Chapter 6 – Into the Fire
With sweat drops trickling down her cheeks, the woman assumed a cold, blank stare at the bloodied body that lay next to her. Without saying a single word, she stood up, slowly turning her head to a young, immobilized girl. Though unable to move, this girl looked strangely pleased, and only stared back at the angry woman; her eyes looking more dark and menacing. But that look of pride and glee immediately disappeared when she saw it. The woman in front suddenly displayed an unsettling aura. With her face unchanged, she simply walked towards the neutralized girl, with her focus unwavering...
In a quick exhale, Ren sits up and stabs outward. With Narumi standing next to her bed, Ren just barely missed her. But the former maid was not mad, and simply approached Ren with worry. It was clear that she did not sleep well.
"It looks like you had a bad dream. But it's okay. You're still here... Still safe..." Narumi says, holding Ren's hand, calming down the frightened noble. Her breathing stabilizes, and she is able to speak. But as she looks at Narumi, she becomes saddened again. "The dream I had... I think it was about my past. This was before you started working for us, Narumi..." Ren pauses as she peers over at the clock, and notices that it is rather late in the day.
"Oh! You were not with me the entire time I was asleep, were you?" With that, the young woman blushes and averts her eyes. "No... Of course not. I at least had breakfast and got myself properly dressed, first..." She says as a slight grin forms. "It is rather late now, isn't it? Here, you get dressed, too. You're fine now, so please do not worry about this any longer." Narumi suggests, giving a warm smile.
The two go into the kitchen, and Narumi immediately begins preparing a meal for both of them. As she is seated, Ren looks out the door, unable to contain her current feelings. "Hmm... Kaoru has been gone for quite a while, hasn't she? I must say, I'm a little worried..." She says as she rests her face on her hands. "Indeed. I understand that she cannot be home all day, everyday. But it has been over two days now. I wonder what may have happened to her...?" The two of them agree that they will leave the house in search, after their meal. As such, Narumi finishes preparing right there, and they begin to eat.
But shortly after Ren cleans her own plate, the two of them hear a knock on the front door. This surprises both of them, and Narumi goes over to see what is going on. Upon opening the door, she finds that she and Ren have been found by the Hayashi clan, once again. Without thinking, Narumi immediately backs up and goes to retrieve the young noble, as the servant enters the building, uninvited.
"Honestly, what an awful place to be found. We need to be extra careful here..." Narumi thinks as she attempts to hold off the servant, who has quickly begun his pursuit. Unfortunately, Ren needs to find other ways to fend for herself, since the exit they know of is being guarded. But the girl refuses to run, and insists on staying by the side of her former maid. Assuming a calm stance of her own, an amount of durable objects are suddenly seen floating around Ren, and begin to target the Hayashi servant. With him overwhelmed by Ren's sudden barrage, she grabs Narumi and the two run out of the house. But by then, it is already too late for them. The two find themselves cornered by other dispatched Hayashi servants.
"It seems they have decided not to rely on chance, this time..." Ren comments as sweat begins to drip from her cheek. "It does not even matter that people are around this neighbourhood, either. With my family's representatives here, they wouldn't dare interfere. How absolutely annoying..." Ren's tone of voice changes as she speaks. With that, her eyes appear darker and her gaze becomes more focused; signifying the sudden change in her personality. Much to her dismay, it seems that Narumi cannot do anything about it. The beast has her back to a wall, and now she will defend herself.
As a strange aura is shown, the surrounding group of servants are knocked back by a sudden shockwave, and to their own surprise spot one of them collapse by Ren's feet. He appears completely drained of energy, looking now like that of a rag-doll. One of the servants quickly takes notice at Ren's unsettling look of delight, as well as the strange blade that she is carrying. "Huh... So she is the Soul Cutter. Well then, in a way, this makes things easier for us. Now we only have one target to focus on..." Says the servant, assuming a confident smirk of her own. "It is not very surprising, when you think about it. Especially knowing how this stubborn girl was, back then..." Another servant adds.
"This is not good. I won't be able to hold them off like I did those twins. Not with a larger group like this..." Narumi thinks to herself. "Nonetheless..." She then says aloud. "I will not let you touch the young...!" But before she finishes, Narumi is struck from behind, by the servant who was stuck inside the house. She is quickly knocked out from a powerful spell cast by him, leaving Ren on her own. This sends the noble in a blind fury. With her partner down, the only thing that now matters to her is survival.
As her blade is more powerful with the energy absorbed from the first servant she attacked, she promptly picks off a few of the others with relative ease. Her blade grows ever so stronger with the amount that it cuts. As well the house has started to become a lot more messy, as multiple objects (durable or otherwise) are forced out, giving the servants plenty of trouble. But unfortunately for Ren, this was not enough to keep her from being detained. By the end of it, she was still only one person against a group of well trained servants of the noble house. Ren is eventually overpowered, and collapses to the ground. Unable to move, she is then retrieved, along with the other servants who were effectively taken out by the enraged girl.
A few hours pass by, and Narumi finally wakes up, greeted by none other than Kaoru Fujioka, as Narumi's eyes open. She finds herself in her bed, back in the house. Though she managed to awaken, she seems unable to properly move yet. Kaoru calms her down, and proceeds to hand her a hot cup of tea. Narumi struggles a little as her strength comes back to her.
"Don't push yourself too much now. Though I sped up the process a little, you will still need some rest. But, now that you're able to, can you please tell me what happened here? Downstairs looks horrible! Especially just before the front door; it's like a mini-tornado hit the room!" Kaoru yells. Rightfully so, she is quite upset about what recently transpired. While listening, Narumi looks down in disappointment and guilt.
"Oh dear... What did you do, Ren...?" Narumi quietly mutters, although Kaoru hears her. "Ren? Ren did that? You're kidding me... What possessed that girl to be so careless?" The woman questions, looking quite irritated. "I suppose she didn't have much choice in the matter. Yes, it's all coming back to me..." Narumi puts down her cup and shakes her head, trying to jog her memory a little. "It happened earlier today. We were found by a large group of Hayashi servants. It seems they did not hold back in trying to take Ren..." She pauses to look around the room, and is promptly met with disappointment. "Seeing as she is not in the room with me, I take it they were successful, this time..." As Narumi says that, Kaoru calms herself down, looking a little more understanding about the matter.
"Right. While you agreed to house us, in spite of our situation, I was hoping to not cause this amount of trouble. I am truly sorry about this..." Narumi apologizes, bowing her head. "It seems I owe you an explanation... About what type of person Ren really is. You see, the truth is that I have only been serving the Hayashi clan for a few years; not that long at all. So I don't know why Ren is like this. But she has a split-personality. The part of her that she often reveals is rather quiet and formal, but very emotional. This is all you've seen of her. But her other side is more cunning and sadistic, yet impulsive and power-hungry..." Narumi cannot help but let out a deep sigh as she worries about her former master. "You probably wouldn't believe it, but the latter is her dominant personality, which is why she has trouble controlling herself at times. It's only because of me that Ren developed a softer side to her."
"I see..." Kaoru nods. "I remember she mentioned something about that, when I first offered you two shelter. Like, when it came to a fight, Ren talked about how you would have to work harder to hold her back? I suppose it all makes sense now. So, Ren is capable of something like the damage downstairs, huh...?" Blushing a little, Narumi gives a shy and quiet nod. "Terribly sorry about that. When I am able, I'll be sure to clean that up, too." She says, still feeling guilty about letting it get to that point.
"Haha, you really are a focused and diligent worker, aren't you? The Hayashis are unfortunate to have lost someone like you." Kaoru compliments, giving a friendly smile. But it quickly turns somewhat serious, as she continues. "In any case, I suppose it's my turn to give you an explanation of my own. I was gone for a while, hmm... You were probably wondering what happened to me. Well, I wanted to search for those mysterious twin girls that you and Ren mentioned some time ago. I understand it's a big accusation to be making, but with the way they were described, I think I know them. If my guesses are indeed correct... Well, let me just say that they're very important to me..."
"Ah, okay. I believe I understand where you're getting at. I hope it is not too much trouble for you now, but might I hear a bit more about this?" Narumi asks, becoming more engaged. Kaoru ultimately agrees, seeing the potential use of this information, herself.
"Very well. In that case, I guess I will have to go into some detail of who I really am. I have been studying alchemy for years. It started out with me experimenting with inanimate objects, but later turned into an aim to create life. A lot of them came out as failures, but my crowning achievements are twin girls that have turned out successfully..." Kaoru cannot help but smile as she mentions them. "It really is beautiful to see positive results come out of years of study and practice, you know. Over time I grew attached to my creations, and I came to view them as my daughters. But as you have seen, they're no longer with me. It was around a year ago that I had my own run-ins with an organization that I have history with. My old home was destroyed, and I lost my girls, along with my other creations. Since then, I kind of just thought they were dead, and I simply carried on through life. With those mysterious twins apparently after the Hayashi family, I now have hope that maybe I can reunite with them." Kaoru ends, with a look of determination showing.
"Honestly, I have little doubt they are who you're looking for, Ms. Fujioka..." Narumi responds, calmly. "Since Ren and I first saw them, it was obvious that they were unlike normal humans. If they truly are magically created homunculi, then that also explains their unnatural prowess." She stops talking for a moment, and ponders. Though relieved at the outcomes, she is still left with a few questions. "If the Hayashi servants from earlier took Ren back, then I'm wondering if that mission is ongoing? Either that, or the Head of the family is now gone, and we're in a desperate situation. Although, I doubt that last part. The town, and definitely the whole district would be in an uproar then. But that now leads me to wonder where the twins really are? From the way you were talking earlier, I take it you have yet to actually find them?"
"Sadly, no. If they are targeting the Hayashi family, then I imagine they would be headed toward the manor. But I haven't spotted any suspicious people when I visited. Even so, the place is still quite guarded. I wonder if the Hayashis are aware of what's going on?" Kaoru spends a bit of time thinking, but quickly collects herself again. "Right. I probably shouldn't be thinking about this now. After all, you're in no condition to really do anything at the moment. We can maybe discuss this further if you are. Okay?" Kaoru takes away the empty teacup and is on her way to leave the room. But she stops to ask Narumi one more question.
"So, tell me... Ren Hayashi, the Heir to a noble clan has been unstable for a while, right? I feel compelled to question what you plan to do about her? As much as you probably want to, you can't be with Ren forever. As a growing girl, she is going to have to become more responsible, eventually. While I don't agree with forcing her to do what she doesn't want, Ren still needs an actual path to follow..." With that parting line, Kaoru walks out of the room and closes the door.
While Narumi is given time to rest, she is now left with that serious question. Through her time of caring for her former master, she has very rarely considered Ren's future. Of course something needed to be done about her more twisted personality. She definitely would not be able to oversee future endeavours like that. As much as Narumi can prevent it from coming out with her presence, the fact is that the core issue still remains. With the two separated, it really made her start to think about the problem more, and just how important it is that the young noble is truly cured.