"Come on, Mitsu! We need to hurry!" Tsukiko called out in Tsuneo's voice.
They were both already transformed, forcing the old man on the bus to let them out before hand. His predecessor already had a terrible experience, that naturally left him not wanting to ride the route anymore. So they could not allow him to face that either.
Jumping through the trees was hardly a natural thing for Mitsuru, but it was all he could do to keep up with Tsukiko, already charging in ahead. She did not even think about it. She just started jumping from tree to tree as though it was the most natural thing. Which meant he had to follow. "I'm trying, Tsuki! But I'm not suited for this!"
She did not have time for his whining. "Get moving! The demon is near the mansion! We can't let it attack the house!"
"But shouldn't it be coming after us? We have the most spiritual energy."
"There is the young boy, Yuu," Hisako mentioned, as she popped out of the hilt of the sword. "His spiritual power is easily something to rival our own."
"All the more reason to move faster! He doesn't need any more trauma."
Another minute or so of complaining finally dropped them in the area of the demon. A foul odor already spread out through the whole area. Mitsuru drew up his long sleeve to cover his face a little. "It's an oni again."
Tsukiko nodded in agreement. "I'm getting really tired of these. They wouldn't be so bad if I didn't feel like I needed a bath after every fight."
A rumble went through the tree they stopped on. They could both feel it stomping around, but there was something more going on. Tsuneo hovered next to Tsuki, examining the situation. "Seems like someone is already fighting it."
Mitsuru leaned forward a little looking down from his higher branch towards her. "Think it's Akira?"
"He has been the one doing most of the demon slaying. It'd probably a lot noisier or messier if it was Masanori. Though, knowing Akira, he'd already be done."
Another thump made the leaves sing in the air. "Well we can't stand around, Tsuki. If it's not Akira, they need help."
"I know! Let's go!"
They both leapt down in the same moment charging in with swords drawn. Small quakes rocked the earth as they ran the last few meters to get through the cover to the battle. However, it surprised them to find that it was neither of their guesses.
The truth was that they found Katashi defending the mansion against the oni. It was not that it was a shock to find him fighting. They both knew that he could fight and had done so on several occasions. But he rarely came and helped them, not to mention he was difficult to deal with on the battle field.
"Katashi?" asked Tsukiko, getting to it first. He glanced over at her, but had to evade something quickly that looked like a spear made out of metal and bone. The area looked like it had a lot of holes punched out by the spear. Likely, he had been doing a lot of dodging.
Katashi landed behind the oni, dealing a shallow blow to its back. His blade barely managed to make a scratch. And the oni had a surprisingly swift counterattack with the back of its spear. He managed to see it coming and evade it without trouble. It made the situation clear.
She charged in to help Katashi, but he appeared in front of her with his arm out. "What are you doing, Katashi? We'll take it down together! You need help."
"No, I'll do this on my own."
Clinching her hand up around the hilt, she wanted to punch right there, but knew better in the middle of the fight. "Don't tell me Akira's growing on you, Katashi. We don't fight alone!"
He charged forward leaving her behind. "Don't interfere." Katashi leapt after the oni dodging the spear thrust and running up along the shaft of the weapon. He left small cuts along the oni's arm that seemed to be equal to that of bug bites for it. His progress seemed insignificant.
She already dealt with the stubborn and selfishness of Akira. Tsuki had enough of men needing to be proving themselves. She jumped in after Katashi, ignoring his request. "Like I'm going to listen to you. The importance is killing it not, who does it." Her spiritual energy built up in her blade readying to slay the demon, but Katashi appeared in front of her. "Katashi?!"
Spinning around, he threw out his leg throwing her back towards Mitsuru. "I said I'll handle this."
Mitsuru managed to catch her, but she already started to push away from him throwing her fist at Katashi. "What's the matter with you?!"
Landing in front of the oni, Katashi retrieved something from within the layers of his black cloths. A strange metal device was placed on the ground. Flipping a switch, light burst up from it shining all around him. His hand pushed through the beams of light moving through it in a specific order.
"What's he doing?" asked Mitsuru, to their spirits. They were the only ones that they had on hand with knowledge in any sort of techniques used to combat demons.
Hisako rubbed her hand over her chin. She seemed just as confused. "I don't know, I've never seen this sort of technique before. But I can sense a power emitting from it."
"It doesn't feel like it, it's heavy and thick."
Water suddenly erupted from the light as though someone took a ring to cut through the light all around Katashi. It sprayed up from within the light as a ring. The water gathered up around Katashi's arm, spinning as an even distance away.
"That technique!" exclaimed Tsuneo.
"What you know it?"
"I recognize it, he's creating it differently, but it's a physical spell. One commonly used by demon hunters that are melee fighters."
"Then that light…" Hisako started, she realized what Katashi was doing.
It was not long before Tsuneo figured it out as well. "You're right. It's different, but it must be a three dimensional summoning circle. When looked at in cross sections there might be a tightly drawn circle through all the light and he supplies the physical sign component through gestures.
"So what does it do?"
"Harnessing water and through the infusing of it with your own power, you shape it into a dense and sharp edge able to cut through your foe."
The technique completed, Katashi leapt at the oni just as it brought down the spear to end his life. Water spread out into a drill like pattern over his left arm, each edge sharper than his blade. He threw out his arm just as he passed by the oni's weapon arm. The water sliced up the thick, muscular arm into several pieces. Its spear fell to the ground. Katashi continued on going for the finishing blow growing the water in radius allowing it to slice completely through the demon leaving only cross sections left to disappear.
It was over.
Chapter 15 – The Stubbornness of Heart
The pencil pounded against the paper in frustration. It was like a jackhammer erasing most of the sound of the lecture. All she could hear were her own thoughts yelling around in her head. The whole night it bothered her. Unfortunately, she did not get anywhere with it more than it aggravating her. 'That guy!'
"That girl pounding her pencil into the desk is Tsukiko Sakakibara. I, Mitsuru, am doing this for her, due to circumstances. We had a normal life until during a rainstorm we found possessed swords and a portal to the demon world opened. Now we protect the city while trying to keep it all a secret."
Her emotions kept her from thinking straight for most of the morning. The most that happened was her pencil threatened to drill all the way through her desk. It only stopped because the teacher finally figured out where the sound came from.
"The subject today, is Katashi Higashiyama, a strange man dressed in all black that professes his love for Tsukiko on a regularly basis. But I'm not sure he understands the word since he never seems to show any emotion. He's a very strange man that hasn't opened up to anyone."
A rooftop lunch barely gave her anymore peace. Her friends wanted to know what was bugging her so much. She did not hide her upset expression well, or at all. "What's going on, Tsuki?" asked Kiyome, "You're more annoyed than normal."
To their surprise, she did not actually reply. It took Mitsu leaning to sub in for her voice. "She's been like this since last night. I remember hearing her yell a lot at Katashi and then nothing."
Kichiro perked up in attention along with her friends. "Who is this Katashi, Mitsuru? Sounds like both of you have started noticing the opposite sex."
"Yes, Mitsuru, do tell."
He pulled back a little from their over eager gazes. A supportive plea-filled glance went to Tsuki unreturned. She was no help to him. "W-well, he's just someone staying at our place."
"I've heard that story before, Mitsu," recalled Kichiro. It was very much like the reply about Izumi when she came up.
"You've got a lot of guests these days," noted Hisoka, a surprising voice, who typically refrained from jumping into such discussions. However, he did stay within his bounds of interactions. "Are you going to be alright with so many strangers living under the same roof?"
It was a hard thing to answer for Mitsu. He already experienced a lot of troubles and stress from everything that happened in the last few weeks. Despite their playful teasing, time with his friends was something he looked forward to each day. It was an escape. "Yeah, I don't know. Sure, it's pretty crazy right now, but it's lively and full of energy. We've always had guests from time to time, but it was pretty quiet. It's rather fun despite everything."
"Sounds a little like Stockholm syndrome to me," Kichiro remarked.
Pushing in, Kiyome wanted things back on topic. "Yes, but what about this Katashi guy? What's going on with him and Tsuki?"
"Oh, if I had to guess it was because he didn't want our help. He seems pretty stubborn about doing things alone and I guess it was the last straw for her."
"Must be pretty serious if she's this hung up on him."
"Well it's not the first time we've dealt with someone being stubborn and refusing our help recently."
Kichiro finished up his rice and set down his bento for a moment. He looked over at the two of them. New names were always getting dropped recently. "You guys are getting quite popular."
"It's nothing like that!" Mitsu waved his hands trying to deny the whole thing. "I-It's just people we run into. Things will be normal again soon."
Their lunch rolled to an end without any word from Tsukiko still. They walked back to class together, though she managed on her own, despite being in her own world. That was until she accidentally bumped into two girls that were not looking where they were going.
Mitsuru leaned down along with Kiyome and Etsuko to help Tsuki. "Huh?" she said as her first word the entire day.
"Seems our Tsukiko is back in the land of the living," Kichiro joked, as he offered a hand to the girl that fell. Hisoka provided assistance as well, but they both got up on their own with purpose in their eyes.
"We're going to be late!"
"They might already be sold out!"
The two girls ran off needing to be somewhere else ten minutes ago. They were not the only ones that seemed to be running in the direction either. It left Tsukiko a little stunned along with Mitsuru. She finally accepted her friends hands up. "What's going on? Isn't lunch almost over? Why are they rushing to buy food?"
"I don't think it's about food," Kiyome replied.
"Oh, it is about that?" asked Hisoka.
While Kiyome nodded, Tsukiko did not like that she was being left out and clueless about something everyone else knew. "What are you talking about? Even Hisoka knows?"
"I-I'm sorry." Mitsu started to poke his fingers together in a sheepish and fidgety manner. Even he knew, but he kept it secret for other reasons than their friends.
"What even you Mitsu?! What are you guys not telling me?"
"It's not that big of a deal," dismissed Kichiro, as he walked back to rejoin them. "We figured you already knew since half of the girls in the class have been talking about it. It's sort of hard not to know."
"Know what? Stop being so vague and just tell me."
"Many of the girls in our school have created an unofficial club for some guy that's been seen around town frequently. Seems most of the single girls and some that aren't have joined up."
"Yeah, the guys are a little annoyed by this mysterious man's attention. Since no one has really seen his face, he's taken on legendary proportions now. So it's impossible for the guys to compete with that."
Kiyome nodded, but looked a little bothered as well. "They're a rowdy bunch, but generally follow the rules. Supposedly, someone managed to get a picture of the man and they went on sale during lunch."
Blue fell over Tsuki's face. She looked over at Mitsu who also knew about the whole situation. He never said an extra word to her. However, he did not need to say anything to her. Tsuki could read it all over his face. He knew what it was about and the reason he said nothing to her was exactly as she thought. 'I thought things had calmed down over this! This is just getting worse!'
Tsuki just walked away from them all in silence. The sight of her made Mitsuru try to run after her. "Sis!" However, he only got a few steps before he realized that it was completely pointless. He could not do anything for her.
When the door slid open and Tsukiko went inside doing nothing, their friends knew something was up. "Wow, this is pretty serious," Kichiro noted.
"Yeah, she didn't even flinch," added Hisoka.
Kiyome crossed her arms staring at her friend. "The taboo word was spoken and nothing. There something more about this fan club that bothers her so much?"
Trying to sneak off himself, Mitsu got caught by them pretty quickly. His reactions and words were even more suspicious to them. "I-I don't know anything!" He quickly fled from their sight into the classroom to evade any further questions.
"Something I don't know…"
"That's the part that's bothering you?"
"Not as much as what it has to do with Tsuki."
"With your information network, you'll figure it out in time." A sudden loud smack came from the classroom followed by a very delay complaint. Mitsu's familiar whining voice followed. Kichiro sweated a little. "I guess she remembered."
The door to their home slid open and a maid greeted both of them. Tsukiko agreeably handed off her things and went into the main room to drop down in the couch. Following behind her, Mitsuru came after he helped the maid with great insistence. 'Tsuki…' He moved around the couch going towards the kitchen hearing her sigh.
Unlike most days, there was no tea already poured. He had to take the time to prepare it himself. While he waited on the water to boil, he talked with the staff around the kitchen. He finally delivered it out to Tsuki. "Here. It's apparently going to be a little while before dinner. We're short a few things."
"Thanks." She accepted the teacup and started to slip on it. The calming taste of the tea soothed her a little. That was until she felt the awkward presence of someone very familiar. 'That man…he needs to learn a few things in being human.' She paused in her drinking and glanced over to the hall, where he had passed by a moment before. A grin came across her face. "Mitsu, you said we're short on things for dinner right?"
"Um…yeah, the maids are going out to shop."
"They aren't already gone are they?"
"I don't think so. They just realized while preparing the meal."
"Good, this'll kill two birds."
Tsuki set her cup down and stood up quickly already making for the hallway. She disappeared around the corner. "Katashi! Get your butt over here right now!" No more time did it take for her to shout that, she popped her head back out around the wall. "Mitsu, tell them I'll take care of the shopping. Just give me the list!"
"Eh?" Unfortunately, she did not really give him a chance to ask questions or even debate the matter. He was just left there with his orders. "Tsuki?"
She marched through the hall hunting down her target. "Katashi! I know you're here. I felt you walk by!" As she passed by an empty room, she stopped and threw her arm out. "Found you!" Tsukiko grabbed his collar. "You're coming with me."
"I have other things to do."
Grinning, there was no getting away from her. "Oh? Suddenly for someone that likes following me around everywhere and doesn't listen when I yell at him decides he has somewhere else to be."
"You claim to be in love with me, right?"
"Yes," he answered in his usual completely empty voice. It was almost like he was trying to be deadpan, but it was not an act. There just seemed to be no emotion there.
"And you follow me everywhere because you love me."
"Then you're coming with me." She could see the look in his eyes as he tried to get out of it. Tsuki had used all of her past dealings with him against him in the moment. He had no other choice other than to accept.
"Great! We're going to shopping for food!" She dragged him through the hall not letting him get away from her. "We're getting you some socializing, even if it just pushing through the crowded grocery store for a good deal on tofu."
As the grocery store doors slid open, Tsukiko dragged Katashi in by his wrist. He had been pulling at her the entire time, but it suddenly became more stubborn. "What am I doing here?" This came up again as she started pulling out a cart. "You don't need me to help. This can be done alone."
"Refusing to spend time with the girl you claim to love?" Tsuki grinned finally getting to see something different out of Katashi. His voice remained empty as always, but something started to slip through. 'It's slight, but there's a little more in him…this'll be a good experience for him.'
Katashi kept being caught in Tsukiko's repeated trap. He saw it coming every time and yet just fell into it the same as always. It was unavoidable. Something no amount of skill could avoid. "No." He resigned himself to stand to next to her.
"Good!" She smiled at him and dragged him along. Pulling out the list from her back pocket, she started looking at what they needed. "Geez…they want a lot of stuff. How do we even afford this all?"
The first couple of items went smoothly. Katashi hung back behind her still keeping to himself. A little kid came running through the aisle forcing him up against the shelves. It made her giggle a little to see that slight hint of panic in his eyes. 'He really doesn't know how to deal with people…'
A row over, she stopped and grabbed down a couple of cans. "Hey, can you get that?" She pointed out to the opposite side of the aisle towards what she wanted. He silently moved and then stopped. It took her a few seconds to finish loading up on things to notice him just standing frozen. 'What is he doing?' Then she saw there were two women chatting through the aisle. He looked to be sizing them like an enemy as they were blocking what she asked him to get.
It looked like he was sweating a little not knowing how to handle it. 'Wow…' She took pity on him and moved over. "Excuse me. May I?"
"Oh, I'm sorry!"
Tsukiko leaned down to pick up the bag of noodles. She tossed them casually over to him. "People besides me exist in the world. You're going to need to be used to dealing with them."
"It's not what?"
"Nothing." He turned away and placed the noodles into the cart. Afterward, he took up his loyal position behind the cart.
She could only tilt her head a little confused by what happened. However, he seemed unwilling to elaborate on it any further. So pushing forward was her only option. Rounding the corner, the floor grew out into the produce. "We need a few oranges. I'm going down to get some beans and green onions." She pointed over to where the fruit were arranged.
"He's more helpless out of a fight than I expected." She judged the stock for what seemed to be a good selection. "What has he been doing up till this point?" Holding the onion, she paused realizing that how little she actually knew. "I don't even know where he came from. He's just been here it's oddly natural now…" The thought made her sigh, when she realized that she might actually be starting to accept his presence. "Well, I better see what trouble he's gotten himself into…"
Tsukiko turned around and started pushing the cart back. In the distance, she saw him up against the fruit stand. He did not look like he was moving, in fact it did not even look like he had picked any oranges at all. "That guy…I give him one simple thing to do…" The closer she got it looked like he was doing some strange yoga position with his hands up against the fruit.
The cart stopped nearby as she finished walking the rest of the distance. "You know the fruits might start taking that as harassment the way you're lingering on them. Just pick some already, it's not that complicated." She went over and plucked a couple up.
Turning to look at him, she felt some surprise to hear his voice nearly jump a bit. "Wha—" Unfortunately, she did not have a chance to say anything else. What had been a precariously balanced arrangement of fruit, which Katashi had already disturbed and tried to keep from falling, started to move. It was just a few as first, but it turned into a tidal wave.
Tsukiko tried to get out of the way, but her foot caught the side of an apple and she fell into Katashi. He lost his balance catching her and the fruit raining down around his legs. His back crashed into the tiled floor quickly with Tsukiko on top. And then just to add to the injury, a few oranges dropped on her head knocking her head down a little. "…ow…jeez…"
It took her a few moments while the fruit finished to notice how close she was to Katashi's face. Her face immediately lit up. She pulled away from him getting up on her own. 'I forgot how attractive he looked…that was dangerous…' As she tried not to look at Katashi, she only saw all of the interested or embarrassed looks from everyone else in the store. It only made her more self-conscious.
She started to pick up the fallen fruit in the hopes that it would calm her heart down. 'Calm down, Tsukiko, he's got no emotions anyway…' It did not help her that he bent down to help her with the mess they made. Quick accidental glances still were murder on her body. It seemed like he had sparkles around him even though he was not doing anything special. 'You're not supposed to have sparkles if you don't have any emotions!'
Eventually, a couple of store employees came and insisted on doing the work rather than them. Which Tsukiko welcomed after what happened. She hurried along the rest of their shopping in the hopes of pushing the incident out of her mind.
A pause had to happen when they finally needed to check out. She loaded things up in a hurried manner overwhelming the boy behind the register. "Sorry…" Tsuki turned away having to wait. Behind the cart, Katashi stood looking around with his eyes. He seemed to judging everyone around him. He could not avoid being separated. 'Not sure how successful this attempt was, but I guess it's progress, however little it might be… I got him out of the house if nothing else…' A smile crept up again watching him.
"I've got my work cut out with this one. But it seems like there might be hope…"
To be continued…
In case you were wondering, where Chie was… Remember there was no tea made.
"Your room key, Miss," the inn clerk replies.
Chie arrives at her room and opens the door. "This is a single. We ordered a double. You did place the order correctly?"
Nodding, Daishou agrees with equal confusion. "Of course."
"Looks like we need to speak with the management about this…" She marches back down to the ground floor and slams her hand down on the counter with the key. "Hey, you gave me the wrong room!"
"I said you gave me the wrong room! I ordered a double."
The clerk checks the computer at the desk. "It's only written down here as a single."
"That's not possible. There's two of us. We need a double."
"Two, Miss? Are you expecting someone else to arrive later?"
"What are you talking about? He's already here."
"There's no one with you, Miss."
"What a minute…" Chie begins to put everything together. She looks over at Daishou. "Your lack of presence is so powerful it changed the reservation!"
"I'm not happy about that…"
A glow comes over Chie's eyes. "This is very fascinating! I must research this more!" She starts to drag Daishou back to their room.
"But what about the room?!"
"You don't have a presence, so it'll be fine! You don't need a bed!"
He hangs his head low while being dragged back to the room by his collar. "I thought we were here for your dig, not to research me…"