CHAPTER 3 – THE KNIGHT'S SECRET
"I'm surprised you're actually here," said Hitoji Akemi, as she arrived at the Student Council room. The question was addressed to the person who had recently moved in on her house, and had helped her from two ominous occasions that still revolved around her mind.
"It's not like I can hide from you," groaned Rei Shin, as he sat on one of the room's benches. Beside him was Shuji, the black cat who stared at Akemi with piercing eyes.
No one beside them was inside the room, so Akemi took a deep breath. She stared at Shin, who was a bit uncomfortable there. She would like to get straight to the point, but she noticed something that made her blood boil.
"Shin-san, what is the cat doing here?!" demanded Akemi.
"You wanted to know the truth, right?"
Akemi nodded, but what does the truth have to do with the cat? The cat decided to answer the question himself.
"Ahem," said the cat. "But I recommend you not to, Akemi-san. It's not something you should concern yourself with."
"Wh-what the?!" said Akemi, utterly surprised. "D-did the cat just talk?"
"Yes, I do know the human speech," replied Shuji. "I was once human after all."
Shin sighed. "I knew this was a bad idea."
The cat faced him. "Well, I know you're bad at explaining things. Akemi-san might get the wrong idea and throw you out of the house, which is not what we want, do we?"
Again, Shin sighed, more heavily this time. Akemi gave him a questioning stare. "You still haven't answered my question," she sternly said, although there was an unmistakable tone of nervousness on your voice.
Shuji was about to say something, but Shin cut him short. "Shuji's my elder brother," he said, much to Akemi's surprise. "He didn't really die three months ago. Well, his human body was destroyed, so I guess he did die, after all. But he had Soul Transfer, so he's still alive, I guess."
Akemi gave out a look of confusion that Shuji gave out a sigh. "Really, Shin, leave the explanation part to me. You're just making things worse."
"But…" muttered Akemi. "What Shin-san said… is it true?"
The cat sadly nodded. "Yes, I am Rei Shuji, Shin's elder brother. And the ones who's supposed to be the Reaper."
"Let me ask you, Akemi-san," said Shuji seriously as his cat eyes looked straight at Akemi. "Do you believe in ghosts?"
"Ghosts?" repeated Akemi, as she shivered as a cold gust came in from the open window in the room. She closed it, noticing the orangey shade outside - dusk was coming in fast. "I guess I can't say I really thought they existed before, but now…"
Shuji nodded disconsolately. "Unfortunately, they do exist, as you might have surmised from what happened these past few days. I'm very sorry that you had to witness those things."
"Not at all," said Akemi, as she begins to calm down. Having a conversation with a cat was not as scary as she thought. Even, she's a lot more comfortable speaking to Shuji than to his younger brother. "I'd like to thank you, too. I guess you had saved me yesterday."
"Shin saved you, not me. It was due to his actions, nothing less."
Akemi looked at the boy listening on the conversation, who noticed her staring at him. She doesn't want to say it, but the words slipped out from her mouth. "Thank you, Shin-san…"
"You're welcome," replied Shin with a smile.
"But…" said Akemi, her mind in turmoil. "Why did Domou-san came after me?"
"I guess he had a strong connection to you," answered Shuji simply. "When people die, normally their Souls leave the Material Plane and move on to the Spiritual Plane, simply known as the afterlife. But some Souls left some strong ties in the Material Plane, chaining them from resting in peace."
"When they do," continued Shin, with a very serious look in his eyes that Akemi had never seen before. "They try to sever those ties, so that they can leave the chaotic existence they have here. That's when they become Disturbed. They get controlled over by their emotions and thoughts, and will continue to haunt those they seek until they get what they want." He paused for a moment. "Domou-san still has his eyes for you, so he wanted you to love him back, even though he's already dead. This thought clouded his mind, and so he tried to force himself to you."
"I…I see…" stated Akemi, feeling a pang of guilt. It was her fault that Ryu couldn't move on.
Shuji read the expressions on her face. "But don't worry, Akemi-san. Domou-san's on the Spiritual Plane now. A Reaper's duty is to send Disturbed Souls on their way, so that they can have eternal peace."
This was all too strange to take in, but Akemi understood. That's why, her next barrage of questions were a bit more personal. "So, is that why you accepted Dad's offer to come to this Academy? To clean the whole place of these Souls?"
Shin and Shuji were evasive; none of them wanted to answer the question. So, Akemi tried another track. "Does my father know about this whole Reaper business?"
"No, of course not!" yelled Shuji, and he covered his mouth with his paw. "I… I didn't mean to be loud. It's just that…" He looked so dejected that Akemi felt sorry for him. "He took care of Shin… During my memorial service, he offered to let Shin stay with him, even though we can't even remember who he is… I can never repay his kindness…"
Akemi didn't want them to know, but she was secretly relieved. The thought that her father know about all this horrified her more than what she was hearing this past few minutes.
Shin sighed as he watched his brother (and cat) feel sorry for himself. "Shuji, it's alright," he assured him. "I'm doing fine as it is."
"But I'm supposed to be the one who's hunting the Disturbed, not you…"
Akemi felt out of place in the scene. She felt that she was intruding on something she's not supposed to concern herself with. For the first time, she felt guilty for forcing the truth out of Shin (and Shuji, too).
Shin sighed once again, as he tried to calm his cat (and brother) down. "Look, there's nothing we can do about it. I'm part of the Rei family. Sooner or later, the job's going to be handed down to me. It's just that, it came a lot sooner than we thought."
Akemi caught hold of Shin's words. "So, this Reaper business had been going around for years?"
Shin nodded. "My father had been a Reaper during his time. And he said that his father was, too. And so was his grandfather." Akemi looked stunned. "Our family had been indentured by a Contract."
"We don't really know the details," admitted Shin. "All we know is that we need to capture any Disturbed Souls we can find. Or bad things will happen to us."
"What kind of bad things?"
Shin shrugged. "Honestly, I don't know. During the time that Shuji's a Reaper, he was very dedicated so nothing really happened to him. At least, before he died."
"My death had nothing to do with the Contract," said Shuji. "I'm one hundred percent sure about that."
"How…" muttered Akemi, finding her question odd. "How did you die?"
Shuji was about to answer his question, when they heard the unmistakable sound of a scream. A guy's scream. "Aaaaaaaaaarghhhhhhhhhhhhh!"
"What?!" yelled Akemi, as the three of them rushed out of the Student Council Room. Then, they heard another scream. This time, it was from a girl.
"It's coming from upstairs," said Shuji. "It's in the third floor, by the girl's restroom!"
"That restroom?" asked Shin.
Shuji nodded. "Damn," said Shin. He faced Akemi and told her, "Akemi-san, get out of here. Stay outside until Shuji and I come back."
"B-but!" Akemi's protests were drowned out by another scream. Shin and Shuji quickly ran to stairs, leaving her behind. However, she was not to be put off and followed them upstairs.
Akemi arrived on a strange scene. She watched as a milky-transparent ghost of a girl floated to close in on a pair of students – one male and another female. She saw Shin tensely standing near her.
"Shin-san!" she whispered.
Shin took a look and scowled. "What're you doing here?"
"Trying to help you!" said Akemi, speaking her mind straight out. She heard another scream as a ghostly hand homed in on the male student – a rather good-looking second year student with orange spiky hair and blue eyes.
Akemi gasped, but not Shin. As the boy's eyes turned red, he reached out his hand to his pockets and picked a golden key. To the girl's surprise, the key shone and a golden scythe suddenly replaced it on Shin's right hand. The student council president remembered the same weapon when the young Reaper fought the Disturbed soul of Domou Ryu, and she vividly remembered it piercing through the Disturbed's rotting flesh. It was a horrifying memory that Akemi tried to shake it out of her mind.
As Akemi was shaking terrible memories off her mind, Shin rushed to the ghostly girl that inhabited the nearby restroom. The ghost saw him coming and sent a strong gust of cold air towards him. He stopped as the gust hit him, it was like a strong current and the boy was having a hard time stepping forward.
Akemi watched as Shin flipped out the curved blade off the scythe, connected to the handle by a golden chain. He threw the blade towards the ghost, revolving through the strong gust like it wasn't even there. The blade shot past the girl's ghostly stomach and it collided with the wall, where it got stuck.
The girl looked idly at the chain passing through her stomach. Shin looked surprised; his weapon didn't affect his target at all. With a very loud shriek, the ghost sent more gusts of wind at Shin, blowing him away and had him tumbling as he collided with Akemi.
Akemi and Shin lied winded on the floor as the ghost once again disappeared in a mist of gray clouds. As the boy sat down, his weapon disappearing as his eyes turned back to its original color, Akemi rushed to the two students that were attacked by the ghastly girl.
"Are you guys alright?" she asked.
The two students had their eyes closed and were surprised to see the Student Council President kneeling near them. "Wh-what?" asked the female student, who had short shoulder-length brown hair and blue eyes.
Akemi noticed with relief that they didn't see Shin swinging blades around. "I saw you two lying here," she lied. "Are you both okay?"
"Lying…?" said the male student nervously. "But we were attacked… by a ghost!"
"A ghost?" asked Akemi, faking a surprised expression. "I didn't see any ghost."
The girl was less spooked than her pal. "She's right, Gou-kun," she said, as she looked around. "It must just be our imagination…"
"I… I guess…" said the boy, Gou flatly.
Akemi helped the girl stand so Shin went to assist the guy student. They both looked scared but the council president was suspicious. "Anyway, what are you two doing here? Aren't you two supposed to be home by now?"
Both students jumped guiltily. But they did not answer. "Well," said Akemi, tapping one of her feet. "Any one of you up for an explanation?"
"Errr…" was their response.
"Umm, Akemi-san…" said Shin. Akemi instantly put her sights on him. "Shouldn't you let them go home first?"
Akemi glared at Shin, but the boy was right. The two students looked very exhausted and in need of some human company, aside from the glowering her. She sighed and mumbled rather reluctantly, "Okay, you two can go…"
The two students bowed and left quietly. Akemi and Shin watched her go when suddenly something dropped from the ceiling. Akemi almost screamed, when she found out what – who – it was. "Shuji!" she heard Shin say.
"I couldn't find her inside," said the cat. "It seems she disappeared again…"
Akemi breathed in to get the spooked feeling of surprise – the cat just appeared from nowhere. After taking a few breaths, she found herself asking, "Why didn't it work…?"
Both boy and cat stared blankly at her. "Your um… weapon…" explained Akemi, gazing at Shin. "Why didn't it work? It worked on Domou-san, right?"
"Oh…" quipped Shin. "That's because Domou-san's Soul was a Material one. That ghost I'm fighting a while ago was an Astral."
Akemi looked confused so Shuji took the initiative to explain. "There are two forms a Disturbed may appear. One is a Material, in the sense that it still has a solid form. Materials usually appear when the Disturbed are chained by materialistic desires, like wealth or lust." He paused to scratch his fur with a paw, more like a dog than a cat. "The Astrals, on the other hand, take no definite form whatsoever. Their merely gaseous spirits floating around and are the most difficult ones to apprehend. Unlike Materials, Astrals are chained by that Soul's own will, like unfinished businesses or messages for the Living."
Akemi nodded, as she got the gist of it. "So Shin-san's weapon doesn't work on Astrals?"
"My weapon's named the Golden Moon," said Shin a little severely. "You should call him by his name."
Looking annoyed, Akemi was about to say that it doesn't matter much, but Shuji interrupted her. "It's sort of a courtesy for Reapers, Akemi-san," he reasoned out, glad that had made it in time before the girl says anything that might lead to an argument with his younger brother. "Our weapons are like our partners."
Akemi didn't utter another word but she looked really exasperated. She decided to get on with Reaper courtesy. "So, as I was saying, the um… Golden Moon doesn't work on Astrals?"
"Not without learning the Astral's will," replied Shin, lapsing back to his usual carefree self. "I can only help that ghost of a girl if I know what's keeping her here."
Shuji nodded. "We need to investigate."
"Sheesh…" said Shin, sighing heavily. "I hate detective work…"
"That is no way to behave, Shin!"
Akemi thought above the argument that was erupting between Shin and his brother-slash-cat. She knew what to say, it had been digging on her mind ever since she saw the ghost. "That ghost… I think I know her…"
It cut the two boy's argument. "Eh?!" they chorused in unison.
"From the moment I saw it – her…" said the girl. "I recognized her… She was Akizawa Karin…"
"Akizawa Karin…" repeated Shuji. "Do you know anything about her?"
Akemi nodded. "Come to my room tonight," she told them. "I'll explain there."
Later that night, Akemi opened her bedroom's door after she heard a faint knocking from the other side. Shin and Shuji waited outside and then, entered the girl's immaculate room.
"Wow," said Shin, under his breath. "You've got a nice room, Akemi-san."
Akemi ignored his comment as she sat on a comfortable chair near her desk. The desk had a computer on it, along with some of her things in school. Shin and Shuji sat on her rather comfortable carpet.
Shuji coughed while he once again scratched his fur. "So, Akemi-san, you were about to say what you know about Akizawa Karin."
"Karin-chan…" said Akemi, a little sadly. "Was a friend of mine back in middle school."
Both Shin and Shuji's eyes lit up, but both did not dare say anything. Akemi continued on. "We took the entrance exams for the high school division of Hitoji Academy, but sadly, she didn't pass…"
The two boys waited for Akemi to continue, but she grew eerily silent. "And…?" prompted the cat.
"She…" said Akemi as she trembled slightly. "She… killed herself…"
Both boys looked surprised, and then guilty. "I'm sorry, Akemi-san…" said Shuji apologetically.
"No, it's okay," stated Akemi as she shook her head to pull the feeling of regret and sorrow out of her system. "I just want Karin-chan to be in peace…"
Shuji nodded. "But you're not entirely sure that it was the real reason why she committed suicide, right, Akemi-san?"
Both Akemi and Shin looked at the black cat in surprise, especially the girl. "How – how did you know?" she asked.
"Just a guess," said Shuji evasively. "You just didn't sound confident, that is…"
Akemi nodded and Shin spoke for the first time that evening. "So… you think it's not about failing the entrance exam?"
"Most thought it was the exam…" admitted Akemi. "But I don't believe it. Karin-chan was a person who never gave up on her dreams. Failing to be admitted to the Hitoji Academy isn't going to stop her from fulfilling them. I know her better than anyone else, so I'm sure it's not about the exam."
"Then, what do you think it is?" asked Shin impatiently.
"If I knew, then we wouldn't be here talking about it, would we?" Akemi told him annoyingly.
"You don't have to be so stingy about it," retorted Shin. The two promptly glared at each other.
Shuji processed this information, amidst the tension between Shin and Akemi. "Did she kill herself right after failing the exam?"
Akemi took her angry eyes off Shin. "No," she answered. "It was three months after the opening of our first year in high school."
"Perhaps," said Shuji. "If we investigate on the school, we might get a clue…"
"But she failed the exam, didn't she?" Shin pointed out.
"Shuji-kun meant the school she went into after failing the exam," Akemi told the clueless boy with a glare. She then gazed at the cat and said, "Karin-chan went to Miguro High School."
"Miguro High School…"
"It's on the next town from here…" Akemi told them.
Shuji nodded. "Then, we should go there to investigate, Shin."
"Okay!" said Shin cheerfully as he stood up.
"I'm coming with you," said Akemi without a second's doubt.
"No, you won't," Shin promptly told her. He stood up from the carpet.
Not for the first time that evening, Akemi glowered at him. "It's not for you to decide whether I go or not."
"This isn't your business!" yelled Shin, obviously out of patience.
"It is, now!" Akemi told him, standing up to face Shin. "Karin-chan is an important friend of mine and I want her to move on peacefully!"
As if in a cue, the door suddenly flung open and Akane appeared. "Hey, nee-chan, could you…"
Both Akemi and Shin stared at her. Akane stared back at them. She then let out a short gasp and said teasingly, "What's this… a lovers' quarrel?"
"Stay out of this!" Akemi and Shin yelled in harmony. They then glared back at each other.
"O-kay…" said Akane, as she promptly closed the door and left. The staring contest resumed but Shin shook his head after a while.
"I know that it's really important to you…" said Shin in a voice of a less argumentative tone. "But this is dangerous work, Akemi-san… You could get hurt or worse…"
"Shin's right, Akemi-san," agreed Shuji. "It is better you let Shin do his work alone. It is not fair for you to get mixed in with our troubles."
"But –" Akemi was about to say something when the door flung open again. "What do you want, Akane?!"
"Oh," said Sakura in surprise, bringing a tray. She was bringing a teapot, four tea cups and some biscuits. She took stock as she looked at Akemi and Shin's agitated faces. "Um, did I bring in the tea at a bad time?"
Akemi sighed heavily. "No, you didn't," she said. She looked at Shin gravely and said, "We'll continue this in the morning."
Shin nodded and he and his cat went past Sakura, who was as tall as him. The young maid entered the room and settled the tray on Akemi's desk. Akemi closed the door.
"Is something wrong, Akemi-sama?" asked Sakura.
"Not really," replied Akemi as she sat back on her comfy seat near the desk.
Sakura turned to go. "Do you need something else, Akemi-sama?"
"No, thank you, Sakura-san." The maid bowed and then walked towards the door. She had just turned the doorknob and opened the door when Akemi half-heartedly called. "Um, Sakura-san…?"
Sakura looked back. "Yes, Akemi-sama?"
"There is one thing…" said Akemi as she shifted uncomfortably.
The next morning, Shin snored under his blankets on his bed. Without a warning, he felt his blankets being pulled out and shoved up, and he promptly fell head-first unto the floor. "Ouch!"
"Wakey-wakey, Shin-san," said Akemi in a steely voice.
"Wh-what the?!" said Shin, nursing his bruised nose, standing up and stepping on Shuji's tail.
"Meaurrrgggghhhhhhhhhhh!" screeched Shuji, as he scratched Shin's foot. Though human in soul, he was still cat in substance and like all felines, did not take kindly in having his tail stepped on.
"Ow ow ow!" said Shin, as he now nursed his foot.
"Glad that we're all wide awake now," declared Akemi as she saw Shuji nursing his tail, not unlike his younger brother. The student council president was wearing a bright blue blouse, black jeans and a pair of comfortable dark-colored sandals with one-inch heels. Her blonde hair was fashioned in a ponytail by a pink ribbon.
Shin yawned drowsily. "What's with the early wake-up call? We don't have classes today, right?"
"Right," agreed Akemi. "But we're going to Miguro High School today."
Shin sighed. "Akemi-san, I told you-"
"Here." Akemi threw something at Shin, interrupting the boy. She watched with amusement as the boy took what looked like a girl's pink blouse and a blue skirt.
"Wh-what the heck is this?" asked Shin incredulously.
"I forgot to tell you," said Akemi with a mischievous smile. "But Miguro High is an all girls' school…"
"Oh, I see." Shin nodded before the horrible fact dawned on him.
Some birds perching outside Shin's room's window flew in surprise when a loud yell echoed from inside. "Whaaaaaat?!"
To be continued
Author's Note: This is it, Chapter 3! Sorry for the late update guys, I had my hands full in overhauling and redesigning Ayaka Salamanca. It's done now, so you can check it out if you want. As for this chapter, Shin's secret job is revealed! And his first case is underway. The next chapter would be Shin and Akemi's investigation in Miguro High School to know why Akemi's old friend Akizawa Karin killed herself. Yup, the story would delve on mysteries to keep those sharp minds going. Shin isn't as sharp as we thought, though. As for old me, I have a week of examinations looming, so I won't be able to post the next update until the next week. Anyway, Happy Valentines in advance! And oh, please put up a review! Thanks.