Hello and welcome to Chapter 6. Thanks to everyone who has been reading so far. I'm glad that you enjoy it.
I recently self published the entire story, so you can now the paperback via Amazon! I known that some of you can't afford or buy books, but some public libaries will often purchase books via recommendations, so you can always try and get your public libary to buy it for you.
I followed Kurumi to the edge of town where there was nothing but trees. We ran until the cement path became dirt and pebbles.
I thought she would have heard my footsteps pounding behind her, but she was too engrossed in her destination. Every now and again she would pull out her cell phone and quickly glance at the screen before dashing off again.
We kept running until I could hear the voices of the other exorcists from somewhere beyond the trees.
"I don't know what you're waiting for, let's just attack now," came the obnoxious voice of Itsuki.
"No, we should wait for it to make the first move, we don't know what we're dealing with," said Taisei.
"You're just scared because the last one took a chunk out of your arm," Itsuki replied.
Kurumi picked up speed and I wasn't far behind, within a matter of seconds she burst through the trees and was out in an open field. I decided things would be best if I didn't draw attention, so I hung back and hid myself behind a bush. I pushed the branches apart and peeked through the leaves to get a better view. The rest of the exorcists were already there. Taisei, Nina, Mana, Itsuki, Kiyori, and Souta were gathered around in a circle staring at something I couldn't see.
"Kurumi, thank godyou're here!" Yelled Taisei
"Someone was late. Was there a sale at the mall?"
"Shut your face Itsuki!"
I was so excited, I could finally see a real life Obake and witness my first exorcism. I expected them to be dressed in special clothes and carrying mystical weapons, but compared to my day dreams they looked more like they were going home from club activities.
Taisei and Mana were holding wooden poles which were similar to those used in the Kendo club. Nina was holding a bow and arrow (which probably came from the archery club) and Kiyori looked like he was prepared to cut down a tree with a single ax in his hand. Itsuki and Souta weren't holding anything, so maybe they intended to beat the Obake to death.
I caught a glance of a small raccoon in the center of the circle. It didn't look anything like the monster Taisei showed me on his phone, and it looked more like a tiny raccoon trembling in fear.
I stared in confusion and began to wonder if what Taisei told me was the truth, or a funny lie made up to mess with me. What if Obake didn't really exist after all? What if the teenagers who I had mistaken for having mystic powers, were actually just a bunch of weird kids? Maybe they were all in a make-believe club which ran around the forest pretending to be exorcists and killing animals. I was embarrassed by how easily I had believed their strange fantasies.
I felt pity for the raccoon. I thought it was going to be beaten to death, so I decided to intervene.
I walked out of the trees with both hands up to show that I meant no harm.
"Hey guys," I said while trying to appear casual and relaxed. I thought it was the best way to convey my voice of reason.
They all spun around and stared at me.
"Why is he here?!" Screeched Kurumi.
"What do you mean why is he here? Didn't you bring him?" Asked Taisei.
"No, why the hell would I do that?!"
"He must have followed you," said Itsuki. "Great job Kurumi, I can see those exorcist skills hard at work."
Taisei frantically waved his arms like he was trying to shoo me back behind the trees.
"Hey you! Just find a safe place to hide and get out of the way!"
I planned to give a small speech about how all animals are our friends, but I could finally see what lay behind them. The raccoon began to gnaw on something pink beside it. At first my naive brain thought it must have been a peach, but I soon realized the raccoon was chewing on a human arm.
"WHY IS THAT RACCOON EATING SOMEONE!" I screamed.
"Oh crap," Taisei turned his attention back to the raccoon, but it was already too late. The raccoon began to shake like it was going to throw up, but instead it began to grow larger.
"Nina now!" He yelled.
"Roger!" Nina grabbed an arrow from the pack on her back and loaded it into the bow. She aimed downward and shot, but her arm wavered and the arrow missed and implanted itself into the ground beside the monster.
"Shit!" Swore Taisei. "Everyone back now! Itsuki prepare a charm! Kiyori cover Itsuki! Mana take care of this guy!" He said while pointing at me.
Mana on the other hand wasn't too happy about becoming my personal bodyguard. "What! Why me? You never let me fight the Obake!" She yelled.
"Mana, get back there now!" He snapped.
With a huff Mana dashed to my aid and held her pole out before us as a shield. Her brow was narrowed in anger, but when she turned back to glance at me her mouth broke out into a smile. "Don't worry you'll be safe," she said gently.
Happiness swelled within my chest. The girl I liked was prepared to protect me from a terrifying man-eating monster. I wanted to say that I was dying of happiness, until I realized I was currently facing death on four furry legs.
"I almost forgot," Taisei quickly dashed over to Mana and I. "I have something to give you."
He reached into his pocket and I assumed he was going to pull out a weapon I could use to protect myself, but instead it was his cell phone.
"If you don't mind, do you think you could get some shots of me fighting this thing?" He asked.
"I suppose," I muttered hesitantly. I wasn't sure if it was an appropriate situation for taking pictures.
"Thanks," he said with a wave before turning his attention back to the monster.
The Obake had grown to the size of a person. It still resembled a raccoon, except its teeth and claws were ten times larger and it was foaming at the mouth. I wanted to appear brave and manly in front of Mana, but I was soon clinging to her shoulder on the verge of tears. I may have also been screaming "Save me, its going to eat us all!"
Unlike everyone else who had jumped back and scattered, Nina reloaded her bow. She looked like she was going to take another shot but her fingers were shaking.
"Nina, get back!" Yelled Taisei.
"It's OK, I can handle it," she said.
Nina didn't get the chance to shoot because the giant raccoon lunged at her. She screamed and fell back before any of us had the chance to do anything. I could no longer see her behind the monster, so I assumed she must have been a goner. It was the first time I'd ever seen someone die, so I froze in shock and found myself unable to move or do anything.
"Nina!" Yelled a frantic Taisei.
Tasiei ran to her aid, but before he'd even taken a step, there was a large thud, and an ax was suddenly sticking out of the monster's back. I assume it was thrown by Kiyori since he was the only one with any ax skills.
The raccoon in return wasn't pleased at being stabbed in the back, but at least it wasn't done by his trusted teacher. The monster spun around, glared at us, stood on its hind legs and howled at the sky in rage. I trembled in fear and began wishing that the others would get their act together and defeat the monster before it ate us all.
I couldn't help noticing that its eyes were red, and crimson blood (most probably Nina's) dripped from the monster's mouth.
"What is that thing?" I said in terror and awe. It was probably a bad idea to make any noise, and to my horror it jerked its head and locked eyes with mine. I took a step backwards in shock, and the monster took the momentary lapse in my guard as an invitation to come hurling towards Mana and I!
All I could see was the giant monster encroaching closer and closer towards us. Instead of helping Mana, I screamed, hit the ground, and placed my hands over my head in an attempt to shield myself.
I'm sorry Mana, I thought. Maybe we can be together in the afterlife.
I expected to be munched up in a matter of moments, but as scared as I was, I could hear nothing but yelling and the thud of wood against flesh. I hesitantly looked up to fine Taisei fending off our approaching death with his wooden stick.
"Itsuki can you hurry up already," he groaned.
"He's still working on it!" Yelled Kiyori.
I scanned the area for Itsuki. He was standing off to the side with a piece of paper between his fingers, and his eyes were closed in concentration. Itsuki's mouth was moving at rapid speed, so he was either chanting or talking to himself.
Souta on the other hand hadn't participated much in the epic battle of high schoolers vs raccoon. He mostly hung back and looked as though he was unsure of what to do. Every now and again he'd rush forward as though to attack, only to quickly catch himself and go back to doing nothing. I later found out that everyone thought Souta was pretty useless when it came to fighting Obake.
To my relief I finally caught sight of Nina as well. I expected her to be mauled to pieces and scattered across the field, but she appeared unhurt except for the blood gashing profusely from her leg.
Kurumi dashed towards her and I assumed she was running to help her friend, but instead Kurumi ripped the bow and arrow straight from Nina's hands and took aim at the giant monster. Her aim was dead on, and she managed to land a hit directly through the head. I thought this would be enough to kill it (It looked like enough to kill anything), but the raccoon continued to thrash at Taisei despite having an ax in its back and an arrow sticking out of its skull.
"I don't get it, why isn't it dead yet?" I asked Mana.
"Obake are a lot stronger than regular animals and can heal faster," she said without taking her eyes off the battle. "If they were easy to kill there would be no need for us exorcists."
"Oh," I said. That seemed to make sense.
Despite my amazement and fear I angled the cell phone and took some shots of Taisei battling the monster. As hard as I tried I could never understand the guy's obsession with taking photos, and I pray he didn't meet his end by trying to get a snapshot with the fox monster.
Itsuki began to chant louder to the point where he was almost yelling. The strip of paper in his hand began to glow, then flash, and all of a sudden a giant ball of lightning began to emerge from the paper. It crackled, flashed, and I was certain he was going to electrocute himself.
"Move it Taisei!" Yelled Kurumi. "It's coming!"
Taisei dropped back and left a direct path between Itsuki and the monster.
The giant electric ball finally separated itself from the paper and shot straight towards the Obake like a magnet. It hit the monster dead on and engulfed it in a ball of light. The whole field around us lit up and began the flash.
"Wow!" I muttered as I stared at the raccoon withering in pain amongst the blinding light. Black, white, black, white. A small glance was enough to hurt my eyes and I had to use my sleeve as a shield. But even when I wasn't looking I could hear the monster's screams over the crackles of lightning.
Finally the screaming ended and I looked up once more and blinked as red spots clouded my vision. After a few moments my eyesight cleared and I could see that the rabid raccoon monster had been reduced to nothing more than a smoldering pile of ashes. This terrifying experience should have been enough for me to realize the dangers associated with exorcism, but all I could say back then was- "Amazing! Mana did you see that?"
"As expected of Itsuki," she sighed and collapsed to the ground. "Thank goodness it's over, that was so stressful."
"Itsuki!" I exclaimed. It wasn't like he was the only guy doing anything. Taisei, Kurumi and Kiyori had done most of the work. I was about to tell Mana all my personal observations of Itsuki doing nothing, until I noticed her staring at him in admiration as he poked the smoking raccoon carcass.
"Tsk," I hissed before looking away. I didn't think he was that special.
The bloody scene was enough to make me nauseous, but that didn't effect Kiyori who had already pulled out a bag of potato chips and was happily munching away. Souta on the other-hand had finally put himself to good use by patching Nina up. She was covered in scratches, but she looked mostly fine except for the blood gashing from her leg and upper arm.
"Hey Nina do you think you'll be OK?" Asked Souta while wrapping her leg in a bandage.
"I'm sure it's just a scratch?" She said despite her face being screwed up in pain.
"You really shouldn't push yourself so hard, if you think it's too much you should just pull back," said Souta.
"I'll try," she muttered.
I stared in awe as I noticed the resemblance between Nina and my sister. Her face was identical with the same small nose and large eyes. She had even tied her hair up in a ponytail the same way. Nina stared at the bandages, poked the wound hesitantly, and winced at the pain. Up until now I'd only seen glances of her around school, so I decided that it was time to finally walk over and introduce myself.
"Are you OK?" I asked. I didn't know her back then, but her resemblance to Sis was enough to make me feel concerned.
"Yes, I'm fine," she said with a hint of annoyance. Nina must have assumed I was one of the others, because she looked up and appeared shocked to see me staring back at her.
"You're that guy the others were talking about right? Daisuke Matsumoto? Kiyori told me th-"
I didn't get to hear what she said next because Taisei suddenly yanked me away by the shirt collar.
"You!" Said Taisei. He held me up so that we were face to face. "Should not be here."
His stare was cold and serious, and I was certain that I had escaped death by raccoon only to face my end at the hands of Taisei Shinya. "But you took the photo's right?" He asked.
"Yes," I wheezed through his death grip."Yes, I did."
I handed him the phone and he dropped me instantly and was by Kiyori's side in a fraction of a second. Taisei's hand was sliding across the screen at the speed of light and it was like I didn't exist anymore.
"Check out this one Kiyori! This is definitely one for the wall," he said.
It didn't appear like anything could distract him, and the only time Taisei took a break was to throw his pole over the Mana and order her to begin cleaning up.
I rubbed my neck and felt relieved that I had escaped another brush with death. I must have developed a strange addiction to near death experiences because I was soon to get myself into a lot of them.
Mana had begun dismantling the weapons and placing them back into a large duffel bag. It looked like a lot of work, so I decided helping her was the least I could do for defending my life.
Little did I know that I was just making another terrible mistake.
"Hey Mana!" I called out.
"Daisuke, you shouldn't have come here, you could have gotten hurt," she said without looking up from the weapons she was packing.
Mana was right, but all I felt back then was joy that a girl was concerned for me. "Hey, I'm sorry, but you did a great job protecting me. Let me help you with that."
I picked up a rod and attempted to dismantle it before I realized I didn't know what I was doing, so I handed it back to Mana. I peered into the duffel bag to see what else was there. My second reason for helping out was because I wanted to check out there exorcist gear. I was hoping they kept all their mystical weapons in the bag for special occasions, but it was packed full of arrows and strips of paper no bigger than a envelope.
"Do you use this stuff for exorcisms?" I asked.
"Sort of," she said while brushing her hair behind her ear. "These are paper charms that we use for fighting the Obake."
They were all decorated with different calligraphy which I couldn't understand. I picked up a charm and brought it closer to my face for better look. I squinted and attempted to decipher the characters, but before I knew it the charm suddenly caught fire. I quickly threw it away in shock like a kid playing with matches for the first time, but I soon picked up another and squinted, only to watch as it burned from top to bottom. I thought it was a magic trick worth showing Hikaru.
"Wow! This is awesome, the paper just caught fire by itself. Where can you buy this stuff?" I asked.
I turned to interrogate Mana about the magic paper, but her eyes were wide and her mouth was open in awe.
"Daisuke, that's amazing," she said.
"Really?" I asked. Her sudden awe was puzzling, and I thought that maybe I could have unintentionally used the power of my mind to make it burn. I attempted the same thing to the grass near my feet but there was no result.
Before I knew it Taisei was also leaning over my shoulder. "Hey Daisuke, are you sure you've never done any training to be an exorcist before?"
"No," I said.
"That's odd, normally it doesn't do that unless you know what you're doing. Especially not to normal people. Are you sure you're not related to the Matsumotos?" He stared at me sceptically. "But you don't look like the pictures of the other Daisuke."
I felt ecstatic."Does this mean that I also have amazing exorcist powers?"
"Maybe," said Taisei. "Or Mana made a mistake when she was writing the charms, we once had a batch that constantly let off smoke."
"Hey! My calligraphy is perfect," protested Mana.
"Hey! Hey! Do you think that you could teach me some cool exorcists tricks, like that thing were you send out a giant lightning bolt?" I asked naively.
"Ha!" Laughed Kiyori. "That's a good one."
"I don't know," said Taisei "things didn't end well with the last guy who begged us to join. We thought it would be fun to teach him how to be an exorcist, but we spent a week cleaning him up off the pavement. The worst part was breaking it to his parents."
I stood there with my mouth open in horror, and I would have never guessed that Taisei was messing with me until Mana began punching him in the arm.
"Stop making up stories," she said. "You're full of it! You're always moaning about how you wish there were more of us out here. "
"Hey!" He said while fending off her assault. "We have to talk to Akito, it's not up to me!"
"But it wouldn't hurt to have another person right?" She asked.
"Mana," I said with my eyes wide open in admiration. Too bad that vouching for me only led to her lying in a pool of her own blood.
"He'll probably just get in our way," muttered Itsuki.
"You aren't serious are you Mana?" Asked Kurumi. "Since when do they let guys like this in?"
"But he's the adopted son of Kousuke Matsumoto so that must count for something. If we train him up, he might turn out to be pretty good. It wouldn't be bad to have a guy called Daisuke Matsumoto on our side, right guys?"
She turned to the others. I don't know if she expected them to cheer in support but they just stared at her blankly. Souta opened his mouth, and looked like he was going to say something encouraging, before a glare from Kiyori silenced him. I sighed and returned to helping Mana pack so that no one would see my face turning red. I thought that was going to be the end of my exorcist career, but it was only the beginning.
It looks like Daisuke is well on his way to becoming an exorcist, or is he? Stay tuned for the next chapter, or you can buy the ebook or novel and skip straight to the end. (The details are up on my profile, or you can find it on Amazon.)
M C Queen