I had always wondered what it would be like to have roommates, but in my imagination, it was always fun. We’d stay up late playing video games, talking about girls, and just doing male bonding things. That was how I imagined having roommates.
What I hadn’t imagined was awkward silence as one person glared at me and the other stared at the wall.
Donatello wasn’t looking at me at all, though I suppose that was better than Mihikaze, who’s glared made me think he was trying to see if he had laser vision.
I wanted to say something. I wanted to make this less awkward. At the very least, I wanted the two sharing a room with me to not hate me.
“D-do either of you watch anime?” I asked.
“Why the fuck would I watch anime?” asked Mihikaze, scowling. “You think I’m some fucking otaku?! Is that it?! Are you picking a fight with me?!”
“I don’t approve of watching animated cartoons that depict children as sexual objects,” Donatello added.
“O-okay…” I muttered. “I’ll take that as a no.”
It was definitely a good thing Alicia wasn’t here, or she might have destroyed them both for insulting anime. That girl was hardcore when it came to anime. Also, I was pretty offended by that children depicted as sexual objects comment. Anime might sometimes have questionable content, but none of the anime I’ve seen had pedophilia.
Before I could even contemplate whether explaining that to Donatello, loud banging echoed from the door.
“Jacob!” Alicia shouted. “Jacob! I need your help!”
I forgot all about my roommates as I scrambled to my feet and raced to the door. I opened it to find a heavily breathing Alicia on the other side. She looked like she’d run here from her room.
“Alicia, what’s wrong?”
“Y… Yūgure never returned to the room,” Alicia said. “I… I’ve… let Ms. Kanzaki know… but I’m worried. Will you… will you help me search for her?”
“Of course I will,” I said. “Let me get my shoes.”
I bent over and quickly grabbed my shoes, slipping them on and standing back up. I didn’t even look at my roommate as I stepped out. It wasn’t until I had shut the door behind me that I realized Alicia wasn’t alone.
“These two are…”
“Heya!” the cheerful girl with dyed blond hair, lots of makeup, and a stylish outfit said. “We’ve never talked, but I’m Kaoru!”
“Uh, hi,” I said before turning to the other girl.
She was fairly short, had blonde hair and blue eyes. It was the girl who’d been sitting next to Donatello. His sister?
“Um… Leonora, right?” I asked.
“That’s right,” Leonora quickly bowed, though not before I saw the stiffness in her posture. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, N—Jacob.”
I blinked. Then I looked at Alicia. She shrugged.
“It’s nice to meet you too,” I said. “Or it would be, but we don’t have time for pleasantries. Alicia, you said Yūgure never came to the room?”
“That’s right,” she said. “Kaoru, Leonora, and I were talking, so I didn’t realize how late it’s gotten, but Yūgure hasn’t appeared since she vanished during dinner. I’m really worried about her.”
“In that case, we should probably split up,” I said. “We’ll be able to cover more ground.” And since humans couldn’t stand to be in my presence… “Kaoru and Leonora, would you two please mind looking around the hotel’s interior? Alicia and I will head outside.”
“Will do,” Leonora said.
“Just leave it to us!” Kaoru added.
Since everything knew their role, we split up here, Kaoru and Leonora going one way, while Alicia and I went another.
The two of us made our way outside. We were careful to avoid any of the works. I didn’t know if they would rat on us, but I didn’t want to risk them telling Ms. Kanzaki that we were leaving. The night air was cool. Being in a place with few lights, we had a clear view of the stars.
“Let’s start by checking out the boardwalk,” I suggested.
“Right,” Alicia muttered.
We headed down for the boardwalk, maintaining a lookout of the area just in case we missed her. Devils had fairly good night vision, though not at the levels of a yōkai. I was half devil, so I could also see in the dark to some degree. That said, I was thankful for the lamps that dotted the area at one-meter intervals.
“It doesn’t look like she’s here,” Alicia said as we stared at the boardwalk. Down below was the beach. We couldn’t see any shadows that might be a person.
“No, it doesn’t,” I agreed. “Shall we try somewhere else.”
As we continued searching, I noticed that Alicia’s shoulders had gained a noticeable slump.
“Is something wrong?” I asked.
“Not really.” She shook her head. “I guess I just feel like I should have done more for Yūgure. I feel like I should have gotten her to open up.”
“Do you think you’re not making her talk is the reason she disappeared?”
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
“I doubt that’s what it is,” I said. “Yūgure might have be going through something tough, but she isn’t the type to just wander off because she’s having trouble. More than likely, that guy we met earlier is to blame.”
Alicia’s eyes widened. “You don’t think…?”
“I think it’s a very likely possibility,” I said.
Almost as if my words were prophetic, a massive detonation rocked the air. It was as though something, a falling star, had crashed into the earth. The two of us twisted our heads around, seeking out the source—a massive cloud of dust several dozen meters away.
“Let’s go!” I said.
The two of us raced toward where the detonation had taken place. We weren’t sure what to expect, but a mutated version of the boy from earlier, Kuriyama, trying to kill Yūgure and some woman neither of us knew, was not it.
However, now wasn’t the time to think about that.
I had been practicing a bit with my powers, and though I couldn’t do anything really crazy yet, I liked to say my control had improved. Now, instead of just crescent waves or beams, I could fire bullets, too.
That was what I did here. I held out my hand and took aim. A magic circle, small and simple, appeared in front of my finger. Then I unleashed the dark energy gathered there.
It sounded a lot like a gun, complete with loud thunderclap, though the bullet it shot was much slower. Even so, Kuriyama had no way to dodge. It struck him in the face.
I thought that would put him down, but it didn’t. He got back up, seemingly unharmed. I was shocked and couldn’t respond.
Fortunately, Alicia was with me.
A giant magic circle appeared above Kuriyama, crackling a dark red with repressed demonic energy. The air around the space superheated. A tingle ran down my spine as stray arcs came a little too close for comfort. Then a giant bolt of dark red power shaped like a javelin flew down.
Kuriyama punched it.
I didn’t know I could be this surprised anymore. The javelin of energy exploded off Kuriyama’s fist, dispersing into bright red particles that disappeared on the wind.
“KURO!!!” Kuriyama shouted as he sought out Yūgure.
I had no idea what was happening with this, but when I saw the way Yūgure froze when he stared at her, I knew that Alicia and I needed to do something. We couldn’t afford to just stand around.
Kuriyama charged at Yūgure. I turned the keys inside my soul, unlocking several of the locks that kept my power at bay. It was easier this time than it was last time.
Power flooded through me, coursing down my body and sending jolts up my spine. I quickly did my best to separate the two powers, angelic and demonic, into my hands. Then I created a pair of magic circles.
I swept out my left hand. A dark purple wave rushed forward. Kuriyama stopped and leapt back as though he’d sensed the power. That was fine. I threw a punch with my other hand, unleashing a power beam of golden angelic energy at Kuriyama, who was unprepared for the attack. It slammed into his face, though once again, it looked like nothing had happened.
Alicia followed up, crossing her arms in front of her faith as dark energy gathered around her. A magic circle appeared in front of her. She threw her arms wide, and from the magic circle, two blades crisscrossing each other bolted forward and struck Kuriyama full on. This time, it seemed to do something.
Kuriyama screamed as the energy blades dug into his skin. No blood came out, however, which shocked me. I could see the skin splitting open like an overripe fruit, see the muscles and bones inside being exposed, but there wasn’t any blood. What the heck?
I realized what had happened. The first blade wouldn’t have been enough to injure him thanks to that skin of his, which seemed much tougher than regular human skin. That was why the Alicia had created a second blade. The first blade’s power was increased by the second blade. It explained why, despite there being two energy blades, only the first one did any damage.
That still didn’t explain why he wasn’t bleeding.
“Yūgure!” Alicia rushed over to their friend. “Are you okay?!”
Yūgure began to nod, but she quickly changed it into a shake. Alicia placed a hand on Yūgure’s shoulder and pulled her close as though to hug her, but she quickly changed from pulling Yūgure to pushing the nekomata behind her as, standing back up, Kuriyama began giggling.
“Kuro… Kuro Kuro Kuro! Why are you denying me?! Why are you not coming back with me?! Is it because I wasn’t there for all these years?! I’m here now! I’m here now, Kuro! KURO!!!!”
With a shriek that was more inhuman than anything I’d ever heard, Kuriyama rushed toward Alicia and Yūgure. He didn’t get far before four bright orange tails wrapped around his neck, lifted him into the air, and slammed him back onto the ground. A small crater formed underneath him. Cracks spread from the center of impact. Several feet away, breathing heavily, the fox spirit retracted her tails.
“Now is your chance!” she shouted.
Alicia and I understood; this was our chance to finish this man off.
Wings spread from my back, spearing out of my clothes, one made of pure white feathers and the other leathery and black. Likewise, Alicia’s devil wings shot out from her back as she leapt into the air.
The two of us met above Kuriyama, who was still lying on the ground. We needed to act fast. He wouldn’t remain like that forever.
“Ready?” asked Alicia.
“Yes,” I said.
We held out our hands and each created a magic circle, one on top of the other.
While we hadn’t done much training, it wasn’t as if we hadn’t done any practice together. Alicia had suggested that we become a bit more acquainted with each other’s powers. This had happened after our three-legged race. She suggested we train together, so twice a week, we sparred against each other. Thanks to this, we had gotten a pretty good feel for the other person’s abilities.
What came from our conjoined attack was a brilliant beam of purple energy surrounded by red lightning. The attack slammed into Kuriyama. A brilliant white light engulfed the area, which forced me to shut my eyes if I didn’t want to go blind.
When the light died down, I opened my eyes and peered at the ground. There was a crater, maybe about ten meters wide and seven deep. I thought we had done a good job. If this had been two weeks ago, that crater would have been much bigger. It was a lot harder to condense a powerful attack so it only did a little damage than it was to let the attack explode everywhere.
Kuriyama was lying inside of that crater. His body had reverted back to what I remembered during our first meeting. Pale skin. The markings on his body had faded. He looked no different from a human.
Alicia and I landed back on the ground, near the lip of the crater, and stared down at Kuriyama as Yūgure and the fox spirit walked up to us.
“Wow,” the fox spirit said. “You guys are pretty strong.”
“Who are you?” I asked.
“Oh, sorry. We haven’t been introduced yet.” Clearing her throat, the woman performed a very proper bow and said, “my name is Chinami Chizuru. I’m a fox yōkai who works for Mistress Kumiho.”
“Kumiho?” I parroted the name.
“Kumiho is the current nine-tailed fox,” Alicia said. “She’s considered one of the superpowers in the yōkai world. In terms of strength, she’s on par with devils like Asmodeus and Belial.”
“That strong, huh?” I asked, shuddering at the thought of someone who was that powerful.
Belial had been the person who was chasing after Alicia when we first met. She and I had fought against him, and we’d nearly been killed. It had taken everything Alicia and I had to defeat Belial. I didn’t envy the thought of meeting someone who was just as strong.
“Are you okay, Yūgure?” I asked the nekomata.
Yūgure shook her head and walked into me. She was shivering. I looked at Alicia, not quite sure what I should do, but she just sighed.
“She wants you to comfort her. You should probably hold her.”
I still wasn’t too comfortable with hugs, but this was Yūgure, my friend, so I put aside my discomfort and wrapped my arms around her. The shivering didn’t stop. However, it did lessen as Yūgure grabbed my shirt and pulled her face further into my chest.
“So…” I began again, mostly in an effort to ignore the way my stomach twisted into knots, “what should we do about him?”
Everyone sans Yūgure looked at Kuriyama, still unconscious and lying in the crater. I still didn’t really know what was going on. However, it didn’t seem right to just leave him there.
“Um, maybe I should take him to Mistress Kumiho,” Chinami suggested. “She might know what happened to him. What do you think, Kuro?”
Yūgure stiffened in my arms, causing me to look down at the nekomata, who was shivering again.
“Kuriyama also called you that,” I murmured. “Is that your name?”
Yūgure said nothing, though I didn’t expect her to. I looked at Alicia. She caught my eye and shrugged, apparently no closer to comprehending the situation than I was.
“Oh, dear,” a voice suddenly spoke up. “It looks like my underling has gotten into some trouble.”
None of us were able to do anything as, without warning, six people suddenly appeared all around us. I didn’t know who they were. All of them were women.
Two of them were twins with brown hair and brown eyes. They were standing next to Chinami, a pair of kodachis held in their hands, the blades pointed at Chinami’s various vital organs. Next to Alicia, two other girls were present—a blue-haired beauty in kimono with claws made of ice that were pointed at Alicia’s throat, and a woman who had the lower body of a snake. Consequently, the woman with the snake woman’s tail had wrapped around Alicia’s waist, and the tip was poking her stomach.
The last two stood beside me. One behind Yūgure and I, one behind and the other in front. One of them was a raven-haired beauty with black pinions jutting from her back, a crow tengu, while the other was a nekomata with white hair and porcelain skin. While the crow tengu had enfolded us in her wings, which I noticed had purple poison dripping from them, the nekomata’s sharpened claws were pointed at Yūgure’s back.
All four of us were surrounded, but what made this worse, was that I had no idea when they had shown up, and also, the voice from before wasn’t any of these girls.
I remembered that voice from earlier.
He walked out of the darkness, the handsome man with pale skin, dark hair, and the refined but deadly aura. Nothing looked out of place. He was wearing a kimono now instead of an Hawaiian shirt, and his geta sandals clacked against the dirt as he stopped on the other side of the crater. Piercing yellow eyes stared at us. There was a smile on his face. It was calm, placid, almost gentlemanly.
His smile made me shudder.
“Well, it seems you have done a number on my underling,” he said, shaking his head sadly. “Normally, I would be most cross with you… however, I believe he brought it upon himself this time. So I’ll let you go, and I’ll even apologize to you for the trouble he has caused.”
No one really knew what to say. I’m pretty sure no one wanted to say anything. Granted, our situation was unfavorable, and it was clear from the women poised to kill us that this man, whoever he was, was in control.
Something long and covered in scales slithered out of the man’s robe and went down the crater, wrapping around Kuriyama and lifting him up. It was a tail. Reptilian. A lizard tail?
“Well,” the man said, his tail now coiled around Kuriyama as though it were a cocoon, “I will take my leave of you now. Do take care of yourselves.”
As the man began walking away, the women lowered their weapons—and tail—and moved backwards, disappearing into the darkness.
The four of us were alone now. No one spoke for the longest time. I think we were trying to take in what happened; I know that I was. There was so much I didn’t understand, didn’t know, that this entire situation, these events, seemed like a surreal dream.
“Well,” Chinami finally broke the silence, “I need to report to Kumiho. Thank you guys for looking after Kuro. I’ll probably get in touch with you later to discuss what’s happening. Is there some way I can reach you?”
“We’re actually staying at the resort here,” Alicia said. “We’ll be here for five days, so just find us during that time.”
“Okay,” Chinami agreed. “That sounds like a plan. Later.”
We watched while Chinami walked off, not saying anything for several seconds. When she faded into the distance, Alicia and I looked at each other.
“I somehow think this vacation has become a lot more complicated,” she said.
I couldn’t help but agree.