More than a week passed since they moved into their new home. Life seemed to have calmed down a little. They still had random invading demons that they fought back, but if that was worst, their new life had to offer they accepted it.
As expected of the new chapter, it is morning. A very early morning, due to the fact that they had a longer commute into school. Their only fortunate luck was that something happened to cause the bus' schedule stops to include their mansion. So they still had the same ride.
However, Tsukiko was still asleep. The sun still had to work through the forest to reach them at such a time. It did not stop her personal maid from walking into her massive room to open the curtains. What little sunlight available, burst into Tsukiko's personal room. The mansion had an exterior that was very Japanese, one to make warlords of the feudal era jealous, but the interior mixed between modern and traditional.
Tsukiko's room had a large modern bed, rather than the simple futon she used to have in the shrine. Unlike her room in the shrine, which was shared by both Mitsuru and her, she shared it with no one. She liked the thought of having her own room. While she never would have asked for one, it made her happy to have it. The only thing that bothered her was the size, it was easily the size of their entire home. She felt it unnecessary and almost conceited to make a room to such a size.
Even with all of her stuff moved over, thanks to the maids, she could not even fill the room. The gap between everything only made the room feel lonely. It made her feel like she did not belong in such a place.
"Time to wake up, Mistress!" sang the maid. A young woman in her early twenties, she appeared the picture perfect image of a traditional Japanese woman, as did all of the female staff. The maid hung up a freshly cleaned school uniform for Tsukiko on a hook on the wall near her bed. She did this while in route to Tsukiko's bed. "Mistress."
Tsukiko slept peacefully, still not used to the schedule change. The soft words from the maid did nothing to change her state. She required more direct action. As the maid became used to doing, she leaned down to the bed resting her hand on Tsukiko's head. "Mistress Tsukiko, you'll be late again," she spoke, softly in Tsukiko's ear.
It had a delayed reaction of a few seconds to process, but Tsukiko's eyes shot up. She flung herself up from her bed with only one thought in her mind. "Late?! I can't be again!" Tsukiko jumped up out of the bed frantically looking around for her things. "Just one thing, I need one normal thing!"
The maid smiled a little trying not to sweat at seeing her flitter about worried. "Your uniform is over there, Mistress," she offered, pointing with her hand.
"Hello, I'm Tsukiko Sakakibara. Ever since I accidentally destroyed our home, we've been living in this new mansion. Not much has changed, but Mitsuru and I have come to accept our fate as guardians of the Demon Gate."
Half way through dressing, the doors of her room slid open. At the floor, a maid politely sat legs folded seeking something. "Mistress Tsukiko, may I intrude?"
Tsukiko already had her skirt on, but felt a little awkward in mid-motion with her uniform. "W-What do you need?" It was less about the exposure for Tsukiko, though that bothered her as well. The thing that got to her was having servants waiting on her ever word. She never had anyone with her in her home other than Mitsuru and her Grandfather. Their new home was filled with servants whose only existence literally was to serve them.
"I'm told that all of the servants are recalled spirits that faithfully served the family before, but it's still unnerving. I can't do anything anymore."
The maid stood up, granted permission. It took Tsukiko a little bit longer, but she finally realized why the maid looked familiar. She was Mitsuru's maid that followed him everywhere and did everything for him. Tsukiko grinned a little thinking about all of the times she saw Mitsuru fleeing in embarrassment because the maid joined him for baths.
"I'm unable to wake up Master Mitsuru." She walked without a sound over to Tsukiko's bed. "He's missing from his bed." Her hand rested on a lump in the bed, that otherwise would have just been scrunched up blankets.
Yelping, Tsukiko jumped over to her bed and ripped off the blankets and sheets. The bed stripped bare, with its covers on the floor, Mitsuru slept curled up. Tsukiko raised her fist up shaking at the sight of him in her bed. She did not know how long he slept next to her, but it did not matter. "…mi-tsu-RU!" Unfortunately, yelling did nothing to awake up Mitsuru (probably because he's accustomed to her voice).
"It's been like this every day since we moved in."
The fact that Mitsuru did not even flinch at her only made Tsukiko angrier with him. Her hand developed an angry vein that grew large the tighter she squeezed her hand. "Mitsuru…we have our own rooms…yet you still…"
The maid placed her hand on Tsukiko's shoulder trying to calm her emotions. "Please, Mistress. Allow me to wake him. It is my duty." She did not wait long for an answer before moving into action. Climbing into the bed, she moved smoothly to lay down behind Mitsuru, still unaware. She pressed in touching her body to his back and leaned over to whisper in his ear. "…Master Mitsuru…"
Twitching and quickly turning red, Mitsuru looked uncomfortable as it started to drill through him. She finished him off by pressing in further with something very soft. Mitsuru jumped up out of the bed immediately realizing something was wrong (the maid was blessed more than Tsukiko in a certain area).
His maid redressed herself, acting completely unaffected by the whole thing as though it was a natural action. Tsukiko, however, disagreed already redirecting her emotions. "What do you think you're doing?! That's not what you should be doing to wake him up!"
"I'm only carrying out my duty. I've woken up my Master. Out of the six other varied attempts, this seems to have produced the best results."
"But that's not how you wake someone up! What do you think this is, a harem manga?!"
Still seated on the bed next to Mitsuru, the maid continued her back and forth with Tsukiko, though fully clothed. "Actually it is one last I checked. And considering this chapter is focused on you, this is probably going to be the only service the male fans get." She grinned a little looking back at Tsukiko.
Stuck in the middle, Mitsuru felt lost and very scared. "…sis… I-I didn't mean too again…"
She could not take it any longer with her bottled up emotions. "Get out of my room now! And take your perverted maid with you!"
"Can you really be saying that in your situation?" A finger pointed out the fact that Tsukiko had forgotten to put on her blouse in all of the confusion. She stood yelling at the two of them in only her bra and skirt.
Tsukiko's face immediately turned red. Blue flames erupted around her body to demonstrate her emotions. She shot up her voice again. "Out! NOW!"
Chapter 5 – The Hero of Justice
Rather than spending unnecessary pages further angering Tsukiko, the time was now the afternoon. School concluded only a short ten minutes prior and Tsukiko was nowhere to be seen. Mitsuru stood at the entrance of the school faithfully waiting for her. One should feel sad for him, however Tsukiko needed the pity more (at least she felt that way).
A quick replay of the day's events explained everything for Tsukiko's absence. After yelling at Mitsuru to leave, she dealt with another rowdy morning breakfast. Her annoyingly emotionless, yet oddly handsome, burden stuck to her side. He still insisted with empty words that they were destined. Tsukiko did not understand his motive, but wished that he would just remain quiet. She did not mind staring at his face, so long as he did not speak.
Passing the flickering whims of the female heart, Tsukiko's school life smoothed out. They carried their swords around in cloth sleeves and pretended to be part of the kendo club. Kiyome managed to get them signed up on paper, but incurred their attention. The kendo club insisted that they take part in practice. They chased her around the school on their free time.
Thus her current situation, which was that she needed room to herself. She did not even want to go home in her mood. All the new mansion did was make her uneasy and remind her that all of the problems started because of the swords. Wondering around the town felt like her only option. It made her sigh. "I'm sixteen now… Here I was hoping that I might actually be able to normal things like fall in love… Not even a single confession…"
"That's probably because they're scared of you. You're unnaturally tall, especially for a Japanese girl," commented the sword, not blocked by the cloth he rested inside.
A flaming aura lifted around Tsukiko. Her eyes turned slightly to the shoulder the hilt of the sword rested on. "I thought I told you to be quiet today."
"…yes, ma'am…" The sword turned a little blue at the sight of Tsukiko's fearsome presence. '…she's scarier than Hisako…'
"I can hear your thoughts." Her sword rattled a bit and finally turned completely silent. Dealing with her sword made her sigh again. "I get no peace." She only wanted one day free from all of the chaos. It had only been a little over a week since it all began and Tsukiko felt her sanity slipping away with each passing second. She did not know how long she could survive.
However, she wanted to forget about it all. That was the plan she had in mind anyway. Tsukiko stood on the corner of a small street, which amounted for the town's major thoroughfare. She knew the town was small, but she already felt her expectations of a long relaxing afternoon draining away. The sight did little for her confidence.
Tsukiko tightened up her fists and pumped herself up. She slapped her hands against her cheeks. "No more negative thoughts! I won't let anything get me down! I'm here to forget all of my troubles!" It might have sounded like overused words of empty meaning, but like any good classic, it worked. She already felt the self-assurance paying off (possibly just because she wanted it to work, rather than being genuine).
An improved mood worked through Tsukiko's body. She laughed a little with her hands resting on her hips. "This'll be great! I will go to a shop have a snack and relax! It'll be perfect! Nothing remotely bad will happen!" Tsukiko kept laughing thinking about how happy she was able to be with a calm normal day that any girl would want.
Unfortunately, fate did not like arrogance, even when she might have earned a little rest. A good reminder would be never say nothing can happen. Once again, like any good classic, it was an ill omen the moment Tsukiko opened her mouth.
They had quite amazing timing as well. She had only just finished speaking when something fell from the sky and crashed into the ground next to her. A dust cloud blanketed the area and swarmed around her feet. It made her take a step back uneasy about what might have killed her. Before any thought that Tsukiko's luck summoned to her a fallen god to her feet, destroy the idea. No such thing happened to her.
At her feet was something more mundane and troublesome. "Ouch, I almost didn't save it," commented a voice that disregarded any sort of effect of their action. While still unseen, going by the voice Tsukiko knew it was male and young. He had a rough wild sounding voice, but at the same time something soft and gentle about it.
She would have called out to help, but froze from her near miss situation. However, they did not seem to need her help as they stood up from the cloud masking them out. A cool wind swept through stirring Tsukiko back awake and focused on what stood in front of her.
Before her was a tall, though Tsukiko still surpassed him, teenage boy close to her in age. His eyes had a wild look to them, but the earnest grin on his face clashed with them. The dirt smudged across his face from the fall did little to ruin his rare features. If anything it only seemed to improve his looks, doing nothing to stain the glow about him.
Tsukiko caught herself a little stunned looking at him. Her mouth could do nothing, but her thoughts sped ahead of her. '…so beautiful…wait, what am I saying?! But he really is… No! I have to stop!' She stared longer at him in the spare seconds she had not realizing how long her gaze lingered. 'I guess hot guys really can fall from the sky…fall from the sky?'
Her mental facilities finally started functioning again and snapped her out of her trance. Yelling from above directed her eyes away from the boy. '…huh?'
"What do you think you're doing?! You broke my window and awning!" A middle-aged woman leaned out from a second story window with a frying pan in her hand waved around threateningly at the teenager. The window glass around her was shattered and a trail of destruction from a torn awning and some other debris left the storefront of home in chaos. Once she looked down to point at her awning, the sight made her snap with several veins popping up on her forehead. "Look what you did! How am I supposed to sell that! I'm coming down and you better still be there young man!"
The teenager suddenly looked a little blue in the face and started looking around the street. "I can't be caught!" He looked back around at Tsukiko and quickly checked her out. "Here!" His hands forcibly handed over something to her and then he ran off.
Convenient timing had the woman exiting her shop just as the boy disappeared between two buildings. She glanced around at the crowd still holding her frying pan. The sight of a stunned Tsukiko drew her attention. She leaned down still fuming from the incident. "Hey, you! Did you see where that hooligan ran off to?"
"Huh? I-I…" Tsukiko felt everything moving too fast for her. She only wanted a peaceful afternoon. Her words failed to come out.
The emotions began to bleed off the woman allowing her to see clearly. "Tsukiko? What are you doing here?"
Recognition and familiarity snapped Tsukiko back to reality. She realized who yelled her. "Mrs. Morioka! What just happened?" Hopefully, reality would be a little more normal.
"Nao was playing up in the attic and one of her toys fell from the window. It was on the roof still so I was going to have my husband get it later when things slowed down, but this young man just barges in claiming he heard my Nao crying. Before I could get him out of my home he's already on the roof! Can you believe that! Just barged into my home, at least he took his shoes off! And just jumps out knocking the toy off and goes after it! In the process his foot kicked in my window and destroyed my awning! How am I going to do business with the front in this shape!" Mrs. Morioka continued to ramble on about her frustration of her business and the crazy jumper that ruined her day.
Several minutes passed before Tsukiko felt she had an opening. She opened her hand remembering him hanging her something. In her palm, a small stuffed animal toy revealed itself. She could not help by sweat a little thinking about what he did for something so unnecessary. 'Even if it fell it would only get dirty and they could clean it up. Why did he even react like that?' However, Tsukiko felt that she should not dwell on it too much longer. Mrs. Morioka did not have an off switch, as she suddenly remembered.
Tsukiko lifted up her hand to Mrs. Morioka. "Was this Nao's?"
"Oh, yes it is! Thank you for recovering it, Tsukiko!"
Passing off the toy, Tsukiko worked her way out of the conversation. She bowed politely to the woman. "I should be going and let you get back to your store, Mrs. Morioka. Sorry for troubling you."
"It's fine! You're always welcome here." She already started to try to keep the chat going, but Tsukiko quickly escaped from her grasp. It left Mrs. Morioka the only option of watching her leave. A bit of a sigh escaped her lips. "I wish more of the young kids were as polite and well-mannered as her."
Tsukiko sighed as well once she felt she was far enough away from the woman. "Why can't I just have one peaceful day? Is that too much to ask?" She briskly walked into a different street on the hunt for a quick snack.
The nearest thing for her was a convenience store. It did not originally sound appealing, but she no longer cared. 'Anything's better so long as I can forget…' Unfortunately, Tsukiko did not even make it to the entrance of the store before something blew past her. She slapped her hands down to keep her skirt from flying up with the wind in the wake. 'What the…'
"Someone stop him! He's got my dog!"
Regretting it almost immediately, Tsukiko turned to look in the direction the blur went. Her face turned flat and aghast as she saw the same crazy person from only a few minutes ago. This time he had a dog clawing up his face. 'No! I just want peace!' She turned away and walked in the opposite direction only hearing faint words.
"Don't worry, miss! I've rescued him from the evil person!"
"That was my husband!"
'Peace…peace…' Tsukiko marched off trying to find a new place to go and get something to eat. A place where she had no interruptions. She found a nice little café, that was a little out of her norm, but looked quiet. At least, until he tried to help a shy waitress taking trash out. She ended up buried and the trash thrown everywhere.
Her next attempt faired the same as the previous. Every time she tried to escape him, he always managed to be doing something stupid near her. She could not go anyway without him appearing. 'I just want things to be quiet for two seconds!' Unfortunately, no one heard her pleas.
Shouting from down the street distracted everyone, even Tsukiko. She already knew what to expect as the teenager appeared. However, unlike other times, someone seemed to be chasing after him. He had a frightened expression as he tried to keep ahead of the angry man. Tsukiko sighed again watching him. "I'm going to regret this…"
'Look at someone's heart,' advised her Grandfather, recalled from her memories, 'Don't just see with what only your eyes can see. There is good to be found in even the darkest of souls, you just have to see it with your heart and not your eyes.'
'I know Grandfather and any other day it would have been the first thing, but I haven't had a rest from the crazy and unreasonable for days!'
Tsukiko turned a little blue jumping in her spot. She looked a little over her shoulder swearing that he was standing behind her. "I know!" Tears of pity for her situation poured down her cheeks. 'That's not fair to yell at me during a memory! Wait a minute, how can you even do that?!'
'I don't think that's something you need to be worrying about right now.'
"Huh?" Tsukiko looked up to see the fleeing teen almost on top of her without any signs of slowing down or change course. She let escape a yelp from her lips before her body acted on its own. As he came into range, she grabbed on to his clothes and pulled around to make him disappear in the alley between two storefronts.
It was fast and fluid enough that it looked like he just vanished from sight, something he already had a habit of doing. The man chasing after him ran past the two of them not even stopping to check the alley.
Tsukiko turned her head to the side making sure that the man was out of sight. She sighed deeply resting her head against the wall. 'That was close.' Her hand pressed up the wall relaxing slightly. However, the wall pushed back on her hand and then on her body. Then the wall was suddenly warm, alive. Tsukiko eyes shot open in panic knowing immediately the situation she found herself. In spite of knowing, she still turned her head back to check.
The young man she saved stood hardly a few centimeters away from her face. She never been so close to another young man that was not Mitsu. Her face quickly turned three shades of red. Every part of body froze. Her heart jumped unable to stop pounding. 'What am I doing?!' Tsukiko's eyes were so wide she thought that they might fall out. 'I need to move! But I can't!' Panic flew around her mind.
Finally catching up to the scene, the teenager looked up at Tsukiko a little. "Thanks, Miss. You saved me from the clutches of the forces of darkness."
Suddenly, Tsukiko felt everything from to a grinding halt. 'Forces of darkness? N-no-no-no-no…'
He grabbed Tsukiko by her arms to put a little more distance between. After he got some distance, he bowed his head for a couple of seconds. "I must apologize for not having recognized an ally of justice. I mistook you for a servant of evil, I'm sorry." He bowed with his body to complete his formal apology.
Tsukiko took a step back. She did not like the direction of where he was going. His apology made her awkward enough, but to hear the words from his mouth. She just kept repeating her chant in her mind. 'No-No-No-No…'
The crumbling handsome and charming of the young man continued fall apart as he spoke. "You did well to disguise yourself. Not even I could see that you were on the side of light!" He looked quite proud of the praise he bestowed upon Tsukiko. "You pretended to be a stalker following me, but at the right—" A right uppercut flew out of nowhere sending the teenager flying away into the clouds.
"I can't believe you thought I was a stalker! I'll have you know I'm a pure hearted girl!" Tsukiko panted heavily after she finished her attack.
Appearing from the sword sleeve, the spirit retorted, "You know you just stole someone else's signature move, right?"
"I don't care! It was necessary!"
A meteor fell next to Tsukiko kicking up dust and debris. Clouds coughed from the epicenter splashing the area in a thick white fog. It took several seconds for it all to clear. The young man appeared to have fallen back to earth. He also managed to land on his feet and not look anymore damaged for the travel. In fact, he actually looked excited. "That's amazing! You must be gifted with the fist of justice!" He reached out clasping both hands around her fist.
"Eh?!" She tried to jump back, but the alley only gave her so much space. The reaction she got from him knocked her off guard. His face leaned in beaming with excitement. 'T-too close!' Tsukiko felt her face turning red again. She fought with him to put some distance between them. However, she found him to be unusually strong, making it difficult for her to keep control on the situation. She resorted to her last chance. "Y-y-you're way too close!"
He suddenly backed up, giving her plenty of room. "Oh, sorry about that! It's the first time I met another ally of justice! So I got a little excited."
"That's alright," she answered, still a little confused. 'That actually worked?!' Everything moved too fast for her that Tsukiko still did not understand the situation. She tried to backpedal everything and slow things down. "So what were you trying to do?"
"I was helping the man that passed by."
"But why was he chasing you?"
The young man had to think about Tsukiko's question. He scratched his head and rubbed his chin covering most of the bases for thoughtful poses, while still not coming to a conclusion. However, that did not stop him from making a very dramatic pose when he figured it out. "I helped him grab his hat that blew away when a strong wind came by, however it seemed his hair flew off too when I went to grab his hat. So I went for his hair too. And in a strange bit of unfortunate luck, the bench he sat on broke knocking him into the air. So I caught him, but his newspaper went flying then. I went after that as well. After I collected everything for him put him on his feet again, I saw his dinner has fallen on the ground so I picked it up for him and gave him a thousand yen. I then departed, but he ran after me." He nodded in agreement to the events, which he rattled off almost faster than any girl ever could. "I'm sure he felt obligated to thank me, but I require no thanks for my work. I had to be off, there was no doubt other terrible evils afoul elsewhere in this town!"
Tsukiko could not manage a word in response to him. Her face froze in disbelief, unable to react. It turned her expression flat the longer it went until she felt two-dimensional.
She shook her head to snap herself back to reality. 'So he tried to help the man get the hat, but in the process knocked off the man's toupee along with his newspaper,' Tsukiko thought, deducing the actual events not seen through the strangely colored glasses of the teen. 'Likely, when he went to grab it all he stepped on his the bench breaking it launching the man into the air. Which ruined his dinner, set on the bench as well.' It all made sense to Tsukiko and made her feel bad for the man.
The answer sorted out, Tsukiko looked over at the teenager. She sighed a little with the full sight of him in view. 'Another hot guy with a personality that destroys his image…' Tsukiko knew that she was not exactly looking for love, but she still wished she could find someone that was not afraid of her. All the ones not afraid of her held worse flaws. 'Still, he's got his heart in the right place, even if he is accident prone…'
An angry voice from the street interrupted Tsukiko thoughts. She immediately knew who it had to be and looked back over at the young man. 'He's going to find us if we stay here!' Tsukiko started to panic a little. She poked her head into the street view trying to see how close he was to discovering them. 'I don't want another scene! I've got to get him out of here!' Tsukiko turned around and grabbed a hold of his arm. "We need to leave!"
He lingered a little on Tsukiko, finally picking up on the voice. "But I hear someone yelling. There could be trouble!" He started to pull back on Tsukiko trying to approach the street.
'No…don't!' Tsukiko struggled with his crazy strength dragging her along with her feet sliding along the ground. 'You'll just create another incident!' She closed her eyes hoping for something. She tried to think of anything to stop him. 'This guy's too set on helping people regardless of the reason!' Tsukiko plead for anything to happen, but an idea suddenly came to her. "Hey, there's a child over there in danger! We need to help him!"
"What?! A child in danger!" He spun around immediately, which his justice meter overwhelmed his previous urge. His eyes searched out the alley, but could not find it. "Where did you see the child? Did the force of darkness kidnap him already?"
Tsukiko sweated a little as she stared at him. 'He looks so serious, I feel bad tricking him like this. But it's for his own good.' She swallowed a little working up the energy to keep her lie going. Adding a little dramatic pointing, she threw out her arm down the alley. "I saw him over there! We need to hurry!"
Her face turned a little blue from her acting, but she charged off holding on to his hand. She had to keep him close. Tsukiko directed them out of the alley and ran through the streets a little getting themselves further away from the man. Once she felt they reached a safer distance, she started to act like she lost the trail. She turned her head back for a second to see how he was reacting. 'He's so trusting…' The look on his face was so worried and determined it bad Tsukiko feel worse about deceiving him.
The streets calmed down and they were out of danger. Tsukiko no longer needed her front. They were safe. 'I've got to end it now.' She swallowed slowly figuring out what to say. "Hey…listen, I'm so—" The teen was not paying attention to what she was saying. He still desperately looked for the child. Tsukiko felt her heart tense up. 'He's so honest and pure…I can't…'
Tsukiko pulled away from him putting some distance between them. She looked down the street trying to find her words. A few blocks away, she saw a police officer helping out a family. Tsukiko clapped her hands together to pray for forgiveness. "Hey! There's the kid! It looks like the police got them before us!"
He stretched out a little to look out where Tsukiko point. Everything in his face looked relieved at once. He relaxed a little standing next to Tsukiko. "I'm glad! Even if I couldn't help!"
"…yeah…" Tsukiko could not look at him. 'I'm sorry…'
Not missing a beat, he started to walk away. "If justice has been served here I must be off!"
"Hey, wait!" Tsukiko stretched out her hand for him, but stopped herself short. Her mind ran through the questions and guilt. 'I have to do something!' When he looked back at her, he had the wide-eyed look as though she had just found something for him. The sight of his face forced her to look away. "…say, I uh…sorry you…" Tsukiko kept stumbling over her words. 'What's the matter with me?! I just need to say it, but I can't look at that face…'
Unfortunately, Tsukiko's incomplete sentences made it difficult for him to understand her. He started to turn away again, but Tsukiko grabbed his arm impulsively.
She held her head down. "…I…you…I mean…" She still could not say it. "Do you want to get something to eat?!" Tsukiko's face jerked back and turned red all at the same time. The words caught up to her so fast. "I mean, as an apology. You know, since I stopped you…from being able to…help someone…"
He did not seem convinced with her offer. "I don't mind! As long as justice was served that's all that matters to me!" He gave her a proud pose.
Tsukiko felt herself starting to come unhinge around him. "P-please, I insist! My treat!" She ran around behind him and started to push him in the back.
"But there might be other people in need of help…"
"I can detect danger. It's fine for now." Her face went flat again at her mounting lies. 'Why am I doing all of this?'
"Good! Heroes need to take a break as well!" Tsukiko kept pushing him down the street. She found themselves a quiet shop away from all of the troubles. Their entrance attracted a lot of attention due to both being quite tall and Tsukiko dragging him around. It sent whispers through the restaurant.
After they made their orders, Tsukiko began to relax. She leaned a little back in her chair trying to collect herself. Unfortunately for her, it was also at that exact moment that she realized what she had done. Sweat poured down her face in panic. 'I just dragged a boy to a restaurant! What am I doing?!' Tsukiko dropped her head to the table putting her arms over top. Her thoughts screamed in her head preventing her from hearing the boy talking to her until it was too late. When she realized that he was talking to her, he was already only centimeters from her face staring at her in confusion. The sight made her face go completely red and jump back in a new form of panic. "What are you doing so close to me?!"
"Well you looked upset by something. So I thought you might have detect some evil in the area. You said you could pick up on danger."
"Huh?!" She already forgot about her lies. It took her moment to catch up to him. Tsukiko nodded roughly to him. In all of the excitement, she did not realize until she felt of the stares on her. Their little scene attracted the attention of the entire restaurant. It made her sweat and laugh nervously. She sat back down and pushed the teen back into his seat. "Right," Tsukiko redirected, "We haven't introduced ourselves yet. I don't know who you are and I suspect the author's tired of not saying your name as well. I'm Tsukiko Sakakibara."
"I'm terribly sorry! You're absolutely right! I'm Masanori Aida!"
"And you're a hero of justice?"
"That's right! I go wherever there is evil lurking! If there is darkness, I shall shine a—"
"Yes, I got that part already," she interrupted, motioning with her hand to dismiss his monologue. Something bothered her about his presence. 'Considering his recklessness I would have noticed him before.' She quickly put it together. "You're not from around here, are you?"
The young man (wanted to do one more time) shook his head, while appearing a little surprised. "Amazing! How did you know? I just arrived in this town today!"
Tsukiko turned away from Masanori having a little trouble with his naivety. "We would have noticed you in earlier chapters if you have been," she mumbled.
"Nothing! So how come you came to Mashita? I imagine there's evil to fight in your hometown."
Masanori suddenly became strangely quiet. He normally would have replied immediately to Tsukiko with an answer, but he hesitated. An oddly serious expression washed over his face before disappearing once more. He gave her smile acting as if nothing was wrong. "I felt an evil presence from this town! So I came to investigate the source! It seems I was right in coming! There's a great amount of evil at work here!"
The response he finally gave made Tsukiko sweat a little. She saw he took the answer a little too seriously. "You don't say…" Tsukiko wanted to get away from the current topic a little, to something more normal. "How old are you?"
"A year younger," she noted, "What about your parents. I imagine they're worried about you being here."
For a second time, Masanori expression darkened and turned serious. It looked even more grave than the last time. He did not seem to come out of it, unlike before. "I'm an orphan."
Tsukiko flailed her arms about panicking over her insensitive question. "I'm so sorry! I shouldn't have asked!" It became quiet quickly between them. An awkwardness spread at an infectious rate preventing new conversation from starting. Tsukiko wanted to say something, but did not know where to even begin. She thanked the waitress for saving them with their orders.
The food improved the atmosphere around them allowing Tsukiko to start some casual conversation. It felt like it was going better. He responded to her chatter and did not appear crazy. 'I can actually have a normal conversation with him. Like this, he's not too bad. He can be normal boy.'
Their meal eventually had to come to an end. It felt too abrupt for Tsukiko. One minute they were eating and talking, then the next their plates will empty. The waitress gave them their receipt and Tsukiko paid for the both of them. Masanori continued to protest with Tsukiko, but she won out.
They found themselves back outside. Tsukiko no longer minded walking with him a little more. She even smiled a little feeling better about her afternoon.
Masanori came to a stop abruptly. He looked over at Tsukiko. "I should be going. I've stood around too long."
It came from nowhere. Tsukiko knew it could not last, but she wanted it to go a little longer. "Yeah, I've taken up a lot of your time. Sorry for the trouble." She bowed to him, apologizing again for reasons he never knew.
He tried to dismiss her need with his hand. "No, that's fine! You did nothing wrong! I can't be everywhere saving everyone! I know that much…" Masanori trialed off at the end of his words, as though plague by something deeper. He refrained from saying anything more.
"That reminds me!" Tsukiko spoke, "I was wondering something for a while now. What made you decide to do this? Help people."
Her question made him a little distant, but he did not suffer from it for long. "It's just a calling. It was something I knew one day that I had to do!" Masanori clinched his fist to reinforce his resolve.
There was more hiding behind his answer, Tsukiko saw as much. However, she knew she could not pry so early. "Well then from one ally of justice to another, something my grandfather always told me. You can help someone to stand, but you can't help them walk."
"Huh?" He tilted his head in confusion. It was clear from outset that the advice went over his head.
Tsukiko sorted through her thoughts to find a way to explain it easier. She raised her finger with a lifted arm as she began her explanation. "It means that helping someone in need is good. However, you can't always being helping them or they will always rely on you. Sometimes people need to stumble a little to learn." It started to get through to him, but Tsukiko saw he still needed more. He did not understand why she told him the advice. "What I'm saying is be mindful of who you help and how you help them. You don't need to help someone through every small thing that happens. Wait for something important, when you're needed the most."
The gears turned in Masanori's head absorbing Tsukiko's advice. He looked up to her a little seeing her differently. "I see! Thank you very much! As your junior, I will take your advice to heart!" Masanori turned around and started to run off.
Tsukiko called out to him, "Masanori!" He turned his head back at her. "If you're unsure if they need help, just ask them!" Masanori nodded to her and ran off, quickly disappearing. 'Hopefully that'll reduce the chaos in town…' Tsukiko stared down the street still thinking about him, even though he already left. 'I hope I see him again…' She felt a strange beat in her heart that made her jump for a second. It snapped her back to reality. 'What am I saying!?' Tsukiko began her walk back to the bus stop.
"Still, he wasn't so bad to talk to. There was something fun about being with him. I don't understand it, but it was just a feeling. A feeling I had no words for."
The bus ride back into the forest came with the usual bumps and quiet company. She felt fortunate no one else was traveling. It gave her the peace of mind to think. Masanori remained on her mind long after he left. He troubled her mind. 'He's hiding something, something terrible I fear…' The incidents in town replayed for her. 'Something about him is strange, how could he fall a few floors without so much as even a scratch?' The more she thought seriously about him, the less she knew. A mysterious aura surrounded him covered up by his energy, justice-loving attitude. It was easy to miss with the pace he set. 'Just who is he?'
Tsukiko leaned to rest her head when the bus suddenly lurched. She did not have enough time to react before the bus jumped off the old road and slammed into a tree. The impact knocked Tsukiko to her feet on the floor of the bus.
"…Urgh…" she moaned, slowly recovering her senses. Another jump in the bus picked her up. Tsukiko looked around the bus trying to draw in her surroundings. The tree the bus crashed into warped the metal and torn into the side near the middle of the bus. What used to be bench seats a minute ago, where now torn pieces of leather and ancient metal crushed into the ceiling. "What happened?" The bus leapt once more nearly throwing Tsukiko into the seat in front of her.
Eminent danger rushed her priorities. She checked the front of the bus for the driver. The old man did not move or even try to call for help. "Hey, Mr. Kakinomoto!" Tsukiko stumbled around the bus try to make it to him while the bus tossed her about. "Old man! Can you hear me?" She climbed over the wreckage in the middle forcing herself to keep moving despite the uncertainty around her. "Mr. Kakinomoto!"
She reached the front of the bus and the driver was in sight. Her arm stretched out for him, nervous about his lack of movement. "Mr. Kakinomoto?" Tsukiko placed her hand on his shoulder causing him to shift sharply making her jump and yelp together. Once she calmed down, she saw his blank face and blood dripping down his forehead. 'He can't be! He's not…d-dead! Please no!' Tsukiko shook Mr. Kakinomoto trying to wake him, but nothing changed. Panic fought against her reason. 'He's got to be alive! Just unconscious! He's probably got a pulse still!' Tsukiko rushed to confirm it. Her heart screamed in her throat unwilling to settle down. The bus refused to stop shaking for her. 'Please…'
Suddenly, a rank odor issued forth through the open bus windows. It nearly suffocated Tsukiko with a mere breath. Her eyes widened immediately recognizing the smell. It made her heart sink deep into her stomach. 'An oni!' No sooner than she thought it, a roar tore through the forest ringing her ears. It was close enough to rattle the metal and leave it singing long after. Tsukiko closed her eyes finding herself praying. 'Please! Please—'
A light erupted from the bus destroying the glass. From the front windshield, a shadow streaked through the air just as the oni appeared crushing a tree in the process of walking.
Tsukiko found herself a safer distance away with Mr. Kakinomoto in her arms. She did not question her fortune and put the elderly man down. While placing him down, she was finally able to confirm a shallow pulse. 'I'm so glad! He's alive!' Tsukiko turned back towards the ominous odor pouring out from the oni. "I'll make you pay for this!" She charged towards the demon. Shouting at it, she drew its attention and split off from just before it slammed a massive club into the earth.
The wounded earth gave Tsukiko a little extra push in her step as she ran away from the oni. It slowly turned around and began to follow her, drawn by the attractive spiritual energy. Tsukiko tilted her head back to confirm the oni. 'Good, follow me!'
Leading the oni away from the crash site, Tsukiko drew it out into an empty part of the forest. She came upon a small clearing. It felt the right size for her. She slid around to come to a stop and waited for the oni to arrive. 'Come get me, monster!' Tsukiko reached out to pull the cloth wrap for her sword out from being slung over her shoulder. She quickly undid the tie at the top and drew down some of the cloth. The hilt of the sword appeared while she firmly held the cloth and sheath inside.
Tsukiko drew her foot back widening her stance. She pulled back the cloth and sheath to bare the sword under the moonless night sky. The katana came free as she tossed the unnecessary parts behind her. Just in time, the oni stormed through the break in the tree line. One tree was uprooted and tossed over Tsukiko, clearing her by a few meters. The force was enough to blow her hair around her. Tsukiko tried to steel herself before the behemoth. 'I already made my peace with this… Besides, this monster hurt Mr. Kakinomoto!' She clamped both hands down on the hilt and drew it over her shoulder preparing to strike, a little hesitation still lingering in her body. "One. Single. Strike."
The oni continued its reckless charge at Tsukiko with club up high. They both planned to bet everything on one attack. The next few seconds would decide everything. However, it did not play out as such.
A meteoric impact slammed into the oni knocking it down. The force sent its head and upper body digging into the earth chew up chunks of dirt. Clouds of smoke covered the area preventing any chance of seeing the cause.
It did not take Tsukiko long to figure it out as she heard them speak. "O' foul demon of darkness, your evil ways have gone on long enough. Only one with a wicked heart would dare to hurt an innocent life. It will be the light of justice that will burn away your sins! Repent now for I've come to smite you!" If the monologue was not hint enough, Tsukiko recognized Masanori's voice immediately. He carried the same deep booming voice that stretched far without end.
After hearing him finish his monologue, Tsukiko drooped a little in her stance with sweat dripping down. He was embarrassing enough to listen to when it was not serious, it only sounded worse with a real scene and danger on the line. 'That idiot! There's a limit how far you to take the defender of justice!' Tsukiko did not have much time as she saw a dark figure appearing through the clouds. She tightened her hold on the sword preparing for the oni.
Not completely defying her expectations, it was Masanori that stepped through. He strutted out making use of the cloud and destruction around him to add great flair to his entrance. Masanori began walking towards Tsukiko, but stopped suddenly pounding his fist into his palm. "Right! I forgot, she said I should ask if they want help first! Hey, young miss!" Ignoring the fact it was Tsukiko, he dug his hands into the pockets of his pants and stood before her managing to actually look surprisingly cool. "I'm the local hero of justice! I sensed danger and came to give you aid. Did you desire my help?"
Tsukiko did not know where to even begin with him. She stared at him slack jawed and bewildered by his complete lack of common sense or even a sense of danger. "I guess you do learn," she muttered, not even thinking. As a first response, it did little to change her mood or even the situation. What changed the situation was the oni breaking free from the earth. It roared once more, sounding angry. The oni charged towards the both of them. "Hey, Masanori! Get—"
"Know your place!" Masanori interrupted, following up with a back handed fist that sent the oni tumbling. He stretched out his hand to keep Tsukiko from speaking before turning around. Each motion continued to manage to strike the perfect pose for him to keep his cool stature. The oni seemed no more worse for wear from the last hit as it did from the first. When it stood back up wanting more Masanori withdrew some strips of paper from his robes. Masanori charged forward not wasting time.
Silence only remained in effect on Tsukiko for a couple of seconds before she started shouting. "You're no match for it! Masanori stop!" Unfortunately, her voice never reached him. A little bit of disbelief filled her watching him actually keeping pace with the oni and throwing about the papers in his hand, to no effect. She reaffirmed her hold on her sword and started to run before the male spirit interrupted her by appearing.
The spirit surfaced with only a hand and his head. "Wait, look at this." He pointed at one of the papers on the ground.
"What about it?" She reached down with her off hand to retrieve the paper. It looked a lot like the ones in Masanori hand. The closer she looked at it the more it seemed like a talisman her grandfather used. "There's something familiar about this, but strange as well."
Staring closely at the paper talisman, the spirit muttered a few things and then turned back to Tsukiko. "This is a sealing talisman or at least is meant to be one."
"Meant to be one?"
"There's a mistake." His hand point at the ink on the talisman. "See here, whoever created it got the incantation wrong on the talisman. This won't do anything."
Tsukiko expression turned to stone for a moment as she looked over at Masanori. "He probably saw it in some book or manga and imitated it. Figures…" She tucked away the useless talisman and charged after the two fighting. It was up to her.
The spirit hovered up next to Tsukiko's shoulder keeping her company. "This is not something he would likely find in a book. It is very close to the real thing. This talisman had a single purpose sealing a demon's power. Only demon hunters and priests would know how to create such a talisman."
She kept running to try to catch to Masanori and the oni. Their fight dragged deeper into the forest. A glance went over to the spirit as she responded to him. "So you're saying he's a demon hunter or a priest?"
"No, a real demon hunter or priest would never make a basic mistake like this, but he's likely descended from one. They would have the knowledge of how to create such a talisman."
"That fits him," Tsukiko said, with a smirk. She could see the two in the distance once more. 'I've got to end this before they wreck the whole forest!' The sword hummed in her hands, almost responding to her desire.
"Get down!" yelled the spirit.
"Eh?" Tsukiko looked up in time to see a shape coming at her. Her legs were already lowering, giving her the only reason she escaped. Whatever it was blew over her head whipping around her hair. Tsukiko turned back around skidding in the earth, as she did. "Masanori?!" she shouted, surprised to find him carving a path of destruction from his impact. She changed her objective immediately and went after him. "Masanori! Are you hurt?"
Coughing a little, Masanori emerged from the debris. He seemed largely unharmed, but bruised up from his fight. "I'm fine, young miss! The forces of darkness can't hurt me!" Masanori started to go into his monologue again, however a sharp strike from Tsukiko's hilt interrupted him.
"Enough with the speeches and brave front!" Tsukiko barked, though her voice shook a little as she berated him, "You can't beat it!"
Finally catching up to parts of reality, Masanori realized that Tsukiko was acting unusually familiar with him. "How do you know me? Have we met before, young miss?"
"I know it's night, but don't you recognize my voice?"
Masanori jumped back, reality fully rushed through his brain. "Tsukiko Sakakibara?! The ally of justice!"
"…yes…" she responded, a bit reluctant.
He reached out hugging Tsukiko firmly, ignoring his surroundings and the approaching oni. "So you detected the evil and came out too! Are you planning on helping me defeat this great evil?"
The imminent danger the oni presented forced Tsukiko to referring from everything she wanted to say to him. "Yes." The answer made her hurt deep inside, but she fought through it. "I have a plan, but I'll need you to distract it!"
"Right!" Without even questioning Tsukiko or even asking for the plan, Masanori jumped out in front. He side stepped a swing by the oni and charged in immediately on the counterattack.
Tsukiko felt a little relieved by his simplicity and trusting nature. She grinned a little watching Masanori.
Interrupting the moment, Tsuneo broke his silence. "What's your plan?"
"Cut it in two!"
A drop of sweat formed behind Tsuneo. "So no plan."
"I'm going to kill it. That is a plan!"
"It worked in the every time before."
"Then I'll grant you my spiritual energy."
"No! I don't want to turn into you again! I've had enough of that!"
"I can grant you a portion of my power. In smaller amounts it won't change your appearance."
Hesitation surfaced in Tsukiko. The image of Tsuneo in her mind came to her. She remembered the time at the school and the rumors caused by it. It made her shake her head to try to forget. However, the rampage of the oni and Masanori forced her hand. "You sure it won't?"
"It shouldn't, I think…" He disappeared from her shoulder with the sword already starting to glow.
"What?!" she yelped, already fearing for the worst. The glow from the sword expanded out to cover her hands and quickly her arms. 'Please. Please. Please.' It grew to surround her and a soft white light blanketed her figure.
In the distance, the oni started to turn the situation around on Masanori. His position worsened quickly, deepening the danger. Tsukiko clinched the sword tightly and leapt out of the light, suddenly feeling much lighter. She soared through the air wielding her sword, shining brightly in the dark night.
A flash of light and arc of destruction came next. Tsukiko landed away from the oni. The sheath materialized over the sword closing with a clear click of metal. She dropped her arms to her side, holding the sheath in one hand, finishing her motion. Behind her, the oni split in two from the shoulder down the chest in a diagonal motion. It quickly began to fade away to leave no proof of its existence behind.
"Amazing!" shouted Masanori, who managed not to be speechless, while still in awe of Tsukiko. He rushed over to her side to congratulate her. "You truly are an ally of justice! I shouldn't expect any less from my senior!" As he moved closer to her, Masanori got a better look of Tsukiko. She donned a heavy multi-layered kimono, several eras out of fashion, not that Masanori cared. "And you can even transform! You're a paragon of justice!"
Tsukiko sighed listening to his ramblings. The sound of his voice made her feel exhausted. 'Maybe I spoke too quickly about wanting to see him again…' She found the cloth protector to have traveled with the sheath. It made things simpler for her as she tied off her katana. The spiritual energy disappeared from her presence causing the kimono to particularize.
Masanori stretched out his hand towards her when she began to turn away. "Where are you going?"
"Home," she replied, she almost sounded defeated in spite of the victory.
"I'm pretty sure I heard him saying some other things, but I was too tired to listen. It felt like the last embers of hope were stamped out. I'm never going to find someone normal…"
To be continued…
"What's up with your heroine here?" Kichiro demanded, from the creator.
"What's wrong with Tsukiko?" asked the creator, they started pointing out her strong points in her defense, "She's strong and independent, maybe a little too quick anger and overly sensitive about being normal—"
"Hey!" protested Tsukiko.
"Exactly!" interjected Etsuko, "She's the wrong personality type!"
"Why are you against me?!" Tsukiko implored.
Hisoka stepped in with the answer. "Because you're breaking with the proper archetype for an otome or reverse harem story. Tsukiko's more suited for a typical shoujo romance story."
"Proper archetype?! Why you!"
"Exactly! The heroine has to be protected and saved by the hot men in her harem," added Kiyome. "The female readers must be able to see the handsome men in pain and with their shirts off!" She started to become a little lost by their fantasies, but returned to reality(?). "Masanori did not even so much as get a tear in his robes! I demand the male fan service!"
"Agreed, minus the fan service," backed Kichiro, "Give me female fan service though."
"But it's just his introduction, I gave you an attractive image and he looked cool."
"Hey, don't ignore me!" Tsukiko snapped, "I won't be made useless and whimpering!" The creator nodded in agreement. "Besides I'm not the only breaking type! Mitsu is useless and pathetic all the time!"
"…sis…" cried Mitsuru.
"Actually that's on type," corrected the creator, "The hero of a harem is generally useless and only good for cheering up the depressed romantic interests."
"…I have feelings too…"