“Only YOU can save yourself.”
“…If you can do that, I’ll deal with whoever dares cross that line myself…”
The words Eiji had said that day played back in his head like an old radio, time and again. It was the first time he had said something like that. It felt like his words weren’t even his own. Yet he didn’t regret uttering them in the slightest.
Somewhere deep within though, he could hear another voice. A very familiar one. A voice he loved like no other.
“Violence is not the answer to every problem. Most of the times, words will save someone, far more than physical strength ever will.”
It was Hifumi. Standing in a green field, her hair being caressed by a gentle, refreshing breeze,
What was she doing there?
What was Eiji doing there?
It didn’t make sense for him, but it somehow seemed so peaceful, he didn’t even dare question it.
Was that a sign he had done the right thing?
Suddenly, a loud, and utterly misplaced ringing sound echoes through the vast fields.
His sister turned to him with a knowing face, and uttered a few soundless words. Words Eiji couldn’t hear, but could probably understand.
You need to go.
With another ring, this time longer in duration, Eiji’s sleepy eyes fluttered open at once.
A third ring in quick succession. Who could be ringing his doorbell so early in the morning? Was it the landlady perhaps? What time of the month was it anyway?
As the young man reluctantly left the comfort of his bed, Meh popped up out of thin air.
“Eiji-dono someone is out the door!” It was pretty apparent by now his Shikigami had a tendency of stating the obvious.
“No shit...” Eiji muttered, as he walked up to his front door.
With a flick of the wrist, he undid the lock and at the same time came up with an excuse for both the cat in his apartment and his unpaid rent.
“There was some—“
“Good morning, senpai!” As soon as Eiji opened the door, he came face to face with a very familiar, delighted smile. A face so full of liveliness it surely put the gloomy sun hanging up above to shame.
And of course that look belonged to none other than Naomi, the girl he had saved the day before yesterday.
It wasn’t the landlady after all…
Eiji sighed. Why was his sleep interrupted then? He had to work all through the night yesterday, and wasn’t planning on attending his classes today, yet it seemed life had different plans for him.
Not if he could help it, though.
With a soft click, he closed the door back up, and briskly walked towards his bed.
“EEH? SENPAI?!” A muffled voice pierced through the door as a means of protest, yet the young man paid it no mind.
“Isn’t Eiji-dono going to open the door for his friend?” Meh questioned.
“She isn’t… haah…” Eiji sighed, as he flung himself on the bed and fiddled with the lighter atop his bedside.
“Then I’m going to—“
“Wait!” Eiji raised a hand in protest as Meh jumped atop the doorknob. A protest that came a second too late, as the door flicked open and in peeked the familiar face waiting outside.
“Senpai?” Naomi muttered, peeking inside the apartment.
As Eiji lit up a cigarette, he opted to stay silent, as if she wouldn’t notice him if he did. It was evident he really didn’t want his sleep interrupted.
The girl waiting by the door finally took the liberty of stepping inside, seeing as to how she wasn’t about to get a reply anytime soon.
“Is something the matter, senpai?” She cocked her head to the side, at the sight of her upperclassman smoking a cigarette with an extremely sulky expression.
“Eiji-dono doesn’t like his sleep interrupted, you see!” Meh flew about in circles in the living room, causing Naomi to chuckle slightly.
“Good morning, Meh-chan!”
“Meh-chan…?” The shikigami wondered.
“And good morning to you too, Luna!” The girl bent over to pet the cat sneaking around her legs, who ultimately purred in delight at her touch. It was probably safe to assume she was quite the cuddly kitten.
“Luna?” Meh questioned. “Did Eiji-dono name her?”
“Well I just thought she looked like a Luna. Did you already have another name in place?”
“Not that Meh knows of…” The shikigami said lowly, probably sad his own suggestions of a name sounded worse.
As Eiji looked on between the three peculiar creatures consisting of a girl, a cat, and a floating eyeball, he put away his cigarette bud on the ashtray in front of him.
“Good morning again, senpai!” Naomi said once more with a slight bow, realizing his change of stance.
“Whatever.” He muttered, opening his closet.
“Have you had breakfast yet? We’re gonna be late for school.”
For a moment, Eiji thought about saying he wasn’t planning on going in the first place, but decided against it. He wasn’t about to get lectured by another girl from his school. Hatsue’s scoldings were enough as they were…
“Not yet.” Eiji replied, as she fished out his uniform from the closet.
“That won’t do…” Naomi shook her head disapprovingly, before trotting towards the small fridge.
“Let’s see here…” She swung her hips around as she looked through its contents in such visible liveliness, one would wander where she found the energy so early in the day.
Soon though, the girl looking through the fridge turned around in disappointment.
“Ugh… There’s only 3 cartons of juice in here…” Naomi muttered in pure disbelief. “What do you even have for breakfast, senpai…?”
“Juice.” Eiji replied flatly, looping his arms through the sleeves of his blazer.
“Well there’s nothing else in here, is there..?” Naomi chuckled briefly, still in a state of shock.
“What about lunch?”
“I get something from the canteen.”
“Woaaah…” Naomi’s eyes suddenly turned hollow while some sort of soul-shaped presence wafted out of her open mouth. Eiji’s daily habits seemed to be have been the end of her.
“Come on.” Eiji spoke as he walked past her, and grabbed a half finished carton of juice from the fridge. “Weren’t we gonna be late?”
“Oh, right!” Naomi snapped out of her death trance at once, sucking in her escaped soul through her nose.
Despite Eiji remaining quite baffled by Naomi’s sudden change of personality, and her sense of familiarity around him, he didn’t question it at all. Although he couldn’t banish the thought of why she decided to act so friendly around him, the young man couldn’t just bring it up, even as blunt as he were. Was it perhaps due to the promise he made her? Even he knew the implications of that however, yet he didn’t think she would just up and act all buddy buddy with him two days later.
As the two walked to school together, and Naomi kept talking Eiji’s ear off, the students around them looked at the two in visible shock. A lone first-year talking so animatedly to a scary upperclassman was quite the rare event in their school after all. And it wasn’t long until Mitsuaki’s cronies took notice as well. Not that Eiji minded really.
Before classes began, the unusual pair split up outside their respective classrooms and for the first time this year, Eiji had completed the side quest of going to class before the bell had rung.
Despite his courtesy of not being late surprising everyone, his exhaustion didn’t really allow him more than to completely sleep through the classes leading up to lunch break.
Eiji knew all too well already who that voice belonged to, but this time around, was a lot more reluctant to address that certain someone.
“Earth to Kanzaki…?”
“Just leave me alone.” Eiji sighed through the arms his head was resting on. He could somehow withstand the pressure of one energetic girl, but two was probably too much of a tall order for him.
“Wow, who spat in your cereal this morning, dude?” Hatsue raised a brow at her classmate’s unusually prickly reaction.
Right as a silence hung between the two, a short girl cut through their ranks, and spoke up nonchalantly.
“Something the matter, senpai?”
“Huh?” Eiji raised his head at the familiar voice.
“Senpai…?” Hatsue’s eyebrow arch somehow managed to grow even wider.
“Ah-noo, Are you maybe senpai’s friend?” Naomi, who the familiar voice belonged to, turned towards the flabbergasted Hatsue.
“His wha--?” The class rep shook her head, almost as if to shake her shock away with it. “Well, not if you ask him, no.”
“I… see.” Naomi nodded. “Hey, senpai, wanna go have lunch?” The girl patted his arm even more nonchalantly than the way she walked into a class full of older students.
“Lunch? Wait…” Hatsue once more raised her palms in confusion. “Have I missed a season? Is this a flashback? What in the shounen manga is going on here?”
Looking around the class and the commotion this sudden visit has caused, Eiji rubbed his temples very visibly exasperated. How did it escalate to this?
“Shounen manga? You seemed more like the TV drama type, senpai.” Naomi addressed Hatsue as she cocked her head to the side quizzically.
“Ah-re? Where did you even get that impression? Am I so easy to read after all?” Hatsue too, somehow managed to jump over the subject at hand.
“Oh, so I was right after all.” Naomi nodded in satisfaction.
“I read manga too, you know. I know how to enjoy a good story of any medium.” Hatsue replied cockily, as Naomi thrusted her palms together.
“Do you read webnovels then? I just got into that one about a school of computer programmers where—“
How did the conversation escalate into an otaku talk? These two were formidable in their own rights, but put together they turned into a whole new force.
“Let’s just go.” Eiji said, unable to withstand the constant chattering around his head or the weird stares any longer.
“Roger!” Naomi nodded. “See you, senpai!”
“See… You?” Hatsue waved back at the girl leaving her classroom with a very visibly puzzled expression. “What the hell just happened?”
After a very hectic, and very tiring day of school the sticker that goes by the name of Naomi, finally decided to detach herself from her senpai’s side, as the two went their separate ways back home.
Of course Eiji didn’t really go back home, but straight to work instead. Without his motorcycle to boot.
It really was a bad day for Kanzaki Eiji.
In contrast to his day at school, his shift at the convenience store wasn’t nearly as exhausting much to the young man’s delight. No energetic underclassman popped out of thin air to pester him either.
After the usual time, the young man opted to have a drink at “Dream”, where he certainly wouldn’t be found by uninvited guests. And by drink, Eiji only meant his usual juice.
“And then?! What did you do, Eiji-kun?”
“I blasted a hole through the back of its head, and severed its cord to this realm once and for all.” Like a celebrity being interviewed by a crazy fan during a meet and greet, Eiji sat back and replied to all his fan’s questions that came swiftly one after another. And there’s no need for clarification as to who was making all those questions in the first place.
“Wow…” Shigeru exclaimed, visibly astonished by such an exhilarating tale.
“Wow, my ass. You’re too old for this crap man, get a grip.” Hayato sighed at the two men spinning tales of spirits and magic.
“Hayato will never understand how cool being an exorcist is…” Shigeru whispered.
“Heard that.” Once again, not low enough for it to bypass Hayato’s listening frequency. I mean how could it? He was standing right next to him for crying out loud.
“It really isn’t though…” Eiji muttered, as he sipped halfway through his beverage.
“So when’s your next mission?” Shigeru asked, almost at the edge of his seat.
With a slight pause, Eiji gave his reply. “Tonight.”
“Wow, wish I could come with.” The man before him said in a solemn tone.
“YOU are a working adult. So YOU don’t have the time to play ghost busters.”
“Hayato, ghost busters are lame and really outdated. Exorcists are trending right now.”
“What? But ghostbusters were all the hype back in the day!” Hayato exclaimed back at Shigeru, looking very visibly hurt.
“I’m off.” Eiji said, as he finished his beverage and made his way to the door.
“Take care, Eiji-kun!”
“See ya, kid.”
The two men stopped their chattering for a second, to wave off the third member of that ragtag party of theirs.
Eiji wished he could stay and chat more, but what he told Shigeru was nothing but the truth. He did have to check out some peculiar malevolence a few ways from the area, as per Meh’s observations.
Yet, it was probably too early to go hunting now, so he opted to go home for the time being instead.
Using his scarce free time to play mechanic, Eiji knelt in front of his motorcycle parked at the apartment complex lot, as he tinkered with various part of the machine. He really needed the knowledge to perform some sort of maintenance on his bike if he wanted to skip the fees for an expert.
Much to Eiji’s surprise though, the parts of a bike such as his weren’t all that complex at closer inspection. Yet he really did lack the various ins and outs of a true mechanic.
However, he could already perform a simple change of oil, air filter or even coolant, as well as a tire pressure check and a brake maintenance. Thank the heavens for the internet, Eiji thought no doubt.
As he was checking his brakes, completely enamored by his bike’s glossy and clean appearance, a voice he had already heard a thousand times today echoed in his head once more.
“Hey, senpai whatcha doing there?” A very distinct figure of a short girl emerged from the street opposite oi Eiji’s apartment complex. “Maintenance on the bike? Are you going out perhaps?”
“What are YOU doing here?” Eiji questioned, not taking his eyes off the bike.
“Hm, just passing through…?” Naomi shrugged briefly, probably not even convincing her own self.
The silence coming from Eiji suggested the same as well, causing the girl to clear her throat and lower her voice.
“You’re going out as an exorcist tonight too, right?”
How the hell does she know about that? Eiji’s expression seemed to scream.
“Meh told me how you were out ‘till late yesterday too, didn’t you hear?” Naomi chuckled. “So I figured you’d go tonight, as well”
That Shikigami really was walking a thin line since this morning, and although getting on Eiji’s nerves wasn’t either difficult or new, tonight was probably one of those nights were one wrong word would result in him turning into a falling star in reverse.
Eiji clenched his teeth at the thought.
“And? What about me going out is relevant to you, exactly?” Eiji finally looked up from his motorcycle, before crossing his arms.
Seeing how she had drawn her senpai’s attention, Naomi drew a big breath and stood up straight. “I want to come with you.” She spoke firmly, in order to minimize the chances of her being rejected.
The reply came quick, like a sudden gust of wind. “No.”
“Eh?” The girl was visibly left speechless. “But I want to be of help to you, senpai! I promise I won’t be in the way! I’ve always loved the occult and whatever that entailed, too! My knowledge may come in handy so—“
“No.” The storm that had been stirred up in a flash by Naomi was quickly swatted away like a fly by Eiji, who then turned to his bike once more.
“Oh, come on senpai! Please?” Naomi bowed her head low, clasping her palms together.
“No.” With three consecutive replies of the same nature, Eiji checked the brake levers for the third time.
“Geez…” Naomi slumped forward. “And how are you going to take responsibility now that I can still see all those weird spirits around town at night?”
“You what?” Eiji narrowed his eyes at her, to which Naomi playfully arched a brow.
“I do indeed. The curse may be gone, but I can still see them.”
“You should have started with that…” The young man sighed, as he unconsciously called for his annoying assistant to appear.
“You called Eiji-dono?” Sensing the call through their connection, Meh popped up from a small cloud of smoke, looking quizzically towards the two teenagers.
“How come she’s still got the sight?”
“She does? Hmm… Perhaps, her contact with the malevolence left a lasting print on her soul itself? She came into quite close contact with the specter twice, after all.”
While that was true, there weren’t many records of people that possessed the sight and weren’t exorcists, even if they did survive direct contact with a curse.
“Does that mean I’m… special?!” Naomi had a sudden eureka moment. “Do I get cool powers like yours, senpai?!” Never mind the sight, but the otaku spirit within her burnt bright for certain.
“You don’t.” Eiji sighed yet again. It was quite hard to keep track of how many times he did that on the regular lately.
“Eh…? What about this?” Naomi struck a very well-known chuuni pose. “Come to me, almighty power within! X-ray vision, unleash!!” At once and with a mighty roar, the girl tried to command her imaginary powers.
“Nothing happened.” Meh observed, blinking in confusion.
“Of course nothing happened.” Eiji shook his head.
“Jeez, why not..?” Naomi slumped forward again, dropping her anime stance.
Yet despite that, she didn’t seem quite done.
“Do I get to come with you, now?”
Eiji paused for a second. Her having the sight could be a problem for her down the line. She didn’t seem to possess any other abilities in spite of that, though, so her being targeted by specters again was probably unlikely. Could one be 100% sure of that, though?
“The answer is still no.” Eiji replied firmly yet again. He had weighed in the chances on a danger scale, and decided it was too much of a risk for her to go looking for specters, even if he were by her side. As irresponsible as he could be sometimes, Eiji really couldn’t let a young girl get hurt on his watch.
“Oh…” Naomi’s face dropped, her gaze falling to the ground like that of a discarded puppy. Even the heartless Eiji was left stunned for a second, but he ultimately held true to his conviction.
It was for her own good, after all.
“Well, see you tomorrow at school, senpai.” The girl finally mustered a smile, before walking back from whence she came.
“I didn’t say she had to leave right now…” Eiji muttered as he shook his head. It was quite evident he was feeling kind of guilty for letting her hopes down like that.
What the hell was wrong with him, anyway? When did he ever hold a soft spot for people like that?
“Eiji-dono made the right decision.” Meh reassured his master despite it, while the young man gave a nod.
After a few more minutes of tinkering, Eiji thought it was late enough for him to be on his way towards the source of malevolence Meh indicated. With his shikigami as the guide, the young man rode his bike along the deserted roads of the night, and it wasn’t long before they arrived in an area not too far out from Shina.
As Eiji parked his bike and secured his helmet, he opted to scan the area. It was a neighborhood like any other, and nothing seemed like an indication of a specter. There was not a single soul in sight, though, which relatively speaking wasn’t all that weird. It was way past midnight after all.
Amidst the stillness and quiet of the streets, a lone cab slowly pulled over by the side of the pavement not too far from where the young man was standing.
“Thank you very much!” A short schoolgirl bowed lightly at the driver, who waved back and started up back on his way again.
Why was that voice so weirdly familiar?
“Haaaah…” With an exasperated sigh, Eiji turned to the honorific only a single person he knew used on him. “What are you doing here?” The young man questioned.
“Hm, what would a heroine say, I wonder? It’s a coincidence maybe?” Naomi, the infamous underclassman, cocked her head playfully.
“Look, I don’t know what you think this is but—“
Right as Eiji was about to give the girl a piece of his mind, the voice of an old lady echoed from across the street where she stood.
With a click of his tongue, Eiji shook his head and walked on over. “…Figures.”
With Meh unable to pinpoint the exact location of the malevolence once again, it seemed Eiji had to answer this distress call like a true vigilante in order to uncover where the specter laid.
“Let’s go yo-ho!”
“Oh, shut it…”