Chapter 5:

Shaky Alliances

White Parasite

In the afternoon, Hazuki rose unceremoniously, his body still weary from a whole night of staying up. Toshifumi was still softly snoozing away but as Hazuki thrust his fold-up bed on to the wall and silently slipped on a varsity jacket, his older brother's phone, which was still connected to the powerpoint, got moved into a position he could see.

Toshifumi had been on the magicians' forum for the entire time he'd been home last night, and hadn't bothered to hide what he'd typed.

The boy stayed kneeling next to his brother, the phone still in his hands, as he tried to puzzle out what was going on:

Irina didn't seem to be connected to anyone of this earth, nor did La Luna. However, the two didn't seem to have a connection to each other.

Christie, who had taken up residence in an abandoned house in the street they'd first met Luna, was still blindly following the fox out of confidence she was doing the right thing. As far as she was concerned, she was fighting out of love for her new life, even though Luna had made it clear it was more than that. In short, he couldn't trust her - even though they were childhood friends, she could never be realistic about things, this included.

Since Toshifumi was basically asking to leave his side for his own interests, the best point of action would be to "call into the void for Irina", just as she'd asked.

His "void" of choice was this forum. After all, if she was monitoring La Luna, the best source of information would be this.

"Come to my door as soon as you see this, and knock thrice. Bring any backup you need. Help me snipe the fox," he punched in, not doubting his words for one second while the body with the patchworked clothes - Toshifumi - kept rising and falling in the rhythm of sleep.

Almost as soon as he'd posted, three knocks came.
Surely enough, there was Irina, the black stripe in her blonde hair showing again. Behind her were two boys her (supposed) age, dressed in all black suits and with serious faces. The only way their method of dress differed from Irina was the sunglasses.

Hazuki held back a laugh. This looked like a professional hit squad! Not magical boys (at least, he hoped they were magical boys) and their uppity trenchcoat leader!

It seemed the boy on Irina's right - whose similar appearance to himself gave him away as being of Asian descent - agreed with him, but this one was laughing out loud.

"Kanato!" she hissed at him, just as Toshifumi stirred...and spotted the group of teenagers at the door.

"Now what?" grumbled the other boy to Irina, a brunette who was flanking her from the other side of Kanato. "Do we drop all the pretenses - your silly disguise included? We've already captured the guy responsible for the portal; surely we don't need to-" He held his left hand up as if to conjure something, but was interrupted by Toshifumi.

"Portal!" Toshifumi cried, breathing heavily. "What the hell are you talking about?"

His brother hadn't reacted so far, but Hazuki was eventually the one with the last word - "It's too cramped to talk here. We're heading to the park."
It was an awkward sight to see - the five of them, all way too old for the playground, vacantly sitting on the equipment. No one had bothered to talk since the "hit squad" arrived, since 'Irina' needed to get rid of her wig and sunglasses. (It turned out the black hair was her real hair colour.) The girl paced about on the playground flooring, her shoes making no noise as she did.

"I think we need to formally get this out of the way - unlike your 'La Luna', we're not a threat. Not even a potential one. Unlike your brother though," she spoke directly to Hazuki in a calm voice, but she was gripping the inside of her trenchcoat pockets in a way that suggested she was not calm at all, "we know what we're doing to capture this...creature."

The brother in question came up from behind her and released her hands from the pockets, but she lashed out at him with a roundhouse kick...and narrowly missed due to Kanato having rushed in and intercepting her with his elbow.

As if this was an entirely planned sequence, she let her foot drop while producing barrier after barrier of her panels, eventually grabbing one with an olive branch symbol on it and showing it to Hazuki as he sat on the swing.

"Step Up squadron", it read, "A taskforce that eliminates magical threats, normally employed by governments. Due to an inter-dimensional portal being opened in their dimension, they have enough freedom to roam in dimensions where their magic works."

She then switched it to another panel, this one showing Luna's forms. "A being that appears to have no real name or motive, but is nicknamed 'La Luna' by their magician, Christie. It gifts magic to those it deems 'are full of goodwill'. It appears to have based its appearances according to the legends and tales of Japanese 'kitsune', and seems to have a genuine curiosity regarding humans and their old stories."

"If you sincerely wish to stage your own uprising," she glared at Toshifumi, who had been taking in the information over Hazuki's shoulder, "I'd suggest you gather information yourself. You're not doing a very good job of being covert."

Toshifumi gave out a sheepish giggle, then took off for the spot he'd arranged to meet the other anchor members of the forum.

You can resume reading from this paragraph.