FReEdOM - Chapter 1, Last Taste of Freedom

"I came home to the common household environment: quiet, empty, hint of warmth in the air and nobody else around, or rather, nobody else in sight..."

"Good evening, miss,"

The maid greeted me warmly, stepping out of the kitchen with a dishtowel in hand.

"Yes, good evening, Rie,"

Rie had been serving my family for as long as I could remember. Ever since my father left, my mother had had to single-handedly raise me. I sighed at the thought of my past. I plopped my bag down by the door and climbed the stairs to my room, accidentally tripping on one of the steps.

I felt a sudden chill down my spine. Shuddering, I walked on. All day long, I had been feeling a rather uncanny feeling, something that was watching me. It wasn't the kind of paranoia that felt like a stalker, it was like an observation that didn't stop.

I decided to speak to Rie about it.

"So you've been feeling a sense of paranoia?" she asked, scrubbing the dishes repeatedly, as if it were a therapeutic exercise rather than a chore.

I nodded.

Rie stopped for a short pause.

"Did you know?" she began, "that when a human bears the specific trait of a spirit, for example, the deep hatred of the Hated Spirit, the spirit bonds itself to that one person?

Then there on after, the spirit follows the person around, partially for their amusement, but more importantly for their protection. If that person is killed by unnatural means, the spirit too dies,"

"Is that so?" I asked, not predominantly interested in my maid's love for the spiritual world. And yet, deep down, I too believed in them.

"So are you suggesting that a spirit has bonded itself to me?" I asked.

"Perhaps," she smiled, "or maybe someone has been watching you,"

With a groan, I left the conversation at that and returned to my room.

"That night I had a dream, a dream of a young woman with long silver locks that snaked down my back in a braid. I wore a wine-red kimono and with black lining, carrying a sword on my belt"

I woke up with a jerk, uncertain about what I experienced last night. Shaking it off, I got dressed and walked to school, using the exact same roads and walking at the exact same pace as I had been doing for the last four years. Along the way, I ran into Michiko Sato, a close friend whom I addressed as simply as Michi.

"Good morning, Michi," I gave a faint smile, not pausing to look at her.

"Yes, hello. Though I wouldn't exactly think of it as a good one," Michi smiled, running ahead shortly after realizing that I hadn't paused to acknowledge her.

"Is there a club meeting today?" Michi asked.

I shook my head, once again determined to reach school on time for some particular reason.

Also on the way, they ran into the club's fourth member, Ryo Suzuki.

"Hello," he said, walking alongside Michi.

"Hello indeed," I glanced momentarily at him before looking ahead.

"Club meeting is off today," Michi mentioned.

They did not run into the third member on the way to school. He was probably already there, they assumed correctly. Kazuo Goto was sitting quietly at his seat, watching his friends as they hurriedly walked through the school gate.

The day began the same way as always, with four classes that dragged through till the noon before lunch. I, Michi, Ryo and Kazuo decided to sit on the roof on account of my sudden order.

"How was your yesterday?" I asked, prior to my every day routine.

"Fine, and yours?" they all answered, one after the other.

I paused, looking at the sky before saying:

"I felt followed yesterday and spoke to Rie about it,"

They stared.

"What did she say?" Kazuo asked.

I looked at him for a brief 3 seconds.

"She told me," I glanced away, allowing myself a slightly depressed look, "that sometimes, spirits bond themselves to humans. When this happens, that spirit becomes vulnerable as it dies on account of their human's death should it occur,"

I glanced back, seeing the three of them enthralled by what I was saying.

"So the spirits follow them around, protecting them,"

An awkward silence blew over them.

"Interesting…" Kazuo said, turning away strangely.

I feared disbelief. Or worse yet, a sudden thought running through them that said: She's insane

The sad Monday went on as usual, followed by cleaning duties and a short after-school homeroom.

Ryo did not join us after that on account of being in a different class.

We decided to walk around town together for a bit.

At the end of our journey, we found ourselves lying on a grassy field in the park, staring at the sky that was an awkward color-combination of pale blue and light orange.

"Do you know what I want to do some time in the near future?" Michi asked.

"What?" Kazuo replied on behalf of me.

"I want to light fires and watch them burn up the grass," Michi answered, sounding dazed.

Kazuo and I looked at me, sitting up.

"I think I'd feel weird if I woke up and saw a fire in the park and knew that you were the one behind it," I stated, standing up.

"I'm going home, would you like to come too?"

"Sure, I'd like that," Kazuo smiled, grabbing his bag and later followed by Michiko.

Being the one with the house located furthest away, I walked the extra block.
A woman appeared in front of my on the way back.
I was wearing a surgical mask and black gloves. Restricting myself a cold breath, I smiled.

"Good evening, miss," I said.

"Good evening," the lady said.

After a pause, I continued,

"I'm sorry it's a little sudden, but do you find me beautiful?"

I panicked but remained a calm face.

"My apologies, but why do you ask?"

The lady kept silent, looking quite sad.

"I'd rather not talk about it, I'm sorry,"

Without an option, I replied, "Yes. You are,"

The lady hesitated. She removed her mask, revealing a mouth that was slit from ear to ear, drenched in red bloody fluid. Her blood dripped down her face, the flesh torn and black.

"What about now?" she grinned with a twinkle in her eye.

I took deep breaths, calming myself down. I looked up at the sky, thinking of what Rie had told me. If it were true, there would only be one answer.

"No,"

The woman let out a loud cry, sharply withdrawing a pair of sharp scissors.

I grew faint.

This is it.

What happened next was but a blur. All I could make out was a sharp flash flew by; leaving a breeze that blew on my hair. Slowly, I brought my dilated pupil to turn to my left.

On the ground was the woman whom had tried to kill me, lying lifelessly in a pool of deep red fluid that oozed out of the wound that deeply impaled her chest.

She had the pair of scissors in her hands still.

In the wound was a long bloodstained sword that shone in the streetlight, its handle in the hands of the young woman whom I had dreamt of.

I collapsed to my knees.

"It's true," I said, trembling. "What Rie said is true,"

The young woman returned my sword to my belt. I looked at I and gave me a soft smile.

"It's okay," I lifted I up. "My name is Yuuka,"

I stared blankly at my.

"Are you a spirit bonded to me?"

Yuuka nodded. "I am the spirit of Envy,"

I suddenly felt a pang through my body. I could relate to everything I had been told: about the spiritual bonds that connected my and Yuuka; the protection that maintained Yuuka's survival; the deep sense of envy and wrath that dwelled within my very soul.

"I didn't think that I'd be able to actually see you," I said.

"Only you can. Though, I thought you would have known about your Third Eye by now,"

"So you're saying, that I am capable of seeing spirits?" I gulped, unable to keep up with this.

Yuuka nodded.

"Then why haven't I seen any?"

"What do you think attacked you?" Yuuka snapped angrily.

I decided to go with the flow.

"So, why did she do it?"

"Well," Yuuka sighed, "I've recently committed a crime. And for that reason, everyone is out to kill me. But since I am physically immortal..."

"They're after me instead?" I completed her sentence.

The little bit of kindness that was initially in Yuuka suddenly disappeared. Yuuka stared at me with a more-than-serious expression.

"Never walk where it's too dark, never stay up too late. Use a different route each time and keep a weapon with you at all times. Always have someone with you, you'd rather have someone else dead than yourself,"

"I won't endanger others for my own sake! My friends are not tools," I cried angrily.

"Then make them your weapons. A good weapon and a good shield are equivalents," she hissed.

I said nothing. How could this beast expect me to betray my only companions?

"...Well then I hope you're a reasonable warrior, or we're both going to Hell. And let me tell you it's no walk in the park,"

I didn't want to believe what I had been told, especially not coming out of her mouth.

"How do I know you're real? How do I tell a spirit from a human?"

Yuuka turned around and smiled, not looking at me.

"Trust me, you'll see; you'll be seeing a lot from this point on,"

And with that she left me alone in the darkness of night and silence of emptiness.