Chapter 6 – Complications

Finally, the weekends! The week has been long; exceptionally long, in fact. I rolled around my bed refusing to get up, and lulled back to sleep. It's good to be able to laze about your bed without worrying about being late for school. But after a while, my sleepiness left and I grumbled out of bed.

"Goodness Rei. You really enjoyed your sleep didn't you?"

"Morning mom. Any breakfast today?"

"More like lunch. It's late already! I'll be cooking soon. So in the meantime, could you turn on the TV? I'd like to hear the news."

I dragged my feet to the small TV set by the dining area and cranked the volume up. The, trademark jingle which signals the daily news broadcast started playing. I reached for my favorite breakfast cereal and poured it out, eating it dry. Lunch may be near. But right now, I'm hungry and that's all that really mattered. Without any other form of entertainment and due to the fact that I was just plain lazy to walk to the living room, I installed myself on one of the chairs and started watching the news.

"…lovely Saturday morning in this little town today…"

"Sigh, the news is really boring…"

I crunched away at my cereal, eyes half opened as the regular news reporter's voice buzzed in my ears. My mind was obviously still asleep since I didn't catch a single word said.

"…Also, we have breaking news to report. Over the past week, the police have found several bodies of unconscious people all around the town. While some of them seemed relatively unharmed, there are also those with numerous bruises and cuts on their bodies. These people are currently under observation and receiving treatment in the local hospital. Not much is known about what caused this sudden series of unconscious individuals. While doctors have yet to affirm whether this is a virus outbreak, there is also the possibility of these series of events being the work of a serial attacker. Citizens are advised to exercise caution especially when out at night. The police will be looking into the matter and so, if anyone has any information, please head down to the local precinct or give them a call. Meanwhile, in the weather report for the day…"

"Oh…My…God…"

My mouth was opened loosely as I stared blankly at the television screen and I could feel my heart pumping faster than it should. Those unconscious people had to be the work of us Reapers! And now that the police are involved and investigating, there is a possibility of them tracing the perpetrators to us!

"Oh dear, how terrible! Rei, you've been coming home late a lot more frequently so I want you to be very careful."

"Ummm, right! Uhh, don't worry!"

"Oh if your dad saw this, I wonder how he'd feel about you coming home late all the time."

"C'mon mom! It's not all the time so don't tell him about it! And wow, did he leave home early again?"

"Yes he did. Though I think he'll be back for dinner."

"Oh, alright. I'll be heading to do some of my school work first then."

I scooped up my bowl of dry cereal and quickly made my way back up to my room. Too many things were happening all at once and I have no idea how I'm supposed to cope with them all! After putting down my bowl, I immediately started punching numbers into my phone. I had to inform Jake fast. However, after clicking the dial button, I groaned slightly in partial frustration.

"Damn! Today's a Saturday! Jake is probably at his part-time job working! He'll probably not answer his phone…"

Many students our age hold part-time jobs even while studying. That meant going down to work the afternoon or night shift after school. After all, we can't completely rely on our allowance to buy all that we need to. I have a job too but I'm glad it doesn't eat up my weekends. Jake isn't as lucky. He works at a downtown gas station, which is a bus ride from our school, and he's down for work twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays. As for me, I work twice a week at a cake counter but my working days fall on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Pretty lucky, if you ask me.

Just as I was about to give up and hang the phone, Jake answered.

"Rei! I thought I told you I can't be answering calls at work!"

Jake was hissing through the phone. His tone, hushed.

"God, I'm sorry! I totally forgot! I have something important to tell you!"

"What is it? Did a Shadow attack? Do I need to rush down or something?"

Jake's voice was steadily increasing in volume. The amount of anxiety in his voice made me realize that he, risking a scolding from his boss to answer my call, was worried that I might be in danger ever since this whole Shadow business started. While that thought was a comforting one, I know that I should be able to handle things on my own too and I shouldn't be worrying him too much.

"The news! They just reported a series of unconscious people being sent to the hospital! And it's probably because of us Reapers!"

"What? (Jake, where are you? We're busy here! Hey!) Oh crap! I'll go over to your place once I'm done with work in a bit! Bye!"

I threw my phone to my bed and gave a nervous sigh. Things were spiraling into a far more complicated situation. Fast. Grimoire's words of what we as Reapers were supposed to do. Jake's refusal to do as Grimoire had mentioned. The latest news report this morning, as well as images and scenes of our recent battles with these Shadows. They made up a swirling mass that was pushing against the walls of my mind. I flopped back on my bed and allowed my thoughts to consume my mind. What are we supposed to do now, huh?

The two hours before Jake reached my house came and went by quickly. Time flies the fastest on weekends. It always does. In the span of those two hours though, I made a sloppy attempt to finish up some school work, had lunch with mom and spent the rest of my time catching up with the week's manga updates. I confess, I am no star student. Neither do I really intend to be one so we'll just leave it at that.

"Oh hello, Jake! Here to find Rei?"

I heard my mom's voice trail from downstairs. Jake really did rush over! It has only been about fifteen minutes since his shift ended. I quickly made my way downstairs.

"Wow, you're early."

"Hey, so what's up?"

"C'mon!"

I waved and beckoned him to my room. He made a short polite bow to my mom before heading over. Once I closed to the door, his face turned grave.

"So what's the situation now?"

"The police may be involved in this whole Shadow matter now!"

"What? Okay, tell me about this report from the top."

After an explanation of what exactly was reported, Jake continued looking to the ground with a frown. His brow was creased as thoughts were probably running through his mind. I stared at him earnestly, hoping that he would have an idea as to what we ought to do next. After all, it would be terrible if the police manages to trace us down and arrest us for acts of violence; as unintentional as they may be. Also, no one in their right mind would even believe us if we were to tell them of these Shadows! They'd think we're some crazy high school students who are just fooling around!

"The most important thing we have to do is to not get caught by the police. It would be hard to get out of that bind."

"I know that already Jake. The problem is how? Police investigations will probably mean tighter patrol systems!"

"Tsk, this is troublesome! What if we get attacked again then?"

"Exactly! That's where the problem starts! Oh my brain hurts! Why do we need to worry about so much nonsense! Damn this Shadow business is really nothing but trouble!"

"What did I tell you before Rei?"

I cast a scowl at Jake. He simply returned a smirk and walked to the windows.

"No matter, it's not like we can turn back the clock nor throw these powers away. Whether we like it or not…We're gonna be forced to play this game."

"I guess we need to be careful to not leave any trails if we get into a fight again."

"Easier said than done but, yeah. We have to."

In my mind, I was trying to source for other solutions when suddenly, Grimoire's face popped up in my head.

"That's right! Grimoire! He might have an idea."

But of course, it would be foolish of me to bring this up in front of Jake; Grimoire's greatest nemesis, or so it seems. I would have to find a way to talk to Grimoire without letting Jake know. Who knows how many fuses I'd blow if he found out? I, for one, definitely would not like to find out.

"Well then, I guess we're just gonna have to be more careful. Wanted you to know this because I thought it was pretty important."

Jake turned round and nodded in response; the serious look in his eyes still there.

"What're you planning to do today, Jake?"

"Huh, well, I dunno. I doubt I'm in the mood to study even though finals are so near…"

"Are you kidding me? Your finals start this Monday right?"

"Yeah, it does."

"Well you're gonna be going home to study now! We can't have you doing badly for your major exams!"

"Says the girl who hates studying."

"Well we're talking about you now, not me! So go! Shoo!"

"Okay, okay. I'll be heading home then. What about you Rei?"

"Umm, well, it's a Saturday, so I might do some schoolwork or read my manga…I dunno, slack a little?"

"Yeah, yeah. Slack all you want you lazy bum."

I pushed Jake out of my room. While it was true that he needed to study, I needed him to go off so that I could head out to find and ask Grimoire for some help. Not the best person to ask for advice but given the situation we're in, I really can't imagine asking anyone else.

"Okay, I'll be going then. If anything's up, call me."

Jake looked me dead in the eye probably to emphasise the gravity of the matter. I nodded and waved him goodbye.

"Yeah don't worry too much, you worrywart! I can handle things myself too, y'know!"

As soon as Jake left, I returned to my room, grabbed my cellphone and opened the mail inbox. I made an inward sigh as I saw Grimoire's name tagged on a bunch of messages that he had sent. The contents were random gibberish, exploding with an assortment of emoticons. For a guy his age, one would expect him to behave in a more matured manner rather than like a little kid who just received a new phone. My finger hovered over his name (I had actually used his 'real' name in my contacts). Eyes narrowed, I shakily pressed on his name and called.

"…Hello! Ah! Is that Rei-chan? What a pleasant surprise!"

"G-Grimoire…I hadn't hoped to call you at all…"

I could hear my voice trailing off at the sound of his nauseatingly, enthusiastic voice. I sighed again. I've been sighing too much these days but then again, who can really blame me, right?

"What did you say?"

"No, no. Nothing. Uhh, I do need to ask you something though…"

"Huh? Wait, let me guess. The news report right? Hee hee, I'm such a genius, really."

"Yeah, no kidding huh."

I muttered a sheepish reply. Grimoire simply laughed at how predictable a person I was.

"Well, honestly I don't know what you should— No, what we should do as Reapers."

"Seriously? Damn, so I wasted my time and money calling you."

"Aww, don't say that, Rei-chan! You hurt me~"

"Shut up. Really"

It was painful talking to Grimoire; extremely painful for me. I feel like just punching him in the face whenever he calls me 'Rei-chan'. I'm starting to see why Jake would hate him; even though it's for completely different reasons.

"Well but since you actually called me up, you must be pretty worried about it!"

"Aren't you?"

"Me? Nah, not really. I won't get caught."

Grimoire's tone held absolute confidence that he would never get caught. Even though he, too, was a Reaper, he doesn't seem the least worried about the sudden turn of events.

"Huh? Why?"

"I'm strong enough to never get caught that's why. Unlike a bunch of bumbling idiots I know~"

"Who're you calling idiots?"

"Hahaha! Calm down, Rei-chan! Well, that aside, let's meet up! We could work something out face to face, y'know?"

"Nope, not interested. Sorry. Thanks for the limited advice. Bye."

"Wait! Wait! I'm serious about working something out for you!"

"Really? But didn't you say you weren't worried?"

"That's for me. But not for you and Jake right? Well then, I'll meet you downtown at the Fuwa Fuwa Café!"

"W-what? Hey! How'd you decide that we're meeting?"

"Oh, you don't need help then? Well, I guess that's fine by me too…"

My voice suddenly surged in volume as I blurted out a desperate reply to Grimoire's little 'threat'.

"No! I'll be there in half an hour."

"Yay! Okay! See ya, Rei-chan~"

With that, he hung up the phone. My hand was twitching from the exorbitant amount of annoyance that had built up over the course of a two minute phone call. Grimoire knew how to get what he wanted and I don't know how to refuse him. And this annoys me to no end. However, if anyone were to work something out for this situation, I'd say Grimoire would be my best bet. So for now, I guess I don't have much of a choice but to meet him. Without getting spotted by Jake.

"I really shouldn't have resorted to asking him of all people…"

Frowning to myself, I continued grumbling as I walked in the opposite direction from Jake's house, towards the downtown area.

"But I really hope he'd have some idea as to what we should be doing."

I was quickly absorbed into my own thoughts and became relatively oblivious to my surroundings, keeping my head facing down most of the time. I didn't realize that someone was walking straight towards me until we crashed into each other.

"Waah!"

"Oof!"

The sound of something falling to the ground rang and my eyes darted to the stranger I had collided with. A short-haired girl who looked to be my age reached her hand towards the set of headphones that had fallen to the ground. Her eyes remained locked on her headphones as she dusted it a little. I made a quick downward glance and saw that the black flame was etched on her chest and relaxed a little.

"Sorry! But man, don't you look in front of you?"

"…Aren't you the same?"

Her direct, unapologetic words stung; especially since they were true.

"…This town's filled with noise. This world is too noisy, isn't it? Redundant chatters and noise hurts my ears…"

With that, the girl fitted her headphones back over her ears before walking off. I'm guessing she was talking to me. But then again, she could simply be musing to herself. Subconsciously, her face remained etched in my mind as her words ran through my mind.

"Noisy? But isn't she listening to her headphones? Strange person…"