Soul Nemesis [VOLUME I]
With his ride around town growing stale, Eiji opted to stop by Hayato’s shop, and maybe have another juice with the change he received from the photography studio.
After the boy had parked his bike outside, he made his way into the shop, despite the sign’s lights being turned off. If no one was there or the door was locked, he could always try again another time after all.
To his surprise, the door opened at his touch, and he soon found himself inside the familiar atmosphere of the bar.
Eiji scanned the room, searching for Hayato, who was seemingly nowhere to be found.
What he did find though, was another kid, a little girl staring back at him.
At the sight of the mysterious boy, the young girl with the short, light brown hair and the mole next to her lip, trotted towards the back room at once.
“Who was that?” Right as Eiji pondered on that, a faint, high-pitched voice echoed from the back.
“Nii-san, there’s someone at the door…”
“The door? But I told you to—“ Hayato swiftly emerged from the backroom, with the little girl stuck like glue behind his leg. “Oh, Eiji! What’s up?”
“Yo, Hayato.” With his usual greeting, Eiji waved back at the owner.
“What brings you here?”
“I was wondering if you were open.”
“We’re not, but have a seat. A juice, right?” Hayato chuckled, getting some oranges prepped.
“Thanks.” Eiji nodded with a small smile, and climbed up on the usual stool.
“Uhm….” Behind the tall counter, a low voice echoed once again “Nii-san, who is that?”
“Oh, right. Eiji this is Yume, my sister. And, Yume, this is Eiji.” Hayato nonchalantly introduced the two, as he masterfully prepared the beverage.
There was a brief silence between the three, before Hayato took the lead once more.”Aham!” The skilled bartender turned to the girl beside him, “Yume is a year younger than you but I hope you get along. Now go on, say hi!”
The shy little girl, albeit hesitantly, rounded the counter and walked up to where Eiji was sitting, ultimately bowing her head deeply.
“I-It’s… Nice to meetchoo!”
“Meetchoo?” Eiji couldn’t help but repeat after her.
There was another silence, before the girl ran back to her brother’s side with hurried steps.
“Heh, she’s a little shy, so…” Hayato served a glass to Eiji, with a wry smile, “And to you too, Yume.” And handed another to the girl silently hyperventilating right around his feet.
“Uh-huh.” Eiji grabbed the glass, taking a sip “I saw Shig just now.”
“Shig? You mean Shigeru?”
“What?! That idiot! I sent him to the convenience store 3 hours ago!”
“3 hours? I saw him not too long ago just around the area…”
“Man, how difficult is it to just grab a few things and come back…” Hayato sighed and leaned against the counter. “Wait! You don’t think he made off with my money, right?”
“How much did you give him?”
“I don’t think anyone can live off of that, Hayato…” Eiji sighed, and sipped his juice once more.
After Eiji had spent, or more like wasted, a good amount of time around the neighborhood, he figured it was time he went on home. He had a party to attend to, and a visit to his mom to make after all. He was actually about to celebrate his 3rd birthday with only Asahi and his sister. Somehow, the life he had led with his mother and sister alone seemed like ages ago. This was his new home. His new life. No matter how weird their little “family” set-up was, they really made it work.
After making sure he had grabbed the photographs once more, he parked his bike in front of their modest house. It went without saying that they didn’t own it, and the rent was quite high, yet they thought it was better than a plain-old apartment in some flat, even despite the weathered furnishing. As Eiji got down from his bike, he snuck a peek inside the envelope he was holding, and winced. He never really liked taking pictures after all, since he thought he looked mean in all of them. Maybe he just wasn’t photogenic. Nevertheless, when his sister suggested they take one he really couldn’t refuse. What was even the point of taking it, though? They never had any with their mother, and of course not with their father either, so the three of them having one seemed quite anticlimactic. It was just one of those weird ideas Hifumi got one day out of the blue.
As Eiji walked up to the entrance, he noticed the front door was left slightly ajar.
“Pft.” The young boy scoffed. There was an extent to what you could do for a surprise party, but leaving the door open for him was quite a stretch… What if some stranger had come in? Or even worse, that monster from yesterday?
Now that he thought about it, it really was weird. Surely they—
Eiji gently pushed the door open to reveal their living room, completely devoid of any light. The shutters were closed, and the only source of illumination was coming through the wide open front door.
“Nee-chan? Asahi?” Through the darkness, Eiji couldn’t really make out if anyone was home or not. Was he too early? But then why was the door open?
Yet the balloons on the kitchen counter reading “Happy birthday, Eiji!” really suggested otherwise.
The boy opted to turn on the light, in order to solve this peculiar mystery he had found himself entangled in.
Turning on the light, he walked on ahead. His shoes splashed against some sort of liquid in the floor. It wasn’t particularly stick, so he wondered as to what it could have been.
Looking down, his breath caught on his throat in an instant.
What was this weird, red liquid all over their floor? Following the trail with his gaze, now anxious beyond measure, his eyes fell upon something on the floor. A playing card, stained with the same red liquid. The jack of hearts.
What was a playing card doing on their floor?
Eiji continued following the path of red, and noticed something else sprawled on the floor.
Someone, sprawled on the floor.
A tall, well-built man, with blonde hair. He was lying in a pool of that same liquid, his face turned towards the floor.
But why was he lying face down? He couldn’t breathe that way…
What was happening? Eiji’s head was spinning so violently it felt like his eyes would burst.
“A-asahi…?” The boy muttered weakly. The man wasn’t moving, nor responding.
“E-eiji…?” Just then, he heard a voice. A weak, pained whisper. He followed the sound and came to realize it was coming from his sister. She too, was sprawled on the floor, lying in a pool of her own, crimson blood.
“Nee-chan!!!” The boy cried and dashed through the trails of red staining their floor. The floor Hifumi always tried to keep as clean as possible.
The boy kneeled beside his injured sister, who had her blue summer dress stained with red all over. The biggest one though, was on her abdomen. Her neck held strangle marks, possibly as red as the liquid on the floor.
“Nee-chan! What happened?! What’s going on?!” Eiji panicked as he held his sister’s body. Her eyes were hollow, as she struggled to keep them focused.
“I don’t know! He’s lying there and I—But--!” The boy desperately tried to keep his rugged breathing in order, “Nee-chan! What should I do?”
“Eiji…” Hifumi uttered weakly once again, doing all she can to place her cold palm against her brother’s face. “I’m sorry.”
“Nee-chan what are you saying?! What are you sorry for?!” Eiji’s vision was getting blurry, but he could still notice the light leaving his sister’s eyes. Slowly. But surely.
“Nee-chan tell me what to do! Please!”
“Nee-chan you’re gonna be—“
After expending her last bit of strength, Hifumi’s arm felt limply to the floor, leaving a red stain on Eiji’s cheek, like a marker that had just used up the last of its ink. A stain quickly washed over by overwhelming tears.
“Nee-chan…?” The boy uttered weakly, unable to contain his emotions any longer. His face broke upon his sister’s hollow gaze. Her hazel, jewel-like eyes didn’t seem alive no more. Their glow and spark, had been stripped from them. Stolen, and to never be returned.
“Nee-chan!” Eiji panicked. As he rocked her body back and forth. “Asahi, Nee-chan is—“ As he turned around to address the man on the floor, his eyes caught on a movement, as a figure lunged at him with incredible velocity.
“GAH!” The boy collided against the wall behind him before he could even blink, and the death grip on his neck stripped his lungs of all air in a mere instant.
The figure before Eiji was painted black from head to toe, against the sole source of lightning on his back. His red eyes glowed red, like a pair of flames that would reduce even the world itself to ash if it dared challenged them. Its long arms were strangling the life out of Eiji, who tried to fight back, ultimately in vain.
Eiji’s blurry eyes scanned the predator’s face, yet he couldn’t distinguish a single feature but the eyes. Those burning coals of fury. His eyes traveled across the room. Across the house he had lived. Across the people he loved. Across everything this monster had ruined.
And now it was Eiji’s turn. At the end, he wasn’t anything special. He could never stand up to such immense force, so it was only natural he fell too.
His sister told him to live. To not waste his life. The sister he had just lost. How could he die? How could he leave this monster go unpunished?
His strength was slowly failing him, yet he looked back into the monster’s eyes. Then, a weird, overwhelming sensation. It felt as if his own mind flooded with fire, a numbing sense of pure rage. He felt his eyes light up, as if ablaze and gritted his teeth.
How could he? How could he?!
With another fiery glare, he felt strength returning to his arms. But he didn’t need it. With just his glare alone…
The figure was flung across the room in one single motion, as if hit by an overwhelming surge of energy.
“HAAAA!” Eiji breathed in, his lungs aching for oxygen, and fell to his side weakly, the strength he had felt just a moment ago evaporating all at once.
His body weak once more, and his mind delirious, he couldn’t move nor speak. The figure had disappeared just as swiftly as it arrived, and now Eiji was lying on the floor, his tarnished house at full view. Eiji’s eyes focused on yet another playing card before him. The same playing card he had found before the door. Could this all be just a dream? Yet no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t escape this scene. His eyes were glued to his family, and their blood staining the floor.
The sun had set, when he heard the sirens and saw the rotating lights of blue and red. He was still completely unresponsive as the officers rushed in and checked on his family.
Dead? What did that mean? How could they be dead? It was time for Eiji’s birthday party. It was time for him to blow out the candles, and for Asahi to make a tasteless joke. It was time for them to have Hifumi’s special omurice as she scolded them for eating too fast. So why weren’t they getting up? It was time for them to be a family again, no matter how weird it all seemed.
“Hey, that kid is alive!”
Eiji was alive. He was left staring off into the distance as he was carried out of the house. He couldn’t even protest. He couldn’t even say that he didn’t want to leave. After all, Asahi and Hifumi were still in there.
How could he lose them like that? Surely. It was all just a bad dream. Surely, if he closed his eyes, and slept, he would wake up at the sound of his sister’s voice, telling him dinner was ready.
And so he did. His eyelids lowered, and soon he drifted off.
Indeed, it was a voice that woke him from his slumber. Or at least Eiji thought he did. Darkness was surrounding him, like an army of shadows prowling, waiting.
A hoarse, almost distorted voice echoed through the darkness, as if broadcasted by a speaker straight into his skull.
The boy though didn’t react. His hollow eyes casted circles around the darkness, absent-mindedly.
“Your soul, belongs to us.”
The voice continued, not waiting for any kind of response. It wasn’t its goal to converse after all.
“Will you walk the path… or stay here forever?”
What was he talking about? Eiji couldn’t comprehend. He thought if he let sleep take him, then he would be able to find some peace, yet it somehow only enlarged the massive void inside his chest. His mind was steadily growing numb. What was he meant to live for anyway?
“There’s a great sense of hatred within you. Pure, unrivaled rage. Do you not wish to have…
Something in him clicked. Like a memory so distant, it had almost faded.
The mysterious voice was right. That monster of unknown origin had taken away the lives of three innocent people. People Eiji called family. His sister, Hifumi, Asahi, and their unborn child. How could Eiji not hunt down the one living being that had stripped his family of the right to live? His mind filled with red purely at the thought.
The jack of hearts…
“You can have the power in order to fulfill it. You need only…
Walk the path.”
Eiji gritted his teeth, and clenched every fiber of his being.
“I need it…”
“Very well. Your Shikigami shall inform you of the rest. Until then, tread carefully, exorcist.”
“Nee-chan… Asahi…” Eiji drew in a breath, and looked at his small, powerless palms. The same palms he would use to strike down his foe.
“I will have our revenge.”
-- END OF THE PROLOGUE --