Soul Nemesis [VOLUME I]
“Heh, what you gonna do?”
“She’ll probably go crying back to her mom!”
It was always like that. Someone was always picking on her when she was young, for as long as she remembered.
She wasn’t particularly athletic, nor was she good at socializing with strangers. Making friends was especially hard for her.
So when her parents allowed her to play at the park, it was always the same story.
Some boy would come pick on her, and say mean things about her. And she would just sit there, and endure. Endure until they went away. All the pain, all the annoyance, the pent up, bubbling emotions.
She thought if she endured enough then they would just leave her alone.
Until one day…
“Leave her alone!”
Somebody had stood up for her. A boy she had never spoken to before. A boy with black short hair, and a pair of piercing eyes. He had gotten into a fight with her tormentors so she could escape.
And she did.
And that fateful day, after her grand escape, she had met a girl. A beautiful girl, with golden lock hair.
“What are you running from?”
And so she explained. She told her about the harassment, and how a boy had saved her.
“What?! That’s unthinkable!”
And the girl in turn too, was getting angry on her behalf. That day really felt like it was full of surprises.
Before she realized, the girl had dragged her back to the scene, fuming.
But there was no one there.
The fight had ended, and the boys had left.
“Ah-re? What’s with that?”
The girl beside her was baffled too.
Would she never have the chance to thank that boy for what he had done?
“Oh, apologies, I haven’t introduced myself yet. My name is Hazuki, And yours?”
The girl replied timidly, but without any stutter.
“Listen here, Naomi. From now on, you’re my friend, and whoever hurts you answers to me, okay?”
The girl she had just met declared passionately. Her eyes were sparkling and beaming with determination.
Had she really made a friend?
Her first friend in 9 years…
And she owed it all to that boy that had saved her…
She spoke once more, sealing the deal.
And thus began their friendship. A new refreshing start for Naomi.
Much to Naomi’s surprise, Hazuki was even more headstrong than she appeared, and she would usher away any kids that tried to pick on Naomi after that incident.
Naomi was finally free.
Their friendship held strong to the tricks of time, and the two girls grew up side by side, steadily yet surely.
And through it all, Naomi had found herself discovering sides to herself she didn’t know existed.
She had realized how outgoing she could be in the face of someone she trusted wholeheartedly. She didn’t know having a friend felt that good. She didn’t know laughing together with someone could make one feel so… alive.
Naomi felt more positive than ever, and soon began to see only the good in people, like Hazuki used to say.
The two girls were practically glued to each other for years, and they naturally shared hobbies too.
One in particular, seemed quite fascinating to both.
A weird love for the occult.
They would often watch horror movies together, and spend hours on Hazuki’s computer searching and prying the net for ghost stories. The scares brought with them a sense of satisfaction, a thrill, a thirst for more.
So one day, a few weeks before their middle school graduation, they decided to check out a rumored haunted location in their neighborhood.
An abandoned parking lot.
To their surprise, the place actually felt like the real deal. A certain atmosphere hung in the air, making their hairs stand on end.
It felt too real.
And that was because it WAS real.
Something jumped them out of nowhere in the dark. A hideous and deformed creature.
It got Hazuki in one swoop, with its big and nasty long arms.
She couldn’t escape.
Her friend cried out, pushed down by the creature.
Naomi was frozen solid, but at the face of those words, her feet moved on their own.
She ran. She fled. She left her friend behind, and saved herself.
Naomi ran back to Hazuki’s parents, and later that night, they found her body.
Hazuki was… dead.
She kept apologizing again and again, but nothing could bring her back,
Naomi had lost her only friend that night.
Following the incident, Naomi graduated, and entered high school. This time, alone.
With her timid personality and lack of friends, it was a matter of time before she got harassed again.
After all, Hazuki wasn’t there for her to talk to anymore. She wasn’t there to protect her either. She never had to socialize because of her. And she certainly didn’t have to learn to protect herself.
Hazuki always had her back after all.
But now that Hazuki wasn’t there, Naomi couldn’t defend herself.
And the bullying began once more.
The popular girls from her class always looked at her with scorn in their eyes.
And it wasn’t long until they struck.
After a misunderstanding due to an accident, the girls were onto her.
They even got some scary upperclassmen involved.
Naomi couldn’t do anything. She had reversed back to her old, timid self.
Deep inside though, she didn’t really mind. Maybe that was her punishment for letting her only friend down like she did. Maybe she should have stayed and died with her in the first place.
“What are YOU doing here, punk?!”
“Me? Just taking out the trash.”
Yet again, someone had come to her rescue though.
Another boy, with the same piercing gaze….
Could it be?
He had fought her tormentors, just like before, and saved her one more time without batting an eye.
“You dropped this yesterday.”
To her surprise, he had also retrieved her sketchbook she had thought gone.
Was he watching? Was he looking out for her?
Was he the upperclassman her tormentors had talked about?
Who could he be?
Maybe, just maybe…
She had to know his name.
“W-wait!” The girl turned towards her savior, clutching the sketchbook in her arms.
But he was already out the school by the time she had called out to him.
Her absent-mindedness had costed her. Despite that though, she found herself smiling. Knowing that young man was also a student at her school was already something positive in and of its own.
As Naomi was lost in thought, an upperclassman with short, red hair came jogging out the school building.
“That idiot! Where did he go?!” She huffed.
“Uhm, excuse me, have you seen a blonde dude, with weirdly nice bone-structure, and the eyes of someone who just got out of prison?”
“Eh?” The upperclassman had turned towards Naomi, who was taken aback.
Was she referring to the boy just now?
“I… think so.” Naomi muttered. “He just left.”
“That damn fool! He didn’t even mop the floor! I’ll get you back for that Kanzaki!” The energetic girl stomped her way angrily back to the school.
“D-D-do come a-again!”
Eiji sighed at the man stuttering before him, before sparing a glance at his wrist watch.
“I’m off, shift’s over.” The young man announced, much to his stuttering manager’s dismay.
“Wait! Eiji-kun!” He beckoned his employee before he could escape, his eyes betraying exactly what it was that he wanted to propose.
“I’m not doing unpaid overtime.” Yet Eiji replied sternly, removing the nametag pinned on his shirt.
“It won’t be unpaid! You’ll just get it in… uhm… due time! That’s all.”
“I’ve heard that shi—“ Eiji caught himself just in time, “…stuff before.”
“Come on, Eiji-kun! Just this one last time?” His manager pleaded, pressing his palms together.
Eiji working overtime wasn’t a new thing in any way, yet after Eiji realized he wasn’t being paid properly for it, he started declining those requests. Especially after the sudden rise of malevolence, his primary job, required more of his time on the regular. It wasn’t a fantasy to say Eiji even considered quitting the convenience store job altogether.
“No means no. I’m off the clock.” Eiji proceeded to the back room without looking back, causing his manager to slump back down on the counter in clear disappointment.
After his shift was over, and considering the fact he was still mulling over the very real fact he couldn’t get past that specter’s barrier, he opted to cool his head with a beverage.
As Eiji pushed the door open, a familiar scent of cigarettes, cologne and alcohol painted a very familiar picture in his head.
The very same picture he was currently gazing at:
The bar called “Dream”
“Yo, if it isn’t the one and only, Kanzaki Eiji!”
The man behind the counter chuckled briefly, before smiling at the young man he had known since he was a boy.
Of course, Eiji wasn’t the only one who the passage of time was visible upon, as Hayato himself had grown a decent beard in the place of that pathetic stubble he used to don.
“Oh, Eiji-kun…. Heya!” The only one still completely unchanged though, Shigeru, greeted, that same goofy grin as ever on his face. His voice still had that same light and almost high-pitched hue, and his physique was still thinner than a healthy man his age would allow.
“Hey, Shig.” Eiji greeted back, and as if moving by muscle memory alone, took his usual seat across the counter.
“How can I help my favorite customer, today?” Hayato grinned cockily.
“Your only customer.” Eiji corrected.
“Hey, if you were my only customer then this place wouldn’t have been running for 6 years now, would it?” Hayato retorted, “Plus, Yume comes by too, sometimes…”
“You’re contradicting yourself. Yume works here.” Eiji raised a brow, while Hayato tried to sweep the subject under the rug.
After Hayato had a rough time with making some steady income from the bar, he decided to turn it into a 24-hour shop instead, serving coffee from mornings to evenings as well. Of course, that was the reason why he employed his own sister to work in the weekends, since Shigeru alone was bound to cause some sort of blunder if left unsupervised for too long.
“Heh, so what will it be?”
“Just the usual.” Eiji replied, fishing a few coins out of his pockets.
“Cool, one non-carbonated juice, coming right up.” Despite the snarky comment, Hayato quickly got to work. What with so little to do after all in terms of work, it was evident he longed for some bartender duties. Although some may argue prepping a juice was more of a grandma’s job rather than a bartender’s.
“Now that I think about it… Why didn’t you come by yesterday?” The man asked, as he prepared his friend’s beverage with utmost efficiency.
“Yeah, Hayato was lonely.” Shig commented with a smug grin.
“I was not! Pfft! Don’t listen to that fool!” Hayato shook his head about frantically denying the accusation.
“Hayato isn’t being honest…” Shig whispered in a low tone,
“I heard that, you twat!” Yet not low enough for Hayato to not hear.
Eiji snorted slightly at their exchange, clearly finding it amusing. It was evident how even after all these years, these two remained the same no matter what. That was one of the reasons Eiji kept coming back every day for the past few years after all. Despite knowing of his family’s death, Hayato and Shig never uttered a word to Eiji about it. They just kept on being them, which is what helped Eiji the most during those dark times.
Not to mention Eiji was quite fond of Hayato’s handmade juice as well.
“Say, Eiji-kun! How’s work going?” Shig asked in clear anticipation.
“There’s been more movement lately. And I’ve also hit somewhat of a roadblock.” Eiji looked skeptical, as he was reminded of that one problem he just couldn’t seem to solve.
“THAT talk again?” Hayato sighed, as he served Eiji his juice in a plain old glass, primarily used for serving vodka.
As Hayato himself took notice, it was evident Eiji and Shig weren’t talking about the young man’s shift at the convenience store, but his job as an exorcist instead. A talk Hayato wasn’t particularly fond of, to say the least.
For some weird reason, Eiji had confided in Shigeru, who unlike others was more than happy to listen let alone believe all that sounded like nonsense to a regular person.
It was as if the man was fascinated by Eiji’s stories and heroics, and pressed him for more of his adventures, like a teenager eagerly waiting for the next volume of his shonen manga.
“Roadblock? What do you mean, Eiji-kun?” Shigeru cocked his head to the side.
“I need to get inside some sort of barrier… yet I can’t. It keeps repelling me back…” Eiji took a big sip of his juice, like a drunkard drowning his sorrows in booze.
“What do you need to get inside that barrier for anyway?” Hayato scoffed at the two guys “…I swear you’re too old to be a chuni dude.”
“There’s a specter I need to kill.” Eiji voiced flatly, causing Hayato’s hair to stand on end.
“Pfft! Specters!” Although he tried to mask it, his fear was quite visible on every inch of his face. “As if ghosts exist!”
It was quite clear Hayato was too much of a scaredy cat to even address the matter with even a slight shred of honesty.
“Eiji-kun, do you NEED to get inside the barrier?” Shigeru asked, still looking lost in thought.
“Of course I need to get inside…” What was he talking about? Eiji wondered.
“How else would I get to that—“
Eiji’s mind froze for a second, as if something in it had just clicked in place.
Did he really need to get inside that barrier himself? If he can’t get inside, then how about getting that spirit OUTSIDE of the barrier of its own accord?
Eiji felt like smacking himself across the face. How could such an obvious answer have escaped him?
He just needed to lure that spirit out of the barrier…
“Thanks, Shig.” Eiji nodded to himself, before gulping down the remaining juice in one go.
“Eh? But—“ Before Shigeru could provide any further questions. Eiji had already risen from his seat.
“What? Leaving already?”
“Yeah, I think I got something.” Eiji said, as he picked up his bag and left the bar in a flash. “See ya, guys.”
“There he goes…” Hayato sighed.
“Too bad, I wanted to hear more about that specter.” Shigeru sighed too, in quick succession.
“Psychos, the lot of you…”
Walking is such a drag, Eiji seemed to be thinking as he took the long way back to his apartment in an attempt to think things through. Having heeded his shikigami’s warning of probable rain, and without his bike to make his way back home more entertaining it was safe to say the young man was in a foul mood. Instead of cussing out his Shikigami for a false warning though, he opted to not call him out on it, seeing as to how annoying he could be during a long peaceful silence such as this one.
How would he go about luring that specter out, though? Maybe he could ask that girl affiliated with the curse in the first place? Although that could prove to be too much danger for a person unrelated to exorcism and the like.
Then again, did he have any other choice?
As he went about in circles inside his mind, his feet had better luck at reaching their desired destination. The young man was back home in no time.
As he ascended the rusty and creaky staircase to the first floor, and walked up to his apartment in mechanical motions, a light touch on his leg caused him to snap out of a trance he didn’t even know he was in.
There it was nuzzling its cheek against Eiji’s leg, the small black kitten he had ignored this morning, and the night before.
As the kitten followed him all the way to his door, at which it had slept before yesterday, the young man sighed at the creature.
With a slight meow, the kitten replied back, although its meaning was lost on everyone but it.
As the young man unlocked his door, he resigned himself to his fate, and took no caution in not letting the kitten in. After all, he had made up his mind. Or rather, the cat had forced him to.
“Come on.” Eiji spoke, as he beckoned the cat inside the apartment, who meowed in delight.
“Eiji-dono! I don’t think the landlady approves of pets…” Meh popped up with his usual piece of advice.
“I’ll just tell her the cat is a ghost too.” Eiji retorted, as he opened his almost empty fridge.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea…” Meh, spoke once more, as it flew closer to the kitten, who had taken it upon itself to explore the run-down apartment.
Although such an estate would come rather cheap in terms of rent, Eiji managed to seal the deal for even cheaper, after he exorcised the presumed “ghost” that had lowered the value of the apartment to a third of what it was originally worth.
It was fair to say though, that the landlady was quite terrified to hear the news, probably even more so than the ghost itself. It’s not every day you hear of a high schooler that lives alone and is capable of banishing evil spirits after all.
As the Shikigami hovered around the cat’s field of view, it hummed in puzzlement “…It doesn’t seem to be afraid of me…”
As unnatural as it sounded, cats were the only animal species that were able to view spirits just as exorcists themselves. While other animals could sense the presence of spirits too, only cats were able to view them in whole. They had what exorcists called, the “Sight”, and some cats even returned as nekomata spirits, although it was quite the rare occurrence.
The kitten in response to Meh’s hovering about, meowed playfully.
“What’s with this creature…?” The Shikigami froze briefly. “Its… positively adorable!” Meh stated in delight, enamored by the kitten’s playful attitude.
“I guess milk will do…” Eiji muttered, as he brought over a small bowl filled with cow’s milk, before the wandering kitten.
With another delighted cry, the cat began feeding as if it were starved.
“I think he likes it Eiji-dono!”
“Yeah I can see, now pipe down will ya?” Eiji sighed before changing out of his school uniform.
“What shall we name him Eiji-dono?!”
“Just a minute ago you advised me against keeping it…” Eiji muttered. “Also, it’s a she.”
“It is? Then what shall we name her?”
“We’ll think of something.” The young man shrugged as he threw his hoodie over his shoulders.
“How about… Yamata-no-Orochi?”
“That’s a historical being,”
“How about Susano?”
“That’s a deity.”
“Now that’s just plain stupid…” Eiji sighed yet again, as he looked at the cat delightfully gulping down the milk.
Another loud purr, yet it wasn’t the cat this time, but Eiji’s own stomach.
“Phew....” Eiji exhaled as he threw a jacket over his shoulders and made for the door.
“Eiji-dono, where are you going?”
“Convenience store. Dinner…”
The teenager replied, as he exited the apartment only to see a downpour of rain. With another wordless sigh in order to avoid a long talk about how Meh had predicted it right, Eiji grabbed his umbrella and set out on his quest for food.
Thankfully, the closest store wasn’t far, so he stocked up on instant ramen cups and barley tea, before making his way back.
On the way back, the streets felt even more deserted than usual, what with the sudden shower falling from above, as if to punish those who dared stay out late on a weekday. Despite the lack of proper lighting near his block and lack of any color therefore, Eiji felt at ease during a time like that. Less people didn’t amount to loneliness after all. With the sparkling lights of the night district barely visible on the horizon serving as some sort of compromise to the abundance of gloominess around him, Eiji walked back to his house.
“Eiji-dono!” Shattering the peace of the night, Meh did what he does best.
The young man, albeit reluctantly addressed his Shikigami. “What is it…?”
“There! Over by the bus station!” The floating creature cried out in urgency, as it blinked towards a lone bus station just across the street.
Eiji squinted through the rain, and focused his vision across the road. Sure enough, there she was, standing underneath the roof of the cramped bus station, the bullied underclassman Eiji had just helped a few hours ago.
“What is she doing?”
Drenched from head to toe, the girl sat on the bench staring almost thoughtlessly at her wet shoes, an unreadable expression painted across every inch of her face.
She looked as though her mind was completely devoid of any thought, and she was just standing there waiting. Waiting for something. Waiting for someone. Someone to spirit her away perhaps. Someone to listen to her. Someone to help her. Someone to…
With a resigned sigh breaking through the constant pitter-patter of rain against his umbrella, Eiji crossed the street, his feet making a beeline for the lone girl against the water filled concrete.
It seemed fate had a strange way of bringing those two together time and again…