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. Bookmark here

“Oh, you’re here first!” said Riku. Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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

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. Bookmark here

“What is he?” Kotaro asked.Bookmark here

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

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

“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.”Bookmark here

“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!”Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

He noticed, Kotaro’s heart skipped a beat. Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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!”Bookmark here

“Drop me down please!”Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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

“Are there oth—”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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

“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.”Bookmark here

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

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. Bookmark here

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

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

“I’m sorry?”Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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

Then the skies blackened. Her sensory abilities heightened. Bookmark here

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

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

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. Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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

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

Riku returned to the shrine. Bookmark here

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

Then she remembered. Bookmark here

Her old adversary, Yuuki. Bookmark here

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

Silence. Bookmark here

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

“You called me?”Bookmark here

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

“No can do,”Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“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. Bookmark here

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

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

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

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. Bookmark here

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

She watched helplessly. The sharp steel impaled his chest. Bookmark here

“Why did you follow me?!” Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

“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!” Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

“You taught me to fly?” Bookmark here

“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. Bookmark here

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

“Skills too?”Bookmark here

“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.” Bookmark here

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

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

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

Everyone turned their eyes to Noel. Bookmark here

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.”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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

The vampire rolled her eyes over to the gap yokai. Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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

“What are you doing?”Bookmark here

“Giving this back. This is yours,”Bookmark here

“Keep it. It’s not mine.”Bookmark here

“What? Whose is it then?”Bookmark here

“A good friend of mine…”Bookmark here

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

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

“R-Reward me with what?”Bookmark here

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

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

Yuuki smirked, “But you will…”Bookmark here

Kotaro widened his eyes, dumbfounded. Bookmark here

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

Why does it feel so familiar? Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

You can resume reading from this paragraph.