Chapter 8:

Millions of Me

Densetsu: A Beautiful Day


The large figure spread its large arms before targeting the clueless shrine maiden. Or so it seemed.

“Oh, you’re here first!” said Riku.

“Huh?”

The fog immediately dispersed, and the figure was revealed. Shackled with cog-shaped metals, birthed with a long chestnut horn on his forehead much like a unicorn, the sleeveless creature wrapped his arms around the shrine maiden close to his clutches.

“Oh, Riku, didja solve da incident? I don’t see the black clouds anymore.”

A horned man was something Kotaro hadn’t expected. To see him speak to the shrine maiden so casually meant they shared a bond. But, she was the shrine maiden.

“What is he?” Kotaro asked.

The carefree man noticed the puny Kotaro, becoming alerted. His brows narrowed and fierce. “Who are you?”

He drew closer to Kotaro with heavy stomps, his shadow overpowered the young man’s height.

“He’s an outsider. I couldn’t have solved the incident if he wasn’t around,” said Riku, “and Kotaro, I would like you to meet Fuuko. He’s an oni.”

“Outsider, huh? Well then, a friend of Riku is a friend of mine! Good evening, my name’s Fuuko Onihara, one of the Royal Foundations of Strength!”

“I-I’m Kotaro Nishiki! It’s a pleasure to meet you,” his hand trembled as it came closer to Fuuko’s.

He couldn’t keep eye contact with the oni, but those shackled hands looked like they could crush him in mere seconds.

Eventually, they shook hands—but Kotaro felt an immense strength from the oni shaking the living bones in him.

“Hm? Riku, is he sick? He’s not looking at me,”

He noticed, Kotaro’s heart skipped a beat.

“It’s his first time to see a friendly yokai,”

“Hey, I’m a yokai too!” commented Yuuki.

“You don’t count,” Riku replied, sharply.

“Oh, I get it! He got attacked by a bad yokai.” Fuuko snatched the young man and lifted him into the air.

The oni maintained eye contact with the frightened man. “There are bad people out there, just like humans and yokai! If you ever need help, you can count on me!”

“Drop me down please!”

The friendly oni fulfilled his request, dropping the human who fell on his bottom. “Woah there, I’m sorry about that!”

He recovered from the fall. “I-It’s alright…”

Observing the timid man, Riku smacked the oni with a stick. “It’s okay, Kotaro. He means no harm.”

“You have more questions, don’t you? We have all the time we need to answer them.”

His past. But he hesitated to ask. Instead, he chose a different question.

“Are there oth—”

“It’s finally time I get to meet you,” Kotaro turned around to see an elegant lady in an ebony dress. She wore an eyepatch, covering her left eye; her right eye was scarlet. And, her hair was wavy and sapphire. “Pleased to meet you, I am Lucia Vlad Scarlet—the headmistress of the Bleeding Demon Mansion.”

“Ah, you guys have arrived too,” Riku noted.

“I knew you would solve the incident one way or the other. Which is why I ordered Victoria to cook quite the feast for this celebration.”

Instantly, a maid with bright white hair appeared between Lucia and Riku. “It seems I’ve run out of ingredients to cook anymore food.”

An elongated blanket was already set on the ground, including extravagant and elegant meals. The guests immediately took a seat and feasted on the maid’s food.

“You still have more questions, don’t you,” the shrine maiden sipped her cup of wine.

The young man nibbled his riceball. “What kind of person was I?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Yuuki told me about the loops. Was I the same every time the day repeated itself?”

It felt like pandemonium. A forced purgatory that couldn’t be escaped.

“The first time I met you, you were so confused about where you were…”

Morning brought life into Densetsu, wind’s breath breezed the shrine, and Riku spent the day cleaning her home.

Six months had passed since the resolve of the One-Eyed Incident.

Then the skies blackened. Her sensory abilities heightened.

The people of Sylvia, they would succumb to sickness by the black clouds. Monsters would take this advantage and invade their homes.

She soared into the skies towards the source. When she arrived, a barrier had been planted.

The Barrier of Makai, among the most powerful barriers forged by the demons, was made to prevent entrance and exits. Riku couldn’t break it by any means without the risks of breaking the Skill Rules.

Not only that, she spotted several Infernians guarding the factory.

“How did you Infernians get into Sylvan grounds? What is your purpose here?”

“Classified information, Kamiyama Shrine Maiden. Now, brush off!”

“All of you are lucky you’re protected by that barrier. By the time I return, your deadly projects will be stopped!”

“You will do no such thing, shrine maiden. Go and solve other incidents,” retorted the guards.

There was nothing she could do. Barriers were difficult to break.

Riku returned to the shrine.

She could manipulate the earth and dig under the barrier, thus bypassing it, but she feared even that would break the Skill Rule.

Then she remembered.

Her old adversary, Yuuki.

“Gap Yokai, I know you’re here! I’ve come to talk to you,”

Silence.

Reality distorted in front of her, and a portal emerged.

“You called me?”

“Yes, I need your powers to help me bypass that barrier.”

“No can do,”

“Hm? Why not? Don’t tell me that breaks the Skill Rules too?”

“Obviously. Why do you think we made it strict? So we don’t go through loopholes like this,”

“But you break the same rules you create,” argued Riku. “What difference does it make if you create one just for me?”

“Because the portals I make are my doing, not yours.”

The people of Densetsu knew his powers, his existence, and status as the Legend of Densetsu—individuals responsible for Densetsu’s creation.

They must stay in their own lane, keeping the balance in Densetsu intact rather than involve themselves in the quarrels of humans and monsters.

“Until you learn how to create your own portal, you’ll just have to stick with the Portal Talisman.”

As long as the barrier remained, Riku couldn’t plant her talisman onto the other side.

“I’ll be on my way now…a guest will be visiting your shrine soon…” and he returned wherever he came from within his portal.

Though, his departing words were correct. She sensed someone’s presence coming from the top.

A human? Not just a human from a village. Rather, an Outsider…

“You climb to the top. So confused, and hesitant,” said Riku.

To her, he was just like any ordinary outsider who accidentally ran into Yuuki’s portal. Why he left them hanging around the Outside World, she never knew the answer.

“And then you were killed by NEW. I…couldn’t stop it from happening,” Riku added.

She watched helplessly. The sharp steel impaled his chest.

“Why did you follow me?!”

Among the containers, a Project Device forced itself out of its cage as soon as Kotaro appeared. It charged after him, bypassing the destructive barrier and fatally wounded him.

It happened in seconds. She was too slow to react.

“Then Yuuki restarted the day in order to prevent you from dying,” said Riku, “admitly, I was starting to ac—”

A thunderous and abrupt sound interrupted Riku. The sonic boom exploded from the skies, and the pilot arrived at the shrine with passion.

She lifted her pointy hat, smiling, and brushed off the dust from her black-and-white dress.

“Hey, Riku! I heard you finally solved the Infinite Loop Incident! Sorry I couldn’t help Kotaro. I was busy helping Alex with his experiments!”

He tilted his head with raised brows. “You know me?”

“You didn’t tell him about me, Riku?” said the black-and-white woman.

“I didn’t bother. Maybe if you were here earlier, I would’ve told him,”

She sighed. “Well, I’m Melissa Higashi! During one of the loops, I tried teaching you how to fly.”

“You taught me to fly?”

“However, you learning how to fly was almost pointless. You hardly flew during your fights. If we had extra time, you may have learned how to fly in roughly two months,” explained Riku.

“So then, I went on to teach you how to use Skills,” added Melissa.

“Skills too?”

“Somehow, you couldn’t even manifest your own reiki. It was as if someone was blocking it. Thus, we concluded you couldn’t use Skills.”

“But things have changed now that the Infinite Loop has resolved,” Lucia joined in their conversation.

The vampire stared at Kotaro through the transparent cup. “Each method you tried failed, but this one succeeded.”

“I-I couldn’t have done it without Noel,” Kotaro mentioned.

Everyone turned their eyes to Noel.

She momentarily glared at Kotaro before nervously admitting her doing. “That’s right! I…I saved him! If it weren’t for me, we would’ve had another loop starting.”

“But that’s odd,” said Lucia, returning her attention to Kotaro. “How were you able to bypass the Barrier of Makai? I thought Kotaro was the only one capable of doing that. It certainly raises some questions.”

“Yeah, had we known Noel was able to bypass it, we wouldn’t have to suffer the repetition,” Melissa agreed.

The vampire rolled her eyes over to the gap yokai.

“You’re her master, yokai. Care to explain? You’re normally talkative, but you’ve been silent this entire time.”

Yuuki picked himself up and created a portal. “I’ll be leaving now. There are important businesses I must attend to..”

Lucia squinted her eyes in suspicion. “Leaving so soon?”

“But it’s only been a few minutes,” Kotaro protested, standing up.

The young man searched his pockets in hopes of returning the gifted sword.

“What are you doing?”

“Giving this back. This is yours,”

“Keep it. It’s not mine.”

“What? Whose is it then?”

“A good friend of mine…”

“All the more reason to give it back!” Kotaro protested.

Yuuki turned around. “How about this? If you return that sword to my friend, I’ll reward you.”

“R-Reward me with what?”

“I’ll think about it. Can you do that for me?”

Would it be easier if he did it himself? Kotaro thought. “I don’t know if I’ll return.”

Yuuki smirked, “But you will…”

Kotaro widened his eyes, dumbfounded.

His smile, the tone of his voice, resonated in the young man.

Why does it feel so familiar?

“Well, I’ll be going now…enjoy the celebration!”

Confused yet curious, he reached his hand to Yuuki—knowing that would do nothing. The gap yokai had left.

“You look gloomy after he left,” said Melissa.

“I had more questions from him. It’s like…I met him way before all of this happened,”

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