Soul Nemesis [VOLUME I]
“Ki… saragi?” Naomi cocked her head in puzzlement, at the peculiar name of the station their train had halted onto. “I’m not all that familiar with trains. But I’ve never heard that name before…”
“That’s odd, indeed…” Hasumi too, nodded, glancing at her surroundings.
Already having reached a visible roadblock in his thoughts, Eiji whispered lowly “Meh, explain.”
Yet despite the very clear order coming from his master, the Shikigami was nowhere to be found.
“Meh-chan?” Naomi trotted over to her upperclassman, looking around quizzically.
“The hell…?” Eiji muttered, “What’s going on?”
“What are you two whispering about over there?” Hasumi joined their small circle as well, as the three of them stood around the old platform.
With a gaze fixed firmly on Naomi though, Eiji stretched out his hand towards her.
In one motion, and with his fingers outstretched, he caught ahold of her cheek gently.
With a snap, he finally applied the pressure.
“OWiEE?!!” The girl cried, clutching her already swelling cheek in pain.
“Huh, so it isn’t a dream….” Eiji muttered, withdrawing his hand at once.
“That hurt, senpai!!!” Naomi rubbed her sore face, holding back tears.
“I think you are supposed to pinch yourself…” Hasumi commented, looking on between the two teenagers.
“Figures…” The young man sighed yet again. For Meh to not appear even after being called in such a situation, Eiji really would think this was all some sort of weird dream sequence for him. After all, Shikigami and exorcist were connected through their souls, and there was nothing that could be done to separate them other than death itself.
And Meh could not die, while Eiji on the other hand was certainly alive and kicking.
So what was REALLY going on?
After that brief relief of stress, thanks to Eiji’s genius idea, the only three people left standing in a kilometer radius decided to look around the station for any clue as to where they were.
With nothing but the deathly silence hanging in the air like an atmosphere-transmitted plague, the group searched through their surroundings.
“Nothing here, huh…” Naomi muttered, gazing into the train attendant post right next to the bulletin board.
“There’s no map on this one, either…” Hasumi pointed out, looking through the board in silent contemplation.
“You sure, you don’t know anything about this station… uhm, Hasumi-san?” Naomi inquired, while cupping her palms around her eyes to look within the inside of the office through the glass pane.
“Nope… I’ve been in this route countless times before, after all…”
“No stations indicated prior to this, or after it either.” Eiji muttered.
After making sure nothing on the platform could be of use to them, the three of them opted to look through the driver’s cabinet’s instead.
Moving away from the only source of light didn’t seem all that wise, though.
“Maybe we made an emergency stop to an abandoned station, and the driver didn’t want to upset us since we were sleeping?” Naomi voiced, her optimism clearly shining through the darkness.
While Eiji decided against crushing her spirits, Hasumi shook her head.
“Doubt it’s that simple… This has never happened before…”
Reaching the front of the train coated in red glossy paint, Naomi looked through the windows once more.
“The shutters are closed, I think…” She muttered, shining through the window with the flashlight function of her phone.
“Just our luck…” Hasumi sighed, as Eiji looked back down on the train in whole.
Everything seemed to have been deliberately made so they couldn’t get any answer on their whereabouts or their situation.
Without Meh, it wasn’t easy to be sure, but this being the work of a specter certainly seemed to be increasingly likely.
Maybe though, there was someone within the train that would help solve the mystery. There were other people sleeping inside. One of them could even be an attendant of some sort…
“Eh?” Naomi uttered, looking back at the train in length. “Did you hear that?”
Amidst his thoughts Eiji had probably missed the sound of the metal doors of the train sliding shut.
“Did the doors just…?” Hasumi too turned towards the source of the noise, ulitimately realizing they had indeed been denied entrance back to the train by some unknown force.
“Right…” Eiji shook his head. That was one too many coincidences for it to be just a random stop.
Somebody or something, was pulling the strings.
“What do we do now…?” Naomi said turning towards her upperclassman as if he were the all-knowing guru.
“Maybe we should get out of here… I have a bad feeling…” Hasumi gulped audibly, hugging herself in the process. Her eyes betrayed a significant amount of stress.
“But where to…?” Naomi too, looked on anxiously. Even upon closer inspection, There wasn’t any source of illumination around them. No streetlights, no buildings, and certainly not any form of life either. Only a barren land, stretching out far into the darkness.
“The tracks.” Eiji said, pointing through the darkness, as the rail tracks seemed to go endlessly into the pitch black veil of the night. “If we follow the tracks, we can get to the next station.”
“Ehhh? But... it’s kinda dark, isn’t it?” Naomi seemed to wince at the thought.
“I don’t mind, as long as we get out of here…” Hasumi though, nodded immediately.
“Weren’t you into horror?” Eiji asked. Although he didn’t mean it as a means to poke fun, rather than to pose a genuine question.
“I… am. But…” Naomi gulped. “It’s still, scary, I guess…”
“Here.” Eiji said, stretching out a hand towards her.
The girl before him blinked several times at what seemed like a peculiar gesture, especially for someone like Eiji.
“Oh, uhm… here?”
With a small smile, Naomi opened her backpack and handed a flashlight to her senpai without any sort of hesitation whatsoever.
“Hm?” Eiji looked at the item suddenly dropped onto his palm.
“Do you normally carry flashlights, like that, Naomi-chan?” Hasumi asked, probably taken aback.
“’Course I do! You never know when you might need one!”
Despite the warped logic behind her statement, Hasumi didn’t press further.
Sensing that, Eiji posed a question himself instead. “Why give it to me, anyway?”
“It’s because you’ll be leading the way, senpai!”
Deciding her answer was sufficient enough, Eiji switched on the device, and nodded.
“…Let’s go.” Eiji sighed, grabbing Naomi by the hand, and venturing off into the darkness.
“Wait! Don’t leave me here!” As Hasumi jogged her way towards them as well, their small group finally marched on into the unknown.
With only the beam of light from Eiji’s flashlight to act as a catalyst through the darkness, and the sound of gravel and metallic tracks at their feet, the three soon entered a tunnel.
The air within it was damp, and the atmosphere seemed to thicken as they walked further in. Everything beside and around their beam of light laid shrouded by the unknown of darkness.
Beside their footsteps, there was nothing but silence. A long, stretching silence, that made it seem like something was about to begin, rather than a normal peaceful pause of everything around them.
Probably uneasy due to that very same thought, Naomi tried to dispel the thickness in the air.
“We’ll definitely find some sort of civilization on the other side!” She gulped. “…right?”
“I wouldn’t get my hopes up.” Eiji replied, causing Naomi to dig her nails into his arm.
“I can’t believe this is happening….” Hasumi muttered, as she walked just a step behind the two teenagers. “I just wanted to get back home…”
“D-Don’t worry! I’ll protect all of us if something goes wrong! I’m a karate student now, after all!” Naomi voiced shakily. Despite their situation looking more than just hopeless, she always finds it in her somehow to say something unexpectedly bright. It’s almost like she’s afraid of the uneasiness getting to them, rather than the situation turning grimmer itself.
In contrast to her words though, her legs were very visibly shaking this very moment.
As Eiji and the rest kept walking on into the tunnel, the air suddenly turned thicker once more. There was a distinctly cold presence within their radar now, and the oxygen seemed to grow more sparse too, meaning that not only where they not close to the exit, but even far from it instead.
Was this were the lost train had ventured into? Was that why it disappeared? Eiji seemed to think.
Suddenly, as if on cue, the steady beating of a drum ensued.
Hasumi and Naomi jumped at the noise, that seemed to stretch back to where their journey had began from.
And suddenly, as if the drum wasn’t enough, the sound of bells, arose to accompany it, as if a festival was just about to begin.
An ominous, bone-chilling ceremony.
“It’s coming from back into the station!” Hasumi cried, huddling closer to Eiji and Naomi.
“We can’t turn back…” Eiji muttered, as he kept on walking, seemingly unfazed. Yet even his expression held a slight hint of discomfort.
“But there could be people over there! Naomi-chan?” Seeing as to how Eiji wouldn’t budge, Hasumi turned to his companion instead.
“I’m sorry Hasumi-san, but I trust senpai.” With an unwavering conviction, Naomi answered back.
Suddenly, Hasumi snapped.
“How can you be so… calm?” Hasumi voiced, her tone almost about to break beneath the weight of the situation.
Of course, she was referring to Eiji. His calm and apathetic demeanor was sure to disturb anyone that didn’t know who are what he was, in a situation like that, after all.
However, Eiji didn’t bat an eye at her question.
“Panicking or cowering in fear won’t help, so why should I?”
“You can’t control things like that…” Hasumi shook her head in protest. “…What are you two, really?”
“What do you mean… Hasumi-san?” Naomi turned her head to face behind her slightly as she questioned.
“Two kids taking a trip to Hachioji in the dead of the night, during a normal weekday… This can’t be normal!” The college student clutched her hands atop her chest, ulimately halting her advances. With a distrustful glare, Hasumi looked back at Naomi and Eiji. “And suddenly, all of THIS happens, while YOU happen to be on the train!”
“…What… are you hiding?”
There was a clear wave of fear behind the girl’s voice as she asked. Like a bug crawling beneath her skin, and feeding the delusions within her head.
A sudden string of silence stretched between them, as Eiji stopped walking too.
Naomi was left speechless, as the young man stared back at the panicking girl before him.
And suddenly, out of the darkness of the tunnel, and from within the ever-growing, plague-like silence a voice, a growl erupted.
The three of them turned towards the voice emerging from ahead, illuminating the person addressing them.
There it was.
The silhouette of a man standing 10 or so steps away from them, and leaning against the walls of the tunnel.
“You can’t walk on the tracks! It’s dangerous!”
With an unearthly shriek, Hasumi jumped back at the sight of the mysterious man.
Eiji winced at the sight, while Naomi shut her eyes closed on reflex.
Upon closer inspection, the mysterious figure before them was missing a leg, and his build indicated complete malnutrition.
“Who are you?” Eiji asked, but opted to not walk closer.
As the man’s eyes stared back at all of them, like a lost and wounded animal, his face suddenly contorted in terror.
“Don’t come closer!!!” He cried, waving his arm frantically in the air.
“Begone, you demon!!!!” He said, picking up a handful of gravel from the ground and hurling it their way in pure panic.
With a step back, Eiji and Naomi dodged the reckless throw, as Hasumi shrieked once more.
“You have to be kidding me…”
When Eiji recovered his stance though, the man had long disappeared, as if vanishing through the air. Like an afterimage. An illusion, a trick of the mind.
The air seemed to grow even thicker in response. The dampness of it against one’s skin caused goosebumps to surface all over. It was as if they had ventured into another world altogether.
“I can’t take this anymore!!!” Hasumi screamed one more time, clutching her head. That encounter had triggered her panic to escalate into a whole new level of paranoia.
“Hasumi-san?!” Naomi turned around, to see the older girl before her shake her head in disbelief, and kick off the gravely road beneath her feet, back towards the abandoned train station.
“Wait!” Naomi stretched her hand out in reflex, but Hasumi was already long gone by then. Her hurried long strides echoed through the tunnel as she ran back whence they came, screaming and shouting to herself all the way.
Soon however, her voice faded into nothing too, just like everything in this realm. Reduced to a figment. A mockery of life.
Trying to brave the panic and her tears from surfacing, Naomi clutched Eiji’s arm with a long batted breath.
“S-senpai… what do we do?”
“Calm down. We’re getting out of here, soon.” Despite his greeted teeth, the young man spoke as softly as he could.
“Eh…?” At the face of such a reply, Naomi couldn’t help but question it. “Shouldn’t we go after Hasumi-san? She’s probably all alone, afraid and…“
“There’s no need.”
“Eh? But what if she—“
“Trust me.” Was all Eiji said, as they took off towards the exit of the tunnel once more.
Despite the uncertainty, Naomi decided to not question her senpai further, as she kept on matching his pace as well.
Somehow, Naomi knew deep within, that she could trust Eiji with her life.
True enough, not a few feet away from where they stood, laid the exit of the tunnel at long last, with a full moon hanging before them in full display.
“S-senpai! We made it!” Naomi cried, breathing in the air of the night unobstructed once again.
“Hm…” As Eiji gazed at the jewel-like moon above them however, he smirked.
Just as their bodies were ultimately released from the stress, yet another figure emerged.
“Hey, you two!”
Naomi took another step back in caution, as the figure of yet another man approached.
This time, he didn’t seem at all malnutritioned, or hurt for that matter.
“What are you doing here? This tunnel leads nowhere..” The man spoke once more, his words causing the two of them to drop their guard slightly.
Had they really escaped that ordeal?
“Our train made a stop at an abandoned station, and no one was there to help or explain so we…” Naomi replied, trying to explain as best she could considering the circumstances.
“Stop you said? Why would it stop at some Kisaragi station?”
“Hm.” Eiji smirked once more at that reply.
“Nevermind, you don’t’ look like you’re from around here, so I can drive you to a near hotel or something if you like.”
“Really?” Naomi beamed with relief at those words, before turning to Eiji. “…But what about Hasumi-san?”
“Do you have another friend somewhere around here?” The stranger asked, looking around in puzzlement.
“She’s right here.” Eiji replied back to Naomi, yet looking straight at the man before him.
However, his reply left the girl quite baffled. “Eh? Really?”
“So there’s more of you, huh?”
“Drop the act…” Eiji suddenly glared at the kind stranger that appeared out of the blue. “Hasumi.”
“Eh? What?” Naomi uttered, glancing between the man and her upperclassman.
“What are you—“
“Or should I say, specter, instead?” Eiji spoke once more, causing the puzzled individual to shift his expression into a flat, apathetic stare.
“So you’ve realized.” With those words acting as the turning point, a menacing grin parted the man’s lips, whose body soon transformed into a very familiar figure underneath the moonlit sky.
The figure, the face, of their co-passenger. Hasumi.
“Now, we both know what each of us truly is, exorcist!”
Note from the author:
As of today, Friday 09/06, I announce that Soul Nemesis will be updating weekly on Fridays, and the new romcom novel I’m currently writing for the Honeyfeed contest, Love, Manga & Blackmail, will be updating Tuesdays and Thursdays, twice a week!