You had awoken, rather painfully, in a curtained area of a white hospital ward. For the next hour or so after waking you had been subjected to a barrage of questions from nurse, doctor and police officer alike. Thankfully someone had sneaked you a scrap of paper with a few details of a cover story to tell them - that you had been attacked by a couple of drunken home invaders and that no you couldn't recall too well what they looked like because everything had been such a blurry panic. Perhaps not the most impressive cover story but given that your little cheat-sheet had been signed with a K in a heart you were pretty sure it had been Koishi who had got it to you. If she was involved then chances were her partner, Officer Kankichi, was going to be helping keep the less... believable... aspects of your home invasion under wraps. You figured that you should probably offer to buy the guy lunch or something at some point given that he was potentially risking his job to keep things from coming out into the light.
Morally and legally dubious cover ups aside, your hospital stay had been relatively uneventful. Your sister had hinted strongly at wanting to know what the hell was going on but you'd managed to convince her to wait until you weren't in a highly public, and likely monitored, hospital ward first. At least you were slated to be out in only a few days as miraculously nothing had been broken - but you would be wrapped up in more than a few bandages and supports just in case.
Surprisingly she had taken the eventual explanation rather well... Though you suspected that the only reason she hadn't beaten the hell out of you was because you were still recovering - that and not even your sister would be willing to risk messing up an appointment to see your father. She hadn't exactly been happy about the fact that you were in a life-and-death game but neither had she freaked out as badly as you had expected - she was upset sure, but she understood that there was nothing she could do about the situation.
Her view of Tokiko, however, had dropped rather sharply to the point at which she was evidently taking pains to not be in the same room with the silver-haired girl. You could tell that your partner was upset about this but... you just couldn't see any way to fix things.
Worse, there was now the overhanging knowledge of how close to being killed you and Tokiko had come - and that your opponent didn't even consider herself the strongest in the game.
Life, as it was, sucked.
* * * * * * * *
Light spilled around the edges of her shield as she held it up to protect her face from the bright explosion she faced now. As the light dimmed she peeked over the rim and quickly scooted backwards, her sword whipping downwards to catch her opponent, some kind of fairy, in the shoulder. This one had been a pain in the neck to track down as she had some ability to make herself and her partner invisible but, fortunately, not unscentable. The little pain had known about her weaknesses and had taken shameless advantage of whatever she could use in order to shore it up against her.
Even as she watched the fairy, clutching it's shoulder in pain, vanished as the light wrapped around her form. Once again she'd likely escape and need to be tracked down - though this time at least she had been properly wounded and that would make it so much easier to catch her again.
“Ha...” The white haired woman sighed as her prey got away again. “It's been a week already,” She murmured, hopping down from where she had been perched on top of a parked truck. “Still no sign of Miss Aya at all...” She frowned slightly. As much as the Crow Tengu annoyed the hell out of her she was one of the few people she knew well enough to call a friend and, in this situation, any friend was better than no friends. Thankfully she'd run into Nitori up north and it had been suggested that Aya could be here in this city, Kyoto wasn't it? The name sounded vaguely familiar - possibly a place the Tengu had lived before they'd moved to the Youkai mountain and been sealed inside the great barrier. She'd spied a little evidence of this here and there, mostly around the temples and such - though she was loath to get too close to them. Although there shouldn't be anyone capable of harnessing divine powers out here these days she wasn't going to take risks she didn't need to take. Sanae, after all, was a ridiculously powerful shrine maiden and up until recently she'd been living out in this outside world herself - who knew who else could be doing the same?
Well, whatever. Nitori had sent her down here and she had agreed to take care of whoever she found in the area - the less opponents the more chance of Aya being okay after all. Not that the reporter couldn't take care of herself but... it was just a gut feeling, but she was certain Aya was in need of help somehow. Besides, it would be good to have a debt to hold over Aya's head after the game was over.
Oh yes, having the Crow Tengu owe her would be so perfect.
Momizi grinned widely.
So very perfect.
* * * * * * * *
You sister stood on one side of you, Tokiko on the other. It was hard to describe how it felt standing between them but if you had to try one word you'd use would be 'stressful'. For the past day or so their little cold war had escalated into one of passive aggression - with you caught in all the crossfire. About the only time of peace had come during the morning hour of tokusatsu shows during which Tokiko and your sister shared an uneasy ceasefire, though you noticed that they always sat on the couch to watch the television with Flandre sitting between them.
“I thought this was family only.” your sister muttered, just loud enough for you and Tokiko to hear.
“She is family.” you hiss back, “Close enough at least.” You sister grumbled something in response, but you weren't able to catch it as you had reached your destination - St. Maria's Mental Care Unit.
The place your father lived.
You winced slightly as you led the two girls inside, spoke to the receptionist on duty and signed your name into the thick visitors book. You didn't want to be here, you didn't want to have to live up to the reality of your father being little more than a drooling vegetable now - but equally you couldn't turn away from it either as you still held out hope that maybe he might recover and everything would go back to the way things had used to be. It was unlikely, probably even impossible, but if you gave up hope then you would have to accept that the man was simply dead and that his body just hadn't received the message yet.
Waving to one or two of the nurses you recognized from previous visits you allowed yourself and your group to be led down a maze of cream and brown painted hallways which had various doors leading off. Every once in a while one of the doors was open, allowing you a glimpse into the rooms of the mentally incapable and the nurses looking after them. You felt two slim hands seek out your own and you realized that perhaps Tokiko hadn't been exposed to this... failing... of humanity before. Your gave a gentle squeeze to, hopefully, reassure her a little. In front of you the nurse, a petit thing with the most godawful pink dyed hair, turned a sharp left down the hallway you knew your father's room was down. She stepped quickly up to one of the many identical doors and, after rapping sharply on the wood with one hand, she twisted the handle and pushed it open before marching through. You took a deep breath and followed her, stopping dead at the sight of the body covered in blankets and sitting on a wheelchair in one corner of the room.
The nurse, now behind the chair, pushed it forwards slightly into the center of the room then leaned down to speak to the blanket-covered man. “Look, isn't this a nice surprise?” She said, with the false cheer of a speaker who knew the listener couldn't hear them, “Your children have come to visit you.”
* * * * * * * *
“So, let me get this straight, Baron Ashura is the revived body of a Mycenian priest and priestess who both had half their body rotted away and were then sewn together by Doctor Hell's then assistant?” The green-haired young woman considered this for a moment. “That's pretty messed up.” she concluded, gesturing at the television screen with one of her candy-coated breadsticks.
“It does stay truer to the original source though.” Her companion responded, taking a candy-stick for himself. He shrugged, “Could be worse, could be Pygman.”
The girl shuddered slightly. “You have a point.” She admitted, “It's a pity I'll likely be gone before the next series is out.” She looked down for a moment, then brightened up. “So! What's next on the list?”
“A break,” Her partner stated, pulling himself off of the beanbag couch the two had been sitting on and giving himself a good stretch. “Got another flight lesson in a while, so I have to be heading down to the airfield.” The boy glanced over at his companion. “Want to come with?”
The girl nodded. “Might as well, I could use some fresh air.” She giggled slightly as she stood up and brushed herself off. “My moving to Gensokyo really broke me out of the Hikkikomori lifestyle I was working my way into - a year or so ago I honestly wouldn't have believed that I would get to a point where I wanted to be outside just for the sake of being outside.”
The two of them made a token effort to clean up the area they had been lounging around in before they both headed outside. “You know,” the girl stated as she slipped through into the passenger side of a large military-style car. “It's pretty neat that you have a driving license already, I never really got the chance to learn before I left.” The boy nodded as he slid into his own position behind the vehicle's steering wheel.
“I could probably teach you a bit,” He stated, going through the motions of starting the car up, “but it's not like there are any cars back where you're staying - so it would be a little redundant.” There was a pause, then he grinned. “Unless you want it for bragging rights of course.”
“Of course.” She stated, grinning back.
The rest of the car journey, short though it was, went by fairly quietly - the boy having earlier admitted that he preferred not to be too distracted while driving. Eventually the two of them pulled up at a little gatehouse at the entrance of what seemed to be some kind of military base. When questioned by the guard on duty the boy fished out a small plastic ID, “Date Ryuusei.” He stated, then gestured towards his passenger, “And one guest. We're here for my piloting lessons - well, I'm here, she's just going to spectate.” The guard said something, to which the boy blushed.
Looking over him the guard nodded to the girl. “Name?” he asked, holding up a clipboard which she guessed was a visitors list of some kind.
She smiled. “Ah, Kochiya Sanae.”
* * * * * * * *
The cool and clean outside air was a terribly pleasant thing compared to the stuffy and medicine-scented atmosphere that had filled the home your father lived in. You really did hate that place - the smell, the décor, the sights and the sounds... the sight of your dad slumped over and drooling whole you and your sister try to treat his practically dead self as if her were a real person... You hated how the nurse would lean over your father from behind and coo softly into his ear as she wiped the drool off with some tissue, reminding you that your father couldn't even look after himself without a legion of carers...
“Two years ago...” You mumble, just loud enough for the silver-haired girl standing next to you to hear. “... things weren't like this.” Leading Tokiko away from the building you soon found and threw yourself onto a nearby public bench. “Mom was still crazy,” you continued as your partner sat down beside you, “but she wasn't anywhere near as bad as she is now - dad sort of... balanced her out, see? If it wasn't for him she'd probably have tried to raise me wearing dresses and stuff.” You felt a hand rest gently on your shoulder and you glanced over at Tokiko, who seemed to be unsure of what to do except listen. “He was crazy in his own little ways,” you murmured, “convinced himself I was some kind of housebound otaku because I wasn't the sports-freak my sister was. Most of the collectible junk I have he bought for me when he was off on business trips - he used to travel all over the country see? Outside it too sometimes.”
You take a deep breath, “It's... hard.” You say at last. “If he were dead, I think I could get over it - but he's not, he's there and he's not there at the same time. It's like... looking at broken doll.”
“Always hoping that one day he'll look up and everything will be the way it used to be.” You twitch slightly as your sister joins you on the bench. “The nurse says he's happy we visited.” She frowns. “How the hell would she know? She's just making crap up to keep us happy - bet she does it for everyone who had relatives in that hell.”
“Of course she does,” You respond, “It's her job after all.”
“Don't.” You blink as your sister speaks out a non-sequitur, looking up you realize that she's not talking to you but instead to the youkai girl sitting on the other side of you. “Don't say it,” you sister states, “We don't want sympathy from someone who doesn't understand - and I don't want it from someone who's gonna make me loose another part of my family!”
“Akira!” You barked, causing your sister to flinch back at the sound of her name. “Why don't you...” You trailed off, your anger deflating quickly, “... Just... just leave it. I chose to get involved, so just leave off her, okay?”
You sister glares at you for a moment before rising to her feet. “Fine.” She snarls, stalking off. “See if I care.” She glances back, “I'm getting a drink, don't bother waiting for me.”
You sigh. “She didn't mean it,” you murmur - though your words ring hollow as you know that you sister probably did mean exactly what she had said. “She's just... under a lot of stress, that's all.”
“I...” Tokiko practically whimpers, “I'm sorry...”
“Don't worry about it,” you reassure her, leaning over and putting one arm around her shoulders to give her a gentle squeeze. “She's just unhappy and scared and angry and she really doesn't know how to deal with it all. She's always like this when she visits our father, you just happened to be the most convenient outlet for her anger this time is all.”
“But... but she's right.” You frown as your partner shifts out from under your arm. “It is my fault you're in this, if I hadn't been so selfish and lied my way into your house then you would have just gone on as normal... and no-one would be out to kill you.”
“And everyone would be out to kill you.” You respond. “And we wouldn't have gone on a date, and I wouldn't have fallen for you, and we wouldn't have-” You cut off as Tokiko's head suddenly whips around to face you. “Uh...”
“Say...” She begins, staring hard into your eyes. “Say that again?”
“Everyone would be out to kill you?” That's not what she meant and you knew it, but the words she wanted to hear you hadn't intended to say - they had just sort of slipped out without you realizing it. Tokiko frowned at you and though her face was flushed red, like your own you supposed, she made no move to press the issue any further. You stared at her for a moment, then looked away - desperate to change the subject. “It was an accident.” you say finally, ignoring the little noise of confusion that Tokiko makes at the sudden shift. “My dad I mean, him and mom and sis were in an accident.”
“Accident?” Your partner echoes.
“I... I don't know all the details.” You admit in a soft voice, “I was the only one not there.... They were heading to one of my sister's tournaments when they hit a truck - honestly it's a miracle none of them died, but my dad ended up with serious head injuries and... well... you say what he's like now.” Leaning back on the bench, you looked up at the sky and squinted - looked like it would rain soon, how appropriate. “Mom broke down, she was the one driving so she blamed herself for it - sent her into a breakdown, she came out of it the way she is now. Sis.... she just got angry. She blamed herself too, you know? She reckoned that they were only on the road because of her - but she started lashing out at everyone around her..” You looked down, “Got herself kicked out of school for delinquency - cost a lot of family favors to get her back in to another school...”
“Things calmed down eventually,” you continued, “but they tend to fall apart around this time, the anniversary of when our family got broken to bits.” you shrug and look at your partner. “Sis finding out about our fight just came at a really bad time is all - so she's taking things a lot worse than she normally would. Though... Mom is taking things better thanks to both you and Flandre, so it's not as if everything is so negative.”
You reach out, your arm wrapping around Tokiko once again. “And,” you murmur, giving her another tentative squeeze, “I'm taking things better... because you're here.” You feel and arm slip itself around your back and another wrap itself around your front. Your face heats up slightly as Tokiko pulls herself against you in a hug that, honestly, you needed.
“Thanks,” you murmur as she practically buries herself against you. “I... I needed that.”
* * * * * * * *
“I needed that,” The brunette woman stated, glaring at the white-clad man in front of her. “And before you start bitching, yes I am allowed to be here and yes I do outrank you. So bugger off and stay out of my way.” She repressed a slight grin as the man stared at her - sort of fake but not really - ID, babbled an apology, then followed her order by getting the hell out of her way. Pushing him out of her mind the woman stalked over to a kneeling blond woman wearing a jacket with a familiar medical symbol on the back. “Yo, Fran, having fun?”
The woman turned away from what she was examining and grinned at the first woman. Several facial scars moved in... interesting... ways as she did so, but the blond and her scars were so familiar that they barely got a rise out of her. “Oh, very!” she exclaimed in a voice like a giddy schoolgirl. “It's another mystery death!”
Leaning around the medic, the brunette peered at the body laying haphazardly on the ground. “Joy.” She murmured, “So which of our mystery serial killers is it this time?” She paused, then winced, “Please don't tell me it's a new one.”
“Oh, oh no.” The medical woman, Fran, shook her head. “This one seems to be neither of them... but aside from cause of death - of which this is only a speculation - there is one point of real interest.”
“Well?” The brunette frowned.
“Well wh-” The blond paused, “Oh! Right, right. Yes. See here?” She indicated to the left arm of the corpse. “It looks like they were branded, no, perhaps even pierced, with some kind of... well I don't know what.” Using a small metal rod she gently pointed to two holes burned into the arm, “Two circular burns, that is interesting enough but what makes this more interesting is that they go... deep.”
“How deep?” The first woman asked, clearly interested in this little nugget of information.
“I won't be sure until I get them back and cut the arm open,” the blond stated with a fiendish little grin, “but if it's anything like the other case then the burns will go right down to the bone - in two perfect lines.”
The brunette blinked. “Other case? What other case?”
The medic, Fran, looked up at her curiously. “You didn't read my report, did you?” she said as she put on an exaggerated pout. “After I put all that love and care into making a copy just for you.” shoulders slumping she looked away from the first woman, then sighed. “Fine, I found marks like this on some of the serial killer victims.”
“Which killer?” The brunette asked.
Fran shrugged, “That's the odd part, I found them on both - I don't know if it means anything, but these kinds of marks aren't the kind of thing you can make with any weapon or tool that I know of. There could be a link of some kind - a cult maybe? Or a gang. I don't know, I just cut them open and see what they have on the inside.” She looked up, “The weird stuff is your department, eh Re-”
“Uami Renko!” The roar of anger cut across the crime scene, making both the brunette and the blond jump in surprise.
“Aw... shit.” Looking down at the medic the brunette, Renko, winced. “He's really gonna be unhappy about this, isn't he?” Seeing her friend nod she winced again. “Shit... well, uh, I'm gonna run like hell - you keep me informed, yeah?”
Fran shot her a sloppy parody of a salute. “yes sah great detective Renko sah!” Then she frowned, “And make sure you actually read it this time!” Blinking she realized that her friend had already started her escape as a large trenchcoat wearing police officer came into view and started after her. She sighed. “And you'll owe me dinner!” she yelled, though she was pretty sure that Renko would deny ever hearing her yell.
For such a great detective as she claimed to be, Renko sure was one tightwad when it came to keeping her contacts happy.
Fran grinned as she turned back to her corpse, already thinking about how fun it would be to cut this one open!
* * * * * * * *
“School... trip?” you sound the words out slowly, letting their meaning filter through your head little by little. “Wait, what?” You say, before hissing as you jabbed one finger with a needle. Holding the injured hand over a pot you let a few drops of blood splash down into the hot water below. This was the third, no fourth, time you'd prepared blood-laced tea for Flandre. After the first time - your first day back after recovering from Meiling's beating - the blond girl had perked up considerably and the pale cast to her face had quickly been replaced by a more flushed and healthy look. Since then you had prepared a bloody tea every few days and Flandre had kept her new healthy look much to your mother's happiness, though she didn't know about the blood thing you knew she had been worried about how the girl had seemed so out of energy at times.
“Here.” Tokiko shoved a sheet of paper practically into your face. As you scanned it you wrapped a band-aid around your finger, then reached out to take the sheet for a closer examination.
“Huh.” it was all there in black and white, school trip - yadda yadda - kyoto - blah blah - something about cultural enrichment before everyone left on summer vacation - oh, there was the important informa...
You looked up from the paper. “Tomorrow?” you asked, your voice sounding slightly strained.
Tokiko nodded. “Mm hmm.” She hummed, “I have everything they asked for packed, m-mother helped me get it all ready.”
“Tomorrow?” You repeated, a good octave higher than before. Your partner just looked at you in confusion.
“Um, they have been telling us about this for the past two weeks...” She trailed off slightly before continuing, “But... uhm... with you in hospital for a while... and then there was... um... I guess, maybe you missed the notices?”
“Tomorrow.” You said one final time, your voice flat. “And... someone was going to tell me this when?”
Your partner shrunk back slightly, “I... I thought you knew.”
Bringing one hand up to pinch the bridge your your nose, you sighed in annoyance. You couldn't really fault her as there was no way this trip would have been sprung on the classes at the last moment so you really should have heard about all this before. But things had been so hectic lately... and you hadn't really been paying attention in your homeroom sessions in the morning...
Shit. You suspected that you had likely slept through half the announcements about the trip. Okay, so tonight you'd have to pack everything asked for, clothes, toiletries, a few notebooks and probably a camera too. Did you have the batteries for it? You'd need your phone charger too and... goddamit! There was so much to do!
* * * * * * * *
“Line up! Line up!” The teacher called out to the unruly mob of students. “In your classes!”
“Teacher!” One of the students yelled back, “The boys aren't listening!”
“Teacher!” Called another, “Some of the girls have gone shopping and aren't back yet!”
“Shut up!” Roared one of the teachers, “Line up! Alternately!” The man stalked towards the stores lining the train station. “They shouldn't be disturbing our disciplined excursion!”
“Disciplined he says,” Mumbled one of the less exuberant tutors before raising his voice to the crowd, “Line up! Boy, girl, boy, girl!”
“Teacher!” Replied one of the four class presidents, “There are a few more boys than there are girls!”
“I... see.” The tutor grumbled, “Then, ah, boy, girl, boy, boy, girl, boy, girl! Understand!?”
Within moments the students were lining up, first a boy, then a girl, a boy, a girl, two boys together and then another girl. You sighed to yourself - why were all school trips such colossal fuckups of organization? Thankfully you and Tokiko had hung back at the very edge of the crowd with the small group of students who hadn't bough their train tickets in advance. As you watched to chaos of the teachers trying to control the bulk of the students you were approached by one of the class presidents - probably so they could escort you to the ticket booths.
This guess proved to be correct as you soon found yourself standing at a ticket booth buying tickets for both yourself and Tokiko - you figured it was easier for your to get both than for you to hope she would get through the confusing procedure on her own. Since you'd been the first in line the two of you were stuck waiting for the other students to get their tickets before you could head back to the crowd. Just great, more waiting - at least soon you'd be on the tra-
Something tapped you on one shoulder. Turning to see who, or what, it was you were presented with an odd looking woman - all white hair, pale skin and red eyes.
“Excuse me,” she said in a polite, though rough, tone. “Would you perhaps be able to give me a hand?” The woman held out a small booklet which she flicked open and consulted for a moment. “My reading is not so good.” She stated, seeming to read from the booklet. “Can you help me buy a ticket?” Turning the book around she pointed at a picture of a shrine. “To Kyoto?”
Oh. A foreigner?
Glancing over at the class president who was escorting you, who had thankfully heard everything, you watched her give you a little nod. Fine, you had the time to help the woman - it wasn't like you had anything else to do while you waited for everyone else to get their tickets. Leading the pale woman, who frankly looked more than a little freaky, to one of the free ticket booths you took a few moments to look over her strange looks. Was she really white haired, white skinned and red eyed? Or was she just some crazy foreigner in some kind of cosplay? Or... you glanced at Tokiko as a more worrying thought occurred. Thankfully your partner, guessing your unspoken question, shook her head in the negative.
Not a youkai then, or at least not one she recognized.
Taking care to speak slowly you led the woman through the process of buying a ticket to Kyoto. Every now and then she would smile at you in a way that made the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end - though you couldn't pick up anything overtly wrong about her there was a tiny part of you that really didn't think this woman was normal either. Annoyingly the woman was wearing a long sleeved sundress, so you couldn't...
The woman reached up to pay and her sleeve fell back.
You hissed at the sight of the single chain link sticking out of her arm.
A player - or at least the partner of one - in the middle of a crowded station. This was not a situation you liked the sound of in the slightest.
The woman looked over at you, holding her newly purchased ticket. “Is something wrong?” She asked, causing your eyes to narrow ever so slightly - something about her accent sounded a little too... normal. As if she had been speaking the language all her life - though it was still possible that she was telling the truth about not being able to read as well as she could speak. You made a discrete gesture to Tokiko, indicating that she should move close to you due to possibly imminent trouble.
MEMES. EVERYWHERE. GODDAMIT.
[ ] No need for conflict.
[ ] Pre-emptive strike.
[ ] Requesting parley.
[ ] Tactical Withdrawl.