Author's Note:

I hope you guys like this chapter! Be sure to check out my next story coming up, Changes. It will be about Sukihara Shisuke, Hotaru's older brother that was introduced.

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Chapter Five

Girls

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'Please help me.'

'I know you can hear me.'

'Oh God. Somebody help me.'

'Why won't anyone save me?'

'Why are they following me?'

Each voice sounded different. One girl was scared, one girl was curious, one girl was enraged. None of these voices were ever the same. The common link was 'me'. A selfish word. Images began to register in Hotaru's mind. Each voice belonged to a different girl. Tall, short, skinny, plum, dark-skinned, light-skinned and wide variety of others. She could see everything, feel everything the girls experienced. She felt the anguish, saw the riots, saw the close dark spaces, and the last minutes of life.

She felt a cold metal on her neck, finding its way through. The blood dripping became too much for her to bare and Hotaru awoke with a start.

Quickly, she placed her hands on her neck. Everything was still there. She was still breathing.

Hotaru looked around and saw she was still in the forest with Paka and Sesena, who were still asleep. Sesena seemed to have no problem with explaining the Maiden story. She expected him to show some form of emotion, but there was nothing. He explained everything in a monotone manner. She was no longer sure about what Sesena's interests were. At first she assumed he was just being chivalrous. Maybe there was something he would gain out of this.

Why am I thinking like this, she shook her head, Sesena's a good guy. He saved me. But then again that whole saving thing didn't go well the last time.

She placed her thumb on her mouth and bit her fingernail. Her faith in her gut was gone. No longer could she take pride in her instincts. Then again, on Earth her instincts were not the greatest.

"Why do bad things happen to me," she cried out.

Paka jolted up, "Is something wrong?"

"No," she mumbled, embarrassed that she woke up the demon, " I was talking to myself."

"Oh,"he said, returning to his slumber, "that's good."

"Paka-san, will we be going to Sasherath?"

The panther snorted, "No, we're miles away and we're not going that direction anytime soon."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Forget it."

"Paka-san," she said, taking a stern tone that she equated to her mother's, "what are you hiding?"

"I'm not at liberty to say, considering I don't know you and you don't know me."

He stumped Hotaru. What right did she have in the matter? She had no choice but to follow them.

"Since you're awake," she heard him say, "go change into the clothes we gave you and I'll cut your hair."

"Excuse me," she exclaimed, unsure if she heard him correctly.

"Change. Cut hair," he yawned, "before Sesena wakes up."

"But why?"

Paka groaned. He hated explaining things to people. That was Sesena's job. He sat up, " We can't travel freely with your appearance. Your hair makes you look female-,"

"I am female," she yelled, interrupting him.

"By cutting your hair, people would be less suspicious and you could pass off as pre-pubescent kid that happens to be a bit tall. It's for your safety."

"My safety? How did the demon find me? How did you find me? How did Riyu find me?"

Paka frowned in a way that made him appear extremely perplexed, "I don't know Riyu, so I can't speak for him. I found you because Sesena saw you in the bazaar. 'Go find her,' he said, 'the girl with the cake pants'. It's not my fault you look so different. As for the demon, I don't know. We're not of the same species. If the frog was a dog, I could understand why. You have a very distinct smell."

"I do?"

"Yeah, it reminds of flowers. Don't know which one though. I don't pay much attention to flowers."

Hotaru could help up but take a whiff of herself. She did not smell like flowers. She smelt like Hotaru.

"You humans are sad," Paka sighed, standing up.

"What are you doing," she said, noticing him walking over.

A sharp nail stuck out of his paw. Paka grinned, "Cutting your hair."

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The three Maidens stood next to the child's bedside. For the past few hours, Sophie lay close to death's door. Blood continued to spew from the most absurd places. One cut appeared from beneath her foot, her armpit and her chin. By the end of the twenty-first hour of her illness, every single part of her body was being cut. The astonishing thing about the illness was how each cut healed itself quickly before the appearance of a new one. The only reason why she was in bed was because of the constant blood loss. Unfortunately, her blood never regenerated, leaving Sophie drowsy.

Azri was close to tears. In all her years on Oerthe, she never witnessed such a thing. Frustrated, she cried, " Pim! Do something!"

The pink-eyed Maiden stared at the emotional woman. Pim always classified Azri as the emotionally stunted Maiden, never showing her true feelings. She was void, just like her powers.

"It's not like I can do anything," she said, rubbing her chin like a detective would, "and it's not like I would do it either. The child's useless."

"She's not useless," she snapped.

Azri knelt next to the sleeping Sophie, who finally fell asleep after fighting the drowsiness. Gently she squeezed the girl's hand and turned back to look at the other two, "You know she's not useless. You know she's not like the others."

Pim snorted, " She smells like lilacs. That's pretty useless to me."

Azri ignored Pim's remarks and waited to hear Saya speak. At the end of the day, Pim's opinions did not matter. Saya was the one that needed to be changed. She was the one who could save the child's life. Saya was the oldest out of the three. Because of her advanced years, she witnessed many things and learnt great power.

Saya's eyes were covered again by the dark cloth. Her heightened senses helped her to still know the cuts being inflicted on the child. "She is useless, Azri. Don't delude yourself. She's not the Kanai."

"She is," she whispered, kissing the child's cold hands.

Pim rolled her eyes, "I can't watch this."

Saya agreed silently with Pim. This vigil was pointless. The child was dying. Hell was re-claiming her.

"I can see her," a raspy, extremely low voice said.

All three Maidens' attentions snapped at the child. None of them were sure if the voice belonged to her. For Azri, it gave her hope that her Sophie would recover. In Pim's and Saya's minds, they were more interested in who she was referring to as 'her'.

Azri said, trying her best to stay calm, " Sophie, can you hear me?"

Reacting to her curiosity, Pim grabbed the unconscious Sophie's shoulders and violently began to shake her. " What do you mean by 'her'?"

"Pim," Azri snarled, pushing the pink-eyed Maiden away, "don't you dare touch her again."

"Or what," she taunted, "baby me to death?"

All of a sudden, Azri's grey eyes began to darken. The atmosphere in the room became still before the wind swirled around. In an instant, Pim realized what Azri was planning. The Maiden's lips began twitched, trying its best to not smirk, " So you're going to kill your precious baby too. She'll never have the chance to fulfill her destiny. Oerthe will finally find peace, because you took out the destructor. Nice, Azri."

"Enough," glowered Azri, her voice deep and chilling, " I want only you in that vortex."

"Bring it," Pim said, make hand gestures.

Saya could not take it anymore. " Azri, stop the nonsense. You're not going to kill us all, because of your unnatural attachment," she barked, "Pim, stop it."

The Maidens could kill each other on another day. Right now, Saya only cared about the 'her'. Was it her cherry blossom?

Pim bowed, "I'm sorry, Mistress."

Azri, on the other hand, was not as cooperative. The tense atmosphere disappeared, but her dark eyes still remained. She was prepared for any of Pim's possible slip up. If that occurred, Saya was not sure if she could save Pim for a second time. Azri took to her vigil and clasped her hand over Sophie's. Her eyes narrowed at Pim, sending a chilling message her way.

The dark-haired woman decided to act and removed her cloth, revealing her glowing golden eyes. Fortunately, no resistance on Azri's part came. This power of hers was perceived as harmless, but in truth it was not. This was the way she learnt of the existence of others. Know what they see, choose what to feel and sense what power they have. This was Saya's greatest coveted treasure: sight.

Simply, she placed her soft hands on Sophie's forehead and allowed herself to feel the ecstasy. Sometimes, the sight rendered her useless. This was why she took Pim out on her 'adventures'. She needed protection during this time. Saya banked on Pim's irrational sense of sacrifice.

As her eyes slowly glazed over, she began to travel through Sophie's mind. The child's mind was like all the others. A hallway containing useless memories behind many doors. Angrily, Saya slammed each door. All of them were the same, pictures of Sophie being embraced by a Botox-filled woman and tubby older man.

She could not understand why Sophie was hesitant about showing her the woman. People with actual powers would quickly succumb to Saya's will. They would appear before her and guide her to the vault. But not Sophie.

For awhile Saya wondered about the 'her'. Maybe Sophie was referring to her mother, who seemed to be behind every single door.

In the outside world, Pim bit her lower lip. Usually, Saya was in and out in seconds. This lasted for minutes, leaving Pim agitated. Azri could care less about the immobile Saya. Her thoughts were focused on the child. She felt blood stick to her hand as a new cut emerged on Sophie's hand.

"Something's wrong," cried Pim, "we have to get her out."

Saya's eyes began to return its regular non-glowing state. Her knees gave to the sudden weakness she felt.

"Saya," Pim said, catching her beloved mistress, "are you fine?"

It took awhile for her to find her voice. In a whisper, she conveyed her findings. Weakly, she smiled, " Azri, your pet isn't as useless as we assumed."

Azri did not like where this was heading. Even in a weak state, Saya's glee could easily be felt.

"Sophie seems to know alot about our world, especially Maidens. She showed me many."

"What's so special about them?"

"Everything," her smile widening, "and absolutely nothing."

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Hotaru kept on touching the back of her neck. Her new 'boy' haircut exposed much of her neck, allowing drafts to cause Goosebumps. She felt bare without her longer hair and missed it. She missed pulling her hair into a ponytail, twirling it and banging her head to X Japan's 'Kurenai'. Her hair was her source of femininity. Now, she just looked like a boy.

She was never the most developed girl in high school. Her body was thin and she did not have much of a bust. Her waist was hardly seen. Constantly, she used to be teased by the breast-loving guys in her class.

"Neh, Sukihara-chan," they would go, "are you a boy?"

It was petty. It was high school.

"Seriously. Stop that," said an annoyed Sesena, "you'll attract attention to yourself."

Hesitantly, she placed her hands to her side. She pouted," It takes awhile to get used to it."

"You didn't have much hair to begin with," laughed Paka with his booming voice.

"Yeah," she said, sadly, "but it was like you guys cut away the female part of me."

"Which we did," reaffirmed Sesena.

Currently, the trio were walking through the capital of Kalanania, Hoshina. Once Hotaru became less occupied with her hair, she noticed the difference between the rest of Kalanania and Hoshina.

"Are we in another country," Hotaru said, looking from Sesena to Paka. It had been awhile since she saw young girls roaming freely. "You said there was a new law about the girls."

"I know," Sesena said, his eyes narrowing at the sight. The streets were filled with girls, dressed in fine clothing. They did not seem to face any trauma. No bruises, no loss of sight, no visible scars.

Paka growled, "There's something wrong here."

"Should we leave," asked Hotaru, leaning closer to the demon.

Sesena rubbed his chin and pondered for a moment. Hotaru wondered what was going through his head. One minute he was standing near her, the next he was wandering off.

"Excuse me," he said, walking through the crowd of girls.

"Sesena-sama!"

Hotaru tried to go after him, but Paka held her back. He shook his head, "He knows what he's doing."

"But this is where all the Maidens are being gathered. What if they turn on him?"

"These girls are not Maidens."

"How d-,"

Paka tapped his dark nose, "Smell. Great sense."

"Then where are the Maidens?"

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Sesena was surrounded by young girls. Every size, every feature and every age was present in the streets he walked through. He was the only male in this setting and the girls did not seem to mind this.

To his knowledge, Hoshina was never a segregated city. He was sure other parts of the city had a mixture of both genders. However, there was no such thing. There was not even a place for men. Since when did Hoshina become a female-only place?

"Pardon," he found himself saying to a girl passing by him, "since when has Hoshina been like this?"

The young girl blushed. It had been awhile for her since she saw a member of the opposite sex.

She covered her blushing face with the long hems of her black and white robes. "Hoshina is a shelter for us."

"Us?"

"Girls those were susceptible to the chaos of the outside world. The Kalanania Courts are protecting us."

Sesena felt uncomfortable with his next question. But he knew the girl was not one of them, so there was nothing to fear.

"Have there been any Maidens coming in?"

The girl gasped, "Oh dear no. We are the only ones in these parts."

"Wait, where are the other parts."

She pointed to the direction behind his shoulder. "Over there," she said," that's where the rest of Hoshina is."

He turned to see an extremely tall grey wall. Its height set the illusion it was near the three moons orbiting around Oerthe. How could he not have noticed that?

"Can I ask you a question?"

Sesena looked back at the girl. "Sure," he smiled, "it's only fair."

"Why weren't you allowed into the other quarters? Travellers are supposed to go through the main entrance."

A sweat dropped on the side of his head. He could not answer that. Maidens and demons were touchy subjects for Kalanania. It was bad enough Paka leaped over the walls without registration and Hotaru seemed to get sick every time Paka took a large jump.

"Well...I can't really say that."

"Are they coming in again," her eyes widening with fear.

Again?

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Hotaru and Paka decided to remain where they were. They hoped Sesena would find his way back to them. Both were worried about the strange Hoshina.

They were the 'elephant in the room' yet no one paused to stare. Hotaru was the 'young boy' in peasant clothing and Paka was the large panther standing next to her. But the girls continued to go on with their lives. More girls seemed to appear as the others past the confused two. Hotaru began to feel that they were either invisible or the girls' chose to ignore them. Neither one sat well with her.

"Paka-san," said Hotaru, after the 134th girl passed them, "do you think he's all right?"

"Sesena is fine."

"But he always looks weak."

When she first met Sesena, she thought the young man was just the fragile-looking type. Eventually, she began to notice the moments when he randomly closed his eyes and sat on the ground. She became aware of his heavy breathing and his extremely pale complexion. There was something wrong with Sesena.

"He only eats vegetables. Poor diet is his problem."

In an instant, everything surrounding them stopped. The girls stopped walking, chattering and breathing. Simply, they collapsed to the ground.

"What the-," Paka began to say.

Automatically, she ran to the nearest one and touched her throat. She was horrified to find no beat. Were all of these girls dead?

"Hotaru!"

She turned to see a man with a snow white complexion, standing behind her. His blood red eyes locked onto Hotaru's dark ones. In a cheerful voice, he said, "Cherry Blossom, you were not that hard to find."

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Author's spews:

Gah! Vampire dude sure is fast. I'm bad like that. ^.^