Chapter 2:

The Swordsman and the Fox

The Nexus of Yuki Osaki

“Hiyah!” The boy shouts, grim determination set in his face, and I resign myself to my fate—


I immediately cringe at the sound of metal striking metal, but then I realize that I’m not dead yet and clutch my intact neck with relief. A growl from above me brings me back to my senses, and I shoot my eyes upward to see the boy struggling against the girl who had just been sitting beside me. I blink as I realize her blade is almost as big as her, yet she wields it with practiced ease.

“You dare?” she yells. “You would attack the highest authority in the land above me?!”

“I saw what she did!” He yells back and shoves her off his blade. He assumes another stance and faces the more dangerous of us two. Not that I’m all that dangerous in the first place…

The fox-eared girl points her sword at him and scowls. “She was talking to me. You have no business interrupting our time together!”

“She opened the portal and desecrated the shrine!” The boy cries. “Now she has broken the seal between the worlds; Demons will start appearing left and right because of her!”

The boy repositions himself and looks at me. “And I, a Ryoka, cannot allow that to happen! The honour of my family and the safety of the world will endure!”

Wait… Ryoka? As in, the most popular guy in the school? What is he doing here?! I stare at him in shock and I can’t help but whisper his name aloud. “Shin Ryoka?” I ask. His eyes widen in surprise for a moment, and that’s enough for the girl to leap in front of him and begin to attack in a flourish of sword strikes.

I can barely follow what happens as their blades dance in a battle of attrition. Steel meets other-worldly metal, and I’m amazed at the amount of power that comes with each clash. I can almost see the energy spilling from their blades, as if they were charged with magic—

“Solemn Oath!” Ryoka cries as he slashes upwards. A yellow slice of energy flies towards the girl, and she flips into the air.

“Severed Flames!” She yells back, and cuts the air into a cross which pulses forwards. The two walls of energy collide, and I’m thrown across the ground once more, trying to find some cover. Are they crazy?! I think to myself. I’m still here, after all! Standing up, I do my best to try and ignore the raging battle that’s happening beside me and brush myself off.

“And here I was thinking I would have a normal day today,” I sigh. “I wish I could have some yakisoba right now.”

As I move to make my escape, Ryoka’s form blurs in front of me. “You’re not going anywhere!” He moves to use his blade again, but instead of an attack, he parries, because the demon girl’s blade now rests between me and him.

“I will not allow you to harm her!” She screams. “We will bring her back with us and restore her to her proper place!”

“Proper place?” I mutter in confusion.

“And just who are you to deny me judgment?” Ryoka says, crossing blades once more with her. “What demon has claim to any right within this world?”

“I am Gabrielle, the chief of all demons in the realm of Trenzani! And she is not yours!”

“Do I have a say in this?” I interject.

“Stay out of this!” They yell in unison.

Understandable, I think to myself. I wilt in defeat. Of course I’m shoved to the sidelines when the going gets real. Just that thought, though, is enough to get my blood boiling again.

As Ryoka and Gabrielle continue to fight for my fate, I can’t help but stew in my frustration. Despite that, moving probably means death, and I’m not particularly in the business to find if I’m fast enough to dodge a blade, because clearly, these two are fast enough to fight each other.

“I don’t care who you are,” Ryoka says. “I will protect this world with all I have!”

Flicking her blade, she stands at the ready. “And we don’t care about your world!” Gabrielle snarls. “Especially not after you so carelessly injure and attack us when all we try to do is live in peace!” She stabs her blade into the ground, and a sharp crimson energy bursts from the cobblestone in arcs of red lightning.

“You will never be able to live as a human when you are nothing more than a monster!” Ryoka cries back, and the wind begins to gather around him. The sound of thunder begins to grow, and he slams his own blade into the ground.

“Infinite Hellfire—!”

I can’t stand this.

“Eternal Promise—!”

It needs to end now.

“STOP!” I close my eyes and scream, throwing myself in between them with my arms outstretched. I hear a loud bang, and two surprised gasps before I hear the sound of bodies hitting the ground and moans of pain. Opening my eyes, my gaze wavers between the two of them, both lying on the ground dazed. Their weapons are stuck into the walls of their respective sides, and I can almost see slight gouges around me in successive circles.

What just happened?

Shaking my head, I save the question for later and march over to Ryoka. Pulling on his ear, I ignore his exclamations of pain and drag him to the centre of the square. Marching over to Gabrielle, I do the same, and she desperately tries to escape my iron grip, but I’m not letting go so easily.

I throw them together at the steps to the shrine. They glare at each other venomously, neither willing to sit beside the other.

“Well?” I ask, crossing my arms. They continue to ignore me. Growing impatient, I flick their heads, and hear two satisfying cracks. “Pay attention!” I exclaim, and they both nod as they hold their foreheads protectively. I nod appreciatively. “Better!”

I motion to the world around us and raise my eyebrow. “What do you have to say for yourselves?”

“He/She started it!” They cry in unison, and they both glare at each other again. I shake my head in exasperation.

“What are you, children?” I ask. “I know I’m childish, but this is ridiculous!” I wave my hands at the square once more. “You both destroyed this place and desecrated this shrine more than I ever did!”

“You’re the one who summoned her-“

“You didn’t have to go assuming I was trying to summon a demon!” I yell at Ryoka, who is instantly cowed. “You’re ignorance to the facts makes you believe that slaying a school girl, your junior, is an acceptable thing to do!”

Gabrielle sticks her tongue out at Ryoka and grins. “Hah, take that—“

I turn my full gaze on her and she cuts herself off. “And you!” I start, poking at her. “You come out of nowhere, crash into me, and go antagonize the one person here who has a chance of standing up to you. It’s almost as if you were looking for a fight!”

“I was only trying to defend you—“

I hold my head at the pain of trying to understand these two. “I don’t need defence, I’m nobody’s to control, and I certainly wasn’t trying to die today, which I almost did, thanks to you two!” I stomp my feet and yell at them. “So stop talking and fighting over me like I’m some piece of meat!”

Ryoka moves to comment but I side-eye him with all the malice I can muster. “If you talk right now,” I begin, “I will shove your sword somewhere so deep you’ll never be able to walk again.” He shuts his mouth, nodding. I turn my other eye to Gabrielle and give her the same look. Smartly, she doesn’t do anything. I nod. “Humph.”

They then watch in silence as I go to each side of the square and pick up their weapons. Walking back over to them, I get an odd feeling that they’re both completely baffled by me. Holding their blades by the handles, I let them start to reach for them before bonking them both in the head.

“That’s for fighting each other,” I say as they clutch their heads. “And this is for trying to cut my head off!” I slap Ryoka. I then drop both blades in front of them, and they clutch their respective swords protectively.

“Now, please, let me have a peaceful evening?” I sigh. Readjusting my bag, I smile at both of them. “And I don’t want to hear you two fighting anymore, okay?”

Staring at each other with hate again, I clear my throat, and they look toward me nervously. “Do I have an understanding?” Gabrielle is quick to nod her head, and for some reason, I can almost see stars in her eyes. Ryoka is less convinced, but he glances between the demon girl and me, and makes the right decision by nodding once.

“Good. Now, I’m going to go home before you find more ways to try and kill each other. Bye!” I promptly turn on my heels and begin walking. After a few steps, however, I stop and sigh. “Ugh,” I whisper to myself, before turning back to the two of them. “Ryoka, do you know the way out of here?” I look around me and try to look into the distance for any familiar buildings. “Where even is here?” I throw my arms out, waving at the scenery around me.

“This is the nexus between worlds,” Ryoka explains. “Didn’t you read the ofuda? We’re in the most transient place in either world.”

I nod in understanding, but gaze at the empty buildings with interest. “That doesn’t explain why no one lives here.”

“That’s because no human—“ Gabrielle spat out, “—would want to taint themselves with our presence, and no demon would want to be ridiculed for trying to live in this world.”

“So this entire district is just abandoned?” I ask.

Ryoka sighs, shaking his head. He walks closer and points up at the road ahead. “More like it doesn’t exist, because people choose to forget.” I follow him up the road, and we reach an intersection where another four statues seem to extend their arms out in an open fashion. “These are here to welcome anyone who would choose to see the other world. You’ll see these statues at the six other intersections into this district; It’s an old seal that has held for generations.” He glares at me and the fox-demon following us from a distance. “It’s also supposed to incapacitate demons so they’re easier to deal with, but it seems our friend here is much stronger than she appears.”

“Fu fu fu!” Gabrielle laughs, puffing her chest out. “I am the greatest warrior in the land of Trenzani! Only the true Demon Lord is stronger!”

Ryoka’s grip on his sheathed blade tightens just for a moment, but it’s enough for me to notice. Nervously stepping away, he sighs and relaxes. “I promised Osaki we wouldn’t fight, but that doesn’t mean you can rile me up like that,” he says calmly. “Now, tell me about this true Demon Lord. I’ve heard stories, but you clearly know more than I do.”

“Oh my,” Gabrielle gasps. “A uppity human is asking for the help of a lowly demon? What has the world come to?”

You can say that again, I think with a snort.

He whirls around, hand on his blade, as he stares Gabrielle down with fury. “You’re probably a liar and completely untrustworthy anyway!” he yells, and stomps off past the four statues. I watch with astonishment as he seems to vanish after hitting the boundary of the last statue.

“He doesn’t even know that the seals are weakening,” Gabrielle whispers, walking up to one of the statues and admiring it. “These weren’t meant to keep us in, they were meant to keep us safe.” Safe? I ask myself. Safe from what?

“You must have a lot of questions right now, Lady Yuki, but right now, I have some things I need to look into. I’m sure you’ll see me soon; In fact, you’ll be surprised! You can ask me some more questions then!” She begins to sprint off into the district, but she stops just before she turns a corner. “You can also talk to that Ryoka guy, he sure likes to think he knows what’s going on. Bye!”

With that, I’m left standing at the edge of a nexus between worlds, hiding in plain site. Staring at the place where Gabrielle disappeared, I turn to look at the spot where Ryoka had been standing just minutes earlier, and I droop my head.

“I still don’t know where I am,” I whimper.

Stepping back into the normal world is disorienting. It’s almost as if something’s missing, or that the world itself is trying to hide itself. It’s a strange sensation to experience. It’s even weirder to look behind me and only see the grungy entrance to a trashed park. No wonder there aren’t any visitors. People would take one look at this and decide to go elsewhere, unless they knew what it really was—

The image flickers just for a moment, and I can swear I see a cloud of black emanating from within the district itself, before the illusion flickers back. “Weird,” I say to myself, and start walking. Strangely enough, it doesn’t seem like any time has passed. In fact, it looks like it’s only been five minutes since I stepped into the Nexus (might as well call it something), and yet my watch is completely out of sync with the time I see as I pass a convenience store.

Was it really such a place, where worlds could meet and others could come and go? It really seems like it.

Somehow, I’m able to find my way home. My mom greets me at the door, and it seems like she can read my mind because she asks, “Had a rough day?”

“It wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle,” I shrug. I step to hug her. “As crazy as my life is, today was the craziest in a long time.”

“That’s too bad, sweetie.” Mom clucks at me and points her spatula at me. “Now, I had a feeling you would have a bad day, so I made your favourite!”

My mouth instantly begins to water and my mom smiles in confirmation. “Yakisoba! This will last until the day after tomorrow, just don’t eat too much!”

My stomach growls, and I flush red with embarrassment. “You didn’t hear anything, mom,” I say. She only giggles.

“My, you really are quite hungry.” She smiles and steps back into the kitchen. “It’s on the table, Yuki. Say thanks and help yourself. Don’t eat too fast, you might choke, and remember—“

“I get it mom, I get it!” I say, and rush excitedly to the table. The TV is blaring something about making contact with some new nation or something and the mixed reactions people have, but I don’t really care for it. I’ve never really paid attention to the news, because I knew it was just a dumpster fire waiting to be put out, and I was too busy getting into trouble everyday anyway. Though I may not like how far from the norm my life is, I can’t deny that it’s a lot of fun.

But I can eat away my depression! After finishing, I hug mom again and head upstairs to finish some homework. Once that’s done, I lay in my bed and listen to some music while thinking of what happened today.

“I hope tomorrow isn’t any crazier,” I whisper to myself, and I drift into oblivion.


“Did you hear the news?”

“I heard there’ll be a few of them here!”

“It’s pretty crazy, but it should be cool, right?”

“I don’t know, aren’t they dangerous?”


I hum at Reiko as she takes her place beside me. “Hey Reiko!”

She smiles brightly at me starts to whistle a tune I feel like I’ve heard before. “Anything exciting happen yesterday on the way home, Yukin?” she eventually asks.

I think back on the strange encounter I had the other day and nervously sweat inside. “N-nothing too crazy,” I manage to answer. “Found a stray, almost got my head taken off, and got lost.”

Reiko giggles and spins around, walking backwards to keep up with me. “Your days are always full of fun, huh?”

“I don’t want them to be!” I say with exasperation, clutching the straps of my bag and waving them a bit. “It’s not like I ask for these things to happen—“

From across the courtyard, I catch the eye of Shin Ryoka as he talks with a group of boys and girls from all years of the high school. I notice that he seems to be carrying a large tube with him, and he frowns as he sees me. Some who notice turn to look at me, and my face lights up as I turn away.

“Good morning, Yuki,” Eri’s voice pipes up from behind me. I turn to greet her, but instead she steps closer and examines my red face. My blush only grows worse and I avert my eyes from her. “My, my, have you finally noticed a boy?”

“N-no, it’s not that!” I argue. “I-it’s just, I bumped into him yesterday and he’s just really intense!” I giggle nervously and try to escape by continuing to walk.. “I mean, he’s really strong, but it’s nothing I can’t handle.”

For some reason, I can almost feel a cloud of darkness stewing behind me. I turn around and see both Reiko and Yui with their heads down, facing Ryoka in the distance.

“You know what we have to do, Reiko.”

“Yes, Eri. It must be done for the sake of Yukin.”

“Yuki’s purity will not be tainted!”

“For Yukin!”

Blinking, I quickly realize how my words could have been interpreted, and panic. In a flash, I grab hold of the two of them and struggle as they squirm and scream at me to let them go.

“I’ll teach him a lesson!”

“I’ll break him!”

“I’ll show how much power he really has!”

I sweat-drop and say, “Stop! Please! It wasn’t like that! He helped me fight off a fox-demon— I mean, he helped me out a tricky situation! He disappeared as soon as he knew I was okay!”

That managed to calm them down, though another thought crossed their mind. “You mean he abandoned you?” Reiko asked.

“And he didn’t walk you back home to make sure you were safe?”

I grab their arms preemptively this time, and with good timing too because they start to rage again.

“I won’t let him get away!”

“He thinks he can leave her like that!”

I sigh and look to the ground as I guide my two best friends into the school. “No amount of sweets can compensate for this headache,” I whine.

We’re eventually able to make it to our seats without event, but I can almost see the sparks flying from Eri’s eyes. I really hope she doesn’t do anything stupid. I mean, I’m really glad I know I have such great friends, but still…

“Good morning, everyone!” Our home room teacher smiles at us, and we all respond in kind. Nodding, she beams at us and waves a hand. “It’s wonderful to see you all bright and early here today, because we have an exciting announcement!

“Some of you might have seen the news last night, and as such, I’ll only touch on it. Because of that event, we’ll be getting a few transfer students across the school! The same things is happening in other high schools as well. I’m happy to say that we’re one of the classes lucky enough to have one of these people, so please take care of her!”

“Yes!” We all say, and the door to the room slides open as the transfer student walks in. All hope for a normal day instantly goes out of the window as I stare at the transfer student in shock.

She slowly walks to the side of our teacher and clicks her heels. “Hey everyone!” she smiles toothily. “My name is Gabrielle, and I come from Trenzani!”

My jaw drops as her gaze sweeps over the classroom and rests on me. She grins even wider. “Please take care of me!”

I can see the world spinning as I pitch to the side, my vision blackening. The last thing I see is Eri and Gabrielle rushing to catch me.

Huh, I think. I didn’t know demons could look so cute. And the world fades to black.