Long ass chapter, but worth reading - I promise.

Chapter 13-2

Time's Beginning

He wasn't sure how long had passed since his body had frozen; how quickly it took for his peripheral vision to fail him; how many seconds, how many minutes flew away while his body temperature grew hotter and hotter. One thing was certain, though.

Rokuro had absolutely no idea what was going on; but whatever it was, he was powerless to stop it.

Suddenly, a jolt of recognition brought the wizard from his dazed confusion. Wide-eyed and scared out of his wits, he realized that the unnatural pressure against his lips was none other than Akemi's own.

It was safe to say he'd never been more baffled or terrified in his life.

What the hell is going on here why is this happening why is Akemi kissing me when she has a boyfriend holy crap Maruchi and her dad are right over there watching I'm going to die soon I know it why me wait why am I outside again-

While Rokuro's thoughts flew past him at light speed, Shigeru was busy gawking in horror at the sight of the wizard and his daughter locking lips. Maruchi – Who was rather indifferent towards the action – Thought the man must've turned to stone by now. The outburst seconds later disproved that theory instantly.

"What the fuck is going on here!?"

Akemi leaned back as if that were a cue, separating herself from Rokuro with a childish smile. "Thanks! That was fun!" Rokuro spluttered, fighting to come up with some type of verbal response.

"I-I- … W-Wait a-!"

"Aww, you're so shy~! Want to try again?"

Maruchi saw Rokuro's face go through the entire red division of the color spectrum twice. Then, to his surprise, the wizard didn't stumble over his words. Instead, he fell over on his back in an unconscious, twitching bundle of nerves. The majikyou smacked his forehead. For the love of… He really is that damn chaste.

"Hmph. That was a lot easier than I thought it would be."

Maruchi gazed back at the two teenagers again, only to see Akemi standing up straight with her hands on her hips. It was safe to say that the condescending comment had come from her, but it was obvious that it wasn't her own voice. In fact, if he didn't know any better, he'd say it sounded like-

A memory sparked within his mind. The voice, the barrier, and curse… His suspicions were confirmed when Akemi turned to face the adults of the group. Instead of her normal blue eyes, they were a pale pink and narrowed to match the smirk on her face. I was right. It is her.

The majikyou grimaced. In truth, he would've preferred it if he wasn't right.

"Well, it appears I'm through here," Akemi spoke again. "It's rather nice to see you again, Maruchi. Your appearance has changed since we've last met. Did your hair get longer?" Shigeru's head swiveled left and right, trying to figure out what was going on.

"I… I'm not following any of this," he grumbled. "Explain, Maruchi-san."

"Soon," the cat-eared man replied beneath his breath.

"I'm surprised you're on speaking terms with these powerless insects, Maruchi. Especially considering your usual thinking pattern," the female voice scoffed. "Nevertheless, I grow tired of communicating through a human girl – Especially one so underdeveloped."

The wind began picking up around them, knocking Shigeru clear off his feet. Maruchi squinted from the circulating dirt, only to have his eyes fly open when he saw that Akemi's hair was up and around her, exposing her neck and the weird shapes on the back of it.

The mark was there the whole time!? While he covered his face with his cloak to block out the wind, he mentally cursed Rokuro and his innocence. Damn it! His own wishy-washy personality is going to be his downfall one of these days!

As the wind died down around them, Maruchi lowered his arm again. He was only half-surprised to see that both the human girl and his student had disappeared.

"Come and get him," the female voice echoed, fading into the distance with a low chuckle.

"Wait a minute!" Shigeru jumped to his feet, and looked around. "Where the hell did they go!? What's going on!? And why in the name of Dante was my daughter kissing that-! That-!"

"Calm yourself," Maruchi demanded sternly. To Shigeru's surprise, he did. He was still getting used to the fact that the majikyou was an adult, and the amount of command in his voice was unnerving enough to make him freeze. Maruchi folded his arms beneath his dark green cloak. "First off, Shigeru Segawa: Your daughter is not to blame for any of this. She's had a curse mark on her since she came back from the outing with her friend that has only become visible with its activation."

"She's cursed?" Shigeru repeated incredulously. Maruchi nodded.

"Attacking Rokuro with no reason, using a spiritual weapon that no human should be able to invoke… The unnatural voice… Not to mention the earlier spectacle she put on." Shigeru groaned in embarrassment at the memory.

"Do me a favor and don't remind me…"

"Hnn. As I was saying…" In a small flash of light, Maruchi's textbook appeared in front of him. He snatched it up and began flipping through the pages. "There were runes inscribed on the back of your daughter's neck, Shigeru Segawa – Three to be exact. From what I saw, they were Munna, Unjo, and Drancaz." Maruchi let the book hover over to Shigeru by itself, showing him the page and the inscriptions. Shigeru blinked.

"If they are in your text… I can only assume the person responsible for this is from your home world," the human man observed with raised brows.

"Correct." That was the plain answer Maruchi gave before finishing his explanation. "Munna is the rune for mankind. That was written straight and to the point. It means that the spell was fixed to be able to work on humans. The other two runes were written in reverse, however; and when written as such, Unjo invokes delirium and Drancaz brings on the state of blindness during the night." The textbook disappeared again, via a snap of Maruchi's fingers. "It is safe to say that your daughter was being possessed through her dreams, which made her act on them and allowed that woman to speak through her."

"Back up." Shigeru shook his head in puzzlement. "Akemi's actions were her own? That crazy woman didn't make her do anything?"

"Well, it's a bit more complicated than that; but in a nutshell, yes."

"… … … What the hell kind of dreams is she having!?" The frantically worried look on Shigeru's face nearly made Maruchi grin. The human man turned his head towards the sky and continued shouting. "Demonic possession or not, we are having a talk when you get home, young lady!"

"Demonic possession is a crude term and an inaccurate one, Shigeru Segawa," Maruchi said. "At any rate, I'd best be on my way."

"Huh?" Shigeru brought his gaze back down to the taller man. "To where?"

"That damned woman made off with my student because she knows going to get him is the only way I'll ever willingly come to her." Maruchi snarled loudly, fangs bared and all. It scared Shigeru quite a bit, which in turn confused the hell out of him. He was scared of someone? That was going to take some getting used to. "I suppose I should get your daughter back as well, even though her screaming irritates the hell out of my ears." Maruchi stalked past Shigeru, intent on exiting the shrine property. "You have nothing to worry about. I will be back shortly."

"Hell no," Shigeru snapped, grabbing Maruchi's cloak with an iron fist. "You're taking me with you. I'm not being left out of something when my daughter is involved!" Maruchi blinked as a sense of déjà vu came over him.

"… If you wish, you may come," he replied. "How do you feel about flying?"

"Flying?" Shigeru grew pale. "What are you-? Hey!" Faster than he could blink, Shigeru found himself being hoisted up by the back of his shirt, Maruchi's clawed hand gripping the material tightly as he jumped into the air. When he saw that the shrine was quickly leaving his sight, the remaining color drained from the shorter man's face. "Shit!" he cursed. "Warn me before you do that, damn it! This is unsettling as hell!"

"You dislike flying?"

"With a burning passion."

The scene was practically identical to the one Akemi and Rokuro had days earlier, when Shigeru had been called out by a possessed Hizen Umiyoshi – Right down to the dialogue. Maruchi snorted inwardly.

"Shigeru Segawa."

"What!?"

"It has come to my attention… that you and your daughter are too much alike."


After Maruchi's comment, the flight across the city sky was mostly silent. Shigeru expressed his concern that they were visible and in plain sight – And that he wasn't wearing any pants – But Maruchi quickly assured him of the invisibility policy. So long as the majikyou held onto him, the human man would be just as camouflaged as he was.

Minutes later, Maruchi mentioned to Shigeru that they were getting close.

"They're somewhere down there in the city. I can smell them."

"At least one of us can," Shigeru snorted. "Just hurry up." Maruchi fought back a growl.

"I understand your concern for your daughter, Shigeru Segawa, but rushing will only serve to irritate me. I advise against it."

"Tch."

More silence followed. Maruchi dipped down closer to the streets to follow his nose better, scaring the ever-loving daylights out of Shigeru at first. Maruchi pointedly ignored his complaining and turned his head left and right to see if there was anything suspicious around. He could pick out the woman's foreign scent from the city ones fairly easily, since she wasn't a native member of the first dimension. However, when he got to the area where the scent was strongest, the majikyou had difficulty locating the place he was searching for.

Maruchi looked up, down, and around. The woman's scent was all around that particular place in the city, yet he couldn't feel even a touch of her aura. He growled. Seems she's going out of her way to irritate me…

"Any particular reason you sound like a territorial dog right now?" Shigeru asked, being only mildly serious. Maruchi contemplated dropping the man right then and there for the canine comment, but thought better of it. He had other things to deal with. His focus was on getting Rokuro out of that woman's hands.

Oh, right; and the human girl, too.

"I feel it would be best to inform you that I have no idea where to go from here," he grunted. Shigeru's glasses dropped a couple inches down his nose.

"What?"

"That wench is purposely trying to give me a hard time. No doubt she's using some type of illusion to make sure she can't be found." Shigeru gave him a skeptical look.

"I may not be bright then it comes to magic," he began, pointing to a location below them. "But I'm pretty sure we're looking for that place." Maruchi followed the angle of the man's finger, but was confused to find nothing out of the ordinary. Everything seemed like a normal metropolitan street to him.

"I see nothing strange, Shigeru Segawa," the cat-eared man replied snappily.

"Are you daft?" Shigeru pointed to the place again. "It's right there! Hachiemon's Curious Curios!"

Maruchi raised a brow, vaguely wondering if the man had gone insane in the past minute. Then he remembered the barrier from earlier, which kept him from getting close to the two teenagers. With suspicion in the back of his mind, Maruchi reached down his shirt with his spare hand and pulled out his amber-bejeweled pendant. He held it out at arm's length and uttered a single word in a low voice.

"Incaendo."

At once a brilliant golden light emerged from the pendant, casting itself over the area Shigeru had been pointing to. Shigeru needed to shield his eyes to prevent himself from being blinded. Similarly, many people on the streets had no idea where such brightness was coming from as they could not see the human and majikyou floating above the streets.

With the light shining down below, Maruchi was able to view the place Shigeru was speaking of. It was a small building in-between two bigger ones, looking quite out of place with its rustic outside appearance. He scoffed. Specialized magic again? Well, well.

"It appears as though my eyes were under a spell," he commented dryly. "For me to be unable to see the shop naturally…" Once he knew where the shop was, he let the light fade and dropped the necklace back down his shirt. Shigeru removed his forearm from in front of his eyes.

"What… was that?"

"A spell to shine through and pierce illusions," Maruchi explained. "While the phrase 'incaendo' can mean different things during different circumstances, with the situation at hand it automatically knew I needed it to melt away the cover placed over the shop to block my view." At Shigeru's blank expression, the older man sighed heavily. "In short… I now see what you were pointing to."

"Well, why didn't you just say that?"

"Overestimation of human comprehension. I'll try not to let that happen too often from now on." Shigeru scowled.

"You know… It has come to my attention… that you're much more of a pompous ass as an adult."

"Your words fail to hurt me. Now, let us enter this domain. I want any affairs with this woman over and done with as soon as possible."

"Not a fan of her?"

"With all due respect, Shigeru Segawa… You have no idea."


They entered the curio shop via the roof. The feeling of phasing right through a solid wall was an unnatural experience for Shigeru, and left him feeling rather odd. Once they were inside and settled on the floor, Maruchi released the man's shirt and began looking around. The woman's aura was everywhere in the building. Her scent nearly suffocated his sensitive nose. This was certainly the place she was hiding in.

"What are all these things…?" Shigeru asked, taking a peek at some of the wares that decorated the shelves and tables.

"Books and items from Kitakuvaaraji," Maruchi replied, picking up one of the surrounding books. "Legitimate artifacts of my own home."

"And it's fine to just sell magic like that?"

"Of course not." By his tone of voice, Shigeru couldn't be sure if the majikyou was angry or disappointed. When he saw the taller man literally incinerate the book in his hands, he knew it leaned towards the former. The flaming pages evaporated, leaving behind a handful of ashes. Stunned by the show of fire, Shigeru almost didn't hear Maruchi's next words. "Let's head down, Shigeru Segawa."

"Down?" the human man repeated. "There's a 'down' here?"

"Of course. Nothing is as it seems when it comes to magic."

Without warning, Maruchi fired off a yellow laser from his fingertips, hitting the back wall at a thirty-degree angle. The light spread around in a horseshoe shape and pushed back the concrete to reveal a darkened passage. Maruchi's hand fell back to his side.

"Do you see what I mean, Shigeru Segawa?"

"I think I've had my fill of magic tonight…" Shigeru moaned.

"Pity, since we're not done yet." Wordlessly, Maruchi grabbed hold of Shigeru's shirt again, flying through and down the passage with haste. Shigeru's eyes widened when he noticed that the passage had no stairs. It was a single, dark, one-way trip down.

"This is… It's like some type of demonic well."

"Haven't I told you that demon is a crude phrase? Drop it before I drop you down this pit."

"Don't you fucking dare."

Maruchi smirked at how easily Shigeru could get freaked out in these situations. The short man missed it, as he was more interested in watching the walls fly past them. To an extent, Maruchi was surprised as well. He knew the redhead liked the underground, but this was pushing it. He was sure that by this point, they were well underneath the bustling city and past three levels of bedrock.

A dim light came into view, letting the men know they weren't far from the bottom. Maruchi slowed his speed down to an even hover and lowered himself to the floor. As soon as he touched down, he released Shigeru's shirt.

Shigeru straightened his clothes out and took a good look at his surroundings. The room was much larger than he'd been expecting – Especially for one so deep inside the earth. Every wall was solid stone, with the only differing material being the wooden bars holding up the surprisingly-high ceiling and the shiny, Victorian-style desks and shelves. You could tell what kind of person lived here by the lacquered furniture and red velvet curtains hung around the place. Obviously the person had good, expensive, catholic tastes; even as gloomy and gothic as she seemed.

"Onii-sama!"

Shigeru's head snapped forward just in time for him to see a pink-and-green blur latch onto Maruchi's body. He took a step back in shock when he realized what the blur was.

"Maruchi-san… Is that…?"

"Shichi, get off," Maruchi growled, prying the younger boy away roughly. "You don't need to do that every time you see me."

"Of course I do!" Shichi protested. "I missed you so much while you were gone, onii-sama! From now on, I'm going to hug you all the time so I don't lose you again!" Shigeru grinned in amusement at the sentence. It seemed like Shichi was to Maruchi what Meiko was to him. He wasn't sure if he should feel pity for the majikyou or not.

Maruchi sighed heavily. "Fine, just don't squeeze me. It irritates me and messes up my clothes."

"Oh, alright…" Shichi sighed. His depression lasted only a millisecond before his grin returned. "But I'm glad, onii-sama! Soushou-sama said you would be coming to visit tonight, and she was right!"

"Hmph," Maruchi grunted aridly. "And where is your master, pray tell?"

"If you have to ask, Maruchi, you obviously don't know me well enough."

With that, the owner of the distinctly female voice descended from the darkness of the ceiling. The candles on the wall flickered from the gust of wind. The figure's bare feet touched the stone ground silently, her gray cloak settling around her shoulders. She smiled at Maruchi.

"Hello there, Maru. It's been a while." Shichi brightened even more.

"Soushou-sama!" Maruchi fought back a snarl.

"Sandra. What unpleasant luck, meeting you in this wretched dimension." The woman – Now known as Sandra – Chuckled deeply.

"And you're just as unfeeling as ever. I suppose some things just don't change in some centuries and a half… Though I shouldn't be surprised. Both your heart and blood were always cold."

Shigeru observed the woman in surprise. Instead of an old hag like he'd been expecting, Sandra didn't look any older than he or his sister – In her thirties at best, similar to Maruchi's own youthful appearance. Her wavy red hair flittered past her shoulder and curled at the tips, and her bangs were so long they covered most of her face. Briefly, he saw pink orbs staring out from behind the curtain of scarlet.

"Cut the introductory crap, Sandra," Maruchi snarled. "Where is my student?" Sandra tapped her chin in thought.

"Student… Student… Oh! You mean the boy in his underwear who can't handle women? Yes, I suppose I've seen him around…" Maruchi groaned at the disgraceful description, but did well to hide the embarrassment he felt for both himself and the wizard. Truly, Rokuro needed more training if he could be taken down by an amateur seduction tactic like that.

"Hand him over, you goddamned reptile… Or I'll have to make you." He cracked his knuckles loudly for emphasis, flexing his claws in plain sight. The intimidating maneuver didn't faze Sandra in the slightest.

"I propose a trade, Maru, since you're obviously not happy to see me."

"In case you've forgotten, woman, I am far superior to you. Killing you would take less than a second and my conscious wouldn't have a dent."

"Yes, but in case you've forgotten, kitty, I am a master of linkage." Sandra held her bare wrist up, showing off a peculiar-looking tattoo around it. "I die, and both the boy and the human will as well. Consequently, I could do away with them right this instant and not be hurt at all."

"What!?" Shigeru yelled. "Return my daughter this instant, witch! She has no part in whatever is going on here!"

"Hmph. As if a powerless human in his night clothes could hope to threaten me," Sandra scoffed. With a wave of her opposite hand, she flung Shigeru into the closest wall. The man grunted from the impact, not expecting to be thrown to the side with telepathy like a rag doll. As he slid back down to his knees, he heard female laughter. "I guess humans are good entertainment, with their imaginary guts… And as it turns out, I'm in a playful mood."

"Stop." Maruchi held his hand out, fingertips crackling with sparks of electricity. "This is between us, wench. Tell me what this trade is and stop creating more issues before I singe your skin until it turns black." Sandra folded her arms.

"It seems you have changed," she mused. "The Maruchi I knew some hundred years ago would never get near humans, much less defend them."

"I am not defending," Maruchi spat. "But for an outsider to get involved in our business doesn't sit well with me. That in mind, what is it you want? The faster you tell me, the faster I can get the hell out of here."

"Why would I want you to leave?" Sandra grinned. Hearing Maruchi growl again, her smile dropped. "Oh, you are such an uptight son of a gun… Fine." The redhead held her hand out. "Return to me what you've stolen – Magic techniques and all – And your student will be free to go."

"And what about my daughter?" Shigeru snarled. Sandra hummed.

"Hmm… In all honesty, I wasn't planning on giving her up so easily," she admitted nonchalantly. "Despite being a lower life form, she is rather pretty for someone of her age… She has her uses." Before Shigeru could fume and scream any more, Shichi raised his hand and piped up.

"Ah, soushou-sama?" he began tentatively. "That human girl is best friends with Rie-san!"

"The girl you have a crush on?" Shichi nodded madly at the question. Shigeru's brows rose, not expecting the Hirota girl to be the object of… Well, anyone's affections.

"Yes! So, um…" Shichi poked his index fingers together nervously. His tail tips twitched along with them. "Could we perhaps leave her be? I wouldn't want Rie-san to be upset for any reason… And her friend being safe is undoubtedly what she would prefer… Right?" Sandra giggled lightly, touching her lips with her index and middle fingers.

"Oh, you are adorable sometimes… Very well." Sandra's teasingly serious mask reappeared once her attention was back to Maruchi. "If you complete the trade with me, both your student and the human girl will be returned safely." Maruchi shoved his hands into his pockets.

"You said you wanted back what I stole?" he checked. "When you say that, what exactly are you talking about? I've stolen a lot, remember? I can admit that."

"There are only two things you stole from me," Sandra said, pink eyes narrowing behind a curtain of hair. "And only one of them can be returned. Do the math, kitty. You're more than capable." Maruchi let out a dry laugh.

"Right, I seemed to have forgotten about that material possession of yours. It certainly didn't disappoint me." Shigeru could've sworn he saw the tips of Sandra's hair flare at the majikyou's words, but it was impossible for him to tell since her hair was already a red color.

"Shut up and give me my damn Falcari already," she muttered.

"Fine, fine." Maruchi's right hand left his pocket and came back with a pendant shaped like a hawk's head. He dangled it in plain sight before tossing it over to the woman carelessly. "Take the damn thing. Not like I'm going to get much use out of it in a place like this." Sandra caught it without hesitation.

"Thank you." Her eyes narrowed as she inspected it, as if she were looking for dents or cracks. "Hmm… It doesn't look damaged, and it doesn't seem to be a counterfeit… I'll accept it." As she hung the pendant around her neck, Sandra snapped her fingers. "Shichi, go get my Camo Scale."

"Right away, soushou-sama!" Shichi saluted sailor-style and leapt up onto one of the ceiling's rafters. His tail swished from side to side as he walked along the wood, and flicked up when he came across a shelf built into the stone wall. His amber eyes scanned over the contents carefully. "Umm… Hmm…. Ah, found it!" Shichi snatched something from the top of the shelf and leapt down from the rafter. He landed gracefully beside Sandra, tossing her the Camo Scale in the process.

The scale itself seemed to be crimson-colored, reptilian, and the size of someone's hand. Shigeru observed in curiosity how Sandra immediately threw the scale to the floor and zapped it with a fingertip's worth of magic. To his surprise, the scale grew to the size of a small rug and covered the room with a golden glow. The redheaded woman lifted her arm high in the air and muttered words he truly couldn't understand.

Suddenly, a bubble-like object came up from the ground where the scale lied. Inside the sphere was a very familiar pair of teenagers. Shigeru hissed.

"Akemi!"

The orange-haired girl didn't stir at her name being called. A second glance revealed that both Akemi and Rokuro were unconscious. Maruchi narrowed his eyes.

"Suspended animation?" he guessed.

"Smart," Sandra snorted. With another wave of her hand the bubble and Camo Scale disappeared, and the teens fell to the ground. The link spells around their wrists also vanished. As soon as they were freed, Shigeru lifted himself from his spot on the ground and rushed over to his daughter's side.

"Akemi! Akemi, wake up!" he shouted. "Come on, damn it!"

"Wait, Shigeru Segawa." Maruchi walked over and bent down beside the short man, turning Akemi over on her front wordlessly. He moved her hair out of the way and glanced at the back of her neck. "Hmph." He glanced up at Sandra with narrowed eyes. "Take the runes off of her, woman. That's an order."

"Who are you to give me an order?" Sandra scoffed.

"Do it, you damn lizard," Maruchi snarled at her attitude. "You have the missing part of your magic back. Our matters are finished. The girl is of no more use to you. Get rid of the runes."

"Our matters will never be finished, Maru, and you're naïve if you think so. More importantly, give me one good reason I should remove them. I was under the impression the girl didn't matter to you. Why do you care whether she lives or dies?" Shigeru held his breath as he waited for the violet-haired majikyou to answer. After seconds of heavy silence, Maruchi lowered his head.

"Because whether I want to admit it or not, I care for my student," he answered. "The girl is important to him, and unlike me his emotions are volatile. If something happens to her, he won't be able to concentrate on anything – Much less the training he so desperately needs to balance out his magic." Sandra raised an eyebrow at his words, but remained silent. Shichi tugged at her cloak meekly.

"Soushou-sama… Can't you release her? I mean, if you're not going to do anything more…" More silence from the woman.

"… … … Oh, very well." She sighed. "Three against one; I can't win." Sandra reached into her cloak and pulled out a large paintbrush. She tossed it to Maruchi brusquely and explained, "Use that to erase the runes. I refuse to do it myself."

Maruchi didn't bother with a reply. Instead, he wordlessly guided the brush across the back of Akemi's neck. The markings disappeared as soon as the hairs touched her skin. When the last of them was erased and the life began returning to her, the younger girl started to stir. Shigeru was able to breathe again once he saw his daughter open her eyes.

"Dad…?" she murmured. "Why am I so cold…?" Shigeru opened his mouth to reply, but was cut off by Maruchi's sarcasm.

"Most likely because you're lying on a stone floor in nothing but a tank top and shorts."

"Huh…?" Akemi pushed herself up off the floor and peered down at her attire. She shrieked loudly in embarrassment when she saw only her night clothes. The three Kitakuvaaraji residents winced at the loud noise. "Why am I-!? What the-!? Where the hell am I and why am I only wearing my pajamas!?"

"One, you're somewhere below ground thanks to the woman over there…" Shigeru gestured to Sandra with his head. "And two, it's still the middle of the night." Akemi groaned.

"Ugh… I don't even want to know what's going on here…" she muttered.

"I'm glad to see you're better!" Shichi smiled at her. "Now Rie-san won't be sad!"

"Shichi-kun…? And another person…" Akemi frowned in confusion as she stared at the unfamiliar face. "Who is this?"

"Shichi's mentor and an annoyance," Maruchi grunted. "Pay her no mind." Sandra turned her nose up at the insult. Akemi, for once, decided to take the cat seriously and direct her attention elsewhere. Her frown remained as she glanced around and noticed one of their usual party missing.

"Umm… Where's Rokuro-kun? If we're all in this place… Is he still back at the house or something?"

"You're sitting on top of him, actually," Maruchi said in a flat tone. Akemi turned her gaze downwards, and yelped when she saw the majikyou was right. She was plainly sitting on top of Rokuro's back while he lied on his front.

"Sorry, sorry!" She moved herself hurriedly, apologizing as she did so. When she was completely off him and he still didn't move, Akemi bit her lip in worry. "Uhh… … Rokuro-kun…? Are you okay…?"

"Shit, he's still unconscious…" Maruchi groaned. "Don't tell me he's still knocked out from when you-" Shigeru's hand slapped over his mouth, cutting him off with a glare that clearly said 'Mention that event again and there will be hell to pay'. While he wasn't particularly scared of the human man, Maruchi didn't bother to continue speaking after he removed the hand from his face.

"Actually, onii-sama," Shichi piped up. "Rokuro-sama woke up almost immediately after he was brought here! I think he said something about soushou-sama's smell not being familiar to him…" Shigeru and Akemi stared flatly. What is he, a dog…? they thought collectively. Shichi continued speaking, oblivious to the strange looks he was getting from the humans. "But as soon Rokuro-sama saw soushou-sama's true form, he began to scream loudly. Soushou-sama had to sedate him heavily to get him to be quiet."

"By the unholy gods, he's still not over that phobia of his…?" Maruchi muttered. His hand slid down his face exasperatedly, clearly showing just how embarrassed he was. "I don't believe this…" The majikyou reached over and pulled Rokuro up by his wrist. Then, without warning, he punched him hard enough to send him sliding across the floor. Akemi jumped back from shock.

"Wha-!? Whaa-!? Why would you do that!?" she yelled. A low moan from the other end of the room was her reply. Rokuro sat up slowly, rubbing his bruised nose gingerly.

"Oww… Son of a…" He glared up at his teacher, ignoring all other people in the room. "You know, Maruchi, there are other ways of waking someone up!"

"You would've preferred the water, then?" Maruchi asked dryly. "It's what you get for being a pansy! Seriously, you have got to be the most spineless excuse of a wizard I've ever met!"

"What was that!?" Rokuro launched himself at the majikyou, attempting to land a punch or kick on him. He was instantly thrown against the right-hand side wall with a flick of Maruchi's wrist.

"Calm yourself," he growled. "This is neither the time nor the place to start this. Now that you're awake, I want to get out of here as fast as possible."

"I have no idea what's going on," Akemi commented off-handedly. Shigeru silently agreed. And he says he cares for his student? The man snorted. The cat's got a weird way of showing it.


As per Maruchi's request, the four shrine residents had left the underground as quickly as they could. Maruchi carried Shigeru and Rokuro up to the shop – As the wizard was without his broom and couldn't fly on his own – And Shichi had handled Akemi.

"Can I please see you some other time, onii-sama?" Shichi pleaded. "I really want to hang out with you more! Just the two of us!" Maruchi, who was now a child again, nodded ever-so-slightly.

"If I can find time, then sure. Just promise not to choke me to death with your hugs."

"Of course!" Shichi then looked to Akemi and grasped her hands in his own. "Can you say hi to Rie-san for me please? I would greatly appreciate it!"

"Uhh…" Akemi pulled her hands away nervously. "I would, but… She doesn't remember you from that time, you know…" Shichi's smile dropped.

"Oh yeah… Her memories were erased…" With a heavy sigh, Shichi turned back and jumped through the entrance to Sandra's lair. That left the other four standing alone in the shop's main room.

"He certainly becomes depressed easily…" Akemi noted. Maruchi shrugged and quietly brought on his human disguise.

"Since there's no other way, we'd better start walking," he suggested. "I can't be the only one here who wants to get back to sleep." Unfortunately for them, Shichi wasn't allowed to leave the shop without Sandra's permission and Maruchi had spent much of his energy already. This meant they were stuck walking all the way back to the shrine. Akemi bemoaned the thought.

"I can't believe I have to walk around the city like this… I'm not even wearing a damn bra! Not to mention, I'm getting goose bumps just from standing here!"

"It's not that cold out," Rokuro said. Akemi glared at him.

"Oh, sure, you're fine," she grumbled. "But you changed into something more than just your underwear!"

As Rokuro also felt silly going out in his shorts, the wizard had decided to use his magic to change into his Earth clothing. When Akemi asked why he couldn't do that for her, he shyly admitted that he wasn't sure how to use the spell on a person other than himself. Even Shigeru was irritated at this fact. The man didn't care much about walking around as he was since he didn't pay any mind to what people thought about him; his daughter was another story.

"Hey, if I could get you your clothes, I would!" Rokuro retorted in defense. "Trust me on that one…"

"Hmph." Akemi folded her arms. "I'm not going out there. No way."

"Are you seriously that self-conscious?" Maruchi inquired. "Hmph. Petty girl."

"Well excuse me for not wanting to walk around the city where people can see me wearing almost nothing!"

"Are you going to complain the whole time?"

"Maybe I am! What's it to you!?"

"Your shouting hurts my ears." Without another word, Maruchi pulled his dark green cloak out of nowhere and held it up at arm's length. "Take it, girl." Akemi stared at it in surprise.

"… Huh?"

"Take the damn thing already," Maruchi hissed. "If it will get you to shut up, I'll allow you to wear it for the time being." Tentatively, Akemi took the fabric from him and wrapped it around her shoulders. The cold air immediately receded and was replaced with a surprising amount of warmth.

"Ah… Thank you."

"Hmph. Let's just get going already."


They were about halfway to the shrine when Shigeru asked Akemi if she remembered anything from earlier in the night.

"Umm… No, not really." Akemi frowned. "I remember going to bed… That's about it. Why? Did I do something weird?" Rokuro flinched. Shigeru shook his head.

"No, forget it… But I want you to answer one thing, Akemi. What were you dreaming about before you woke up?" Akemi blinked.

"Uhh, dad? That's private."

"Why?"

"Because they're my dreams."

"And I can't ask about them?"

"You can, but I'm not going to tell you anything." Shigeru scowled. He was honestly considering just telling the girl what she'd done while under Sandra's hypnotic influence until he remembered why she'd fallen under in the first place. The human man momentarily forgot about the conversation with his daughter in favor of speaking with the majikyou walking in front of them.

"Maruchi-san, what exactly was the reason for this whole scenario?" Maruchi didn't look back, but acknowledged the question with an inquisitive hum.

"You're asking the reason why that woman created this fetid mess in the first place." The majikyou scratched his head. "I've been avoiding her and the rest of my home for the longest time now. I suppose once she found out that I was here on Earth and mostly back to normal, she wanted to speak with me."

"I wasn't awake for much, but something tells me you don't particularly like her," Rokuro said.

"Correct. We're not on the best terms, as you may have seen, Shigeru Segawa. She knew I wasn't going to get near her without a good enough reason. First, she sent me an indirect message telling me she knew where I was. That was Hizen Umiyoshi's possession."

"That woman was responsible for that, too!?" Shigeru exclaimed angrily.

"The Kogyoku Όneira belonged to her. She used it to manipulate a person who would be in my presence. I knew it that was the reason the moment I saw the gem for the first time in years. She was trying to get me to come to her."

"And you didn't, so she used Rokuro-kun as bait," Akemi finished. Maruchi nodded silently.

"Now I see it wasn't just to greet me. She wanted her magic back. The pendant I gave back to her is called the Falcari, and it can be used to steal away the abilities of fellow wizards. I stole it from her originally as a means of developing my own spells from those I took from others."

"Stealing someone else's magic is illegal, Maruchi," Rokuro warned.

"You don't think I know that?" Maruchi snorted. "I haven't stolen magic in years, boy; and my sentence has been carried out already."

"Well, that's good… I guess." Rokuro eyed the majikyou warily. "What was it? Your punishment, I mean."

"None of your business."

"Alright, then."

"And the second?" Shigeru asked. "I heard that woman mention that you stole two things from her. What was the other? You only gave back that necklace."

"Yes, because the other is something I can't give back," Maruchi explained. "No matter how much I want to."

"So what was it?"

"Her virginity."

Shigeru and Akemi stopped dead in their tracks.

"Err… … … What?"

"What?" Maruchi stopped and turned around, raising a brow. "Is the reaction due to the fact that you continue to see me as a child? In case you haven't realized by now, I am a man and I have life experience. More than most do, at any rate." He grimaced. "Let me tell you… That was not the most pleasant experience I've ever had. The woman is a cold fish in every sense of the phrase."

"Oh… my… Why am I listening to… Ugh…" Akemi whined. "I don't need to hear this…"

"My sentiments exactly…" Shigeru muttered.

"I don't get it." Rokuro's brows furrowed. "What are you guys freaking out over?"

"What do you mean, what are we freaking out over?" Akemi asked. "A better question would be, why aren't you freaking out?"

"I don't know what's supposed to freak me out, though…" Rokuro folded his arms. "Hey Maruchi, what did you mean by her virginity? What's that?" Both humans present gave the wizard unbelievably blank expressions. Maruchi just sighed and continued walking.

"Rokuro, trust me… If you don't know what that is, you're not mature enough to find out."

"Hey! I'm plenty mature!" Rokuro snapped, running after his teacher. "Just tell me what it means!"

Meanwhile, the father-daughter pair were still frozen in their spots from shock.

"He… doesn't know… what that means…? Is he that stupid or…?"

"That would explain a lot… I mean, I knew he was childish, but that's just…" Akemi shook her head in disbelief. "Holy crap." Shigeru's glasses slid down his nose.

"I don't get it. He's your age, isn't he? How can he be that clueless?"

"Guess you were worried over nothing all those times you accused him of being a pervert, huh?" Akemi laughed nervously. Her father didn't reply.


The next morning, everything was almost back to normal. Breakfast was eaten, Rokuro and Maruchi got into some sort of argument, and Akemi left for school. All events of last night were more or less forgotten about once she saw Daisuke waiting for her at the bottom of the shrine steps. He smiled.

"Morning, Akemi," he greeted. "Rie went on ahead. She said she had to go torture someone before classes began…?" Akemi snorted.

"Probably our homeroom teacher…" she grumbled. "I mean, I know Umiyoshi's weird, but can't she give him a break already?"

"I think you know her well enough to figure out the answer," Daisuke chuckled. "So what's new?"

"Not much," Akemi shrugged. With a smile, she added, "Though I did have a great dream last night."

"Oh, really? About what?"

"I was fighting a tengu with a sword and kicking its butt. Then it suddenly overpowered me and before I could get hurt, you came out of nowhere and saved me!"

"Really, now?" Daisuke grinned, linking arms with his girlfriend. "Is that all that happened?"

"Maybe…" Akemi stuck her tongue out childishly. "Not telling."

"Aw, come on. If I was in your dream, I wanna know what happened!"

"Nope!"

"Tch." Daisuke frowned as they walked off. "You're no fun." Akemi inched closer to him, nudging him with her elbow.

"Obviously me not being fun doesn't bother you, because you're still here."

"Heh. I wonder what that says about my tastes…"

"Daisuke-kun!"

"Just kidding!"

From up above in a nearby tree, a certain wizard was watching the scene in despondence. Maruchi was laughing as he heard the conversation between Akemi and Daisuke. "Seems like she thought you were her boyfriend last night, Rokuro. Too bad for you." Rokuro scowled.

"That's kind of annoying…" he muttered. Maruchi stopped laughing briefly.

"It's annoying? That's certainly not a word I expected you to use to describe it. Why is it annoying?"

"I don't know… It just is." The cat boy rolled his eyes at the childish answer. He didn't understand how his student's brain worked sometimes.

The little speech he gave Sandra last night suddenly came to mind.

Maruchi's eyes opened wide as he abruptly sat up straight in the tree's branch. He stared at Rokuro in worry, taking note of the way the wizard was positioned. Aside from the obvious displeasure on his face, his back was hunched and his body was tense. Where he was gripping at the tree to keep himself from falling, the wood seemed ready to snap under the immense pressure.

The majikyou wasn't stupid or oblivious by any means.

Rokuro was jealous.

"The girl is important to him, and unlike me his emotions are volatile. If something happens to her, he won't be able to concentrate on anything."

Spirits above, I swear to you I'll behave in the future, Maruchi pleaded in his mind. Just please, please don't let that bluff of mine be true.


Well, I'm sure none of you were expecting that.

1) Incaendo is Latin for "ignite" [verb].

2) Yes, Sandra does sound like a rather strange name when compared to the more Japanese-sounding ones; but in reality her name is written with kanji and it a legitimate Japanese name. It's just that saying Sandra is easier than Sandora, and they're phonetically similar in the language.

3) For those curious, Sandra's name is written as 撒土螺. The first kanji means "scattered, spread, sprinkled", the second means "earth, soil", and the third means "spiral" or "conch".

And so ends another two-chapter'd arc. However, it was nice, long, and eventful, so I'm feeling good about myself. Look forward to the next update!