Author's Notes: Before you go on too far I want to explain something really quick. For those that follow my work, you know I'm writing Shift currently, but you also know it is a very long series. So as a way to hopefully keep what little of my sanity still remains I will be working on a side project. It won't be at the same pace as Shift, but I'll still be working on it. Well the problem has been solved and I'm doing Twin Moon as some of you probably figured out by the update. Due to the less frequent nature of the updates I'll be making for Twin Moon the chapters will probably be longer than that of Shift, which will fit into the idea of monthly manga traditionally being longer than weekly manga per chapter.
Something else I want to note, I'm tackling this story in a completely different manner than all of my other stories. This mainly means that my style for this story will be different. It's still going to be very familiar, but with one major difference. You know those narration boxes in manga? I'm going to be including those for this story because I'm going to be doing a pseudo-first-third person mix. It's still really going to be third person, but the main characters will talk to the reader as well, but only through those narration boxes. I'm still trying to settle on what's going to work for it since it is technically a third dialogue type. I want it to be readily identifiable so I'm going with bold letters right now, but I'm afraid it's going to be really distracting. It's a battle between making it readily identifiable without making it annoying or glaring as you read and distracting from the piece over all. If you have suggestions for ways to do it let me know.
The last thing will be just a heads up, but both main characters will be talking to the reader. Yeah, it's going to be weird like that. But since the focus of the story is going be both of them and not simply one or the other I felt it was important that they were both the narrator. Which I am planning on using to comedic ends frequently. It's going to be a crazy ride so stick with me and let's see where things go!
Thank you! I hope you enjoy the story!
Name: Twin Moon
Style: Shounen/Shoujo Manga
Genre: Shounen/Shoujo/Harem/Reverse Harem/Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Comedy/Romance/Action/Adventure/Drama/Gender-Bender/Shounen Ai/Shoujo Ai
Rating: Teen (Violence and Sexual Situations)
Complete Summary: (SPOILERS) Mitsuru and Tsukiko are your average sixteen year olds, well maybe average is not accurate. Mitsuru is very short for a boy his age, even the girls are taller than him and he's not had a lot of luck with girls or life in general, just your average loser. Tsukiko is very tall for a girl, she's taller than most boys making her difficult to approach, and has not had much luck boys or life as well, an average loser. However, on their sixteenth birthday they're attacked by a stranger in the forest during a rain storm. They are trapped in a cave forced to take up swords from an altar to defend themselves and then everything is hazy to them. Now they can't seem to get rid of the swords, which happen to be haunted by spirits. Their luck is even worse that they discover that the spirits can take over their body causing them to change genders. Then demons start appearing from a portal and strangers are filling up their house. Suddenly Mitsuru is surrounded by girls with an interest in him and Tsukiko is surrounded by boys with an equal interest in her. Their normal lives have just become a nightmare that they wish they can wake up from.
* * *
The stars of destiny are painted by the brush of fate. Since the beginning of time this has been the way it has always been done. But what happens when there are two brushes? What becomes of destiny when the direction is uncertain and lost? In such uncertain darkness what can possibly be found?
The dense forest that hugged Mount Higashiyama in the afternoon air was thick with humidity. A long day was threatening rain with each passing minute. Clouds in the sky held darkening gray bottoms pretending to look innocent as they strolled across the land. Peaceful silence was remaining undisturbed through the green blanket. Only the infrequent chirping of birds broke the canopy.
Deeper in the forest, the mountain was beginning to break through the overgrown greenery, a distant scream was being shut out by the trees. The scream weaved through the trees hoping to be heard by someone that would save them. It was a desperate plea. One that went unanswered as it was dragged against its will further in to the abyss. Their fingers and clothes ran ragged attempting to break free from their towering abductor.
After the yelling had continued endlessly for nearly twenty minutes the kidnapper came to stop. It had gotten to the point where they could no longer take it and turned around yelling back. "Would you quit screaming, Mitsu! Ugh! I'm going deaf!"
"But we haven't taken a break yet, Tsuki! I'm tired!" A haggard looking boy in a black high school uniform was bent over trying to catch his breath. Across from him was a girl wearing a navy blue high school uniform of the same school glaring crossly at the boy.
"That's me Mitsuru Sakakibara. My kidnapper over there is—"
"I'm not a kidnapper! I'm Tsukiko Sakakibara."
"We can't be stopping, Mitsu!" Tsukiko grabbed on to Mitsuru's arm once more and began pulling at him. He stumbled at first, but began to move on his own. The panting from his lips had only begun to slow by the time she resumed her urgency.
"People say she's my twin."
"It's a joke, Mitsu. Honestly, we aren't even close to being twins. I'm over thirty centimeters taller than you!"
Mitsuru had managed to finally catch up to her side despite all of the pulling she was doing. He was still having trouble breathing with the pace that she was setting for him. However, it became very clear with them side by side the significant difference in height between them. An arrow pointed off the length being nearly thirty centimeters. Tsukiko was very tall for a girl, but that also meant that Mitsuru was quite short for a boy as well.
"That's an American foot for those that don't know."
A low rumble from above barely trickled down into the forest. The clouds that had been feinting innocence before were beginning to grow tired of their tricks. Those gray bottoms had become darkened and faint light could be seen jumping through the growing clouds. "We need to hurry! My life depends on this!"
Tsukiko broke into a full sprint that left Mitsuru a crumpled towel being held on to by her. All he could do was cry for mercy with tears streaming behind him. "I'm sorry, Tsuki! I knew and it's all my fault! I'll take your place for you!"
The grave tone in her voice spoke forward being blown into his face. "You can't, Mitsu! I must do this myself!"
There was a long ill silence between them as Tsukiko skillfully navigated the forest avoiding exposed roots and changes in terrain. Ahead of her was a break in the forest revealing divine light. It was a light that would save them. She was just in time.
Her feet came to stop atop a shallow cliff that rose above the surrounding forest. The view it presented was a striking sight to behold. In the distance the sun was being shut out by the approaching storm carrying rays of divine light across the small town below.
"Beyond this forest is the town of Mashita, a rural community in the far northeast part of Japan. Tsuki and I had only known life to be that town and this mountain."
"I made it barely! We have to hurry or it'll still be too late!" There was a darkly serious expression on Tsukiko face as she stared at the landscape stretched out before her. At her side, always dependable, was Mitsuru holding an equally stern look on his face with his fists tightly shaking at his side. "Ready, Mitsu?"
"Ready, Tsuki!" A dark cast object was removed from Mitsuru's pocket that shined like a blade as he approached Tsukiko. He had to keep his hand from shaking with the support of the other as it raised above his head. It held in the air about to strike with her within his arm's reach. "Let's do this!"
"Right!" The determine eyes in Tsukiko knew what she had to do and accepted it. There was nothing else she could anymore. It was her fate and she had to accept it. She closed her eyes as Mitsuru's arm was plunged down. The seconds passed slowly for her feeling the last breath escape her lips as she snapped her eyes back open. Her arm whipped out a large sketch book that she turned to a blank page. Next to her Mitsuru was already furiously putting pencil to his paper to capture the scene before it was lost.
"We had an assignment from our art class to draw something a week ago."
"But I kept putting it off and off despite Mitsu nagging me. So we had to rush to get the work done today."
He did not let his eyes leave the page as he was transferring the view. "You know we could have prevented this if you had just listened to me and stopped procrastinating, Tsuki."
Tsukiko hand jerked for a moment hearing Mitsuru's 'I told you so', but she kept drawing knowing the little time that they had. "I know!
"You know what day it is right?" he said not skipping a beat in his sketch.
Her hand slowed down when he mentioned it to her. "Yes, I know!"
"Today was our birthday. For the both of us we would be sixteen."
"It was just another reason for their jokes. We have the same birthdays, know what the other is thinking and always together. I guess if it wasn't for the height and gender we might be twins."
Only a few minutes had passed on them before a drop of water wet Tsukiko's paper. She tried to wipe it away only to have to fight another wet spot. "What's going on?! Why is it raining?"
Mitsuru had already tucked away his sketch book under his uniform's jacket. He could not hold back his look of disbelief from hearing that she had already forgotten about the rain. "You knew it was going to be raining, Tsuki…that's why we were rushing."
"What? No! But I'm not finished!" She quickly became flustered trying to find a way to protect it from the light rain that was quickly becoming a downpour.
"Let me, Tsuki," said Mitsuru offering a hand to her. She immediately knew what he was meaning and gave it to him. He made it disappear under his jacket with his own. Mitsuru quickly began to look around starting to panic about a place out of the rain.
"This way, Mitsu!" Tsukiko said offering out her hand. She had found something that would keep them dry nearby. Tsukiko guided him back into the forest and around a steep face of the surfacing mountain. In front of them stood a tall and narrow cave adorned with countless seals and charms. The entrance was clear for them allowing them to get in just as thunder crackled outside. It had momentarily lit up the cave interior to reveal it to be a long narrow passage nearly completely covered in paper charms and seals like the entrance.
Seeing the interior made Mitsuru unsettled backing towards the entrance. He could not understand it, but there was a strong feeling that he was unwelcome. "M-Maybe…we should find another p-place, sis."
Tsukiko glared over at him disappointed, but not surprised, by his fright. There was an uneasiness that she was feeling from the place as well, but she was not about to let it get to her. "Stop being so afraid, Mitsu! Besides we don't have anywhere else to go…I how many times have I told you stop calling me sis! You're too old for that!"
"Mitsu would always call me 'sis' when he got scared. Old habits, I guess. Since we were young we've always done everything together. Except, we aren't children anymore…"
"But I really don't like this cave, sis!" Mitsuru was so scared he was in tears pulling at his jacket with his teeth to try to keep his nerves. His legs were knocking together violently in fear. The noise that they were creating quickly got on her Tsukiko's nerves.
Her hands lunged across the gap pinning him at his shoulders against the cave wall. She stared at him for a moment having paused in her determination after seeing him so closely. "Why don't we try going further in, Mitsu. Maybe it'll be safer…" Tsukiko tried to focus on giving him the courage to begin moving. The connection in their eyes gave him the strength to walk.
They slowly made their way at a cautious pace through the dark cave tunnel. Mitsuru insisted on holding Tsukiko's hand so that they did not get lost. "Grandfather's going to be upset with us."
"It can't be helped. Today was the last day we had for the assignment."
"I said we should have done it a week ago!"
"Stop reminding me! …I had other things I needed to do!"
"But we're missing our birthday! Grandfather was making his special curry for us."
Both of their eyes glazed over for a moment thinking about their grandfather's famous curry. He did not make it very often, but he always made sure to treat them to it for their birthday. Unfortunately, they were thinking about food and realize how long it had been since they had eaten last. It turned into depression and gloom in their faces. Tsukiko had quickly turned to face Mitsuru catching him by his jacket. "Why'd you have to bring that up, Mitsu?!"
The two sketch books slid out of his jacket hitting the cave floor. "I'm sorry, sis! I won't mention it again!" Tsukiko's low grumbling stomach caused her to release Mitsuru from her grasp. It allowed him to bend down and pick up the books to insert back under his jacket. When he went to stand the dim light from the cave suddenly went out as another presence was detected. Mitsuru looked up to Tsukiko trying to find her in the darkness and hoping she was noticing. "Uh-um…sis?!"
Tsukiko was rubbing her stomach with her hand ignoring his initial calls. "What?!" she said snapping at him quickly before feeling as though someone had just walked over her grave. The feeling ran cold down her back unlike anything she had ever felt before. Her eyes glanced over to where the cave entrance should have been, but covered only in darkness. 'What's going on? What's this terrible feeling?'
There was suddenly a long drawn out ringing of metal in the cave, echoing endlessly as a haunting tune. Caught eerily in the light shined the sharpened edge of a blade much longer than a knife, but too short for a sword. It was their signal to run.
"I can hardly remember what happened next, but we were followed by the presence deeper into the cave until it came to a dead end."
"It's following us, sis!"
"I know!" she said quickly not needing him to be stating the obvious. Her eyes darted around the opened chamber frantic for anything to defender herself with. The end of the cave had spilled out into a widened round room that appeared manmade. Papers still covered all of the walls feeling of great importance. Yet as far down into the cave as the room was it was lit by an unknown source. There were no candles or cracks in the rock to allow light in. It was completely sealed and still there was light. She could see, but it made little difference. Nothing could be found.
Tsukiko barely saw the blade move through the air in time to knock Mitsuru out of the way. She tripped over as she protected Mitsuru from the attack narrowly avoided it. However, they were both on the floor with nowhere left go and completely defenseless. 'What do I do?! I can't let it end like this!'
"It was at that moment we both felt something that we couldn't explain."
"Something was beckoning us. Calling silently."
They turned their heads away from the blade that was threatening their lives and looked behind them. Resting in the ground crossed against each other was two sheathed katana. Neither of them knew why it seemed that the swords were calling to them, but they did not hesitate. They reached out their arms in a desperate wish to live. The moment their hands touched the sheath a blinding light enveloped the entire chamber beaming light out the entrance in the rain. They held on trying to pull at them as everything around them the shook violently. Then everything went black.
Chapter 1 – The Birthday Present
"I think while I was unconscious I dreamed…"
"…dreamed something was burning. What was it?"
Tsukiko was the first to wake up. Her hand rubbed her hair through her dark brown hair trying to calm down the thumping in her head. 'What happened? Am I alive?' She looked around the chamber trying to see what had happened, but the room was empty as it had been before. Only the sourceless light illuminated the walls. Their attacker was gone. Tsukiko lifted up her other hand to find it holding the sheathed katana that she had grabbed before from the back of the chamber. 'Well I'm not going question good fortune…' She placed the sword back against the wall along with the one in Mitsuru's hand. Neither of them was theirs to take, it was merely an act of self-preservation. "Thank you," she said politely giving thanks to whomever they had belonged to.
"…ugh…What happened?" Mitsuru said slowly as he came around. He spun his head around side to side looking for Tsukiko, finding her back by the wall. "What you doing?" He stood up dusting himself off and walked over next to her.
"I was just giving my thanks."
"Oh, they protected us? Where's my manners!" Mitsuru fell in line with her quickly apologizing and thanking them as well trying to catch up with Tsukiko. When they finished they agreed to keep it to themselves, everything worked out even if it was weird. There was no need to dwell on the matter. They picked up their sketch books and walked into the tunnel of the cave until they reached the entrance. In the time that had passed the rain had all passed with a thick layer of moisture on everything. However, the sun had already fallen down and evening was approaching.
Mitsuru screamed in panic with his hands pressed through layers of his black hair holding his head. "We're so late! Grandfather's going to kill us!"
"With everything that's happened I forgot! Our birthday dinner! Come on, Mitsu!" Tsukiko grabbed him by his wrist and sped down the mountain and forest as quickly as she could. Mitsuru was left wailing behind her for dear life. He crashed in the side of the old shrine as Tsukiko went through the entrance.
The ruckus that the two made echoed through the shrine grounds turning an old man's head. He was inside the old shrine's small house that was built for the shrine keeper to live in while maintained the shrine. "Oh my…seems that they're finally home."
Both teenagers charged through the very small home and dropped themselves at his feet. They were shaking fearful and apologizing repeatedly for their tardiness. "We're sorry, Grandfather!" said Tsukiko weakly.
"We were up at the mountain for an art assignment, Grandfather! I told Tsuki we should have gone sooner and then it started raining!"
"Mitsu!" exclaimed an enraged Tsukiko. She rose up from her prostrated position and grabbed Mitsuru by his uniform collar. "You aren't supposed to tell him that!"
"I know, but I can't lie to Grandfather when he's looking at me like that!" (Mitsuru Vision) A demon's eyes glared down at him with a commanding presence that required no words. It was a visual interrogation that broke him along with the towering stance and flaming background. (Reality) Their grandfather was holding a simple smile on his face trying not to become embarrassed by the actions of the children he watched.
"I don't know where they get this cruel image of me," he said softly to himself while letting them sort things out. "It's almost insulting that they think I'm so scary." After they had wrestled enough their grandfather stepped in grabbing the two of them and separated them on to their own spots. "That's enough excitement for now, you two. You're making a poor impression for our guest."
"I'm sorry, Grandfather!" they both said in absolute terror and going back to prostrating themselves.
"Stop getting so scared or I'll really give you a reason!"
Mitsuru recovered to look up from his bent over position seeing a figure behind their grandfather. "Who's that, Grandfather?"
The old man found his composure and raised his hand to clear his throat. He shifted his position to the side to reveal a young woman seated at the table on the floor politely sipping green tea. "As I was saying, we have a guest. She came to see the shrine."
"Grandfather is the shrine keeper for the Hyobanshi Shrine."
"So he gets a lot of visitors, though usually during the day."
"I'm sorry for disturbing you then. We'll leave so you have privacy," Tsukiko said standing up and beginning to pull Mitsuru along with her.
The woman placed her tea cup on the table softly and looked up at the two of them. "You can stay. I actually came to ask some questions about the Hyobanshi Shrine."
"Questions?" Mitsuru said suddenly appearing on the opposite side of the table next to their grandfather. He was immediately drawn in by curiosity.
Tsukiko blinked and looked between her hand to the table trying to figure out how Mitsuru had gotten out of her hand. "Mitsu! It's not polite!" She walked over to the table quickly pulling at his collar again.
"Tsuki! What's wrong with you? She said it's alright to stay."
"Come on, Mitsu!" she said with even more insistence in her voice. There was urgency in her light blue eyes that started to pull him away. However, before he was able to stand up there was a very loud grumble through the room that unhinged everyone. It sounded as though a demon was roaring out a battle cry. Everyone turned their heads like they were rusted socket accompanied by painful squeaks. Their eyes focused on Tsukiko, who was suddenly turning red in the face before collapsing to the table with her mouth hung open drooling.
"I forgot we haven't had anything to eat yet!" He jumped up from his spot trying to save her from exhaustion. She began to pass out from hunger only making him panic even more. "Grandfather!"
Their grandfather was already moving towards the kitchen that was openly attached to the main room that they were in. "I'll warm up the curry. Please only lightly entertain our guest." He had a calm relax everyday tone in his voice as he went to work in the kitchen.
Tsukiko had recovered her body enough to sit back up joining Mitsuru at the table with the woman. Mitsuru tried to figure out the woman a little since it was unusual for someone visiting the shrine not to be interested in prayers, wishes, good luck or something else normal. She was wearing a blue turtleneck with jeans and a well-worn canvas bag set next to her. All with her medium brown shoulder length hair and straight cut bangs with bright green eyes made her out to seem completely normal, but there was a silent charm about there that he could not place. There was a child-like glow hiding underneath her mature exterior that gave her a mysterious alluring quality. Mitsuru was still feeling confused, but he quickly remembered his manners. "I'm sorry! I didn't introduce myself! I'm Mitsuru Sakakibara, pleased to meet you!"
"I'm Tsukiko Sakakibara!"
"Oh! So you're brother and sister then!" the woman said with a realization looking at the two of them. There was a pause when she tried to compare them (significant height difference).
"No! We aren't!" Tsukiko said defensively having a vein on her head pop up in frustration.
"This happens a lot when we introduce ourselves, but it really gets on sis' nerves when people mistake us for siblings."
"We look nothing alike! It'd help if you stopped calling me 'sis' too!"
The woman leaned back from the table with a pensive expression. "Sakakibara? Why does that name sound familiar?" She zoned out for a moment paining herself trying to answer her question, but coming up empty. A minute later she realized that they were both staring at her with the expectation of her making introductions as well. "Right! Sorry about that I zone off pretty easily!" she said rubbing the back of her head looking embarrassed. "I'm Chie Okazaki, thank you for having me!"
"Miss Okazaki? You said you had questions about our shrine?" Mitsuru's curiosity brought the conversation back to the original reason for the woman's arrival.
"That's right! I'm doing some investigation on ancient Japanese History and there's some questions that I have about Hyobanshi Shrine that might help me."
Tsukiko became interested as well being drawn into the conversation. "Investigation? You writing a book or something?"
"It's research for my thesis."
"You're a college student?" asked Mitsuru making the connection quickly.
Chie nodded to the both of them as she lifted up the tea cup to drink again. "That's correct."
Tsukiko turned to look over at Mitsuru, who also faced her. She leaned over to him whispering softly. "She looks a little old for a college student." Mitsuru could not help but nod in agreement to her, as he had been thinking the same thing.
The hand holding Chie's tea cup tightened causing her finger to pierce the cup as the remaining tea dripped down. A glint shined from Chie's eyes as her eyebrows fell down becoming ridged and angled in anger. Her proportions grew as she stretched across the table summoning fire and thunder behind her. "What did you two just say?" she carefully said glaring at them intently.
They were both speechless, but she pressed them for an answer forcing Mitsuru to speak. "We-ah-um-I…thought you were…older than a college student!"
"How old do you think I am?!" she bellowed to him crushing the tea cup in her hand as more veins popped up in anger.
Tsukiko pushed Mitsuru aside laughing trying to soften the mood. "H-He means a pretty young lady like yourself didn't look like a college student to us."
Chie's hand released the pieces of the cup to the table and suddenly flipped on a shining smile for them. "Oh my! Thank you!" She pulled back to sit politely at the table as though nothing had happen. Their grandfather joined them immediately after serving curry and rice to everyone, her smile never changing. Mitsuru laid exhausted on the floor mats still trying to recover.
"Mother…father in heaven…I learned a very important lesson today…women are scary!"
"Never mention age you scatterbrain!"
The atmosphere began to settle out between Tsukiko and Mitsuru with Chie. Their grandfather was quietly sitting at the time keeping himself removed. However, Mitsuru chimed in to restart the conversation. "So Miss Okazaki…what's your research about?"
Chie had been very quiet the entire time continuously eating. Her plate was already empty before either of the others were even half way done (hadn't eaten in two days). She dropped her spoon on the plate before stretching. When she settled back to face them her expression was serious once more. "I'm trying to prove that demons use to roam ancient Japan." The entire room became disbelievingly silent as they stared back at her with blank eyes waiting for the punch line that never came. Chie was calmly sipping from her (new) tea cup as though she had said nothing strange.
It took a while for Mitsuru to regain enough of himself to function. 'I can't believe she said that with a straight face! But I think she's serious!' He looked over at Tsukiko trying to find what he could say to the woman, but found himself having trouble forming words. "D-Demons?"
"Like from Japanese Mythology?" Tsukiko asked having to check to make sure she was understand correctly.
"They aren't a myth!" she said emphatically with her hands.
"Do you have any proof?" questioned Tsukiko again.
"Not enough yet. However, I know it to be true and I'll take as long as it must to find the proof. Demons have walked the Earth, I know it!" While she was trying to reassure them of her determination it only left them even more stunned. They all had to wait to take pause seeing that she was being completely serious about what she was saying.
Mitsuru still had to ask her something knowing that she was being so certain. "Um-er-eh…Miss Okazaki?"
"Why are you interested in our shrine?"
She finished drinking her tea and placed the cup on the table. "I believe that Hyobanshi Shrine holds a secret."
Their grandfather broke from his non-participation to look over at the women. "Are you referring to the legend of the Demon's Door?"
"Ah, so you do know the story, old man," Chie said leaning over to him. A sparkle in her eye was starting to show as became eager.
"Demon's Door, grandfather?" asked Mitsuru becoming curious himself. He had never heard their grandfather speak about it and yet this woman seemed to know. The title sounded a little frightening to him, but he wanted to know.
Their grandfather nodded to his audience as he began to recall the story. "Yes, it's a very old tale passed through the shrine keepers. It's more meant to entertain children, but it seems you're interested." He shifted his eyes momentarily over to Chie seeing almost child-like features starting to appear on her face. It made him close his eyes for a moment before resuming. "As the story goes, long ago demons would roam the earth passing freely between the demon realm and the human realm. They ravaged the land and spread fear in the people. Even the average demon was too much for a man to handle and they roamed in as many numbers as did the humans. There were a few warriors strong enough to battle the demons as equals, but even they were not enough to protect all of the villages across Japan. So the powerful priest Hyobanshi came up with a plan. He had great spiritual powers that surpassed the strength of the demons. Hyobanshi lured as many demons as he could to one location and there he slaughtered hundreds. It's said by morning's light the demons that lie dead stood equal in height to Mount Higashiyama. At this point Hyobanshi was exhausted from his battle, but was determined to fulfill his plan. Using his remaining spiritual power and the demon mountain, he fashioned a door made from demons. This door became a gateway between the two realms forcing the demons to only be able to enter the human realm from the gateway. His sacrifice limited the demons that could pass through as well strength of them bringing peace to all of Japan. In ancient times it was called the Demon's Gate, but it later became known as the Demon's Door. The Hyobanshi Shrine is said to have sealed and housed the Demon's Door, a feat that Hyobanshi himself was unable to do. That is the origin of this shrine, Mitsuru and Tsukiko."
"Grandfather…why didn't you ever tell us?" Tsukiko said, having returned to herself during the telling. She did not understand why he had kept it from them. The story felt very important.
"It wasn't time yet, but I believe it is now." He stood up from the table appearing to be fatigued from the story. Before he left the room he paused at the entrance. "Young miss, you're welcome to stay here the night. It's getting quite late out and it's a long walk back to town."
"You're very kind! But I hate to impose on you!"
"Not all! Guests are always welcome. Mitsuru. Tsukiko. Please show our guest the visitor's room." Once he was finished he walked out of the room heading to his own to rest.
The two teenagers stared at each other for a moment before looking over at their new house guest for the evening. Neither of them were too certain about the woman, since she seemed to have completely believed every word from the tale that they were told. They knew it was just a story that never really happened, but Chie was trying to prove demons really existed. It left them a little uneasy about her. However, they were not going to question their grandfather's decision and stood up together.
"The visitor's room is in back," Tsukiko said offering to lead the way. Chie nodded and walked with the two of them through the short hall. The house had only three bedrooms and the main room with the kitchen attached on. However, it was only meant to have two bedrooms. One was for the shrine keeper and family with the second being for any overnight guests. Their grandfather split his room up for them, so it was only half the size of the guest room.
Tsukiko opened the door for her before stepping aside. Chie paused at the doorway and turned to look at the two of them. "You call the old man your grandfather, but he's not related to you is he?"
They both nodded to her silently before Mitsuru spoke up. "He adopted us when we lost our families."
"We've been with him since we could remember. So to us he is our grandfather," finished Tsukiko.
"I see. Thank you for your hospitality." Chie politely bowed to them before closing the door. They were still not certain what to make of her, but left to clean up after dinner. After clean up, the remainder of their homework had to be completed in the short time before they went to sleep.
In their room, they had only enough space for the two futons to be laid out. For them sleeping together in the same room was no stranger than sitting at the same table for dinner. It was a natural. However, with all of the excitement of the day it was difficult for them to sleep. The room was lightly lit by the moon as they stared at the ceiling together.
"Stop with the 'sis' already, Mitsu."
She exhaled a long breath knowing that she had to ask what was on his mind or he would never get to sleep. "…What?"
"What do you think of Miss Okazaki?"
"She's weird," she said plainly not giving it much thought. The impression that the woman had given during dinner did not leave much room for hesitation.
"But don't you think it's sort of cool to be able to believe in something so strongly?"
"I guess, but it's a little strange to be believing in demons."
"But grandfather always said to look for the good in people."
"Yeah, but I'm not sure that's exactly what he meant when it comes to her."
Mitsuru became silent after that trying to go to sleep. The thoughts that spun in his mind began to fade away and he was able to relax. He moved from dream to dream peacefully. However, one had come to him feeling strangely real. His body was floating in the air with nothing surrounding him, and then a voice called out to him. A voice of a young woman was speaking to him that was sweet and smooth like a song. "Who's there?"
Materializing from the particles in the air the woman appeared to him. She had a mature adult look while still not being more than a few years older than him. Her long gray white hair floated in the air to tremendous length with an elegance only matched by her clothes. The young woman drew closer to Mitsuru reaching out her hands gently touching the sides of his face as her eyes stared deeply into his. "We finally meet at last!"
He could not help but blush a little with her being so close to him, but did not realize it. "Wh-What do you mean?"
"You'll understand soon." The woman pulled away as though she was being dragged by an unseen force.
Mitsuru flailed trying to reach out to her as he tripped over himself. "Who are you?!"
"It's coming!" Suddenly, the entire void burst into flames completely engulfing the woman until she burned to ash. Mitsuru was forced to watch helpless in horror. A dark menacing voice reverberated around him drilling into his mind making it impossible for him to ignore. It felt like his heart was about to burst from beating so fast and his skin boiled from the heat. He was burning alive.
"No!!" they both shouted throwing themselves up from their bed covers. Sweat covered their faces. They stared at each other trying to recover their breath from the nightmare that they had apparently both experienced. It took them several moments to get their voices.
"Ever since we were young we've always had a fear of fire that we couldn't explain."
"There was something about that dream that felt too familiar as though connected to that fear."
"Did you—" Mitsuru began.
"See fire consume me?" finished Tsukiko. They were wide eyed trying to hold themselves together from the experience. Dreams had always been worse for them, but it had felt so real to them that they could not shake the feeling. It left them shaking. Even now they thought they could feel the flames licking them causing them to jerk in paranoid reaction.
It took a while for them catch a breath that they did not choke on. "Did you see the same woman I did?"
"I saw a man, but it seems that it was the same."
They took a moment to settle themselves down and get their surroundings. The night was still wearing on in the dark house as they had to stand up. 'It was so real,' they thought walking around the room trying to calm down. Once they had relaxed enough to think straight they realized that there was something off. In both of their right hands was held the swords from the cave that they had pulled out. They yelped in surprise dropping the swords on the ground to take cover on the other side of the room.
"Didn't we leave those in the cave, sis?"
"Y-Ye-yeah, I thought so."
"Ouch! That hurt!" declared a man's voice softly that came from neither of them. It left the two pale as a sheet as they watched one of the swords bounce and shift on the floor.
The other sword caught up quickly. "You can't feel pain, dear!"
"Oh, that's right! Old habits!" he said starting to laugh embarrassed at himself.
At this point the souls of Mitsuru and Tsukiko were nearly leaving their body when they were snapped back to life. They realized that the swords were moving and talking. So there was only one course of action left to them. They tossed Mitsuru's bed covers on the two swords and hid under Tsukiko's covers together shaking violently praying that it was all just a dream. Fear kept them from daring to look out from the covers, but the suspense was starting to get to them. Sweat was pouring down their faces and soaking their clothes with each second that passed by.
"Hey! This is where you went!" the male sword said suddenly appearing in their covers pretending it was a game.
Mitsuru and Tsukiko let out a deafening scream as they grabbed on to each other for support. They tried to kick the sword out of their covers, but the other appeared as well only terrifying them even more. The fear could not keep them in the room any longer and they fled their room. Their feet stomping and yelling should have been enough to wake up their grandfather, but when they arrived in his room, out of breath, he was still sleeping. "Grandfather! Evil swords are chasing us!" they said in unison standing over his futon.
There was a stirring sound from their Grandfather providing them a moment of relief. However, he leapt up throwing off the covers holding a bo in his hands and his eyes charged with the fire of a demon. "Back! Foul Demons!" He ran out a flurry of attacks with the bo at both of them making them retreat to the hall.
"S-Sis! I think Grandfather still asleep!"
"I know that already! Just run!" Tsukiko tried to start running, but found that she was losing traction with Mitsuru. The door to their grandfather's room, which they had closed on their escape, exploded into pieces upon the assault of numerous flurries from the bo. They were barely able to dodge the debris as they dropped to all fours and fled down the hall.
"This is the reason why we're so afraid of him."
"Because we know that beast is hiding inside him only surfacing when he's asleep."
"But he refuses to believe us. No matter how many times we tell him."
In the noise, Chie had woken up and opened the door. "What's going on—" She was met with the aftershock from the bo causing her robe, worn over her underwear, to be ripped to shreds. It left her collapsed on the floor trying to recover her dignity as the house became even noisier.
"Grandfather, please wake up!" Mitsuru cried as they were being chased around the perimeter of the house. Tsukiko had disappeared from his sight after exiting the house leaving him to flee alone praying to survive the night. Upon his eighth orbit an extended arm yanked him in a new direction giving their grandfather the slip, momentarily. "Please don't hurt me!" he shouted, but the hand covered up his mouth to keep him from yelling. He was forced to turn around to discover that it was Tsukiko. "Sis!"
Tsukiko dropped her elbow on his head becoming irritated. "Stop with the 'sis'!"
"But what're going to do about grandfather? He seems even more tired than normal."
"Yeah, he hasn't woken up yet…" Tsukiko said starting to trail off in her words trying to think of a plan. Unfortunately, their plans usually involved hiding until it was safe. However, she did not think that was going to work for them.
"He must sense it," a man voice said in a serious tone analyzing the situation.
"What?!" the two said startled once more by the arrival of the talking swords. They had nearly climbed the wall of the inner shrine that they were hiding in when they noticed the swords on the ground.
"If you keep running away we can't—" the woman began in a calming voice before she was cut off by them screaming.
Suddenly, their grandfather showed up at the entrance of the shrine casting a dark shadow over the room. It caused them to scream again even more violently. Then behind them the earth shook and the back half to shrine exploded into chunks of wood. A foul odor leaked into the remaining shrine followed by two yellow eyes. When they looked over to see what was breathing so hard that it was rattling the wood of the shrine they could not help but scream again. There was a massive brown-orange colored creature looking like an oni from classic Japanese Mythology.
The two teenagers kept turning their heads to the three different things that they were scared of no longer certain what terrified them the most. They faced each other and interlaced their hands together starting to pray for them to wake.
"…wake us up?!"
As they were about to faint from fear, their grandfather charged forward. Thinking that he was going for them, they took cover on the floor trying to be hidden. When the sound of the bo pounding in the distance confirmed their safety they turned to look. Their grandfather was attacking the towering beast with all of his might, but it did not seem to be having any effect on it. In the last strike the bo snapped, falling away, as he was thrown through part of the shrine. "Grandfather!" shouted both of them.
The beast took a heavy step forward bringing its attention to them. They were too frozen in fear to move with their lives being threatened. A large club in its right hand rose up into the air speeding downward to crush them. Neither could watch further closing their eyes only to hear a resounding ringing around them. Cautiously looking, they saw that the two talking swords were blocking the club from hitting them. There was a bright glow coming from the swords beginning to surround the two of them providing a warm comforting sensation over them.
"Take hold of us!" the woman said.
Tsukiko and Mitsuru stared at each other with uncertainty. They were being talked to by a couple of ancient swords that they found in the back of a cave. Hesitation still was strong in their hearts.
"You must hurry!" the man said.
An explosion of light knocked back the monster having it collapse in the pile of debris that used to be the shrine. The swords floated closer to them within arm's reach of them with the silent sound of asking to be taken. They stood up from the ground, still holding hands, staring at the swords. Behind the swords thumping and pounding from the monster starting to move again increased the urgency for a decision.
They nodded firmly to each other and stepped forward separating to face the swords. Each sword moved to the respective bearer as they reached out their hand to clasp the sword. The brown-orange beast stood up knocking away the debris ready to charge forward when a white light expanded over the entire area. It blinded the monster unable to move until the light faded. When it was allowed to see again there was two streaks of silhouettes that passed by it appearing behind it knelt. The creature turned its head in confusion towards the motion, but in a delayed act both of its arms were cleaved off causing its body to collapse to the ground.
The two shadowed figures finished sheathing their swords with a click and stood up. Moonlight danced across the field illuminating them in very elaborate clothes with layers of robes, decorative metal, hanging jewels and embedded jewels matching those of that appeared in the dream Tsukiko and Mitsuru had. However, it was not Tsukiko or Mitsuru standing in the ruins of the shrine, but the people from their dream. A young man, of gray white hair that fell to the shoulders and tied back with orange colored eyes, stood next to a young woman, also of gray white hair and orange eyes but her hair fell in length to the ground and rested in lengthy loops weaving through the grass.
'What happened?' Mitsuru said with his voice echoing in his mind, but not his lips. He tried to look around, but felt as though he was no longer in control of his body.
'Why do I feel so weird?' Tsukiko asked herself trying to speak.
There was a snap inside them feeling as though they were suddenly injected into their own body. Mitsuru moved around no longer feel like he was numb all over. He could see the dead monster laying on the ground, but not remembering killing it. 'Did we do that?'
Tsukiko turned to look over at Mitsuru, but leapt back in surprise. "Who are you?" she shouted to the person next to her.
"Huh? What's wrong, Tsuki?" he said turning upon hearing her voice. However, he had the same reaction and leapt backwards in shock. "Who are you?!"
"It's me, Tsukiko!"
"It's me, Mitsuru!"
"It's your voice, but why do you look like a woman?" Tsukiko said staring at a young woman that she had never seen before and trying to figure out if she should be confused or embarrassed.
"And you look like a man, sis!"
"What?" She had immediately pulled away fearing what she was seeing to have happened to her. Tsukiko quickly did the only thing she knew to check her body. She grabbed her chest looking for breasts that were not to be found, but rather a flat chest that felt a little muscular under all of the layers of clothes.
Mitsuru watched becoming a little embarrassed before he looked down at his own body unable to tell through all of the clothes if it was his or not. His hands nervously raised up needing to know for himself. He swallowed quickly starting to sweat again as his hands drew closer. It was almost in range when Tsukiko leapt the distance between them and grabbed both of his hands stopping him, a heavy streak of red flushing her face. "You're a woman, Mitsu! Trust me!"
"But what's going on?"
"I don't know…perhaps something to do with the swords."
"Correct!" the male voice said as the sword at Tsukiko's side glowed in response.
"You two were infused with so much of our spiritual power that your bodies changed to the form that it's used to," the female voice said from Mitsuru's waist.
"But why aren't you switched?!" Tsukiko exclaimed as a plea.
"I don't know!" the man said cheerfully as though it did not matter.
Tsukiko and Mitsuru shoulders could not take it anymore and fell as their clothes slipped a little in disbelief. However, before they could do anything more their bodies suddenly began to shine brightly. The light was brief and once gone their bodies had been returned to them. They ran their hands over their face and body really quick to check.
"Everything's normal again!" Tsukiko declared with Mitsuru nodding in agreement.
"Aww, the fun's already over," the man said.
"What?! You're still here?"
"We're not going anywhere!" the woman gleefully said.
"What?!" they both shouted before going into depression from fearing that they were telling the truth. Their legs had soon gave out on them causing them to fall against each other sliding to the ground sinking further into depression from the thought of being haunted by talking swords.
"It's not that bad!"
"That's because you're not the one being haunted and changing genders!" Tsukiko whined to the voice. She started to cry at her misfortune and almost joined by Mitsuru, but they were interrupted by a loud roar behind them. The armless monster was standing once again quickly running after them planning to crush them with its last breath. Mitsuru and Tsukiko were not able to react from the surprise and growing fear. They hugged each other too scared to do anything as it drew in reach of them.
At the last moment a shadow streaked across them slicing the monster across the chest. As the beast fell it vanished into dust leaving nothing behind but the wreckage it had caused. They blinked confused by what had just happened trying to understand it all.
Tsukiko looked over at the shadow as it stood up to face them. Covered in black apart from the face was a tall young man with deep piercing black eyes. He had long legs and perfectly elongated figure with a face that made her suddenly feel warm. She could feel her heart painfully pounding in her chest for a reason that she could not explain with each step that he took towards her. The strange man that had just saved her was standing before her kneeling down with a stretched out hand. "Are you hurt?" ask the man with a gentle yet deep voice that only helped to make the entire image shine and sparkle the longer Tsukiko stared dumbfounded.
"U-Um…no…um…thanks," she said meekly feeling strangely weak suddenly. Tsukiko took the hand offered to her standing up, almost not on her own, while Mitsuru continued to stare confused. She was left speechless in front of him. 'Why is my heart pounding so fast?'
Mitsuru pushed himself up coming over to her aid, but left feeling useless next to the stranger. He turned his head over to the man wanting an answer. "Who are you?"
"My name is Katashi Higashiyama," he said politely addressing Tsukiko only. "And I'm your true love." While having a graceful appearance there seemed to be almost no emotion in his face when he spoke the words leaving the two to sweat in embarrassment for a moment before reacting.
"Who's says that one their first meeting?! And with such a dead face! What's wrong with him?!"
Tsukiko was petrified in an instant not knowing how to react. Her mouth was hung agape while the man back off and stood back up to his full height, which was still shorter than Tsukiko (she was still about six centimeters taller). A weak sound would come from her statue features infrequently as Mitsuru was left stunned as well.
"Hey, what's going on out here?" said Chie, having found her travel clothes to wear. The entire incident went completely oblivious to her.
"I didn't have the courage to tell her the truth..."
"What am I doing outside?" their grandfather said finally awaking up. When he stood up and looked around the shrine grounds his eyes widen in shock. "What happened to the shrine?!"
"G-Grandfather, I-I can explain…I think…" He looked over to Tsukiko hoping that she was normal and could save him from explaining it himself. However, she was still lost to the world. 'Please tell me this is a dream!' he shouted in his mind as he looked to the night sky.
* * *
The morning came for the Hyobanshi Shrine area and its residents were already starting to get breakfast. Tsukiko and Mitsuru both had school and their grandfather was still very silent about his shrine. They were all sitting at the table eating rice for their breakfast. However, there was a look of frustration and confusion upon Tsukiko and Mitsuru. Sitting next to Tsukiko was the young man from the previous night, Katashi. He had insisted on sitting next to her. Chie, who did not seem to want to be out done by the newcomer, was seated next Mitsuru. Their grandfather was between them at the third side of the table with them all tightly occupying three sides of the table.
Mitsuru looked over to the woman having to ask. "How come you're still here? I thought you were leaving in the morning?"
"But I can't leave now! My research has only begun and this place is so interesting!" she said glowing like a child.
"What?! B-But we only have one guest room!"
"Grandfather said he didn't mind me staying as long as I wished!"
"As long as you wished?!" Mitsuru said in disbelief. "Why are you sitting next to me and why are you calling him Grandfather?!"
"Oh my…" said she turning away starting to look embarrassed leaving Mitsuru to sigh loudly.
"And you!" Tsukiko exclaimed poking the man with her chop sticks to keep him away from her. After everyone had calmed last night and return to sleep the stranger stood as a guard at her door making it difficult for her to sleep. "Stop getting so close to me! I'm grateful you helped us, but why are you still here?!"
"Because I'm your true love," he said once again with no emotion while still having a surprisingly charming face.
"Stop saying that! It's so creepy when you say it!"
The spirits of the swords resting on the floor at the fourth side suddenly appeared faintly from the hilt in full human form. They both shifted a little and leaned in closely to their owners only making them even more depressed. All the while everyone else did not seem to pay it any mind, as though it was normal.
"What is happening to my normal life?!"
"Why are so many people living in our house now?!"
To be continued…
"Hey! What's this!" said Kichiro. He was one of four figures gathered around a small desk belonging to a meek and haggard looking person seated in an office chair. The long haired bespectacled person in the chair was the creator of the story.
"It's the first chapter and we're already being forgotten!" shouted Hisoka.
"I know this is a harem and we're just the friends that get ignored!" Etsuko grumbled.
"But I thought you were changing things! You said we're going to have larger parts in this series!" Kiyome said remembering.
"W-Well yes, you're going to have important roles, but you're their friends from school! And there weren't any scenes at school in the first chapter!" the creator explained from their chair.
"I'm only here because you said you were going to be different from all of the other harem out there!" Kichiro glared.
"It is different! Look its shounen and shoujo together!" The creator showed pages from the first chapter to illustrate the point.
"But we're the best friends of the main characters. Harem series always ignore us." Hisoka said closing in.
"Yeah, we're important to the story too! But we're always seen from the sidelines as the cheerleaders!" Kiyome pined.
"H-Hey, I know! I'm changing that! I promise! Honest!"
"We better be in the next chapter!" Etsuko threatened.
"I'll write it down right now! See!"
"We better be!"
"What's wrong with you guys? I didn't make you to have violent personalities! You're supposed to be nice people!"
"That's what happens when you've been let down too many times by series!"
"Why are you all becoming yandere types?!" The creator was suddenly glowing with strange pride in the usage of the word.
"Why do you look so proud when you used that?"
"I just learned the word while I was working on this! There's so much about manga I still don't know!"
"Should you really be so happy about that?"
"You're the manga creator, right? Shouldn't you already know terms like that?"
"We're trusting our future to this weirdo?"