilled soap from her face. Oddly calmer, Tsukiko began to work the hose from tying them up to eventually separate them. They began working on cleaning up the mess they made.

    “Hello again! My name is Mitsuru Sakakibara, I used to be your average everyday high school student until on my birthday I discovered a cave with an ancient sword inside.”

    The work finished, Tsukiko brushed off the sweat from her forehead. She breathed a sigh of relief. Things settled, she glanced down at Mitsu. “How much of a klutz are you, honestly? Both of our uniforms are ruined because of your luck.”

    Bowing again, as he already frequently been doing, each motion sprayed more water. “I’m so sorry, sis!” He suddenly took a karate chop to the head from Tsuki. “…Tsuki…”

    “Better.”

    “But you shouldn’t have picked the janitor’s closet to hide in! It was too small for both of us.” Mitsu glanced up at the extremely tall girl and opted to withhold the next thought he had.

    “That’s Tsukiko, we’ve lived together our entire life, even though we aren’t related by blood, we grew up treating each other like siblings.”

    “You were thinking something you shouldn’t have, weren’t you?” glared Tsuki. Annoyed veins popped up on her face, responding to the sense of the taboo. Pleading with sad, panicked eyes along with a furiously denying headshake, Mitsu managed to convince her otherwise. Mostly due to the fact of the clothes, soaked, it reminded her of their original problem. “It was the closest room. A classroom could have had students that gave us away!”

    “But the janitor’s closet!”

    “Agreed,” added Hisako, the female spirit appearing out of Mitsu’s sword. A cloth sleeve kept the sword covered, but did not stop the spirit from breaking through. “The place was smelly. And honestly, who hides in the janitor’s closest, such a cliché.”

    Tsukiko leaned in towards Mitsu’s shoulder to glare at the woman. “And whose fault is that?! We were only hiding because you ruined our peaceful lives!”

    “If you were wondering why were to hiding, it’s because of the Kendo Team. They were trying to recruit us, after hearing about both of us joining the team in order to stop with the troubles from carrying swords with us everywhere. It’s only on paper though, but they are insisting we practice.”

    “You could just join the Kendo Team,” suggested Tsuneo, as he popped up out of Tsuki’s sword. He rubbed his chin while holding the look of admiration. “To think they would devote themselves to the sword even after all this time and advancement. The way of the sword is truly an enduring spirit.”

    Turning her head back around to yell at her spirit, “I’m not joining the Kendo Team! I want to at least have a normal time in my school life!”

    “Too late for that.” The spirit sweated a little when he saw Tsukiko glaring at him with eyes frightening enough to scare an oni.

    Forgetting or ignoring, or maybe not even noticing the mood, Mitsu interjected himself into the situation. “But Tsuki, being part of a club or team is normal for students. In fact, our school requires it, we only got out of it because of the work do we at the shrine has a lot of patrons in town.”

    “A girl in the Kendo Team is not normal!” Tsukiko insisted, her face flipped back around to confront Mitsu. Nothing it seemed was going to stop her in her quest for normalcy, even if it was one that was doomed to fail.

    “In our time it was expect that women knew how to hold a sword,” inserted Hisako. Her comment did not improve matters any and she seemed to act as blind to the mood as Mitsuru. However, she read the look on Tsukiko face well enough afterward to redirect. “But Mitsuru is a boy, so it should be fine for him to join.”

    Stepping in the way of the spirit, Tsuki tried to keep the woman away from Mitsu, a difficult attempt considering the linked condition. “Mitsu can’t either! He doesn’t have the strength or stamina to survive!”

    Direct verbal attacks speared Mitsuru through the chest knocking him to the ground. It was painful, even more so since he agreed with it. “I know I’m not very strong. Tsuki always takes the heavier loads at the shrine. I have to take frequent breaks. And a hundred steps I’m short of breath.” He pretty much killed himself after such an admission.

    Both spirits looked on at the remains of Mitsuru. “That’s rather pathetic for a man,” comment Tsuneo.

    “Definitely too soft.”

    Noticing Mitsuru’s condition, Tsukiko rushed off to the crippled boy to lift him up. “Don’t attack him! Mitsu is very sensitive!”

    “You started it,”” Tsuneo threw back childishly.

    His words stammered her for a moment, but quickly recovered. “Well I’ve known him longer than anyone. I’m allowed!”

    Both spirits looked a little suspicious of the excuse and glanced at the other exchanging silent words. They withheld anything further to say. Nothing could become of it as the stampede of feet in the distance roared into the hall. It alerted everyone, even waking Mitsuru. All eyes turned already knowing what came at them, the Kendo Team Captain and Vice-Captain. Both students wore the traditional robes for practicing kendo, baring it with pride, while chasing down the Sakakibara twins.

    Still a little slow, Mitsuru failed to react quickly enough for Tsukiko. Picking up him rather than waiting, she ran in the opposite direction of the hunters, her eyes wide with panic. Mitsuru hung behind her sailing in the breeze as she carried him by his collar. He gazed at the surroundings as they went down stairs and flew through another hall.

    As the two bolted through the hall, Mitsuru caught sight of three girls a little startled by their storm. One of the stood as someone familiar, he remembered seeing her often in the halls. They were in the same year, but different classes. But he always remembered her because of the vibrant blue cape she wore like an accessory to her uniform. From the tail winds of Tsukiko, he managed to look at her a little longer.

    The girl, he never knew the name of, looked very delicate and strode with a proud, almost arrogant, gait. Shoulder length, dyed pink, hair covered up the top of the cape along the uniform to prevent seeing out it attached. ‘There was something…I remember hearing about her…but what was it?’ The longer he watched as she became smaller in his eyes the more he tried to recall what he heard about her. It came to the tip of his tongue, but a sudden jerk in his balance ruined any chances of him remembering.

    Mitsuru found himself in a classroom, dark and dusty from disuse. Moments later Tsukiko dropped him back to his feet with her already speaking to someone.

    “Hey, Kiyome! Why’d you stop me? We were running away from the Kendo Team!”

    “As you did the day before and before that as well,” reminded, Kiyome, her eyes thin like lines accompanied by a slight smile. She had a large ribbon visible from the front tying her hair back, like usual, red was the color for the day. “Your after school activities are becoming very public.”

    “Then tell them to quit trying to force us to practice!” Tsukiko tilted her head back listening for their pursers. “I can’t stay long, they already are back on our trail!”

    “You don’t have to worry about that for today.” The knowing smile on her face only became bigger without her even doing anything.

    Mitsuru cracked the door a little peer into the hall. He saw the Captain and Vice-Captain running into the schoolyard with even greater fervor than before. It left him a little confused, turning his eyes back to the hall. He caught a glimpse of the three girls they passed stopped. It seemed like something happened that he did not understand. ‘Scary,’ he commented, while looking back at Kiyome.

    It took even Tsukiko a couple of moments to recover herself from the last thing Kiyome said. “I wish that they’d quit bothering us! We already told them no!”

    “It’s because they need one more member to compete in the upcoming tournament.”

    “Huh? What’s that got to do with us?”

    Mitsuru stared a little confounded at Tsukiko. He wondered if she actually forgot the reason that they were allowed by the school to carry their swords or if her emotions just fried all of her reasoning. However, he did not have the time to answer her, Kiyome took the lead. “You are registered as members of the Kendo Team, both of you.”

    “Only because you made the suggestion!”

    “And now you’re safe in the school. A fair trade.”

    Watching the two girls continue made Mitsuru worry for his sister’s sanity. Kiyome kept her cool the entire time while dealing with the fired up Tsukiko. Even as long time friends, she did a surprisingly good job keeping her feelings quiet. Though as he focused on their exchange, their situation worried him. ‘Did she plan all of this as well? She is on the student council and likely would have known about the Kendo’s Team membership troubles. If so…really scary…’ Mitsu glanced at Kiyome, only having received a brief returning glance as though having read his mind and giving him an answer.

    Appearing exhausted, Tsukiko failed to have another comeback for Kiyome. Turning for the door out of the classroom, her ponytail sailed through the air with stray bits of light catching the thin lines of Kiyome’s silk-like black hair. “I’ll pass it along to the Kendo Team. Keeping order in the school is important, right?”

    The door closed behind Kiyome. Silence lingered in the classroom. Tsukiko looked defeated. He wanted to say something to cheer her up, but had nothing. ‘I think I just witnessed the seed of a future chapter…’

    “Honestly though Tsuki, how are you best friends with someone so manipulative? Even if it is for the good of the school.”

    “She wasn’t always like this. She was different when we were younger.”

    And that is a story for another time. A long prologue of nonsense, but it was merely a sign for Mitsuru. A sign that running from the Kendo Team would have been preferable to the hell he would soon step into. Ominous sounding enough to have your interest?

    Good!

    Chapter 6 – A Terrible Liar

    True to Kiyome’s word, things calmed down for the two of them when they returned to school the next day. The Kendo Team Captain was not waiting for them at the school entrance, as he had been doing for so long everyone just considered him a fixture already. Seriously, he must love Kendo to be so desperate.

    Tsukiko pretended not to notice the change, but the relief on her face, let along her body was clear enough that even Etsuko, with her face perpetually down, noticed. “Is everything alright, Tsukiko?”

    “Eh?” She looked back at Etsuko, while trying to stuff down her guilty expression. “Of course! Nothing could be better!” Her voice got a little higher pitched on her pulling in attention from passing students, including to her misfortune, Kichiro.

    Leaning over, the signs of the gears turned in his mind. He had something in store for her. It was too obvious, but it was not as though he was trying to disguise it. “You sound excited, Tsukiko,” he slid in his opening. “You in the group with the rest of the girls that are getting all dreamy-eyed over some rumored pretty boy?”

    Cautiously backing away, Tsukiko looked down at him puzzled. For the moment, it was genuine, but that would not last for long. “Rumor? What are you talking about?”

    “It’s going all over the school, I’m surprised you haven’t heard.” The rumor had taken on a life of its own, like an exaggerated game of telephone. Each time it was passed on the info only made it even larger than life. By now, it had reached such impossible to achieve scales that it was not likely any girl could actually be satisfied. Not that it prevented it from continuing to spread with a life unto its own.

    However, despite the pervasive nature of the rumor, it was not too much of a surprise that Tsukiko did not, or forgot in her case. She had kendo troubles for so long her mind did not have time for idle gossip. They gave her no rest for days.

    Oddly, validation came from Etsuko, as meek it her voice was. “I heard it was an Arabian prince with long silver hair.”

    “He’s the illegitimate son of the school’s chairman,” piped in a voice from behind.

    “You’re unusually late, Kiyome,” noted Kichiro, without even the need to look back, like the others did.

    The rest of the group stared at Kiyome a little surprised to hear such a scandalous thing from her mouth without any hesitation. “Or so I’ve heard,” she added. She did not know anymore than the rest of them. The fact that someone unknown could possibly running around the school grounds stirring up the female students left her bothered.

    While the rest of the group recovered, Mitsuru spoke up. “You shouldn’t word rumors like they are facts, Kiyome. It’ll confuse people. Especially with such dangerous rumors.”

    “Is that so?” Her words and expression did not match up. It was clear she knew what she was doing.

    Mitsuru fell into her trap. He saw the look in her eyes and did not know how to react. A stammer was about all he managed. To which point, the mood snapped with Kichiro wrapping his arm around Mitsuru’s neck. Glancing around, he saw Kiyome and Kichiro both laughing. It softened the atmosphere for him, allowing him to join in the antics.

    However, isolated from the rest of the group, Tsukiko became a little pale. ‘Silver hair?’ Her mind went back to the time when she dealt with an oni on the school grounds. Sweat started to pour down her face. ‘I hoped they forgot, but those pretty boy rumors, they’ve got to be about me! What am I going to do?!’

    Perhaps fate had good timing. Maybe he noticed her panicking and felt some sympathy. He could just also be clueless. Whichever the reason, Hisako dropped his hand on Tsukiko’s shoulder startling her. “Hey, where’s the morning calisthenics?” It was hard to judge his expression through the thick glasses on his face, that totally did not look like hardcore nerdy glasses that totally fit all the stereotypes there within (honest, they totally aren’t nerd glasses).

    Taking time to recover, Tsukiko’s response came slow and fairly devoid of any sort of substance. “Huh?”

    “Your stalker.”

    A flitter of emotions ran through her eyes and cheeks, but Tsukiko turned away. “I don’t have a stalker.” She marched herself a little ahead of the group, choosing a different solution for handling it, denial.

    The boy, wearing three centimeters of glass over his eyes, looked over at the rest of the group. They gave him a bit of a shrug, but grinned a little amused by her reaction. Hisako judged, smartly, whether to continue probing the topic.

    Noting the temperature in the group, Mitsuru stepped in front of Hisako waving his hands a little to cut him off. He leaned in a little and stretched himself up to the tips of his feet to reach him. “Tsuki’s wanting to forget about the whole thing right now. So please just play along for now.” Mitsuru clapped his hands together as he begged them for their tact.

    It ended up being his hard-to-say-no-to face, along with him so politely begging, that won them over.

    “You’ve got dangerous face there, Mitsuru,” commented Kichiro, as he resumed their pace to catch up with Tsukiko.

    Mitsuru managed a confused expression for the back of Kichiro. “What are you talking about?” He rushed up with the rest of the group. Kichiro continued idle remarks back to Mitsuru, while they entered the school.

    They almost made it to their classroom without incident, almost. Something had to happen, after one resolved problem ended. The new problem came from the other end of the hallway barreling down at their group, the problem’s soft voice warned students of their urgent need to run through the hall and asked for them to make room. Preferring to sidestep over a collision, most of the students agreed, but one did not.

    One did not change direction or course, with a setting locked straight for the problem. Unfortunately, the one did not know, they were too distracted with internal thoughts to hear the calls. Even when Mitsuru yelled, “Sis! You’re in—“ Too late.

    A full on collision between the mystery student and Tsukiko happened and carried the two a few meters across the polished wood floors before coming to a stop. The accident turned a lot of a heads and turned a few faces red.

    Mitsuru was already panicking and running around trying to help Tsuki, but his friends all looked on at the scene. They knew Mitsuru had Tsukiko in hand anyway, he always did.

    “Hmm, pink,” Hisako casually dropped, his glasses remained the perfect shield for his emotions.

    Kichiro lifted his hand to his chin judging something. “Seems a little plain to me.”

    “There’s actually some lace and frills if you look closely,” added Kiyome.

    “Ah, good catch!”

    Unable to separate to the two, Mitsuru pulled back and dropped back down sighing. He looked ready to cry as he looked over at his friends for help. “Such commentary isn’t appropriate right now!”

    Kiyome and Kichiro looked between each other, almost like they were telepathically communicating. Maybe they were, no one would know. Nodding was the first thing they both did after their council. It was Kiyome that went first, almost as if she asked and Kichiro granted her first pass. “I guess you’re right. We were not being sensitive to the situation.” Everything seemed to level out to normalcy. She approached the accident and leaned in a little like she was going to help. “Students shouldn’t be running in the hallway. I won’t report you now, but be careful in the future.”

    “That’s not helping!”

    “You know he’s right,” interjected Kichiro. He looked like he was going to bring some reason to the situation, but that did not last for long. “You’re not doing your job as the main character as well, Mitsuru. The girl is supposed to crash into you, not Tsukiko. We’re not that sort of story, mostly…”

    Mitsuru jumped up to confront the two of them. He wailed his hands in the arm to empty effect, trying to get them to be serious. “We need to help them!”

    “Hisako’s already done that.” Kiyome stretched out her arm to point over at the changing scene. Hisako had the girl off Tsukiko and getting back on her feet, in a matter of moments.

    Freed from the weight of the unknown girl, Tsukiko started to return to her senses. Mitsu quickly moved in to help her back up. “Are you alright?”

    “Don’t say ‘sis’,” Tsuki responded. She shook off the daze covering her head. Once she had everything straightened out and back on her feet, Tsuki glanced over to see who hit her.

    Recovering in the arms of Hisako was a girl about their age of about average height. She was still taller than Mitsuru, but who was not taller. Dark blue eyes and shoulder hair made appear completely normal. The typical female student. However, the bright purple hair, dyed surprisingly well, made it clear she was not normal or typical.

    All of their friends stood around waiting for introduction to begin, but her name never came up. The girl separated herself from Hisako and bowed politely to them. “I’m so sorry! I was in a hurry because the bell rang and I didn’t want to be late to class!” Without so much as an additional explanation or rebuttal, she ran off. Her blue cape rippled loosely behind.

    Mitsu stared at her a little puzzled until she disappeared around a corner. She still looked familiar to him, but could not place her.

    “Has our Mitsuru finally started to notice girls?” teased Kichiro, dropping an arm around Mitsuru’s neck. He looked off in the direction Mitsuru’s gaze fell upon, even though the girl already was out of sight. “She your type, the clumsy ones?”

    “Huh? Wha-no-what?!”

    “You might want to work on your ability to talk before you try confessing to her.”

    “Hey!”

    Kiyome appeared opposite the two boys, as though always having been at their side. “She does have qualities that boys would find attractive.”

    Caught up in the barrage of teasing, Mitsu lost his way and found himself following their pace. “Yeah, she was cute looking…” Trapped in their conversation, his words came out sounding worse than he intended, not that he realized. It did not, however, mean the others did not notice. They leaned in around Mitsuru to stare at him with grins on their faces. When Mitsu realized his mistake, he tried to backpedal as quickly as possible. “N-no-no-no! She’s not cute! Well she is, but she’s not, I mean—“ He cut himself off, their stares only got worse.

    Pacing himself a little, he enforced a pause. He needed to collect himself. Their cat-like stares made it difficult. “That wasn’t why I was staring!”

    “You’re pretty gutsy to just be trying to sneak another peak under her skirt.”

    Mitsu’s face went red almost immediately, accompanied by Tsuki, who largely remained out of it. She tried to jump in for his defense, but he spoke up first. “I wasn’t!” His voice managed to break his normal range, but it still did not sound like he was yelling. “I thought it was strange she was saying she was going to be late when the bell isn’t close to ringing yet.”

    The pair looked a little disappointed and back away. They appeared to have already dismissed everything. “That’s normal for her,” answered Kiyome. She began to walk away, forcing the group to follow if they wanted to stay in the conversation.

    “You know her?” Mitsuru rushed up to the front of the group to look at Kiyome directly.

    From the back of the group, Kichiro spoke up, “Yeah, Aiko Kitabatake has a bit of a reputation in the school.”

    “You too?” He was starting to feel like he was the only one that did not know her. It made him feel a little guilty for not knowing her. However, Kichiro response made him even more curious. “What reputation?”

    “You’ll learn soon enough.”

    “What?!”

    “No sense ruining the surprise.” Such a respond left Mitsuru confused. He tried to get more out of them, but the warning bell finally went off. Questions had to wait.

    -X- -X- -X-

    Classes ended for the day. The relative peace the two gained from their friend made the day feel actually close to normal. Tsukiko thought everything might have been a dream with the way the day went. It was a bit of an unfamiliar sensation for her. However, Mitsuru felt a troubled by another matter. The run in with the girl called Aiko had his mind elsewhere (hence his feeling of peace).

    “Mitsu…” called Tsukiko, but nothing got through to him. She walked over to him, still seated at his desk. A hand on his shoulder shocked him back to the classroom. “Hey, I said I’ve got cleaning duty today. So I’m going to be a little bit. If you want to hang around town or spend time with Kichiro and Hisoka, I’ll catch up later.”

    “…alright…” In the momentary bout of lucidity, Mitsuru packed away his books and stood up. Another one of their classmates moved around the room with Tsukiko. His thoughts went to his friends for a second. It had been a while since he hung out with them without Tsukiko. However, Aiko popped into his head again. What they said before about her bothered him. He wanted to know what they meant.

    Hustling out of the room, he worn the face of someone determined. Fortunately for him, he had fate on his side (not sure if that’s a good thing). It only took a walk past two classrooms before he spotted Aiko coming in his direction. ‘It’s her! I found her!’ He froze the next moment later with his hand standing in the air as if he was saluting someone. ‘What do I say? How do I even ask? ‘Hey, do you know about the reputation you have in school?’ No, I can’t do that!’ His foot started to slide back. ‘Maybe I will go see the guys after all.’

    Sorry, once fate locks on, there is no breaking free.

    An oddly excited look popped up on Aiko’s face, when she spotted Mitsuru in the hall. It was hard to know if she remembered from him their past run-ins or if he happened to be the (un)fortunate one to be in her path. “There you are!” she shouted, breaking into a light jog. Her friends from before, previously unseen due to Mitsuru panic, lost the ground they had following after her. When she reached Mitsuru, Aiko wrapped her arm around his and pulled in him tightly.

    Mitsuru found himself stumbling a little, trying to keep himself from fall over her. “A-Ai-Aiko Kitabatake…” She was very close to him. He felt his face warming up. ‘What’s she doing? I’m getting a bad feeling suddenly…’

    “Ai,” beckoned one of her friends. They both came to a quick stop a little away from Aiko and Mitsuru, also sensing something. “We’ve got cleaning duties today. You need to help us.”

    “I’m sorry, I can’t today, Mori!”

    “Huh, why?”

    Looking cornered, Aiko glanced down at Mitsuru. Her dark blue eyes fell deep into Mitsuru’s gaze. Something turned behind her stare (probably fate again). The moment lasted longer than it should have, but she came back to her friends. “I can’t help, because I’ve got to go home with my fiancé!” She tugged a little tighter on Mitsuru, directing their eyes to him. By natural progress, she also directed Mitsuru’s eyes toward her. His eyes already started to grow wide.

    Confusion quickly settled in for him. He only managed to utter, “Fiancé?!” The rest of his words choked up on his throat. What his mouth failed, his eyes plead for answers from Aiko.

    Aiko’s friends made brief eyes at each other, as though communicating. They both leaned in a little suddenly taken in by her claim. “Why haven’t we heard about this before, Ai? This is very important news to your friends.”

    “Well it was all very sudden, Yumi. He just transferred here.”

    “He did? He looks a little familiar.”

    “Of course, he just has one of those faces!”

    “I do?” inserted Mitsu, a completely pointless effort on his part. Anything he said remained completely drowned out by the girls and the lack of volume in his voice.

    Yumiko stepped forward a little looking the couple. “So you’ve known each for a while?”

    “Yes, my father and his father arranged this when we were kids!”

    “Arranged marriage, a little old fashion.”

    “You know my family!”

    Both of the girls nodded in agreement. It was unclear if they agreed with Aiko or something else. They seemed on the same wavelength, almost a little suspiciously so. “When was the last time you saw each other?”

    “Ten years,” Aiko replied without even batting an eye. Mitsuru could only stare at Aiko not even looking fazed by the questions and the endless mounting of lies. He found it almost amazing to behold. “But we promised to be together in high school. So he transferred to be with me.”

    “So even though it’s an arrange marriage, you love each other?”

    “Definitely!”

    The immediate respond left Mitsu’s face turning red. “What?! L-L-Love?!” His teeth started to chatter and lips trembled. He wondered what he got himself into suddenly. The hole continued to get deeper and he was not even digging it.

    Starting another round of telepathic conference discussion, the two girls stared at each other. They made no another action while staring. It seemed that they already came to a settlement. “You know if it has been ten years, you really should spend sometime together.”

    “We are going. When we get home.”

    “But you’re parents are there. I think you should celebrate your reunion by going on a date!”

    “Excellent idea,” Moriko agreed. “You parents shouldn’t mind you two have a little time to yourself, right?”

    “But we promised to get home. Since he’s arrived in town, my father has some things he wants to decide with him.”

    “Don’t you want some time alone though? It must have been hard. You should think of yourself once and while. You’re are in love, being apart for so long.”

    “Of course, we’re in love!” Aiko’s unflinching eyes never left meeting with her friends. The way she spoke almost seemed like she actually believed what she said. “Fine, we’ll go on a date! I have been wanting to spend time alone together.”

    “Alone?! Together?!” piped up Mitsu again. His legs wanted to carry himself away from the situation, but Aiko’s hold was iron tight. Nothing he could do broke him free (though it didn’t help he lost nearly all of his strength).

    “And so I went on my first date. Wait, I haven’t even fallen in love yet! Isn’t there something wrong with the order of these events?!”

    Order of events did not seem to matter to Aiko. Her friends dragged the two out to a café. They seated Aiko and Mitsuru down, while they went to the owner of the café to get their orders. It seemed like it was almost planned to give them time to get their lies in order. Mitsuru just wanted answers. He leaned across the table. “What’s going on here? Why did you lie to your friends?”

    Aiko sat back in her chair, not feeling the pressure. Mitsuru did not really have a good presence for demands. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I wasn’t lying.”

    “Yes, you were…are! We aren’t engaged, we haven’t even met before yesterday!”

    “I’ve seen you in school.”

    “That doesn’t explain anything!” He clearly was not getting anywhere with the girl. She seemed stuck with the idea that everything was normal. Glancing over at her friends, the thought of being carried along at their pace worried him. He did not know where things would try to go past a snack. Mitsuru stood up. “Fine then, I’ll just go tell them you were lying and end this charade.” He checked her reaction, none. ‘Very well then…’ She checked his bluff. Mitsuru made good on his act.

    “Wait,” she whispered, grabbing his wrist before he walked out of reach. Aiko looked willing to accept his terms. Mitsuru returned to his seat, waiting for answers. “Well…I…because…it’s because…there was a dead kangaroo in the trash bin and I wanted to save my friends’ sanity from seeing and smelling it. So I did it to get them out of the classroom.” She delivered the whole thing with a completely straight face. There was no hint she was lying. No hint of a joke or a smile, she was completely serious.

    Mitsuru’s face went flat in disbelief for a moment. ‘Really, feeding me a lie about lying?’ His hand scratched his head trying to find the best way of dealing with the situation. “Put aside the fact that is impossible for an animal not indigenous to Japan—“

    “It escaped from the zoo.”

    He hung his mouth open as she continued to add on top of the lie. “Which would have been reported by news. So how—“

    “I’m a secret agent for the National Japanese Protection of Zoos.”

    Mitsu ground to a halt. He wanted to stand up, but he knew he would be making a scene if he did. He opted for his hands to jester, while he talked. “You can’t be serious!”

    “Please keep my secret. You forced my hand.”

    “Er…there’s no such thing as the National Japanese Protection of Zoos.”

    “We’re small, so I’m not surprised you haven’t heard of us.”

    “Ugh…an organization protecting zoos wouldn’t have secret agents!”

    “There are many hidden organizations in the shadows that want to get their hands on the animals we’ve brought into the zoos.”

    He was ready to give up. “You don’t say.”

    “I can only work in secret, as they lie in the shadows as well.”

    Mitsuru felt like he was going to have a headache, maybe a migraine. He rubbed his hand over his face feeling more out of sorts than normal. Aiko’s lying had an odd reaction in Mitsuru to actually get him at a higher level of tension. He had never known anyone like her before. ‘This is exhausting…’

    “Is this how sis feels all the time?”

    Tossing in the flag, Mitsuru relinquished his efforts. He sighed. ‘I’m not going to get a straight answer from her.’ He could only stare at her and hope to find any sort of an answer. Behind the serious expression, he felt like there was something desperate. She needed his help. She needed him to cooperate. “I understand,” he resigned, “You need my help. So I’m just supposed to pretend I’m fiancé, right?”

    “Right!” She looked happy suddenly, maybe a little relieved as well.

    ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ Mitsuru stared at Aiko, feeling overwhelmed. ‘Grandfather did say to help people in need. But I wish she’d just be honest, I’d help her even without the lying.’

    “You look happy, Ai!” commented Yumiko, “Catching up on lost time?” She slid down their drinks they ordered. Yumiko and Moriko had separate drinks, taking up seats each next to one of the couple.

    Mitsu looked down at the drink, if it could even be considered one. It looked excessively sweet and he was pretty sure there was ice cream and maybe even candy in it. Just the thought of drinking it made his body sweat. Worse though, it was put before him, or rather them. It made his heart race for a moment. He glanced over at Aiko’s friends. ‘They ordered a couple’s drink for us to share!? What is she…’ Over the drink and across the table, Aiko stretched out for the drink. ‘Is she taking it for herself?’

    Moriko played around with her drink a little. She picked up Aiko’s attempt. “We got that for the both of you, Aiko. You wouldn’t want your fiancé to feel left out, right?”

    “But there’s only one straw.” She pointed at the overly elaborate attempt at a fancy drink. “He can’t share it with me.”

    Smiling like a pair of cats, her friends stared at Aiko. “Sure you can, you just take turns.” Her voices almost went sing song in their tone.

    It was already obvious to Mitsuru their plan, but it seemed that Aiko did not understand until that moment. Her face turned red in an instant. “T-Turns?” She looked over at Mitsuru.

    He swallowed roughly. They put both of them on the spot. ‘What should I do? I promised to help her, but this is a little much.’ Aiko made the move for him. She slid the drink over to him. He stared down at it. The straw that Aiko’s lip would eventually touch. Both of her friends stared at him in anticipation. ‘There’s something wrong about this whole situation. But I can’t say anything.’ He stretched out his hand to the drink.

    The overly drawn out time to delay things only worked on the tension. Everyone waited to see what Mitsuru would do. A pair of hopeful eyes watched, while two sets of mischievous ones pierced. Stretched out in reach of the straw, Mitsuru had to make a decision in seconds. He could not delay anymore. It felt like a game of chicken, all parties involved just waiting with almost maddening curiosity at who would blink first.

    Mitsuru’s hand loosely caught the straw. He leaned in a little, still drawing things out. ‘If I don’t do this…I said I’d help her, but she looks…’

    ‘You’re man aren’t you!’ yelled Tsukiko, inside his head.

    ‘Not nearly as much as you, I think…’ he muttered, before he was punched in the back of the head.

    ‘Suck it up! Do what you must!’

    ‘Right!’ He was not really sure if it really helped, but his arm did not feel as shaky. ‘I’m going to regret this! But it’s the only way!’ Mitsuru moved his hand down to the glass of the drink. He gripped it tightly and lifted it up. In one quick motion, he emptied the top half of the contents into his mouth. He dropped the drink back down to the table. “I’m good now. You can have the rest.” A bit of chilled air escaped his mouth, still carrying the cold beverage.

    The two friends looked a little disappointed at his solution. He never let his lips touch the glass, so Aiko was still safe. It was a reckless move and a dangerous one. It hardly covered up any suspicions, but that did not seem to be a concern for Mitsuru.

    He managed to look normal for about ten seconds (which is actually pretty good for him). It fell apart quickly. First came the brain freeze from swallowing something very cold. “…too sweet…” Second was an annoyed stomach for consuming something so sweet. Last, his head slammed into the table with a blue face. His face had the look of horror from having stared into the pits of a nightmare, a sugary sweet frozen nightmare.

    While Mitsuru was passed out on the table, Aiko’s friends leaned over. “So Ai, I don’t believe you’ve introduced us to your fiancé properly,” began Yumiko.

    Slowly working on the remaining half of the drink (Mitsuru removed the sweetest part), Aiko glanced up at them. She delayed a little before surfacing. “What are you talking about? I introduced you at school, Yumi.”

    “Yes,” Moriko added, “But you never told us what his name was then. We can’t get to know him better without knowing his name.”

    “Yes, what is his name?”

    “Oh, I guess I got swept away in everything. I was so excited to see him again, that I completely forgot that I hadn’t told you.” Aiko kept her unflinching attitude with them. The mischievous grins on their faces looked ready to catch her. “His name is—“

    “Mitsuru Sakakibara,” Mitsuru interrupted, suddenly having recovered from his sweet coma (it’s a bit different from a simple food coma). His awakening startled everyone at the table. It took the chance sit back up properly and recover the rest of his condition. Mitsuru stretched out his hand placing it on top of Aiko’s hand, resting on the table. He smiled at her warmly. “Though you always called me, Mitsu, remember, Ai?”

    The inviting, comforting smile of Mitsu made her blush deeply. It nearly took away her breathe. The boy across from her was not the same as she ran into before. “…y-yeah…M-Mitsu…”

    ‘I didn’t know you had it in you,’ commented his spirit, ‘You’re quite the lady-killer.’

    He glanced casually over at the two friends. Their reactions were about as what he expected. Unlike, the poor degree of Aiko’s lies, Mitsuru’s lies were of a completely different quality. He actually sounded convincing. They did not expect him to draw a line. ‘I don’t know what you’re game is, but this isn’t the way things should be.’

    However, Yumiko and Moriko had one last card to play. “As Ai’s best friends, we want to make sure you’re the right one for her. We don’t want you to hurt our friend.”

    ‘What are they playing at now?’ He tilted his head a little to face the two girls. “I’ve known her for years, I might not have been with her for a while, but we made a promise.”

    “So show us proof of your promise. Show us how deep your love is.”

    It caught Aiko’s attention enough to drag her out of her daze. “What are you suggesting?”

    “A kiss!”

    It caught both of them by surprise. Mitsuru nearly stood up, but restrained himself. “You can’t be serious! In public!”

    “You’re rather old fashion, to be concerned by something so simple.”

    “O-Of, course! What are you thinking, Mitsu! It’s not the first time we’ve done it in public!”

    Mitsuru’s face turned a little red as Aiko’s voice carried more than he wished. “Don’t say things that’ll be easily misunderstood!” Unfortunately, Aiko already seemed to convince herself what was necessary. She started stretching across the table for Mitsuru. ‘You can’t!’ The approach of Aiko made him lean back a little. His heart pounded painfully in his chest. Not nearly enough red rushed into his face as it only continued to get deeper shades by the second.

    Hesitation crawled through Aiko’s actions, slowing her down. Mitsuru saw she did not want to do it. His eyes flipped over to her friends that only stared on intently, almost cheering her friend on. ‘You don’t want to, don’t—‘ A squeeze in his hand interrupted Mitsuru silent pleading. He could feel her desperation passing through him. She needed him. He was cornered. He had to act.

    He had to do something, anything.

    His mind was blank.

    He was out of ideas.

    Mitsuru found himself leaning forward to meet Aiko. He did not know what he was doing. It felt like his body was moving on its own. Something compelled him. It dragged him out of his seat. His mind protested, but his body acted. Sweat built up along his neck and back, as it seemed all the eyes in the café were on him. He felt like he was going to die of a heart attack before it was over.

    Then he suddenly felt warm. It made his eyes jump open wide. ‘Did I?’ His fear proved unfounded. It was only Aiko’s breath, but he could smell the sweet drink coming off of her. Mixed in among her sweet breathe was the soft smell of her perfume, stirring together making him think the drink had fruit. His mind went blank.

    He did not know what happened in the next few seconds. The next thing he remembered was seeing Aiko fleeing the table in tears. Mitsuru jumped up knocking the table off-balance. The pain in his leg dropped his gaze down and then to fix the table. Once everything was back in order, she was already gone. “…Aiko…”

    It was too late.

    Silence filled the café. The scene they caused left everyone a little confused. Mitsuru leaned against the table, his hand pressed in starting to turn white. His hands began to shake along with his arms.

    Something stirred quietly.

    A loud slam jerked everyone out of their frozen state. It frightened a few guest, no one more than the two girls seated at the table. The noise was loud enough that they nearly jumped from their seat. They stared over at Mitsuru trying to figure out what happened to him.

    Then something happened that was a rare sight to see. Anger dug into Mitsuru features deeply. He turned to the two so-called friends of Aiko. His voice managed to reach the entire café without any effort. It was the loudest he had ever been in his life. “What’s the matter with you?! Are you two really her best friends?” He stared at the two, but they managed no response almost terrified by his presence. “What sort of friends purposely force someone into embarrassing situations and smile the entire time?! You should be ashamed of yourselves to even be able to utter words like friends with such hollow meaning!”

    Moriko looked ready to crawl into a hole after the berating she received. However, Yumiko jumped up to her feet. “You don’t have any right to be judging us after only just meeting us!”

    “I saw the way to you looked this entire time! There was nothing close to friendship in what I saw!”

    “You don’t know Aiko! You don’t know us! Don’t start spouting off when you know nothing about us!”

    “What more do I need to know when I saw two girls mercilessly picking on someone they claim to be friends with!” Mitsuru had had about enough of the two of them. He roughly pushed out the chair, not caring about how much of scene he created. Their yelling already garnered the attention of everyone. The waitress and owner wanted to do something, but refrained. “As far as I’m concerned, I never want to see you two ever again. I pity Aiko for believing you two were ever friends with her.”

    Yumiko stepped in the path of Mitsuru, possibly even more enraged than Mitsuru. “You don’t know Aiko! You’re just an outsider!”

    “Yumi,” begged Moriko, grabbing her at the wrist. It seemed that she had recovered enough to find her voice. “He doesn’t know, he doesn’t understand.”

    “Mori! You’re taking his side?! We both agreed on this!”

    She turned down her head. Her face tried to hide something she wished not be exposed. “He should know, I don’t want him—“

    “Mori, he’s an outsider! He doesn’t need to be involved!”

    “Ai already involved him and so did we.”

    Mitsuru fought his unfamiliar emotions running through him. He did not like the direction of the conversation to the girls. Even if they gave him a reason, he did not feel like he would be able to accept them. However, he wanted to know what twisted them so much. “What are you hiding from me?” Mitsuru took a step back away from her as a sign.

    Settling down a little, Yumiko shifted her place to stand behind the seated Moriko. It looked like she went to support her. “We’ve known Aiko ever since she moved into town. Before she started…”

    “She wasn’t always like this,” Moriko picked up, in place of Yumiko, “She had the habit in elementary school.”

    He could tell that they were dodging the heart of the matter. It only made him more curious they were hiding for her. “What habit?”

    “You see, Aiko comes from a wealthy family, or at least did. When the recession hit ten years ago her family’s company didn’t survive. They moved out here to start a new life, but Aiko felt embarrassed and ashamed of it. We just guessed it was from before she moved, but every time anyone asked about her family she said that they were very rich.”

    “So she lied. Kids at that age do it a lot.”

    “But when confronted about it she refused to take anyone to her home. So they made fun of her and she grew distant from the rest of the kids…” Something started to make it difficult for Moriko to continue. She stopped holding a hand to her mouth.

    Yumiko continued for her. “We don’t really know what caused the change, but when we started junior high she acted completely different. She was loud, a little crazy, but worst of all she kept up her habit. She lied, but she always blew her lies out of control. No one believed anything she ever said. She contradicted her lies so many times no one other than the two of us really knew who Aiko was.”

    “That still doesn’t explain the reason you acted the way you did.”

    “We thought she’d grow out of it. We passed it off to a lot of classmates as eighth-grade syndrome, but she just kept going only getting worse. It got her into terrible situations.”

    Moriko lifted her head to face Mitsuru. “We didn’t know what to do with her. We didn’t want our friend to keep lying. She had to grow up.”

    “So you force her into even more embarrassing positions?” His voice started to rise again.

    “We’re trying to help her!” insisted Yumiko. “We thought if we called her lies she would stop, but she just keeps going. It was the only thing we could do! We just want her to be normal!”

    Mitsuru walked forward a couple of steps in silence. He stood next to them not looking at them. “You’re right, it’s bad to lie. However, the way you’re going about it is wrong. I can’t agree with your methods. Friends are supposed to be the ones you count on when the rest of the world has turned against you. Friends are supposed to accept you for who you are regardless of your flaws. Friends are supposed to be the ones that will support you no matter what happens. True friends are honest.” Mitsuru started to walk away. “I must be blind, because I can’t see any from where I stand.”

    Once Mitsuru made it out of the café, he looked around for a moment. He picked a direction and just ran. “Aiko!” he shouted, hoping for anything. Fortunately, the distance he ran to find her was not far. In fact, she stopped in the alley only two buildings away from the café. Mitsuru felt a little cheated by the lack of effort needed to find her, but he was thankful as well. “There you are!”

    Aiko lifted her head up. When she saw Mitsuru she turned away and tried to escape, but he caught up to her quickly. “Please don’t! You’ll catch my disease, it’s transmuted through touch!”

    A bit of sweat dripped down Mitsuru’s face hearing her attempt to lie again. ‘She really isn’t very good at lying.’ He stepped out around her, not wanting her leave before they had a chance to speak. “I’m not going anywhere. You don’t have to be afraid.”

    “But it’s really bad! You’ll break out in these awful black sores that takes years to go away!”

    Mitsuru grinned a little hearing the ridiculous nature of her lies. “I guess I’ll just have to deal with them.”

    “You don’t understand! You’ll—“

    “Start seeing purple spots and lose feeling in your tongue.”

    “I was going to say the spots explode nasty puss and leaves scars.”

    Mitsuru started laughing a little, which infected Aiko. He released his hand. “That’s a little dark,” he said between fits of laughter. Mitsuru could see her starting to relax and calm down. They leaned against each other for support before falling backwards to the wall.

    Aiko tilted her head over to look at Mitsuru. She had a wide smile on her face. “You didn’t run away.”

    He had to take a deep breath before recovering enough to speak again. “Of course. I’m not going to abandon someone when they are in need.”

    “B-But all those things I—“

    “Doesn’t matter,” he replied quickly, not letting her finish. “You won’t chase me away with a few lies.”

    Aiko smiled again not saying anything. Her cheeks turned a soft shade of pink. She leaned a little more against Mitsuru, not even thinking about it.

    They stood in the alley for several minutes before realizing the position both were in, forcing them to split. Awkwardness between them continued for a little longer. Eventually, they left the alley, returning to the street.

    Aiko looked back at the café. Her friends likely still were inside. “I should probably go back.”

    “Want me to go with you?” The thought of returning to the café left him with reservations. He did not exactly leave under the best circumstances. Hesitation definitely crawled up his legs.

    She shook her head lightly. “No, they’re my friends. I’ll talk to them.”

    “Alright, but remember. If you ever need help, just find me. You don’t need to be alone.”

    “Thanks.” Aiko smiled again and waved to Mitsuru as he started to leave. She kept staring at him the further he got away. A distant look filled her eyes watching him. It seemed to trigger redness in her cheeks again. She watched him fade away into the distance and found herself still staring for a while long.

    Mitsuru started walking to the bus stop. He already knew it had to be too late to meet back up with Tsuki. His spirit surfaced as a small form resting on his shoulder. “I might have to change my opinion of you,” she commented.

    “Huh? What are you talking about?”

    “I’ll just say you impressed me back there. You have promise.”

    “Promise?” It confused Mitsuru. He only knew half of what she was talking about. However, something bothered him about her statement. “What opinion did you have of me before?!” Unfortunately, the spirit did not answer him, she only grinned a little. Mitsuru tilted his head over wanting an answer. She refused him.

    “Mother, the world is filled with many very different people. I hope I’m able to eventually understand them all. Even if I can’t now, I’ll keep trying.”

    To be continued…

    Character Profile – Daisuke Hyobanshi

    Name: Daichi Hyobanshi
    Age: 65
    Gender: Male
    Height: 6’8” (204 cm)
    Weight: 165 lbs
    Hair Color: Gray to White
    Hair Style: Short and cut close around the head
    Eye Color: Dark Brown
    Appearance: Daichi is a very old man that despite his age seems to have grown taller rather than shrunk with age. So he is freakishly tall for an old man and fairly wrinkled all around. He is actually taller than Tsukiko, an impressive feat.
    Personality: Daichi is a very kind and generous man. He always insists on looking out for the well being of others and helping someone in trouble. He also has quite a few quotes that Tsukiko and Mitsuru have picked up from him. Under all of the kindness though is a sleeping monster, which ironically comes out when he’s sleeping and has on numerous occasions attacked the two of them leaving them with a constant state of fear when around him.
    Likes: Everyone, Helping Others, Roasted Salmon, Go
    Dislikes: Disrespectful People, Computers, Mushrooms
    Curious? There's no limits but your own imagination.
    Don't know how to roleplay, but want to learn? Visit Here!


    2007 and 2009 Best Writer of TFF and 2009 Most Creative Co-Winner



  8. #8
    The Quiet One Twin Moon Andromeda's Avatar
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    Early morning birds chirped along the edge of the forest of the sleeping town of Mashita. The light of dawn was still in consideration for rising, leaving a soft haze of fog with a faint moonlight to keep the darkness away. It was the flickering streetlight over the old bus stop that provided the true shield. Enough light came from it to make nights attempts futile, at least for the stop.

    The out of town bus arrived with a painful screech when the brakes pressed on steel. It was an empty lonely night, but the bus made a route to keep even if no one needed that night. After a few minutes, it started up heading into a nearby lot to park and wait. Thirty minutes still remained.

    Left behind at the stop, a lone figure had left the bus. Their face stayed out of sight even in the light. A large rice hat shielded them from light. Turning down the sidewalk, the light highlighted a finely polished wooden sheath at their hip. It should be expect at this point, their attire left them to appear as though they stepped out of a samurai movie.

    A few paces into Mashita, they came to a stop. A young voice came out from under the hat with a comment to themselves, “The demonic energies are thick. There is trouble coming…”

    Chapter 7 – Demon Slayer

    The ending bell to school rang out across the grounds. A moment later, students charged out of the classrooms. Some had clubs or sports, others just wanted to escape. A few remained behind, those on cleaning duty or chatting with friends. One of the slower ones was Mitsuru and Tsukiko, but they had their reasons.

    It was a good day for them, for once.

    “I’m not sure how I feel about not being the opening scene, sis.”

    “I’m Tsukiko Sakakibara, ex-normal high school student now stuck with possessed swords with a destiny to protect the world from demons trying to entering our world.”

    “Hey, you’re getting pretty good at these summaries!”

    The reason for it being a good day was their life finally started to stabilize. There had not been a demon attack recently, freeing them up from their duty. As much as they hated it, they were even getting a little used to the spirits hanging around them. The school accepted their excuse and even the kendo club was off their back. Things seemed to be going well.

    It seemed like the right time to celebrate to Tsukiko, not that she could tell anyone. So she got to finally do something normal, hang out with her friends. It still meant she had to hang out with Mitsuru and his friends, but she took what she could.

    Mitsuru looked very happy, waving to Hisoka, who joined them. “You don’t have club activities today, Hisoka?” He rushed over to Hisoka’s side to greet him.

    Pushing his thick glasses back up, he shook his head. “I got the day off, not much point going today.” A bit of an annoyed grimace surfaced in his lips.

    Tilting his head a little, Mitsuru tried to move in a little to understand what bothered him. “What did you say?”

    “Nothing,” he answered quickly. He lifted his bag on his back and turned away immediately trying to shut down any investigation.

    Such a response only made Mitsuru more curious, he jumped around wanting to help his friend. “You know I don’t know what club you’re part of. What is it? You go everyday and even in the mornings at times, I think. Is it a sports club?”

    “Hey, Mitsu!” called Kichiro, motioning to him to come over, “You know where we’re going to eat yet?”

    Mitsuru glanced back at his other friend. The question was enough for him to change trains of thought. “Huh? Didn’t Tsuki tell you?” He walked over leaving Hisoka in peace.

    Hisoka glared over at Kichiro wearing his usual knowing grin. He rescued him, but it also meant something worse for him.

    -X- -X- -X-

    They made it to the bakery in the middle of town. It was at Tsukiko’s very strong insistence. The signs were clear even to the fairly poor reading Mitsuru. It did not matter much to him. He could see her smiling again. They had so many troubles recently that all he saw on her face was annoyance. She needed the break.

    However, it did not last for long. Suddenly, their swords started to vibrate at their sides. The rattling metal echoed through their leg. It was their quiet way of letting them know a demon had surfaced. The suddenness of it made Tsukiko jump and spill her tea over the tabletop. A little of it ended up pouring off the table and on her skirt before she could stop it. She jumped out of chair the moment is happened. “My uniform!”

    Etsuko and Kiyome were quick to offer tissues for her. She accepted them, but ran off quickly in the direction of the bathrooms.

    Mitsuru jumped out of his chair and went after her. “Sorry! I’m going to check on Tsuki!” It was a lie of sorts, but he needed to say something. He went into the men bathroom. Holding his hand out, the sword appeared in his hand. Mitsuru quickly fastened it to his back and opened the window for an escape. A helping hand appeared to get him over safely.

    “Let’s hurry, Mitsu!” Tsukiko ordered once she finished getting Mitsuru out. The two spirits popped out on their shoulders giving them directions into the demon.

    It was a routine for them. They started to get used to always being on call. The lies to escape their friends or engagements seemed to just flow. It was commonplace, even after such a short time.

    “I don’t see it,” remarked Mitsuru looking around at the empty lot. He spun around to see if he missed something. After he confirmed for himself that he could not see it, he turned to Hisako, the spirit on his shoulder. She gave him only a shrug confused as him.

    Tsukiko was a little less calm about the matter. She yelled at Tsuneo, “You said it was here! You’re supposed to be able to sense them!”

    Rubbing his chin a little, Tsuneo was in heavy thought. The volume of Tsukiko’s voice did little more than blow his hair around. He adapted to her yelling surprisingly quickly to no longer be affected by her outbursts. However, ignoring her was a worse option to take.

    She began walking back to the bakery. “You drag us out here because you sensed a demon and it was a complete waste of time! I’m trying to spend a normal day with my friends and now I have to deal with you messing with my plans!” Her hands moved around in sharp gestures to reflect her frustrations. In one of the motions, she brushed against her skirt, reminded of another sore subject. “And do you always have to shake so much! You made a mess of my uniform because you just suddenly start bouncing all over the room the moment you claim to have found a demon! There wasn’t even a demon, I bet you did it all on purpose!”

    “Si—Tsuki,” tried Mitsuru to calm her down, but his voice did nothing for her.

    “We have to do something to alert you,” responded Hisako, “We’re respecting your lives, despite the duty you have to protect this world from the demons. You’re unable to use your power to detect demonic energy on your own, so we must do it for you. Until you learn to harness your power more.”

    “Hrmph.” Tsukiko knew the woman had a point, but was not about to accept it. She just did not have a quick response. “There wasn’t even anything there. Just a false alarm! You wasted my time on a false alarm!”

    Finally breaking his silence, Tsuneo spoke, “It wasn’t a false alarm. I sensed the remains of a demon’s energy at the site. It was just slain before we got there.”

    “You’re saying someone else killed it?” Tsukiko said with more than a healthy amount of skepticism. She saw nothing as they arrived or any signs of a fight.

    “Remember, demon’s bodies disappear when they’re killed. A skilled warrior could have done it.”

    “In this era?”

    “Could be him.”

    “No, he’d leave a much bigger mess behind.”

    “Who?” Mitsu looked intently at Tsuki hoping for an answer. It was clear they knew something he did not.

    Unfortunately for Mitsu, they ignored him completely. “Someone else?”

    “I don’t know.”

    “It’s the only answer.”

    “At least we didn’t have to fight, Tsuki!” inserted Mitsu searching for the bright side for Tsukiko. His smile seemed to help a little, but she was still annoyed by the interruption. Even if they ignored him, his mood-altering smile could help. It put Tsuki back on track at least, in her mind anyway.

    -X- -X- -X-

    Fighting or not, Tsukiko’s mood was permanently tainted by the interruption. If it had only been the single interruption, she might have even managed to recover. If. However, their return to the bakery did not last for long before another demon was supposedly detected. Supposedly was the word of the day. One poor excuse later, they returned to the bakery again with no more sign of a demon than the first.

    Tsukiko sighed quite loudly, not caring that her friends heard. She looked around the bakery. Everyone else peacefully enjoyed their food without a care in the world. They had no idea their lives were in constant risk by demons. It was not something they needed to know. This was something she understood. She never would wish them to know. She only wished her life would be a little more accommodating to her desires, even once.

    Accommodations could not be made for her and everything in the bakery left bad taste in her mouth. She stood up leaving most of her plate still untouched. “I’m not that hungry. Want to go to the arcade or something?” Tsuki wanted anything different. Something to get her mind off the demons.

    The others seemed up for the change, but Mitsuru looked down at his plate of food. Like Tsuki and unlike the others, he barely ate anything. “But I’m hungry.”

    Kichiro grinned a little hearing Tsukiko’s request. “Looking to lose to me again?” he taunted.

    “Only in your dreams, Kichiro!”

    It ended up being Mitsuru sighing hearing the two. ‘Kichiro really knows how easy she is to get competitive. Especially, since she has lost every single time against him.’ He shoveled down a few bites of desert bread as his friends already started leaving. “Wait for me!”

    -X- -X- -X-

    “That’s win number 450!” Kichiro rubbed in his victory.

    “486,” she corrected, not helping her case any.

    It actually shut him up for a moment though, not really expecting her to correct him. “Not like you’re keeping score.”

    “Let’s go somewhere else, Tsuki,” asked Etsuko. Her head hung low as though someone glued her chin to her uniform and she did not want anyone to see her embarrassment. However, she was protecting them, all of them. Herself too.

    “I want a rematch!”

    Kichiro shrugged at her. “So you can lose again? You can’t beat me!”

    “Why you—“ Her leg started to feel the vibration from her sword. A glance went over to Mitsu, he was already moving for the door. She picked up the sheath and ran after him. “I just remembered I forgot something back at the bakery! I just need a few minutes!” Tsukiko slid into the threshold of the sliding doors for the arcade, in time to catch them after Mitsu ran out. She turned around briefly thrusting out her free arm back at Kichiro. “I’ll be back for my rematch!” Immediately, she turned away and chased after Mitsu.

    Kiyome and Kichiro exchanged a brief knowing glance between each other. “Hey Hisoka! Let’s play!” He pulled on his jacket to get his attention.

    Most of the time in the arcade, Hisoka tried to down play his presence and look like he did not belong. Unfortunately for him, no one really cared if he was in the arcade or not. None of them gave him a second thought. It took another tug on his jacket to get his attention. “Huh? Fine, but know I don’t like these sorts of things.”

    “Yeah, yeah, it’s bad for your image. Whatever.”

    It was almost ten minutes later that the two returned. Tsukiko had a very visible annoyance coming out of her presence and all of the work from Mitsuru could do nothing to change it any longer. She was stuck in it. A moment of standing near the machines was all she needed. “Etsuko’s right. I want to go somewhere else.”

    All it took was a minute of convincing for Tsukiko to have them moving. It did not really matter any longer to her, she just wanted to be elsewhere. Elsewhere was of no more help than the arcade. She seemed destined not to enjoy an afternoon with her friends. Another call came forcing them to leave once more.

    “I’m getting really tired of this,” shouted Tsukiko at her sword. Her spirit refused to come out with some blue color appearing in the hilt. It was another empty lot with nothing. She started to turn away.

    Mitsuru tried what he could to see the positive in the situation, but he realized he came up a little short. “They’re just doing what they’re supposed to do, Tsuki. We can’t blame them.”

    “This was supposed—“

    “Fear no longer, citizens of Mashita! I shall protect you from this evil!” The voice boomed from above with a fierce passion. A moment later, as Mitsu looked up a shadowed figure appeared coming down.

    Needing no further clues, Tsukiko sighed deeply. “The demon’s already gone,” she inserted quickly to cut him off before things got out of hand.

    The dark figured landed on the concrete with a cloud of smoke coughed up from his landing. However, he did not wait for it to clear before he continued. “As the newly proclaimed Guardian of Mashita, I can’t allow your evils to go unchecked!”

    “Self-proclaimed,” she corrected with a cold tone. “Enough monologuing, it’s all over. There’s no one interested.” Her words were so bitingly cold it actually froze the cloud, unable to move.

    Mitsu leaned in over her shoulder. “That was a little cold, sis. He didn’t mean anything bad.”

    “He’s not so soft to be affected by that. If anything he’s too dense to understand me.”

    Shattering away from around him, Masanori revealed himself. He looked around hearing a familiar voice. “The ally of justice!” A light flashed in his eyes. In an instant, he disappeared and reappeared in front of Tsukiko giving her a hug without any thought. “I thought I’d see you again with all of this demonic energy in the city!”

    Flailing his arms around, Mitsuru tried to help his sister in the middle of being mauled by a giant brute. The lack of any sort of height on top of his frail appearance, he was simply a mouse among giants. “Please release my sister!” Tsukiko still had enough room to knock Mitsu in the head for his mistake. “Please release Tsukiko, mister!”

    Masanori stared down at Mitsu, still holding Tsuki. “Oh, I didn’t see you! I’m sorry!” He immediately dropped Tsuki and knelt down, which still was taller than Mitsuru. “It’s alright, kid! The allies of justice are here to protect you!” A massive smile of earnest enthusiasm burst from his face. He patted Mitsuru on his head. “No need to cry anymore.”

    “I wasn’t crying,” he insisted, with a face that actually started to look like he was crying. “I’m also not a child. I’m the same age as Tsuki!”

    It took the giant teen back a step. “Really?” He glanced over at Tsukiko for any sort of confirmation. All she gave him was a nod. “Oh, sorry! You were just so short, thin and feminine.”

    The three strikes rammed through Mitsuru’s chest dealing an instant K.O. to him. He fell flat on the ground. From his prone position, Mitsuru looked up at Masanori. “What is Tsuki then?”

    Masanori tilted a look to Tsuki, actually taking Mitsu seriously. He looked her up and down carefully, drawing out the answer. “Normal?”

    His answer made Tsuki’s face turn red slightly. She actually could not say anything and it was more than she was expecting from him.

    “Hey, you’re going to just accept that from him?!” Mitsuru then started to look at the two of them, realizing the physical similarities in them. “He’s got a skewed sense! That’s not fair!”

    Tsukiko managed to snap back to reality hearing Mitsu’s complaining. She leaned down to help pick him back up. “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. There’s no need to get upset over everything little thing.”

    “You’re just happy with being called normal,” he commented, while getting back to his feet. “Besides you do get upset at everything little thing.” The tacked on comment earned him another knock on the head. Mitsu tried to focus back on the more important matter. “Do you know this guy, Tsuki? You’re acting very familiar with him.”

    Her face went a little red thinking back to everything she dealt with. It made it difficult for her answer his question. “Well…”

    “Of course, she’s an ally of justice! That makes us partners!”

    “Partners?” questioned Mitsuru. He leaned over in Tsukiko’s direction to get a little more details from her.

    The answer he gave made her more flustered. It only made things worse. “It’s nothing like that, Mitsu! He’s just some crazy guy I met and can’t get rid of!”

    Mitsu was not completely convinced by the way she acted. “You’re starting to make this a habit.”

    “What’s that supposed to mean?!”

    Masanori decided it was his time to leave. He turned away from their bickering and waved them off. “Farewell! More evil lurks in the city, so I cannot rest for long!” However, he did not make it very far.

    Grabbing his wrist quickly, Tsuki forced him to stay. His appearance meant something. “You sensed something here didn’t you?”

    A little confused, Masanori did not answer immediately. He stared back at her. “You defeated the evil before I arrived. So I have no further need to be here. Please unhand me.”

    “No, we didn’t. We only arrived just before you. However…” She glanced over at her sword on her back. Masanori’s presence meant she could believe them. The man was too simple to lie, unlike the spirits. “Something’s going on here. We’ve been constantly arriving late with no demon. The only answer we had before was it had to be you, but that seems to no longer be the case.”

    “Tsuki?” Mitsu stepped into the discussion. He could tell she was actually taking the matter seriously. “Are you thinking there is someone else in the city killing the demons?”

    “They suggested it before, but it seems to be the only answer we have.”

    “Another ally of justice!” Masanori seemed to understand what they talked about, in his own unique way. The thought of another ally made him excited enough to break free from Tsuki. He tried to run off again.

    “Wait! Masanori, we’re going to do this together.”

    “Huh?”

    “Si—Tsuki?”

    She pulled her sword out in front of her. “Come on out.”

    He was a little cautious. Tsuneo’s head popped out of the hilt, eyes shifting around seeing if it was safe. All of Tsuki’s outbursts and emotions from the day made him feel safer inside the sword, a wise choice. However, she summoned him, a rare occasion. “Yes?”

    “You can sense the energy of the demons coming through the doorway, right?”

    “Yes. But it’s been too late.”

    “Exactly. This time I want you to focus only on looking for the next demon. We’ll wait for the next attack. If there really is someone else in the city killing demons we need to know.”

    Mitsu placed a hand on her arm to get her attention. “But what about your day off?”

    “It’s over. It’s already ruined.” She stared at Mitsu and realized what he was actually asking. “Can you go back to them and cancel. I know I planned it all, but I need to stay and keep this guy out of trouble.” Tsuki pointed over to Masanori. Her response received a strange look from Mitsuru. “Trust me, he’s trouble walking.”

    Some hesitation hung in his throat looking at Masanori. He was not sure what sort of history they had, but the way she acted made it clear she seemed confident. “All…right.”

    -X- -X- -X-

    It took longer than they expected. In fact, the way things went Tsuki figured another demon would pop while Mitsuru was away. However, that was not case. The reality was dusk fast approached before they discovered another demonic energy.

    The lack of good sunlight made the alley dark when they arrived. Only the faint particles of the demonic energy evaporating into the air lit the alley. It painted with soft blurry strokes a lone figure. The only easy thing to make out was the glow of their sword before they sheathed it.

    Tsukiko only managed to get a brief look at their face thanks to floating light particles from the slain oni. ‘A child? No, but they look so young.’ She was caught for a moment almost mesmerized by their face. The recent weeks introduced to her to a couple of men she would call handsome or even beautiful, but the stranger seemed to surpass easily them. It might have been the light, but they had a face Tsuki never knew could have existed. It was beauty in a pure untouched sense, rather than in the rough sort of Masanori.

    Distracted, she did not notice the stranger attempting to leave. However, Masanori dropped down from the sky to block the path. He strode in with the usual blindness to the situation. “You’re another ally of justice! I’m so glad to meet you!” Attempting to be friendly, he offered up a hand as a greeting. However, the stranger immediately rebuffed him, backing away.

    Mitsuru snuck in around Tsukiko entering the alley. He tried to approach friendly, using his typical smile. “It’s okay! We don’t mean any harm. Honest. We were simply wanting to meet the one that was killing all of the demons.” His smile was one that could even make babies stop crying with a mere glance, but it failed against the stranger. They backed away from him as well.

    Second attempts in offers of friendship were made, but only ended in the same fashion. They were not making any progress. Trying to get too close forced the stranger to withdraw their sheath blocking both of them. “Don’t touch me,” they spoke clearly with no mistake in their intent. The stranger tugged on their rice hat and then disappeared before the two of them.

    Masanori and Mitsuru stared at each other after the rejection. Neither seemed to understand why it happened. It left them in a strange state of shock. While Tsukiko was left in a different state. She ended up being the first to recover of them.

    Tsuki looked around no longer seeing the stranger. “Where’d he go?”

    “He left,” answered Mitsu.

    She could not believe she did not realize it sooner. Deflecting for her own problems, she came down on Mitsu. “Why didn’t you stop them? We needed to find out what their purpose in the city is!”

    “But I couldn’t do anything! They just vanished into thin air!” He looked over to Masanori for some back up. Unfortunately, he already left. With no one on his leash, he could do anything he wanted. Mitsuru was not sure if he went in search of the stranger or just on the hunt for more evil in the city. The fact was he was left with Tsukiko with no support. “Honest! I tried!”

    A sigh escaped her lips. It was part her problem as well. They distracted her. “It’s getting late. There’s nothing we can do now. Let’s just go home.”

    “But what if more demons show up in the city?”

    Tsukiko was already walking away. “I’m guessing the city is safe with the stranger going around killing them before we can even get to them. Besides, they’re coming out of the gate, which is in the forest. So we’ll actually be closer.” It was enough convincing logic for him to accept it. She heard him quickly catching up to her, only a few steps behind.

    The bus ride back home went quietly, thankfully. For what was supposed to be a normal relaxing day, it ended with more excitement than Tsukiko desired. However, they were home in front of the massive mansion. The long wall that ran around the entire mansion to keep people out greeted them. Their wooden gates swung open waiting for them to cross the threshold, two maids politely standing just inside to take their things.

    An explosion.

    Or something loud. Tsukiko and Mitsuru did not know what it was. They only knew that it was close and they could feel it through the ground. Tossing their school bags to the maids, they turned around without a second thought.

    “Can you feel that, Mitsu?”

    “Yeah, I’ve never felt anything like this before. It’s so heavy and depressing. Like it’s filled with an infinite sadness unable to be contained no matter how much it tries.”

    “That’s demonic energy,” Hisako replied, appearing over his shoulder. “Though this is nothing like I’ve felt before.”

    Tsukiko looked over at Mitsu’s spirit. “You mean it’s not normally like this?”


    “No,” answered Tsuneo, also surfacing. “This is the first time you’ve truly feel them, but it’s sign.”

    “A sign?” questioned Mitsu.


    Nodding in agreement with her partner, Hisako finished for him. “This demon is so powerful you don’t need to have a good sense to actually feel it. Anyone with even the slightest ability would feel it.”

    Such an answer shocked Tsukiko and Mitsuru both. Tsukiko could see how worried he looked. Even the spirits looked uneasy about what it meant for them. “We can still win right?” She got no answer from either of the spirits. Their silence made things even worse.

    Another explosion rocked the forest knocking both of them off their feet. The timing was fortunate, since a massive ball of demonic energy fell over them. As they recovered, they saw in front of them the trees carved away from the destructive energy. Anything it touched vanished completely. A hole literally punched through the dense nature with no concern.

    However, it managed to give them a view of the source, the demon and a dark figure. The demon dwarfed the opposing figure. A black mist covered much of the demon, but their size was immense from even a look of a boney hand. Their hand easily matched the size of a normal human.

    Their demonic energy suddenly burst out through the forest as though it was a physical form. A dark heavy purplish mist clung to everything desperately. In mere seconds, it reached as far back as Tsukiko and Mitsuru surrounding them. The pressure from it was enough to keep them on the ground coughing in pain.

    Mitsuru tried to reach out for Tsukiko. “Sis…”

    “…Mitsu…”

    White light burst from their bodies transforming them into the forms of the spirits. The teens were finally able to move again, no longer stifled by the aura.

    “I feel better, why?”

    “The demonic energy was so strong that you’re bodies could not handle the strain,” answered Hisako inside Mitsuru head. “We had to transform you to protect your lives.”

    “I see…” He looked forward realizing what it meant. His hand clutched the hilt of his sword as he leapt forward through the ruined forest. “They’re in trouble!”

    “Wait, Mitsu!”

    Mitsuru popped out into the clearing in the forest, which he realized was not so much of a clearing, but the primary battleground. The presence of the demon rotted away everything in the area. Nothing could stand up against it. Nature died.

    It was as he thought, the sword-wielding stranger from earlier came to confront the demon. Unfortunately, unlike the other oni appearing through the city this demon was in a completely other class. They struggled against the massive force.

    “Do you know which type of demon this is?” Mitsuru inquired with Hisako.

    “I’ve never seen this sort of demon before. I can only guess it’s part of the Demon Lords.”

    He did not have a chance to ask for more details. A massive blast of energy shot out at him. Mitsuru unsheathed his sword only able to take it head on. The speed of the attack was such that he had no chance of dodging. In less than a second, it was on top of him, sword partially out of the sheath. The metal of sword rattled in his ears as he struggled to hold back the energy. His feet pushed into the earth and dragged back through. He did everything to hold against the unnatural force. ‘I’m losing…’

    Suddenly, the force disappeared. The stranger came in redirecting the energy way with a swing of his sword. Another part of the forest disappeared in an instant. He turned away from Mitsuru immediately and faced down the demon once more. “Leave.”

    “I can’t! You need help!” Mitsuru’s words barely reached him before the next series of attacks came in. The swordsman cut through the energy and charged through for the demon. However, something blocked it. Inside the mist covering most of it, a purple light shined through.

    “A barrier,” Hisako spoke on cue.

    Mitsuru had barely any time for a plan. He needed more clues. “You said it’s a part of the Demon Lords. What sort of demon is that? What sort of weakness does it have?”

    “I’m only guessing. Demon Lords are all unique with no shared traits other than that they are the most powerful demons. They are most recognizable as having a more human form than the standard demon. The only way you can win is by being stronger. I’m sorry.”

    The swordsman went flying from the counter. Digging in their sword, they cut down three trees and carved out a deep line in the earth before coming to a controlled stop. The demonic energy only seemed to increase. Maggots and centipedes crawled out from the mist surrounding the demon. Everything the insects touched died in an instant. It was as though death landed on Earth.

    Tendrils of mist lashed out for the swordsman. He dodged around cutting at the mist fighting to get back his lost position. It was clear he was losing the fight, but was unwilling to accept the fact. He struggled with unwavering determination to not know defeat.

    Tsukiko managed to appear finally next to Mitsuru. “You left me behind, Mitsu!” She tried to start in on a tirade against him, but Mitsuru lifted a hand to stop her. “Mitsu?” It was not a side that she expected to see from him.

    “I need your help, Tsuki. I don’t care if they don’t want my help. I’m not going to let someone struggle in danger alone!”

    Smiling, she saw the Mitsu’s determination. It was a rare sight. She could not say no to it. “I’m with you! Let’s go!”

    The demon caught the swordsman off guard with a surprise attack. They had no chance to block or escape. Purple light engulfed them completely. The full force would hit them. Their guard was too slow to do anything. ‘…can’t move…’ However, in the last second two shadows appeared in front of them shielding the force. His eyes widened a little in surprise.

    Mitsuru and Tsukiko knelt on the ground with their blades crossed. White light glowed from their blades’ core keeping the demonic energy at bay. Around them, the energy carved away the earth. Only an island of protection remained after it finished. Everything around them was stripped away.

    The swordsman recovered their shock and stepped forward. “I thought I told you to leave. This is my fight. I don’t need your help.”

    Turning back to face him, the two smiled in their spirit forms. Nothing he said would make them change their mind. “Sorry, I can’t leave. When the challenge is too great alone, you get others to help. Together three arrows will be stronger than the one.”

    “Mother, Father, please give us strength. I don’t know if we can come out of this battle alive.”

    To be continued…


    Omake Theatre

    “Well I’ve got nothing,” the creator remarked, giving up on the effort of doing an Omake Theatre. “Let’s just do another character profile.” They started flipping through the rest of the character sheets. “There’s plenty to pick from still. Though with so many chapters planned I’m going to run out of characters before the end probably.”

    “That’s rather irresponsible,” commented Kichiro, “You’re only on your fourth Omake and you’ve already lost all of your comedic and creative ideas.”

    “I haven’t! The story’s already fully planned out. It’s just these Omakes, just not feeling it.”

    “I have a complaint!” yelled Tsukiko, bursting into the room. The room primarily held only the creator and the ignored four friends.

    “This isn’t the support line,” Etsuko threw back quickly.

    Nodding in agreement, Kiyome entered, “Why are you here? You’ve always got something to complain about, but we’re the ones with biggest problems playing second fiddle to the tragic siblings.”

    “We’re not siblings! We just have the same name!”

    “Like anyone’s believing that one. The story’s probably going to reveal in like twenty chapters you’re actually siblings. The same last name is such a thinly veiled foreshadowing.”

    “Well it is a harem story, can you really expect much?” added Hisako.

    “Hey, I’m not doing something so obvious!” The creator suddenly started scratching something out.

    Everyone looked at the creator in disbelief. “Right…”

    Tsukiko slammed her foot down. “Enough! I have a problem with the way you’re writing!” She went over to the creator and grabbed them by the collar.

    “You’ll have to get in line then,” they replied.

    “I’m being serious! Why are you making my character go all weak in the knees every time she sees a handsome looking man?! It’s insulting!”

    “And sexist,” added Kiyome.

    “Who’s side are you on?” the creator asked.

    “Not yours.”

    “You’ve got to have some reaction. Besides, if you saw a really hot guy you’re going to stare aren’t you?”

    “Huh? Yes…well maybe…I mean, NO!”

    “So aren’t you actually being insensitive to the guy, since you’re staring at him only focusing on the physical appearance like it is all that matters?”

    “But I’m not!”

    “They’ve got you there, Tsuki.”

    “Hey, why are you making me out to be the villain again?!”

    “You’re the one that was ogling him like a teenage boy seeing their first dirty magazine.”

    “I was not!” She threw her foot down trying to stop them. Then she had an idea. “What about Mitsuru? He’s doing the same thing with that Aiko girl! He’s supposed to be in the same situation as me! Why aren’t you saying these things to him?”

    “Mitsuru so innocent, he wouldn’t have perverted thoughts like you.”

    “Right, he helped the girl out from being bullying.”

    “What did you do, berate an honest guy for being overzealous.”

    Tsukiko’s face turned more and more red. She stopped out of the room and slammed the door behind her. “I should have known you wouldn’t understand my feelings! At least Mitsu will listen to me!”

    “Sibling love is still forbidden remember!” Kiyome teased.

    They only received more stomping as she left. “Maybe we went a little too far,” thought Etsuko.

    “But she’s just so easy to tease.”

    “She is a lot of fun to work up.”

    “All of you are terrible people,” noted the creator.

    “You created us.”
    Curious? There's no limits but your own imagination.
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    2007 and 2009 Best Writer of TFF and 2009 Most Creative Co-Winner



  9. #9
    The Quiet One Twin Moon Andromeda's Avatar
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    The demon caught the swordsman off guard with a surprise attack. They had no chance to block or escape. Purple light engulfed them completely. The full force would hit them. Their guard was too slow to do anything. ‘…can’t move…’ However, in the last second two shadows appeared in front of them shielding the force. His eyes widened a little in surprise.

    Mitsuru and Tsukiko knelt on the ground with their blades crossed. White light glowed from their blades’ core keeping the demonic energy at bay. Around them, the energy carved away the earth. Only an island of protection remained after it finished. Everything around them was stripped away.

    The swordsman recovered their shock and stepped forward. “I thought I told you to leave. This is my fight. I don’t need your help.”

    Turning back to face him, the two smiled in their spirit forms. Nothing he said would make them change their mind. “Sorry, I can’t leave. When the challenge is too great alone, you get others to help. Together three arrows will be stronger than the one.”

    It seemed like a convincing rally call for teamwork. However, Tsukiko and Mitsuru’s words fell on deaf ears. The young man walked pass them, eyes still fixed on the massive demonic presence in front of them. His eyes continued to hold the same determination to fight alone. “I started this fight, I’m ending it.” He lowered his sword to his side blocking their approach. “Don’t move.”

    Mitsuru attempted to stand. “But—“

    “NO!” He interrupted them immediately motioning with the sword. Once they stopped trying to move, he leapt forward attacking the demon head-on.

    Looking over at Tsuki, Mitsu did not know what to do. They thought a strong talk would be enough. It worked for them in past. “What should we do, Tsuki?”

    “I don’t know, but we need to do something! He’s not going to able to survive alone.”

    “I know, but if he keeps stopping us.”

    Another opportunity presented itself. The swordsman fell behind them. Their sword came free from their grasp landing a few meters away. They landed up against the remains of a collapsed tree. Blood dripped down their forehead from an unseen wound.

    Tsukiko was the first to move. It ended up deciding everything. The demon was still on the attack with no stopping, regardless of the swordsman’s condition. “Go!” shouted Mitsu, giving her the sign he would hold off the demon.

    “I’ll be back!” she promised, before running over to the young man. Tsukiko saw his face fully for the first time with the hat removed. He had a very round young face making him seem younger than he actually was judging from his height. The fighting ruined his hair leaving it in a mess with black strains hung over his eyes.

    Approaching cautiously, she tried to check out the wound on his head to see how badly he was hurt. However, they slapped away her hand. Tsukiko did not take his rebuke poorly, since it only continued his consistency. “I just wanted to see how bad the wound was. You’re head’s bleeding.”

    He pressed up against the tree to get himself back on his feet. “Don’t touch me!” Slowly walking, he went for his sword.

    “You’re hurt! I just want to help!”

    With his sword back in his hand, his stature straightened out as though it gave him strength. He tilted his head over his shoulder to look back at her. “I don’t need your help. Your interference into this fight is already a stain on my honor. I would have you take no further action to trample upon it.”

    She did not understand him. Honor did not make any sense in a losing fight. “I’m not trampling on your honor! You were in danger so I wanted to help! What’s wrong with helping?”

    He started walking away from her. His eyes looked fixed on the demon, Mitsu struggled against. “It would seem even though you wield that sword you know nothing of the pride or honor of those who wield it. Remember this well, a proud samurai fights alone and all battles are one-on-one. Any aid is the worst offense.”

    “How old fashion do you have to be to follow such things?!”

    “It was my way of life. I don’t expect you to understand, just obey my wishes.”

    Chapter 8 – Lost and Found

    “Stand aside,” he ordered to Mitsu, flying by him to deflect the incoming attack.

    Mitsu dropped to one knee, his breathing a little short. “Glad...ly…” He realized too late in giving up his position that it was to the swordsman. However, he needed the rest from all the attacks. During the entire engagement, he was only ever able to maintain a defense against the demon. The attacks did not let up for a moment. ‘How’d he manage to keep pace even a little?’

    “Mitsu!” Tsukiko came running up to his side checking on him. Relief washed over her seeing that he had no injuries. She looked forward, hearing the explosive clash of the two. “How could you let him keep fighting?”

    “I didn’t exactly have a chance to say no.” He stared ahead along with her. Watching the stranger jump around barely keeping ahead was impressive to behold, yet it was clear to even his untrained eye that it was a losing battle. “He’s determined to fight this battle alone.”

    She flipped her head over to him, a little surprised by his words. “You’re not planning on letting him are you?!”

    “Of course not,” he answered quickly. “I’m just not sure how we’re going to convince him to let us help. It may only make things worse.”


    Another blast went off from the colliding powers. Tsuki stared a bit in awe herself. “I know what you’re saying, but we have to do something.”

    The swordsman flew away from the demon, knocked back unable to hold his position. His guard broke, he looked like he would fall, however in the last moment he recovered enough to dig his sword into the ground. Halting his movement ended up being the first mistake. Giant maggots swarmed his position. Fighting them off was pointless, it was only a distraction. Two blasts from his flanks came in. He saw them, but could do nothing. The demon insects had him pinned down. “Curse you, demon!”

    Mitsuru and Tsukiko leapt in the last second to block the blasts, protecting the swordsman. They struggled in holding back the demonic energy barely contained. Only their swords held enough spiritual power to create a barrier. It was the only thing keeping them from being completely overwhelmed.

    Once he finished with the insects, he regained his stance. “Still interfering? How long do you continue tear apart my honor?”

    Their possessed swords glowed brighter for a moment allowing them to throw off the attack finally. Mitsuru straightened up, looking over at him. “Does that include dying?”

    Slashing through mist tendrils, he did not answer Mitsuru immediately. When the attack finished, he pulled his sword back holding it out horizontal. “Dying a good death is honorable.” The blade suddenly seemed to distort the air around it, displacing it. Force from the blade created wind blowing behind him. He looked to be preparing for a different sort of attack, completely separate from how he fought the demon. “Fukushima Style – Secret Technique! Opening!”

    In the blink of an eye, he disappeared. His movement was too fast for either of them to notice. All they saw was a blinding light in the direction of the demon followed by an immense force. The trees rocked and anything not rooted to the ground flew up at them blasted away. Mitsuru and Tsukiko could only hold on with their swords providing protection from the force.

    “Can you see anything, Tsuki?”

    “No! I don’t know what’s happening anymore!”

    “Do you think this is it?”

    “I hope so! If it’s not we’re in trouble!”

    Suddenly, the roar of trees being up rooted deafened everything. It seemed everything just jumped up another level on the scale. The siblings felt their feet having trouble keeping in contact with the ground. They were certain at any moment they would be flung to the far reaches of Mashita.

    Then everything calmed in an instant.

    The blinding light remained in the eerie peace. Nothing seemed willing to make an action and risk jinxing what could only be a dream. It was not a dream. Someone wished it was though.

    A thick wet noise rang out through the forest. Following it was something flung out of the light before it started to fade. Whatever it was slammed into a tree with enough force to crack it in two. Another painful wet sound broke.

    The mist started penetrating through the forest with renewed aggression. It quickly became clear what happened. Mitsuru spun around to see the result. The moment he saw, he ran off after them without even thinking.

    “Mitsu!” Tsuki reached out a hand for him, but he was gone. The demon’s mist rolled over her arm. It seemed to have a life of its own. Intangible, it felt like hands grabbed at her even though it was just a shapeless mass. ‘So cold! And sad, yet so much rage. Uncontrollable, all consuming rage. It’s like I can feel its emotions.’ The feeling quickly made her uncomfortable, trying to pull her arm free. However, the hold it had on her was stronger than she imagined.

    She yanked on her arm a few times trying to free herself, but it only seemed to make worse. Tsukiko rubbed at her arm hoping to scratch it off. Nothing happened still. Then she remembered seeing the swordsman attacking the mist. Turning her sword around, she pulled it away from herself through the mist. It seemed to work, freeing herself, though what attached to her arm still clung to her. A slow drop came from it.

    However, she had bigger problems. Mitsu was completely open and unguarded. She leapt in front of the incoming attack. Even though she expected it, the force still nearly knocked her off her feet. She dug her feet in to hold her position. ‘Come on! If Mitsu was able to hold it off, I should be able to as well!’ The blade of her sword grew brighter for a moment allowing her to breakthrough almost stumbling forward. She immediately charged forward taking the fighting away from them.

    Tripping over a trunk, Mitsu fell to his knees still out of reach. He scrambled over the collapsed tree quickly covering the remaining distance. Mitsuru reached out praying he was still alive. “Umm…sir?” Caution did not seem to get any reaction from him. He grabbed on to him trying to pull him down from spread all over the crumpled tree.

    The young man coughed up blood suddenly from Mitsuru’s moving. Some of it sprayed across his face, startling him even more than the stranger finally reacting. “I’m so sorry! I hope I didn’t make it worse!” He flailed about trying to get him into a suitable position, even though he kept sliding down for several attempts. A few more coughs of blood frightened Mitsuru further. “I’m making it worse, aren’t I?!”

    Tsukiko quickly realized that she could not hold any sort of offense against the demon. When she went too close, the attacks came in too frequently for her to counter anything. All she could do was defend. While too far away, she could not make an attack. She was in a stalemate. ‘Darn it! Do you have any ideas?’

    ‘I’m doing everything I can to keep the miasma from harming you. It means I can’t give you my full power.’

    ‘Then what can we do? All we’re doing is losing here!’

    Suddenly from above, large balls of ice rained down over the area. Most shattered loudly all around Tsukiko. But it managed to freeze everything around her and give her a chance to strike. ‘I don’t know who did that…’ She charged forward taking the advantage.

    Another round of ice fell in front of her path, this time getting in her way. She looked up at where it came from only to see a black figure dashing through the air. A gleaming blade sang through the air leaving a long white flash of light across the demon’s protective miasma.

    Tsukiko suddenly knew who it was. “Katashi.” Almost on cue, he landed in front of her with his back to the demon, as if uninterested. Ice exploded behind him rocking the demon back. He had his same emotionless face, which in the scene he setup actually managed to make him look cool. However, that did not last for more than a second for Tsuki. She leapt forward pointing at him vigorously. “What were you thinking?! You almost hit me with that ice!”

    Unaffected by her rant, he stared at her for a moment. “Leave this to me.” He turned back to the demon and walked away without even hearing her answer.

    “Katashi! You…!” She leaned forward throwing her arms back. “Don’t just walk off after ordering me around! I’m not helpless!”

    Ice shards flew up at them from the demon breaking through Katashi’s attack. There did not seem to be any sign of the demon weakening from his assault. In fact, it only seemed angrier. Katashi did not take it as a bad sign. He only leapt back into the deep of the demon’s territory.

    “Don’t you ignore me!” Tsukiko shouted, charging after him with little regard for her own safety. She was not about to let him fight alone and tell her to stand aside.

    The lack of thought on Tsuki’s part actually seemed to be improving things for her. Though it might have also just been her drive to get back to Katashi. They kept up with the demon, even if there was not much progress.

    A well strike caught Katashi off-guard sending him flying backwards. “Katashi!” Tsuki turned around and went after him. Ignoring the demon proved to be the wrong move. She caught one of the tendrils in her back knocking her into the ground. A rough shape like a meteorite crashed into the earth surrounded her.

    Katashi immediately disappeared and reappeared next to her. A couple of quick slashes fended off the attacks aimed for her. “I told you I’d handle this.” He offered a hand to her.

    Annoyed with him, she stood up on her own. “In this situation, you’re supposed to ask if I’m alright.” She wiped away the blood that dripped down the side of her head. It was only a shallow cut. Tsuki already looked ready for another round.

    “I don’t need your help,” he insisted.

    “Yeah, I saw how well you were doing alone,” she threw back sarcastically.

    “I’m doing this alone.”

    “You’re doing this with me!”

    “Alone.”

    “Together!”

    Mitsuru watched the two bicker. He could not help but sweat a little at their sight. They seemed to have completely forgotten any sense of danger. Yet, they also seemed to be doing alright together. Amidst their arguing, they kept back the demon’s attack. But things were not improving for them.

    He heard a groan that sounded like death opened the gates of the underworld. “You shouldn’t stand!” Mitsuru immediately tried to grab the stranger in their attempt to stand. A bit of blood came up to paint his cloths. “You’re making it worse!”

    “I must do this!” He coughed again starting to fall over, unable to stand.

    Immediately coming to his aid, Mitsuru caught him. “I told you. You’re only making it worse by standing!”

    Pushing off Mitsuru, he staggered forward. He grasped out for his sword, fumbling the first time. The fumble almost made him fall, but stubbornness succeeded in catching the hilt of the sword. Using it as support, he refused to fall. “I will not kneel to a demon!” Shaking and coughing, he pulled himself back up to stand.

    Mitsu rushed over to his side to try to help him. “But you can barely stand, let alone move! You can’t fight like this!”

    He grabbed Mitsuru’s kimono by the collar and pulled him close. The fierce unyielding determination filled his eyes making his resolve clear. “No one tells me what I can’t do! As long as I continue to draw breath I will fight!”

    “Why?! You’re falling apart!”

    “Strength is all I have! I will walk my path and prove my worth through my own actions and no other!”

    Mitsuru could understand how he felt. The resolve the young man had struck a chord with him. He wanted to help, even knowing it would be resisted. “I understand.” Mitsu stepped out in front of him facing away and knelt down. “Let me help you.”

    “What are you doing? I don’t need help!”

    He grinned a little expecting such an answer. Tilting his head back, he looked at him. “Let me help or let me stop you. Those are your options.”

    Silence.

    “Tsuki!” shouted Mitsuru, through the forest. “I need your help!”

    She turned her head not sure where his voice came from. “What?!” He picked a terrible time to want something. “I’m a little busy right now!” Katashi got the upper hand with her a little distracted. “What did I tell you? We’re doing this together!”

    Laughing a bit to himself, she fought with Katashi still. “Can you immobilize the demon?”

    “Why don’t you ask for something harder!” her tossed back.

    “It only needs to be for a moment!”

    “Fine.” She looked over at Katashi with an idea. “I need you to use your ice again, but on the whole demon all at once.”

    “I told you already, I’ll do this myself.”

    “Do it or you won’t get to sit next to me at the table, ever.”

    “As you command.” He landed on a nearby tree branch just in sight of the demon. “I’ll need some time to prepare.”

    “Understood! I’ll keep it busy!” Tsukiko dove into the heart of the miasma. She struggle to hold up a defense blocking everything she could. The fierceness of the attacks seemed to be even worse than before. ‘Give me everything you can spare! I don’t care about my safety!’

    ‘But the demonic miasma is powerful enough to burn away your flesh in minutes!’

    ‘I need everything! It’s the only way we’ll win! Mitsu needs me right now and I’m not about to fail him because you were scared over my survival!’

    ‘…very well…’

    Her sword glowed brightly from within its core suddenly. The light flowed through her body. She felt lighter. However, she also quickly felt the oppressive nature of the miasma choking away at her. It felt like someone poured acid on her whole body one drop at a time. She bit through the pain and charged through for the demon.

    The miasma rolled around her. She completely disappeared from sight, swallowed up. A moment later a bright light pierced through the miasma blowing it away. Two quick slashes from her sword landed on target. Part of the miasma around the demon split away revealing more bones underneath.

    “Secret Ninja Art! Frozen Tomb!” Soft light blue energy swirled around Katashi’s hands. The ground crackled with the dropping temperatures. Grass changed to a white frost. The leaves on the tree looked to be encased in blue glass. Ice formed in thicker patches everywhere. Tendrils leapt up grabbing at anything of the demon. The first branches broke to dust, but more followed with increasing numbers. Ice eventually overwhelmed the demon reaching up to the core.

    “Mitsu!”

    “Right! Now or never!”

    “This isn’t a proper stance,” they answered, sounded embarrassed. “I can’t get the form like this.”

    “Just think of my legs as your legs! We’re out of time!”

    “But…” He sighed in reluctance. “My ancestors must be crying in their shame watching me.” The young swordsman sat upon Mitsuru’s shoulders. It ended up pushing him to a greater height, but it was very awkward.

    “If we win, does it matter?!” he answered cheerfully.

    He had no answer for Mitsu. The demon was already starting to break free from the ice. He was losing time. Narrowing his eyes on his target, he pulled his sword down in front of him. He slowed his breathing. “Now!”

    Mitsuru charged with all of his strength at the demon. The frozen parts of the demon made it easier to keep a straight line. However, the parts that broke free targeted him, the newest threat. ‘Give me everything, now!’ Light expanded over his feet suddenly increasing his speed. He managed the dodge the tendril and insects. Yet the demon was still far away. He had to make it.

    The demon threw everything it had at him. Dodging only kept him ahead of so much. Too much was getting in front of him. ‘Not going to make it…’ Tsuki jumped in front of him cutting away the obstacles. He smiled at her as he passed by her. His feet grew lighter as the demon was in reach.

    Lifting his sword above his head, the swordsman prepared the finishing blow. “Fukushima Style – Secret Technique! Heaven’s Wind! First Strike!” Wind blasted back behind the blade shattering any of the remaining ice. Ice dust danced in the air like a thin silk veil behind his blade. At the moment of the strike, another gale exploded outward in all directions followed by a sudden force sucking everything in to the center like a vacuum.

    Blinding light filled everywhere with the demon fading from sight, swallowed up completely.

    Several seconds passed by the light faded away revealing only Mitsuru and the swordsman. Both laid flat on their backs breathing heavily.

    They had finally won.

    ‘I wouldn’t call that the most graceful win,’ Hisako commented.

    ‘I’ll take it.’

    It was a few minutes before they could move and recover, but it happened very quickly afterwards. It only seemed inevitable given the patterns. Neither of them actually saw it coming. Though neither of them saw any problem with their behavior either. Yet, they were now being punished like children. Mitsuru and Tsukiko, alike, made Katashi and their unnamed stranger sit seiza style side-by-side amongst the ruined forest.

    However, before even Tsukiko could get a word out, Mitsuru leapt forward slapping the stranger in a surprise move. The sound of it echoed through the forest leaving everyone in shock. “Don’t ever say it is okay for you to die!” he shouted. His eyelids started to shake. He looked on the verge of tears. “Think about how your family would feel! You only have one life!”

    “Mitsu…” Tsukiko knew immediately what was going through his mind. She reached out to hug him, but hesitated. It would only be worse for him. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught Katashi trying to escape. “Get back in your spot now! I’m haven’t started with you yet!”

    After Mitsuru recovered his emotions, the two of them laid into both of them with a healthy lecture on teamwork. They both understand a little better why they were being punished, but neither seemed to look to have actually learned anything from it. Neither seemed willing to repent their ways. But it was over, at least until the next them they repeated their offenses.

    Mitsuru offered a hand to help the swordsman back up to his feet. He stumbled a little, but managed to stand. It was then that Mitsuru remembered something important. A couple things, actually. “We haven’t introduced ourselves! I’m so sorry with everything that happened we didn’t get a chance.” A white light bathed him quickly in his transformation back to his original appearance. “I’m Mitsuru Sakakibara!”

    The young man immediately leapt off his feet in surprise and fell over promptly. “You’re—!”

    Following Mitsuru’s lead, Tsukiko bowed to him with her transformation returning her self too. “I’m Tsukiko Sakakibara, no relations.”

    “You too!” He crawled back a little uncertain about what happened suddenly. “You’re different!” Then his eyes widened as if he remembered something. “You’re the two from the alley!”

    The two siblings sweated a little not expected to shock him so much. Mitsuru leaned down to offer him a hand up. “Sorry, we didn’t mean—“ He backed away further from Mitsuru. “We’re safe.” Mitsu walked over to him trying again only to chase him back.

    Tsukiko stepped in stopping Mitsu. “You’re scaring him more, Mitsu. It’s just a transformation we undergo, a side effect of our powers. It’s completely harmless.” She smiled down at him offer a hand up. He seemed a little more willing to accept her.

    “Hey! Why’s he scared of me and not you?!” pouted Mitsu.

    “It’s how you approach it.” She looked back at the swordsman. “And you? What’s your name?”

    Retrieving his hand quickly from Tsukiko, once on his feet, still cautious, he took a step away from them. “I’m Akira Fukushima, 43rd heir to the Fukushima style.”

    Mitsu tilted his head a little confused. “You have 42 siblings?”

    “No, I’m the 43rd generation of my line.”

    “43rd!” Mitsuru started counted on his fingers trying to figure out how old his family had to be for so many generations. It quickly ended up frying his brain.

    While distracted by the logistics, Tsukiko stepped up to question Akira. “What are you doing here?”

    “A week ago, I started detecting an unusual presence in this direction. I came to investigate the disturbance.”

    “You knew about the demons?” She looked over at her shoulder where Tsuneo perched wanting an answer from him. He only gave a shrug, looking about as clued in on the subject as her.

    Akira shook his head. “No, I’m trained in the practical sword arts. This is all new to me. It wasn’t until I was in the prefecture that I realized what I was sensing was otherworld in nature.”

    Tsuki panned her head around the ruins of the forest. Not all of it was the cause of the demon. “For being new, you handled yourself well as though you’ve done it before.”

    “It’s merely my training. I discovered after slaying the second demon that my techniques had gained additional properties.”

    “Additional properties? You mean that vacuum attack you made.”

    “Yes. It’s only a hypothesis, but I believe it came from a need due to the presence of demons.”

    She seemed a little skeptical, glancing back at the spirit. “What do you think?”

    “It’s true that in our time many possessed spiritual powers or other abilities beyond the realm of normal humans. From my observing your time, all that seems to have been lost. But maybe it wasn’t lost, but became recessive without any need for it, as demons were no longer present in your time until recently.”

    “Interesting theory, but—“ Tsukiko could not finish her thought as Akira suddenly collapsed to the ground. “Akira!” She rushed over to his side to check on him. She remembered how injured he was from the fighting. When she tried to move him, she felt the wet warm sensation of blood. His wound was still bleeding out. “Mitsu! Enough daydreaming!”

    “What happened?!” He immediately came to her aid to help Akira to his feet so they could carry him back to the mansion.

    “Katashi!” he summoned, “Head back home and inform Grandfather we’re coming with someone injured! We’re going to need a doctor!” She just finished her orders before he disappeared. Tsukiko checked around the forest trying to figure out the direction of the mansion. “Come on, Mitsu! We need to hurry!”

    A slow progress, they managed to get about halfway back to the mansion with only minor problems. Fatigue weighed heavily on Tsukiko and Mitsuru equally, though Mitsuru showed it more often. In the latest, he completely lost his balance tripping over something pulling them all down.

    He immediately pushed up from the soft ground. “I’m so sorry, Tsuki! I must have tripped on a tree root or something!” It was his attempt to try to pre-empt the berating. When he tried to push himself back to his feet, he slipped and fell on his face into the soft ground. He tried again, not paying attention. “I’m sorry, Tsuki! I must be more tired than I thought from the fight.”

    “Mitsu,” called Tsuki. She had salvaged Akira as much as possible, but she needed Mitsu’s attention, which seemed difficult in all of his apologizing. “Mitsu.” He continued to miss her words. “Stop moving!”

    “I’m sorry!”

    “Stop apologizing!” He suddenly looked like a frightened dog that knew nothing about what he did wrong. Tsuki sighed and gathered herself. “Look at the ground before you make things any worse for yourself.”

    “Ground? What are you talking about, Tsuki?” Mitsuru began to turn his head down, but yelped immediately. “There’s a girl on the ground, Tsuki!”

    “Yes…there is.”

    “What’s a girl doing there?! There shouldn’t be anyone out here in the forest at night!”

    “I agree, but you have more important problems.” She pointed closer to him at the situation he was in.

    Mitsu looked closer a little confused by her. However, once he saw, he understood immediately. His heart started to pound almost outside of his chest. There was not enough red in the world to paint his face the shade of embarrassment he felt. He laid haphazardly over her legs and waist with his hands under her blouse. Her blouse was pushed up enough to show her stomach. She had a general roughed up appearance that could easily start misunderstandings that Mitsuru would never be able to talk himself out of. “This isn’t what it looks like, Tsuki!” Mitsuru pulled his hands up trying to back away from everything.

    She could only sweat watching him and the situation getting worse. “Mitsu you flipped her blouse…”

    “Ack!” Frantically, he pulled it down and end up touching her warm skin again, which made him back away. A series of blunders later, he was off her and the teenage girl was restored her dignity. “This is all just a misunderstanding! I didn’t mean to do anything of this, honest!”

    “I know. I was here.” Tsukiko leaned over needing to get close to the girl to get a look at her face in the night. “The more important question is who is she.”

    “And what’s she doing in the forest,” he added. He looked closer at her. The moonlight danced through the trees of the forest to only give thin beams of light on the girl. It was just enough to reveal numerous bruises and tears in her cloths. There was even a little blood, but nothing too serious. “She looks like she’s been tossed off a cliff. You don’t think she was…”

    “…in the forest during our fight with the demon. Considering the strength of the attacks tossed around, we might have accidentally injured her.”

    “I had no idea.” Mitsuru’s voice sank quickly. The weight of his actions fell on his shoulders unexpectedly in a way he never imagined. He knelt down and picked her up into his arms. “I’m taking her back to the mansion, Tsuki!”

    She saw the look in his eyes. It only confirmed what she felt before looking at him. “But Mitsuru—“

    “You can’t stop me!”

    Sighing again, she paused to rephrase. “I’m not going to stop you. I was just going to say you’re not at fault. You couldn’t have known.”

    Mitsuru stood up shifting the weight around a little to manage the girl. “I should have. It’s because I wasn’t strong enough to control this power.”

    “Mitsu…” It was pointless she knew. She could not say anything to convince him otherwise. All she could do was keep walking with him back to the mansion. Signs pointed to a long night, a very long night.

    -X- -X- -X-

    A couple hours passed once they arrived at the mansion. It was a long wait on a doctor, but they finally came to tend to Akira’s injuries and even examine the mystery girl. Mitsuru stayed at the girl’s side the entire time despite protests from the doctor. Tsukiko remained outside of Akira’s room during the whole exam.

    Once the doctor finished, she greeted their Grandfather. She was a middle-aged woman that seemed to know him well by the way they talked. “You don’t need to be so formal, Daichi. I’m just glad I made it in time.”

    The twins poked their heads out from around the corner of the hall, which led back to their guests’ rooms. “Is he going to be alright, Doctor?” Tsukiko inquired.

    She bowed politely to Tsukiko never completely having a proper introduction due to the emergency. “I’ve treated all of their wounds. Though the one of his back was very deep, he seems to have a very strong will to live. He’ll make a full recovery in time.”

    “Thank you, Doctor!”

    “Yes, thank you!” added Mitsuru, looking visibly relieved. His eyes glanced back at Akira’s door with something clearly on his mind. ‘A strong will to live…I’m glad…’ While he stared at the hall, he noticed a head pop out. It disappeared almost immediately, realizing Mitsu saw them. ‘It’s the girl we found. She’s probably really confused right now. We did just sort of take her back while she was unconscious.’

    He walked away from the others not drawing their attention. The door to the girl’s room was closed acting as if it was never opened. Out of politeness, he knocked. “Umm…can I come in?” Silence. Mitsuru stood for a minute in awkwardness. He was not sure if she was mad or frightened. “You don’t have to be scared. We found you out in the forest unconscious.” He paused, but still nothing from her. “I’m sorry we brought you here without your permission, but you looked hurt. So we wanted to make sure you safe.” More silence. “Umm…hello?” Nothing still. “I’m Mitsuru Sakakibara.”

    The continued silence made Mitsuru even more uneasy. He wondered if she fell asleep or even unconscious because of some trauma she suffered in the forest. Nothing was known about her. They did not even find a student ID on her.

    Duty or maybe it was concern. He had a reason, just was not sure what the reason was. Something compelled him to push forward despite everything. “I’m going to open the door,” he announced as a final warning just to prevent any sort of indecent accident from happening. After his warning, he waited enough time to ensure a chance for reaction or response.

    It was a risk, he knew it, but he had to do it anyway. He opened the door, still very cautious announcing his presence again. The room was dark. The light was on when he left. Mitsuru looked around the room trying to find the girl. His sight was not adjusted yet making it nearly impossible to see anything. “I’m turning on the light…” Nothing seemed to be in the room but darkness.

    Reaching for the light switch on the wall, he fumbled a bit misjudging the height. It only took a second for him to correct. The moment his hand hit the panel a hand stretched out catching his hand asking him to stop. Almost as though coming out of a veil, the girl appeared to him. “…um…” She was very close to him. It caught him off guard. “Y-you don’t want the light on?” He could not think of anything else to say.

    She said nothing to him. He could only guess from her actions. Pulling away his hand seemed to calm the air. So it must have been the right answer. She suddenly disappeared back into the shadows. “Wait! I just…wanted…talk…” He tried to chase after her, but she did not seem to be there anymore. Mitsuru turned around trying to find her.

    All he had to help him was the crack of light from the hall where the door slid partly open still from his entry. The minutes that passed eventually let his sight improve until more shapes came to him. He could finally see a form that seemed like the girl. She sat folded up sitting in the corner as far away from him as possible. ‘She’s scared. She probably thinks I’m some kidnapper. This is a strange house.’ A perplexed expression came across his face trying to think up something to reassure the girl.

    He tried walking over to her with a hand out and a smile, though she probably could not actually see his smile for it to work on her. Unfortunately, it only seemed to draw her back further as though she became the wall. Mitsuru sat down in the middle of the room as a compromise. “I didn’t kidnap you, honest!” he blurted out. He rubbed his finger on the side of his face realizing something. “Though I guess that probably doesn’t sound very convincing. Probably makes it actually sound like I did kidnap you.” Pushing his foot over the tatami mat, he tried thinking of something to say. “But I really didn’t. This is just my family’s house, sort of. We’re sort of borrowing it. Oh…I guess that isn’t helping my cause either. Uh…this isn’t a kidnapping please believe me!”

    The awkward silence from her increased the tension in the room. Mitsuru struggled for anything to say. “I-uh…I’m Mitsuru Sakakibara. Oh I already said that didn’t I? Er…what can I do to convince you… I’m running out of ideas.” He looked over at her. “Do you have any ideas?”

    “Maybe you should just say you kidnapped her,” responded Hisako, suddenly from his sword. “Might make things easier.”

    Her voice made Mitsu jump and fall over. Once he recovered, he grabbed his sword. “Please not now! You’re only going to make things even worse!”

    “I’m just saying maybe she’s into that sort of thing.”

    “W-Wh-W-What do you think you’re saying?!” Mitsuru face went bright red, which actually managed to light up the room a little from his embarrassed glow. “You shouldn’t be saying things like that!”

    “What? There’s people like that.”

    “It’s inappropriate! I mean she just woke up in a strange room not knowing how she got there with someone she doesn’t know.”

    “Who is a ventriloquist that talks to inanimate objects.”

    “Right, who talks to swords.” Mitsuru paused for a moment. “Hey! What are you making me say?!”

    “I didn’t make you say it.”

    “Yes you did!”

    Sudden, laughter broke out from the corner interrupting the two. Mitsuru turned completely confused by what happened. It was the girl. She finally heard her voice, soft innocent almost sweet sound. It was very different from other girls he knew, especially one he could think of. “What just happened?” He looked back at Hisako and then the girl, who continued to laugh until she lost control. Mitsu stared at Hisako confused.

    The spirit merely looked up at him with a bit of a knowing smirk. “I wonder,” she replied before disappearing.

    Mitsuru used the chance to move a little closer. The girl seemed to start to recover, noticing his approach. He extended a hand out to her again. “Mitsuru.” There seemed a little hesitation in her, but he felt there was a breakthrough. One more push was all he needed. “You can call me, Mitsu, my friends do.” Tempting his opportunity, he stretched out to connect with her. His hand moved closer and she did not move. He was in reach. “Mitsu.”

    Still hesitant, she slowly moved her hand, though several times stopping or looking like she would turn back. She managed to put her hand on his. “Izumi.” She smiled shyly, darting her eyes away frequently.

    “Hey Izumi.” Mitsuru smiled relieved to have reached finally her. He slowly stood up helping her to her feet. “Welcome to my home.” Everything seemed to move smoothly for him. He cracked her shell. “I know this is sudden, but I’d like you to see the others. I don’t want you to be scare seeing someone you don’t know alone.” She pulled on her hand. He knew she wanted to back away. “I’ll be with you the whole time. It’s safe. Whatever happened in the forest you don’t need to worry. Nothing bad will happen.” His words seemed to reassure her, though her hand tightened around his hand looking for support. ‘I hope. Chie’s pretty normal, but Katashi is just odd…Please nothing bad happen!’ With Izumi in hand, he guided her into the hall. He checked for her to be sure it was clear. The worse thing to happen would be someone frightened before even getting out of her room. ‘Looks safe…’

    Mitsuru walked her out into the hall. She remained behind him the entire time, as well as standing very close. It almost felt like she walked on his heels. He kept feeling like he would trip. In the distance, he heard talking. ‘Good, sounds like everyone’s gathered in the main room.’ Keeping up his smile, he nodded to Izumi encouraging her to follow. He felt the shaking of her body through her hand. ‘What happened to her to make her so frightened?’

    The reasons for her fear would have to wait for Mitsuru. He felt he managed to achieve a lot with just getting her out of the room. It might be too early to think about what happen in the forest or if it was something deeper.

    In route to the main room, they passed an intersection in the halls. Two maids bowed politely to Mitsuru. Izumi immediately turned to put him between her and the maids. He started to realize what he took on.

    He found everyone gathered around the table. It looked like dinner was ready, or ready a while ago. Mitsuru did not know how longer they spent in the city looking for Akira or fought the demon in the forest. They were probably very late.

    “Sorry for not making dinner! But well…you know why.” He looked back at Izumi, feeling the need to be sure she still stuck with him. “I wanted to introduce everyone to our other new guest.”

    Tsukiko slid out a little from the table to look at him. “So that’s where you disappeared off to. I should have guessed.” She stood up to introduce herself. When she walked over to Mitsuru, Izumi rotated around him, still using him a barrier. “…uh…Mitsu…”

    “I’m sorry, Tsuki.”

    “I’m Tsukiko Sakakibara.” She tried offering a hand out for a greeting, but Izumi actually yanked on Mitsu to pull him away. It confused Tsuki the way she acted. “I won’t hurt you.”

    He apologized again for Izumi. She tugged on him letting him know she wanted something. Turning, Mitsu leaned back and she whispered into his ear. Shaking his head, he corrected her. “No, she’s not my sister.” Realizing what happened next, he immediately turned around to calm down Tsuki. “Everyone thinks that when we introduce ourselves! It’s okay.” The visual signs of annoyance frightened Izumi. “Please, Tsuki you’re scaring her.”

    With some reluctance, she returned to the table. It allowed enough room for Mitsuru to coax Izumi over. She insisted on sitting next to him, as he sort of expected.

    “This is Izumi,” he introduced. He then pointed out for her everyone at the table. “That’s Katashi Higashiyama, Chie Okazaki and our Grandfather Daichi Hyobanshi.”

    “We couldn’t find any identification on you, Miss,” Daichi remarked. He lowered his teacup to the table. “Is there someone we can contact to let you know you’re safe.”

    Izumi leaned up against Mitsuru putting part of her behind him. She did not even manage a head nod or shake.

    It should have been an easy question. Mitsuru worried if might be a runaway. ‘Did her parents beat her?’ He rested his hand on her hands to try to calm her. “She can stay as a guest, right?”

    “I have no problem it providing her shelter, but I do want to notify her parents or guardian.”

    Pressing the matter did not change anything with Izumi. “It doesn’t have to be tonight, does it? She went through a traumatic experience. She needs some time to recover.”

    “Very well. I won’t press the subject. If she doesn’t want to say, I won’t force her. We welcome anyone, no matter the circumstances.”

    “Thanks, Gramps!” Chie cheered, eating up a bowl of rice despite already eating earlier. After she finished, she set her bowl down. “Speaking of welcoming guests! We don’t have a full table yet!” Snapping her finger, Akira suddenly popped from the air into Tsukiko’s lap.

    Akira immediately leapt off her and went for his sword as his waist. “Where am I? What’s going on?”

    “Calm down, relax!” Lazily, she motioned with her hand to direct him to a seat at the table. “We’re having dinner! Eat! The food’s amazing!”

    “What do you think you’re doing?!” yelled Tsukiko. “You’re acting like this is your home!”

    “Well it’s not exactly yours either, you’re just borrowing it after you blew up your real home.” It was an easy trigger for Tsukiko and Chie seemed to know it. Though Chie acted like she was drunk off food again, being very boisterous.

    “Please Miss Chie.”

    “Yeah, yeah. Just sit little boy, they made the food for you too.” She pointed back at the line of maids politely standing by the wall.

    Reluctantly, Akira eased his stance. He darted his eyes around looking at everyone gathered. Some suspicion seemed to settle in him, but the nagging from Chie brought him to the table, at least.

    Mitsuru leaned in a little, after he helped Izumi get some food. “How’d you do that?” he asked Chie, motioning to Akira.

    She grinned mischievously. “Just something I learned from the maids.”

    “Huh?”

    After everyone started eating and peace seemed to return to the table, Chie decided to break it again. She just finished stuffing herself with rice again. A few pieces stuck to the corners of her lips. “You’re a girl and you’re a demon.” She stated pointing her finger at Akira and Izumi.

    Akira immediately stopped eating unable to respond and Izumi just hid behind Mitsuru. Tsukiko dropped her hands to the table in protest to defend them. “They’re our guests! Don’t insult them!”

    Nodding, Mitsuru was slow to follow up due to Izumi. “Why would you say that?”

    “Because it’d be more interesting if it was true.” Chie laid back to the mats becoming far too comfortable after blurting out something so random.

    “Don’t say things like that on a whim! You’re being rude!”

    Standing up, Akira bowed politely to them and started marching off to the front door. “Thank you for your hospitality, but I should be going.”

    “Stop!” Tsukiko jumped up rushing out in front of him. “You can’t leave! You’re not recovered from your injuries.”

    He pushed her aside with no interest in her concern for his health. “I’m fine. I can walk. I don’t need to rest.”

    “I agree with Tsukiko,” their Grandfather declared. He did not leave the table, but managed to exude a heavy commanding presence on the room. “The doctor informed me you need at least a week of rest. I can’t in good conscious allow you to leave.”

    “Right!” Tsukiko stepped in front of him again blocking the door.

    “You’re also a visitor to our town. You need shelter while you stay.”

    “I must not stop! You cannot keep me.”

    “I insist.” His words were polite, yet the room lost all of the warmth suddenly. Everyone could tell it was no longer a request or even polite despite the words. There was a deep tone hidden in his voice that could not be ignored. It unnerved everyone.

    Akira tried to pretend he was not afraid holding his left hand on his sword’s hilt. “I can stay for a night.”

    “And that was how we gained two more guests. Two very mysterious people. But our troubles had hardly even begun as we’d soon discover.”

    To be continued…

    Character Profile – Tsuneo Shigenoi

    Name: Tsuneo Shigenoi
    Age: 19 (Though he is dead so he is a ghost and technically over 1000 years)
    Gender: Male
    Height: 5’11” (179 cm)
    Weight: 154 lbs
    Hair Color: White/Gray
    Hair Style: Shoulder length hair tied back loosely with short bangs and two strains of clamped hair.
    Eye Color: Orange
    Arch Type: Ghost/Spirit that possesses the female main character
    Appearance: He has a very ornate appearance, heavily over dress with design, colors and layers of clothes. He has a very strong and serious look, but often looks a little silly and dumb with the way he is trying to enjoy his afterlife.
    Powers: Spiritual Powers that are mainly channeled through the sword for sharpening it.
    Personality: When he was alive, he had a very serious attitude, but in death freed from all of the weight that was on him he is able to enjoy life. He acts a little forgetful or absentminded, but in general is cheerful and tries to enjoy everything that can experience. He is willing to help Tsukiko with her problems even if she does not approve of what he is doing.
    Likes: Hisako, Carrots, Rice balls, Anything that is fun
    Dislikes: Demons, Narrow-minded People, Natto, Sweets
    Curious? There's no limits but your own imagination.
    Don't know how to roleplay, but want to learn? Visit Here!


    2007 and 2009 Best Writer of TFF and 2009 Most Creative Co-Winner



  10. #10
    The Quiet One Twin Moon Andromeda's Avatar
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    “Stay away from me!” shouted Akira, throwing the teacup at Mitsuru. He managed to duck in time, though the wall was now wet. Akira picked up the tray to toss next, but the strain on his wounds caused him to fall out of the futon.

    Mitsuru saw he needed him and tried to rush in to assist. Unfortunately, his help was still unwelcomed. Akira batted him away with the tray, stubbornly keeping him at a distance. “I’m just trying to help! You’re injured!” Even Mitsu managed to have a little stubbornness, while getting his face smashed in by the tray. His hand stretched out for Akira looking like he was attempting to strangle him rather than help.

    Anger raced through the lines of wrinkles in his eyes. “You’ve already done more than enough to help me!” He shoved Mitsuru back and off his feet, finding the strength. “How much longer must you trample over my honor?”

    “How is helping ruining your honor?”

    “Get out!” He threw the tray at Mitsuru. It forced Mitsuru to scramble around making it for the door. Akira lifted his sheathed sword in his direction. “I don’t want to see your face again! Out of my sight, cross dresser!”

    He had the door sliding closed during the last comment. Bravery or stupidity, Mitsuru poked his head back in at Akira. “I’m not a cross dresser! It’s a spiritual transformation!” The sheath went flying at the wall ordering him to shut the door. He needed one last thing. He slid the door open quickly one last time. “And I can’t help it!”

    Mitsuru stood up and walked away from Akira’s room. “What’s his problem? He didn’t have to bite my head off. I just wanted to help.” Frustrated and a little depressed, he shuffled down the hall.

    In the distance, shouting went unheard until he was almost on top of it with them screaming in his ear. Mitsuru looked up from his haze to find his—Tsukiko pounding on a door. “What’s wrong?” His voice was too soft to be heard.

    “Open this door!” Tsukiko threw up her leg to kick the door down.

    Immediately, Mitsu ran to grab her from behind. “Stop sis! You can’t smash the door!”

    “You can’t stop me, Mitsu!” Though half off her feet, she still rammed her foot into the door. Despite the effort or maybe surprisingly, nothing happened. She pounded on it a few times before Mitsuru dragged her away along with the help of the maids.

    Panting a little from the effort, he needed a moment to recover next to her. “You could have broken the door! What were you thinking?”

    “Tch!” She crossed her arms, still annoyed. “I knew it wouldn’t do anything. I already tried to cut it with my sword.”

    Mitsu leapt up to his feet shocked at her. “Why did you use your sword?!”

    “She locked in a maid.”

    “Huh?”

    “The new girl that dangles around your arms everywhere in the house!”

    “She doesn’t dangle!” protested Mitsuru, “She’s just frightened! She’s been through a traumatic experience after being caught up our fight with that demon!”

    Tsukiko narrowed her eyes, staring at Mitsuru. She glanced over at the door. Suspicion in her eyes was all too clear. “That’s no excuse for frightening someone and then locking yourself in the room!”

    He did not know the whole situation, but he wanted to calm things down. Mitsu tried to comfort her to get her emotions leveled off. “She’s scared. We just need to give her time.”

    “That’s not the problem here! No one can get into the room! Even the maids are scared!” She threw out her arm to point at Izumi’s room. “She can’t be frightening the other people living here if she’s going to be staying!”

    “You’re violent tempter probably did more to frighten everyone,” Mitsuru slid in, mostly below the radar. It still managed to get picked up by Tsukiko, who glared at him. “I mean, what do you mean she’s locked the door? It’s just a door. We should be able to open it, none of the doors here have locks. It’s really old like that.”

    Tsuki flung her arm in frustration at the door. “It’s like I said. She’s locked herself in the room. She did something weird and nothing can get through!” She dropped back down on the tatami. “Believe me, I’ve tried.”

    Sweating a little at such a response, Mitsu believed she did try everything, probably a few things she should not have as well. “Well why don’t you let me try to talk to her?” Another thought came to him. “I tried to help Akira, but he threw me out, very insistently.”

    “You mean he threatened to kill you again,” she corrected. It was hardly the first time since Akira arrived that Mitsu tried and failed.

    Protesting weakly, Mitsuru crossed his arm to defend himself. “No! He didn’t threaten to kill me.”

    “Oh?” She slid her eyes over at him slyly not believing him.

    “Yes!” Mitsuru stood up, knowing he was not going to win the argument. He had other matters to face.

    Grinning a bit, she stood up catching up to him a little. “So you ran off before he had the chance.”

    “Naturally.” He motioned off the maids as he approached the room. Any slightest hint of someone else would make her crawl into her corner. “He says that he lost against the demon, even though he was the one that got the killing blow. I don’t understand him.”

    “He was riding on your shoulders. As final attacks go, it was pretty embarrassing. It’d be a sore spot for me too.”

    “I helped him! He should be happy!”

    Tsukiko shrugged as she continued on pass him. “I don’t know what to tell you, Mitsu. He doesn’t see it that way. Some warrior’s pride or something. Maybe it’s a macho, masculinity guy thing.” She waved bye to him.

    “I’m a guy too!” he insisted, as though it needed to be said or else it would not be true.

    “Yes you are,” Tsuki replied with a dismissive tone.

    Mitsuru pouted a little at the way she answered him. “What do you mean by that?!” She kept walking until disappearing around the corner. “I don’t like that tone!” Nothing. He sighed and looked over at the maids, who still had not left. “I am!” They giggled between each other before leaving.

    He knocked on Izumi’s door. A random thought came to him in the middle of the action. “Hey, she didn’t correct me when I slipped up earlier.”

    Suddenly the tray, Akira used, which Mitsuru left behind, came spinning around the corner of the hall to whack Mitsuru upside the head. “No, I didn’t!” she yelled from down the hall.

    Chapter 9 – Closed Minds

    Mitsuru started to knock again, but paused in the middle. A familiar argument crawled around the hall to his ears. It made him smile a little.

    “Would you stop following me?!” snapped Tsukiko. She interrupted him before he inserted his usual catch phrase. “Yes, I know I’m you’re true love! But that doesn’t mean you have to bother me every minute of everyday I’m not at school!”

    “I haven’t for two days as you requested. You’ve made no agreement about today. So I’m here.”

    “Two days, really? Huh…” Some unintelligentable sounds came out, when she realized that was not something she should be focusing on. “Argh! Really?! Do I have to babysit you everyday to tell you what to do? I have bigger problems right now than dealing with an emotionless romantic failure!”

    “Yes, you’ve been spending time with the guest in this room. In fact, you’ve been spending nearly all of your time with him.”

    “How would you— You have been following me!” She paused for a moment. “Wait, are you jealous? Do you actually have emotions?” Something happened, but Katashi made no answer. “Pushing the sides of your lips up doesn’t count! Now go away! I have busy to take care of!”

    He tried to knock again, but someone interrupted him this time. “What are you doing Miss Chie?” Her hands slung over his shoulders as she leaned up against him. Careless or not, her hands were too playful for a casual visit. However, Mitsuru managed to steel himself.

    Chie pouted a little disappointed by the lack of a reaction out of him. She leaned in whispering in his ear. “You looked a little sad with Tsukiko getting all of the attention from the guys. I thought I might perk you up a little.” She grinned a little going in for the strike.

    “I’m more concerned about Izumi right now. Please, Miss Chie, she’s easily frightened by others.”

    “Hmm…” Pulling back, she looked a little disappointed with the lack of a reaction from him. “Already got your sights on someone. I see how it is.” It was her last attempt, but it seemed to fail as well. She back off completely and walked away waving to him.

    Once Chie completely disappeared, Mitsu fell against the door with a deep sigh. His entire body shook. “She’s so scary. Holding it in was painful.” He knew how much she loved to tease him. It took everything he had to resist any sort of reaction. Fortunately, his mind was more focused today, so he had the strength.

    “I knew it!” she shouted from around the corner, “You couldn’t fool me.”

    Mitsuru attached himself to the ceiling in an instant from fright. His face turned deep red a moment later. She smirked up at him pleased with herself. “Why you keep doing that to me?!”

    “You’re just too much fun to toy with, Mitsuru. You’re quite adorable you know.” The embarrassment increased in Mitsuru face making Chie even happier. “Well I’m hungry now.” She looked around for a maid and quickly disappeared following her next base instinct.

    He needed a minute to shake it all off. Mitsuru rested against the door. “She still got me…”

    “Hello, I’m Mitsuru Sakakibara. I used to be an ordinary high school student until I accidentally awakened a spirit possessing an ancient sword. Now it seems demons have started roaming once again and I must protect Mashita. Due to some circumstances, we’re living in this large mansion. We have several guests staying with us all with unique personalities.”

    “Pick up the pace! You’re taking too long to summarize!”

    “R-right! Needless to say, our lives have become very lively.”

    A minute later, Mitsuru knocked on the door to Izumi’s room. He remained a little hesitant, not because of her, but from all of the interruptions. However, he seemed able to continue, finally. “Hey Izumi, it’s me, Mitsu. I’m alone. Can I come in?”

    Silence.

    It seemed as though even he would not be accepted. Drawn out to awkwardness, he hovered in hope of a change. His hope ended up paying him back. The door slid open just a crack. Inside the room seemed so dark that it actually bled out into the well-lit hall. However, like a beacon of light in the night, he saw a flash of Izumi through the door. It was only for a second before she vanished almost immediately. “Izumi…” She was already gone by the time Mitsuru reacted with his hand reaching for her. ‘She must be so scared.’

    Waiting a few moments, he opened the door when he felt enough time passed. She accepted him, but it was still a cautious one. He hoped she would get use to the mansion and be comfortable with everyone. Mitsuru could only keep the hope for himself unfulfilled. The progress he made with her on their first night appeared to be completely lost. He had only one piece to latch on to anymore. ‘She still trusts me. But I can’t be here all the time.’

    He smiled his best smile for her. Only the comforting and warm side could be shown to her. ‘I have to hide all of my worries and doubts. I don’t know what’s hurt her so deeply, but I can’t make it worse for her.’ Mitsuru knelt down in front of her. She was crawled up in the corner like the first time. “It’s okay, Izumi.” He offered her his hand. “I’ll protect you.”

    Around the corner and down the hall, Tsuki managed to get rid of Katashi, though it was merely a delay. She knew he would be back in time. However, she had other problem matters to deal with in front of her. Knocking on the door, she announced herself. “Akira, it’s me. Tsukiko.” She received no reply from him, which was about the norm. ‘We’ve picked up two anti-social people. What are the odds of it happening in the same night…’ While they had similar desires to be alone the way they acted differed them completely.

    Tsukiko did not bother waiting for long before opening the door. She found him lying on his bed. As she walked in, she felt the wet tatami mats from where Mitsuru spilled the tea. “You’re making trouble around here for everyone.”

    He did not look at her. Akira’s eyes remained fixed on the ceiling. “I asked to be alone.”

    “You’re in a house filled with other guests and my family, on top of staff. That’s going to be a little difficult.” She stopped next to the futon and folded of her legs to kneel next to him.

    “Which is still a simple request. None of you need open the door.” His words seemed to trigger his body to move, but his wounds reminded him of the mistake. He lowered his head back down. “I’ll be gone once I’ve recovered.”

    “You still need food and liquids. You can’t recover without it.”

    “Leave it in the hall.”

    She crossed her arms staring down at him in disbelief. “With your injuries? You’d starve trying to crawl over to the door. You’re injured allow yourself to be treated as one.”

    He tightened his hands over the sheets in frustration. “I’m not so weak that I can’t feed myself.”

    It was going to be a challenge dealing with him. Tsukiko was not going to be able to change things with just yelling at him. She had been doing that to him for days with no success. “You claim to be a samurai. So try having some humility for those that are showing you charity.” She immediately stood up, finished with him. The look in his eyes told her enough. Pausing at the door, she looked back at him. “The maids will continue to deliver your food. I’ll keep Mitsuru away from you, but work on your attitude if you are who you claim to be.”

    Holding on to his hand, Izumi hovered a few centimeters from his back. It always felt like she breathed down his neck. He could feel her warm almost pressing on him. Repeating it did not make it any less awkward for him. Fortunately, the red in his face disappeared after the first couple of minutes.

    It was his idea. It seemed like a good one at the time. He just did not plan for the reality of her. Mitsu tilted his head back to her. “Izumi…” She was really close. He wanted to back away, but her hand kept him close. “Um…are you fine?”

    She only nodded. Hearing her voice was a rarity. Most times, she would only move her head for an answer. It limited the range of answers he could get from her. He hoped to hear he speak more often. It was a voice he would never forget.

    “Well this is the…um…” He looked around the room realizing that he did not know where he walked them. It was a large room with some ancient armor lining one wall. “The armor display room?” The sight of the room made him realize how many places he had not seen yet in the mansion. “Didn’t even know we had one.”

    Mitsu glanced back to check on Izumi. She looked comfortable enough, even if she still clung to his back. “I guess this is a pretty bad tour if I don’t even know about it.” A bit of nervous laughter escaped his lips. He just wanted her to feel safer.

    Suddenly, his sword appeared at his side with the spirit Hisako popping out. She opened her mouth, but was immediately interrupted by screaming. Izumi pushed off Mitsuru crawling away from him. As he turned, the sword hovered nearby him, following him only making it worse. He tried to approach her, but she just kept backing away. “Izumi. Please!”

    He backed her towards the wall with the armor on display. She only wanted to escape and did not pay attention to her surroundings. The moment her foot hit the leg armor was the start of the end of everything. She leapt in fright throwing her back into more of the armor. It started a chain reaction knocking all of them over. The one she fell into leaned forward coming for her as she stuck herself to the tatami.

    “Izumi!” Mitsuru leapt in to cover her from the falling armor. He managed to protect Izumi in time. The weight of the armor pressed him down. He struggled to hold himself up. His left arm fell out from under him allowing the armor to slide off his back. Mitsuru panted lightly relieved to see Izumi unharmed. “Izumi…”

    Unfortunately, she did not feel the same way. Her eyes ran wide with fright trying to move, but not having the strength. Mitsuru did not understand what happened. It was then that he realized something was wrong. His right hand was holding on tightly to one of her breasts. He immediately pulled away and flailed in a futile effort to apologize. He expected to be hit, but instead she fled the room crying.

    Mitsuru dropped to the tatami and rolled over on his back. “I screwed up…” He stared at the ceiling with his entire mind feeling blank.

    It took what seemed like hours for him to stand up and even longer to start moving again. Eventually, he found himself out in the forest. By the time he hit the forest, his mind began to turn again. ‘What could I have done differently? How much did I traumatize her?’ Now that his mind worked, all he could think about was replaying the events to fix them. He wanted things to be different.

    It pounded at his chest.

    Mitsuru itched at the problem. He could not let it go. His eyes could only see Izumi. He wanted to understand her. Everything had to be so careful around her that he could not even peak behind the veil to see the real person. He wanted to see who it was underneath.

    The pounding knocked on his bones.

    It would not leave him. Twisting his mind into circles did nothing. He never saw a way out. She needed help, but he only made mistakes. He screwed up. ‘What should I do? I’m just going to hurt her again…’

    The earth nearly threw him into the air.

    “Mitsuru!”

    He was awake finally. Though his mind was working, his focus left the world around him completely in darkness. Mitsuru remembered he was in the forest. However, he did not remember the horrid smell of an oni standing before him, it’s massive mouth open looking to eat him whole.

    Mitsuru stared up at the sight for a moment in shock. “Oh.” It was about all he managed. Saliva dripped down from one of the oni’s teeth dowsing Mitsuru cheek in an acid like sting. He immediately rubbed it off and threw it to the ground.

    The oni fell down the rest of the way, no longer willing to wait on his meal. His mouth clamped down into the earth. Bits of vines, leaves and other plants stuck between its teeth. It pulled back dripping chunks of debris from its mouth.

    Landing on his feet a few meters away, Mitsuru managed to escape in time. He stared for a moment at where he could have been. Then he immediately looked over to Hisako. “Why didn’t you say something sooner?”

    Visibly annoyed, her face thinned a little. “I’ve been trying to tell you. That’s the reason I appeared in the first place. I sensed it roaming in the forest.”

    He quickly caught up on events and remembered her popping up. “You’re the reason, Izumi’s frightened!” Mitsu snapped up the sword.

    “I believe most of that’s on you.” The oni roared again and began charging for Mitsuru. “We can discuss this later!”

    “Fine!” Mitsuru unsheathed the sword preparing for the oni. It swung a giant carved trunk with thick hunk of bone stuck through the end. The blade scrapped against the bone sparking before the force knocked him back.

    His spirit hovered around him, as he lay prone. “You need to transform! Your body can’t take the physical blows.”

    Pushing the sword into the ground, he lifted himself back to his feet. “I know. I just have to be smarter about it.” Blood dripped down his arm from a gash he sustained from his fall against a rock. The pain forced him to focus harder as a reminder. Everything felt like jelly after only one attack.

    Mitsuru charged in at the demon thinking he was faster. While large, the swing of the oni’s weapon was swifter than he expected. He leapt forward rolling away as chunks of earth peppered his back. Mitsu rolled away coming to a stop behind the oni, his sword out of his hand.

    “What do you think you’re doing?! If you don’t transform, I’ll make you!”

    Dirt caked now, he crawled over to his sword. He was on his feet, but did not feel any better after the second round. “You said it before. Our spiritual powers are weak, right?”

    “Yes, you’ve only just awaken to them. You need time to adjust and learn how to harness what’s inside you.”

    The oni began to turn around in search of Mitsuru. He clung to the sword with two hands. “Now’s a good time as any to start learning! This is the weakest class demon, right? If I can’t beat this on my own power than what do stand against the more powerful ones that will eventually come.”

    “You’re not thinking straight! You’re in no condition for that. You need more practice!” Hisako floated around his shoulders catching a glimpse of his eyes. “You’re not thinking about the swordsman and that that demon are you?”

    “There’s more than one of them, right. The Demon Lords.”

    “The gateway is too small for them to fit their power through. That won’t happen!”

    “Then how did that one get through?”

    “I don’t know!”

    “Then another could as well.”

    Mitsuru charged for the oni, while it still came for him. He ran for its legs taking a swing. The blade barely made it into the skin of the oni. The hit made his hands sting as though hitting a rock. Unfortunately, he made the mistake of stopping, which the oni took the opportunity to pick him up by the back of his shirt. “Let me go!” He flailed around waving the sword in the air as he was brought up to the oni’s mouth.

    He received another whiff of the nauseous breath. It made him want to throw up, but he had bigger concerns. The oni planned to eat him without much of a thought. He slid down a little closer to its mouth, worried it was the oni’s doing. His shirt came up around his arms stretching out from his weight. Mitsuru looked up with his arm being pulled at by his shirt. Swapping hands with his sword, he turned it around and cut through the cloth.

    The oni’s open mouth looked ready to receive him as he fell. Its massive teeth poked up behind its dark lips. Mitsuru by luck landed on its teeth sliding down a little using the lips to stop himself. Disappointed and surprised, the oni failed to react to the delayed meal. Mitsuru moved around trying to balance himself.

    Unable to balance everything completely, his body leaned forward looking to fall. Mitsuru lifted his sword up in time to ram the blade into the oni’s eye up to the hilt. Blood sprayed up over his face as his weapon began to sink deeper into the oni’s head. The oni flailed about grabbing at its face after Mitsuru, eventually throwing him off.

    Thrashing around the forest, the oni slowly came to a halt as death finally took hold. It fell over with the expectation of another earthquake, but it already began to disappear before touching ground.

    It was over.

    Mitsuru laid on his back not interested in moving. Everything seemed to hurt. He was not sure if anything was broken, but it felt like it. “I won…”

    “That was reckless,” Hisako threw back, popping out of his sword. She had the upper half of her formed enough to show her arms crossed in annoyance.

    He glanced down at her. “You could have transformed me at any point.” She did not have much of an answer for him after that.

    Once he started feeling better and the pain faded to the background, he stood up to collect the sword. He looked back in the direction of the mansion. It reminded him the reason he went out at the start. Hesitation settled into his body turning his legs into lead. Mitsuru sat down on one of the fallen trees, likely from their fight. “I have to apologize to her, but that isn’t going to fix anything. She locked herself in her room just because the maids frightened her a little.”

    He sighed left to his thoughts. It did not seem to be getting any better with a new round of brainstorming. “It feels like I’m so far back that I can’t even see the starting line anymore.”

    “You’re just making assumptions right now, Mitsuru. You don’t even know what she did after she left.”

    “I can make a pretty good guess. I thought I was making progress!”

    “You were, you just need to keep trying.”

    “But what if I just make a mistake again? She’s already afraid of everyone! And now probably me too!”

    She could see how much it troubled him. Hisako floated in a little closer. “It can’t get any worse, right?” She grinned a little hoping to a smile or some laughter out of him. “If she’s afraid of everyone, she can’t go further than that.”

    It was a painful thought for him, but he did give her a bit of a grin. “Yeah…”

    “So just go try again! You can’t make things any worse than they are now.”

    Mitsu had to think about it. She did seem to have a point. He stood up feeling a little better. “You’re right! I just have to keep trying! I can’t give up after one mistake! Tsuki wouldn’t stop.” The heavy feeling in his legs disappeared allowing him to walk.

    “There you go!” Hisako smiled seeing him back in a better mood. ‘There’s probably worse, but I can’t tell him that.’ She pushed the dark thought to the back of her mind. She believed he would be able to succeed.

    Moving out in front of him, she hovered while he walked. “I’m curious though. Ever since you found her, you’ve been very insistent about helping her. Why?”

    He pushed aside a low branch looking for the path. “No real reason,” he answered, but he could see she did not believe him. “At the start, I mean. When I found her, I just wanted to help her from what looked like the result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I did feel responsible. But it’s different now.” The forest started looking a little more familiar to him. He did not realize how far out he went.

    “Oh? What’s different now? Because you’re the only one she is comfortable with?” She moved around to his other side.

    “I guess you might think that and maybe it is some of it. But I want to help her.” He paused for a moment as though lost in thought. “You see our grandfather is always helping out anyone that came to our shrine. It didn’t matter who they were, if they were in need of help he did so. Even a criminal one time.”

    “A criminal?”

    “Yeah. He didn’t care about their background or anything.” Looking around, he found where he needed to go. The walk resumed. “He told us repeatedly, when someone is lost it doesn’t matter how they got there only that they need help. So he never turns anyone.”

    “So that’s why you want to help her?”

    “A little bit, but I guess it’s a little more selfish than that.”


    “What do you mean?”


    “Grandfather helps people, even Tsukiko helps out. I feel like I’m always been left behind because I’m weak or too cowardly. But she trusts me or did at least. So this is something only I can do. I want to help her, because I can. I don’t want to always be the same weak-willed Mitsuru that Tsuki has to protect.”

    Hisako smiled a little more after hearing his reply. “I think you’ll do fine with that attitude.”

    “I hope so! But I won’t stop trying! If I want to change I can’t give up easily!”

    A few hours later, Tsuki finished helping tend to the injuries Mitsu sustained from his fight. He was put to rest in his room. She quietly closed the door behind her. “I can’t believe how reckless he was. And getting hurt!” She paced around in the hall stuck in her thoughts. “Why didn’t he come and get me? I could have helped him!”

    “He did win,” Tsuneo inserted, trying focus on the positive.

    However, she did not want to listen to his spin. She stretched around grabbing him. “You sensed the demon too right? Why didn’t you tell me?”

    He hesitated on an answer for her, which did not like anymore than what seemed to be expecting from him. “Hisako said she’d handle it. We thought you might still be a little stressed out from the last incident…s…”

    “Because of that, Mitsu’s all beat up!” Tsuki drew him up close to her face. “Inconvenience me as much as you want! Leave Mitsu out of this! He’s not strong enough to take it on alone!”

    “I think you’re underestimating him,” he snuck in quickly, before her glare threatened to slice him in two for speaking out of turn. “I understand.”

    With everything air out, Tsukiko walked off towards the main room. She was not in the mood for anything, but the maid did not seem to know that. One of the general staff of the mansion came up to her. “Yes?” she asked, trying to keep her emotions in check.

    “Could you deliver this to Master Akira’s room?”

    “What?” Her emotions flared up immediately hearing his name. She stepped into the maid’s space staring down at her. It was not the intention of her to be intimidating, but she managed it without effort. “Is he turning you guys away again? After everything I said to him!” Tsukiko grabbed the tray from the maid’s hands roughly and started marching off.

    The maid stretched out her hand looking like she had something more to say, but lost her chance.

    “I’m going to be him a piece of my MIND!” She stomped down the hard wood floors threatened to pop a few of them up. The food barely managed to stay on the tray.

    Keeping to the back side, Tsuneo managed not to go into hiding. “I’m pretty sure you already did the last time.”

    “Then another!”

    ‘You’re going to run out of what little you have at this rate…’ he thought, knowing better than to say it aloud. However, she still tilted her head back at him to glare. It turned him all blue surprised that she actually heard him. “How’d you know what I said?”

    “I didn’t. I could just you were thinking something disparaging.”

    Tsuneo disappeared into his sword.

    At Akira’s door, Tsuki barely remembered to knock before opening the door. She found him seated on the futon seiza style. Her raging emotions kept her from being able to form words immediately. This was actually to her benefit.

    “You came, Miss Sakakibara.”

    “With your FOOD!” Unfortunately, she did not wait any longer. A lot of her troubles would have been avoided. However, she let her temper get the better of her. She threw down the tray at his feet causing it to spray everywhere, especially on him. “I was being polite last time, but I can see you didn’t listen to a word I said! You’re a self-centered arrogant man who can’t see a helping hand beyond your own body! All you talk about is honor and pride and swords this and that! Try living in the real world for a moment and realize none of that stuff is going to get you anywhere! This isn’t the warring states era anymore! People are allowed to be weak, it isn’t a crime! And helping people isn’t a sign of weakness! If you weren’t injured I’d kick your butt around this room right now for your ungrateful attitude that you’ve shown me and my family!” Tsukiko only stopped because she needed to breathe for a moment.

    It was in the moment that he took that chance to step in the middle of the tirade. “You’re correct. That’s why I asked for them to call you here.”

    “And YOU’RE—“ She paused seeing him bow formally to her in what had to be extremely painful considering his injures. Tsukiko immediately felt bad and embarrassed about everything she said. Her face went red no longer knowing what she should say. She rushed over to him insisting that he sit back up. “Y-y-you’re injured. You shouldn’t be doing that!”

    “But I must show my sincerity.” He tried to bow again, but she stopped him.

    “I understand, I accept! Just stop bowing!”

    Akira returned to his rigid sitting posture. “I thought about what you said. You were right. I’ve been insincere and ungrateful to your kindness. For that, I apologize.”

    “I-I-I…” She felt so relieved that everything seemed to drain out of her. Tsukiko collapsed to her feet.

    He stretched out a hand to her. “Are you alright?”

    “Y-yeah, yeah, fine.” She pulled herself back up straight.

    “I wanted to thank you for what you’ve done for me and allowing me to stay in your home.”

    “You’re welcome!” Tsukiko looked down at the tray realizing what she had done to him. The food was all over the room. Her face went red again. She reached out trying to pick off the food. “I’m so sorry! I threw the food at you!”

    Reaching out a hand, he gently stopped her. “It’s fine. I deserve more for my behavior.”

    “No! I shouldn’t have done it! You’re our guest!” Tsukiko stood up to run for the door. “I’ll go get you more food!”

    Akira moved with surprising speed for someone injured. He managed to grab her wrist before she got out of his reach. “Please stay. For a little longer.”

    His voice made her heart beat a little faster for a moment. He was so close to her. “F-for a minute…” Tsukiko looked back at him with her face turning red again. She sat down across him from. Some awkwardness grew out of her unease with the situation. Her body was reacting in a way she did not understand. “Was there something else you wanted?”

    “While you do not view weakness as a flaw, my upbringing is different. Strength is important. I can never show weakness.”

    “But everyone has something. You can’t be perfect!”

    Lifting his hand up, he wanted to stop her before she went any further. “I understand that. I don’t deem myself to be perfect, that would be the height of arrogance. But I do strive to remove or correct any that I find. My loss…has shown me how much more training I need.”

    “You didn’t lose though. We beat the demon.”

    “For me it was. So I must ask I be giving my solitude.”

    “Huh?”

    “I appreciate your kindness and hospitality, but I need to be left alone aside from those times you need to bring me food. I need to focus on my weakness.”

    Tsukiko suddenly felt like she lost all of the ground she made with him. It did not feel like everything was gone, but that it sort of defeated the purpose of the point she tried to make. “I understand.” However, she had to take what she could and work to improve things. She smiled at him.

    It was a step.

    Later into the night, Mitsuru woke up from his sleep. His body still felt sore, but he was finally free. The other times he woke up the maids or Tsukiko stood watch on him. If they saw what he wanted to do they would have stopped him. He slid open the door slowly not wanting to make a noise.

    “What are you doing Master Mitsuru?” his personal maid asked, standing just outside his room.

    Sweating a little, he looked up at her surprised to find her. “I thought you had all gone to sleep.”

    “I’m your personal maid, I don’t leave your side at these sorts of times.” She stepped forward politely to insist he return to his bed. “Besides, I’m not human. I don’t need sleep like you to right now.”

    He was cornered. Mitsuru threw his hands together to pray for her mercy. “Please let me go! I need to do something!” She stared at him unwilling to move. “It’s nothing dangerous! I’ll go back to sleep after I finish!” No movement. “Please! This is important! If I don’t act now it might be too late!”

    She stepped aside. “One minute.”

    “Thank you!” Mitsuru rushed out of the room into the hall. He had to make it to Izumi. ‘I hope she’s awake!’

    The hallways seemed longer, but he reached her room. He tested the door out of curiosity. It was locked. ‘I figured.’ He pushed forward. Mitsuru knocked on the door, not sure where she was in the room or if she was even up. “Izumi? It’s me, Mitsu.” He lowered his head trying think of how to word things. “I-um…I’m sorry about what happened earlier!”

    Mitsuru pressed his hand up to the door. He hoped she heard him, but he did not expect a reply from her. “What happened was an accident. I wouldn’t do anything to hurt you, please know that. I just want you to feel comfortable here.” The words were just coming out of him, but he did not know where he was going with it. He slid down resting his back against the door as his legs started to give him trouble. “You’re welcome here, to stay as long as you want. Everyone here is really nice. They don’t mean anything bad. You don’t have to trust us immediately, but it’s my hope that I can see you laugh again rather than cry.” He felt lost with his words. He was not sure if he should keep talking or if he said too much. It was what he felt.

    Inside the room, Izumi looked up from her corner. With some hesitation, she stepped out. She slowly made it over to the door. Her hand lifted to the door rubbing the same place where Mitsuru placed his hand. She held her hand there. It felt warm.

    “I promise I won’t give up on you, Izumi!”

    To be continued…


    Omake Theatre

    The creator held up their hand to the four best friends crowded around their table. “I already know what you’re going to say.” They sighed. “You need a new joke. This one’s already run its course.”

    Hisoka narrowly looked at the creator, “Says the one making yet another Omake focused on it.”

    “I’m hoping to end it here.”

    “We have a contract!” Kiyome shouted, waving the signed agreement they all made.

    “Under duress, I remind you. I can’t believe you physically assaulted your creator.”

    “Well you’re slacking on your duties,” replied Etsuko.

    “Right, so what’s your idea for ending this creative civil war between us,” Kichiro asked.

    The creator sweated a little at the thought. “Creative civil war? That’s a bit much isn’t it?”

    “We’re aren’t in agreement yet, are we?”

    “I still have two characters left to introduce. But the first promised chapter in your contract is coming up. It’ll be immediately afterward.”

    “Oh?” Hisoka said with some suspicions.

    “You said you’d give us time before and proper introductions, but you’ve just made most of all out to be insensitive taunting jerks!” Kiyome reminded.

    “But Tsukiko is so easy to tease, I mean come on.” The four looked at each other and nodded in agreement, reluctant.

    “Hey!” piped up Tsukiko through the window before Kiyome drew the curtains. “Don’t ignore me! You’re making fun of me again!”

    “A whole chapter focused on your character,” the creator answered, pulling up the draft details. “Look.”

    “Impressive, but this is only one of us.”


    “Yeah, what about the rest of us?”

    “In time, I’ll get to you.”

    “But why does he get the first chapter.”

    “Because of all of the stuff I have to put up, it only makes sense,” retorted Hisoka.

    “What?!”

    “But what about my back story, it’s really deep and moving!” Kiyome said.

    Etsuko grabbed Hisoka, “And mine’s tragic and comedic!”

    “Hey, don’t forget all of the layered parts of my story,” Kichiro reminded. “The hints that have already been laid.”

    “I deserve it, I have more hints!”

    “No, I’m more important!”

    The creator sighed to themselves. ‘Glad that worked. It’ll keep them off my back…for at least another two chapters…’ The creator looked over at something. ‘Yes, you can look forward to Chapter 12 – Surprisingly Cool, staring our always angry totally not nerd, Hisoka in his full chapter back story debut! Look forward to it!
    Curious? There's no limits but your own imagination.
    Don't know how to roleplay, but want to learn? Visit Here!


    2007 and 2009 Best Writer of TFF and 2009 Most Creative Co-Winner



  11. #11
    The Quiet One Twin Moon Andromeda's Avatar
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    Two empty thuds collapsed. They laid next to each other. Both panted heavily with sweat covering their bodies. Even their bodies heaving up and down from breathing was too much to bare from their fatigue.

    Spirit particles faded into the air from a dispelled transformation. Neither could keep fighting. They had to fight, but it was not possible. Everything failed. They could not win.

    It was over.

    Tsukiko looked over at Mitsuru. She stretched out her hand for him. The warmth in his hand still felt strong even with how weak he appeared. “Mitsu…”

    “…Tsu…ki…” He smiled softly at her in his unique melting smile. “…sorry…” Suddenly, his breathing stopped. His body no longer moved or pulsed.

    Alerted, Tsuki jumped up wide eyes in a panic. She sat on top of him leaning down trying to hear anything. Nothing. Panic pushed deeper to fear. “Don’t you die on me, Mitsu!” Grabbing him by his collar, she lifted him up shaking him. “This won’t be the end! Not like this!” In all of the shaking, she missed movement from Mitsu. He poked her leg trying to get her attention, but it was too weak.

    Gasping for air, Mitsu came alive for a moment. “…help…can’t…”

    “Mitsu!” In her excitement, she leaned forward, her legs pressing harder. “You’re still alive! Keep fighting!” Unfortunately, it seemed he was getting weaker. She shook him up again since it seemed to have worked the first time. However, it actually just made him dizzy, which oddly enough gave him a little more life.

    “…sis…” He reached out with his hand for her help.

    Seeing the plea, she leaned down to hold his hand. “What is it?”

    “I can’t breathe…you’re…crushing…me…”

    “Eh?” Sweat dropped down the back of her head as she looked down realizing that it was her fault. She immediately leapt off and sat beside him. “It was your fault for not breathing!” she threw back, to deflect away from her embarrassment.

    A dashing shadow passed over head, interrupting any further conversation. The movement was so fast they only saw sparks of a collision against the onihitokuchi. Demon blood sprayed across the whole forest from the attack. However, the wound quickly healed up before a second attack could be made. It did not detour them from attacking again.

    It was futility. The not-real siblings knew it.

    Recovered enough to stand, but not really much more than that. They were not really in a position to keep fighting or help out. The swords felt like a thousand kilos. Completely immoveable. Dragging them behind them was the only option that remained. It slowed their walk, turned crawl, but they kept forward.

    Fortunately for them, they sort of met in the middle with them coming to them. Tsukiko reached out for them, curious to know who it was. Once she saw them, her face ran flat not surprised. “Figures it’d be you, Akira.”

    Mitsuru stepped out in front of him. “You shouldn’t over do it! You’re still recovering!”

    “I’m fine…” he replied before spraying out a heavy amount of blood from his mouth. Akira wiped away most of the blood, though a thin stream dripped down his chin. “I’m fine.” He stared forward confidently, completely ignore the fact that he threw up a dangerous amount of blood.

    The twins turned to stone almost staring at him in disbelief. Tsukiko cracked through her petrifaction first and jumped out in front of him. “Don’t act like you didn’t just cough up enough blood to donate!” She grabbed onto him to keep him from moving, however his cloths were unusually thick and heavy. “What?!” It was blood, soaked into the fabric. She ripped up his long shirt to see the bandages on his torso completely crimson. “Your wounds!”

    Akira slapped away her hand. “I can fight.” Unfortunately, determination only went so far. His face went pale and collapsed into Tsukiko a moment later.

    “You idiot!” She caught him quickly from falling.

    “Did someone call for a hero!” asked a familiar voice from the canopy of the forest. Masanori leapt down from a tall tree to land with unusual perfect grace, not making his normal messy entrance. Maybe he was learning some control. Though that could be a little too much to ask from him, probably. But it was best to take what you can get from him. “Is there some trouble you’re in need of me rescuing you from?” Okay, maybe he can learn, but he still has a lot of work.

    Not in the mood, Tsuki glared over at him. “No! Now’s not a time for your hero games!”

    “Did he just admit to being an idiot?” Mitsu asked on the side.

    The restored oni started to stomp forward once more, alerting everyone to the danger. Masanori jumped out in front with an eager expression. He wanted a fight. Tsukiko and Mitsuru supported the unconscious Akira, neither strong enough to keep a fight going.

    Tsuki looked around in search of a solution. “We can’t win! Retreat!” She started to pull back along with Mitsu, who quickly agreed with her.

    “What?!” exclaimed Masanori in surprise. He turned part way to look at them. “A hero never turns his back on the enemy!”

    “Then run backwards!”

    “Ally of justice!” He stretched out his arm to grab Tsukiko. It still puzzled him that a hero would flee in the sight of an enemy. “We must fight!”

    She reached out and grabbed his collar. “Listen here! We have someone too injured to fight. One top of that, both of us are too exhausted to keep fighting! We need to retreat, recover and come up with a new plan!”

    Of course, Masanori did not understand any of it. He heard the beast roaring again. It pulled his attention away, though Tsukiko’s hold on his collar did not break. “There is evil that must be vanquished! As long as I draw breath I’ll keep fighting!”

    “What is it with you men?” she commented in a low voice, reminded on how his single mindedness reminded her of someone else. However, she was not about to let Masanori dive into the same trouble they did. She pulled on his collar to bring him back to her face. “Listen to me! We’ve already fought it! Attacks are pointless! It’s able to regenerate any damage too quickly for us to kill it! Anything you do will just be wasting your energy. Come back with us. We’ll kill it later. I promise!”

    Her words seemed to reach a part of him as he began to show signs of hesitation. He looked back at the evil monster. It appeared completely unharmed. Masanori ground his teeth together frustrated. “I have to do something.”

    Tsukiko could see she had him finally on her side. She knew he just did not want to feel helpless or unneeded. He needed to feel useful. An idea came to her. “Fix those talismans of yours?”

    “Huh? Fixed?” He tilted his head not sure what she implied.

    A sigh came from her lips. “Figures. I guess I should have told him they were wrong. You got a blank talisman?” He nodded, producing a blank talisman along with the brush and ink needed to write an incantation on it. Tsukiko took one of his failed talismans from him as well. “Hey spirit, where’s the mistake on this?”

    “I have a name,” he muttered, appearing out of the sword. He hovered over to the talisman in Tsukiko’s hand. His semi-transparent hand pointed out the error and the needed substitute to make it work as intended.

    “Here.” She handed it back over to him. “You should find this is be more effective than your other talismans. I’ve imbued it with my spiritual power.”

    Masanori’s eyes lit up like a child on his birthday receiving the toy he wanted all year. “Really! You truly are amazing, Ally of Justice! I can fill your power surging within these words.”

    “Just remember, this only will seal the demon for a short period of time. So we can escape and come up with a strategy for dealing with it. Don’t fight it or everything will fail. The world hangs in the balance on this! You understand?”

    “Yes!” Masanori eagerly charged off after the demon.

    Their window of escape came and the siblings wasted no time getting Akira out. Tsuneo floated around in front of her. “The world hangs in the balance? Imbued? You don’t know how to infuse your power.”

    “Yeah, but he doesn’t know that. I just said what he needed to hear in a way that he’d understand.”

    His expression turned a little sly as he grinned at Tsukiko. “You already figured out how to handle him.”

    “Well he’s got a simple mind, not too hard to figure out.”

    Chapter 10 – The Silent One

    After returning to the mansion and putting Akira to bed, they gathered out in the main room. Tsukiko and Mitsuru laid back in the couch completely exhausted from the fight. Neither were sure they would be able to recover enough for another fight. The spirits reminded them the demon would not be held for long by the seal.

    “Hello, I’m Tsukiko Sakakibara. I used to be an everyday high school girl until an accident on my birthday left me stuck with a possessed sword determined to have me defend the city against invading demons.”

    “We’re getting to this really late, Tsuki.”

    “However, demons haven’t been my only problem. A bunch of weird guests have started living in my house now as well. So I have to deal with annoying men, fight demons and try to maintain my school life. My only wish is a normal day.”

    “She ignored me…”

    Before they could start into any real discussion, their grandfather came out of the hall. “I’ve called the doctor,” he informed. The wounds Akira reopened needed further attention. “Can you remind your friend he’s supposed to be resting if he wants to recover?”

    “I’m sorry, Grandfather! He’s really stubborn.”

    “Indeed he is. I worry for his health.” It did not take long for him to notice Masanori sitting in an accompanying chair. He probably saw him the moment he entered or always knew of his presence, but he did not make it visibly known until now.

    Tsuki immediately picked up his diverted gaze. “Sorry, with everything happening I didn’t get a chance to introduce our guest!” She motioned her hand over to Masanori.

    In a surprise bit of proper etiquette, Masanori stood up straight as a board. He bowed deeply in greeting to their grandfather, the head figure of the family. Once he stood up, he addressed him. “Sorry for the intrusion, sir! I’m Masanori Aida.”

    Their grandfather stared at Masanori in silence for a lengthy period of time. The lack of anything other than intense staring made it difficult to know if he was mad or something else. “You’re not from around here.”

    “No, sir! Akabuchi is my hometown.”

    “Akabuchi, Aida you say.”

    “Yes, sir.”

    Tsukiko could tell that something seemed to trigger in her grandfather’s mind. It had some familiarity to him. She leaned forward a little curious. “Do you know his family?”

    He shook his head. “No, but the family name is familiar. I recall there used to be a shrine in Akabuchi run by the Aida family.”

    The mention of it suddenly made Masanori shut down. Tsuki could see the light seem to fall out of his eyes. “Masanori?” She tilted her head up towards him standing near her. ‘What’s wrong with him? Did grandfather say something wrong?’ The fact that she had never seen Masanori act with any sort of emotion besides overzealous enthusiasm made her a little concerned. “Masanori, do you know what he’s talking about? Is that your family?”

    No reply.

    He seemed completely closed from reality. It worried her even more, enough that she stood up to check on him. There remained a pulse of life in him, despite being unreachable. “Grandfather? Do you know something?”

    “Nothing really. The Aida’s shrine closed down during the Taicho Era. I heard it was an ancient family watching over the shrine for more than a millennia.”

    “That hardly sounds like nothing,” commented Mitsuru. “Do you know anything else?”

    “No. Aida’s a fairly common family name in Akabuchi because of the old family. So he may not even be closely related.”

    ‘Probably explains a few things. He did say before that Masanori might be related to a demon hunter or priest. So he’s a priest…’ It still left her with a lot of questions about him. His reaction to the mention of his family the biggest of them all. However, in his state she did not think she would get much out of him. “Thank you, grandfather. Could you give us some time?” She hinted at Masanori, enough to be clear to him.

    Granting her request, he politely departed company with the kids. He was no more blind to Masanori’s reactions than Tsukiko. He left it on her.

    Tsukiko snapped a finger in front of Masanori hoping to get a reaction. Nothing. He really seemed stuck in his own world. She moved in closer to him waving her hand in large motions. “Masanori? You in there?” No reaction from him only drew her in more. He needed to wake up.

    “What are you doing?!” shouted Mitsuru, from the side. He already started to climb the table to pull her away.

    A little confused by his over-reaction, she looked back at him. “What do you mean? We need him to wake up so we can talk about the demon.”

    “Yeah, but look!” Shaking his hand roughly, Mitsuru pointed out to her his problem. Unfortunately, she did not seem to understand anymore than before. “Look at how close you’re to him!”

    “Eh? This is Masanori.” She really did not understand his problem. It was just Masanori. There really was not a reason to get worked up over him. Sure, he was good looking, but the guy was a hundred-percent grade A idiot. They did not make them any better than him. It was trying just standing next to him when he was going off on one of his hero speeches. Who would have any interest in him?

    Tsuki looked back at him. Seriously, nothing but appearance. It was Masanori. She was not so shallow. Nothing but an idiot. A true idiot. Could not be anymore of an idiot. Some god must have blessed him with god-like idiocy.

    An idiot.

    However, Mitsuru was right. She was too close. Tsuki back away. Her fist flew through the air slugging Masanori in the jaw. He spun a full 360 degrees in the air before landing back in his same position, but relocated two meters away.

    Mitsuru jumped up from the table frightened at her reaction. “What was that for?!” He threw up his hands in front of him panicked over the treatment of their guest.

    “What?” She threw out an accusatory finger at, possibly maybe no-not-really recovering, Masanori. “He was getting too close to me!” Her face looked a little flushed and she clearly was trying to change that quickly.

    “Weren’t you the one?”

    “What are you talking about? It wasn’t me, he was doing it?”

    A disbelieving look came from Mitsu. ‘Rewriting reality…’ However, they had bigger problems. “…the demon…”

    “Where’s the demon?!” Masanori shot up like lightning, knocking the table and nearly flipping it. His fists were up shaking with energy or excitement, not sure which (probably both knowing him). “I’m going to show it the power of justice!”

    Tsukiko grabbed his fist, after calming the table, and pulled at him to sit. “Cool it, hero.”

    “We need to come up with a plan!” Mitsuru declared, working on focusing their energy back to the more important task. They had a demon roaming free in the forest. One they were unable to defeat. And no doubt coming to them, it was the only saving grace for them. Since the demons were drawn to spiritual powers, theirs were the biggest and most appealing to demons. So the town was still safe.

    “He’s right. We need a plan,” re-enforced Akira. He picked a spot alone at the table. Both of the siblings seemed to leave him a little wary.

    Akira’s presence at the time brought both up to their feet. “What are you doing?!” Tsukiko got in first ahead of Mitsuru.

    “You’re injured, even more!”

    An odd bit of silence came from him. Both expected to be immediately rebutted by bravado filled denials. “Yes, I’m aware of my body’s condition. Which is why…” He actually seemed to get a little red across his nose. “…ory role.” His words started off weak. Clearly, the effort pained him.

    Neither of them could sense the mood very well. Confusion and worry were the only things on their mind. Worry more than confusion, but definitely confusion too. “What did you say?”

    “You should get some rest, Akira.”

    “If you’re not feeling well…”

    “…elp…with…lan…” His voice broke out too much for anyone to hear clearly. Most of it seemed under his breath, stressed almost too painful.

    “Huh?”

    “I couldn’t hear you.”

    They ended up leaning in forward to Akira. He started turning more red in the face, though more from annoyance than anything else. They already made him repeat himself. It was torturous. “I said, I’d help you come up with a plan!”

    Backing off a little, noticing his anger finally, they returned to their seats at the table. “You should have said so at the start.”

    “I did…”

    “Only to plan though,” insisted Mitsuru, knowing his tendency to his warrior pride.

    “Yes, I know my body is in no shape to fight.”

    It was a surprisingly quick acceptance of his situation, that Mitsu walked around the table to check on him. He placed a hand on Akira’s forehead. “Maybe should return to your room.” Mitsuru felt it was a clear sign that if he was agreeing then he was far too injured to be sitting at the table with them.

    Naturally, Akira disagreed with such concern and contact. He grabbed Mitsu wrist and twisted it quickly to put him kneeling on the mat in a single fluid motion. “I told you not to touch me.”

    “You’re healthy!” Mitsu tapped the tatami mats trying to get released from Akira very strong grip. He continued to apply pressure to the arm, clearly wanting something else from Mitsu. “I’m sorry for touching you!” Even through the pain, he seemed to understand what Akira wanted him to say. Like always, he was very touchy about being touched.

    Akira released Mitsu after that apology. “Very well.”

    Crawling away back up to Tsuki, though she glared at him a little for running to her. He sort of felt like everyone was picking on him. However, he did not really get a chance to voice any of his concerns as the meeting resumed normal discourse like it never happened.

    “So what’s your idea?” the hero of justice, Masanori boomed through the room. His eagerness to fight and to do the just thing nearly made the rice paper on their doors curl. “I’m ready for round two!” He started pounding his fists together with eagerness.

    “Settle down,” chided Tsukiko with a hard back handed whack to his arm. She then refocused the attention back to Akira, who had the idea. “What’s are your thoughts?”

    Nodding, he straightened himself a little pretending the injures were nothing. They still clearly bothered him by the position he forced himself into. But his determination and resolve were so strong no one was going to tell him otherwise. Plus, they needed to hear his plan, as they had none at the moment. “The demon is able to regenerate after every blow we make. It was the reason that we were unable to defeat.”

    “Yeah, it didn’t seem to matter how much we sliced it up, it just came back together.”

    “Every enemy has a weakness,” Masanori boldly asserted with no actually useful backing to his words. He merely had to stop the more negative approach. His positivity was certainly something.

    “Right,” coughed Akira, “That’s close. But I suspect even attacking the weakness would do nothing. The problem is the regeneration.”

    “But you have a plan,” Mitsuru confirmed.

    “I do. The only way to defeat a demon that is able to regenerate from any wound you make is to kill it before it’s regeneration can start.”

    “But we already attacked it a ton, no matter the damage it always came back.”

    “We weren’t doing enough damage. However, it starts to regenerate immediately even after the first attack. So you can’t do it in multiple attacks. To defeat this demon, you must deliver a single powerful blow to it that will kill it outright. If you do, the regeneration won’t have a chance.”

    Tsukiko looked over at Mitsu for a moment. “That makes sense.”

    Suddenly, Tsuneo popped out of Tsukiko’s sword and hovered over her shoulder. “I agree. During the fight both of us came to the same conclusion.”

    While the agreement was nice, she still did not like the admission that he just made. She grabbed up her sword, shaking it a little at the throat. “If you figured that out while we were fighting, why didn’t say anything?!”

    “We couldn’t. You were so focused on the fight, that we weren’t able to actually come out.”

    Hisako popped up from Mitsu’s sword with a hand resting against her cheek. “Yeah, you were just stripping me bare and rode me so roughly.” Her face turned a little red from her comment. “You were so savage.”

    “Don’t say things in a way that can be so easily misunderstood!” Mitsuru’s face went completely red even before he finished talking. She had completely embarrassed him with her teasing. He thought that they had an agreement.

    Waving her hand, Tsuki dismissed it all. “No one of us here are actually misreading what she saying, Mitsu. We know what happened.” She glared over at Hisako for wording things is such a crass way. It cleared disappointed the spirit that Tsuki did not jump or react the way she wanted.

    Well everyone except Akira. Clearly Masanori was too wired for justice to understand innuendo. But Akira understood and nearly as red as Mitsu. They seemed to be having a contest over who was more embarrassed. “R-Right, the plan…”

    Grinning like a cat, Hisako rested her head on both of her hands. “Two toys. This will be fun.” A cube of sugar suddenly flew through Hisako’s head completely dispersing her ghost essence.

    “Enough from the peanut gallery.” Tsuki looked back over to Akira. “Well we have a plan. I have to insist that you return to your room, Akira.”

    “I will.”

    “Everyone else, we’ve rested enough!”

    “Right! Justice can’t sit while there are demons out threatening the innocents.”

    “Yeah, yeah, reel it in a little, hero.” Tsukiko whacked him in the head with her hilt. But they had a plan finally. One that had a measure of success. Though they still had one matter of concern. One that they did not really think of until it was sort of too late.


    “Look out!” shouted Tsuki, as she grabbed onto Mitsu to pull him out of the way of the demon’s attack. Following up behind her though was Masanori taking on the full blast of the demon’s strength all the while carrying a huge grin on his face. He really was having the time of his life fighting for justice.

    “We probably should have figured out how we were going to kill it on one blow!” commented Mitsuru.

    The siblings rolled over the earth as they managed to avoid everything. Masanori kept up with the demon for the moment. Which gave Mitsu the time to sit up and look at his sister. “We didn’t think about how we were going to do this, sis—“ A sharp hit cut off his habit. “Tsukiko!”

    “I know. We didn’t really think this part through. I just sort of figured we focus on power or whatever and it’d all just sort of solve itself.”

    “That’s bad planning!” Panic ran through his voice as the ground jumped under them. Masanori was doing a great job with the demon keeping it away from them. Though he seemed to have completely forgotten the plan. He was just having a fist fight with the demon, since his talismans did nothing. Mitsu sweated a little watching it play out.

    Hisako popped up again entering into their conversation. “I bet that’s how she plans on getting a boyfriend too.”

    “No, she focuses on trying to be short as possible. So she doesn’t wear heels and slouches a lot.”

    “Still the height complex.”

    “You…two…” Angry veins popped up on Tsuki’s forehead just before she unleashed her fury on them. She punched both of them on top of their heads leaving steaming marks behind. How she hit a ghost none of them questioned.

    “You will need to give over to our power.” The female spirit suddenly went serious. Her husband popped up and agreed with her.

    Tsuki still had problems with the suggestion. “We already give ourselves over to your power! Didn’t you say that’s why we look like you?!” She pointed out the fact that she was currently a man. Whenever they unleash their power it altered their appearance.

    “In part yes, but you’re still holding back. Though it appears that you’ve been taken over, you’re still resisting us. You still are fighting the power.”

    “Because I don’t like looking like this!”

    “You need to accept things. As Mitsuru has.”

    “Mitsu?” Tsukiko looked over at him a little confused by her statement. She did not know what the spirit was meaning. Every time that she looked at the two they were fighting. Mitsuru did not look like he had accepted the spirit anymore than she had. He was the only that understood like her what they were dealing with. They were together, supposedly.

    He lowered his head a little. “Sorry, Tsuki.”

    “When?”

    “Not too long ago. I wanted to be able to help you. I didn’t want to be a burden for you.”

    “You’re not ever a burden! We’re together, only us!”

    “But you’re always fighting and struggling alone. I didn’t want you to be alone. I wanted to stand next to you. I wanted to help.”

    “Mitsu…”

    “Unless you plan on confessing your love, you need to do something,” Tsuneo teased. Tsukiko immediately throttled him, but he pointed weakly over to Masanori. “Your hero of justice isn’t fairing so well right now.”

    “Urgh…” Tsuki saw him go flying from the last energy blast from the demon. He cursed to the demon for cheating by not fighting with its fists. He seemed to be doing alright, but she could see how much he was panting and worn out. ‘This is the second time to fight that he fought and both have been one sided. He’s not going to last.’

    She grabbed up her sword. ‘So it’s me. I thought I had accepted my fate to fight these demons. But I guess there’s still a part of my that didn’t want any of this. The only way I can win is if I fully commit everything.’ Her hand clinched the hilt tightly.

    Fate or destiny, she did not like the sound of either. Accepted or not, she never liked the notion. She thought she always directed her own path. It was a cheap word to use when you thought you stopped believing in yourself. Yet she still used it. There was so much out of her hands now that she really thought it felt like fate. She had no control of anything. It felt like someone was using her as a puppet. She wanted to know she had control.

    ‘I can’t win without them. I’m not strong enough alone. I need their power to win or I can’t keep living. I need to accept him…’

    Suddenly the blade in her hand started to glow brightly as it took over her whole body. She could feel everything changing. Washing of memories that she did not understand ran through her mind in a complete jumbled mess. ‘What am I seeing?’

    ‘My memories from when I was alive.’

    ‘Your memories?’ She could feel a strange weight of sadness overwhelming her. It surrounded her from all sides. It was foreign and familiar. She knew it and understood it, but did not. It confused her. She was not sure if his or her memories.

    ‘Yes. Since you’ve fully accepted my power we’re bonding closer than before. My memories are in my power, so it is natural that you would see them. But focus on the demon right now. The memories will only distract you.’

    “Right!” Tsuki stood up and turned to face the demon. Everything about her was ready to finish. “Let’s put an end to it!”

    “Wait!” shouted Hisako.

    The sudden start nearly knocked her over after she already psyched herself up. “What’s wrong? I’m ready!”

    “Yes, but the same thing is still going to happen as before.”

    “But I’m stronger now.”

    “Yes, but you aren’t working together.”

    “Tsuki.” Mitsu stood up next to her. His aura glowed as strongly as her’s. “She’s right. Remember what, Akira said.”

    “One strike?”

    “Yes! We need to strike like it is a single strike!”

    “Your timing must be perfect!”

    “Then it’s no problem!” Tsuki declared seemingly with borrowed bravado from Masanori. Both spirits looked at her a little strangely. She did not think that she would have to explain it them. “It’s Mitsu. We’re family. We’re already one, right?”

    “Right!”

    Tsuneo’s eyes went a little flat as the two siblings reaction. “I know you’re not blood related, but this is still a weird level of incest that’s unnecessary.”

    “Shut up before I hit you again!”

    “I’m surprised you haven’t already.”

    “I need to focus.”

    “Is that why?”

    Mitsu started to move forward seeing Masanori knocked away again. He turned back towards her and extended his hand out to her. “Tsuki!”

    “Let’s do it, Mitsu!” She grabbed on to Mitsu’s hand and clasped tightly. He pulled on her and threw her forward at the demon. By fortune, or maybe planning you decide, Masanori was flying back away from the demon at this moment. Tsuki used his head as a stepping stone to throw herself over it. “Sorry!”

    Mitsuru clutched his katana with two hands working with Hisako to channel their power. ‘One single powerful blow. Two strikes, one attack…’ He repeated it in his mind as a chant to focus her power. He needed everything that they could offer.

    Opposite of the demon, Tsuki landed exactly where she needed. She already funneled everything he had into the sword. ‘Come on! We’re doing this!’

    Ready, Mitsuru pulled back his sword set for the charge. “Tsuki!”

    “Mitsu!” It was all the words they needed. They flew into action running straight for the demon. Their eyes filled with resolve. All the confidence in their strike and no doubt.

    Their swings flew like blinding light. A holy light that seemed like a single arc stretched down from the sky to split everything. The blast threw them back along with erupting the earth and forest in a massive dome of energy. Divine and demonic energy mixed around and fought through the dome. Sparks jumped out into the sky splitting the clouds themselves. The power could be felt as though a typhoon had landed in town.

    And then it was silent.

    The light disappeared and all that remained was a heavy cloud of smoke. On different sides of the blast, Mitsuru, Tsukiko and Masanori all looked on with curiosity. They hoped it had been enough. Only waiting could be done. If it had not been enough they need to save what they had left to attempt a second time.

    But it seemed that it was enough. The demonic energy was completely gone. Nothing of it remained as the veil of smoke cleared. Yet there was something. A strong white light came from the center of the crater where the demon once stood.

    Relieved, both Mitsuru and Tsukiko had already dropped their transformation. The power they focused was all used up. They felt completely drained dry. However, the new situation worried them.

    “Is it still alive?” she asked staring at the light.

    “No, this is not a demon’s energy,” Tsuneo answered, “It’s something else completely.”

    “But it’s very powerful,” added Hisako.

    “Was that inside the demon?” Mitsu wondered.

    “It could very well be the power that gave it its regenerative ability.”

    “What was is it?” Tsuki inquired.

    “I don’t know. It’s completely unknown to us.”

    Masanori did not seem to really be paying attention to any of it. His curiosity seemed just as powerful as the others. Though he probably wanted to know if it was something that a hero of justice was needed to fight. Or maybe it was a reward for defeating a powerful demon, like it was some RPG.

    “Masanori! Stay back! We don’t know what it is!”

    Unfortunately, it was too late. He had already touched the white energy. It shocked him with sparks running over his body and knocked back a couple of meters. Despite looking really painful, he stood back up shaking it all off. And he approached it again, just this time it just jumped out sparks. He did not get sent flying this time. “It’s not really threatening, but I can’t get through it.”

    “Not really threatening?” Sweat dripped down Tsuki’s head that he would word it in such a way. “It sent you flying.”

    “I think he’s right. I don’t feel any ill intent,” Tsuneo encouraged.

    Hisako nodded in agreement. “If anything, I feel sadness and fear.”

    They walked down together to check out the sphere of light that Masanori mindlessly kept poking, as though doing it a hundred times was going to change anything the first did not. But Mitsu seemed to have caught on to Masanori’s infection and approached.

    “Mitsu!”

    “No, Tsuki. I feel it somehow too. It’s just scared. I don’t think it wants to harm anyone.” Mitsuru approached it a little cautiously. Once next to it, Masanori yielded the position to him. Seeing what happened to Masanori the first time he touched it worried Mitsu a little. Though it encouraged him a little the rest did not seem to do anything to him.

    It was the only solace he had. But it seemed to be correct. When he touched it nothing happened to him other than the light charged that ran up his body. His fingers seemed to make it a little way into the light, but were stopped just like Masanori. “Tsuki?”

    “You’re not hurt?”

    “No, but I can feel it. I want to help, but I can’t.” Tears began to fall down his face suddenly.

    She immediately rushed over to his side. “What’s wrong?! What happened?”

    “I don’t know. I just feel…sad…immensely…deeply…sad…”

    “The field of energy must be charged with emotions. It is being drawn into Mitsuru, like empathy.”

    “Well stop it!” Tsuki grabbed Mitsu’s hand and pulled him away. Though in that brief moment she felt the same thing that he did. She could feel tears welling up around her eyes. They looked at each other and understood without words. They both had felt it.

    Tsukiko pushed Mitsuru back a little. She seemed to understand a little better him. “I know. He’s just alone. He’s been alone all this time. He just wants to be held. He wants a mother.” She was not completely sure of what she was saying. The emotions she felt seemed to channeling her words.

    “Tsuki?”

    She placed her hand on the light and it suddenly went away as though it never existed. Inside was a person. They were naked and curled up looking only a few years more than ten at best. She snatched the battered top robe off Masanori’s back and bent down towards the boy. Tsukiko wrapped him up in it and lifted him up to carry in her arms.

    Mitsuru looked up at Tsukiko smiling. They could both feel the sadness disappearing from the air. He had found comfort. He found a home. Mitsu reached out for the boy only to suddenly be met with a barrier that went up around Tsukiko completely. He tried to push through, but it did not let him or Masanori in. “Tsuki?!”

    “Um…what’s going on?”

    “Seems the boy can create barriers,” noted Tsuneo.

    “I’m not going to be stuck like this forever, right?” No one had an answer for her. “Right?!”

    “And so another strange person joins our home. But he’s thinks I’m his mother?! I’m too young for this responsibility! Someone help me!”

    To be continued…
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  12. #12
    The Quiet One Twin Moon Andromeda's Avatar
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    Another day, another morning, at least should have been. In a way, it was just another morning. Just another morning, it was problematic, troublesome and anything but normal. Though being abnormal was the new normal. However, of course, this was not something that Tsukiko agreed upon. She agreed to none of this. Normal had a very specific set of requirements, none of this met those in her mind. She was not going to accept abnormal as normal. Never.

    Accept or not, her reality was different. Today had not improved her view on that. She rolled over in her bed feeling something else in it that did not seem right. The fact that something was off was what woke her. Her eyes went wide and immediately went to the most natural answer. “Mitsu! What are you thinking…” She trailed off as she turned down the covers.

    It was not Mitsuru, but rather the boy they found last night. ‘I thought I left him in his room before I went to sleep.’ She tried to think back to the night to check her memory. Unfortunately, two fights in a single day that required so much of her energy exhausted her. The night was too hazy for her even to remember. ‘Maybe I did bring him with me?’

    “Miss Tsukiko, are you wake?” her maid inquired through the door. She was right on time like always. It had been long enough that Tsuki started to get used to it. She hated that she was used to it. It was wrong. She did not deserve a maid, yet she could do nothing about it. They came with the mansion and seemed programmed to serve.

    Programmed to serve. Had a bad taste in her mouth. They were supposed to be spirits, spirits of the people that lived in the mansion when it was real. They came from a different time and a different culture. She wondered if perhaps that was why it was so strange to her. She did not want to approve or accept such a notion, even though she could not change it.

    Hesitating a little looking at the boy, she eventually responded, “Yes, I’m up.”

    “I’m very pleased to hear that Miss. I’ll start preparing your things.”

    “Right…” She looked down at the boy, who held onto her right arm. “What do I do about this?”

    Chapter 11 – No Presence

    Tsuki walked through the halls to the main room with luggage in tow. She had managed to get him awake, but she could not separate from him. The boy clung to her side as though he was a part of her. It would not have been so bad if he at least walked on his own. But he only seemed to want to hold her on her side. It felt like she had some strange alien attached to her arm and side threatening to take control of her.

    “I remembered now, that the boy we found last night only seemed comfortable with me. As a result, No. Matter. Where. I go he follows me. I seem stuck with him.”

    Most of their guests had gathered in the main room waiting on breakfast. Even some uninvited ones, meaning they had Masanori with them as well. He immediately perked up the moment that he saw his senior in the ‘Hero of Justice’ emerge from the halls.

    The sight of his overly excited face only made her feel more depressed. He was so much maintenance just to keep things sane around her. It was not the sort of thing she wanted in the morning. “Morning,” she replied to him, trying to still be polite.

    Masanori came to a sudden stop in mid-air as he tried to land next to her. A surprised and stunned look came across his face. He did not know what happened. Being who he was, he reacted quickly. The moment he hit the floor, he was back up on his feet trying to approach.

    “The kid’s barrier is up again,” Chie commented, while she sipped some morning tea with pleasant company.

    Tsukiko had been distracted by Masanori’s antics that she sort of forgot about it until it was brought up. “Oh right. Sorry.” She smiled a little to herself. ‘Maybe this isn’t as bad…’

    “We found the boy in the belly of a demon we slew. However, he immediately grew attached to me and won’t let anyone near me using his barrier to keep all others out. Sort of like my own personal space bubble.”

    Worried, Mitsuru approached as close as he could without actually touching the barrier. He had the usual almost ready to cry expression of worry. “Are you alright? Do you feel fine?”

    “Yeah. It’s fine.”

    “But you have a barrier around you. No one can get near you. You can’t go to school like this. People will know.”

    “I’ll figure it out.” She smiled to him. To the others, it looked like she was just trying to comfort him. However, her smile was for a completely different and very selfish reason. ‘Definitely might not be so bad… I think I could like this…’

    Ten minutes later, she was already singing a different tone. “Help me!” she pled to her spirit. Tsuneo hovered around next to her not really providing much support. “He’s really heavy! I mean, he’s only a few years younger than me. You’re not supposed to carry someone that old on you! Even if he is malnourished, he still has to be at least forty kilos!”

    Rubbing his cheek, Tsuneo could only stare, which was about the least helpful he could have been. Which only incited more yelling from Tsuki. “You’re making the boy cry,” he pointed out.


    “Wha-hey come-on!” Quickly, she bent down trying to manage the weight. It put his legs back on the floor if nothing else. “I didn’t mean it! Come now! It’ll be fine!” She glared around at everyone yelling at them with her eyes and in the same breath begging them. All she got back was amused looks from several of them. Also not helpful.

    Mitsuru was about the most and least useful, doing exactly as she expected. He just looked worried and ready to cry because he knew he was unhelpful. “Tsuki…”

    Sighing, Tsukiko had to give into all of it. “You can stay, just please hug my leg if you need.” He looked up at her smiling. That seemed to be enough for him. She could tell that he was happy even though he said nothing. In fact, she actually had yet to hear single word from him. It was not until then that she actually thought about. ‘He can speak right?’ Tsuki patted him on the head letting him feel the comfort. “What’s your name?” None of them knew what to call him.

    Unfortunately, it seemed they would not have an answer to it. He remained silent to her. Even to the one that made him feel safe, he held his words. Tsukiko looked around to the others for advice. No one had anymore to offer. It was all unfamiliar territory.

    “Breakfast is ready!” a maid said, breaking the tension in the room with unplanned timing.

    As everyone started to mill around to the table, Mitsuru snuck away. While it seemed that everyone was gathered, even Akira was with them despite arguments there was still one missing. He could not ignore it. He felt responsible for everything.

    Knocking on the door, he hoped that she was awake. “Izumi?” He was never sure about her. It was not the first time or the last time that he tried with her. ‘I won’t give up on you. I’ll keep trying until you trust me once more.’ He knocked again just in case it was missed before. “We’re having breakfast, Izumi. I know the others scare you, but you need to eat still. I can bring you something.”

    “Behind this door is Izumi, a girl I found in the forest after we slew a powerful demon. Seeing the fight has traumatized her and now she’s afraid of everyone. I was the only one that she seemed to feel comfortable around and my mistake caused her to be afraid of even me. But one day I’ll regain her trust.”

    Nothing came from in the room. She could have been asleep still or hiding in the corner. He knew nothing about what happened inside anymore and that worried him. Mitsuru wished he could do something for her, but he was still useless. It seemed he could do nothing for anyone. “I’ll come back again after school. See you later.”

    “The maids tell me that the food they leave does seem to get eaten. So she’s at least not starving, even if I would prefer her eating with the rest of us. The first step is just getting the door open again.”

    Mitsuru appeared back in the dining room where everyone had already started eating. Tsukiko noticed his return. “Where’d you go, Mitsu?”

    “Probably to his own little pet,” Chie teased with a grin. It did not last long as she was throwing down food again quickly.

    The slightly depress look on his face disappeared putting on a smile for everyone. It was not something that she was blind to. She knew how often he went to Izumi’s room trying to comfort her and make her feel safe. Unlike with Akira, he had not had the same sort of success. “You’ll get through to her eventually, Mitsu.”

    “I know!” He quickly sat down opposite of Tsukiko only joined by Chie. Mitsu focused on his breakfast, knowing school was soon.

    Chie swallowed or choked down her third round of fish, rice and miso soup, as she liked to remark she was a growing girl still. A healthy appetite was a good thing to have, no one argued that point anymore. Mitsu knew better. However, she took pause while holding out a bowl to the maid for a fourth helping. “That’s quite the line-up you’ve earned yourself, Tsukiko,” she grinned with chopsticks clamped rudely between her teeth.

    “I didn’t pick anything.”

    The mischievous smile on Chie only got worst watching the whole thing. “Yes, I know.” She claimed to be a research college student, but she seemed to spend more time entertaining herself by way of all the guests than her research.

    The table arrangement placed their Grandfather at the head position with Akira opposite of the long table. While Mitsuru and Chie made up one side, Tsukiko, the boy, Masanori and Katashi threw off the scales balance. They all sat on the floor, which Tsukiko was grateful with the boy, but Katashi and Masanori bookended her.

    Worse for her, she could not help but notice the stares that were going through her by way of Masanori. She had enough of the eyes stares boring holes in her skull. Tsuki turned to confront Masanori. “What’s wrong? You’ve been doing nothing but staring the whole time since I woke up!” Part of her really regretted asking, but he had been looking at her for so long during breakfast it was getting unnerving. Sure he was an attractive, handsome, good-looking guy but still.

    “He’s wearing black.”

    “Huh?” She expected a pointless and random answer, which this definitely qualified. But she really did not know what he was talking about. That actually was a little impressive, since she thought she was getting better in dealing with him. Nothing that she was actually proud of having to achieve.

    “That guy. He’s in all black.” Masanori pointed through Tsukiko over at Katashi.

    It took her actually looking at him to notice that Masanori was correct in that statement. What he wore was the least of her concerns. Considering all of the other harassment she had to deal with from him, his wardrobe choice barely even was worth making a note. “Yes, it’s black. People don’t always go around in all white like you.”

    “But it’s black.”

    “And?”

    “Black is a villain’s color. You only wear black if you’re a bad guy.”

    Tsukiko actually stopped eating when she heard that. She was quite certain she heard the death of some of her brain cells from his comment. ‘How far gone in hero fanaticism do you have to be to actually think like that?’ The whole thing just shut her down. She did not have a response for him. It was just too stupid to justify with a reply.

    “I don’t trust him. You shouldn’t either.”

    ‘There’s other better reasons that I don’t trust him fully.’ It still made her head ache trying to work through an actual response. However, Masanori actually looked ready to start something. His stupidity actually kick started her brain into turning again, if only because she did not want a fight in the house. “I keep him around because I’ll know what the bad guys will be up to. It makes it easier to thwart their plans.”

    Masanori settled back into his place, though his eyes glowed now that he basked in the brilliance of Tsukiko’s wisdom. “I should have thought of that! This is why you’re a true Ally of Justice!”

    While Tsukiko sighed painfully and died a little inside, Chie tried to keep from laugh up her food. “Ally of Justice…”

    “Don’t you start.”

    “I would never think about it, Ally of Justice.”

    ‘This day…’

    Eventually, school had to start. Which naturally introduced a new problem, one for Tsukiko. She still had her extra training weights strapped to her. Since he started just holding onto her leg, she had managed to forget about him a little. Trying to put shoes one with someone attached at the leg makes it very obvious that there is something wrong.

    Tsuki bent down level with him once more. “I need to go to school now. You can’t go with me.” Unfortunately, saying that only made it worse. He clamped tighter onto her leg. And he even seemed heavier. “I’ll be back later.” Physically removing him was just as pointless. He was somehow stronger than her. “Please, I really need to go. When I get back you can follow me wherever you want. No questions asked.”

    “You sure you should be making that promise?” Mitsu asked, leaning in over her shoulder.

    “I don’t have much choice if I want to go to school.” It seemed to work. He still carried a sad expression like someone killed his dog in front of him, but she was free. “Just wait. I’ll be back.”

    School ran smoothly without much incident. They had finally started to settle into the rhythm of things. Most of the things that troubled them finally resolved themselves. The teachers seemed more than willing to accept the club excuse that Kiyome worked out for them. And no demons felt the need to attack either. So a surprisingly normal day. Tsukiko could have even be happy, though the morning stopped it from being perfect and of course the rest of the day remained.

    When she arrived, she immediately felt the weight of something clasp tightly to her leg. The door had barely opened and all she saw was a blur, but she knew what it was. “I did promise him…”

    One of the maids bowed greeting the two back. “Welcome home, Master and Miss.”

    “I’m home…” she reflexively replied back, though it felt strange saying it was home with a lead weight attached. She worked around it and managed to change into her slippers. “How was he?”

    “The young boy? He waited for you the whole day.”

    Tsuki slipped off her jacket with the help of the maid. It became an almost subconscious thing like a natural flow. “Is that right? So he stayed in his room or wandered around? I hope he wasn’t in your way.” She flipped through her bag going through mental notes of what needed to be studied.

    “No Miss, the boy wait for you right here all day.”

    “Right here. Right, that makes sense. I did say he could wait for me.” She did not even think about what she was saying focused on her notes. Classic Japanese Literature was going to be longest, though Tsuneo actually seemed to enjoy it. So his knitpicks actually made it a little more enjoyable. He kept trying to correct their misconceptions of his era. It was sort of funny. She never expected to have someone that actually lived during the time some of the books were written about.

    As she slowly finished musing to herself about a spirit complaining on the accuracy of a fictional book, she came to a pause. Something about what she said finally caught up to her. She looked back at the maid for once. “He stood here? Like this very spot?”

    “More like over there,” pointed the maid to the exact spot that she left him when she went to school in the morning.

    Tsuki looked down at the boy and back at the maid. “You’re not being serious. He didn’t stand here all day doing nothing else.”

    “I’m very serious, Miss. No one was able to move him due to the barrier.”

    “You can’t be…” She bent down to look at the boy. ‘What are you thinking? That was like ten hours!’ The boy only seemed completely content with holding on to her. He did not look anymore worse for it. Tsuki looked up to the maid. “Did he eat?”

    “No, Miss.”

    “Is dinner being worked on?”

    “Yes, Miss.”

    Looking at him, she shook her head in disbelief. “I can’t believe you. You can’t be missing meals! You need to eat!” She unlatched him from her leg and took his hand guiding him quickly through to the kitchen. All of her things remained with the maid.

    Mitsuru apologized to the maid several times. “I’ll take her things for you. You must have other things to be doing.”

    “That’s very kind to offer, Master. But this is part of my job.”

    “I’m so sorry.”

    “Not at all.”

    “Anything from Izumi’s room?”

    “Nothing, Master.”

    “Figures. Thank you. I’ll be going.”

    “Yes, Master.”

    The thought of Izumi still stuck in her room unwilling to leave saddened him a little. ‘Will I ever be able to get her to trust me? I don’t know if I’ll be able to get her to open the door.’ Passing by the main room, he say Chie drinking tea with her drinking companion. “Evening, Miss Chie.”

    “Back from school already?” she asked making small conversation, while sipping on her tea.

    “Yeah, a smooth day. So nothing really happened to keep us in town.”

    “Ah, how you doing? Feeling alright?”

    Mitsu paused and thought about it. A smile came across his face suddenly from nowhere. “Actually, yeah I think I’m doing great! I’m going to go give Izumi another try!” He then rushed off down the hall with renewed energy to face his problem.

    Chie set her cup down allowing it to be refilled. “Sorry for the interruption. You were saying…”

    In the kitchen, Tsukiko stole some spare carrots and peas from the table. “Here, I know dinner is soon, but you need to eat.” He willingly took them in silence. They disappeared into his tiny mouth with a sound that was surprisingly adorable to hear. Tsukiko petted him on the head finding it impossible to stay worried. A warm smile grew over her lips looking at him. “Now please remember to eat lunch with the others, okay? You need to eat regularly. You’re still growing.” She stared at him and remembered how he came out of a demon from who knows where or when. ‘I think you’re still growing…’

    “How are you feeling now?” His hand still clamped like a steel grip to her fingers unwilling to be separated. She kept hoping that he would ease up on his need for security. ‘He was stuck in that demon forced to keep it alive. It’s probably an incredibly traumatic situation and having no family.’ The situation with the boy reminded her a little of Mitsu’s own situation with Izumi. They were both left with people completely unwilling to let anyone else into their lives. Though she made a connection with the boy, it was a tenuous one at best.

    She handed him a few more vegetables unable to resist his face. It was too adorable for her to withstand. “Feeling better now?” He nodded with a wide grin. Hunger defeated, she looked to her next matter. “You feeling up to telling me your name? I don’t know what you call you still.” That seemed to clam him up, if that actually was possible for someone never saying a word. She got the message clear though.

    “Miss?” one of the maids cooking interrupted, Tsukiko and the boy. She stood over her holding onto a pan.

    Looking up at the maid, she was not sure what the woman needed. “Yes?”

    “I’m unable to reach the stove.”

    “Stove?” She looked over to check her position. Neither of them were anywhere near it. Since they were cooking, she knew she had to stay out of their way. She intentionally made sure that she was not bothering them. “I’m not—“

    The maid then pointed to the boy. “The barrier.”

    It took another check and she realized that he had the barrier up the entire time. She had not even realized it until it was pointed out. “I’m so sorry! I didn’t know. I’ll get out of your way.” Tsukiko hurried along with the boy out of the room.

    She entered into the main room finding Chie still chilling out, though her tea seemed to have run dry. From the corner of her eye, she spotted Mitsuru returning. She recognized the expression on his face. It was the same thing as always. Thoughts of encouragement came to her, but it could only be repeated so many times before it lost all meaning. He knew her feelings.

    “The maid took your bag and jacket to your room,” he informed. He settled down into the room taking up the closest chair, which was also the furthest from everyone else. It had not been a long day, but he made it seem that way with the heavy sigh he let loose.

    Hisako popped out of his sword to hover near by him. “You’ll lose a year sighing like that.”

    “I don’t think I’ll notice the difference,” he retorted.

    “Got plans?”

    “If no demons attack, just study. Sounds like an original idea, right?”

    Mitsu’s joking made Tsuki smile a little. She had to sit down on one of the small couches since the boy was with her. “I like the sound of that. It’d be a nice change of pace.” The small comforts were about all she could enjoy with her life as chaotic as it was now. “Now that Masanori’s gone it’s much quiet…er…something you want?” She leaned her head back and found that Katashi stood behind her.

    “Is there a problem with me wearing black?”

    “Eh?” It took her a little to remember the morning conversation, it was almost half a day ago. She tried not to remember most of what Masanori said for her own sanity. “Are you actually bothered by what hero freak said?”

    “No. But if I look like a bad guy I would not like to portray that image.”

    She dismissively waved her hand at him. “Only idiots like him actually think that way. The way you are is fine. It actually seems to suit you if I had to say.”

    “Fishing for compliments, Katashi?” teased Chie, always ready for a moment to have a little fun.

    “No.” Katashi stared with a blank expression at Chie as her joke went completely over his head. It went so over his head it actually broke the Earth’s gravity well. “Why would you think that? It was an honest question.”

    The college student ground to an abrupt halt with her face twisting into a grimace. “Still nothing.”

    Despite the failure, it made Tsuki laugh watching Chie burn up. “I don’t think you’ll ever get a reaction out of the ninja robot here.”

    Crossing her arms and looking almost like she was ready pout, Chie turned her head away. “I won’t give up! I like a challenge!”

    “You’ll keep losing.”

    “We’ll see! I’ll find his weakness!” Chie poked a finger in the air at Katashi marking him. “I promise you! I’ll find your weakness!”

    “Dinner is ready!” a maid announced.

    Everyone started to mill into the dining area once more. Izumi was still missing, but the numbers from the morning held consistent. Mitsuru ate with Chie at his side while Tsukiko ate with three surrounding her and Akira and Grandfather bringing up the ends.

    While they started to eat, Mitsu looked up noticing that there was still food placed at Masanori’s spot. He looked over at Tsukiko confused. “Masanori’s not coming back tonight right, Tsuki?”

    “No, he charged off with his usual gusto this morning.” She paused loading food into her mouth. “Why? Don’t tell me you miss him?”

    “Not that, they set a place for him.” He pointed over to the food, already half eaten.

    Chie stopped from her shoveling to answer. “Of course, it’s because there’s someone eating there.”

    Mitsu looked at Chie incredulously. “What there’s no one there.”

    “Sure there is. He came in with the everyone else.” Not minding table manners in the slightest, she pointed with her chopsticks over at the individual. And correct to her statement, there was indeed a young man sitting to the right of Tsuki like he belong with them.

    Both of the siblings jumped up not sure how they missed someone sitting at the table eating with them. Not to mention a complete stranger was just in their home and Chie acted like it was nothing. They only managed syllables for several seconds looking back at each other trying to figure it out. Checking their memory did not help as it came up completely blank. There was no one.

    “How?!” Tsuki managed to utter as it was short enough not to trip over.

    Forced to pause again, Chie actually looked a little bothered that she could not keep eating. “He’s been here all day, since before you woke up.”

    “What?!” the two exclaimed together, in quite excellent unison actually. They nearly sounded like a single voice.

    It had already been three seconds since the last time food entered her mouth, so she had no time left to answer them. They kept staring at her expecting more explanation, since she seemed to know the man. Through a stuffed mouth she managed a few words. “Might need to get…your eyes checked.”

    “Eyes nothing!” complained Tsuki. She flung a finger down at the strange. “Both of us didn’t see him. That’s not blindness!”

    “I can only say what’s the truth. You missed him.”

    “Breakfast even?” Mitsuru asked, dwelling on a very odd point.

    “No, I wasn’t hungry,” he answered.

    The response made him feel a little better. He did not want to think that he missed him while looking straight at him. “Where has he been then all day?”

    “Talking to me. You guys were in the same room chatting just before dinner.” An unwelcomed encore from them played out again over the table. “You’re just repeating yourself now. I don’t know how you missed him. Tsukiko, you were the closest to him.”

    She just stared at the man not sure how to react. He looked polite, a little strange, but polite. Still she did not know why he was in their home. Opening first, she bowed in apologies. “I’m really sorry for this mistake.”

    “No, it’s alright. It’s not the first time it’s happened.”

    “But I must ask, why are you here?”

    “That’s a complicated answer.” Tsuki delivered a suspicious stare in his direction. “I’m not trying to dodge the question. I just don’t have a simple answer.”

    “What does it matter, Tsukiko? You welcome all sorts of strangers into your home. It’s your thing isn’t it?”

    She shot a glare over at Chie for her casual remark. “Don’t make it sound like it’s my goal in life!”

    “What, you’ve got yourself a nice collection of hot guys around you. Honestly, I’m a little jealous of your harem you’re pulling together.”

    “It’s not a harem!”

    “Katashi, do you love her?”

    “Yes.”

    “That’s a loaded question!”

    “Little boy to you love her?”

    He nodded rapidly with a wide grin on his face. Tsuki pushed some food in front of him so he would ignore anymore of Chie’s questions. “That’s not even the same thing!”

    “How about yourself?” she asked the stranger.

    He stroked his chin in thought, actually taking her seriously to Tsukiko’s continued protests. Never opening his eyes more than a slit, he replied, “I’ve only just met her, but perhaps. We’d need to go on a date first.”

    The stranger was another lottery win for handsome guys. Everything happening and the seriousness of the young man made her head turn red and start to steam. Her brain locked up and she could not say or think anything.

    Mitsu could see how entertained Chie was, but he had to step in to help. “Please, Miss Chie. We’re getting off topic.”

    She stretched over and grabbed Mitsuru around the neck and pulled him to her chest. Both of her hands still carried a bowl and chopsticks. “Aw, sticking up for your big sister. Aren’t you so cute, Mitsuru. Don’t worry, you can be part of her harem too, sibling love still counts.”

    “Lo-lo-lo…” And Mitsuru was lost to the world as well. Akira joined him not too long after, his pure mind could not handle the notions.

    Releasing her prey, Chie let out a long laugh nearly spitting out the bits of food that remained in her mouth. She fell over on the floor getting too much from what the two of them completely lock up.

    Clearing his throat, Grandfather spoke up at the table. “Miss Okazaki, while I don’t mind strangers in my home I would like to know who they are and their circumstances. You’ve played your games long enough.”

    Nearly coughing, Chie straightened back up. “Right. He can probably explain better than me. It was a really fascinating story. I’ll have to do some more research on it.”

    “Yes, I’ll be interested in what you learn.” Everyone snapped back to reality with the tone returning serious. “My name is Daishou Funaki and I come from Kitaakita.”

    “Kitaakita?” It sounded sort of familiar to her, but she did not know it.

    “It’s a city in Akita,” Grandfather answered, “Tsukiko you need to improve your Japanese geography.”

    “I’m sorry, Grandfather.” She looked back at Diashou to try to get out of his gaze. “So we know where you come from Mr. Funaki, but why are you here?”

    “That’s the hard thing to explain. I just sort of felt like it.”

    “Felt like it?” Tsukiko started up with her suspicious look again with Daishou.

    “It’s hard to describe. I just felt an urge. Like this was where I needed to be.”

    “Here? In this mansion?” asked Mitsuru, needing that little bit of confirmation.

    “Yes.”

    “Hey, spirit. I thought you said there was a barrier around this place to block people from stumbling upon it?”

    Tsuneo surfaced a little bothered by the call. “That is correct. The entire estate has several wards and barriers in place to protect from demons and keep normal humans out.”

    “Which means he’s involved?”

    “That would be my guess. I sense a little energy coming from him, but it’s pretty insignificant right now. Likely something awakened in him.”

    “That maybe correct. Several days ago I felt a strange sense of being out of place. I couldn’t understand it and I just tried to keep working. Then one day it was too much for me to take and I just left to find where it was taking me. And here I am.”

    “I guess that explains why you’re still wearing your store apron,” noted Mitsuru, a little bothered by it the whole time, but not actually wanting to bring it up. He did not understand why someone would be just naturally sitting in a bright blue apron from some local store.

    That part did not really concern Tsukiko, she refocused the attention. “Mister, do you know what’s going on here? Understand what you’re saying you’re getting yourself into?”

    “Yes and no. I feel like I understand, but I don’t know any of the words. So if you asked me to tell you, I couldn’t. It’s just a feeling. I know it’s dangerous, but this is where need to be.”

    She did not really like that answer. It might have been honest, but it was not very clear. She did not want to involve unnecessary people. “Grandfather?”

    “I’ve no problem with him staying if he feels strongly about it.”

    ‘Figures. Demons, spirits, ninja, samurai, he’s accepted it all like it’s normal. Why should I be surprised about anything now?’ A sigh leapt from her lips as she fell back to the table, resting against her arms. “Well simply put, we’re sort of sitting on top of a portal to the demon world and with no way to close it demons are steadily leaking out. It’s up to us to kill those that come through. Mostly just Mitsu and myself. If you don’t have martial prowess or some ability, I’d suggest not trying to fight them.”

    “I see. Somehow that makes sense to me.”

    “They say that, but they’ve yet to produce a single demon for me.”

    “That’s because you’re always asleep whenever it happens! If you’re not eating, you’re sleeping! Do you even work?”

    “Of course I work. I’m currently researching my next dig site.”

    “I’ve yet to see you produce anything either.”

    While the two girls fought, Mitsu leaned in a little towards Daishou. He still wondered about something. “Is your special power invisibility or something?”

    “Not that I’m aware of, but I don’ t know if I have something like a special power.”

    “Then how come we never noticed you when you were in the same room? It’s like you have zero presence.”

    Tsukiko jumped in on the conversation with Mitsu. “Yeah, you have no presence at all. That’s very strange.”

    “I get that a lot. It’s made it very difficult to keep a job or even date. A lot of the women think I standing them up until I get their attention.”

    “I’m really sorry.” Tsuki scratched the side of her face feeling a little awkward after that little bit of information drop. “Well, welcome to the house, Mr. Daishou.”

    He waved his hand a little looking to minimize the statement. A pleasant and warm smile came over his face. “It’s fine. I don’t let it worry me.”

    His optimistic outlook felt surprisingly catchy as she felt very good with the whole situation suddenly. She felt like everything would just end up right. It was a strange notion that she had not basis for, just looking at him made her feel that way.

    Tsukiko looked over at the boy with her. She realized that the barrier was no longer present. The boy seemed very happy and comfortable. Even with the smile he had at times, she sensed some sadness behind him. Now she could not even feel that. There looked no better time to try him again. “Hey, how you doing?”

    “…Yuu…” said the boy weakly. He voice was so soft and delicate it almost sounded like a girl.

    It took her back a moment, not actually expecting him to say something. She needed a moment to take it all in. Then she did not know what he meant when he said it. “Yuu? Is that your name?” It was the only guess she had.

    He nodded vigorously for her. “Yuu.”

    “Alright, Yuu. I’m Tsukiko.” She tried to start off with greetings again, since they never really had a proper one before.

    “Yuu!”

    Her smile hung in mid air paused as she started to realize what was going on. “Do you want more to eat?”

    “Yuu!”

    “What’s the day today?”

    “Yuu!”

    Another painful sigh. She made progress only to see it slip away. Her head dropped to hang from her neck for a moment. Then she heard him again. She could not help but smile. Petting him, she just had to accept what she had. “I can’t be upset with you. You’re so adorable!”

    Chie grinned watching Tsukiko. “This is a new side I’ve never seen before. So you can look cute.”

    “I’m always cute!”

    “More like mannish.”

    “Take that back!” Tsukiko leaned over the table going after Chie.

    Laughter and yelling came out of the dining room that night. A warmth and pleasant leaked through infecting everyone that passed by. Despite everything, there were smiles around the room. Good food and good company, no one could ask for more.

    “And in case you were wondering, that’s the last character introduction! Tsuki’ll be happy. Our happy days seemed like they were only beginning, but the horizon held a dark storm threatening those happy days. The tests and trials were almost upon us.”

    To be continued…


    Omake Theatre

    “Judgment day is here,” Kiyome stated with a dark tone.

    “Um, is this really necessary?” the creator pled while tied up and hanging from a cross off the ceiling.

    “It’s finally all over,” Kichiro echoed.

    “You know guys, this is a little too dark for an Omake.”

    “We’re making sure you don’t back out on your deal,” glared Hisoka.

    “We’ve been burned too many times in the past,” Etsuko answered.

    “You aren’t even in any other stories!”

    “The souls of all of the forsaken best friends inhabit our bodies,” Kichiro declared.

    “That must explain why you’re all insane then.”

    “Our rage will not be ignored!” yelled Kiyome.

    “I’m not ignoring it! I promise! I’ve already got Hisoka’s chapter started. I’ve got the outline on my computer!” They pointed over to the screen.

    All of them leaned over, still holding the ropes. “Seems real,” added Etsuko.

    “See? Now let me down.” They all glared up at them still suspicious. “Hey I can’t write if I’m tied up. You won’t become real without me!”

    “Very well.”

    Finally released, the creator walked over to the door and invited them out. “Now I need to write. The sooner I have my space the sooner you guys will come to life!”

    “I’m trusting you on this. Make me look good.”

    “Trust me. I will. You’re all great characters. Just give me time.”

    “I don’t trust you, not yet,” Etsuko reminded as she stepped out. She then popped back in. “I’ll be back for you if you betray us!”

    “I promise I won’t!”

    “You betray us, a crucifix will feel like morning stretch,” Kiyome threatened before she departed.

    “R-right. I’ll remember that.”

    “We’re watching you,” Kichiro added before being the last out.

    The creator sighed and walked back to their desk. Grabbing their cell, they ran a quick search and dialed up a number. “Yeah, I need to schedule an exorcism.”
    Curious? There's no limits but your own imagination.
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    2007 and 2009 Best Writer of TFF and 2009 Most Creative Co-Winner



  13. #13
    The Quiet One Twin Moon Andromeda's Avatar
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    An afternoon, yes afternoon, quite the change from always being the morning, huh? Lunch time at school was one of the best times to enjoy. Just a simple time to sit back and relax. Eat some good food and chat up some friends. It was the best time. It was the only time to have.

    Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but considering matters on Tsukiko and Mitsuru, it really was the best time. They could just talk with their friends and eat. A little teasing around was hardly much to stress over, especially given what they had to deal with all the time.

    Tsukiko grinned widely while taking in a bite. “No worries here,” she sighed with relief. School was a lot better for them these days, making for the only real place of solitude from all of the craziness, so long as there were no demons attacking. Which for the day, it was completely clear.

    Nodding in agreement, “No teasing either,” answered Mitsu.

    “You guys sound like an old married couple,” Kiyome commented from across the desk. They elected to stay inside today for their lunch. So they made use of a couple of desks in the class. The six of them made for a rather large gathering, not that the rest of the class was not used to seeing them together. The strangest and most infamous people in school all gathered in a single place. They were like a singularity of weirdness that everyone avoided.

    Not even batting an eye to the comment, Tsukiko just kept going. “You need to enjoy times like this. You never know when they might disappear.”

    “Now you really are sounding like an old lady, Tsukiko,” added Kichiro, but even his comment did not bother her. The tag teaming teasing duo seemed a little off their game. Though it did not help that their targets were not even flinching. They truly were gone from the world.

    “It’s so nice just to be an average day.”

    “Normal you mean.”

    “That too.”

    Suddenly, a voice erupted from outside through the halls shattering the peace. It could not really last very long. A normal day would not be very exciting for a story. The voice did not sound familiar to any of them, so they ignored it. However, the closer it came the more clear it was. “Hisoka! Where are you?! Which one of these is your classroom?!”

    Mitsu looked over at Hisoka a little confused why someone was looking for him. He could see his friend looking a little shifty, nervous and nonchalant. It was a complicated expression and even Hisoka did not seem to know how to feel judging from his oscillating. “Did you do something?” he asked. Mitsuru felt bad just assuming with his friend, but he knew how his temper was on the taboo word.

    “No, of course not.”

    A bit relieved, Mitsu relaxed a little in his chair. “Do you know who’s calling to you?”

    Hisoka seemed to go silent on the answer. His eyes looked away, but not towards the door. He really seemed to not want to have anything to do with the boy looking for him.

    Likely not content with just letting such a good moment rest undisturbed, Kichiro picked up the ignored topic just laying on the floor. “He probably just doesn’t want a reminder.”

    The comment left the siblings completely confused from Kichiro’s intentional ambiguity. It did however draw up the glare of Hisoka. “You…” Questioning and interrogation came from his eyes. Kichiro blinked and grinned knowingly back at him. He ground his teeth from their telepathic conversation.

    Rather than continuing the yelling, Hisoka stood up to go after the call. Though the boy stumbled across their room just at the moment. His eyes lit up and jumped in after him. “There you are Hisoka! I’ve been looking all over for you.”

    “I noticed.”

    “I need to talk to you!”

    “I gathered that much from your yelling. Let’s talk outside.” Hisoka ushered the boy back out of the room.

    Mitsu looked over at Tsuki and then Kichiro. “What was that all about?”

    “I wonder.” He smiled with hints of mischievousness in the corners of his lips. Interested eyes watched a muted conversation carrying on in the hall. It quickly stirred up the curiosity of Mitsuru wanting to know what was happening with his friend.

    Chapter 12 – Surprisingly Cool

    About a minute of anticipation finally brought Hisoka back into their class. Everyone looked at him, though most were just bothered by the interruption than having any interest in what happened. Not the case for Mitsu and Tsuki, they were both on the edge of their seats waiting for him to return so that they could start deluging him in questions.

    “Who was that?” Mitsuru jumped first before Hisoka even managed to get seated. His eyes beamed with delight on learning what happened. Ten years seemed to have just melted off Mitsu in his regression.

    Tsukiko downplayed her interest a little, but leaned forward with the same amount of curiosity. “Everything okay?”

    Hisoka slid back into his seat. “Nothing out of the ordinary,” he replied and then just started eating again.

    That was not enough for either of them clearly, though Mitsuru naturally voiced his disapproval louder. “That wasn’t nothing, Hisoka!”

    “He looked familiar to me. Do we know him?”

    Kichiro leaned back in his chair enjoying the moment. He knew that Hisoka would fold. Few could actually resist Mitsuru when he was in full child mode and Hisoka was not one of them, despite his preferred stoic nature. “He’s not famous per say, but you’ve likely seen him.”

    Annoyed with Kichiro’s usual behavior, Hisoka glared and kicked his chair a little. All he got back was the bothersome grin. He knew and he was having too much fun. Worse, Hisoka had out of the corner of his eye the eager looks of Mitsuru. Pulling away a little, he had trouble looking away from Mitsuru. His curiosity felt all consuming dragging him. It was impossible to look away. He only had one option. “Shuji Koshin. He’s the captain of the boy’s tennis team.”

    Knocking her fist into her palm, Tsuki remembered finally. “That’s why he was familiar, he was in the pamphlets we handled out before for the tennis team.”

    “So what does the tennis captain want? Is he tried to recruit you?”

    “No.”

    It was difficult for Kichiro to hold back his laughter. His reaction only drew in more strange looks from his friends. Neither of them seem to know what was going on. “Hisoka is part of the tennis team, Mitsu.”

    “What?!” both shouted grabbing the whole room’s attention. They sheepishly pulled back trying not to look like they were a disturbance.

    Mitsuru leaned in like that did anything to make it seem more secretive. “I didn’t know you were part of the tennis team. Why does Kichiro know, but not me?” He stared at Hisoka with innocent and slightly wounded eyes further enhancing his deadly child-like charm.

    Crossing his arms trying to fight off Mitsuru’s stare, Hisoka looked away. “I never told anyone. He just figured it out on his own.”

    “I knew as well,” Kiyome noted from her corner.

    “You too, Kiyome?” Tsuki questioned feeling even worse, though likely not as bad as Mitsu. They were all friends, but Mitsuru treated them as very close. Kichiro teased him a lot, but Mitsuru cared and worried about them both greatly.

    Of course, Mitsuru started to look weepy eyed as it all settled into him. “I’m such a horrible friend for not knowing this!” He latched onto Hisoka’s arm begging to him. “I’m so sorry! Can you forgive me?”

    On the verge of crying and stretched over their desks, it long stopped being a private matter. Though it was a serious question if it was ever a private matter the way it started. Hisoka unfortunately had a horrible situation on his hands that only increased the longer he tried to crawl away from it. Despite the thin and frail appearance, when Mitsuru wanted he had a grip like a steel vice. “Y-Yes, you’re fine, Mitsuru.”

    “R-really?”

    “I forgive you alright?!”

    “Hisoka!” His whaling turned into a hug that was equally inescapable. “I’m going to work harder to be an even better friend for now on!”

    “R-right, just let me go.”

    “B-But…”

    Kichiro could not stop grinning through the only thing. But he took mercy on Hisoka having had enough entertainment. He tapped on Mitsuru to get his attention. “I think you’ve bonded enough, Mitsu. Any more and we might not be able to get his color back to normal.”

    “Huh? What are you talking about?” Looking up, he saw Hisoka’s whole face completely red. Any deeper and it might have started going purple. Mistaking embarrassment for suffocation, he immediately pulled away. “I’m sorry! I didn’t realize.”

    “He’ll recover.”

    Hisoka played the whole thing off as much as possible, but it was already done. Escape would not actually do anything. If anything it just made it look worse. So he sat and took it all in. Once it settled and he had calmed down, he added a remark, “This is part of the reason why I never said anything to you.”

    “But I’m your friend! I want to know these things!” He really did not seem to understand Hisoka’s hesitation. More buried beneath the surface that he was not seeing. No one actually could see it, apart from the scheming pair. Regardless, Mitsu recovered quickly and pressed onto what he felt was important. “So how long have you been on the tennis team? You join up in high school? Something recent, that why I missed it?”

    The next spear to jab through Hisoka hit. He really did not want to get into this with Mitsu. It was just a endless spiral downward with nothing but worse ahead. He could only sigh. “Ten years.”

    “Oh ten years. You must really love tennis then.” Mitsuru’s smile quickly wavered. Tears poured down like rivers flooding the entire room and floating them around. “I really am horrible friend! You must be so ashamed and disappointed in me, Hisoka!”

    And so it happened like he figured. He looked over at the rowing Kichiro who stopped laughing, but offered no further help. He was sunk exactly how he foresaw. There was nothing he could do. It was a sinking ship for him. He just raised the white flag and dropped his head to the desk.

    Being the only one that actually could do something, Tsuki took up the effort. She patted Mitsu on the head trying to get him to calm down. Anymore tears and they would have to get their town remapped for a new lake. “Hey, Mitsu, you know Hisoka still values you. He’s just modest, you know how he is. He doesn’t like talking about this sort of thing.”

    “But I should have known! Ten years! I’m blind! Terrible!”

    “You’re not! You stuck at his side through everything! Even with the other kids teased and bullied him, remember. He knows how much you care about him.” Tsuki kicked the desk a little to get the resigned Hisoka back up.

    Peaking up, he saw her look. She was telling him that he needed to finish or else Mitsuru would not stop. He needed to hear it from him. Complaining back to her, he did not want to do something so touchy feely in the middle of the school with everyone watching. They already embarrassed him enough. But she yelled back with her eyes. She was just as bad as her brother. But she was scary.

    “She’s right, Mitsu. I wasn’t trying to make you feel bad, just…it’s difficult to talk about. You’re still…my best friend.”

    “Hisoka?”

    “Understand?”

    He nodded back to the embarrassed glasses wearing tennis player. The water finally came to a rest. Everyone could start airing out their soaked cloths and the class returned to normal. Just another day for them.

    “Just don’t ask any more questions about it.” Hisoka dropped it at the moment. If they dug any deeper things could get worse. He was not really a good swimmer.

    Mitsu did not really understand why he was so adamant about not talking about, but he nodded to him. He really did not want to talk about it. So he had to respect that wish.

    Needing air after everything that happened, Hisoka walked out of the class with his lunch only half finished. The rest remained behind all looking around. There still remained a question that was needing answered.

    “Why the captain want him?” Tsuki asked, everyone was thinking it at least she thought.

    No one should have had the answer, but Kiyome spoke up. “A tennis meet is coming up remember. It’s in a week against Kikutake. They’re considered our rivals in terms of tennis. So the captain probably wants Hisoka’s help to practice.”

    “Is he good?”

    “Perhaps you should see for yourself.”

    “Hmm?” Tsukiko looked over at Mitsuru pensive. He stared back feeling the same uncertainty and curiosity. It mixed together telling them yes and no at the same time. The hesitation carried them through lunch.

    At the end, curiosity won out and they decided on following Hisoka. It might have seemed like that, but he was already practicing with the team. So all they were doing were hunting him down. The school did not have any courts. They were a small town and school. But thanks to Kiyome’s information, they learned where the team practiced. Though it really should not have been too hard to figure out. The town only had two tennis courts.

    The closest was the one they used. It was small with only two courts, likely making it difficult to get a lot of practice in. Most of the team sat on the sidelines or tried to practice basic moves while matches played out.

    It did not take long for Mitsuru to spot Hisoka standing out on the court. He looked to be in a match already. While obviously not any sort of expert on the sport, it seemed like he was holding his own against his opponent. Watching the rally made him stop almost sucked into the motions. Hisoka flowed from one side of the court to the other as though it was as natural as walking. His opponents struggled to keep up until finally losing the point.

    “Game!” the captain called, signaling to Hisoka as the winner. His opponent walked away while another stepped in to replace him. “Remember Kikutake won’t give you any room for error! So fight!”

    Mitsuru hurried to catch up to the others that already stood behind the fence line. He stood next to Tsuki, with Kichiro taking up a flanking spot on his left. Etsuko hovered near Tsukiko with Kiyome bookending the group. Glancing up for a moment to Tsuki, he wondered if they heard anything about the last game. “Did he win by a lot?”

    “Apparently, his opponent never scored a point,” she answered.

    “Awesome! Hisoka must be so happy right now!”

    She stared over at him. She wanted to agree with Mitsuru, but it did not look like that to her. “He still seems grumpy. Maybe he wanted more of a challenge.”

    “Nothing so simple as that,” Kichiro corrected.

    “Do you know something?”

    “Like Kiyome said, you should just watch for yourself.”

    The odd bit of mystery from Kichiro hardly seemed out of place, though they sort of expected him to spill what he knew. Perhaps he was waiting until Hisoka was nearby to maximum the entertainment. All they could do was watch.

    “Game!” Another win for Hisoka. For more than an hour they watched him go through all of the tennis team with very little effort. Some managed to steal a couple of points, but no one actually got to deuce against him. The final match looked to be starting with the strongest opponent yet. Shuji, the tennis team captain, stepped out from his scoring and refereeing.

    As they stared down each other over the court, Mitsuru and Tsukiko watched unable to look away. They were seeing their friend in a completely different environment. While he was swinging the racket, he looked completely nature, at home. He looked comfortable, even if he did not necessarily seem happy. He belonged out there in a way that they had never seen for him. Even more, all of the team members looked on with just as much interest. Even though they lost, they could see the respect Hisoka carried with all of the team.

    More than the rest, it made Mitsuru happy to see it. It was what he needed. He was not sure why he kept it a secret from them. “I wish I knew about this sooner. He really belongs out there.”

    “Yeah, it’s strange that he’s so modest about this.”

    “I want to talk to him about it again, when he’s willing.

    The game began and they could not talk anymore. Watching Hisoka in his prime was too much to ignore. They were completely glued. The intensity between the two could be felt all the way where they stood. The captain looked to see Hisoka like a rival aiming to take him down, the undefeated challenger. While Hisoka calmly held his ground returning every attempt.

    “Fifteen-love!” called one of the team members filling in for Shuji. It was Hisoka’s point, Shuji could not return the deep slam that hit only centimeters from the boundary.

    The next volley picked up the intensity further. Shuji ran everywhere completely under control of Hisoka. He struggled to keep up, but held in for two minutes before overshooting a return. “Thirty-love!”

    Shuji carried all of his determination into his serve. Throwing the ball up, he drew back his racket. In the last moment, the angle changed sliding the ball through the air. Cutting through in a blur, it hit close to the net forcing Hisoka forward, but it never rose again. Spin on the ball cut it across the ground only get a little off before shooting straight out. “Thirty-fifteen!”

    “What sort of hit was that?!” asked Mitsuru.

    “It’s Captain Shuji’s signature serve,” a helpful student nearby answered.

    “If he can do that, why didn’t he do that the first two times?”

    “It’s a straining move and a difficult one. Plus, it seems he doesn’t like using it unless it’s necessary. Outside of meets, I’ve only ever seen him use when he is in matches against Numata.”

    “Wow, only against Hisoka?”

    “He does it to put the pressure on, but it’s not something he can do back-to-back.”

    “If Hisoka sees it a lot, shouldn’t he have a counter for it?”

    “It’s a difficult shot to counter, but I think he lets it go by since he knows the Captain can’t use it repeatedly. Numata still controls the game. It’s more a challenge laid down by the Captain.”

    “Thirty-thirty!”

    “Aw, I missed it!”

    “Besides, the Captain isn’t a one-trick player.”

    Tied, the game heated up more. Everyone watched to see how it played out keeping the hush. Each hit had dozens of eyes following it. Nothing escaped their gazes anymore. It was like legends were at play. “Forty-thirty!” It was back to Hisoka’s lead. The volleys drew out longer with each round. Their struggle turned everyone’s knuckles white with the anticipation. “Deuce!”

    Shuji pulled it back into a tied game. He delivered a powerful serve to Hisoka. Returned with a little effort, the next round burned bright. Fierce returns struggled to out play the other. But only one could win the point. “Advantage-Numata!”

    Sweating, even Hisoka looked to have to be trying hard to keep up with Shuji in the match. Shuji panted lightly looking to be struggling to keep to his full strength. It the possible final point. He did not look to be giving in anymore the before. If Hisoka wanted the point, he was going to have to earn it.

    “Game!”

    Mitsuru jumped up and down cheering on Hisoka in his win. He was louder than any of the others on the sideline. “Hisoka! You’re awesome!” It was hard for him to keep his excitement within reasonable levels, even with Tsuki trying to calm him down. He almost seemed to be standing for the happiness that Hisoka did not display.

    “That’s very impressive. He beat even the Captain.”

    “He always has. Captain Shuji has yet to actually win a game against him.”

    “Are you serious?”

    “This is a normal occurrence whenever Numata practices with them. He is usually pulled out whenever they’ve got a big meet coming up.”

    Tsukiko looked at the Hisoka a little confused and then at the female student. “He’s on the regulars right?”

    “No, he’s never been to a meet before.”


    “What?!” shouted Mitsu over even Tsukiko. He pushed around them and went over to the girl. “How can that be? Hisoka beat them all! He’s better than all of them!”

    “Yes, he is better, but he’s never made the regulars. I don’t know the reason, just the facts.”

    “That’s wrong!” Mitsuru ran out after Hisoka and the Captain planning on giving them a piece of his mind, but of all people it was Kichiro that stopped him. “Kichiro?” He genuinely looked surprised to see him stopping him.

    Shaking his head, he pulled Mitsuru in. “This is personal matter for him. Let him handle it.”

    “But it’s not—“


    “Mitsuru, let Hisoka handle this. As his friend, support him, but don’t force what you want on him.”

    Seeing Kichiro so serious left him a little shocked. He did not know how to react. It did not happen very often that he saw the jokester side of him disappear. ‘If Kichiro is being serious, it must be important. I don’t like this at all, but maybe I would just make it worse. I don’t know the situation.’

    Tsukiko walked up to the two of them. She placed a hand on Mitsu’s shoulder. “You can still cheer him on and be happy for him. It a new side that you never knew Hisoka had.”

    “Alright…”

    While the team continued practicing, Hisoka stood at the side looking over his racket. Mitsuru and Tsukiko walked over to him, as the far sides did not have any fencing. They could see him without interrupting the team. The rest hung back.

    “Congrats on the sweep!” shouted Mitsuru trying his best for him. It still bothered him even if he agreed not to say anything.

    “You didn’t have to come out.”

    “But I wanted to cheer you, Hisoka! Though I guess with how amazing you are you didn’t need it.”

    “I agree. I’m impressed, Hisoka,” complimented Tsukiko. She stepped in a little as she had been giving Mitsu the space. “You were really cool out there. I’m going be watching you more now.”

    Hisoka’s face turned red suddenly and he turned away from Tsukiko. None of that was something he expected to happen. Even more so that he not expect to see such an aura from Tsukiko. “Th-thanks,” he muttered while trying to recover himself.

    She leaned in a little concerned with his reaction. “You feeling alright? You’re looking a little red.”

    “Y-Yes!” He backed away from her, but ended up in the fence. There was no real escape it seemed. ‘She’s just a friend and Mitsu’s sister. I shouldn’t be thinking like this!’

    Laughing from the sidelines, Kichiro took mercy on him. “He’s just discovered something unexpected. He’s fine, Tsuki.”

    “He did?” She glanced back towards Kichiro still not really following what they were talking about. But she pulled away if he felt Hisoka was fine. “Keep working hard, Hisoka!” Tsukiko waved at him and smiled while she walked away.

    He had to look away from her again. Now in his mind, he could not see anything, but that. It tormented him. ‘What am I going to do?!’

    Mitsuru bent down to the crouched and troubled Hisoka. He smiled encouragingly at him. “I believe in you, Hisoka! I knew you were awesome!” He then ran off to catch up the rest of his friends walking away.

    Hisoka looked up seeing them walk away. ‘Mitsu…’

    -X- -X- -X-

    Back at the mansion, the front door slid open. In the threshold stood Akira. Fully dressed, he held a determined expression. It had been more than a week since he stayed to recover his wounds. Though bandages still covered his body, it was significantly improved. All the pain disappeared and he had his movement back. It was time.

    He looked back at the maid. “Please give them my thanks for their hospitality.”

    “You are welcome to stay, Master.”

    “No,” he replied, shaking his head, “I must keep moving and focus on my training. This is my path.” He walked out of the mansion. The forest spread out before him. A new course filled him as he saw how varied the route could be. “We will likely meet again…”

    To be continued…
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  14. #14
    The Quiet One Twin Moon Andromeda's Avatar
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    Early in the morning (cannot go more than a chapter without returning to morning) before even breakfast was ready, Mitsuru walked the halls. It was not much different from any other day. He had another attempt in him. At this point, blind optimism was about the only thing he could arm himself with anymore.

    Already expected, his goal was Izumi’s room once more. Like every day before, it remained locked to everyone. Not him or anyone else could enter. Proof that it did open at someone point only was verified by the fact that her meals disappeared. However, never when anyone watched, Mitsuru knew this. He had actually stalked out her meal once and it never moved.

    Like everyone else’s expectations, Mitsu did not have high expectations either for today. He figured on another one sided conversation. Not that he would stop visiting her. Persistence was all he had.

    “Izumi? It’s me, Mitsuru again. Are you awake?” It was something that he was never certain about. Was she actually even awake to hear him in the morning. He assumed a lot in figuring her to be awake. But on any school day, he did not really have any choice in picking his time. It had to be early.

    He waited a little longer before saying something again. “We’re going to be having breakfast soon. Would you like to come eat with us?”

    A pause longer than needed drew out the emptiness. He started to open his mouth, but actually hear a voice come out of the room. “No.” Not quite the answer he wanted, but she replied to him finally.

    Mitsuru nearly threw himself up against the door in his excitement to hear her finally. “Izumi! You’re up!” It was still locked and he was not getting anywhere with her. Still did not stop him from getting excited as if he was going in. She still closed him off. “How are you feeling? Have you been getting enough to eat? I can have the maids bring more for you!”

    “No.”

    Then he ground to a halt. He asked a lot of different things. Her reply did not point to which she was answering. Confusion spread over his face. “No? Umm…Izumi? Can I come in? I’ve been really worried and I want to apologize face to face to you.”

    “No.”

    Mitsuru started to fear that he made the situation worse with her talking. Like the saying, words can hurt, had significantly more weight to him in his situation. He did not want to give up hope with her, but he did not know what else he could say. Scratching the side of his face, he stood pensive. His brain rolled through ideas for her. He needed to do something. ‘I’ve just been ignoring her all this time. I check in like some absentminded doctor looking after a patient and then move on. I need to correct that!’

    Pressing his hand to the door, he wanted to feel like he stretched out to reach her. “Izumi, I have an idea. You don’t have to open the door, but there’s something I want to do. Just wait for me!” He then ran off through the mansion towards the kitchen.

    Usually, the time he spent on trying to talk to Izumi ate up enough time for them to be nearly ready with breakfast. He approached the head maid of the kitchen. “Excuse me, Miss.”

    “Yes, Master Mitsuru?”

    “You’re almost ready to serve the meal, right?”

    “That’s correct.”

    “May I have mine and Izumi’s right now?”

    “Master, it is about to be served. It’s not proper to start eating before everyone else.”

    “Oh, I won’t be eating at the table with everyone this morning.”

    “Master?”

    Clapping his hands together, he begged the maid to grant his request. She looked at him strangely, but eventually gave him. In the end, he was the one in charge of them. “Thank you so much!” He smiled at her and then walked out.

    Tsukiko walked pass the back hall into the kitchen and stopped noticing him. “Mitsu? What are you doing?”

    Beaming with delight, he hurried over to her. It took Tsuki to grab and balance him from falling over. “Thanks! Oh, let everyone know I’m going to be eating with Izumi this morning!” He did rushed off without giving her a chance to ask another question.

    He arrived back at Izumi’s room or door, as was his perspective for a while now. “Izumi! I’m back! I’m brought your food, but I’m going to eat with you as well. I don’t want you to be alone when you’re eating. It’s too sad. You should have someone to eat with.” Mitsuru sat down leaning against the wall with her tray of food in front of the door. Remembering his previous attempts to see her open the door, he realized the situation. “But you don’t have to right away. I want to you feel safe and comfortable. So for now, I’ll sit out here. Even if it is for a little bit of time each day, I want you to know that you’re not alone. I’m here for you.”

    Chapter 13 – The Thickness of One’s Shell

    Breakfast concluded with as much as one hoped. There was no answer, but no rejection either. He jumped out of the threshold with enough energy to make an eight-year old jealous. “Come on, Tsuki! We need to get to the bus stop!” Beckoning her, he dragged her out of the mansion even if it was not physically.

    “I know, I know! We’re leaving at the same time we always do. We’ll get there, the old man is always on time.”

    “Hello! I’m Mitsuru Sakakibara and I used to be a normal high school student until I accidently unsealed some ancient swords keeping a portal to the demon world closed. Now I must protect my home and friends from demons.”

    Tsukiko looked less than thrilled about the amount of energy that Mitsuru had for the morning. While it might not have been unusual for him to be full of energy, he was doing overtime with the amount that he was putting out. And it just made her more annoyed watching him. “What happened?” she asked, since clearly something had to have caused it.

    He spun around to look back at her. “She talked to me!” The vague answer Mitsu felt should have been enough to clue her in to what he was talking about. And if she was not looking so bothered by his over abundance of enthusiasm, she might have stepped through the answer.

    “What are you talking about?”

    “Izumi! She talked to me!”

    “Izumi is one of our guests at the mansion we’re staying at now. After finishing a fight with a demon, we found her nearby likely caught up in everything. The trauma has left her a complete recluse and I’ve been the only one that she doesn’t seem utterly afraid of, though I’m still working on improving our relationship.”

    “You’re acting like a love-struck girl excited over your crush finally noticing you exist.”

    Mitsu came to a stop immediately and bounced back towards Tsuki. “I’m not love-struck!” he yelled back at her before trying to walk a little more normally. Containing all of his energy proved difficult though.

    Her eyes narrowed with a flat expression. “You didn’t deny being a girl as well.”

    “I’m not a girl! That’s should be obvious!”

    While having an overly excited Mitsu was hardly the worst thing she could have happen, it still made things infuriating. Mitsuru already contain a significant amount of optimism, more than a normal person. She had her share, but she took a little more pragmatic approach when necessary. So when an already bright person turns into the sun, it becomes difficult to watch.

    Arriving at school met with expected results from their friends. Mitsuru’s attitude was too easy of a target for a little teasing. Kichiro dropped in at his side, though he did have a little trouble looking at his friend. The blinding glow was stunning. He pulled away a little to look over at Tsukiko. “What’s up with Mitsu? He’s acting like he had sex for the first time last night.”

    Tsukiko looked over at Kichiro barely even fazed by his remarked and replied, “In his world, that seems to be a close equivalent.”

    “Wow, Tsuki, not even a hint of red,” Kiyome noted from her side.”

    “Yeah, I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t even get a stutter from you. I’m mean him being a complete puddle is expected.” It seemed that even boundless energy was not enough to immunize him from Kichiro’s joking. Mitsu was red from head to toe and completely paralyzed.

    “I’ve been dealing with it the entire ride here. So a little break from it is nice.”

    “So what’s got him so happy then?”

    “One of our guests finally started talking to him again after they had some trouble.”

    “Must have been really something to put him in that sort of mood.”

    “I honestly don’t know. I never asked him what she said to him.”

    Kichiro leaned in with great interest. “She? A girl? Has our Mitsu finally started looking at girls?” He picked up his friend from his collapsed state and pulled him back together. “How come you never mentioned you had a girl you were interested in, Mitsu? I’m your best friend! I’ve got to support you in your romantic pursuits!”

    “Probably because he would be too afraid to tell you.”

    “Hey, he’s my friend. I may tease him, but I take these things very seriously.” Suddenly, Kichiro was unlike anything that Tsukiko had ever seen before. True to his word, he did not seem to be joking or making light of anything about what he said. He looked completely genuine in his interest to support Mitsuru.

    Such a serious look took her back. She had to gather herself before replying. She knew Kichiro cared about Mitsuru as much as Mitsuru did in return. None of that was in doubt, she was just used to seeing the jokester side of him. It was easy to forget that he could be serious when he wanted. “She’s just someone we found on our way back from school that seemed to be lost and have no memories. She attached to the first person that made contact with her. I doubt it’s anything more than that.”

    He looked back at Mitsuru trying to get a read on him. The joke still left him in recovery, so it was hard to judge much of anything in his face with it all still very red. “Be that as it may, I’m still curious. So what she tell you, Mitsu?”

    “Huh?”

    “Tsuki said a girl talked to you and that’s why you’re happier than normal. What she say to you?”

    “Oh, Izumi. She told me no.”

    Everyone came to a halt at that moment. Tsukiko was already sighing. Kichiro stepped out in front of Mitsu needed to double check he heard right. “She said no?”

    “Yup!” he answered with a big grin.

    There was likely plenty of jokes Kichiro wanted to make at that moment, but he just ground to a stop. Like everyone else, he did not have a response. He just stared at Mitsuru. Who in turned looked around at everyone confused why they had stopped.

    Since none of them seemed to moving, Mitsu broke free and walked on his own. He figured that they would catch up. Yet they did not. Nearing the steps into the school, he looked back at his friends. “You coming? You’re going to be late if you keep staying around.” He then walked in completely carefree.

    Kiyome looked over at Tsukiko understanding some of her pain. “He does realize that a girl saying no to him is not a good thing right?”

    “Not in his mind,” Tsuki said, “Though in the case of Izumi her saying anything is an improvement.”

    “So his endless optimism is running wild then,” Kichiro inferred.

    “Pretty much.”

    The entire class had to deal with Mitsu for the day and time did not seem to temper him at all. He recovered quickly from Kichiro, meaning that his resilience was significantly higher. By the end of the day, even the teachers had enough of Mitsuru.

    Tsukiko let him off on his own, as he was really eager to return home. He wanted to try talking to Izumi again. She had to hunt down a demon presence she detected. It was weak, so she planned on handling it. Mitsu was easily convinced and took the bus back up the mountain.

    He charged through the forest and flung open the door. The maid barely got off an unnoticed greeting before Mitsuru threw off all of his things for her to catch. They all had surprisingly good aim and landed in a neat pile for her.

    “Izumi! Izumi!” called Mitsuru with no contained excitement at all. For him his whole day waited for another moment to talk to her. She did not say anything back to him, but nothing could stop the steam he built up for himself. “I’m going to stay with you! I was hoping maybe to tell you about myself.” So began his one sided conversation.

    Eventually, the maid came for him to notify him of his dinner. “I’ll be right back, Izumi!” He hurried off not wanting to leave her alone for too long. She locked herself in the room alone. Mitsuru could not take the thought anymore of her being alone. Even if he was just a voice for her. She needed someone to be there for her.

    Passing through the dining room, he saw Tsuki already sitting down. “How was the demon?”

    “Already dead before I got there. Akira’s seems to be fully healed.”

    He came to a stop for a moment at the name. “Oh you saw Akira?”

    “Not really, just his handy work. He’s just like the first time we met. Killing and running off. If nothing else, it’ll be good to have another pair of hands out there keeping the city safe.”

    “Yeah, but I hope he’s taking care of himself. He’s pretty stubborn about his samurai pride.”

    “You have enough to worry about with Izumi, Mitsu. Don’t start taking on even more burdens.”

    “But we should be helping people! Grandfather said—“

    “He also said to respect those that wish to stand on their own. We support those that wish it or need it. Akira right now needs to work out his problems on his own.”

    “But...”

    “Tsukiko’s right, Mitsuru,” agreed their Grandfather, who seemed to go a little missed by the both of them at the table. “You have a good heart, Mitsuru. One that wishes to help everyone, but you need to be mindful of who and how you help. Sometimes people need room to work through things.”

    Mitsuru stared at him for a while getting a feeling as if he was implying something else besides the obvious. However, he remembered his dinner from another call. He then thought of Izumi and rushed off.

    “I’m back!” Despite all of his talking, she said nothing further to him. It had him a little concerned about her. “How are you feeling, Izumi?” Nothing more was said that night. Mitsu held quiet staying with her until Tsuki pulled him away to work on his homework.

    Day after day, the similar events played out for Mitsuru. He spent his meals with her trying to chat her up for anything. Sometimes he got a word out of her and other times she was completely silent. He felt like he was making progress, even though Tsukiko kept telling him to give her room.

    “How are you today?”

    “Good.”

    Mitsu placed down her dinner and sat down in his usual place against the wall. He had become accustomed to eat without a table. It was not nearly as hard as it seemed. “I’m glad to hear to it.” He poked through his food with his chopsticks. “Remember my friend I told you about? Hisoka? He’s the one that you can’t say nerd around, he gets really upset for that. I heard from him today that his tennis team played against their rivals that they were practicing for.”

    He paused and took in some food. It became common that he just talked about what happened to school with Izumi. Sometimes something interesting happened at school. He sort of hoped to get a reaction out of her. “Seems that they lost. Hisoka acted like he was not bothered by it, but I could tell he was upset. What makes it worse, they didn’t play him.”

    “Is he good?”

    “He’s great! I told you about I how got to see him practice right? He beat everyone on his team, not even their Captain was a match.”

    “Why didn’t they play him?”

    “I don’t know. He’s not on the regulars, so I guess there’s some rule about it. But that doesn’t seem fair to be holding back your best player because of some rule.”

    “Would winning a single match have won it all for them?”

    “I don’t know. I didn’t ask about the overall results.”

    “Maybe that’s why.”

    “You could be right.” It was then as the conversation ended that he realized that he had actually been holding a conversation with Izumi. It was not just him talking and her maybe inserting a vague single world. She talked to him, replied. Excitement charged through his body like lightning. He searched for something else that he could talk about.

    Before he could he heard a strange noise that was unlike anything he had heard before. It almost sounded like glass shattering, but also like an engine slowing down combined with what seemed like maybe a chirping like a bird. He did not understand it or how really describe it. Just simply calling it unworldly seemed accurate yet completely failed to capture it.

    “I’m hungry,” Izumi whispered just long enough for him to hear.

    He looked down at the tray and then back at the door. It all clicked for him then. ‘She’s accepted me again!’ Mitsuru jumped up and grabbed the tray. He was not going to let the opportunity slip him by.

    Slowly pulling the door open, it felt like unsealing a tomb. He could not remember how long it had been since he was in her room. It seemed longer than it actually was, but he had not even seen her face for so long. She locked herself away in fear. “Izumi?” he called, in search of her. Though he had the light of the hall to light his way, the room held darkness very well, unsettlingly well. She was difficult to find.

    “I’m over here.”

    Mitsu turned his head to find that she was actually in the corner near to the door. She had been near to him the whole time. “Izumi!” He rushed over to her side, the enthusiasm too difficult to control.

    She pulled away a little at the sight of him. The closer he came to her the more she crawled away. Mitsuru did not understand. “Izumi?” His wide smile slowly started to disappear from his face.

    “No!” Izumi shouted throwing her hand out. The door flew up completely and Mitsuru suddenly felt something grab him. It dragged him out of the room and threw him up against the wall of the hall. A pressure kept him from moving anything until the door closed. It was locked from him once more.

    Freed, Mitsu ran up to the door calling out to her. She gave him no reply. He did not understand what had happened. When it became clear that he was not going to get anything done, he walked away. ‘I thought I had succeeded…what happened?’ His legs started to run, moving faster and faster until he did not know where he was going. It was happening again. He made the same mistake.

    It was all familiar. Eventually, he ran out of breathe and had to stop. The forest once more. He stared at it blankly not really thinking about where he stood. He just dropped down. “I made things worse again… What am I doing? I can’t help anyone!”

    “Are you giving up?” Hisako asked, appearing out of the sword. She grew out to a human size in ghost form.

    Mitsuru looked up to Hisako. His face was twisted in pain left at the end of his rope. “What else can I do? I just keep making things worse with her every time!”

    “So you’ll leave the girl to hide forever in her room from everyone?”

    “I don’t want to! But maybe someone else should…”

    “You’re the only one the girl trusts.”

    “That’s not true! She’s afraid of me! She hates me!”

    “Now you don’t think that’s true do you?” She hovered around to sit down next to him. Even as a ghost, she tried to lean against him resting her arms on him.

    He looked over at her trying to keep his emotions in control. “How can she not?! Look at what I’ve done, twice!”

    “Do you even know why she got scared this time?”

    “Because…” He stopped because he did not have an answer. Mitsuru realized that he did not actually know what he did wrong this time. She just got scared so he immediately knew it had to be his fault. “…because I…did something…”

    “But what was it?”

    “I don’t know…”

    “Think about the first time she got scared and locked herself away.”

    “One of those armor fell on us and she got scared.”

    “What else happened?”

    “That was about it.”

    “You sure? You didn’t do something?”

    “I protected her.” He tried to remember the incident more clearly for what happened. It was all hazy now to him. Her running away was about the only thing clearly in his mind.

    Hisako sighed a little and refocused her point. “And what about this time?”

    “I just tried to give Izumi her dinner.”

    “I see I’m going to need a different approach.” She looked away in thought to figure out how she was going to get Mitsuru to arrive at the answer. “Remember what your Grandfather said earlier?”

    “Grandfather?” He thought back to the dinner where he talked to them. It was more recent so it was still in his mind. “He said sometimes people need to work through problems on their own. He was talking about Akira.”

    “It wasn’t just Akira he was meaning.”

    “But I’ve only been helping Izumi…I…what have I been doing?” He slumped over as he started to figure everything out. His hands gripped the sides of his head thinking about it all.

    Hisako did what she could to comfort him. “You’re a good kid. I don’t think I’ve seen someone with a more pure, earnest and honest heart before. But it does blind you sometimes. Not everyone will respond in the same way to your intentions, even good as they are.”

    “I haven’t been thinking about her feelings. I just so caught up in my own feelings that I didn’t stop to think how she was feeling. She’s so scared of everyone. I pushed too hard.”

    “But it’s not the end. She might have been scared, but she’s not closed off.”

    He looked over at her with a little more hope in his eyes. “You think so?”

    “Definitely. Just take this as a learning experience and be mindful of how you approach her.”

    Standing up, Mitsu clinched his hands together building his determination back up. “Right! I’ll take it slower and think about her.” He rushed off towards the mansion with a renewed sense of purpose. ‘I’m going to do it right this time! No mistakes anymore!’

    He stood back at Izumi’s door. Closed once more, but it no longer felt like it was an end. He could see through it and to a day when it would be open. “Izumi, it’s me. I’m sorry I wasn’t thinking about how you felt. I was too caught up in my excitement that I didn’t think about you. I promise you, I won’t leave you alone, but I’m not going to rush things again. We’ll take things one step at a time. I want you to feel safe. So I’ll be waiting for you until that day.” Mitsuru placed his hand to the door thinking about Izumi behind it.

    Inside the room, Izumi arose from her covers on her bed. The sound of Mitsuru’s voice drew her towards him. She lifted her hand towards the door cautiously and then pulled away.

    “Izumi? Before I did things without think about you. I don’t want to do that anymore. Is it alright with you if I eat dinner with you? I’ll stay outside like I have before.”

    She stretched her hand back out towards him. Her hand rested against the door where she heard his voice. “Yes. I’d like that.”

    “Thanks!” Mitsu smiled with relief. It was like Hisako said. He was not closed off. There was still hope. He just needed to be more careful. Izumi was easily frightened. A slow and continuous approach was needed rather than being fast. He needed to think about her and let her feel safe and comfort. ‘It’s a step. We’re talking…’

    Izumi suddenly softly smiled while staring at the door.

    To be continued…


    Omake Theatre

    “So why did you call us here?” inquired Hisoka.

    “Yeah, I never thought you’d be the one to actually call us,” Kichiro added.

    “Aren’t you supposed to be working on the next chapter?” Etsuko pressured.

    “I will. But there was something I needed talk to you four about.”

    “And that is?” questioned Kiyome.

    Just then, the door opens and the Grandfather stands in the doorway. “Were you the one that asked for an exorcist?”

    “What is the meaning of this?” Kichiro barked, falling back with the others.

    The creator moves over to the door. “You’ve all become trapped by the darkness and loneliness of the other harems. So I’ve called you here to free you!”

    “This is quickly losing any sort of comedy,” remarked Kiyome.

    “I think it lost all of the comedy as an omake a long time ago. Now I just need you to return to normal. Then maybe I can make some more amusing omakes.”

    “These are the four with the souls of the unfulfilled?”

    “That right.”

    “You’re not even catholic,” argued Hisoka.

    “You’re a little too caught up in your pop culture to believe that only the catholics and do exorcisms.” The Grandfather throws out a hand filled with talismans. He sends out four talismans to attach to the foreheads of the teens. He starts to chant in a low voice barely heard.

    Light explodes out of all four of their bodies as countless souls escape. They all start to swirl around the room near the ceiling gathering more. “So many lost souls. Be at peace!”

    “Never!”

    A staff comes out from behind clutched in his free hand. A powerful barrier erects at the point of the staff until it expands to full the room. All the souls are pushed out with the room finally coming to a calm. “It is done.”

    “Oh thank you so much! They’ve been tormenting for so long!”

    “Give this charms to them. It’ll protect them from further possession.”

    “Right! Thank you again!”

    “I’ll be going now.”

    The creator sits down at their desk. A smile comes over their face to be free finally from the torment. “It’s over.”

    “It’s never over so long as you’re making a harem story,” whispered the disembodied souls over their shoulder.

    The creator starts to cry. “This isn’t funny anymore! I’m doing something funny next! This is over because I say it is!”
    Curious? There's no limits but your own imagination.
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    2007 and 2009 Best Writer of TFF and 2009 Most Creative Co-Winner



  15. #15
    The Quiet One Twin Moon Andromeda's Avatar
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    “I’m late!” whined Mitsuru, running out of the school. He had to stay behind after school to be lectured by his homeroom teacher. It all happened because he got into an argument with Hisako, the spirit inhabiting his sword. Their relationship was a little more shakier the longer they spent together. Even though they had an agreement, she seemed to take no endless entertainment from teasing him. Not too unlike Chie in that way.

    So because of yelling at her, he got caught and received a good long hour worth of lecturing on manners. It was supposed to be a special day too. Special for Tsuki at least and he hated that he was ruining it for her.

    While he ran across the street, he nearly collided with a girl and her friends. He managed to evade them skillfully, though not without giving them a start. Unfortunately, his reflexes might have been improving, his balance still left something to be desired. He fell over just after clearing them. “Ouch…I almost had it…”

    “Oh my, are you alright…” the girl asked turning around before recognizing him. “Oh Mitsuru!”

    “Huh?” He did not know who he bumped into and did not think anyone that he knew was still around school. But as he looked up it was Aiko along with her friends Yumiko and Moriko. “Aiko! I didn’t see you there! I’m so sorry, I was in a hurry!”

    She bent down to help him up. “Are you back from the war in India?”

    “Eh?!” He blinked in pause not really sure what happened. “War? India?” Mitsuru froze up not sure what was going on. It took him a few more moments to remember what Aiko was like.

    “I should probably mention this, the girl before me is Aiko Kitabatake. I met her before through a series of circumstances. Her defining characteristic seems to be lying, unfortunately she is both bad and over-the-top about her lies.”

    He took her offer of a hand, though he made sure he was mostly using his legs to stand. “Right, I sort of forgot about that. You really aren’t consistent like they said. But we all know the truth, Aiko. There is no need for lying.”

    Yumiko and Moriko both looked away from Mitsuru with some unease. They seemed to remember still very much the last time they met. Impressions all around were not the best. Though Mitsuru did leave them with a lot to think about.

    “It’s compulsive for her,” Yumiko answered, “Even when it’s not necessary she’ll lie.”

    Mitsuru could not help but sweat a little at that thought. Though his interactions with her so far had been limited, since they were in different classes. She left a very unique impression on him. He could not do a lot about something that made a lifelong instinct, at least immediately. ‘Hopefully, I can help her overcome her need to always lie. I’m not sure how much I can trust them to do it, I don’t approve of their methods.’

    “What are you talking about, Mitsuru was recruited to help fight in the guerrilla war in North India after he proved his worth in a ritual of blood and strength. He nearly lost an arm from it!”

    His face turned a little blue from the thought. “Wow, you really do enjoy going dark with these stories.” Mitsuru bowed politely to her needing to get away for more than one reason now. “I’m sorry, but I have somewhere I needed to be. The next time we meet I hope I can tell you something truthful about me so you don’t have to make stuff up about me to your friends!” He smiled his usual warm and energy filled smile at them.

    Aiko stared at Mitsuru long after he stopped looking at her. She watched him get further away from them. He even tripped again deeply apologizing to the stone statue he bumped into.

    Her friends leaned forward to look at each other in conference. “Aiko?” they called, hoping to get her attention.

    Eventually, she noticed them and red ran through her cheeks. She jumped away from them trying to cover up her face. “Yumi, Mori, what are you looking at?”

    “Something interesting.”

    “Something very interesting.”

    “Guys!”

    Chapter 14 – Hard Luck and Hard Work

    “I’m so late!” Complaining really was not going to fix anything. But Mitsuru could not do much of anything else. It was only getting worse with each passing moment. He was late. But it needed to be handled. “Why now?”

    An oni stared down at him with what looked like a wood sword made out of a tree. There still seemed to be a leftover branch on the back of the blade. He pondered if it was actually possible to make a blade out of wood. Yet with the size and strength of the oni, sharpness did not really matter. It would kill just from the weight alone.

    It roared down at him with a foul enough breathe to kill flowers. It also felt like it fried his hair as well. “Why can’t you learn better timing?! I don’t need this today!” He flailed his arms about at the oni, not that it really cared about his personal problems. It just smelled the strong and delicious spiritual power coming from him.

    Hisako popped out of the sword, strung over his back still in its cloth sheath. “You need to kill it. Your complaining is just delaying you further.”

    “Yes I know!” He pulled at the carefully arranged knot on the sheath to free the hilt. Grabbing the hilt of the sword, he swung it free and transformed all in the same motion. “Alright! I’m going to take you down in a single blow!” he shouted with Hisako’s soft voice.

    As he started to build his spiritual power, a shadow appeared over him flying towards the oni. In the next moment, the oni fell over split in two. Half of it already disappeared into particles of energy.

    Mitsuru’s mouth hung open completely interrupted and having his stage stolen from him. He barely even saw who it was before they were already gone. “Akira?” He knew from Tsuki that she reported seeing him going around the town keeping it safe. The fact that he just lost out to Akira left Mitsuru not completely sure how he was supposed to feel about it.

    “If you didn’t spend all the time talking, you might have gotten the kill.”

    Returning the sword back to the sheath with a click, he was himself once more. “I didn’t think he’d just show up like that.”

    “Well if you want to be successful, you’re going to need to be faster and more proactive.”

    “This isn’t a competition! I don’t care that he’s going to doing it. It means that Tsukiko doesn’t have to overwork herself.” He started to walk away from the scene. Thankfully, it was over before it drew any sort of attention from the townspeople. “But why are they just appearing in the town? The portal is in the forest, shouldn’t they be marching down from there?”

    “With the seal broken, the portal no longer has a fixed location. It’s tied to this area still, but it can shift around a little. But the other holes are much too small, it is only because oni’s are so weak that they can fit their being through. You will only find stronger ones actually coming through where the portal is anchored as it is most stable.”

    “I see. And you still don’t know how to close it?”

    “The portal was made long before I was alive and it was sealed sometime after we died. The knowledge of such arts are not known to us. We were only meant to be the guards of the portal. We’re soldiers. Such knowledge would not have been granted to us if any in the family even knew.”

    “I’m sorry.”

    “Why? That was our life. What we were born and raised to be.”

    “It just sounds sad.”

    “It’s not so bad. We could protect everyone else. It’s a very important role.”

    Mitsuru glanced over at his sword on his back as he ran. ‘Is that why they act like this now? Freed from the bonds that tied them to a fate they couldn’t escape.’ He was not sure if he could fully believe that as their cause. However, it did not change that he felt a little bad for them. He never really gave their situation much thought. Even dead, they were forced to be part of the world of the living. Their role followed them even in death.

    “It’s kind of you to worry about us, but we accepted it a long time ago. Focus on your own life and what you can do, not about us.”

    “I…” Mitsuru came to a pause in his conversation with Hisako. He dropped his speed down to a slow crawl as well. Across the street, he saw something that he was not completely sure of being real. He had to stop just to confirm it for himself. “Is that Chie in a dress and apron?”

    Leaning forward, Hisako popped out to see what Mitsu saw. She hovered around his head level with his cheeks. Nodding in agreement, she saw the same thing. “I thought she’d be back at the house begging for food or chatting up Daishou.”

    “Yeah. I don’t think I’ve seen her leave the house since she showed up. What she doing?”

    “If I had to guess, working.”

    “You think she’s trying to make money to pay for her student loans?”

    “Maybe, but doesn’t she has a research grant?”

    “I think so, but I haven’t really gotten into a deep conversation with her on almost anything.”

    “She does seem to find teasing you more fun than a serious talk.”

    “I don’t need the reminder.” Then Mitsuru remembered he needed to be somewhere else. “I’m late!” He ran off leaving Chie to whatever she was trying to do. It was not something that really needed him.

    “You’re late!” Tsuki declared at the arrival of Mitsuru.

    He bent over trying to recover his breath from all the running. “I’m sorry, Tsuki! A lot of things happened!” The rest of his friends had gathered at the park already. Which meant on the schedule that Tsukiko came up with they had already finished buying their snacks.

    Kiyome pulled on Tsukiko to get her to sit back down on the blanket. “You know he was going to be late. We all did, that’s why we took care of the shopping beforehand.”

    “Yeah I know…” She crossed her arms and sat back down not really have anything more she could say.

    They all grinned a little and laughed letting Mitsuru find a spot to sit. She arranged the whole event, much like the rest of her efforts. This time it was just supposed to be them hanging out in the park. It was something simple with just their friends, but he knew how important it was to her. He hated being late to it. ‘I’m glad she has this time…’

    “An hour, Mitsuru,” Kichiro noted, the time that he was gone for. Well it was actually longer than that, but it was the estimated time with travel time factored in. “That’s pretty impressive you were only there for an hour. Normally most students easily get two hours of lecturing.”

    “Yeah, our homeroom teacher isn’t known for short lectures,” Hisoka added. He had been subject to one personally near the start of the year.

    Mitsuru became a little fidgety at the remark. He quickly grabbed up one of the chocolate sticks. Taking deliberate action to eat slowly, his friends could tell there was more to the story. They stared at him with begging and eager eyes wanting to know the rest. Eventually, the stick had to end, though he did an amazing job making it last. It did finally run out and he had lost his excuse. “What?” Which just meant he had to eat another.

    “Don’t be so stingy, Mitsu,” begged Kichiro.

    Then his ghost companion popped out to them. She carried in her hand a teacup acting like she was part of the gathering. “The teacher ended up giving up after an hour.”

    “Giving up?” Kiyome inquired.

    “Mitsuru played his doe-eyed innocent face for the first thirty minutes before collapsing into tears for the rest of the time. After an hour they lost the will to continue.”

    His friends clapped impressed by his achievement. “Wow, you made our teacher bow.”

    “Your face is truly a frightening weapon.”

    “There’s nothing wrong with my face!”

    Laughing and joking around, time passed with ease. The mood was good and it was exactly what Tsukiko wanted. Peace was a rare thing. Taking the time for it when available was needed, at least in her mind. But the time had to come to an end.

    It was time to leave, they were going to be late on getting one of the last buses back out of town. Tsukiko had to be dragged out a little still feeling like they had the time. But Kiyome dragged her along. They started on their walk back.

    During their stroll, Mitsuru came to a stop. He stared over at the storefront again that he saw Chie standing out in front of. ‘Did she really find a job?’ Curiosity built up inside him quickly. ‘I don’t know much about her. I wonder if she likes this sort of thing.’ He looked over at his friends, who had stopped a little later realizing he was not with them. “Go on without me.”

    “Mitsu?”

    “Don’t worry, I’ll get on a later bus.” He ran across the street towards Chie with Tsuki’s voice disappearing from his thoughts. He only saw Chie, standing out in front of the store. The more he thought about it he figured out a little of what she was probably doing. “Hey!”

    “You’re so reckless running across the street.” Chie put down her basket that she carried to grab Mitsuru up against her chest. “Did you finally warm up me feminine charms and blindly come to see me with a confession of love in your heart?”

    Mitsuru immediately turned red at the notion and started sputtering random sounds unable to form a word. The sight of his embarrassed look made her laugh. To his misfortune, she grabbed him a little tighter. It did not take long for him to start have trouble breathing, both from being smothered and choking on his embarrassment. “Air! Air!”

    Pleased for the moment, she released him to catch himself. She leaned down towards him with a grin still all over her face. “Did my beauty steal away your breath?” Chie giggled a little watching him jump around.

    “N-no-no-no!”

    “Aw, you’re so mean to a woman. Beauty’s very important to us, you’re going to make girls angry if you say that to someone else.”

    “I-I-I didn’t mean it like that!”

    “I know. You’re too easy to tease.” She picked her basket up and returned to what she seemed to have been doing before. “So why’d you come to see me?”

    The switch sobered him up real fast. It took him longer than he wanted to catch up, but he could finally talk to her. “Did you get a part-time job?”

    “Something like that.”

    He got a surprisingly vague answer from her. Mitsu still wanted to know more. It was a small piece, but she was a guest at their home. He wanted to know her better and hopefully make her feel more comfortable. “Have you done this before?”

    “Nope, first time!”

    “Are you getting many sales?”

    “Not too much. It’s slowed down a lot now that people are heading home.”

    “How did you pick this? I didn’t think old man Ashikaga would let anyone work for him.”

    “I won him over with my charm!” Chie flaunted her body a little for Mitsuru to tease him again while demonstrating how she supposedly succeeded in convincing one of the most famous storeowners in town for being too stubborn to hire anyone.

    Mitsuru leaned back a little. While trying to hide his embarrassment, he held her declaration in suspicion. ‘The old man is notorious for running out anyone trying to help him. How’d she really do it?’ In a bid to ease his heart, he slid around her reaching for the door. “Well I won’t keep you then. I’ll just say hi to the old man.” Doing so would also give him a chance to ask why he hired her.

    “Alright! Don’t forget to buy something, my little Mitsuru.”

    “Er, right!” He quickly opened the door and jumped inside to escape. The longer he stayed worse she seemed to get in her teasing. Inside, the smell of bread and sweets wafted through the air. It had been a while since he was inside Ashikaga’s store. Despite his attitude, he did have good food. They were all handmade and naturally, all by him. His recipes were a closely guarded secret by him.

    “Good evening!” greeted the old man, not seeing Mitsuru immediately.

    Mitsuru bounced over to the counter where he stood. “Hey Mr. Ashikaga! It’s been a while!”

    “Is that you? Hyobanshi’s kid?”

    “That’s right! I wanted to get some of your mochi for Grandfather! He always talks about how good it is.” It certainly was not a lie, but it did help to make talking to him easier. Mitsuru did not want to open with the landmine.

    The old man moved out from the counter going over to one of the carefully arranged displays. “Is that right? Hyobanshi raised a very thoughtful kid.” He pulled out a small set from under the glass. They slid carefully into a paper bag that he folded up for Mitsuru.

    “Thank you, sir! Both Tsuki and I are very grateful for him taking us in.”

    Ashikaga walked back over to the counter handing the bag to him. “He always has been a very giving man.” Clicking through the register, he went through the motions even if it was largely an unnecessary act. “300 yen.”

    “Thanks! He’ll be really happy to get this!”

    “You take care of yourself, Mitsuru. The forest gets dangerous at night.”

    He nodded in reassurance. ‘Little does he know…’ Mitsuru looked back at Chie working hard outside talking to someone passing by. It was no or never. “Mr. Ashikaga, how is she working out for her first day?”

    A gruff sound barked out of him for a moment. “What are you talking about?” He seemed to understand Mitsuru’s question partially, but naturally seemed to have some reservations.

    “You hired Miss Chie to work for you. That’s what she said.”

    “Is that what she said?”

    “Y-yes…” Mitsuru could feel the atmosphere start to change quickly. He did not want to be on the bad side of him, but it seemed impossible to avoid. “Is that not true?”

    “Of course not!” he yelled with strength that nearly knocked Mitsuru on his butt. “I’m the only one that needs to run this shop!”

    “R-Right, sir! But she’s trying to sell for you.”

    “Yes.”

    ‘There is something more going on here. I knew it.’ Fear or curiosity, he had to weigh to the two against each other. But it was Chie and he wanted to know. It might have been meaningless, but he wanted to know. Anything to understand her better. “Did Miss Chie do something, sir?”

    His crossed his arms increasing the menace of his presence. Ashikaga really did not like talking about her, but for Mitsuru he answered. “The arrogant girl had the gall to say she could do better.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “This morning, she comes waltzing in here brimming with confidence and tells me that she’s been watching my shop the last few days. Tells me that I’m not doing enough marketing or some such word I don’t remember.”

    Sweat built up on Mitsuru listening to the tail. He glanced out of the corner of his eye at Chie. ‘Miss Chie what did you do?!’ Mitsuru only had half of the story. Regret or not, he could not let his curiosity stop only there. “What did you say?”

    “I told her to leave if she was just going to be spewing nonsense. Then she went on some crazy rant. So I told her, if she felt that there was something wrong she should do it herself.”

    “You did?!”

    “I figured that being the empty hot headed girl like them that she’d back down once I called her bluff. But she accepted my challenge.”

    “Really?”

    Ashikaga sat down on his stool. The weight of it all seemed to get to him. “I never thought she’d called my bluff. Now I have to deal with her for the whole day.”

    “I see.” He looked back at Chie. She went running after someone across the street that she spotted. Once the innocent man spotted her, he went running off trying to escape. Mitsuru sweated a little watching it. “Has it helped?”

    “Not one bit. I get the same customers as I do every day, except for you.”

    “Oh…” He watched her come back from a failed sale. The run looked to have made things worse for her appearance. She straightened out her hair and dress before coming into the store. “Miss Chie.”

    Chie looked down to see a bag in his hand. “Found something to buy, I see!” She then went over to the counter. “Mr. Ashikaga, may I have a few more lemon bread loafs?”

    “If you’re going to try to sell don’t run after the customer. It ruins the food.” He then went to the back of the shop and retrieved what she asked for.

    Smiling brightly back to him not even fazed by his reprimand. “I’ll remember, sir!” She then marched out of the shop no less determined to succeed.

    “How long are you open for?”

    “Another hour.”

    He stared out the door at Chie. She kept looking around for the next customer. At the hour it was, she was going to have a hard time finding anyone really. Mitsuru turned around and went back to the counter. “Do you have another apron, sir?”

    “Huh?”

    A quick change later from a confused and reluctant Ashikaga, Mitsuru charged outside. Armed with basket just like the one Chie had, he marched off down the street looking for anyone. “Excuse me! Would you like to buy some pecan bread or maybe some almond cookies?” he asked to two approaching housewives.

    They stared at Mitsuru for a moment. “I don’t know,” one of them hesitated. But she was already trapped. They looked back at each other and then Mitsuru once more. The soft pleading eyes crumbled her indifferent hearts. He could not be ignored it would be too painful to see such a face disappointed. “Alright, the cookies sound good.”

    “Thank you so much!” After he cleared the sale, a hand grabbed him from behind. “Miss Chie?”

    “What are you doing?”

    “Helping sell baked goods.”

    “I can see that, but why? Don’t you need to get back?”

    “There’s still enough time.”

    “Mitsuru…this is mine. Don’t interfere.”

    He stared up at her. She figured him out. It probably was not too hard, since he was inside the shop for a while. “I can’t just ignore this!”

    “Mitsuru!” She nearly shouted at him. It surprised him a little. Though more surprising was how serious she looked when she faced him. There was no longer the jokester that he was familiar with seeing out of her. The expression she made clearly read on how important this was to her. “This is for me to do. It wouldn’t be fair if you helped me. I’ll clear this on my own!”

    “But—“

    “No! I decided to do this and I won’t back down on this! Go home!”

    ‘She’s really set on doing this…’

    Mitsuru recalled something his Grandfather told him once. “Mitsuru, remember there will be times when you must stand aside. Where determination and resolve are more important than the success.”

    ‘Grandfather…I…I have to just watch don’t I?’ Mitsuru gave up his basket to Chie. He untied the apron finalizing his sign of resignation. “Alright, but I’m staying until the shop closes.”

    “Go home!”

    “No! Miss Chie, I’m staying.”

    Chie sighed witnessing the determination that he bore for her. “You’re stubborn about the strangest things. Fine, just hang out in the shop. If someone sees your face next to me it might skew the results.”

    “Alright.” He smiled a little back at her to give her encouragement. ‘It seems impossible, but maybe she can pull it out in the last hour…’ Mitsuru walked back with her and returned to Mr. Ashikaga. “I’m sticking around for a little while, Mr. Ashikaga.”

    “Why?”

    “Just a promise.”

    “Huh?”

    The hour quickly passed by for them. It was almost painfully swift with no mercy. He watched the whole time out the window as Chie tried to pitch the food to anyone passing by. She even tried to convince a dog, though Mr. Ashikaga noticed and chewed her out for trying to give something away for free.

    At the end, she walked back into the shop at closing time with no additional sales. Mr. Ashikaga stared at her for a while before accepting the basket and apron back. “Well?”

    Chie bowed deeply to him. “I’m sorry, Mr. Ashikaga. I failed to get you anymore customers. You were right in the way you were advertising. This is my mistake.”

    Ashikaga peaked his eyebrow looking genuinely surprised to see such an earnest apology. It seemed the hard shell of his cracked a little. “If you understand that then get out. You’re nothing but trouble!”

    “Yes, sir.” She nodded and walked out of the shop without a further word.

    All Mitsuru saw was her back. It seemed lonely. He just stared unable to move until he heard the door close. Then as though it has cut the bindings that held him, he bolted for the door. “Miss Chie!”

    “Mitsuru!” called Mr. Ashikaga.

    He turned around and barely had the time to catch the two bags tossed at him. One was the bag of mochi he bought and the other he did not know. “Mr. Ashikaga?”

    “She might have failed, but she was an employee for a day. I can’t pay someone for failing, but give these to her. Effort is still effort.” Opening the bag, he saw there was a full bag of tea cookies, perfect for snacking on while drinking green tea. He knew how much Chie seemed to enjoy her tea, they were just right. Mitsuru looked back at the old man wondering how he knew. “She looked like that sort of type.”

    Mitsuru smiled widely back at him. “Thank you, sir!” He then turned and pulled open the door. Once more he was late, but this time he planned not to let that stop him. In the distance, he saw Chie walking away. ‘She tried so hard and yet…’ He ran after her quickly catching up to her before she made it to the intersection. “Miss Chie!”

    Chie tilted her head over her shoulder in the direction of his voice. She smiled at him, not actually looking sad as he expected. “We going to be bus buddies? You can snuggle up next to me if you need to warm yourself in the cold night air.” Putting out her arm, she grabbed him in tight against her side.

    He saw the smile, but still worried about her. Despite the teasing, he managed to keep himself together. “You don’t have to be brave, Miss Chie. Even if you fail, you can still keep trying again.”

    “Huh?” Her gripped loosened a little staring at him. “Wow, you’re serious, Mitsuru. Normally, you’d be red as an apple at this point.”

    “Of course I’m serious!”

    She let go of him and allowed him to stand on his own next to her. “Alright, alright.” Chie pulled her purse strap back up to her shoulder. “But you’re wrong.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “You’re assuming that I’m down for failing to prove that stubborn old man wrong.”

    “You aren’t?”

    The light finally changed and they started across the street. She bounced out ahead of him doing a small spin. “Sure I’m disappointed, but I’m not going to let it get to me.” The smile on her face was real. “Even if I fail, I still learn something. And next time I’ll do better!”

    Mitsuru caught up to her side. He grinned back at her pleased. It relieved him, though he sort of felt a little useless. “You’re amazing, Miss Chie.”

    “Just now realizing that? I’m older than you though.”

    “I mean it. Most people wouldn’t just throw themselves out there like that and those that do would probably be really sad and upset failing. But not you. You can see the positive even in your failure and look forward. I always just thought you liked to tease me, but you’re determined and passionate.”

    “Oh I still like teasing you,” she giggled as they came to the bus stop, “But careful with those words, Mitsuru. You’ll make me fall for you.” She leaned down as close as possible. He immediately turned red and lost his speech ability. “Glad to see you’re still innocent.”

    “Miss Chie!” pouted Mitsuru, seeing her teasing him again. She grinned and sat down inviting him next to her. He snapped out of his embarrassment and settled down. Then he remembered the cookies. “Here, it’s a gift from Mr. Ashikaga.”

    “That old man…he’s too smart for his own good,” she said seeing the cookies inside.

    “You really are amazing, Miss Chie. You’re an adult to look up to…”

    Chie grabbed him once more teasing him with her body as they waited on the bus.

    “…some of the time…”

    To be continued…
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  16. #16
    The Quiet One Twin Moon Andromeda's Avatar
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    “Come on, Mitsu! We need to hurry!” Tsukiko called out in Tsuneo’s voice.

    They were both already transformed, forcing the old man on the bus to let them out before hand. His predecessor already had a terrible experience, that naturally left him not wanting to ride the route anymore. So they could not allow him to face that either.

    Jumping through the trees was hardly a natural thing for Mitsuru, but it was all he could do to keep up with Tsukiko, already charging in ahead. She did not even think about it. She just started jumping from tree to tree as though it was the most natural thing. Which mean he had to follow. “I’m trying, Tsuki! But I’m not suited for this!”

    She did not have time for his whining. “Get moving! The demon is near the mansion! We can’t let it attack the house!”

    “But shouldn’t it be coming after us? We have the most spiritual energy.”

    “There is the young boy, Yuu,” Hisako mentioned, as she popped out of the hilt of the sword. “His spiritual power is easily something to rival our own.”

    “All the more reason to move faster! He doesn’t need any more trauma.”

    Another minute or so of complaining finally dropped them in the area of the demon. A foul odor already spread out through the whole area. Mitsuru drew up his long sleeve to cover his face a little. “It’s an oni again.”

    Tsukiko nodded in agreement. “I’m getting really tired of these. They wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t feel like I needed a bath after every fight.”

    A rumble went through the tree they stopped on. They could both feel it stomping around, but there was something more going on. Tsuneo hovered next to Tsuki, examining the situation. “Seems like someone is already fighting it.”

    Mitsuru leaned forward a little looking down from his higher branch towards her. “Think it’s Akira?”

    “He has been the one doing most of the demon slaying. It’d probably a lot noisier or messier if it was Masanori. Though, knowing Akira, he’d already been done.”

    Another thump made the leaves sing in the air. “Well we can’t stand around, Tsuki. If it’s not Akira, they need help.”

    “I know! Let’s go!”

    They both leapt down in the same moment charging in with swords drawn. Small quakes rocked the earth as they ran the last few meters to get through the cover to the battle. However, it surprised them to find that it was neither of their guesses.

    The truth was that they found Katashi defending the mansion against the oni. It was not that it was a shock to find him fighting. They both knew that he could fight and had done so on several occasions. But he rarely came and helped them, not to mention he was difficult to deal with on the battle field.

    “Katashi?” asked Tsukiko, getting to it first. He glanced over at her, but had to evade something quickly that looked like a spear made out of metal and bone. The area looked like it had a lot of holes punched out by the spear. Likely, he had been doing a lot of dodging.

    Katashi landed behind the oni, dealing a shallow blow to its back. His blade barely managed to make a scratch. And the oni had a surprisingly swift counterattack with the back of its spear. He managed to see it coming and evade it without trouble. It made the situation clear.

    She charged in to help Katashi, but he appeared in front of her with his arm out. “What are you doing, Katashi? We’ll take it down together! You need help.”

    “No, I’ll do this on my own.”

    Clinching her hand up around the hilt, she wanted to punch right there, but knew better in the middle of the fight. “Don’t tell me Akira’s growing on you, Katashi. We don’t fight alone!”

    He charged forward leaving her behind. “Don’t interfere.” Katashi leapt after the oni dodging the spear thrust and running up along the shaft of the weapon. He left small cuts along the oni’s arm that seemed to be equal to that of bug bites for it. His progress seemed insignificant.

    She already dealt with the stubborn and selfishness of Akira. Tsuki had enough of men needing to be proving themselves. She jumped in after Katashi, ignoring his request. “Like I’m going to listen to you. The importance is killing it not, who does it.” Her spiritual energy built up in her blade readying to slay the demon, but Katashi appeared in front of her. “Katashi?!”

    Spinning around, he threw out his leg throwing her back towards Mitsuru. “I said I’ll handle this.”

    Mitsuru managed to catch her, but she already started to push away from him throwing her fist at Katashi. “What’s the matter with you?!”

    Landing in front of the oni, Katashi retrieved something from within the layers of his black cloths. A strange metal device was placed on the ground. Flipping a switch, light burst up from it shining all around him. His hand pushed through the beams of light moving through it in a specific order.

    “What’s he doing?” asked Mitsuru, to their spirits. They were the only ones that they had on hand with knowledge in any sort of techniques used to combat demons.

    Hisako rubbed her hand over her chin. She seemed just as confused. “I don’t know, I’ve never seen this sort of technique before. But I can sense a power emitting from it.”

    “Spiritual power?”

    “It doesn’t feel like it, it’s heavy and thick.”

    Water suddenly erupted from the light as though someone took a ring to cut through the light all around Katashi. It sprayed up from within the light as a ring. The water gathered up around Katashi’s arm, spinning as an even distance away.

    “That technique!” exclaimed Tsuneo.

    “What you know it?”

    “I recognize it, he’s creating it differently, but it’s a physical spell. One commonly used by demon hunters that are melee fighters.”

    “Then that light…” Hisako started, she realized what Katashi was doing.

    It was not long before Tsuneo figured it out as well. “You’re right. It’s different, but it must be a three dimensional summoning circle. When looked at in cross sections there might be a tightly drawn circle through all the light and he supplies the physical sign component through gestures.

    “So what does it do?”

    “Harnessing water and through the infusing of it with your own power, you shape it into a dense and sharp edge able to cut through your foe.”

    The technique completed, Katashi leapt at the oni just as it brought down the spear to end his life. Water spread out into a drill like pattern over his left arm, each edge sharper than his blade. He threw out his arm just as he passed by the oni’s weapon arm. The water sliced up the thick, muscular arm into several pieces. Its spear fell to the ground. Katashi continued on going for the finishing blow growing the water in radius allowing it to slice completely through the demon leaving only cross sections left to disappear.

    It was over.

    Chapter 15 – The Stubbornness of Heart

    The pencil pounded against the paper in frustration. It was like a jackhammer erasing most of the sound of the lecture. All she could hear were her own thoughts yelling around in her head. The whole night it bothered her. Unfortunately, she did not get anywhere with it more than it aggravating her. ‘That guy!’

    “That girl pounding her pencil into the desk is Tsukiko Sakakibara. I, Mitsuru, am doing this for her, due to circumstances. We had a normal life until during a rainstorm we found possessed swords and a portal to the demon world opened. Now we protect the city while trying to keep it all a secret.”

    Her emotions kept her from thinking straight for most of the morning. The most that happened as her pencil threatened to drill all the way through her desk. It only stopped because the teacher finally figured out where the sound came from.

    “The subject today, is Katashi Higashiyama, a strange man dressed in all black that professes his love for Tsukiko on a regularly basis. But I’m not sure he understands the word since he never seems to show any emotion. He’s a very strange man that hasn’t opened up to anyone.”

    A rooftop lunch barely gave her anymore peace. Her friends wanted to know what was bugging her so much. She did not hide her upset expression well, or at all. “What’s going on, Tsuki?” asked Kiyome, “You’re more annoyed than normal.”

    To their surprise, she did not actually reply. It took Mitsu leaning to sub in for her voice. “She’s been like this since last night. I remember hearing her yell a lot at Katashi and then nothing.”

    Kichiro perked up in attention along with her friends. “Who is this Katashi, Mitsuru? Sounds like both of you have started noticing the opposite sex.”

    “Yes, Mitsuru, do tell.”

    He pulled back a little from their over eager gazes. A supportive plea-filled glance went to Tsuki unreturned. She was no help to him. “W-well, he’s just someone staying at our place.”

    “I’ve heard that story before, Mitsu,” recalled Kichiro. It was very much like the reply about Izumi when she came up.

    “You’ve got a lot of guests these days,” noted Hisoka, a surprising voice, who typically refrained from jumping into such discussions. However, he did stay within his bounds of interactions. “Are you going to be alright with so many strangers living under the same roof?”

    It was a hard thing to answer for Mitsu. He already experienced a lot of troubles and stress from everything that happened in the last few weeks. Despite their playful teasing, time with his friends was something he looked forward to each day. It was an escape. “Yeah, I don’t know. Sure, it’s pretty crazy right now, but it’s lively and full of energy. We’ve always had guests from time to time, but it was pretty quiet. It’s rather fun despite everything.”

    “Sounds a little like Stockholm syndrome to me,” Kichiro remarked.

    Pushing in, Kiyome wanted things back on topic. “Yes, but what about this Katashi guy? What’s going on with him and Tsuki?”

    “Oh, if I had to guess it was because he didn’t want our help. He seems pretty stubborn about doing things alone and I guess it was the last straw for her.”

    “Must be pretty serious if she’s this hung up on him.”

    “Well it’s not the first time we’ve dealt with someone being stubborn and refusing our help recently.”

    Kichiro finished up his rice and set down his bento for a moment. He looked over at the two of them. New names were always getting dropped recently. “You guys are getting quite popular.”

    “It’s nothing like that!” Mitsu waved his hands trying to deny the whole thing. “I-It’s just people we run into. Things will be normal again soon.”

    “Perhaps…”

    Their lunch rolled to an end without any word from Tsukiko still. They walked back to class together, though she managed on her own, despite being in her own world. That was until she accidentally bumped into two girls that were not looking where they were going.

    Mitsuru leaned down along with Kiyome and Etsuko to help Tsuki. “Huh?” she said as her first word the entire day.

    “Seems our Tsukiko is back in the land of the living,” Kichiro joked, as he offered a hand to the girl that fell. Hisoka provided assistance as well, but they both got up on their own with purpose in their eyes.

    “We’re going to be late!”

    “They might already be sold out!”

    The two girls ran off needing to be somewhere else ten minutes ago. They were not the only ones that seemed to be running in the direction either. It left Tsukiko a little stunned along with Mitsuru. She finally accepted her friends hands up. “What’s going on? Isn’t lunch almost over? Why are they rushing to buy food?”

    “I don’t think it’s about food,” Kiyome replied.

    “Oh, it is about that?” asked Hisoka.

    While Kiyome nodded, Tsukiko did not like that she was being left out and clueless about something everyone else knew. “What are you talking about? Even Hisoka knows?”

    “I-I’m sorry.” Mitsu started to poke his fingers together in a sheepish and fidgety manner. Even he knew, but he kept it secret for other reasons than their friends.

    “What even you Mitsu?! What are you guys not telling me?”

    “It’s not that big of a deal,” dismissed Kichiro, as he walked back to rejoin them. “We figured you already knew since half of the girls in the class have been talking about it. It’s sort of hard not to know.”

    “Know what? Stop being so vague and just tell me.”

    “Many of the girls in our school have created an unofficial club for some guy that’s been seen around town frequently. Seems most of the single girls and some that aren’t have joined up.”

    “Yeah, the guys are a little annoyed by this mysterious man’s attention. Since no one has really seen his face, he’s taken on legendary proportions now. So it’s impossible for the guys to compete with that.”

    Kiyome nodded, but looked a little bothered as well. “They’re a rowdy bunch, but generally follow the rules. Supposedly, someone managed to get a picture of the man and they went on sale during lunch.”

    Blue fell over Tsuki’s face. She looked over at Mitsu who also knew about the whole situation. He never said an extra word to her. However, he did not need to say anything to her. Tsuki could read it all over his face. He knew what it was about and the reason he said nothing to her was exactly as she thought. ‘I thought things had calmed down over this! This is just getting worse!’

    Tsuki just walked away from them all in silence. The sight of her made Mitsuru try to run after her. “Sis!” However, he only got a few steps before he realized that it was completely pointless. He could not do anything for her.

    When the door slid open and Tsukiko went inside doing nothing, their friends knew something was up. “Wow, this is pretty serious,” Kichiro noted.

    “Yeah, she didn’t even flinch,” added Hisoka.

    Kiyome crossed her arms staring at her friend. “The taboo word was spoken and nothing. There something more about this fan club that bothers her so much?”

    Trying to sneak off himself, Mitsu got caught by them pretty quickly. His reactions and words were even more suspicious to them. “I-I don’t know anything!” He quickly fled from their sight into the classroom to evade any further questions.

    “Something I don’t know…”

    “That bothering you?”

    “Not as much as what it has to do with Tsuki.”

    “With your information network, you’ll figure it out in time.” A sudden loud smack came from the classroom followed by a very delay complaint. Mitsu’s familiar whining voice followed. Kichiro sweated a little. “I guess she remembered.”

    The door to their home slid open and a maid greeted both of them. Tsukiko agreeably handed off her things and went into the main room to drop down in the couch. Following behind her, Mitsuru came after he helped the maid with great insistence. ‘Tsuki…’ He moved around the couch going towards the kitchen hearing her sigh.

    Unlike most days, there was no tea already poured. He had to take the time to prepare it himself. While he waited on the water to boil, he talked with the staff around the kitchen. He finally delivered it out to Tsuki. “Here. It’s apparently going to be a little while before dinner. We’re short a few things.”

    “Thanks.” She accepted the teacup and started to slip on it. The calming taste of the tea soothed her a little. That was until she felt the awkward presence of someone very familiar. ‘That man…he needs to learn a few things in being human.’ She paused in her drinking and glanced over to the hall, where he had passed by a moment before. A grin came across her face. “Mitsu, you said we’re short on things for dinner right?”

    “Um…yeah, the maids are going out to shop.”

    “They aren’t already gone are they?”

    “I don’t think so. They just realized while preparing the meal.”

    “Good, this’ll kill two birds.”

    “Two birds?”

    Tsuki set her cup down and stood up quickly already making for the hallway. She disappeared around the corner. “Katashi! Get your butt over here right now!” No more time did it take for her to shout that, she popped her head back out around the wall. “Mitsu, tell them I’ll take care of the shopping. Just give me the list!”

    “Eh?” Unfortunately, she did not really give him a chance to ask questions or even debate the matter. He was just left there with his orders. “Tsuki?”

    She marched through the hall hunting down her target. “Katashi! I know you’re here. I felt you walk by!” As she passed by an empty room, she stopped and threw her arm out. “Found you!” Tsukiko grabbed his collar. “You’re coming with me.”

    “I have other things to do.”

    Grinning, there was no getting away from her. “Oh? Suddenly for someone that likes following me around everywhere and doesn’t listen when I yell at him decides he has somewhere else to be.”

    “Yes.”

    “You claim to be in love with me, right?”

    “Yes,” he answered in his usual completely empty voice. It was almost like he was trying to be deadpan, but it was not an act. There just seemed to be no emotion there.

    “And you follow me everywhere because you love me.”

    “Yes.”

    “Then you’re coming with me.” She could see the look in his eyes as he tried to get out of it. Tsuki had used all of her past dealings with him against him in the moment. He had no other choice other than to accept.

    “Yes.”

    “Great! We’re going to shopping for food!” She dragged him through the hall not letting him get away from her. “We’re getting you some socializing, even if it just pushing through the crowded grocery store for a good deal on tofu.”

    As the grocery store doors slid open, Tsukiko dragged Katashi in by his wrist. He had been pulling at her the entire time, but it suddenly became more stubborn. “What am I doing here?” This came up again as she started pulling out a cart. “You don’t need me to help. This can be done alone.”

    “Refusing to spend time with the girl you claim to love?” Tsuki grinned finally getting to see something different out of Katashi. His voice remained empty as always, but something started to slip through. ‘It’s slight, but there’s a little more in him…this’ll be a good experience for him.’

    Katashi kept being caught in Tsukiko’s repeated trap. He saw it coming every time and yet just fell into it the same as always. It was unavoidable. Something no amount of skill could avoid. “No.” He resigned himself to stand to next to her.

    “Good!” She smiled at him and dragged him along. Pulling out the list from her back pocket, she started looking at what they needed. “Geez…they want a lot of stuff. How do we even afford this all?”

    The first couple of items went smoothly. Katashi hung back behind her still keeping to himself. A little kid came running through the aisle forcing him up against the shelves. It made her giggle a little to see that slight hint of panic in his eyes. ‘He really doesn’t know how to deal with people…’

    A row over, she stopped and grabbed down a couple of cans. “Hey, can you get that?” She pointed out to the opposite side of the aisle towards what she wanted. He silently moved and then stopped. It took her a few seconds to finish loading up on things to notice him just standing frozen. ‘What is he doing?’ Then she saw there were two women chatting through the aisle. He looked to be sizing them like an enemy as they were blocking what she asked him to get.

    It looked like he was sweating a little not knowing how to handle it. ‘Wow…’ She took pity on him and moved over. “Excuse me. May I?”

    “Oh, I’m sorry!”

    Tsukiko leaned down to pick up the bag of noodles. She tossed them casually over to him. “People besides me exist in the world. You’re going to need to be used to dealing with them.”

    “It’s not…”

    “It’s not what?”

    “Nothing.” He turned away and placed the noodles into the cart. Afterward, he took up his loyal position behind the cart.

    She could only tilt her head a little confused by what happened. However, he seemed unwilling to elaborate on it any further. So pushing forward was her only option. Rounding the corner, the floor grew out into the produce. “We need a few oranges. I’m going down to get some beans and green onions.” She pointed over to where the fruit were arranged.

    “He’s more helpless out of a fight than I expected.” She judged the stock for what seemed to be a good selection. “What has he been doing up till this point?” Holding the onion, she paused realizing that how little she actually knew. “I don’t even know where he came from. He’s just been here it’s oddly natural now…” The thought made her sigh, when she realized that she might actually be starting to accept his presence. “Well, I better see what trouble he’s gotten himself into…”

    Tsukiko turned around and started pushing the cart back. In the distance, she saw him up against the fruit stand. He did not look like he was moving, in fact it did not even look like he had picked any oranges at all. “That guy…I give him one simple thing to do…” The closer she got it looked like he was doing some strange yoga position with his hands up against the fruit.

    The cart stopped nearby as she finished walking the rest of the distance. “You know the fruits might start taking that as harassment the way you’re lingering on them. Just pick some already, it’s not that complicated.” She went over and plucked a couple up.

    “S-stop…”

    Turning to look at him, she felt some surprise to hear his voice nearly jump a bit. “Wha—“ Unfortunately, she did not have a chance to say anything else. What had been a precariously balanced arrangement of fruit, which Katashi had already disturbed and tried to keep from falling, started to move. It was just a few as first, but it turned into a tidal wave.

    Tsukiko tried to get out of the way, but her foot caught the side of an apple and she fell into Katashi. He lost his balance catching her and the fruit raining down around his legs. His back crashed into the tiled floor quickly with Tsukiko on top. And then just to add to the injury, a few oranges dropped on her head knocking her head down a little. “…ow…jeez…”

    It took her a few moments while the fruit finished to notice how close she was to Katashi’s face. Her face immediately lit up. She pulled away from him getting up on her own. ‘I forgot how attractive he looked…that was dangerous…’ As she tried not to look at Katashi, she only saw all of the interested or embarrassed looks from everyone else in the store. It only made her more self-conscious.

    She started to pick up the fallen fruit in the hopes that it would calm her heart down. ‘Calm down, Tsukiko, he’s got no emotions anyway…’ It did not help her that he bent down to help her with the mess they made. Quick accidental glances still were murder on her body. It seemed like he had sparkles around him even though he was not doing anything special. ‘You’re not supposed to have sparkles if you don’t have any emotions!’

    Eventually, a couple of store employees came and insisted on doing the work rather than them. Which Tsukiko welcomed after what happened. She hurried along the rest of their shopping in the hopes of pushing the incident out of her mind.

    A pause had to happen when they finally needed to check out. She loaded things up in a hurried manner overwhelming the boy behind the register. “Sorry…” Tsuki turned away having to wait. Behind the cart, Katashi stood looking around with his eyes. He seemed to judging everyone around him. He could not avoid being separated. ‘Not sure how successful this attempt was, but I guess it’s progress, however little it might be… I got him out of the house if nothing else…’ A smile crept up again watching him.

    “I’ve got my work cut out with this one. But it seems like there might be hope…”

    To be continued…


    Omake Theatre

    In case you were wondering, where Chie was… Remember there was no tea made.

    “Your room key, Miss,” the inn clerk replies.

    “Thank you!”

    Chie arrives at her room and opens the door. “This is a single. We ordered a double. You did place the order correctly?”

    Nodding, Daishou agrees with equal confusion. “Of course.”

    “Looks like we need to speak with the management about this…” She marches back down to the ground floor and slams her hand down on the counter with the key. “Hey, you gave me the wrong room!”

    “Miss?”

    “I said you gave me the wrong room! I ordered a double.”

    The clerk checks the computer at the desk. “It’s only written down here as a single.”

    “That’s not possible. There’s two of us. We need a double.”

    “Two, Miss? Are you expecting someone else to arrive later?”

    “What are you talking about? He’s already here.”

    “There’s no one with you, Miss.”

    “What a minute…” Chie begins to put everything together. She looks over at Daishou. “Your lack of presence is so powerful it changed the reservation!”

    “I’m not happy about that…”

    A glow comes over Chie’s eyes. “This is very fascinating! I must research this more!” She starts to drag Daishou back to their room.

    “But what about the room?!”

    “You don’t have a presence, so it’ll be fine! You don’t need a bed!”

    He hangs his head low while being dragged back to the room by his collar. “I thought we were here for your dig, not to research me…”
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  17. #17
    The Quiet One Twin Moon Andromeda's Avatar
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    Sunday, the day off. They did not have school or any need to go into town. Just a time to relax and enjoy. That was if they did not have homework. It was easy to forget at times that they were students. They protected the town from demon attacks, dealt with talking swords and strange guests. Yet they were still needed to do everything as students.

    Oddly enough, Tsukiko did not actually have much of an issue with doing homework. Why was that? Because it was expected of her. She might have been a little bit of a procrastinator, but she still did the work. Expectations seemed like a strange thing, but it was normal. It was what students did. So she happily did it.

    That worked only for so far.

    Yawning, Tsukiko stepped out of her room. A maid greeted her in the usual unnerving manner of knowing exactly when they were doing anything. She still was not used to it completely, though she accepted it more than before. The maid did not seem to be saying anything, but there was something in the look in her eye that felt like she was judging her. “I’m just getting something to drink.”

    Excuse or not, she had stopped working. Because as normal as it was to do homework, it was still hard on her. She could not stay still for long. While she walked through the hall to the kitchen, she noticed Chie seated in one of the side rooms. ‘Right, she’s back from her dig. Guess she does do work.’

    She kept walking and made it to the kitchen. There was some grape juice left in the fridge that she elected as her drink. She might have been using it as an excuse to get out of work, but it was at least a valid one.

    One empty glass later, she lost her excuse. She leaned back against the counter delaying her efforts to return. ‘It’s so quiet. I guess I should be happy about that, but it’s a little strange. I’m so used to crazy things always happening.’ Tsuki then shook her head remembering what she was saying. It was how she preferred it, she should not be going around jinxing the calm.

    Something had suddenly grabbed on to her. She looked down to see that it was Yuu. He looked a little lonely and needy. “Right, I said that I was busy until I finished my homework.” Though he had improved since she found him, she always had to tell him when and how long to be away from her. “But I’m not done yet…”

    A glance up from him froze her in place. She could not just abandon him. That would be too cruel to do. “Well alright, just for a little bit. I can take a break.” He smiled back at her. It was just going to be a little bit. She could get back to her homework later. The happiness of Yuu was more important.

    While on their walk, she tried to figure out what they would do. She had not really planned on anything and Yuu hardly offered up any options. Then in the middle of their walk, she heard a pained groan come from ahead of them. “Huh? Did we bump into someone?” The barrier from Yuu was up, something she still had not gotten him to grow out of using. She looked around, figuring it had to be someone even though she was certain she did not see anyone.

    It was Yuu that pointed it out for her. “Daishou?!” He was prone on the floor, likely his poor presence made him a victim. “What were you doing in the hall? I didn’t see you.” She rushed over to help him only for the barrier to push him away. Tsuki looked back at Yuu. “Yuu please, he won’t hurt you. We need to help him. Let the barrier go.”

    Chapter 16 – The Magic Library

    A barrier and hand later, Daishou was on his feet looking a little shaken from the whole thing. She could not remember very well if he was familiar with how Yuu was around people. “I’m sorry, Daishou. Are you okay?”

    “…I think so…”

    He was still rubbed his head from the fall trying to piece it all together. Tsuki quickly sought to find something else to focus on. “S-so, what were you doing? Normally, you’re with Chie.”

    Daishou blinked for a moment and then looked at Tsukiko directly. He started to look even more confused than before. “I was getting an odd feeling from somewhere inside the mansion.”

    “An odd feeling?”

    “Yeah, I don’t know why, but I’ve been feeling it ever since I’ve arrived here.”

    Tsukiko tilted her head back towards her sword. “Know what he’s talking about? You two made this place.”

    Her spirit slowly came out of the hilt and hovered out in front of her. Tsuneo gave a small shrug looking to have no further answer for her. “We didn’t make it. We revived it. This place is older than even us. Not to mention, as the guardians we were not permitted in most of the grounds. We had a specific place we lived away from the head family.”

    “What?! Why?”

    “It’s the way things were. We had to follow the laws made by the family. So we actually don’t know that much about the main house than you do.”

    She leaned back a little unsettled by that statement. They had been their guide and all around encyclopedia on all things supernatural. It felt strange not actually have him to rely for everything. She had no answer for Daishou anymore than he seemed to have for his odd feeling. “Sorry, Daishou. I guess we can’t answer it for you either.”

    He smiled like none of it really seemed to matter. Mitsuru and him seemed to be quite alike in some ways. The ability to just smile whenever and make it all seem like it would work out. It was strange. Even though he did not for her she still felt better. “What sort of feeling are you getting?” She had to admit that she had some curiosity about the mansion. It was largely unknown to her. They had been too busy focusing on fighting or just living, that they never really looked into it.

    Daishou rubbed his chin trying to find words for what he could barely describe. Odd was the simplest way of putting for him. “It’s a little like the feeling I got before I came here. It’s sort like someone or something is calling to me.”

    “Something in here is calling to you? Is it a demon?”

    “I don’t think it’s a demon. It’s beckoning too me.”

    Tsuki only took a moment to think about it before opening her mouth again. “Then let’s find it!”

    “But we don’t even know what it is,” Tsuneo protested.

    “Then we should learn what it is. If it is something bad, we’ll destroy it. If it is something else, then…something…”

    “Then something? You’re not planning very well.”

    “Who cares about planning, this should be fun!”

    Her ghost hovered around in front. There was a disbelieving expression on his face. “Sure you’re not just using this as an excuse to get out of homework?”

    “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Her eyes shifted away from him not to look at him directly.

    “Going on an expedition?” shouted a new voice with a little too much enthusiasm. Chie popped out of one of the side rooms, despite having been even further away from them the last time Tsukiko saw them.

    Everyone jumped back a little in surprise. Tsukiko felt Yuu put up the barrier from being scared. “Chie?! You scared Yuu!”

    “Oh my, what’s going on Daishou?”

    “She ignored me…” Keeping her annoyance in check was not easy. The woman always did too good of a job trying her patience and worse she did not even say anything to her this time. She marched over to Chie, making sure that she could not be ignored. “What are you even doing here? I thought you were drinking your tea and wasting time.”

    Grinning back at Tsuki, Chie already detected her target’s emotions. “No worse than someone else here, I’d imagine.”

    “Why you…”

    “Hey now, ladies, no need to fight.” Daishou made the mistake of stepping in between the two. Mostly it was the fact that the barrier was still up. It knocked him back on his butt unable to actually stop them. He could only watch as electricity seemed to spark between them. The fun-loving grin from Chie clashed with the ticked off frown from Tsuki.

    Sensing a disturbance in the house, Mitsuru appeared around the corner. “What’s going on here?”

    “Oh, Mitsuru!” Chie called, looking behind her. She immediately disengaged with Tsukiko and jumped down the hallway to grab him up. “All finished with your homework?”

    His face started to go red quickly from her close proximity. “Er…just about…”

    “Now there’s a good boy, unlike someone.”

    Mitsu quickly went blue turning the whole thing into an uncomfortable violet. “What’s going on, Miss Chie? Are you getting Tsuki upset again?”

    “Just a little fun.”

    “Miss Chie…”

    “But enough about her, we’re going on an expedition!”

    The swift jumping of thoughts perked up Mitsuru. “Expedition?” He bit on the bait almost too easily for Chie. Her growing smile even went unnoticed by him. “What sort of expedition? This one of your digs?”

    Unfortunately, that was about as far as Chie went. She paused realizing that she did not even know what they were doing. She just caught wind of something interesting and went with it. A bit of sweat dripped down her head already having Mitsu hooked. “It was Tsukiko’s idea.” She threw a thumb to point back in her general direction.

    “Hey don’t just toss things off to me when you get cornered!”

    “But you were the one that started it, right?”

    “Huh? Oh, right. I guess I was.” In all of the chaos and yelling, she had actually forgotten about nearly everything before. She had been dragged along at Chie’s pace. It annoyed her even more. However, Mitsuru was now looking at her for answers. “Daishou was sensing something in the house. And I realized that we don’t really know anything about this place, even the two idiot spirits aren’t any help.” She got some protest out of them for her commentary, but she did not stop. “So I thought it might be a good time to see what it is in this place. It’s much larger than what we’re used to, so we haven’t really even explored a tenth of it.”

    Mitsuru stepped free from Chie and walked towards Tsuki. “I guess you’re right. We really don’t know much about this place. It’s a little weird with how it supplies so much for us without us doing anything for it.”

    “So let’s explore!” Chie jumped forward off Mitsuru’s back putting everything she had into her energy.

    “Miss Chie…”

    “…” Tsuki turned to look over at Daishou. It was sort of his show. “Any feelings on a direction?” They just had a hall before them, but little had been explored beyond what they lived in. So they did not know anything about its layout.


    An empty hall stood before them and a welcoming one behind. Neither had really much of a clue for Daishou. He looked in both directions trying to get a read on this feeling. Confusion clearly painted over his face. “…that way…” His hand pointed down the empty hallway, the one that held the unknown. The opposite direction would have eventually found somewhere they did not know as well, but this was closer.

    “Let’s go!”

    “You’re awfully excited about this, Miss Chie.”

    “Of course! We’re exploring the unknown! What could be more exciting than learning what is out there?”

    “I guess you do have the scholarly desire for knowledge.”

    She reached out and grabbed Mitsuru quickly. “You’re hurting my feelings, Mitsuru! I’m a student of science first and foremost! Knowledge is what I live and breathe!”

    “Says someone trying to prove the existence of demons,” mocked Tsukiko.

    “They are real!”

    Mitsuru had never really thought too hard about it after Chie first introduced herself. But Tsuki’s comment made him realize what sort of situation she must have been in. They all knew demons were real, but what she was doing was hardly scientific. “What do others think of your research?”

    Chie started to open her mouth with a reply in mind. Then she saw the look in Mitsuru’s eyes. She released him and went into a relaxed, laid-back walk as they followed in the back of the group. “Worrying about me now? I’m an adult.”

    “But, what you’re trying to do isn’t very scientific.”

    “It’s the truth though. Demon do exist.”

    “Well yeah, though you haven’t really seen one yourself. It was just impossible to hide it from you. You just have our word.”

    “I’ll find proof.”

    He started to feel a little bad for her. Demons did not leave proof of their existence. It was almost as if they knew that she wanted to expose them and they were playing a cruel game on her. She knew from them what happened and there was all of the other supernatural events that happened. “What about magic? You can proof that exists.”

    “My thesis is on demons, not magic.”

    “But…”

    “Mitsuru.” Suddenly, Hisako popped up out his sword. She stared directly into his face with an intense look that he had never really seen her have before. Something serious was wrong. “Never call what we do magic ever again.”

    “Huh?”

    “What we do is not magic. It is spiritual. It’s a divine power. It’s not magic.”

    The intensity kept increasing against Mitsu. He did not understand why she was getting so upset with him over the difference of magic and spirits. However, she seemed deadly serious about it. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know there was a difference.”

    “There’s a very important difference. The power we wield is divine power granted to us by the gods to fight demons. Magic is an evil power granted by demons. It’s a demonic power that is corrupt and tainted, nothing like what we have.”

    “I-I’m sorry! I didn’t know!”

    “Oh, that’s very fascinating,” jumped Chie on the chance to learn something new about demons. She leaned over to the spirit completely not reading the grave tone of the atmosphere. “So does that mean magic can exist again, since demons have returned?”

    “It’s very likely. So be careful, it warps people. It’s a power that has a mind of its own and will turn anyone that uses it into a demon.”

    “Al-lright…I’ll keep that in mind.”

    The walk continued with only light conversation as they investigated rooms. Most of the rooms that they found were largely pretty boring. They were often just rooms like the ones everyone else lived in. Nothing really special.

    “Getting anything, Daishou?”

    A pause came as they were at a fork. It was not the first one. Though none of them could remember how far back the last one was or where it went. Each hall seemed to go on forever, as did the one they were currently following. “Feels stronger this way.” They selected the right path. All the turns and twists in the hall made them lose track of their location as well. It felt like an endless maze.

    After an hour of walking, Chie’s enthusiasm had finally expired, everyone else’s was long gone before that. She started to complain like a child. “I’m getting hungry…”

    “You’re the one that wanted to come along.”

    “So mean. Mitsuru, your sister’s being a meanie.”

    Mitsuru turned blue before he could even say a word. He felt the reaction. “M-Miss C-Chie…” She did not seem to be affected by the fear he had from the taboo being spoken. Since she was being the brave one, Mitsuru went to hide behind her.

    However, before the entertainment could get started, Daishou came to a stop. “This is it. What’s been calling to me.” Everyone came to a stop and turned towards him. The long journey actually bore fruit. Most had given up.

    Even Tsuki gave up on her planned correction of Chie. She looked over at what was the door. It had a different look from the other places that they had been. “What is it?”

    Everyone’s curiosity pulled them to look at the strange door. Unlike any of the other rooms, it did not have the strange rice paper sliding doors. It was heavy wood, thick and embedded into the wall. A distinct Japanese feel still came from it even with how foreign it was with the rest of the place. Carved into the wood was an array of symbols that surrounded an image of a divine and demonic appearing being facing each other.

    Mitsuru leaned in to the group, finally catching up. “I don’t know that kanji. Do you, Tsuki?”

    “No, it’s sort of familiar, but nothing like I’ve seen before.”

    “Yes, you’re right. It looks archaic. Your grandfather would probably know it, he seemed to recognize them before when they summoned this mansion.”

    Thinking on the same wavelength, they both grabbed their swords out and directed them at the door. Tsuneo and Hisako popped out a little bothered by being managed as items rather than individuals. A couple of insistent shakes got them looking around, though reluctantly. “Looks like it’s a library.”

    “A library?” Tsuki questioned, the door had hardly the appearance of a library. “Are you sure?”

    “Of course! Unless you think you can read ancient kanji better?”

    “No, if that’s what it says.” She looked up at the door in its entirety once more. ‘A library all the way out here? Why in the world is it this far away from the rest of the living space?’ Unfortunately, while she was deep in thought someone else was already acting, when they should have been cautious.

    Chie jumped out in front of all of them. “A library! An ancient library!” Her hands pawed at the relief just begging to get inside to see what secrets it held. “Lemme in! Lemme in!”

    “What do you think you’re doing?!” Swiftly, Tsukiko grabbed Chie up with both arms under her arms. “We don’t even know what trouble could be behind that door!”

    “Science never advanced by being afraid!”

    “You sound like a mad scientist!”

    “I’ll take it if I can behind that door!”

    “I won’t let you!”

    A loud crack echoed through the hall interrupting the argument. Silence quickly fell among them all not sure what happened. In the next moment, the doors started to shake. Old dust fell down through the cracks.

    “You done it now!”

    “I know!” Chie replied with uncontrollable glee. She slipped out of Tsuki’s loosened hold like a snake. The doors began to pull apart and the moment that there was enough room she darted inside. She disappeared from everyone’s sight without any chance of stopping her.

    “Miss Chie!” Mitsuru went in after her not even thinking.

    “Mitsuru!” Any chance to grab him was lost in her hesitation. Daishou quickly followed up in silence. Whatever drew him to the room seemed to have a strong pull on him. It felt Tsukiko outside along with Yuu, who just looked up at her with questioning eyes. A sigh escaped as she decided on something that she would regret. “No choice now. They’re all in there. It’ll just a bunch of old musty books anyway, what could possibly happen, right Yuu?” He gave her an uncertain blink. She had hoped for something a little more positive to give her support.

    The sound of the doors hitting the end of the line rung out in a deep tone that echoed through the walls. It was fully open and inviting them. Tsukiko cautiously put a foot forward. Nothing bad seemed to happen and so she moved again. A few steps put her fully inside.

    Nothing happened.

    She sighed.

    Then the doors immediately closed behind her so fast it actually blew her off her feet. Tsukiko blinked for a moment while on the floor trying to be sure of what just happened. She jumped up and went to the door pounding and pulling on it to open.

    They were done.

    Locked in.

    Tsukiko leaned her head against the door pleading for it not to be true. ‘It really did happen…’ Another sigh fell out of her lips and tumbled around on the floor before slipping through the cracks. She turned around with the hopes that everyone else heard the noise and felt the same way as her, at least on some level. It was loud enough, it was nearly impossible not to have been heard.

    Yet, when she looked all she was people not even noticing. Chie was running all over the library as if she was a child on Christmas and Mitsuru like a frantic parent trying to clean up after said child. And well, Daishou looked to be content already staring at the countless shelves of books. “No one cares at all…” She got a tug on her shirt from Yuu. “Everyone, but you. Thanks, Yuu.”

    No longer sure what she should be doing, she rolled over to see Daishou. At the moment, she had given up hope and just needed the distraction. “You find what you were looking for?”

    “I think so…there’s something very impressive about it. Physical size notwithstanding of course.”

    “Physical size?” She had not really given the library much thought after the initial obvious check of there were plenty of bookshelves. The more she turned her head though, the more she realized how massive it truly was. It had more than just one floor, in fact she was not sure how many floors it had. Tsukiko had to nearly drop herself on her back to see towards the top and she was not sure she actually saw it. There was too much of a haze in the air.

    Stairs connected each floor, stealthfully hid behind shelves. The walls came in at even spacing and corners making it all very meticulously arranged. Each set of shelves held seven racks with the highest in reach for her, but clearly beyond that of Mitsuru. But Daishou was right about it. Beyond the scale of it, there was something else Tsukiko felt from it. She had no words for it. Even Daishou’s remark of ‘impressive’ seemed poor.

    However, seeing the scale reminded her of the main problem that they faced. She glanced back at the door, which now looked significantly less significant against the whole library. “You know we’re trapped in here. The door won’t open.”

    Daishou pulled out several more books and went over to the corner. He folded up his legs and started cracking open the books. Despite their age, they seemed to be in near perfect condition somehow. “Yes, I suspected as much.”

    “You did?!”

    “It’s probably a security measure. Judging from everything in here, there’s likely a lot of secrets that the original owners did not want released. My guess would be that anyone without the password or whatever they used as security back then would be locked in here to die.”

    “To die?!” Panic started to settle into her voice.

    Still casual about the whole thing, Daishou did not interrupt his paging. “That’s what I said.”

    “And that doesn’t bother you?!”

    “Not so much. I’ve already come to terms with my mortality a long time ago.”

    Tsukiko ran back to the door. “Well I haven’t! I’m still just a teenager! I want to be an adult!” She pounded on the door.

    “That’s a rather cliché reaction,” responded Tsuneo.

    The sound of his voice gave her an idea. She pulled out her sword to start attacking the door. “If fists aren’t enough, then I’ll use my power!” Tsukiko charged up her spiritual power into the sword causing it to start glowing. However, a seal appeared in front of the door suddenly. Multiple smaller circles formed around the perimeter. It drew out all of her built up power.

    Tsuki dropped to one knee feeling exhausted suddenly. “I feel so weak…”

    “It drained away all of your power that you gathered. It seems like the security responses to any sort of power. The way the circle looked to be constructed, it funnels everything it steals to further enhance the defense.”

    “Then that means…”

    “Forcing our way through won’t work.”

    Tsukiko pounded her fist against the stone floor. They were trapped with no escape now. She slowly tilted her head back. Off in the distance, she heard the voice of Chie playfully being chased by Mitsuru. “Are we really going to die here?” Despair started to settle in.

    “That’s why I’m reading,” answered Daishou, “While I doubt that they left the secret of escaping in here. I might be able to discover some secret that’ll allow us to escape.”

    “Seems like slim odds,” Tsuneo noted.

    “Yes, but while I may have come to terms with my death, I’m not interested in meeting it until I’m meant to.”

    A bit of hope sprang inside Tsukiko, albeit small. She did not have anything else she could do. All her ideas failed. So she walked back over Daishou. ‘He speaks of death so lightly like it doesn’t even bother him. I know people that joke about it, but the way he talks isn’t done in a joking manner. He understands it and accepted it as he said. That’s rather unnerving for someone still so young. Is there something wrong with him? A fatal disease, perhaps?’ The questions made her curious, but it was a very morbid sort of curiosity. Asking about death to someone seemed the height of rudeness. She wanted to know more, but had no clue on how to even ask such a question.

    Which meant she just hovered and shifted around. After a few minutes, she felt like she was doing nothing while Daishou stared seriously into the book for ideas. She walked over to the shelves and picked a book at random. Cracking it open, she tried to make sense of what she was staring at. Unfortunately, it was as if she was an eight-year old trying to read. “Almost none of this makes any sense! I can’t read most of these characters. The ones that actually look important!”

    Tsukiko went after another book and got the same results. Another and another. Eventually, she just had to accept that they were all written in arcane Japanese. “Can you actually read this, Daishou?”

    “A little. Most of it is just as confusing to me, but the longer I stare at it the more it seems to make sense to me.”

    She tried again staring at it like her eyes were lasers trying to burn through the pages. No better results came of that attempt. “Ugh…I don’t know how you can make any sense of this.” She leaned against the shelves hearing her sword rattle again. “Hey can you read this?”

    “Yes.”

    “Then tell me what it says.” She shove the book up in the face of Tsuneo until he went through it.

    He had to adjust himself a little, but he started to stare at the page. “Flip,” Tsuneo ordered. Tsukiko complied, though reluctantly. It took a few more pages turns for him to respond with anything more. “I see. I didn’t know.”

    “What? You find something?”

    “Huh? Oh no, this is just a cook book. I found a recipe that I remember my mother making for me when I was younger. I figured out that ginger was the ingredient that I had been missing. Makes sense.”

    She quickly snatched him up in her hand glaring at him. “Cook book?! Cook book!”

    “T-that’s what I said.”

    “Find a different book! A more helpful one!”

    “You grabbed it.”

    “What’s this one?”

    “How to garden.”

    “This.”

    “The ten best hot springs. Making your guy fall for you. Princess and the Spider. Sexual Properties of Herbs.”

    “You’re m-making that up!” The titles had just been getting worse and worse. He had to be playing a joke on her. “What does it really say?”

    “What I said. It seems you jumped the erotic aisle.”

    “W-what?!” He pointed to her the labeling on the shelf, which was also in arcane Japanese. She had no hope of actually knowing that. It still did not stop her from completely turning red. “What idiot has an erotic aisle in their ancient library?!” Tsukiko tossed a bunch of the books at the ghost, even though it did nothing.

    Exhausted and losing hope again, she collapsed on the hard ground staring up at what she hoped was a ceiling, but could not really be certain about. “What can I do?” Tsuki stared into the space between the outer walls.

    Above her, she saw something moving about that did not seem normal. It started to grow in size. The shape started to become a little more clear. And then she heard a voice that was all too familiar yelling down at her. “Mitsuru?!” He was falling and from the height that it looked he was not going to be able to survive. She jumped up trying to think of what to do. All she had was catching him, but that seemed impossible at his speed.

    Only a meter away from her, he came to a sudden stop bouncing in the air as if it was a trampoline. He giggled a little as he rested on the air somehow. “Hey Tsuki!” Nothing but carefree painted his face.

    The panic wore off quickly and was replaced with anger. “What do you think you’re doing?! You scared me! I thought you were going to dies!”

    “…I’m sorry, Tsuki… Chie and I just found a book for controlling spiritual power and I wanted to try it out.”

    “And you thought jumping down from wherever you were was a good idea?! What would have happened if you couldn’t do it!?”

    He started pulling back and floating away from her a little. “…w-well, we already did some tests up there…” Mitsuru started sheepishly poking his fingers together.

    Seemed that only Daishou and her were taking things seriously. She could only sigh. “Whatever…we’re going to die in here anyway…” Tsukiko slumped over again.

    Mitsuru lost any of his happiness at the sight of Tsukiko and dropped down to the ground lightly. “What’s wrong? What are you talking about?”

    “I mean, we’re locked in here. There’s no way out.”

    “What?!” He looked towards the door. It was shut. He rushed over to it, unable to escape the way they came in. Going through all of the motions that Tsukiko did, he meant with the same amount of success. He then walked back over to her and dropped down. “What are we going to do?”

    “I don’t know. Daishou thinks he can figure something out, but it seems like slim odds of happening giving the number of books in here.”

    “I’ll go ask him what I can do to help!”

    Tsukiko fell back feeling completely lost. It was not the sort of place that she wanted spend the rest of her life in. Though it was not really something she gave thought to, no one really did. ‘What can we do…’

    “You’re uncharacteristically defeatist.”

    “Yeah, well when everything seems to be treating this like a joke it’s hard to feel serious about anything.”

    And so the hours bled away. Daishou had a few attempts that equaled to momentary hope only to fail like everything thing else. He did not seem to give up. However, not so for the others. Chie began to claw at the door whining loudly again. Even before she came into the room she was complaining about being hungry, now they could all hear her stomach from the other side of the room. Eventually, Mitsuru managed to convince Tsukiko over to help scanning the books, but things were looking grim.

    Everyone’s stomachs were roaring. It seemed hunger was going to be the way they were going to die.

    Chie finished sharpening her nails on the door and turned back to Daishou. “Hey Daishou! I just had an idea.”

    Her words got more than just his attention. They all paused to hear what she had to say. Daishou eyes poked above his latest book. “What is it?”

    “I just realized. With your lack of presence, I bet you could walk right through the door and the security wouldn’t even notice you!”

    Everyone fell over stunned that she could even joke at a time like this. “Miss Chie, I wish you stop making jokes about me.”

    “I’m being serious! It worked at the hotel we stayed at!”

    “That’s because it was an omake.”

    Tsukiko recovered and stood up from her book. “She’s right. It might work!”

    “Miss Tsukiko, please. Be logical.”

    “But it works on us! Why not the door?!”

    Daishou leaned back from his book seeing the look in Chie’s eye. It was the look of hunger fueled desperation. He sought out some safety in the others, but it seemed that they had all become trapped by the same illogical cravings. “Umm…er…I don’t work like that…guys?”

    “We won’t know until we try!”

    “Guys!” They all grabbed him with the direction from Chie. Even Yuu seemed to be caught up in the storm of irrational behavior. “Put me down! This won’t work!” He was slowly pushed forward against his will towards the door. It seemed as though he was going to become flattened against the wood. They were holding nothing back. The drive of hunger somehow gave them inhuman strength. “You’re going to crush me! Stop!”

    Daishou kept shouting as he pressed his legs and hands up against the door trying to keep himself whole. It seemed inevitable what would happen. All of his shouting could do nothing. His limbs started to give out. He pled with them to let him go, yet they heard nothing.

    Then suddenly, the door opened and they all spilled out into the hall.

    “See it worked!” shouted Chie, slapping Daishou on the back.

    “No, it didn’t.”

    “So this is where you were all were,” noted a different voice.

    Mitsuru and Tsukiko laid on top of Daishou and Chie floundering a little from their awkward position. They looked up and replied together in surprise. “Grandfather!?”

    “Mitsu…Tsuki…what’s going on here?”

    “Well…”

    A short explanation later, over a meal, they explained everything that happened. “I see. That’s quite the surprise. I can only imagine what sorts of secrets are hidden within those walls.”

    “I’m just glad to never see that place again.”

    “But there’s so many things I haven’t gotten to read in there yet!”

    “Then go get yourself locked in there again.”

    “Actually, Mistress Tsukiko,” spoke one of the maids, “The doors to the library should open in response to you without triggering the security.”

    “Then you’re coming with me!”

    “I am not! I don’t care if that is the case. I’m not being used as the key every time you want to go into the library.” Tsukiko caught the look of Chie shifting her attention over to Mitsu. “And he’s not available either!”

    “Meanie!”

    “Child!”

    “Short tempered!”

    “Immature!”

    “Tsuki, Miss Chie! Please stop fighting!”

    “Mistress, if others are wanting into the library, you can grant them access. And then you won’t have to open it for them each time.”

    “See! A solution! Now come let’s get that setup now! I have tons of reading to be doing!”

    Unwillingly dragged on, Tsuki went with Chie. It was a begrudging thing. In the end, she knew that if she did it now that she did not need to have to be bothered later for it. The second trip back was surprisingly shorter than the last. It did not feel nearly as long.

    Following the steps the maid gave them, Tsuki registered Chie with the door. It then slid open with her gleefully running inside. She started to walk away, but caught out of the corner of her eye Daishou inside. ‘Did he come back with us? I don’t remember…’ Tsuki stared in at him for a while, fully engrossed in some book that he read. It was not unlike what she saw before. There was something about it that made it seemed like he belonged there. He just looked right. “I guess he found a home.”

    To be continued…
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  18. #18
    The Quiet One Twin Moon Andromeda's Avatar
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    Carrying his usual smile over his face, Mitsuru looked to be in an unstoppable good mood. He hummed a little to himself as he made his way through the hall. Since it was the evening, it was his time to eat with Izumi.

    He took the advice from Hisako and others to heart. She needed space just as much as she needed someone to be there for her. It was not abandonment if he did not visit every waking moment he had. In fact, such an approach was worse to do to her. A lesson learned for him. And nothing was too late. That he believed whole heartedly. He just kept working slowly with her.

    Each time he talked to her, she replied to him now. It really felt like good progress for her. ‘I can remember when she never said anything to me. She was just silent like Yuu. But now, she actually talks to me, even if it is a little terse at times.’ Nothing made him happier than to know that she was talking to him. It meant she was comfortable and at ease. She might finally be not feeling as scared of the place and everyone.

    “Good evening, Izumi! I’ve brought your dinner tonight.” While he did spent most evenings with her, there was times he was not able to do so. And as he thought about it, it was best not to be overly smothering with his attention.

    Placing her meal in front of her door, an odd shattering came through the door as a sign it was being unlocked. A thin hand then stretched out through the darkness and snatched it up quickly.

    Mitsu grinned a little. When he first saw it happen it took him back. The surprise and shock mixed together in a confusing paradox that he did not really know how to react. He did not expect it to happen. Yet, she opened the door before him and even took the meal. The door locked back up immediately once she took it. But it was a huge step. She always ate after he left.

    It made him happy to see the sign.

    Dinner began in silence from that point. Even if they could converse, on some level, she never initiated. He looked forward to the moment that she did. So it was left to him. Which was not always very easy for him. They might have had exciting lives now that could easily fill a novel, most of it was not really stuff he wanted to expose to her. Talking about fighting demons was not a good subject.

    However, he had something safe thankfully. “Oh, we discovered there’s a library in the mansion!”

    “A library?”

    “That’s right! It’s a little weird and doesn’t allow anyone to leave that doesn’t have Tsuki or my blood.”

    “That doesn’t seem like a useful library.”

    He laughed a little think upon their adventure. “Yeah, I’ll admit it sort of goes against the idea. But I guess it’s like a private library or something? But we found out that either of us can also grant permissions. So now it’s safe for everyone to go in. Though only Mr. Daishou seems to be the only that regularly uses it.”

    Mitsuru munched of some of his rice. He recalled out excited Chie had been about using it. “I guess Miss Chie uses it as well, but I think she just takes some books out and goes to read them elsewhere. Mr. Daishou actually seems to live in there.”

    “He must like libraries or books.”

    A tilt of his head made Mitsu think about her response. “I never really thought of it like that. Maybe he does. The maids complain about it since they always have to send someone off in advance for him when a meal is ready.”

    “Have you mentioned that to him?”

    “I think Tsuki has. But he seems to forget. Apparently, he gets quite absorbed in reading the books.”

    “What sort of books are they?”

    “The one he reads? I’m not sure. I haven’t asked him. The library seems to have just about whatever you want to read. It’s frighteningly impressive the collection, though they are all ancient. Apparently, people back in ancient times wrote a lot more than we all thought. It’s quite the historical find, if we could actually admit to having it.”


    “You can’t?”

    “A supernaturally locked library in a supernaturally summoned mansion? Who’s going to believe us? Plus, we don’t want to endanger others. Our town and everyone here is already in harm’s way. We wouldn’t want to spread that to even more.”

    “That makes sense.”

    Dinner ran smoothly for Mitsuru. It gave him a lot of optimism for the future. Tonight, Izumi felt even more chatty than usual. ‘She’s really opening up I think. I still know nothing about her, though that’s not important right now.’ He wanted to learn about her, but there still was the barrier that sat between them. Plus, as far as they had figured out she did not seem to know anything. Though Mitsuru began to suspect that it might just be her fear speaking and that she did have her memories. It was just not something he was going to press on her. She had reasons for being silent.

    However, the optimism made him feel a little bold tonight. As he collected izumi’s dishes, he leaned towards the locked door. “Izumi? I was wondering, when you’re feeling comfortable with it. Would you like to go outside, maybe into town? I’m not forcing you or anything, but you’re always inside that room. I thought you might like maybe going to town when it would be safe. Maybe shop a little. How does that sound?”

    There was a long silence from the room before she replied. It made Mitsuru feel a little worried he over stepped his bounds again, despite being overly cautious in his approach. “Maybe…soon…”

    He jumped up with excitement. “Alright! It’s a promise! Just let me know when you’re feeling up to it and we can make plans! Have a good night, Izumi!”

    Chapter 17 – Calling a Hero

    A new day and new troubles, it was a life that never seemed to end. And it seemed the only rest came at lunch. Mitsuru chatted away with everyone gathered up, however one remained very silent. That was Tsukiko. The morning had not been very kind to her. So she bottled everything up and just stewed in her seat.

    Mitsuru did what he could for her, but it was beyond his control. It was a matter of circumstances of her own making, sort of. She had no control over it, but still it was because of her that it was a problem. Which mean it was up to her to deal with. And dealing with it seemed to be ignoring the problem.

    “Hello, I’m Mitsuru—“

    “It’s not your turn.”

    “B-But, I thought this was my chapter! You already went last time and the time before that.”

    “And you had two chapters before. This is mine.”

    “Even in your narration, you’re snippy today.”

    “What did you say?”

    “N-nothing!”

    That is correct, the subject today is Tsukiko. As self-centered was Mitsuru was being, Tsukiko was the focus.

    “I’m not self-centered!”

    The subject of Tsukiko bottled up frustration, or anger. It easily swung either way, though probably more towards anger. Majority or otherwise, her problem was the recently discovered fan club that existed because of her. Due to her frequent need to fight in the town, it seemed that enough of the female students at her school saw her male transformed half. Which resulted in the loose formation of her unofficial official fan club (unofficial as she didn’t approve it, but official in that the girls claimed it as such).

    Their unilateral action left her dealing with the effects of the club. While none of them knew it was her, which would have likely killed her if they did. It did not end their endless girl talk about the hot guy in town. So many in their class already were declaring that they were in love just thinking about him. And hot guy sightings went through the roof for commonly discussed subjects.

    Tsukiko could only sit in her chair listening to it. She could not do anything about it. She prayed for when it would just blow over. The girls had to move on to some other hot guy, right? Her entire ‘normal’ non-embarrassed life hinged on it being true. She did not know how long she could take it.

    “I-I’m being ignore…”

    “This whole fan club business is really getting to Tsuki. What’s going on?” Kiyome directed her question at Mitsuru, who was the only one willing to speak.

    “U-um…” Unfortunately, the truth was not something that he could hand over to them. Since Tsuki did a poor job of keep in her embarrassment over the matter, it only made it more difficult to explain. “W-well, you see…the girls…” Mitsuru stumbled over his words. ‘What do I say? I’m not really good at lying to my friends or really anyone…’

    Taking the opportunity to tease Tsuki a little, Kichiro stepped on the landmine. “Feeling jealous of all of the girls’ attention on the new guy. You’ve still got plenty of time to confess.”

    “Shut UP!” Tsuki yelled completely silencing everyone at the table and in the classroom. “You don’t understand! All you do is just sit there from the sidelines and crack jokes! I wish people that didn’t have a clue would just SHUT UP!” They had heard her get upset in the past, but the tone and severity went to a completely different level. Once she saw everyone looking at her, she stood up and turned away marching out of the room.

    Kichiro looked completely blank very surprised at the reaction. He expected something more embarrassing from her. Anything that might get her mind off whatever it was, even if she only forgot about it for a moment. But it completely backfired. “That was a stronger reaction in a way I didn’t expect.”

    “Mitsuru.”

    They all looked at him for an explanation. Unlike him, they knew nothing about her problems. It was clear he knew and they wanted to understand. They were supposed to be friends. Mitsuru understood what they wanted, but had to still disappoint them. “I’m sorry. This is a very personal matter for Tsuki. I hope I can explain it in time, but the best thing I can say is try not to bring up the subject around her.” He stood up going out in search of Tsukiko.

    “Mitsu…” called Kichiro, out to Mitsuru before he left.

    Stopping, he looked back at Kichiro and understood. “I know. But you need to tell her yourself too.”

    “I will, just smooth things over a little first. She’s more high strung than normal. We are your friends, we do worry about you two.”

    “Tsuki knows that. She’s just a little out of sorts right now.” He then rushed out of the classroom searching for signs of Tsuki. When she bolted from the room, he already knew roughly where she went on direction. However, the school was by no means small. It would take some time for him to find her.

    While he turned the corner, he caught the edge of someone’s foot. Unlike last time, he was not as well prepared for it, even though he should have been. His mind was on other things. Falling would have been enough, but he tumbled end over end. It was the wall that stopped finally, leaving him upside down. “…ow…”

    “Oh my, Mitsuru, you’re developing a habit of bumping into me,” familiar voice called out.

    Mitsuru blinked trying to shake his head free of the pain. “Aiko?! Are you alright?”

    Dyed in green hair, Aiko pressed her skirt down against her legs as she folded her legs in a very proper and modest manner. A finger drew back strains of hairs that started to fall forward as she looked down at Mitsuru. “You should be asking yourself that first before me, after the fall you took.”

    While he never saw a thing, his face still turned a little red with how close she came to him. Her knees nearly used his face as a rest if she got any closer. The whole situation forced him to get back on his feet faster than he was expecting. A little lightheaded, he nearly fell over again. “N-No, I’m fine,” he managed without actually having any confidence in his assertion.

    “You sure? You’re not looking so good.”

    “Absolutely!” Mitsuru pounded his fist against his chest as though that would actually prove anything. Which it did actually. The force of his fist made him cough and hack making it seem like he had a terrible flu.

    She looked at him even less convinced of his status of health. The sight of skepticism from Aiko about his bravado did not read to him. It did still put a lot of attention on him over a matter that he did not really feel was necessary. “Were you going somewhere?”

    “Oh, I just came back from forestalling an incursion by a sixth dimensional being.” Aiko stood up but in the process dropped something she carried, previously hidden from sight.

    “You might want to pick something in this reality, if you’re going to choose your lies,” remarked Mitsuru, not sure why he was going along with it. It was not really like he has a solution to stop her lies. He just sort of hoped that maybe enough time with her might cure her of it or something. It probably was an overly optimistic approach.

    He bent down to help her with the book that fell. “100 Supernatural Sites in Japan?” Meeting in the middle, he handed it over to her, but not without a little a blush between them.

    Aiko retrieved it quickly and backed up a step. “Apparently, this is what the sixth dimension needs to open a full portal into our world. So I must keep it safe.”

    “I see.” Mitsuru patted her on her head smiling at her. He had to be going to look for Tsukiko. “Well keep up the good fight, Aiko!”

    Touching the top of her head, she stared at Mitsuru as he ran off continuing his hunt. She did not notice her friends walk up behind her, finally catching up to her. Yumiko and Moriko glanced around her trying to see what she was staring at with such intent. Eventually she noticed and jumped away from the two of them. “Yumi, Mori!?”

    “Hey Ai, that boy again?” Yumiko asked, pretty sure she saw Mitsuru before he disappeared from sight.

    “Huh?”

    “You’ve been bumping into him a lot lately, Ai.”

    “W-W-well…that is…”

    “You’re oddly lacking words.”

    “He might be good for Ai, Yumi. He’s not pushed away by all of her lies. In fact, he seems to want to help.”

    “He doesn’t know Ai like we do. I’m not going to trust him so quickly.”

    “Why are you two talking like this?! It’s just Mitsuru!” Aiko turned around and resumed her walk before interrupted. Yumi and Mori stared between each other after listening to her departing words. It left them with a lot still to think about.

    -X- -X- -X-

    Mitsuru never found Tsukiko. There was a really good reason for that. She actually left the school after she blew up on Kichiro. The original plan was just to find a place of peace and cool off. But that backfired quickly, when she stumbled across a batch of girls from her fan club. Chasing them off in furious rage, she could no longer return to school.

    Her spirit popped out of the sword on her back. “Aren’t you supposed to be in school still for a while?” Like the others, he knew how much of a surprise it was for her of all people to elect to skip class. No sign could be bigger painted on how much this impacted her.

    “And who’s fault is it that I’m in this mess to begin with?”

    “It’s not like we designed any of this or want to be causing you trouble. You just pulled the sword.”

    “A fact I regret everyday I’m alive!”

    “I thought you accepted me.”

    “I accept you screwing up my life!” Tsukiko continued to march through town with no purpose in her. The spirit gave up talking to her and disappeared into the sword, which only made her slightly happy. She still had all of it running through her head what was going on at school.

    “I’m not doing an introduction. Stop waiting.”

    The peace of the town started to have a bit of an effect on her mental state. She did not feel as angry anymore. She just felt exhausted. Her mind would not let her forget about her situation. It was a problem that she could not solve. That just made it worse for her knowing that she just had to let it be.

    But by fortune or luck, something arrived to give her a much needed distraction. However, she would disagree on both accounts. But since when did Tsukiko’s opinion on things matter anyway?

    “Stop thief!” shouted a deep and familiar voice that immediately made Tsukiko’s insider churn.

    She looked down at her feet to see a dog fleeing out of an alley. It had what seemed to be a loaf of bread in its mouth. The dog hardly looked malnourished, but then she remembered. “Yuuki…” It was an all white mutt that no one really knew what parts it was, but some had guesses.

    However, she did not have much time to think about the town dog as the one chasing it burst out from the alley. In blazoned with nearly as much white as the dog he chased, Masanori came within a few centimeters of hitting Tsukiko. Her encounters with him seemed to have given her a bit of tolerance for his eccentricities, as she did not even bat an eye. In fact, her arm reached out and grabbed him by his collar. “…Masanori…why am I not surprised…”

    The sudden change in direction flipped him almost on his back. Despite that, he easily countered the motion and spun himself around. An over-the-top landing later, he stood flat in front of Tsukiko. He already had a wide smile across his face at the sight of her. “Ally of Justice!”

    “I have a name, it’s—“

    “Are you on hunt for evil too, Ally of Justice?”

    Tsuki sighed. He cut her off. She wanted to punch him or something, but he was not even being mean. He was just blind. A complete idiot, Grade AA idiot (he’s improving in quality). Blind, oblivious and single-minded, he was an entire being that should completely anger her to no end. Yet, for some reason, it did not. “Stooped so low as to chase off dogs now?”

    “That dog is evil! Pure evil!”

    “Is that right? A dog?”

    Her targeted skepticism drilled through Masanori proclamation. He quickly seemed to retreat from his stance. “Or maybe the dog has become corrupted…er controlled! There is an evil controlling the dog! I was hunting er…tracking the dog to find the root that this evil lies in! So that I may free the dog from its vile clutches.”

    She lifted her suspicious eyebrow a little, a bit amazed at his rapid rewriting of history. “You sure you weren’t just trying to get your lunch back from the dog?”

    “That thief!”

    He flipped quickly back to his previous state. Tsuki could not do much but sigh again. ‘I at least know what’s going on now. Makes sense considering Yuuki…’ She grabbed onto Masanori’s collar dragging him behind her as she began walking off. “Come on hero.”

    “But my lunch!”

    “Yes, I’ll get you lunch. I rather not imagine you eating something after Yuuki slobbered all over it.”

    “You know that vile creature?”

    “Yeah, yeah…she’s awful with a black heart.”

    “So you’ve been tracking the dog too! It makes sense, you live here, you must know about all the things happening! You’re brilliant, Ally of Justice!”

    “Brilliant, yes…come along now…”

    Seated on a bench, Masanori wolfed down an entire plate of yakisoba. Tsuki stared at him a little amazed at how his mood completely seemed to change. ‘He’s like a child right now. Not a care in the world, just gleefully enjoying his food, even if it is pretty cheap yakisoba…’ She could not really afford much on her allowance.

    Letting out a very restful sigh, Masanori leaned back in the bench. Sauce dripped a little down the side of his chin from the mess he made. Tsukiko leaned over with her handkerchief to wipe it away. “Honestly…” Then she came to a stop as a comment from Chie entered into her mind. It made her self-conscious suddenly. She threw the cloth on his face and returned to her side of the bench. “Clean yourself up.”

    “Ah! Thanks!” A hand came up and messily wiped away everything that he missed before returning it back to her at carelessly as he used it. “I feel so refreshed now!” He jumped up in front of her and started doing warm up exercises.

    The whole thing seemed a little difficult to believe, but it was Masanori, so she did not discount anything. “When was the last time you ate?”

    “Ate?” He paused in his motions. Apparently thought required the entire body for him. Then he started moving again. “I forgot. I was really hungry, I know that much. Thanks for the meal!”

    ‘Is it really possible to be that dumb?’ All she had to do was look at him to answer her question. “I can’t believe you… Running yourself around town on your hero antics not eating… Stupidity can only take you so far…”

    “When evil is on the loose a hero can’t rest!”

    “Right, but a hero also needs food to live and keep fighting evil.”

    Well yes…that is our weakness.”

    “A weakness…right…” If she had a table to pound her head against there would already been a massive dent. Even without the table, her brain still hurt. She needed to turn things into a different direction before her brain exploded. Though considering how long she had been with him, it probably should have a long time ago if it was going to do so. “Yuuki is rather famous around town. She loves stealing things. You should be more careful.”

    “I need more training! I’ll take your words to heart, Ally of Justice!”

    ‘I’m not sure he actually heard what I said…’ Tsuki shifted a little away from the dog. He at least no longer seemed to think she was evil. “Yuuki is just a little precocious. It’s her way of trying to play with people, since she has no owner.”

    “No owner…”

    She watched Masanori fall silent in a familiar way he had before. He always seemed to grow quiet on certain topics. It was the one part of him that she did not really follow. Though he was an idiot and completely enraptured with hero-worship, all that made him very easy to solve. Yet, there was something about him that triggered the silence. She wanted to know more. “Why are you here, Masanori? We already have a lot of people keeping the town safe.”

    “It’s a hero’s duty to protect the innocent!”

    “That isn’t an answer.”

    “There is a great evil lurking in this town!” He was no longer looking at Tsukiko. Though he was puffing himself up on hero talk, there was clearly something deeper that he was hiding.

    “Masanori…you don’t have to keep running.”

    “There is evil here!”

    Tsuki stood up grabbing his wrist to try to get him to look at her. There was something clearly bothering him. “Masanori! Just—“ She froze the moment that she stood in front of him. The look on his face was not what she expected to find. The child was missing. In its place seemed to be something dark and all consuming.

    He snapped back his wrist from Tsuki. Freed, he started to walk away from her. “A great evil sleeps in this town! I will find it!”

    “Masanori! What’s going on?!” she shouted at him as he left. He was not stopping. “You can tell me! I’m an Ally of Justice!” Nothing seemed to stop him. She wanted to run after him, but she could tell that nothing she did would make him stop. There was something controlling him, something she did not recognize. “Masanori!”

    Masanori was gone from her sight.

    She was alone.

    Tsukiko slumped back into the bench. She no longer knew what was going on. Masanori was beyond her reach. The thought of it spun around in her mind. A paralysis soaked in from what happened.

    “That was the first time I realized that there was someone I couldn’t help. It hurt.”

    -X- -X- -X-

    Evening started to set in for the town. Masanori strolled through the street without much of a purpose. He had not detected any threats that needed him. So he just wondered. The town was small, but in his state it felt surprisingly large. Though it helped that he was walking in circles for most of the time.

    His circles did eventually led him to an alley. He paused noticing something familiar. It was the white dog that had stole his bread earlier. She lifted her head up staring at him. The sight of Masanori immediately got her excited and she started bouncing around him wanting to play. “So you’ve got no owner…” Yuuki barked at him as though she understood what he said.

    Masanori bent down patting the dog. She wanted a little more than just petting and jumped around with almost too much energy. He had trouble keeping up with the dog as it got behind him and circled around. “You’re name’s Yuuki…that’s not very heroic sounding. How about Shiro the White?” Yuuki barked again at him.

    “Want to come with me and fight evil?”

    Across town, Tsuki started to make her way to the bus stop. It was so late now that she needed to get back home or less be stuck in town all night. A dog barked in the distance. She paused as she thought about Masanori. ‘There’s something bothering him, but he’s holding it in. And it’s not just today, he’s completely shutdown…’

    A car roared by blowing Tsukiko’s hair around in her face. She could not see it. Whatever was tying him down was beyond her sight. But it also made her realize something. ‘I don’t know much about him. He just showed up in town one day on his hero adventures throwing the town into chaos. Now, he just seems like he belongs.’

    Tsukiko did not like not knowing. He was part of the town now, even if he was an outsider. It just seemed normal for him to be around. ‘I can’t leave it like this…’ She turned around to look back at the way she came. Somewhere he was out there on his own. ‘He doesn’t trust me enough yet…’

    She suddenly recalled Mitsuru and Izumi. It made her remember what they were all trying to tell him. ‘I need to take this slowly. Clearly, something bad is going on that he doesn’t want to talk about. And forcing him doesn’t seem to be the answer. I have to take my time. It at least doesn’t seem to be something immediate, it seems more like he’s running away… So I have time still…’

    Another car passed by Tsukiko. The exhaust exploded in an awful racket that jerked her awake. She looked around and remembered that she needed to get back to the bus stop. ‘I haven’t given up on you, Masanori! I won’t stop!’

    To be continued…


    Omake Theatre

    “The adventures of Masanori the Brave and Shiro the White begin today!” shouts Masanori from the top of a park bench.

    “Woof!” Shiro barks encouragingly playing along with Masanori. She wears a makeshift helmet crafted from tape, craft paper and cardboard. Red and blue paint sloppily makes up the primary colors. It matches the long red and white cape on her back.

    Masanori turns hearing the sounds of a distressed child. “Someone is calling for a hero, Shiro the White! Let’s be off!”

    “Woof!”

    Deeper in the park, the two heroes finds a little girl crying upset over her balloon being stuck in the tree.

    “Little girl, what can Masanori the Brave and Shiro the White do for you?”

    “M-my-my balloon…”

    “A balloon?” In an overly dramatic pose, Masanori turns to look up at where the child points. “This tree…I can sense evil coming from it. The Great Evil has taken control of this innocent tree to hurt this little girl, Shiro the White! I must put a stop to this great injustice!”

    “Woof!”

    He makes several failed attempts to climb the tree after the balloon. Cut up and a little dirty, he throws his fist at the tree trunk. “Curse the Great Evil for making such a formidable minion out of this innocent tree!”

    “Woof! Woof!”

    “What is that Shiro the White? You have an idea?”

    “Woof!”

    “Really?”

    “Woof!”

    Masanori kneels down having apparently understood Yuuki. She jumps up on his knees and shoulder launching herself into the air towards the lowest branch. With surprising skill, she leaps between branches until finally getting to the balloon. Clasping her teeth around the string, Yuuki leaps down landing on Masanori before safely touching ground.

    “Impressive feat, Shiro the White! You have the perfect makings of being my sidekick!”

    Yuuki then bolts from the area with the balloon still in her mouth.

    Masanori stands in shock. However, he recovers quickly and chases after her again. “Get back here thief!”

    “Seems even being a hero can’t change the nature of Yuuki…”
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  19. #19
    The Quiet One Twin Moon Andromeda's Avatar
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    “Hello! My name is Mitsuru Sakakibara and along with my non-blood related sister, we accidently released the seal on the demon gate protected at our shrine. Now because of this mistake, we must protect the town and those we care about from the invading demons with the help of two spiritually possessed swords.”

    A little short of breath and trying to keep from panting, Mitsuru’s face was a little flush with red. It was not the sort of thing he was used. It was embarrassing for him, but he could not help it. This was the situation that fell upon him. He did not want to get used to it. That might be even more embarrassing.

    Actually strike that, what sort of person would be embarrassed by getting proper exercise? Get a backbone, Mitsuru.

    It was after school and he had to go it alone. He had no help from Tsukiko today, who would have run off to take of things without him, most likely. That sort of thing was not something that he enjoyed allowing to happen. But it was hard to stop her when she got going. He knew better than anyone that once she set her mind to something almost nothing short of their grandfather would actually stop her.

    Despite all of that and preferring to have her handle it, he also wanted to do it himself. It was promise he made with himself anyway. He needed to do this, even though he did not want to do it. There was still a fair bit of reluctance given that he was putting himself in danger. And before all of this happened, the worst he was used to experiencing was the rampage of his sister. Which varied in strength and intensity. He probably should have developed a tolerance to it or something, but he did not. He was still the same frail boy as ever.

    That will never change.

    Mitsuru is constant in that. Even though he currently charged out of the school before the bell even finished ringing. All the while sprinting out of the school shouting apologies. He could not stop. He already waited too long.

    Hisako, his spirit possessed sword, rattled on his back the last five minutes of class. She reminded him constantly in only a way that those with spirit sensitivity could notice. But those with such senses would find it more painful to hear than nails on a chalkboard, which did not seem possible. And yet it was accurate.

    “You need to run faster!” she reminded, having not let up.

    Long out of breath from running full sprint for more than twenty blocks of reckless, very un-Mitsuru like manners. “I know…already! But I…can’t run…any faster!” His lungs burned along with his throat. He thought he was going to die just from running. “I can’t…”

    “I can’t believe out of shape you are. In my day, you would have been the first eaten by an oni.”

    He came to a stop finally needing to pause to recovering. There was no more pushing his body. Despite that, he did manage to respond to Hisako easily enough, “It’s not normal running across the entire city at full speed! Anyone would be dying!”

    Searching around the area, he knew that he was in the area the way she described it to him in the directions. However, there did not seem to be anything out of place. There was no destruction and not even the sounds of screaming, that he expected to hear. “Which way is the demon?”

    “I’m sensing it close by, but there’s another power I’m sensing as well.”

    “Masanori? Akira?”

    “The spiritual and demonic energies are mixed up. I can’t tell specifics from this distance. Hurry, the level of demonic energy I’m sensing is greater than that of the oni’s that have been invading.”

    “What?!” yelped Mitsuru already panicking and wishing for his sister. But she was not with him. She had to stay behind at school. So he was on his own. “F-Fine, let’s go! If it’s Masanori or Akira together we should be able to handle it!”

    Jumping out into the street, Mitsu dodged out of the way of an oncoming car that he did not seeing coming. The honking vibrated through his body as he leapt out of the way and bowed quickly in apology. He then rushed across the rest of the street needing to get the location of the demon. ‘As scared as I am I can’t allow it to hurt people!’

    He heard noises of a battle coming out of an alley way as he closed in on the location. Mitsuru paused for a moment hearing the sound of laughter coming out as well. It was the voice of a young woman. Even though it had a slightly sweet sound to it, there was something unsettling about the laughter that made his feet freeze in paralysis. “W-who’s laughing?”

    “What are doing stopping? We need to get to the demon!”

    “R-right…” His legs still felt sluggish, but he could move again. The alley showed the sort of signs that he expected to see from a demon attack. Slash marks and damaged property lined the entire length. A prolonged battle had occurred and it was still going on. Yet he did not see anyone.

    Ahead of him, he spotted several turns and intersections in the alley. The sounds of the battle grew louder now that he was so close. Even the laughter was more intense. He still felt confused and scared of who might be laughing while fighting. It told him to run away and he wanted to listen, but he forced himself onward. ‘I can’t allow all of my bravery that showed before crumble!’

    Mitsuru searched the alley still not finding the battle and had to go in deeper. It suddenly started to get darker. “Huh? Cloudy?” He looked up to see where the sun had gone only to find that he could not really see the sky very well. There was something blocking most of it from his sight. “What the…?” Only thin lines of the sunlight made it through.

    The feeling he got from the alley quickly worsened. But Hisako pushed him onward still. “What is all of this? It’s black and thin like threads.” Following it seemed to be leading him to where the battle happened. It blocked off all the other ways out. It was at least easy to find them.

    “I don’t think it’s thread. If I had to guess…”

    Just as she was about to finish, they rounded the corner and found the battle. Though it hardly looked like one from his view.

    Hovering about a meter in the air, thanks to all of the blackness that seemed to be supporting it and filling the entire alley, was a young woman that looked nothing like a demon as Mitsuru expected. However, he could very easily tell that she was the demon. Though his ability to detect demonic energy was almost nonexistent, even he could sense the difference.

    Whatever it was, they had the other person completely wrapped up in the black substance unable to fight back. There was thin drips of blood running out from them down the black threads holding them up.

    That was all it took for Mitsuru to completely forget his fear. He immediately unsheathed the sword and shouted out to the demon. “I’m the one you’re looking for!” The woman’s attention quickly became his, as he wanted. Though, the other person was no more free than before. “Hisako, please give me your power! Someone’s in danger!”

    “R-Right!”

    Howling through the air, he leapt with this sword glowing as a flash of light cast from his body transforming him. Rather than the demon, he took his first swing at the strains holding onto the one caught. “It’ll be alright!” He grabbed into the black threads ripping through the rest with his off hand to get them free.

    The demon woman began to laugh at Mitsuru as she focused her attack on him. Bringing all of the black threads in the area to bare on him. Even holding up his sword, his divine aura could not protect him against the force of the attack.

    But he had at least got the other person free from the demon before they were threw away. Mitsuru fell up against the wall of the building cracking it a little from his impact. “Ugh!” He fell down taking too long to get to his feet.

    Attacking him immediately sensing the strong spiritual energy, black strains wrapped him up. He quickly had his arms tied up unable to swing along with his legs and waist. It then went after his throat having him completely where she wanted him. “…can’t…brea…”

    However, an arc of light ripped through the air cutting all of the threads freeing Mitsuru as he gasped and coughed to get air. He felt to one knee taking a moment to realize who it was that had been fighting. Looking up from his spot, he saw as expected a young teenage boy with a gleaming blade as his side. “Akira!”

    Chapter 18 – No Laughing Matter

    “This is Akira Fukushima, a mysterious swordsman that arrived in our town recently. He’s really stubborn about fighting demons alone.”

    Mitsuru’s surprise took Akira off guard and jumped back. He, like Mitsu, had not been paying any attention to who they were rescuing, merely acting on instinct. “You!” Akira’s face quickly went through a flurry of emotions creating a very complicated look.

    “I’m glad to see you’re doing better!” Mitsuru jumped over trying to greet Akira.

    He did not really know how to react. Currently, Mitsuru looked like a woman and yet his voice still came out of the body. It made for a very disorienting combination, especially for Akira who still had some issues with Mitsuru. “G-get away from me!”

    “And he doesn’t like me…”

    “B-but…”

    “No time for that!” Hisako interrupted, “You need to focus on the demon!”

    Right on cue, the attacks from the demon came after both of them. They defended themselves against the attacks no longer split in their attention. Their blades split the black threads and left the area around them filled.

    Akira immediately charged in for the attack ignoring any aid from Mitsuru. He parried the next attack as sparks flew up from the black mass sliding over his blade. It bundled up thick around him until Mitsuru jumped in to cleave through it. “The demon is mine!” he declared, not wanting help from Mitsuru.

    Staring a little shocked at him, though Mitsu remembered how much he was like this before. “I’m not trying to steal your fight. But this shouldn’t be about competition!” The black strains threatened to overwhelm Akira as he threw himself headstrong into the demon’s attacks trying to finish things quickly. It made his form sloppier than normal. Mitsu appeared in front of him shielding him from the attack that would have wrapped him up again. “We’re supposed to be protecting the town, not fighting over who’s going to kill the demon! It doesn’t matter who does it so long as it’s dead!”

    Mitsuru’s words did not successfully get through to Akira as he used Mitsu’s back as a jumping point. It gave him the extra height and momentum between the attacks to get an unguarded strike. The demon woman roared in anger at Akira’s success as black threads leapt out of the wound he created. Black spiraling mass swarmed around him completing engulfing him.

    It turned into sharp edges striking all around Akira drawing up blood. He fell back to the ground surrounded in the strains. Any slash he attempted caught on the black mass. The demon had him trapped.

    “Akira!” yelled Mitsuru as he charged into the battle once more. Protecting Akira from the incoming attack, it split apart on the edge of his blade.

    Glowing brightly, Mitsuru glared at the demon. Spiritual energy rapidly amassed in his blade as he forced back the demon’s attack. Turning the sword around and throwing up the swing, he cut through all of the black mass clearing a straight line to the demon. In the next moment, the energy concentrated tightly into the blade as Mitsuru sped through and past the demon in a straight-line strike ripping through with a wide attack.

    Howling and laughing, the demon woman split in half as she began to fall. Particles of demonic essence started to float into the air as her existence disappeared.

    The battle was over.

    Mitsuru snapped the sword down and turned the blade sharply in his hand before returning it to the sheath. The transformation faded away as Hisako’s power returned. He turned back to rush over to Akira, already standing. “Akira! Are you alright?”

    “I’m fine,” he answered curtly and throwing up a hand to intercept him. Thin streams of blood already began to dry on his hand and arm from Mitsuru’s sight. “I don’t need any help from you.”

    Cautious and a little disappointed, Mitsu stopped. He still did not understand what he did to make him so upset at him. “I’m sorry I’m not Tsukiko.”

    “Wha?!” Akira took a moment to try to figure out what he implied. “That’s not it.”

    “Huh?”

    “Just leave me be. I don’t need anyone.” Akira turned around and sheathed his weapon. He leapt into the air to leave, but suddenly collapsed to the ground in surprise.

    Unable to stand by and do nothing, Mitsu rushed to Akira’s side. “Akira?! What’s wrong?” He tried to help him up, but was throw off roughly.

    “I said…I don’t…” Unfortunately, he could not finish.

    Mitsuru did not listen to Akira complaints and efforts to push him off, he had lost a lot of the strength that he had. Finally actually able to touch him, Mitsu realized that his breathing heavily and panting. He was nearly out of breath and injured as well. “You’re in no shape to be running off on your own!” Helping Akira up, he gave him support insisting on walking with him despite Akira’s reluctance to do so.

    “What are you…”


    “I’m taking you to a clinic nearby to get you fixed up! I’m not abandoning you to your devices no matter how much you hate me!”

    Akira’s panting became worse leaning heavily on Mitsuru. “I-I…I…” He passed out quickly in Mitsuru arms nearly taking him down with him.

    “Akira?! Akira! Akira!”

    -X- -X- -X-

    Dull voices echoed through his head. A fog still hung around Akira’s head. His consciousness had started to return and he was not sure where he was anymore. The surroundings did not look familiar to him. The more he woke up the more shouting he heard. “Someone’s panicking…what?” He tried to look around, but lightheadedness took over and dropped him back down.

    It was then that he realized that he was lying down. The smell of a sterile and disinfected environment became clear to him. “I’m in…a…” His eyes focused more and he knew now for certain that he was inside a hospital or at least a clinic. “How’d I get here?”

    “I’m coming. You don’t have to be scared. We already did a quick check on your friend and they’re still very healthy.”

    “What?”

    The owner of the voice drew back the curtain. Giving Akira a better view, he could see it was a small room and looked lightly stocked with supplies. The doctor approached with a tray of bandages among some other tools. “See, your friend’s already awake.”

    “Akira!” Mitsu yelled, jumping to the bedside immediately ignoring the doctor. “Are you alright? How much do you hurt? Is there anything else you’re feeling? How long have you been awake?”

    After the barrage of questions, the doctor caught up to Mitsu and pulled him away from the bed. His patient was still injured and untreated. “Your friend needs to be treated for his injuries before he can be seen. I’ll need you to step back.”

    Sadden a little, but cooperating, he slid back a little. “I’m standing here though!”

    “No, you’re not!” yelled Akira. He lifted up the nearest thing available to him as though going for his sword, which had obviously been taken by Mitsu for safety and to stop unnecessary questions. Unfortunately, the threat was a little less impactful since all he was holding was a jar of suckers for children with a very cheerful looking chibi style drawing.

    “But you’re hurt!”

    “I don’t need you to watching over me! I’ll be fine! Get out now!”

    “But.”

    “Out now!”

    “Geez…I apologized for what I did already.” The insistence by Akira won out against Mitsuru’s concern. He stepped out beyond the curtain and sat down at the back of the small room. Both of their swords rested against the wall with Hisako hovering out of her’s.

    Looking at how dejected Mitsuru appeared from the exchange, she tried to get his mind off the matter. “You’re going to need to be more careful in the future. More powerful demons are starting to slip through the gate now.”

    “I know, but he was being reckless. I couldn’t just let him fight like that!”

    “You’re focusing on the wrong part.”

    Mitsu glanced over at Hisako a bit confused by her response. “Huh?”

    “I’m telling you that the demons are more powerful and newer species are coming out of the gate.”

    Scratching loosely at the side of his face, he thought about the demon woman they fought. It surprised him at first, but it was not the only time they fought something that was not an oni. “What sort of demon was that?” In all of the fighting, he had not gotten a chance to hear about the demon and any sort of weaknesses for fighting it.

    “It’s a Harionago.”

    “Are they high ranked?”

    “No, they’re in the same class as an oni. Fairly weak, but they would at the upper end within the class in terms of power. They’re a rarer type of demon that doesn’t wander outside of the demon realm unless they sense a man.”

    “You mean Akira?”

    “No, while skilled, Akira doesn’t have much spiritual power. Most of it comes from the sword. It’s why it is hard to know when Akira is already fighting a demon. I’ve gotten better in picking up the faint energy. No, she definitely was sensing you.”

    Taking in the information, Mitsuru thought about it for a bit in silence. There was a lot for him to take in since the fight. “So they’re still after me. And sis…”

    “A demon’s hunger for spiritual energy and strong life force is hard to ignore.”

    A thought came into his head as he remembered something that she said before. “Didn’t you say before that the gate was weaker in town? That was why only oni showed up here, while the more powerful ones were in the forest.”

    “Which means only one of two things.”

    “Two?”

    “Yes, either it came out of the portal in the forest and traveled here undetected until Akira encountered it. Or…”

    “It’s stabilizing in town?”

    “That’s correct. The fluctuations in the gate may be reaching an equilibrium now.”

    “Means the same strength demons can start appearing in town now as well.”

    “That’s very likely. That’s why I was warning you to be more careful. You can’t rely on the same attitude you have had before anymore.”

    The grave tone of Hisako made him sink a little in his chair. ‘Things are already bad enough and now they’re getting worse…’ He hung his head back against the chair looking up at the ceiling. It was peaceful for the moment, but such a moment would not last. “We need to find a way to seal the gate.”

    “Without any clue or records on how they did it, that’s not going to be possible.”

    “But weren’t your swords used in the seal? If we just—“

    “Whoever created the seal was a highly skilled spiritualist and a master in sealing techniques. Which I nor you are either of.”

    Any bit of hope that Mitsuru had disappeared with Hisako’s reality. It made him sink even more, though he was running out of room unless he went to the floor. “So this will never end…”

    Hisako could see how dispirited that he had become. He needed something to grab onto give him hope. “Someone did before, so it’s not unreasonable to consider we’ll find a way to do it.”

    Mitsu rolled his head over to the back of the chair to look at Hisako. “You think so?” A bit of light returned to his eyes.

    “You just need to practice and get stronger.”

    He sat up a little more clutching the sheath of the sword. Thoughts and images of all of the fighting that he had done so far flashed through his mind. “I guess you’re right. There might be a case in the future. Maybe someone like Miss Chie will discover it.”

    The thought of the demon obsessed woman discovering the way the seal up the gate made Hisako very doubtful. Her expression turned flat in disbelief. “Yeah, I doubt she’ll find anything.”

    “Hey, Miss Chie is trying hard! She won’t give up!”

    “For someone that loves to torment you in her free time, you’re defending her surprisingly strongly.” Hisako hovered up around to Mitsuru’s face. She grinned a little taking her opportunity. “So you like older women huh?”

    “W-what?! It’s not like that! I already told you before, I just respect her. I think how resolute and honest she is an admirable trait.” His face went a little red as Hisako grinned teasingly.

    “Is that right?”

    “It is!”

    Behind the curtain, the doctor just finished up the last of the wrappings. Akira did not need as many stitches as it appeared. Most of it could be handled with butterfly closures and some light bandages. The blood made the whole situation appear worse than it actually was in reality.

    “Now be careful dressing,” he remarked cleaning up the waste, “And refrain from any sports or physical activity for several days.” He began to push the cart away when Akira stopped him.

    “You promise.”

    The doctor stopped before opening the curtain and looked back. “…yes, but you realize that it is inevitable right? This is something you will have for your whole life, facing it now—“

    “I’m fine. This is my wish. Say none of it to anyone!”

    He sighed muttering under his breath, “I don’t understand this generation…” Akira still wanted his confirmation. His patient was serious about it and there was nothing he could do about it. “Fine. You’re safe for the time being. It’s only forestalled right now, there’s no out running this.”

    “That’s none of your concern. I will fight this.”

    A bit of sweat dripped down his face listening to Akira. “This isn’t the sort of thing you can fight. There are just something you can’t fight.” Glancing back towards the curtain, the doctor checked though already guessing the answer. “And your friend?”

    “Especially not him!”

    “Right. I’ll keep it a secret. It’s your life.” He started to push the cart again. “Get dressed and I’ll let him know you’re healthy. He was quite worried about you. Nearly injured my only nurse trying to get you in here.”

    Akira turned away to hide the red coming through. “I never asked him to do that!”

    “Just give yourself a rest. Doctor’s orders.” He pushed through the curtain and tried to set the cart back against the wall, but was beset from all sides by Mitsuru. Which was an impressive feat considering that he was only a single person. “Your friend is fine.” He opened, hoping that would free up his path, it did not.

    “What’s wrong with him? Doctor? Is it bad? You can tell me!”

    “Aside from stubbornness bigger than Mount Fuji, nothing,” ranted the doctor in a very soft tone.

    Mitsu did not catch any of what he said. “Huh?” He leaned in trying to listen for whatever the doctor said.

    “Gah! What are you doing?!” he yelped as Mitsu got way too close.

    “What’s wrong with Akira? You can tell me!”

    Needing to cough to clear himself from the unsettling sight, the doctor regained his composure. “Right. Your friend is fine. The cuts are pretty shallow, I only had to stitch a few things up.”

    Sighing with relief, Mitsu was pleased to hear that the fighting had not given him worse injuries. “That’s great! When I passed out I got so scared there might be something wrong!”

    “About that.”

    “What? Is something wrong?”

    The doctor leaned back trying to get Mitsuru out of his face again. Unfortunately, only stepping back on his own was able to get him the space he needed. “Nothing as dire as you seem to think. It’s just overwork. I don’t know what your friend is doing, but their body is exhausted and seems to have been continuing to run exhausted. Passing out was a natural result of the extremes they’ve been pushing themselves. You need to tell your friend to take a break—“

    Mitsuru was already gone from the doctor’s sight going for Akira. The moment he heard that he could not stand aside and do nothing. “Akira!” He grabbed the curtain just as the doctor grabbed his wrist.

    “Your friend is still changing. Give them a minute.”

    However, Mitsuru did not listen to the doctor and broke free from his hold with ease. “We’re both boys, so it’s alright! I don’t care how much he hates me, I have to get him to stop!”

    The doctor sighed to himself unable to stop Mitsuru as he opened the curtain. “Probably will hate you more now…”

    “Akira! You need to stop taking this all on yourself! I know you…don’t…” Mitsuru came to a grinding halt in mid sentence as he saw Akira still only half dressed.

    Shocked and unable to say anything, Akira jumped back against the wall losing a hold of the hakama. The extra sight only made Mitsuru stutter even more than before. His face turned redder than Akira’s face.

    It took a full half minute for Mitsuru manage to say what was already pretty obvious at this point. “Akira, you’re a girl?!”

    Hisako slid out of the sword grinning to herself. “So the cat’s out of the bag now.”

    Panicking, Akira immediately went looking for her sword, which was not nearby. Panning the bed and her side of the curtained off room, she could not find it. “Where is my sword?”

    Mitsu responded by holding it up as though it was completely natural. “I have it.”

    She immediately snatched the sword and sheath from Mitsuru. Without a second thought, she turned the blade on Mitsuru with the end barely even a centimeter away. “You saw nothing!”

    “I sort of saw everything.”

    Akira’s face turned deep red beating out Mitsuru’s face as though it was a competition to be more embarrassed. Her hand shook holding the sword. “Nothing!” The tip of the blade pressed against his nose not cutting him, but making it clear.

    All of the shaking of the metal, Mitsuru felt that his face might be split open. It turned his red face purple thanks to the blue fear pouring into him now. “Nothing?”

    “Absolutely nothing!”

    “But Akira…”

    “I said nothing! No questions, no concerns, no following me!”

    “That…is…”

    “Swear to me or I will split as if you were a demon!”

    “I swear! I’ll keep your secret! I won’t tell a soul!”

    “Well I don’t know about that,” mused Hisako, “This seems like too much fun to keep a secret, now that Mitsuru knows.” She already seemed to be pondering what she could do with the information to keep things exciting for her.

    Mitsuru grabbed up his sword as if he was trying to strangle it. “Miss Hisako please! Promise too!”

    Akira leveled the blade at the spirit. Though Hisako just shrugged her shoulders at the notion. “What can you two do to me? I’m a spirit. None of your threats will work on me.” She glanced over at Akira with a mischievous gaze. Her lips nearly looked like a cat the way she grinned.

    The thought that Akira could not actually silence or do anything to stop Hisako made her back away. Panic set in harder than ever on her that her secret was going to be exposed. She grabbed her head trying to think of a way out of the situation.

    Looking more the part of the manipulating mother rather than the young twenty something, Hisako floated over to Akira. “Let Mitsuru help you and I’ll keep this little secret between us.”

    “Miss?”

    Akira quickly recovered as Hisako started to negotiate. “No! I work alone!”

    “Now I wonder how much Chie would love to hear our little Akira is a girl.”

    Leaping forward casting a shadow over the spirit to no effect. “You wouldn’t!”

    She grinned back promising her that she would with merely a look. “I wouldn’t?”

    “Miss Hisako this is blackmail!”

    “Your point? You want to keep her safe from killing herself and she wants to keep her secret. Seems like a good exchange to me.”

    “Fine…” muttered Akira lowly.

    “What’s that?”

    “I said, agreed!”

    “What did you agree to?”

    “Miss Hisako!”

    “You’ll keep my secret if I allow that boy to help with the demon slaying.”

    “Good. Now remember that promise.” Hisako pulled away, but already saw the gears turning in Akira head on ways to get out of the blackmail. “Just remember, Chie doesn’t need proof, she’ll find it for herself once given enough cause.”

    A thick gulp ran down Akira’s throat.

    Mitsu pulled back the sword shaking it. “Miss Hisako, stop it! You keep your promise too! Akira has her reasons for not wanting this to be told.”

    “Yeah, I know.”

    “You’re an honorable warrior when you were alive, so don’t break your promise!”

    “I won’t.”

    Akira starred a little surprised at how determined Mitsuru looked. She did not expect him to take it so seriously, even with the threatening that she did to him. It took her back a step, not completely sure what to make up him anymore. “…thank you…”

    “Hmm?” He looked up at Akira only hearing that she said something, but not catching. With the fear pulled back, he remembered that he was still in the same room as a naked girl, still not attempting to cover anything up. He quickly turned around and backed out of the curtain. “I’m sorry!”

    “Mother…father…I’m not sure what Akira’s reasons are, but I’ll believe in her and keep her secret. It’s a promise! Maybe, she’ll open up to me in the future with this secret I share…”

    To be continued…
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  20. #20
    The Quiet One Twin Moon Andromeda's Avatar
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    A long sigh came out of Mitsuru’s mouth as he dropped his head to his desk. Thankfully, it was between classes with the teachers still swapping and getting prepared. So he was safe from trouble. But that still did not stop him from being depressed. ‘I thought this was going to work out…’

    ‘I said stop following me!’ snapped Akira back at Mitsuru trying to hide the red in her face. She still carried a lot of anger and embarrassment from him learning her secret. And every time it came back to her, she remembered he also saw her naked as well.

    She threw out her sword at him to get him to turn away. ‘I’ve kept my promise. This isn’t part of the promise.’ Akira then ran off leaving an explosion of trash in her wake to distract him in her escape.

    “Sure, I don’t want her dying while fighting. But how am I supposed to know if she’s not running herself to death again? She’s so dead set on fighting to exhaustion…” He lifted his head up as he continued to bemoan his troubles. “And I feel like she wants to kill me every time I show up. What am I going to do?”

    Patting Mitsuru on the back, Kichiro stepped into the conversation abruptly. “Girl troubles again, my friend?”

    “Wha?!” he yelped, not knowing that he was both speaking aloud and that Kichiro heard him. “K-ki-Kichiro?! How long have you been there?”

    “Just got here,” he grinned with confidence that did not really show he was being truthful. But being Mitsuru, he did not pick up on. “Been watching you look like you’re trying out for Kabuki the entire morning.”

    Mitsuru immediately sank in his seat and turned red picturing that thought in his mind. He did not really like the image he found there. “I didn’t know I was that bad…”

    “Whenever it’s not something about Tsuki, you’re a pretty open book.”

    “I learned to hide things from her.”

    “Figured as much. So what’s your troubles?”

    He looked up at Kichiro with a pensive expression. ‘Maybe he can help… I’ve run out of other options…’ Mitsuru turned in his chair to face him directly. While not all of his depression disappeared, most of it seemed to roll of his back for the moment. “I’ve got this…erm…friend.”

    “Stop right there, Mitsuru. I already know this is your problem and not someone else’s you can’t hide it.”

    “No, I didn’t mean it like that! I just think of them as a friend, but I don’t know if I can really call them one since they don’t think of me as one.”

    Kichiro perked his eyes up listening to him start. “What would you say they think of you then?”

    “A nuisance at best and an enemy at worst, I guess.”

    He watched Mitsuru quickly start falling into self induced depression as he thought more about the reality. It made Kichiro sweat a little watching his friend. But he patted him on the shoulder. “It can’t be that bad. Sure you’re pretty stubborn about helping, but you’re pretty much the nicest, probably too naïve, person I know. There’s no one that could actually hate you enough to be an enemy.”

    “Pretty sure.”

    “What happened?”

    “I found out their secret and saw them naked, both by accident. And then one of my friends blackmailed them with the secret to help me be able to help them.” Mitsuru hung his head low as the weight of the facts pushed him to the floor.

    Kichiro found himself actually lacking any sort of proper and meaningful response to that. It was not the sort of answer he expected to get. “Yeah, you’re screwed, man,” he answered putting his hand on Mitsuru’s shoulder again as some sort of consolatory gesture.

    That was not the sort of answer Mitsu wanted though. He jumped up and grabbed his friend by the lower part of his collar wanting help. “I already know all that! I want to fix this!”

    “Woah Mitsuru!”

    “Please!”

    “Hey! I don’t know what say!”

    “Anything!”

    “That’s not really going to help you though.”

    “I know that! You’re supposed to be more helpful than this!”

    He shrugged to Mitsuru just having to be honest. “I’m not a magic fixer. I can’t give you some phrase that’s going to fix all of this for you. Sounds like this is something you need to fix yourself.”

    Mitsuru let go of him and dropped back to his chair. “I’ve been trying to, but I can’t think of anything.”

    “You try talking to them?”

    “Of course! But they refuse to listen to anything I say! They’re only accepting me because of the blackmail!”

    Watching his friend panic and worry to tears was not the sort of thing he was expecting when he came over. He was anticipating something a little less dramatic and serious. But he was not cruel, just not really experienced. “I’m not really that good with trying to get people to listen to me either. So I don’t really have much advice I can give. Maybe try to get the blackmail taken back?”

    “I already thought of it, but I can’t even get a whole sentence out without being interrupted.”

    “That is bad.” He pondered other possibilities to himself. Unfortunately, he was not really getting very far with solutions.

    Mitsuru jumped up from his seat, apparently coming up with a new idea. “What if you talk to them in my stead? Then maybe they’ll understand!”

    “No, that wouldn’t be good. You’re supposed to be keeping the secret as well, right? Having me talk to them would make it seem like you aren’t keeping your end of the deal.”

    “…oh…right…”

    “Besides, I think it is best that this is something you handle yourself. It won’t have any meaning if someone else fixes your problem. You just have to be persistent, there’s got to be a chance that’ll open to you.”

    It was not really the answer that Mitsuru wanted, but it was hard to disagree with as he thought about it. “You’re right. This is my problem and I should face it myself. Though I don’t know…” He only regained a partial steam to his enthusiasm. It was hard to remain upbeat for him with Akira on his mind. He wanted to fix all of the mistakes and misunderstandings.

    “You can do it, Mitsuru! If there is someone alive that can stay angry when looking at you then they aren’t human.”

    Chapter 19 – The Eyes Have It

    On the other side of the school and in a completely different part of the day, the end of the school to be precise, new trouble brewed that was not of demonic in nature. Though depending on the perspective, it could be considered an act of evil. However, calling it an evil act would be overstating it and giving more power to those that carried it out.

    The truth was that it was an act out of jealousy. Which is certainly an ugly and powerful emotion to be controlled by. Not quite evil, but it will certainly make you do terrible acts in the name of such emotions. And the real trouble of today began from another act of jealousy.

    Separated from Mitsuru today, a more common occurrence as of late, Tsuki walked alone through the halls. She stayed behind to help clean a few things up before leaving. Which had given enough time for the worst part of the evidence to be cleaned up.

    With the shoe lockers being less crowded, it was easy to spot someone familiar. She waved over to them, but stopped short of calling out to them the moment she saw it. Immediately angered, she jumped over to the shoe lockers to see the full extent of what happened. “Not again,” she muttered, trying to keep her emotions in check.

    Etsuko paused as she was pulling out a banana peel from her locker. She saw Tsukiko standing next to her and turned her head down as she walked away to throw it out. “I-It wasn’t th-that bad.”

    “I don’t care if it was a rotten fruit or the entire trash can. You shouldn’t put up with this! I’ve told you—“

    “P-please! It’s fine.” For being so meek, she managed to interrupt Tsukiko quickly. “It’s my fault.”

    Tsukiko grabbed a hold of Etsuko by the shoulders giving her something stable. “It’s not your fault. You never should feel that this is you.”

    “But it is me. If I didn’t see them this wouldn’t happen.”

    “Everyone in the school already knows about you though. They’re aware of what happens and that it isn’t your control. They made this choice knowing that. This is on them, Etsuko!”

    “But if I—“

    “No, Etsuko. Don’t think like that! Don’t look down on yourself.”

    Etsuko could tell that there was no winning the debate with Tsukiko. Rather than fighting more over it, she went back to clearing out the rest of the locker to get to her shoes. It would have been worst was her only positive thought. ‘I’m glad I cleaned up most of it before she got here. She would have chased the girls all down knowing Tsuki. I usually can get it all clean before she even shows up.’ She had developed a good sense of when to expect it and could handle it before it was discovered.

    Still bothered, but seeing the more important part, Tsuki focused on helping her clean up the locker. It went fast with the two of them working. She wiped off her hands with some nearby tissues from the dispenser. “Do you know who it was?”

    “N-No,” she answered not sounding very convincing.

    Tsukiko picked up on her lying with little effort. “You know. Tell me, Etsuko and I’ll get this handled. Bullying is unacceptable.” She started to turn back towards the hall. Even if Etsuko did not tell her, she would hunt through the school. There was some logic missing in Tsukiko reasoning of doing it after school when a good portion were already in clubs or gone.

    Bravely, Etsuko grabbed a hold of Tsuki’s arm to keep her from going. “Please don’t! I don’t want you to start anything!”

    “Etsuko…This isn’t fair to you!”

    “I don’t want revenge. Please. If anything, I’d like a way to control it.”

    Staring back at Etsuko, she saw a surprisingly determined face. ‘She’s serious about this.’ It was a rare sight to see her looking so resolved with anything. Considering the matter at hand, she could understand the reason and desire. “You want to control it?”

    “Y-yes. If I can, then this won’t happen anymore.”

    “I guess that is true. I still think it’s their fault, but if this is how you want to do it then I can’t argue.” Though she did accept Etsuko’s solution, Tsukiko found herself at a loss for any answers. She looked closely at Etsuko for clues. “Any ideas?”

    She shook her head. “Nothing I’ve tried has worked,” Etsuko squeezed her hands together thinking about all the times and effort she put in. “B-but, I’m willing to try anything!”

    That did not really help Tsuki any though. She remained in the same position. “If I know anyone with ideas then it would have to be…”

    “And you thought of me why?” Kiyome asked, when the two entered into the student council room. She held a stack of papers looking to be delivered when interrupted.

    Tsukiko smiled a little with the spotlight dumped on her. “I figured you’d have some better ideas than me.”

    “But as you can see I’m in the middle of work.”

    Tsukiko looked around the room finding that there was no one else in the room other than them. “But there’s no one else here. You don’t always have to put in extra time after everyone else has left.”

    “…Tsukiko…”

    “Besides, this is for our friend. You wouldn’t turn Etsuko down would you?” She pointed over at Etsuko hiding behind her. The glare coming off of Kiyome when they came into the room frightened her easily.

    A sigh came out of Kiyome. She was hitting her in a difficult spot. “I can’t just drop this.”

    “But if you do this you’ll be helping Etsuko and stopping bullying at the same time! That’s important to the student council right? Happy students!”

    “Yes, though you’re overly simplifying our responsibilities.”

    “I’m going to have to start reporting all of the bullying happening,” she tried to get her onboard.

    “But you never have any proof of who is doing it. We can’t act on claims without proof.”

    “I’ll find the proof myself then.”

    Kiyome pressed her hand to her forehead already feeling a headache coming on. “No, that would be even worse. For the peace of the school, I’ll help.”

    Tsukiko jumped over hugging tightly onto her friend that she just strong-armed into helping. “I knew I could count on you.”

    “You’re more devious than I give you credit.”

    “Thanks!” she replied with a smile already starting to drag Kiyome out of the room.

    “That’s not a compliment.” As they exited the room, Kiyome broke free and walked on her own. She looked over at Etsuko looking about as nervous as she expected after everything Tsukiko did to convince her to join. “Got a plan? Besides using my brain?”

    “Well we need a way to test our ideas.” Both of the girls looked at Tsukiko, who already seemed to have the whole thing figured out in her mind. Which was pretty good considering that she still did not have an idea for whole give Etsuko control over her power.

    “And that’s why you’re coming with us.”

    Hisoka continued to just stare at Tsukiko with equal amounts of confusion and amazement. He could not say anything to her for some time with his mind frozen up in not really understanding things. Eventually though, it all started moving again as he pieced enough together to get a sense of the intent. “I’m in the middle of practice right now.”

    “No you aren’t. You’re on the sidelines. So you’re free.”

    He felt the hit from that one as it made him jerk a little. Holding tightly on to the fence for support, Hisoka slowly recovered from Tsukiko’s quick blow. “I’m not just going to drop everything here. I’m not going to disrespect their efforts by leaving.”

    “I guess that is a fair,” she pondered her options, “How long do you have left?”

    “About 30 minutes.”

    “Alright!” Tsukiko clapped her hands together with her planning together once more. She looked back at her friends quickly with something passing through her mind. “Meet us at the bus stop at five!”

    “But I didn’t say I would—“

    She leaned forward to the fence. “Please, Hisoka! For your friends! For me?”

    Her proximity made him cough a little as he fought his emotions. His only option was to turn around so that he did not have to see her face. “Fine, I’ll go.”

    “No Tsun line to add to that?” Kiyome teased as she leaned around the right flank of Tsukiko.

    “What are you implying?!”

    “What am I…I wonder.”

    “Thank you so much, Hisoka!” Tsukiko interrupted quickly. She would have done more to thank him, but the fence was in her way. So words were all that she had. “I’ll have snacks made!” With that she pulled Kiyome and Etsuko along for her next stage of her plan.

    Tsuneo, her spirit possessed sword, popped out of the hilt to hover around by Tsuki’s ear. “What’s this Tsun word? I’m not familiar with it?”

    “It’s an anime term.”

    “Like what is on that TV?”

    “That’s right. It’s supposed to mean something for describing personalities. I’m not too familiar with it.”

    “Interesting. This era is very different.”

    Kiyome looked up at Tsuki quickly trying to gauge what her plan was. She already had a good sense of it based on what she had already seen. But she still checked anyway. “Let me guess, you’re going to get Kichiro as well.”

    “That’s right!” she replied eagerly. It was all coming together for her. “You know how to get in touch with him right?”

    Crossing her arms, she looked ahead. “What makes you think I can?”

    “Well you’ve known each other longer than I have.”

    Kiyome remained silent unable to give any denial for the statement. It was the truth. She hesitated in taking any action as she became pensive. Out of the solutions she could see, she pulled out her phone. “Here’s his number. You do the talking.”

    “Me?”

    “This is your plan, you convince him. You got everyone else. He shouldn’t be that difficult. He’ll probably find it entertaining.”

    Retrieving her phone, Tsuki tapped in the numbers quickly. “You really do know him pretty well.”

    “It’s just the way he is now.”

    “Oh…” A voice came through her phone pulling her away. “Excuse me, it’s Tsukiko. Hey Kichiro!” Tsuki jumped a little as the voice that came out surprised her and was not who she was expecting. “I’m sorry, sir! Yes! No! Yes!” Once she got through the barrage of questions she managed to get through to Kichiro. She sighed a little suddenly feeling very tense from the exchange. “Hey, Kichiro!”

    While Tsukiko finished getting her plans in order, across the city Mitsuru tried to settle his own plans at the same time. He had been on the hunt for Akira the entire time after school. After his conversation with Kichiro, he felt more determined to tried to find a solution. Fixing their relationship was the most important thing to him. Well that and keeping her from killing herself from over work. But one thing at a time.

    Out of breathe, he stood in the alley where Hisako detected the demonic energy. Being only an oni, it was swiftly killed by Akira before he had arrived. “Wait, Akira!” he shouted, seeing that Akira already started to run off.

    “There’s no reason for you to be here. It was too weak to even be a bother.”

    “But I just want…to talk…” She already jumped to the rooftop of the nearby building as he finished. Mitsuru sighed feeling dejected again that he could not even get her to listen. But then he remembered his talk with Kichiro. “I can’t give up here!” He looked up in the direction to where she escaped.

    Pulling out his sword, he directly went to Hisako. “Miss Hisako, can you catch her?”

    “She’s a little hard to track, but I’m getting more used to sensing her energy.”

    “I mean if I gave you full control of my body.”

    “Mitsuru?”

    “I know I’m not as comfortable or skilled with your body, but if it was you could you catch up to her? I have to talk to her!”

    “The girl is skilled, but still inexperienced. I can catch her.”

    “Alright do it!”

    “This could have some adverse effects on you afterwards since you’re still not fully synced with my energy. Forcing it like this.”

    “I don’t care, if I can fix all of this with Akira, then I don’t care about myself!”

    “Just wanted to warn you. Figured you were already committed.” She disappeared back into the sword letting her words travel through her energy to his mind. “Release yourself to the energy. Give yourself up to it and allow it to pass through you, surround you, become you.”

    “…become me…”

    A flash of light burst out into a pillar that completely bleached out the alley and disrupted random passerby’s on the street. Out of the light, Hisako jumped to the roof in the same direction as Akira. There was no sight of Akira on the rooftops of the buildings, but the slight bit of energy gave her something to follow.

    She quickly closed in on Akira’s trail tracking her to another alley. However, Akira quickly realized that she was being followed and picked up her speed. Dashing through the alleys and back sides of buildings, she did everything she could to lose Hisako. Yet it was not enough, she lost ground.

    Akira leapt up to a tall building running along the wall for a short distance before bouncing between it and another to get more height. While she did that Hisako stood at the bottom looking up. Removing the sword from her side, she tapped the edge of the sheath against the ground and clicked the blade out of the sheath briefly. An array appeared behind her and then suddenly launched her into the air rapidly catching up to the still jumping Akira. Just as Akira covered the tall building, Hisako caught up to her colliding in midair.

    The two women tumbled through the air and crashed on the roof. Akira laid on her back with Hisako pinning her down while straddling her waist. “I’ll take that from you so we can keep things civil,” Hisako sang in a soft voice as she took Akira’s sword and threw it to the far opposite end of the roof. “Then it’s your turn.”

    Light quickly flashed out with the transformation disappearing and Mitsuru returned to his body. “Akira! I just want to talk, please! I don’t want to fight!”

    She tried to get out from under Mitsuru, but found him to be surprisingly determined in holding her down. The closeness of his face along with his resolve made her turn her head away to try to head the red developing in her cheeks.

    Even though she was saying nothing, Mitsu was not going to stop. He just had to keep talking and hope she would listen to him. “You can forget the whole thing with the blackmail and stuff! I don’t care about any of that. I’m just worried about you! You’re killing yourself out there fighting the demons alone! You don’t have to be alone! Akira!”

    Mitsuru dropped his head against Akira to her surprise. She tried to squirm out again, but it was the same pointless effort. He had her completely locked down. And then she heard something that she was not completely sure about. It took her another few moments to be sure and even then she had to look at him. “A-are you…crying?”

    “No!” he denied, even though the river of tears clearly said otherwise.

    “Why are you?”

    “I’m not!” He tried to wipe away the tears to hide the evidence, but it was not working out. “I just…I just don’t want you to die! And seeing you hurting is painful!”

    Hisako popped out of the sword to slide over to Akira’s side. “What sort of girl are you to make a boy cry?”

    “Hey?! Wait! I-I…this isn’t…” She sighed a long and heavy sigh. It was sign of her resolve crumbing before Mitsuru.

    Back at the mansion, Tsukiko was off running about grabbing everyone that she could for the brainstorming and experimenting. She left her friends in the very large main room for entertaining.

    Etsuko stuck very closely to her seat that he picked and Hisoka kept to himself a few seats over. While Kichiro looked about the room. He still had some trouble believe it all. “I know Mitsu and Tsuki said they found a new place to live, but this is much more grand than they led us on to believe.”

    “Yes, it seems they’ve been a lot better at hiding this from us,” Kiyome agreed. She continued to take in everything from her spot. Like Kichiro, she had a heavy amount of curiosity about the new residence. Though she kept it more under control than Kichiro.

    He glanced over his shoulder at Kiyome. “Annoyed, there’s something your information network didn’t know?”

    “At least I’m not acting like a child going to the theme park for the first time.”

    Politely accepting the tea cup from the entering maid, he went back to admiring the room and mansion overall. “I’m more impressed by the traditional style and how it was never known about. The property is massive, even in this forest. Somehow we should have known about it.” He caught the slightly awkward and flustered look from Kiyome as the maid tried to serve her. “Still can’t handle being served?”

    “Hrmph…” She took the teacup from the maid and looked away from Kichiro. It took her a moment, but she found something to retort on against Kichiro. “What lie you have to spin to get out of your house?”

    “Group study session. Not a very strong comeback for you.”

    “I found them!” shouted Tsukiko pushing Katashi in front of her while Chie followed up. Everyone was completely assembled now for Tsukiko. “Alright, now we can bring the ‘Help Etsuko Control Her Powers’ session to a start!”

    Wrangling in a couple of the maids, Tsukiko had them wheel in a white board for them toss up their ideas. “Thank you! Please standby if we need anything else.”

    They both bowed to her. “Yes, Mistress.”

    Looking impressed by Tsukiko’s command of the maids and the set, Kichiro had to nod with a little approval. “Wow, I thought they were just freeloaders, but she looks like the actual Master of the house.” He took another sip from the tea before requesting a refill from the serving maid standing nearby.

    “That is because Mistress is the Master along with Master Mitsuru,” replied the maid.

    Kichiro and Kiyome both choked on their tea while Hisoka and Etsuko yelped in surprise. “What?!”

    “Hey, Tsukiko, you never mentioned any of this!” Kichiro called.

    “That’s because it wasn’t really that important.”

    “Sure it is! You own this mansion!”

    “I never really thought of it that way. It’s just a place for us to live in while the shrine is being fixed.”

    “So relaxed…”

    She clapped her hands together to bring everyone’s attention back to the proper matter. “Now, let’s focus on the topic I gathered you all here for, Etsuko.” The center of attention flipped over to the girl, which made her quickly recoil as much as possible into her seat.

    “Question, first!” called Chie from the side of the room. “You didn’t really go into the details when you grabbed us. It seemed interesting so I came, but if we’re going to help we need to know what we’re doing. What is her problem?”

    Taking advantage of the white board, Tsuki began to write down things as she explained the situation. “Etsuko has an ability or power, whatever you would like to call it. Whenever her eyes meets any boy’s eyes they instantly fall in love with her. Because of this, she’s known as the Goddess of our school. And all of the boys are in love with her.”

    Chie’s curiosity seemed to be immediately peaked by this notion. She walked over to Etsuko and leaned down to look into her eyes. “The eyes…” Continuing to stare at Etsuko, it seemed that she hoped to see or feel something. But as explained by Tsukiko, it had no effect over her. “Only boys huh? Any age?”

    “Well we’ve never tested her, because she tries to not to look at anyone. And anyone effected is in love.”

    “Does the effect wear off?”

    “At some point, otherwise her school life would have already been a nightmare.”

    “Very interesting…” She tilted her head back eying someone. A bit of the scientist and bit of the mischievousness appeared in her eyes. Grabbing Katashi by the head, she ripped him over in front of Etsuko, who jumped back startled. She tried to cover her eyes and look away, but the damage was already done.

    Katashi collapsed to the floor suddenly overtaken. He looked up at Etsuko completely blank faced. “I love you. You’re the only one I shall ever look at again.”

    Immediately, Tsuki whipped her leg down knocking him to the floor and putting him out. “Glad to see you still can’t show emotions.” She tossed him over to the couch to recover on his own. “Understand? It’s dangerous and we’ve got a limited supply of men.”

    She found the whole thing immensely fascinating. Gears in her head already started to turn with thoughts and theories. “Yes, very interesting.”

    “Hey! We’re not a commodity for consumption!” protested Kichiro. He caught the clear sign of intent from Chie’s eyes as she grabbed Katashi. That sort of reckless regard for others instilled fear in him for good reason. It made him start to second guess his willingness to help. The thought of it happening to him was not as entertaining.

    “I brought you because we need a safe test environment for our ideas. People that won’t…” She looked over at the still unconscious Katashi. “…won’t completely scare Etsuko. You’re her friends so be one and sacrifice yourself for the cause!”

    He crossed his arms trying to protect himself from all of the women in the room. “Tyrant…”

    To her friends surprise, Etsuko spoke, “P-please…everyone don’t fight. I-I don’t want…”

    “Don’t worry, Etsuko,” Kiyome reassured. She grabbed Kichiro by the neck and pulled him in. “He’ll help you. This will help you try to overcome your fear.”

    “This is just pay back isn’t it?”

    “You will help.”

    “Never said I wouldn’t.” Kichiro freed himself from her grasp. He straightened out his button-up shirt after the rough treatment. “I just want a little respect in this comedy skit. We’ve already been demoted to objects…” Looking around at the other women in the room, he shrank a bit. “We’re not supposed to be sending serious messages out in this story.”

    Breaking off any more comments from Kichiro side, Tsukiko brought the focus back to the matter at hand. “Etsuko, what have you already tried? We’ll cross those options off the listen.”

    She went through the various methods she tried in her mind, starting to rattle them off. “Sunglasses, long bangs, contacts, eating natto, tofu bath…” The list went for a bit with some rather surprising and very obvious failed attempts.

    Half of the board ended up covered in failures. Enough of them made the group sweat a little that she tried them. But they could admire the effort. Tsuki moved over to the left side of the board looking for ideas. “Alright, start throwing out any ideas you got. Any that seem possible and practical we’ll try.”

    It took a bit to get things rolling, but Chie got things kick started with a slightly absorbed offering. She did at least get them throwing ideas out. Not nearly as crazy as some of the ones that Etsuko already tried, but it would be a start. “Anymore ideas?” she asked, seeing the board getting full.

    “A book I read from the library mentioned a blood ritual for attracting men. Reversing it might produce similar results.”

    “Mr. Daishou when did you arrive?”

    “I’ve been here the whole time…”

    “I’m so sorry! I need to work on my awareness!”

    “A blood ritual?” questioned Kiyome, “That doesn’t sound very safe.”

    “It does invoke a mid-level demon for the ritual.”

    “Then that’s right out!” stopped Tsukiko. She erased what she had written of the suggestion not even giving it further thought. ‘Though I’m surprised they didn’t even question how weird that should sound. They just accepted it…’ There was not much to dwell on though, since they had some options. “We’ve got some options here to try. Let’s go with Chie’s idea first. It seems the easiest.”

    “And the one you’ll get the more entertainment out of,” protested Kichiro.

    Kiyome grabbed his hand and raised it. She spoke for him, “Sounds like we have a volunteer.”

    “Hey!”

    Tsukiko turned around to the maids. “Please get some girls cloths from the spare room.”

    “Yes, Mistress.”

    “Wait a minute!”

    Which was about all it took for the maids to return and quite disrobe him against his will. They had skilled efficiency in dealing with this flailing and attempts to escape. But in the end they had him dressed up as a girl so fast they would impress a pit crew. “This stays between us…”

    “Just think of it as cosplay,” teased Kiyome.

    “Not so funny when the shoe’s on the other foot,” join Tsukiko, who was getting no small amount of entertainment from watching him squirm.

    “This is payback for all our jokes!”

    “Maybe…” She grabbed him by the shoulders to get him lined up, since he was already getting cold feet. “Get in front of the firing squad!”

    “Wait a minute, I’m not mentally prepared for this!”

    Etsuko stood up a little hesitant about the whole idea, but she could not really turn it down after everything she tried. “I’m sorry.”

    “Hey wait a second, guys! Have you even thought if this works that this isn’t a situation!” Unfortunately, there was more nothing more he could say. He accidentally glanced over at Etsuko and everything was done. Her eyes drew him in like a siren. “So beautiful… They’re right when say you’re like a goddess. You’re the only one! I love—“

    Kiyome’s fist interrupted his confession and knocked him straight out and to the floor. “That’s a failure.” She quickly dropped back down to the couch as the maids picked him off the floor and placed him next to Katashi.

    Four out of commission men later, the front door opened. In walked Mitsuru with someone in his shadow. He looked into the room already noticing all of the shoes at the door. “Hey Tsuki, what’s going on here?” he asked taking note of the passed out guys on one couch.

    “Just trying out some ideas.”

    “Oh, I see…” He looked over at Etsuko meeting gazes with her. “Hey Etsuko! You’re looking a little pale. Have you been getting enough rest?”

    “I’m sorry! I’m fine, just a long day.”

    A small laugh slipped out as he thought about his own day. “I know how that is. Well your health is important. So be careful.”

    “Yes, thank you!”

    “Oh and Tsuki!”

    “Yes, Mitsu?”

    “Akira is going to be staying with us now.”

    “He is?” She looked around the hall seeing him keeping to the shadows. “Oh hey, welcome back! You disappeared suddenly. How are you feeling? Fully recovered?”

    “My apologies for leaving unannounced.” Akira bowed deeply to her.

    “I was able to convince him that he could use our place to recover and heal. I’ll let grandfather know we’ll be having another guest.” He invited Akira into the house further. The maids already quickly took Mitsuru’s things away and trying to take Akira’s sword.

    Tsukiko smiled seeing that it appeared that the two of them might be finally getting along. She allowed them to go past her so that they could do proper introduces to their grandfather. “Don’t forget to tell the head maid as well we’ll be having another head at the table!”

    “Right!”

    After Mitsuru disappeared around the corner, she returned to the room. However, she found all of the girls looked at Etsuko with strange looks on their face. “What’s wrong, everyone?”

    “I feel a little stupid for forgetting about what was standing right in front of us,” commented Kiyome.

    Chie nodded in agreement. A new mischievous expression ran through her lips. “He really is going to be a lady killer.”

    “This isn’t a solution, but it’ll help with different problem Etsuko has.”

    “Hey guys, what’s going on? You figure something out?”

    To be continued…
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  21. #21
    The Quiet One Twin Moon Andromeda's Avatar
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    A peaceful and quiet afternoon, he could only hope for such a thing. It was not going to happen and he knew it. Such things at this point in time had just become accustom to occurring now. There was no avoiding for him. The only thanks to give in his mind was that he was not the target. At least not anymore, the scars from the day still ran fresh in his mind (yesterday…).

    Scars aside though, no longer being subject the unreasonable whims made watching the scene far more entertaining. Deep down he could feel a little pity for him, but a little suffering was good. It built character as they would often say. Not to mention, he was the only that did not get dragged into the whole mess with the manipulative women.

    So a little bit of the pain was important. He had to know a little bit of what they went through. Though it admitted annoyed him that he could not feel the same sort of pain the rest of them did. It was sadly the reason why his afternoon class, which was supposed to have started already, was delayed. ‘I’m surprised that Mr. Hosokawa not yelled at either of them yet.’

    For that part, the reason that the teacher remained silent might have been the result of something a little more subtle. Mr. Hosokawa had been knocked out during one of the early charged and left in the corner completely ignored by the entire class, who like our main character for today, had more interest in seeing it play out.

    “Who wouldn’t want to see the rare sight of someone like Mitsuru being chased around the classroom by the shiest girl in the entire school? And every boy’s goddess.”

    It was admitted a bit of a two-fold thing. While the effects caused by looking into Etsuko’s eyes do eventually wear away in time, repeated hits of her entrancing beauty the body never forgets. So while Etsuko ran around the class with her hands mostly covering up her eyes, the cause for why Hosokawa was out cold (and more than a few other accidents, which she surprised everyone with her ability to shake them off), she kept up the chase for Mitsuru, which itself was a surprise.

    The most famous girl in school by vast majority and unchallenged in that position since even before she started attending was now hunting down the universally accepted nicest boy in the whole school, aka the doormat, aka Mitsuru. Two things nobody saw coming. Not even Kiyome with her vast network and talents predicted this result.

    At time the time, none of them foresaw this as an outcome. None of them even put it on the list. Sure, they all knew that Etsuko was tired of living in fear and scared of everyone. She wanted a normal life. Though at the moment, no one could really call chasing a crying boy really as anything normal or even worth pursuing.

    Such thoughts made him sigh again, it seemed to be happening a lot. The longer it went on without interruption the more of his soul escaped. ‘I wonder if this is what they call an extreme reaction? She’s been completely unable to even look at another boy since she’s been born. So she doesn’t want to give it up. Sadly, such overzealous energy is only going to hurt Mitsu…’ Etsuko needed a cool down period and approach things more calmly. Though he was not sure how long that would take.

    Finally finding someone that was normal probably seemed impossible for her. It might be a while he feared before she could actually be allowed to be reasonable around him. Though holding her back might also not have the affect any of them wanted either. There was nothing he could really do about that. An act needed to be taken if only for Mitsu’s safety.

    An end to the fun came when he opened the rear sliding door to their classroom. Mitsuru immediately took the opening in the hopes of escaping, as he planned. Thankfully, the stairs were nearby and Mitsu acted as he wanted going for them. That took him by the front door, which with the timing of Etsuko gave him just the amount of time to snatch Mitsu back roughly for him to vanish from Etsuko’s sight.

    With the door closed carefully behind the two, clacks of a pair shoes running for the stairs passed by and softly disappeared. At last, he could breathe a sigh of relief rather than exasperation. “Peace at last…”

    Still calming down, Mitsuru managed a few words out, “Thank you, Kichiro.”

    Chapter 20 – Sealed Light

    “I couldn’t ignore my best friend when he’s crying,” he teased hoping to distract him a little from the trauma dumped on him.

    However, it seemed to have had a stronger effect on him that Kichiro counted on. Mitsuru jerked up and yelled back surprisingly angry. “I’m not crying!”

    The tears might have cut the effect down some, but through is eyes felt like he was attacked by daggers. There seemed to be genuine anger in his eyes, something that Kichiro could not remember the last time he saw in Mitsuru. “I was only teasing you, Mitsu. Trying to help you get your mind off it.” Quickly back stepping seemed to be the only recourse that Kichiro had. He did not fully understand it himself, just some reactive response from seeing Mitsuru. ‘He gets upset or annoyed, but it’s usually weak and ends up coming off ineffectual, but this is completely different.’

    With Kichiro’s apology Mitsuru immediately snapped out of his anger and turned remorseful and apologetic. “I’m so sorry, Kichiro! I shouldn’t have snapped at you! It’s my fault! Please don’t be angry!”

    Kichiro pulled away a pawing Mitsu as he tried to do everything he could think of short of ritual suicide to apologize, and worrisomely that did not seem to be too far away from the options. It only made him recoil more, not sure what was going on with his friend. “It’s fine, Mitsu. I’m not angry with you. You’re fine. I should have been a little more tasteful with my joke.”

    “Oh, you’re not! I’m so relieved.” Then he started crying again, though likely happy this time. “But you’re wrong. I just overreacted.”

    Pinching his brow together, Kichiro started to become a little concerned. ‘Overreacted…extreme and sharp mood swings… Is Mitsu feeling alright?’

    Breathing heavily and trying to compose something, Mitsu worked on getting all of his bare emotions drawn back inside. “Ugh…I’m such a mess today. But what’s gotten into Etsuko? She’s never been like this before.”

    Kichiro tilted his head towards the door that secured their escape from the crazed girl. ‘Not the only extreme thing I’ve seen today…’ A few questions ran through his head about her and then hoped that Tsuki and Kiyome would do something to get her back under control. Taming her sudden wild side could be problematic, the entertainment of her would grow old quickly, not to mention once she came to her senses how regretful she would end up being. For now it was at least behind them. “Overeager love…”

    “Huh?”

    Then he remembered that Mitsu never really got a full explanation of the circumstances that caused it. When he arrived at his house with someone he seemed to have found off the street, they were exhausted of options. Mitsu left quickly after without following up. Given how the girls abused them, he wanted to forget about it himself. So no one gave him a proper explanation. “Things are a little complicated… You know about Etsuko’s condition…”

    School thankfully ended without too much added excitement for Kichiro. None of them saw Etsuko the rest of the day, though he knew it would not end there. Mitsuru would have to fortify himself in the future, that or actually face the problem. The girls started the problem, he hoped that they would fix it as well.

    “I’m Kichiro Yunokawa and I’m going to be your main character for the chapter. It’s part of the signed contract.”

    Checking the time on his phone, Kichiro slid it back into his uniform’s jacket pocket. ‘I can’t be late. I don’t have an excuse today…’ He looked back at the school with a slight longing in his eyes before heading home.

    A measured walk took him exactly to the front of the gate on time. Taking out the key from his bag, he opened the side door to the main gate letting himself inside. To the right, a pond filled with koi and decorated with lotus surrounded the scene with the property wall closed around it. On his left, he noticed a company car all in black. ‘Right…that’s today…’

    Kichiro kept to the side of the road following it to the path leading up to the house. He would hesitate to call it a mansion, though someone would certain call it such. Though it was easily dwarfed by that massive mansion that Mitsuru found himself in these days. No, he found it troubling to say it was a house as well, he just preferred to think of it that way. But it stuck out against their neighbors with the modern homes that filled up the adjacent lots.

    “A certain someone refused to relocate, despite the out of place nature. Such stubbornness is hardly that surprising to me anymore. Just another tick in the column.”

    Columns and ticks aside though, Kichiro opened the door with some cautious. Knowing they had guests, he had to be prepared for anything. At the door was Kazuki rather than Riko, who he had to guess accompanied his grandfather at the moment. Politely, he handed over bag to Kazuki and stepped forward removing his shoes slowly.

    “Master Kichiro, I was told to inform you that you’ve been requested in the company room.”

    He paused for a moment and then continued taking off his shoes. Before replying to Kazuki, he arranged them carefully on the shelf keeping the path clear. Then Kazuki handed over slippers already prepared for him. “Thank you, Kazuki. I’ll see Grandfather immediately.”

    “Yes, sir. I’ll have your bag placed in your room.”

    Nodding a bit, Kazuki bowed to back to him and departed. Kichiro looked over at the room on the right before heading in. His slippers glided over the well polished wood floors. ‘Given the time of the meeting, it should be wrapping up soon…’ Even with his presence requested, he would be in worse trouble for having poor timing. A hard learned skill to be sure and not one that he managed with perfect success. Meetings were an unpredictable thing if not present.

    All he could do was measure out his response and plan the best point in time. This was hardly the first sort of meeting with whom his Grandfather was seeing. So that gave him a good way to measure out his effort. It did mean standing outside the door to the room for more than five minutes, but he knew better than to do anything otherwise.

    On the right moment, he knocked on the door to announce his presence finally. “Grandfather, I’ve returned home.” The door opened from the inside with Riko casually glancing at him before turning away back to the attending company.

    “Good timing, Kichiro. We were just concluding here,” his grandfather spoke rigidly and authoritatively. There came a slight hint of approval for his timing, while a hard and harsh command that overreached his voice.

    Over the opposite side of the table sat a middle aged man about two decades or maybe three younger. A well polished man with a polite and soft presence, one that should normally easily be swallowed up by the radiating aura before the man.

    “This is Hajime Muraguchi, current head of the Muraguchi Corporation and our family’s primary supplier for produce. Muraguchi was a middle man and distributor, until he managed to secure several companies directly. His primary business remains in transporting, but owning the some of the big regional food suppliers has put him at our door on a regular basis now…”

    “Kichiro! Were you sneezing? Because we were just talking about you!” He remained the same upbeat and positive man as always. Kichiro did not know how he did it, especially being in front of that man. It made him wonder if he was always like that and how such a person ran a company and ruthlessly engineered such lucrative buyouts.

    However, they were of little matter on the immediate moment for him. He was not going to be allowed a personal thought or even a reply. Muraguchi directed attention over to the adjacent side of him. They did not go unnoticed by him, he just omitted it from his thoughts.

    The man revealed a young woman next to him the same age as Kichiro. Like him, she remained polite and silent among the adults in the room. She did glance over to Kichiro only shifting her eyes to see him. “I brought Shiori with me today due to business. I know she was looking forward to a chance to see you again. How long has it been?”

    He bowed deeply out of politeness and respect. While his Grandfather commanded the room, Kichiro knew that he was not the one with the real power. It was a balancing game, one played between adults that he had no taste for watching. “Autumn, I believe,” he answered for the direct question.

    “Yes, yes, how the time flies. Already in high school.” The upbeat man turned to look at his daughter. “Hard to believe the time is so close now.”

    She softly smiled in agreement with a doll-like composure. “Yes, Father. I, too, look forward to the day.”

    A beep sounded off from within the man’s breast pocket. He pulled out his phone and examined it quickly to look over the details. “I do apologize that I can’t spend more time here. I know Shiori very much would like to spend some time with you Kichiro.”

    “As do I, sir. I await eagerly the next opportunity.”

    He stood up and stretched out a hand to shake. “I’ll see to the change in orders. It’s heartening to see your expansion proceeding well, Yunokawa.”

    “It would not be without the quality that you provide us. Thank you for your continued support, Muraguchi. I won’t keep you longer.”

    A small bow to his Grandfather and the man turned towards the door inviting his daughter out first. “Sorry, it has to be so short of a meeting. I’ll be sure to find more time in the future.”

    “We look forward to that.”

    Kichiro bowed to the two lining as did his Grandfather. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the passing gaze of Shiori. He forced himself to linger for a moment before turning away.

    Once they disappeared into the hall, he could breathe once more. Though, he then received a glare from his Grandfather. One that he knew well enough to retreat from quickly. He bowed to him before straightening out to a rigid posture. “If you’re excuse me, Grandfather. I was unable to change before meeting you. I’m sorry for my attire.”

    “Hmm.” It was barely a sound, but it came out uttered as to mean a very gruff approval, while also etched with some disappointment. Tacked on at the end of the noise was a touch of pride for him, small as it was, that he carried himself correctly.

    None of which Kichiro tried to fight, he just departed to his room. As Kazuki promised, his bag rested on his chair next to his desk. He hung the bag up on the hook next to his desk and removed his uniform jacket. Unbuttoning his collar, he laid back on his bed for a moment needing a moment. ‘Wasn’t expecting to see her today… I always have to be careful…’

    The low ticking of the clock on his wall started to worm into his ear. It reminded him of the time and he let out another sigh (there isn’t much left of his soul today). Picking himself back up, he checked his phone quickly seeing a message on it from Shiori. He pulled up his shirt freeing it from his pants to start unbuttoning it. While he finished undressing he authored a reply for her in his mind.
    Letting his uniform hang straight, he pulled out the formal kimono made from silk and dyed a soft warm blue to indigo. He firmly tucked in the material letting tie in his figure. The look of a proper man, as his Grandfather reminded himself repeatedly. “Alright. And next…”

    Finished dressing, Kichiro grabbed his phone and quickly tapped out the response he worked up. “There…polite and slightly affectionate. Should be enough…” He slid the phone down into his pocket on the hakama before leaving his room. His slippers waited for him outside coming off the tatami mat. Back on the wood floor, he effortlessly glided down the hall to the room at the end.

    Kichiro knocked on the door to announcement himself. “Mother, it’s Kichiro.” There was silence, something that he sort of expected already. He slid the door open to cautiously look inside. At the far end of the room, he saw her behind a computer and several stacks of paper. “Mother, it’s me, Kichiro.”

    She glanced up from the monitor and her eyes opened fully. “Kichiro! I’m sorry I couldn’t greet you.”

    “It’s alright, Mother. Your work is important.”

    “I am sorry, dear. I knew it would be bad, but it’s demanding more of my attention than I planned.”

    He shook his head not wanting her to worry about it. Leaving his slippers at the door, he went into the traditional room. Only the company room had a modern appearance, the rest of the house remained old despite everything. Kichiro walked softly over to his mother’s desk. ‘I just wish you’d let me help you more…’

    Picking up on the change in his facial expression, she leaned forward to her son. “Is something the matter, Kichiro?”

    Straightening himself out quickly, he put the mask back on. “Nothing, just an exhausting day at school. My friends let a wild animal into the school.”

    “Oh my, that sounds reckless, are you sure they’re right for you, dear?”

    “They’re the best thing for me,” he said with an honest smile. He then felt the vibrating at his hip wiping away his previous thought. “It’s time, Mother.”

    “Already?!” She sighed into her hands looking at all of the paperwork still left unfinished. Little wonder she looked so tired lately. And today would not be any different. Likely, if he knew her, she would still be awake when even the help went to sleep. “I guess it can’t be help. Grandfather would explode if missed dinner,” she joked softly.

    “That would be something.”

    “But then it’d be a mess for Riko. Probably should be going then, huh?”

    “I guess we should.”

    She stood up out of the chair, but slipped only to be caught by Kichiro. It only took her a moment to recover and straighten herself back out. “I’m sorry. Must have been too focused on the computer screen. Grandfather says it kills the soul after all.” A moment later, she finished composing herself perfectly with excellent posture and grace making any of the fatigue disappear and regain the lost years the desk stole from her. “It’s the only wonder he still alive, right.”

    “Yes, Mother.” Keeping to her right side, Kichiro followed her carefully still watching just in case. Usually, once she got moving she would be fine, but he still could not shake it off immediately. In the hallway, he gave up his guard as her escort and began longer strides to come along side her.

    They reached the dining room in time for the last dish to be placed on the table. Grandfather already sat at the end of the table watching them both enter the room. No one else came in after them. As it had been for some time, only the three of them ate at the table. It did not matter what was happening or plans, it was important to never skip the meal. Kichiro managed some exceptions thanks to school, but he could not always pull it off. Any other time it had to be without fail and prompt. Nothing else was to be tolerated.

    Dinner ran quiet with no one saying anything other than some light business talk between his Mother and Grandfather. Kichiro kept his ears open listening, but feigning attention at his meal. He followed most of the dealings with ease. Being the family business, it was hard for him not to be aware and used to such discussions. It was something more common when he was younger and a kinder hand tried to guide him than today.

    However, for the most part he mostly only sought out to the end of the meal. Business left a sour taste in his mouth for as much as he tried to pretend otherwise. He knew what he future looked like, but he could at least look away while there remained time.

    Glancing down at his plate, it was already empty, as was his Mother’s. A little remained on his Grandfather while he continued thinking over current business arrangements. The expansion in the business left his Mother with no end of headaches and his Grandfather did everything to steer the course. Things went well for them went meant increased pressure in the household overall. Everyone hid the stress from everyone else until it came out in passive aggressive ways to relieve the pressure.

    Kichiro sensed the tension lately forcing him to be ever more cautious than before. He remained at the table despite wanting to leave. Not until it came from his Grandfather could he stand. A certain order had to be maintain, strictly so. The man adhered to it strongly now than even before.

    A break in the focus came suddenly snapping him to attention. “I spoke with Muraguchi about the arrangements during our meeting before you arrived. The final date remains until after you both finish your education, but a formalizing ceremony will be held next year in the summer.”

    “Formalizing ceremony?” He honestly did not know what it was he was beating around the bush about. Kichiro was under the impression everything had already been signed and agreed upon. Only the actual act itself remained, he thought.

    “Up until now, the agreement has merely been a verbal promise between our families. It will be publically made official then. You’ve got time, so be sure to have a good speech ready. Kazuki is available to assist you.”

    “I understand, Grandfather.” A slight glance over to Kazuki gave him an inviting nod. ‘I see… I didn’t know the collar was so loose until now…’ His course laid out ahead of him pre-planned. All he had to do was walk it. Kichiro looked back at his Mother pausing with some hesitation before returning to his Grandfather. “I’ll be sure put the utmost care into it.”

    “See that you do.” Laying down his chopsticks, the end of dinner finally came. He stood up with smooth grace for such as someone of his age and snapped at Riko to follow.

    Kichiro stood up watching his Mother carefully. A couple of years seemed to peel away from her as her mask slightly slipped. She smiled back at him in reassurance and fixed her composure. Work awaited her as he knew and she dutifully followed the path it set for her.

    Things were already in motion. He could not stop him and he knew it. This was just how things were now. He returned alone to his room. Studies, the only duty for him in the present, even that would change eventually for him. But it did at least give him focus, even though they were equally watched as anything else he might be doing.

    Night eventually came over the day and staring at books started to turn into a rut. He needed a break from it. Walking out of his room, he went to the end of the hall, but rather than the one of the left to his Mother’s office, he went to the one of the right.

    He knocked on the door. “Grandfather, it’s Kichiro.”

    “What is it? Are your studies finished?”

    “I finished my work for today, but I want to prep for the next book we’re reading in two weeks. I don’t have the book. I need to go out to the store to pick it up.”

    A measured pause came as he likely evaluated the request. “Fine, you’ve got thirty minutes.”

    “Thank you, Grandfather.” He shuffled back to his room quickly to change into more normal casual clothes for someone his age. It burned time he did not have, but he could not have prepared ahead if his Grandfather opened the door. Yet he had plenty of practice getting in and out of them.

    Waving to Kazuki as he sprinted out the door, he got out to the street in a blink and made it down the sidewalk. Streetlights kept enough light in the area for him to see. Unlike what he told his Grandfather, his destination did not happen to be a bookstore. In fact, no store at all was his goal.

    A nearby park was his mark.

    Popping in a coin, a can of sweet tea dropped from the machine. He retrieved it and dropped on the bench with another heavy sigh. A sip of it gave him a much needed calming effect to relax. “Ugh…what a day…Etsuko and then Shiori…”

    He stared at the light as a moth bounced around it wanting to get inside, but unable to get past the shielding. It was quite stubborn about it unable to give up. Reminded him of someone, he sighed disappointedly. “So it had never been official. And now I have to make it that way. Wish I knew the door to the cage hadn’t been locked until now… Not that it would have changed anything. It’s still my only home. I can’t leave it behind…”

    Another sip of the sweet tea made some of it start disappearing. It worked well on dispelling some of his stress. He could never afford to release it the same way the others did. A smile came weakly up his face. “I’m going to have to come up with some game tomorrow.”

    “Planning a new prank in the middle of the night?” a familiar voice asked from the shadows.

    Kichiro took a bigger drink of his tea before setting down. “I think working on the council has messed with your internal clock. I’d hardly call seven the middle of the night.”

    “Is that so, what would you say it is?”

    “Late afternoon? It’s not that time of the year quite yet. Early evening sounds about right, I think.”

    “I might think it evening already.”

    “What makes it evening rather than early?”

    “Dinner I would suppose.”

    “But you’ve just gotten out of council work, I could hardly imagine the dutiful big sister eating before the rest.”

    “But you have already eaten.”

    “You’ve got me there, I have.”

    “And you are the one saying it.”

    “Evening it is then!” He smiled feeling better from the rapid fire exchange that almost no one else could have kept up with. Their pace would have left Mitsuru dizzy and unconscious on the floor.

    Kiyome stepped out of the shadows carrying her bag in front of her in both hands. She refrained from sitting down, but glanced at the bench. “Must be pretty serious to be getting the sweet tea.”

    Glancing at the can, he had done a poor job of hiding it from her. He pulled it back to his hand covering up the label, not that it did much anymore. “You know me so well.”

    She then looped back around the conversation in a full deflection. “Planning something from Mitsuru again?”

    “You make it sound like I’m a bully. It’s just a little fun. The little guy’s under quite a bit of stress these days. You noticed too.”

    “Yes, they both seemed to be taking on burdens more than either can bear.”

    “So we should let them stress relieve some of that.”

    “Tsuki’s pretty high strung right now. Anything we attempt is likely going to have a different effect.”

    “That’s why we work together. We do our best work together.”

    “I’ll think about it.” Kiyome began to walk away slowly.

    Rubbing a finger over his can, he tilted his gaze to Kiyome’s back. “You going to fix the problem you started? Mitsuru’s not built for something like that.”

    “We’ve already had a talk. Though it is contingent on Mitsuru being agreeable to it as well.”

    “As long as you don’t chase him down like a crazy person, he’s not going to say no to anything.”

    “That’s what I’m afraid of. I hope we’re not getting to hopeful leaving it up to him.”

    “You just have to explain it to him. He wants her to have a normal life too.”

    “But you know what it would mean.”

    “Yes…this stuff is never easy…”

    “No, it’s not.” Their conversation finished, Kiyome walked back into the shadows continuing home.

    “Not going to ask?”

    “That’s not the sort of relationship we have. You know that.”

    “Yes, I do…” He drank from the can again leaving it nearly empty in the process. The sweetness hung around in his mouth from taking so much. It did not have as strong of a calming effect as he wanted. And he was running out of time, that much he knew.

    “This is my life in the cage…”

    To be continued…
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