It was only early autumn and already leaves covered her walkway, the teenager noted with annoyance. That meant that sweeping the front walk of the temple where she lived was on the agenda. Probably before her father would let her pick up her bow for practice too. The sixteen year old girl sighed a bit, clearly a little irritated. She was grumbling internally as she walked into her room, already dreading the chore. Why did she always have to sweep anyway? No one came to this temple, they didn't run any services. Only her uncle was allowed up there, and he never seemed to care about the state of the walkway. Besides which, it was outside. Wasn't there supposed to be dirt and leaves outside? She kept grumbling a bit as she lay her school bag on her bed and thought about changing out of her uniform. She decided against it, it was dirty anyway so what was a little more dirt? Ruefully she looked down at the stained fabric, then again if her father saw the state she was in, she'd have to explain about the bullying. She didn't want to open that particular subject yet. Possibly not ever. She sighed again, a little mournfully, and headed back outside. He'd notice sooner or later anyway, she never managed to hide anything from him.
Outside, the weather was kind of pleasant. The slight breeze only ruffled her skirt and brunette pigtails slightly, and it wasn't as stifling as it had been just a few days ago. She hummed a bit as she cleaned up the crunchy leaves, sweeping them all off to one side of the long walkway. Her mind wandered, as it often did, to how she and her father came to live in such a strange home. He never mentioned it, and always mumbled something about a barrier whenever she brought it up. What kind of temple was it anyway? Was living in a temple even allowed? Didn't you have to be a priest of priestess or something? As far as she knew her father was not one, nor was she. Maybe she'd try asking again during dinner. She shook her head, thinking that her father was way too mysterious, and concentrated on her yard work.
She was just finishing up when the first...thing shambled up the last step in front of temple and into her line of vision. It looked human, but its movements were all wrong. It moved stiffly and jerkily, shuffling it's feet with its torso seeming to move separately. Cloudy eyes rolled wildly in wide sockets and its skin was a sickly sallow color. It reminded her of a zombie, but it didn't seem to be decaying. Still, it was unnerving to look at for too long. Regardless, she held up her broom in a defensive position as another one crested the stairs. She thought about using the broom as a weapon, but honestly, what good would it do? Green eyes darted to the front door of the temple and she wondered how many would be out in her yard by the time she got back. Deciding that she needed a decent weapon, one that she was actually good with, she took off running, screaming for her father the entire time.
She knew exactly where the two special weapons were kept. Had polished the silver bow on several occasions, though she was never allowed to actually use it. She knew it was hers, just as the golden staff was meant for the one who shared her destiny. She figured her father would forgive her for using the beautiful bow in the face of what was surely becoming a horde outside. For a second she just looked at the weapon. Pure silver with dark amethysts, it was actually incredibly light and always felt so perfect in her hands. She had some basic instruction on how it worked, that it didn't use arrows but mana, and supposed now was a good time to figure out if that meant her own store of mana or if the bow had its own store. She picked it up gently, amazed at how right it felt in her hands, and ran back outside.
By that time there were at least twenty of the creepy things shuffling around the front yard and as soon as she came into view they all turned as one and began lumbering towards her. The girl gulped, wondering where her father was, and lifted the bow. She drew back the string, and almost dropped it when a shaft of purple light formed in the proper place for an arrow. She recovered quickly, however, and let the shaft fly. Her target was the head of the nearest creature and her shot hit it, but it didn't slow the thing down for more than a moment or two. Desperately she fired another one, and experienced the same result. She began backing away, still firing arrow after arrow, and not making any headway. She was struggling not to panic, eyes darting around for some sign of a weak point, when she noticed something strange about one of the creatures. There seemed to be a shadow that clung to it, almost hanging off its back like a monkey. Not all of them had this, but a fair amount did. Suddenly she was reminded of something her uncle was always telling her.
"If you can't see the unseen, you'll never fulfill your destiny, Yuu-chan."
Yuu wondered if the shadows were one of the things he meant. Certainly she had a hard time seeing them, unless she sort of squinted. Still, it was something different to aim at. Taking a breath she raised the bow once more and pulled the string. The shaft of light struck one of the shadows dead on, and there was a small burst of light as it destroyed it. The creature it had been attached too let out an unholy shrieking noise, and collapsed before promptly liquefying. Yuu almost cheered and started looking for more of the shadows. She had been filled with renewed hope that maybe she'd survive this awful encounter.
Within minutes, the air was full of those horrible screams and the stench of death. She had, however, destroyed all the creatures. Furthermore, she discovered that the bow must have been working on its own mana, because she was only slightly worn out, and that was mostly in her arms from drawing the bow so many times. Yuu sighed and turned to head into the house, intent on finding her father.
"Ah~h, you killed them," a voice came from the stairs and Yuu whirled back around. Standing there, surveying the scene was a young woman in a formal kimono. She couldn't have been much older than Yuu, but there was something...off about her, "Someone gave the little Yin some training," she went on, as she made her way onto the walkway. She tucked her arms into her kimono sleeves as Yuu raised her bow again, "I suppose it doesn't matter."
Yuu drew the string, and hesitated. This was a human, and despite knowing full well what the woman was here for, she still didn't want to kill her. The woman had no such qualms it seemed, as several balls of energy formed around her head and shoulders. Where Yuu's 'arrows' were dark light, these balls were merely dark smudges hanging in the air. Yuu let an arrow fly, just as the woman attacked. The arrow would have probably met its mark had the woman not been a mage of whatever kind. As it was the light struck an invisible barrier in front of the woman and dissipated. The woman was not so unlucky. Each ball of darkness found their mark and Yuu was knocked back onto the pavement. Sucking in a breath, she fought the urge to scream in pain. The balls felt like stab wounds when they hit. And perhaps they had been sharper than she imagined, since she was now bleeding in several places. She closed her eyes briefly, waiting for the pain to subside a bit, then realized her mistake and quickly opened them. She rolled to the side, just in time to avoid another round of dark blasts. She scrambled back to her feet, amazed that she had kept hold of her bow through all this, and fired at the woman again. Once more the arrow struck a barrier and vanished, and again Yuu was unable to avoid getting hit. Her back slammed into the ground again, knocking the wind out of her lungs and she dropped the bow to put a hand over her eye. Blood poured through her fingers, and Yuu thought for sure that the eye was done for. She had to struggle to keep from hyperventilating. She didn't want to die here!
Suddenly there was yelling, someone was calling her name, and seconds later a blue blob slammed into the kimono-clad woman. She was absorbed into the goop for a moment, then spat back out, sending her sprawling. Yuu's slime demon uncle formed several tentacles and wrapped them around the woman, lifting her into the air. Moments later her father's concerned face filled her limited vision and he scooped her into his arms, hugging her tightly.
"Good job, Yuu-chan," he told her as he carried her over to the front door, "You performed magnificently, Borotsume and I will take care of the rest."
"Dad..." she said, "My eye..."
"I know," he said as he sat her down in the doorway, "I know."
"Ah~h," the woman was smiling, despite being held by the slime demon's tendrils, "So finally little Yin's keepers show up. It's about time," she closed her eyes and muttered something. Suddenly, the limbs holding her aloft, completely froze along with the rest of Borotsume's body. The tentacles shattered, allowing the woman to drop to the ground, and she almost didn't get her barrier up in time for meet Yuu's father's sword strike. They darted apart for a moment, then he charged towards her, striking another barrier. Yuu struggled to get back to her feet, good eye focused on where her bow lay. She had to favor her right leg as she limped over to the weapon. She wanted to help her father. If she was going to realize her destiny, she wasn't going to play the part of distressed damsel now. Breathing heavily, she picked up the bow and lifted it. With the woman so focused on her father, surely Yuu'd be able to hit her.
She drew the string, arms shaking, and let the light fly. Then another, and another. All three found their mark, striking the woman in the back, at the same time her father thrust his sword forward, the elegant weapon running the evil woman through. Yuu sagged back to the ground. Her father walked towards the body of the woman and nudged it with his shoe. Apparently satisfied he then made his way towards his daughter. Yuu was looking at her uncle, who was slowly beginning to thaw.
"He'll be alright," her father assured her, "Slime demons are made of-" he stopped talking suddenly, as a red stain appeared on his chest. Yuu's eyes flew to him, and the woman whom they thought was dead. She had raised more energy balls and had flung them at Yuu's father, with a malicious grin on her bloody lips. Yuu's father whirled around and lifted his sword, Yuu turning her head just before he brought it down on the woman, beheading her. She turned back, just as he was sinking to the ground. Yuu scrambled to her feet as best she could, trying to get to her father. She was grabbed by Borotsume, and held back.
"Stay here, Yuu-chan."
"But dad was-"
"Go get your cell phone," her uncle instructed, "Call the ambulance."
"B-but the yard..."
"Details, Yuu-chan. A minor one at that. Who do you think I am?" he turned her around and gave her a gentle nudge. Yuu glanced over her shoulder before slowly limping her way into the house. She felt like her uncle was trying to protect her from something.
She came back out ten minutes later to a cleaned up front yard. No trace of the things remained, nor did the woman's body. Her uncle was hunkered down next to her father, apparently trying to keep him talking. He looked up at Yuu approached them.
"Yuu-chan, if I stay here it'll be a mess. Media everywhere. I'll stay if you want me to but-"
"Nn-nn," she shook her head, squatting down next to her father and taking his hand, "I don't want...don't want a bunch of cameras here."
"Ambulance coming?" he asked as he righted himself.
"Yeah. It's on the way," she said absently. Borotsume put an arm around her head and leaned it against his hip for a moment.
"I'm sorry this happened Yuu-chan. I'll do what I can for you," he let her go and was gone.
"Yuu-chan..." her father muttered, "You did so well..." Yuu gripped her father's hand, "I'm sorry...sorry that I can no longer help you."
"Don't talk like that," she attempted a smile, "Sure you'll be laid up for a while, but you'll get better," tears began forming and falling down her cheeks.
"I don't think that's the ca-" he coughed wetly, blood oozing past his lips. Dimly, Yuu was aware of the sound of sirens and tightened her grip on her father's hand, "Yuu-chan...I'm so...proud..."
The EMTs allowed Yuu into the ambulance with her father, though perhaps it would've been better if she had not been there. He did not make it to the hospital.
The young man was with his mother towards the back of the group. He had seen his sister only briefly during the wake, and not at all during the funeral ceremony. He wanted to hold her hand, a feeling that was a little strange to him considering he hadn't seen her since they were two or three. Still, she was his twin and he wanted to comfort her. He wondered exactly what had happened to their father when he died. All he knew was it was some kind of break in and he was killed in front of her. His mother said they would have to be very careful with her. His brows knitted together as he listened to the priest. His sister had been just on the other side of the city all these years and yet they had never met. They could've passed on the street and not even know it. It was kind of surreal. He wondered what kind of person she was, what kind of person his father had been. He shifted in his seat, uncomfortable in his black suit and waited for the ceremony to end.
It wasn't until everyone had left the family grave when he got a chance to get close to his sister. For a while he stood next to her in front of the grave without saying anything. After a moment he reached over and took her hand. She didn't look at him, but squeezed his hand in return.
"Is it time to leave?" she asked quietly.
"We can stay if you need to."
"No...that's alright," she turned to him, one good eye full of sorrow, the other covered by a pristine white patch, "Where's mom?"
Silence fell on them once more, it was almost awkward. Finally the girl took a deep breath and turned fully away from the grave, "We shouldn't keep her waiting," she lifted a hand to toy with the strings of her eye patch briefly then let it fall to her side. She allowed the young man to lead her to where their mother was waiting for them near the entrance to the cemetery. The woman looked at Yuu for a moment or two then wrapped her up in a tight hug.
"I'm so sorry, Yuu-chan," she whispered. The young man put one hand on each female's shoulder, unsure of what else to do. It didn't last long however, and the woman soon let Yuu go.
The trip home was quiet, with their mother pointing out various landmarks and Yuu murmuring her understanding. The young man had seen her home, a small temple on the outskirts of the city, so understood that their mother was trying to get her acquainted with the main hub of the city, but he wondered if she was even absorbing this information. She seemed rather drained. Silently he reached over and took her hand again.
They reached the small apartment building a short while later, the boy leading his sister up to their apartment while their mother took care of the taxi fare. He opened the door with a sigh, and stood aside to allow her entry. Yuu glanced around with polite interest as she slipped off her shoes.
"It's different," she stated.
"Than other apartments?"
"Than the temple."
"Oh. I guess that makes sense," he pointed down the hall, "We gave you the spare room. Mom wanted to decorate it for you, but I figured you'd want to do that yourself."
"Thank you," she murmured and followed him down to the room. She opened the door slowly to examine her new surroundings, it was as plain as her old room and a bit smaller. Her gaze fell on the practice bow in the corner, and the quiver of arrows next to it and the corners of her lips lifted somewhat. Her real bow, and the golden staff for that matter were safely tucked away. She glanced at her brother, wondering how he would take the news when he found out...
"Yuu-chan," he said, "Can you...tell me about him?"
Yuu smiled a little sadly and leaned against the doorway, "We have his eyes," she said, "But the rest of our looks clearly come from mom," she glanced at her brother's too-black hair, clearly dyed, but didn't say a word about it, "He was...a stern taskmaster. But kind. Above all else he was kind. He pushed and pushed, but never in a way that made me resent him. We almost never fought. He believed...that you and I are destined for something greater than a normal existence. He never stopped loving you and mom I think."
"Mom never really talked about him..." the boy replied thoughtfully, "But when she did, it was always fondly. I wondered...well. Nevermind," he didn't want to say out loud that he often wondered why their parents divorced, if they both seemed so fond of each other. Of course it took more than fondness to make a relationship work so...
"Someday..." she whispered, "Someday I'll tell you everything, Asa-nii. Not now. Now is a poor time and I don't know if you'd believe half of what you'd hear. But someday soon..."
The boy, Asa, pulled her tightly against him, "It must be so hard on you," he told her, "I don't even know him, don't remember him and it's painful for me. You knew him best, you loved him the most, it must be killing you."
"It's..." tears were beginning to stream down her cheeks, "It isn't fair. He was so strong, and to be taken out like that. By some maniac? And I couldn't do a ithing/i to help him. Not a thing! It isn't fair..."
"I know, Yuu-chan," Asa said quietly, "Mom's probably beginning dinner soon, will you want to eat?"
"I think I just need some sleep," she replied, stepping back from him, "I haven't been sleeping well because of all the preparations for the funeral and moving..." she trailed off.
"I'll let her know," Asa began heading out of the room, "Goodnight, Yuu-chan."