In about a month, I'll have been writing this for three years. I'm so happy~
The beginning flashback alone took up 7 pages, making it a majority of this chapter. With good reason. It's very important.
Moons and Runes
Shigeru Segawa wasn't a patient person outside the realm of martial arts. He knew this well. What he couldn't understand was why nobody else took the time to realize this. Why did something always come up whenever he needed to be somewhere? Damn chores.
By age sixteen, doing chores around the shrine had become second nature to Shigeru. Unfortunately for him, doing chores for other members of the household also seemed to fall on his shoulders more often than not. Manual labor was usually involved despite the fact that his relatives knew he couldn't handle much without becoming light-headed. He was getting better with that as he got older, but he still needed to be careful.
"Shikkun, come on! It's not that heavy!"
With an aggravated growl, Shigeru dropped the box in his arms and set it on the ground. It wasn't even close to the storage shelter it needed to be in. He shot a glare at the owner of the voice out of the corner of his eye.
"You know, you could help, you damn bimbo." There was a swift kick to his side that sent him to the ground. While he couldn't say much for his work output, his resilience to pain was astounding thanks to the training his father put him through. His sister took full advantage of that.
He cringed. There would probably be a bruise from that kick tomorrow; just another to add to his collection of injuries brought on by sibling rivalry.
"How many times do I have to tell you? I'm not a bimbo!" Meiko yelled down at her brother furiously, hands on her hips. Shigeru scoffed.
"Yeah. I'm sure that's why you dress like something out of the red light district." Meiko grinned cockily.
"Ain't nothin' wrong with flaunting what'cha got," she replied, voice heavy with impishness. She gestured to her chest as she spoke, subtlety thrown right out the window. Shigeru rolled his eyes.
"Oh, God. Now you're talking like a bimbo, too." He and his relentless sarcasm found themselves in a headlock faster than he could dish out an insult against the older girl.
"Apologize, little brother!"
"Let go of me, damn you!" Shigeru snapped, fervently attempting to rip his sister's arm away from his neck. "If you want these stupid boxes moved, then get off! I have to go meet with the old man in the park!"
"Say you're sorry then, Shikkun." Meiko smiled maliciously. "It's the only way I'll let you go. Come now, you don't want to keep dad waiting, do you?"
"Would you release me already, you deranged harlot!?"
"Is that any way to talk to your older sister while she has you down for the count? Stupid little boy!"
"Clinically insane floozy!"
"What did you call me-!?"
The Segawa siblings promptly stopped all verbal assaults when they realized there was a third party present. Both looked up from their spot on the ground and met with a demure female figure that couldn't be more than five feet tall.
"Pardon me… Am I interrupting something?"
"Ah, Hazuki-chan!" Meiko exclaimed brightly. She immediately dropped her brother and went to give the younger girl a hug. "It's nice of you to visit again!" Separating herself from their guest, Meiko looked behind her and chided Shigeru playfully. "Don't just sit there on the floor, little brother! Your girlfriend's here! Stand up and look presentable!"
"She's not my girlfriend," Shigeru muttered grouchily as he got to his feet. "She's a classmate." Meiko pursed her lips, not convinced in the slightest.
"Whatever, Lover Boy," she said offhandedly. The nickname made Shigeru cringe in revulsion. Before he could retort, his sister already had her back to him. "So, Hazuki-chan!" Meiko grinned. "What brings you to our neck of the woods? You here to chat?" Hazuki returned the smile.
"Something like that," she replied. "May I speak with Shigeru-san? I promise not to take up much of his time-"
"Nonsense! Take all the time you need!"
"Hey!" Shigeru opened his mouth to protest. Why wasn't he getting any say in this? "Wait a damn minu-!"
"I'll just be over there in the storage shed not listening to everything you're saying!" Meiko dashed off after interrupting her brother's sentence. Shigeru's mouth hung open with his unsaid syllables.
"… Curse that woman…" he growled. Hazuki's smile didn't waver.
"Meiko-san sure is spirited. I wish I had a sister like her."
"You only say that because you don't have to deal with her twenty-four-seven… Trust me. Nobody in the right mind would want a sister like Meiko." Shigeru ran his hand through his dark bangs. "Now… What is it you need to speak to me about?"
Hazuki Sayano. That was this small beauty's name. She transferred to Mashirogi High's first class two months into the school year. Most of the guys had a thing for her already, regardless of age differences. She was tiny in stature and had big, blue eyes. Her hair was a hideously bright orange color, which was distracting to say the least. Most people speculated that she dyed it for some religious reason. Most men didn't care.
Also, she had this unnatural obsession with trying to get Shigeru Segawa to like her. Shigeru groaned at the thought.
Not to say that she wasn't likeable. No, the small girl was pretty, and very pleasant to be around compared to most of the idiots he spoke with on a daily basis – Meiko being one of them. She was soft-spoken and very rarely had a bad thing to say about anyone. It was fairly easy to see why their homeroom had been filled with drool the day she arrived.
Shigeru recalled some times before when girls attempted to flirt with him, only for them to leave with disheartened faces when he bluntly stated that he wasn't interested. In the looks department, he figured, he wasn't that bad. Plus he was smart and athletic, not to mention humble. It wasn't completely strange that Hazuki was attracted to him, either.
What was strange was that the girl just didn't give up.
He had flat out told her that a relationship with someone he barely knew was out of the question. Instead of leaving him alone like a normal girl would, Hazuki and her positively dense attitude continued to hang around, unfazed by rejection. Clingy, she was not; but she did have that habit of tagging along with him everywhere… and visiting his house without warning.
Be that as it may, his recent protests to her being around him were weaker and he didn't put up a fight when they didn't work. On some subconscious level, Shigeru knew he wasn't wholly adverse to her presence.
… Well, he was right now. In fact, he was downright apprehensive. The longer this went on, the more likely he was going to be throttled by his father for being late for training. He would like to avoid that if possible.
"Shigeru-san, if I may inquire…" Hazuki started shyly, hands behind her back. "How are you feeling today? Is your illness gone?" Shigeru blinked.
"Excuse me?" Hazuki flinched inwardly, afraid that she had said something wrong.
"You… Your… Umm… Well… I saw you yesterday during your practice…"
"Practice?" Comprehension flew through Shigeru's brown eyes. Oh. That.
Yesterday had been a particularly hard day for Mashirogi's kendo club. Their coach had been in a rotten mood, and the rest of the team had paid for it. Drills were expected to be done in half the time they usually took, at half the normal speed, with twice as many movements. Unfortunately for him, the coach seemed to have forgotten about one of his member's unstable constitution. Shigeru wound up coughing up blood and other bodily fluids about fifteen minutes into the session. He fainted soon after and woke up in the school's infirmary with his mom and sister next to him.
He didn't realize that Hazuki had been outside the practice hall that day. In retrospect, it probably would've been more surprising if she hadn't been there.
"That's… nothing to worry about," Shigeru finally answered. Really, it didn't bother him anymore. That incident at practice had been painful, but seeing as Hizen was the one stuck cleaning up after him, he wasn't too upset over it. "It happens sometimes. After a few years, you get used to it." Instead of fretting over his health even more like he expected her to, Hazuki was gazing up at him with a wondering expression. She frowned in thought.
"Do you have some type of genetic disease? Or is this a passing phase that will end eventually? Perhaps you are simply unable to push yourself due to a poor reaction to stress?"
Too damn observant for her own good and always in his business – Some of the qualities she had that Shigeru minded more than others. Nevertheless, her last guess was very accurate and Shigeru had to mentally applaud her for coming to that conclusion so quickly. Medical knowledge seemed to be her thing.
"Err… That last one is pretty on the mark," he admitted slowly, scratching behind his neck unconsciously. Hazuki tilted her head.
"Your inner organs are weak, then?"
She almost seems like a sane person when speaking medically.
"My lungs, anyway… Probably something else too, but self-diagnosing myself always leads to trouble."
"I see…" Hazuki furrowed her brows and glanced down, resting her chin on a hand in midair. That had come to be known as her Thinker pose to Shigeru. The reasons why were self-explanatory. After a moment or two, she looked up at him again with wide blue eyes. "Would you like help, Shigeru-san?"
The abrupt question startled him. Shigeru gave her a quizzical stare. "Help?" he repeated. "Help with what?"
"Shigeru-san is fond of kendo, right?"
"But Shigeru-san is unable to participate fully because of his constitution."
"Can you stop speaking like I'm not here?" Hazuki nodded eagerly.
"As you wish." She smiled. "If you wish, Shigeru-san, I can give you something to help with your condition."
"Taking medicine from people not licensed to handle it is illegal, you know." Hazuki laughed gently, furthering Shigeru's confusion.
"I don't have medicine, Shigeru-san."
"Now we're back to me not understanding a word you're saying."
Hazuki stuck her hand into her skirt's pocket and fished out what appeared to be a piece of jewelry. It was some type of stone with a leaf inside of it, with lettering engraved on the outside. Shigeru eyed it inquiringly.
"What… is that?"
"A charm for health and luck."
It was very tempting to give in and bang his head against the nearest tree in frustration.
Scratch what I said before about her being sane. Anyone who believes in that occult stuff is obviously not.
"Aaaand… … …" As blunt about it as he was in his mind, Shigeru really didn't want to have to hurt the girl's feelings. "How would that help me?"
"By wearing it, silly." Hazuki smiled. "It really works!"
"Uh-huh… And you know this… how?"
"Because I have a similar one!" The orange-head reached down her shirt and pulled out the necklace she was wearing. A charm not unlike the one she was trying to give to him hung on the string. It disappeared down her shirt as quickly as it had surfaced.
Shit. They matched. She wanted to give him a matching necklace. This chick was either incredibly dense or crazier than he originally thought. It was more likely the first option, but with her it could be either or; perhaps both, worst case scenario.
He didn't want to think about the teasing he would get from his sister… Or the glares of derision he was sure to get from his parents… Or the imminent death threats he'd get from Mashirogi's male population.
"Err… …" Shigeru stuttered. He wasn't too sure how to go from there. "I… Thanks, but… Listen, I-"
"Please?" Hazuki took his hand in hers and brought it forward, placing the white stone in his palm. "I'm only concerned for you… I want you to be able to take part in kendo." Shigeru eyed her curiously.
"Because I want Shigeru-san to be able to do the things he loves without worrying. Shigeru-san is a very important person!" As uncaring as he wanted to seem, Shigeru couldn't stop the small bit of redness from making its way to his cheeks.
"I… I thought I told you to stop referring to me like that," he muttered. "It's weird." Hazuki gasped as she realized her mistake.
"S-Sorry, Shigeru-san! I'll try to watch for that in the future!" She bowed to him hastily, and turned about face. "A-Anyway… I should get going now! I have work to do! Have a nice day!"
Hazuki left the shrine as quickly as she had come. Shigeru looked at the pendant in his hands. It was weird. She was weird. But he couldn't bring himself to hurt her feelings. He sighed. I don't know what to do anymore…
A teasing voice came from behind him.
"Shut up, Meiko!"
Shigeru wouldn't consider himself a superstitious person, but he had to admit – After Hazuki gave him that necklace, he got better. Much better. He had never felt that great in his life.
He was able to push himself in sports, to the point where his father wouldn't have to hold back when in a kendo match against him. It was like he'd never been sick in the first place. That charm worked wonders.
Well… It did until now…
Shigeru stared at the pendant solemnly. The white stone swung back and forth, hanging cleanly from the string in his hand. It shone and contrasted against the darkness in the sky. It seemed bright enough to be the moon, where the actual satellite was missing that night. Bright like the moon, huh… His smile was a sober one. "Looks like the luck's finally run out, Hazuki…" he sighed.
From the rooftop, a purple cat was staring intently at the necklace in the man's hand.
Ulzur, huh… How peculiar it is, that this human would own such a thing.
"Man, what a day… I'm beat."
Hizen sighed to himself, letting his feet drag on the concrete sidewalk. His briefcase was slung over his shoulder, held up by a lazy hand. A day of subbing, talking with his niece and nephew, visiting his old friendly rival, going to the gym, and then getting his ass handed to him in a judo match… Not all of that was fun for him. It was night now, and he was beat.
"I need a soda or something to perk me up…" he grunted. Well, actually, I wouldn't mind a glass of wine… But I'm in no mood to get another headache from alcohol. Wine was something he drank when he was feeling fine and dandy. This would not be a wine-drinking night. "That damn Shigeru… He needs to work on his temper issues… At least his daughter's more pleasant than he is…"
Something gleamed in the corner of his eye. Hizen raised an eyebrow idly. It was dark out. The only lights came from street lights and store signs. Things should not gleam at this hour.
He casually strolled over to the area he saw the brief glimmer, and peered through the bushes. "What in the…?" He stuck his hand out, and pulled an object out through the leaves. It was a polished red gemstone – A ruby, maybe? – Attached to gold plate. "The hell is this? A pin? Why's a piece of jewelry lying there like that?"
"Oh, young man! Is that my brooch you have there?"
Hizen took note of the woman calling out for him. It was an elderly woman wearing a dark cloak. She was lucky if she was four feet tall.
"Oh, it is! It is my brooch!" she cried. Hizen looked between the woman and the accessory in his hand. How the hell had someone lost a brooch in a bush? What, had she been lying in it or something?
"Uhh… Right. I found it over there." He held out his hand to her. "Here you go, ma'am. Hope it isn't damaged or anything."
"My, what a lovely young man you are!" the woman cooed. Hizen fought the urge to snort. He wasn't that young… But compared to the wrinkly prune in front of him, anyone under the age of fifty would seem youthful. "And so handsome, too!" He certainly wasn't going to argue with that. "Why don't you keep that brooch, boy? As a token of thanks."
"Ehh?" Hizen stared at the woman bewilderedly. "But you just said it was yours!"
"Oh come now," the woman insisted. "You're such a nice young man; and honest to boot! Take it! I insist!"
Before he could argue further, the old woman was already walking past him in a hurry. Hizen bit the inside of his cheek, and stared at the brooch again. He didn't wear brooches. He didn't wear jewelry, period. What the hell was he supposed to do with this? "Guess I could put it away for safe-keeping, or something…" I don't have much of a use for this, though, and I don't want to look after it… Maybe I should just pawn it later, or something… Shrugging to himself, Hizen shoved the red gem into his pocket and continued towards his apartment.
If he had been more observant, he would've noticed the eerie gleam coming from the gem, or the strange warmth it emitted. If he had double-checked with the old lady, he would've seen a playfully lethal grin spread across her face; and if he had happened to triple-check, he would've seen her wrinkles disappear and her body become that of a generously gifted woman in her thirties.
It was oddly quiet when Shigeru woke up the next day.
He usually heard something by now – Voices tended to carry through the hallways very easily. If there wasn't noise in the house, then there was noise coming from outside. It wasn't unusual for his houseguests to be training or arguing. However, this was not the case today. It was dead silent.
Shigeru sat up slowly, letting his futon's covers clump near his waist. He reached for where his glasses lay, and slipped them on wordlessly. The sunlight shining through the left shoji doors was bright, and the shadows of leaves and trees were pale against them. It was just around noon, most likely – Another oddity, considering he never slept past eight.
"Feeling well?" a sharp pitch greeted him. "I hope so. There is much to discuss. I even sent my student away so he wouldn't eavesdrop."
Shigeru's brown eyes made contact with Maruchi's teal ones. The majikyou was standing in his doorway with arms folded loosely.
"Discuss?" Shigeru echoed. "What could be reason enough for you to come to me with such gravity weighing in your words?" Maruchi silently grabbed something from his pocket, and tossed it to him. Shigeru was surprised to see that it was Hazuki's pendant.
"I apologize for the sandman charm, by the way," the majikyou said. "I needed you in a deep sleep for a while."
"… … … Why did you have this?" Shigeru asked. His voice was calm and steady, but the underlying fury was obvious. Maruchi shrugged it off, not caring for or about the man's anger.
"I'll have you know," he started, ignoring Shigeru's question. "It took me a rather long time to get the right spell cast. Fear not, though; it seems its power has been restored. Your health should improve promptly." Shigeru blinked.
"I needed there to be no chance of you waking up as I performed the spell, which is why I charmed you into sleeping longer. You see-"
"Stop," Shigeru cut off Maruchi quickly. "Just stop for a minute. I specifically told you that no one is to touch this. So why did you deliberately ignore me and take it without even asking me first? Also, what the hell are you talking about? Spells? I don't follow."
Maruchi showed no outward reaction to the questions. Instead, he nonchalantly walked over and sat down next to Shigeru with his legs crossed. "Shigeru Segawa-san, I would like to ask where it is you came across this necklace." Shigeru narrowed his eyes.
"What difference does it make where I got it fro-?"
"Answer me, Shigeru Segawa-san." Maruchi facial expression mimicked the man opposite to him. "I'm very curious as to why you own an artifact with non-human letters embedded into it." Shigeru's breath seemed to hitch at the mention, which didn't get past Maruchi in the slightest. Shigeru played with the necklace in his fingers for a moment before answering.
"If you must know," he muttered. "Hazuki is the one who gave it to me, a long time ago."
"Hazuki… Your partner?"
"Yes." Shigeru put the necklace off to the side. "She gave it to me when she found out that I had a weak constitution. She said it would bring me health and luck. I didn't believe her when she told me that, but it did work. It worked for two whole decades."
"I don't know about luck, but that necklace would certainly fix any health issues you have. Magic like that comes from my dimension, so it's very powerful." Maruchi suddenly pulled his giant book out of nowhere, and turned to one specific page. There was a chart of sorts spread over it. "Do you see this?" He pointed to one area with his index finger. "This is Ulzur. It's a rune from the fourth dimension. Conjuring this rune invokes strength, vitality, and tenacity. Adding birch to the mix will increase the magic's potency. It did not escape my observation that there is a birch leaf inside of that pendant." Maruchi's fingers tapped on the book's pages. "That pendant is the result of very powerful healing magic from Kitakuvaaraji – My home. So excuse me for the inquiry, but I'm rather curious as to how a human got a hold of it."
Shigeru fixed his glasses absent-mindedly. "Like… Like I said, Maruchi-san," he began. "I received it from my wife. Where she got it, I don't know; but she had one that was just like it."
"She had a pair, huh?" Maruchi scratched his chin. "How very… abnormal, for a mere human woman to possess not one, but two charms indigenous to my own dimension." Shigeru snorted.
"I can hear that tone you're using," he said flatly. "Don't tell me you think Hazuki was some sort of witch, or something."
"Of course not," Maruchi sputtered incredulously. His brows were furrowed, and his face alone showed that he thought Shigeru was crazy for even suggesting that. "The magic used to create this charm was powerful and bountiful, and such would have undoubtedly been passed down from parent to child if that were the case. Your daughter, Shigeru Segawa-san, has the magical ability of a rock. While her hair color is rather atypical for someone of her background, I can safely say that there's not one drop of my race's blood in her body. I would know if there was."
"You could have stopped after 'Of course not', you know."
"Yes, I suppose I could have."
"Yo! Segawa! How are you today?"
Akemi groaned as her homeroom substitute caught up with her. Why couldn't he just leave her in peace while she ate lunch? Rie prodded her in the side.
"You guys didn't get done talking yesterday?" she asked.
"Guess not…" Akemi muttered. When the teacher was within talking range, she looked over her shoulder and replied, "I'm doing fine, Umiyoshi-sensei."
"Ah, I see. That's very good to hear!" Hizen said cheerily. Akemi inwardly cringed. He was already weird as of yesterday's conversation, but this happy demeanor was just downright creepy.
Beside her, an invisible Rokuro was glaring at the man for a reason she couldn't fathom. Then she realized what he was really staring at.
"Uhh… Umiyoshi-sensei? Is that a new pin?" she asked. Hizen glanced down briefly.
"Oh, this?" He gestured towards the red gem attached to his tie. "It's a brooch! I received it as a gift from a very lovely lady I met last night."
"Gag," Rie muttered loudly. "We don't need to hear about any nightly conquests you might've met up with." Akemi choked on her food. Rokuro didn't seem to understand the sentence, if his oblivious facial expression was anything to go by. Hizen frowned.
"You're quite the rude one, Hirota-san," he said. "I understand what you're implying, but that wasn't the case. I found this brooch in the bushes on my way home, and suddenly an elderly lady appeared out of nowhere claiming it was hers. She applauded my honesty when I tried to give it back, and then she handed it to me as a gift! Well, she didn't literally handed it to me, seeing as I was the one holding it…"
"I think I would've been more impressed if it had come from a call girl."
"Rie-chan!" Hizen snorted.
"Honestly, Hirota-san, I can't understand why you loathe me so much."
"Maybe it's because you're macking on my best friend while you're having loads of fun at night!"
Akemi decided to stay out of the rest of the argument from there on. She wanted no part of her best friend and substitute teacher fighting like middle schoolers.
Another finger prodded her in the arm.
Akemi turned to Rokuro tiredly, wondering what he wanted at this point. She raised a brow when she saw him holding up a notebook with his handwriting on it. It read:
'I'd stay away from this guy. He seems dangerous. There's something off about him. I think it has to do with that gemstone. It's giving me a weird feeling. I don't like it.'
Below that, Rokuro had written 'Also, what's a call girl?', but she chose to ignore that for the time being. Why was he writing stuff out, anyway? It's not like he had a problem with speaking.
Oh, wait a minute. She forgot. That Keifu of his may make him invisible, but it doesn't make him silent. People could still hear him if he spoke. Well, at least he thought of that. Points for him using his head.
She read his small paragraph again. Hizen Umiyoshi was dangerous? She knew he was weird, but a threat? And what was that about the gemstone? Hadn't he said it was a gift from some lady? Something about this whole thing didn't sit right with her.
"Uhh, Umiyoshi-sensei?" Akemi called nervously. "Can I ask you about that-?"
"Oh, by the way, Segawa," Hizen cut her off. He flashed a toothy smile. "I was wondering if you could relay a message to your father for me?"
Well, now you've officially met 3/4ths of the Segawa family. I know a certain someone is going to be happy to see that Hazuki finally made an appearance.
1) The title is a reference to the new moon sky, the moonstone necklace, and of course, Hazuki herself. (The second kanji of her name means "moon".)
2) I think y'all should know what I mean by "generously gifted".
This is the second arc I've done that has more than three parts. Not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing, but I blame the large flashback. Haha.