We ran all the way to the end of the beach. Well, it had been more like Yūgure dragged me to the end of the beach, and Alicia had chased us, but it amounted to the same thing. None of us was human, so we weren’t breathing the least bit heavy.
“This is the end of the line,” Alicia said as she stalked toward us. “There’s nowhere to run now, unless the kitty isn’t afraid of getting a little wet.”
Despite her threatening words, Alicia was wearing a wide smile as she moved forward, hands raised and making creepy motions that made me think of a dirty old man.
Yūgure was standing next to me. She was hugging my arm, which wasn’t unusual. My arm was often the recipient of her hugs.
“You’ve had your fun. Now it’s time to let go of Jacob,” Alicia said.
Yūgure scribbled in her notepad again. Not a chance.
Alicia twitched. “Don’t be selfish. You’ve given both of us the runaround. Now let us have some time to do what we want before dinner.”
She scribbled again. No way.
Face turning red, Alicia looked seconds away from exploding like an active volcano. Despite this she was still smiling. It actually made her look kind of creepy.
She never got the chance to speak. Just as she was opening her mouth, someone interrupted them with a loud shout.
We all turned to look at the man who was running down the boardwalk. His skin was the same dark shade as Yūgure’s, and his eyes were also yellow. Unlike her, his hair was shock white and short. He was wearing a basic pair of swim trunks and a T-shirt. He was staring at them with wide-eyed shock.
I realized that he wasn’t staring at us. He was staring at Yūgure.
“Yūgure, do you know this…”
I trailed off when I looked down and caught a glimpse of Yūgure’s face. Her ashen face with wide eyes as she shook from head to toes. Her hold around my arm tightened to the point that it would have been painful if I was human.
Alicia also seemed to recognize that Yūgure was under duress. She moved to stand protectively next to us.
“Can we help you?” asked Alicia.
The boy ignored her. He only had eyes for Yūgure.
“Kuro,” he said. Yūgure’s shaking became even more intense. “Kuro, is that you? That’s you, isn’t it? Where have you been all this time? I’ve been searching and searching, but I couldn’t find you at all. I’m so glad that you’re safe.”
As he spoke, the boy moved closer to us, and the closer he got, the worse Yūgure’s shaking became.
I had no idea what was happening here. I didn’t know who this guy was. To be honest, I wasn’t sure who he was mattered. What did matter was that one of my friends was in distress, and this boy was somehow the cause of it.
“Hey, why aren’t you saying anything?” asked the boy. “It’s me. Kuriyama. You remember me don’t you?”
So this guy knew Yūgure somehow? Or was he mistaking her for someone else. I didn’t know, but in either event, something about the look in this boy’s eyes, the strange gleam they held, worried me.
“Come on.” The boy stopped in front of us and held out a hand. “Let’s go back. I’ll introduce you to Lord Orochi, and then you and I can—”
“I’m sorry,” I cut him off, stepping in front of Yūgure to protect her from this boy’s gaze. His eyes held a light of insanity in them that bothered me. “I do not know who this Kuro is, but I’m pretty sure you have the wrong person.”
“Who are you?” the man spat, yellow eyes suddenly turning to him. He paused, his eyes narrowing further. “No… not who.” His fingernails sharpened into claws. “What are you? Why are you holding Kuro hostage? Release her now before I’m forced to finish you!”
Yūgure pressed herself further into my back. Her entire body was shaking.
“I do not know who you think you are,” Alicia started, “but that sort of rude behavior is inexcusable. Holding someone hostage? Do you really think that’s what we’re doing? Are you really that dumb?”
“Shut up, devil!” the boy snapped. “Just shut up! My Kuro would never leave me unless she was forced to!” His eyes widened. Insanity gleamed within his yellow orbs. “That’s it, isn’t it? You people weren’t satisfied with tearing us away from our home, so now you want to destroy the bond we share?! Is that it?!”
This boy, whoever he was, had clearly lost his mind some time ago. Nothing he was screaming about made sense.
I wasn’t sure what to do. Several options presented themselves to be. We could try to leave, though I didn’t think this guy was going to let us. We could also fight him. If we beat him up, we could leave, but that probably wouldn’t do anything good to our reputation. We could also run for it. That was the option that I was thinking of.
Fortunately, we needn’t do anything.
“Kuriyama!” a voice called out seconds before a handsome man with pale skin, a chiseled chest, and six pack abs strolled over to them.
The boy, Kuriyama I guess, froze.
“What are you doing?” the man stopped in front of us. He stared down at the now cowed boy. “I thought I requested that you get us some Tokoyaki. Why are you bothering these young folks?”
Kuriyama’s eyes flickered to Yūgure, who pressed her face against my back even more. He frowned. Then his eyes flickered to my face. I tried to glare at him, but I wasn’t sure if I succeeded.
Finally, he looked away.
“It’s nothing,” he murmured.
“If it’s nothing, then hurry up and head back to our seat,” the older man said. “The girls are playing in the water, but we’ll be leaving for the hot spring soon.”
“Yes, My Lord.”
After casting one last glance at Yūgure, Kuriyama turned around and went back the way he’d come. I, along with Yūgure, Alicia, and this new man, watched him until he disappeared. Then the new gentleman turned to us.
The hairs on my neck prickled.
I couldn’t be sure why, as nothing about this man seemed out of place, but his very presence set me on edge. Maybe it was his vivid yellow eyes that reminded me of a scale. Perhaps it was his stare, which made me feel like a mouse who had attracted the attention of a viper. It could have just been thanks to the dangerous aura he radiated, that strange vibe surrounding him, which seemed to say, “cross me and die.” Whatever it was, I could already tell that this guy was bad news.
“I apologize for my subordinates atrocious behavior toward the three of you,” the man said with a nod.
Neither myself nor Yūgure were going to say anything. Seeing this, Alicia took a deep breath and stepped forward. She must have felt the dangerous aura just as I had, but she was confronting this man anyway. I really admired her for it.
“Your apologies are appreciated,” she said, curtsying slightly.
“Such a kind response.” The man grinned. “I didn’t expect that from the heir to the Bael Clan.” Alicia’s eyes widened. I was sure that mine did, too. “Anyway, rest assured that I’ll make sure my subordinate doesn’t harass you anymore. Have a good day.”
As the man walked off, ambling slowly back up the boardwalk, I wondered if the way my legs shook was from relief, exhaustion, fear, or a mixture of the three. Nothing bad had happened during this meeting. That man hadn’t really threatened them. He had even been quite respectful. So why…
Why did it feel as though my heart was trying to pound its way out of my chest.
Here's the next chapter. Jacob and the others have met the villain of this volume. I hope you all liked reading this. Hopefully, the next chapter will be up tomorrow.