Chapter 11:

The Angel and her Raven

The Hollow

Kiyashi awoke the next morning and looked at the face of the sleeping girl beside her. The raven had nestled on the girl’s chest, snuggled into the blanket. Kiyashi smiled softly and gently pulled up the blankets a bit more to tuck them around the girl.

“If she’s not a Dark Angel, then what is she?”

Sendo had voiced that question the night before, as Kiyashi tried to coax the girl to eat some warm soup that Yamato had prepared. The girl had awoken after drinking some water. Yamato had found a set of clothes small enough to fit the girl, in storage. (“We literally have everything you’d possibly need in this world,” he’d said.) Kiyashi tucked it into her bag for later; the girl had to be cleaned of all the mud and dirt clinging to her skin.

“And there were no bell tolls, are you sure of that?,” Yamato repeated. The bell tolls signaled the daily “falling in” of new people from the Overworld, or so the people of the Hollow called the “real world.” There was an observed “falling in” of one to two people a day. And always preceded by the tolling of the bells. And, if one was to look up into the cloud-filled sky, a piercing line of light would break through the clouds and then disappear in the blink of an eye like a flash of lightning. That signaled that someone had “fallen.”

As the two men conversed, Kiyashi helped hold the cup of soup in the girl’s hands. The raven, on the edge of the fireside bench that they were seated at, was munching on a few crackers.

“It’s not that hot, so you won’t burn your tongue,” said Kiyashi.

The girl lifted her violet-coloured eyes and blinked, then put her mouth to the brim of the cup. As she warily took a sip, her eyes lit up at the flavour and after another sip, she turned her wide eyes to Kiyashi and nodded slightly, some colour coming to her cheeks, turning them slightly pink, small roses on pale white.

“It’s good, isn’t it? Yamato makes the best soup.” Kiyashi smiled.

Only after the girl had finished the cup of soup, did Kiyashi venture to question her.

“My name is Kiyashi. What’s yours?”

There was a slight pause. “My, my name is Mifu,” came the reply, a voice of softly chiming bells.

“Nice to meet you, Mifu.”

“And I’m Sendo,” said Sendo, walking over into their conversation.

Mifu nodded and looked back at Kiyashi. The raven came over and nestled beside her.

“Where am I?”

“Well, you’re in the Hollow. You, uh, fell in.”

“Falling… I don’t remember falling in,” said Mifu, quietly and concern shadowed her face. Kiyashi looked up at Sendo, worried.

“Who am I? My name is Mifu but, besides that… I don’t know,” continued the girl and then fell silent.

Then was hugged by Kiyashi. Pulling the girl into her arms, Kiyashi held her close. “Mifu, don’t worry. I’m here for you. We’re here for you. We’ll help remember, okay? So don’t worry.”

“Kiyashi- could I have a word?” Sendo spoke and gestured to Kiyashi. Standing up, Kiyashi gave Mifu’s head a pat and walked over to Sendo.

“What’s up,” she asked when they were out of earshot.

“Are you out of your mind? We can’t keep a Dark Angel with us.”

“What do you mean? Why not? And she’s not a Dark Angel.”

“She had a bird with her, what other proof do we need?”

“You said she didn’t have a weapon.”

Sendo dropped his eyes and sighed. “I- I did say that.”

“And just look at her,” said Kiyashi. “I’m not leaving her all by herself when she doesn’t even remember how she got here. I remember, don’t you?”

This was a topic that they had never spoken about and Kiyashi felt odd bringing it up but she held her ground.

Sendo looked frozen for a moment then scratched his head. “Yeah, I do.”

“Please, Sendo. I will be her guardian. Please let her stay with us.”

Light brown eyes met dark brown and the space between them was suspended in silence. Even their breathing was silent. Finally, after what felt like a whole minute, Sendo ran his hand through his hair and sighed.

“Okay, fine.”

Kiyashi’s face lit up immediately. “Thank you!” She then turned and went back to Mifu and broke the news to her. The girl looked visibly happy and gave Kiyashi a hug back.

Leaning against the wall and watching them, Sendo sighed again and then smiled. And made a mental note to have Mifu write her name on the alliance list later.

- - -

Out on the road to their assignments, Kiyashi and Sendo walked with Mifu between them. She wore a matching colour cloak to them and had a small sheathed dagger on her hip. Yamato had gifted it to Mifu, telling them that she should wear a weapon as to not draw suspicion, especially from the Dark Angels. The raven didn’t necessarily have to be hidden as there were crows around and if asked, they could say that it was tamed.

Sendo had been stressing over these details before they left the apartment but Kiyashi had jokingly called him a worrywart and said that they’d manage. And so far, her words held truth, as they had not come across anyone yet, Hunter or Dark Angel, who asked any questions. Then again, the atmosphere of the Hollow did not call for casual street conversation.

Their first destination was the location of one of Sendo’s targets. The dot on the map had led them to a stairwell in the middle of a wooded area, leading down into the earth. It looked like a fancy entrance to a mineshaft. Torches in holders lined the walls. Kiyashi and Sendo each grabbed one and cautiously began the descent.

They made their way down the passage, which only had a scattering of torches and walls of smooth andesite. All they could hear was the occasional sound of dripping water that echoed around them, the source unclear. After they had been walking for some time with the tunnel showing no end, Mifu reached and gripped Kiyashi’s cloak tightly.

“Mifu? What is it?”

“Kii,” said Mifu, “There’s a monster up ahead.”

“You can see in the dark?,” asked Sendo incredulously.

Mifu shook her head. “I can see a dot up ahead.”

“A dot… like on our maps?” Kiyashi was taken aback. In the torchlight, she looked over at Sendo. He has a similar expression on his face. “Sendo, let’s get ready, just in case.”

Sendo nodded, setting his torch on a nearby empty holder, and notched an arrow to his bow. Signaling Mifu to stand behind her, Kiyashi drew her katana.

After a couple yards forward, there was a loud glop and a hiss of steam and a glob of what looked like molten lava writhed in their path. The glob opened and revealed a mouth of bubbling lava.

“A peripheral!,” Sendo shouted and let his arrow fly. The lava blob wiggled in pain as an arrow buried itself in its body. Running forward, Kiyashi raised her katana and brought it down in an arc. The blob exploded in a shower of lava and Kiyashi had to hold up her cloak to block the molten drops.

“Ouch, that was hot.”

There was a pattering of bootfalls and Mifu came running up from behind Kiyashi and hugged her from behind. Kiyashi smiled and gave her a pat on the head.

“Thank you, Mifu. You saved us from a surprise.”

“So, she can see in the dark. Kind of,” said Sendo, joining them. “Is that an ability of a Dark Angel?”

Kiyashi looked down at Mifu clinging to her and continued to pat her head in silence.

- - -

As the days turned to weeks, Mifu became more aware of her ability to see targets on a map in her head. She became clearer with her instructions whenever Kiyashi or Sendo would enter an area near their targets; the other two adjusted as well.

She was still swathed in mystery, which Mifu herself knew nothing of, of whether she was a Dark Angel or not. No one had confirmed the powers of a Dark Angel before so it was unknown if this scouting ability was that of a Dark Angel. But it was clear she was not a Hunter, as she did not have a weapon or even a list and map.

“We shouldn’t always rely on Mifu though. That’s too much responsibility on her,” said Sendo, after one successful list finish. Kiyashi was carrying Mifu on her back, as the girl had become sleepy and Kiyashi had offered to carry her, which she obliged. She was quite attached to Kiyashi.

Kiyashi nodded. “It looks to exhaust her too. I keep telling her that she doesn’t have to, but she just does.”

Sendo and Kiyashi exchanged a glance and then a smile as they looked at the sleeping girl. They knew she was trying hard to make her place in their group but she had already established herself well enough; she was already part of the team.