Woo hoo, chapter 2! Just to warn all of you, if I don't update by the end of October, then I won't update until December because I'm using ALL of November to work on my National Novel Writing Month novel. So, just a heads up!

I hope you all enjoy the chapter! XD

"The sky is beautiful today, Kei-san," Mitsukarin Kiyomi told his companion, throwing him a warm smile over his shoulder. He was walking along the edge of a low concrete wall that bordered the sidewalk, sidestepping branches from the bushes that hung over from the other side as he moved. He stepped along with all the carefree spirit of a child, a bright smile on his face as he made his way down the small ledge, his chin-length hair a bright strawberry-pink as it shone in the midmorning sun.

The blonde smiled from beside him. From where he walked down on the sidewalk, a good three feet below Kiyomi, the top of his head still nearly reached his smaller companion's shoulder. "It really is, isn't it?" he raised his bright blue eyes to the expanse of blue above them, taking it the unbroken perfection of that sky. Misora Kei's eyes trailed across the fluffy, unthreatening clouds and the blue that grew deeper and deeper from the horizon to directly above until it was so brilliant it nearly stopped his heart. "Where are you going today?"

Kiyomi was humming softly, and he stopped and fell into thought. "I don't know! Where are you going? We could do anything you want! Anything in the world!" the boy declared, gesturing happily to the sky above with one pink-gloved hand. "The sky is the limit, right, Kei-san!?"

Kei smiled at his cousin's enthusiasm. "I've got a painting class today, Kiyo-kun. But I could walk you to wherever you're going if you want. Even then I probably won't be--" he glanced at his watch and saw that it was already 9:30. His class was at 10:00. He grimaced. "--late."

"It's okay," Kiyomi said, nodding slightly. "You can go to your class. I'll walk myself. Maybe I'll go and visit my mom in her shop or something. Ooh, or I could get some pastries!" his shimmering aqua green eyes danced at the thought. "With strawberry filling and frosting and--"

Kei laughed, slightly relieved that his cousin wasn't going to feel abandoned. He reached up and ruffled the soft strawberry hair, making Kiyomi giggle. "Well, you have fun then, Kiyo-kun. I'll come by your house tonight and get you for Firefly Night, okay?"

"Sure!" Kiyomi leaned over to give the slender blonde a tight hug before he allowed him to walk away. "See you then! Be careful!" he waved happily, and Kei gave him a warm smile before turning and walking in the opposite direction on the sidewalk, moving quickly to get to his class before the bell rang.

"Did I remember to put my paintbrushes in my bag?" he wondered aloud, glancing down at the bright canvas tote that swung from his hand. In this momentary distraction, as luck would have it, he could feel his shoulder bump into someone. "Sorry!" he gasped automatically, stopping and looking back. The person who he had collided with was a teenage boy with silver hair streaked with white. His two-toned eyes and pale skin gave him a slightly odd appearance. "I wasn't looking where I was going! I'm sorry…"

The pale boy shrugged, giving a small noise of assent. "It's fine," he muttered in an apathetic tone. "Don't worry about it," and continued on his way. Kei gave him an apologetic smile and hurried on his way, desperate to make it to class on time.

Ren sighed as he watched the blonde man depart over his shoulder, shoving his hands into his pockets. There was something so carefree about his walk and expression that Ren felt like was going to be sick, and he closed his eyes for a moment. Why did happy, normal people always make him feel so inferior? And so… jealous? It was not a kind thing to be jealous of… seeing other people happy should make him feel happy for them in return. But instead, he could feel a cold bitterness circling his organs at the sight of another's perfectly apparent happiness.

"Why can't I feel that, too?" he thought as he moved slowly down the sidewalk, at such a snail's pace that he was barely moving at all. "I know I created this feeling myself… I know no one is responsible for one's pain but themselves but…" his thoughts trailed away at the sound of a passing siren, and he lifted his head. Up ahead was a rather daunting car crash, the two vehicles smashed against each other as though they were made of paper, their front ends crumpled. The blonde man from before had long since disappeared to whatever destination he had in mind, and the only person nearby was a small teenage boy with bright pink hair. He was covering his mouth at the sight of the crash, looking horrified. Ren could see that his face was trembling.

He shivered as he grew closer, not wanting to see the sight up ahead, but somehow he could not stop himself from moving forward. As he reached the pink-haired boy he was aware of the sadness that lingered in his large aqua eyes, tears looking like they were about to spill over.

"Those poor people!" the boy wailed as Ren stopped in front of him. He clutched at the front of Ren's shirt with his small fists. "Those poor, poor people!"

"You know them?" Ren asked, slightly surprised.

"No…" the boy whimpered, biting into his knuckles so he wouldn't cry. "But… those poor people!"

"If you don't know them, then why does it even matter?" Ren wasn't aware of how cold he sounded until the words were already out of his mouth, and he could do nothing to pull them back. The boy looked up at him, his large eyes trembling as he locked them with Ren's. Ren couldn't help but feel uncomfortable, and he backed up a bit. Suddenly, the pink-haired boy was crying, clinging onto him and invading his personal space.

"It matters because they're hurt! They're hurt and it's sad!" tears were coursing down his cheeks now, and Ren's eyes widened as he locked his small arms around his torso and rested his head against his chest. "Don't you think that's awful!?"

"Y-yes…" Ren answered, pushing the boy off and backing up. As a shinigami, he routinely saw injury and death… it was part of the nature of what he was. He didn't mean to be cold or indifferent, but unless it was someone he cared deeply for such things meant very little when compared to such matters as his family. But seeing the horror reflected in the pink-haired boy's eyes, he felt something like compassion flash through his heart.

He helplessly watched the ambulance as it pulled up to the scene, followed closely by the fire engine, and paramedics spilled out. As they began pulling the bloody driver from one car, a strong, almost overwhelming sensation filled Ren's body, shaking him to the core. It was a familiar sensation, one that flooded into every available inch of space in his body and left him feeling uncomfortably violated. "Oh no… not here…"

"What?" the pink-haired boy looked up at him, slightly confused. He cocked his head, flinging a bit of bright pink hair over his shoulder. "What's the matter?"

Ren ignored him. The scent of death had flooded his nostrils heavily, and he could feel his body beginning to respond almost instantaneously. Knowing he had little time, Ren immediately turned and ran, heading off down the sidewalk in a random direction. His skin felt far too tight for his body, and this sensation increased as he moved farther. Up ahead, he caught sight of a convenience store, and some of the panic rushed out of his body. His feet crunched on the gravel in the convenience store's parking lot as he rounded the building, finally reaching the deserted space behind it.

Breathing heavily, Ren leaned against the concrete wall of the convenience store. The smell of the dumpster beside him made him feel nauseas, but there were far more pressing matters at hand at the moment. He grit his teeth hard as the skin on his back split, a pair of large black bat wings bursting forth into the warm air, ripping his shirt in the process. His skin began to turn a sickly white color as he supported himself with his hands, fingernails growing into claws and teeth into sharp, deadly fangs. Entire body increasing in size, he could feel his pants tear and fall uselessly to the ground along with the tatters of his shirt. His entire body was on fire for a moment, trapped in the infinite hell of transforming into his shinigami form. Sharp claws dug themselves into the wall as he struggled to stay upright, sweat pouring from his forehead.

Finally, the agony began to subside as his transformation completed itself and he was left breathing heavily, strands of his hair sticking to his forehead. Slowly, Ren turned his now completely transformed body around so he could rest his back against the wall, and his eyes widened in horror.

Standing before him, his face a mask of complete and utter shock, was the pink-haired boy he had been talking to at the site of the car crash. Ren cursed under his breath when he realized he must have followed him… meaning he had seen him in the state of his transition, and he had officially shattered the unwritten laws of secrecy that shinigami so carefully upheld.


His life was over.

Poor Ren... ahg. I'll update as soon as I can!