Soul Nemesis [VOLUME I]
As the sound of the doorbell echoed within the confines of Naomi’s family apartment, Eiji sat back as he waited for someone to answer the door.
It wasn’t the first time he had taken the route towards her home, since he drove her there on multiple occasions, yet it was the first time he actually went all the way up to her apartment.
It was also probably the first time Eiji had visited the house of an acquaintance of his, right around his age, and frankly he wasn’t really all that comfortable with the idea.
As the silence stretched and stretched even further with no end or answer in sight, Eiji had half a mind to actually turn around and leave.
Was he really that socially awkward?
Never mind, Naomi would probably be okay, he concluded.
And just as his mind was made up, the front door of Naomi’s house creaked open a peek, as the face of a rather young woman peaked through.
”Uhm, could I help you?”
The door then opened further, revealing herself completely.
Talk about not being cautious at all…
Eiji almost scoffed at the woman’s carelessness. Judging by her behavior, her big curious eyes, and her expression it seemed that woman was either Naomi’s older sister, or her mother. She had her long straight brown hair let loose at her back, a colour that contrasted well against her big honey eyes.
She looked too old to be her sister, and too young to be her mother however, so the young man let the speculation to rest for the time being.
“Hello, is….” Eiji froze for a fraction of a second as a realization dawned on him. He had never called the girl, Naomi, by her name before.
“…Is Naomi here?” Despite that setback, the young man asked without breaking face.
“Naomi?” The woman cocked her head to the side, almost taken aback. “Oh, you must be her friend!”
It suddenly dawned on her, as a smile sprouted across her face.
“Eiji, was it?”
“Ah, yeah. Kanzaki Eiji.” He nodded slightly.
“It’s nice to meet you, Eiji-kun. I’m Mizuno Shiori, her mother.” With a brief but curt and earnest bow, the woman introduced herself as Naomi’s mother. “Naomi has told me a great deal about you! Come in.”
With slight spring in her step, and her hair as well as her relaxing aura waving behind her, Naomi’s mother stepped from the door hallway onto the house.
“Have you come to check on her, by any chance?”
“Something like that…” Eiji replied, as he shuffled into the living room behind her.
The house wasn’t particularly fancy, yet it was spacious and mostly well maintained, befitting of a big family like Naomi’s.
“Here.” Eiji offered up the plastic bag of the convenience store he was carrying, causing Ms. Shiori to cock a quizzical brow at him.
Reluctantly, she accepted the bag, and shuffled through its contents atop the big dining table over by the kitchen.
“Fever meds… a packed omelet… and strawberry juice?”
Naomi’s mother examined the items, before a silent chuckle escaped her.
“You didn’t have to, Eiji-kun. Naomi’s all right, she was just really tired is all.”
“Ah, I see.” Eiji nodded at that. Nevertheless, his lacking experience in visiting people’s houses wouldn’t let him go empty-handed, thus the trip to the convenience store.
“Hehe, you’ll never catch us!”
Before a silence could set into the room, a pair of young boys came rushing into the living room through the hallway further down the house at once, like some sort of track racing cars.
“Come back here, you little daredevils!”
And naturally, the figure of a girl emerged not a second later. With her black and red bangs held back by a fluffy, light pink headband, and an oversized equally wooly hoodie that reached to her knees, Naomi, burst into the living room, dead-set on arresting the two boys for potentially breaking the speed limit.
Right as her sights were set on that very mission however, the girl’s eyes fell on Eiji.
“S-Senpai…?” She muttered, cocking her to the side. “EEEEHH?!”
And then she bellowed.
“What are you doing here, senpai?!” With an utterly bewildered look, Naomi quickly shuffled her way to the kitchen where Eiji and her mom were conversing.
Upon closer inspection, she really seemed to have recovered from yesterday’s lightheadedness, just like her mother had said.
“Don’t tell me….” Her face soon turned grave “…My mom is a specter!”
“She’s not, dimwit.” Eiji narrowed his eyes at the girl, her weird remarks never failing to give him the urge for an eye roll.
“I’m a what now…?” Naomi’s mother too, furrowed her brows in confusion “Is this some sort of new teenage slang I need to learn?”
“Then why ARE you here, senpai?” Ignoring her mother, Naomi pressed on for answers.
“Eiji-kun came to see you, Naomi.” With a knowing smile, Ms. Shiori crossed her arms at her daughter.
“Senpai? Came to see… me? Is this a dream? A hallucination? Are you really sure someone in here isn’t a specter?”
“Calm down, already…”
Despite Naomi tapping into short-circuiting mode, Eiji couldn’t help but already grow weary of her shenanigans.
“It is true.”
After her mother’s confirmation, Naomi turned to Eiji, who shrugged.
At once, Naomi’s face exploded into a grin. A grin she couldn’t hide even if she wanted to. Not that she did, anyway.
Paired with a red tint in her cheeks, Naomi snickered.
Her eyes wandered about, and she moved to the kitchen counter where the “gifts” Eiji had brought laid.
“What are these…?” She scanned the items. First the fever meds, then the strawberry juice, and lastly, the homemade, or school made for that matter, omelet.
“Eiji-kun was kind enough to bring these.” Her mother smiled, while Naomi’s eyes grew so wide you’d think they would jump out.
“S-senpai, c-cooked an omelet for me?!” You could practically see the sparkles and stars flying across her yellow irises, her face so radiant it could put a thousand suns to shame.
“No, no! Senpai, you don’t have to say a thing I completely understand!” Naomi nodded vigorously, “You missed me so much you had to cook for me and see if I was doing okay, right?”
“Haaah…” Eiji sighed, already regretting worrying about his underclassman all through the day.
It was clear she was in her usual, sky-high spirits.
“Mum… who’s Eiji?”
Suddenly, and before Naomi turned the situation into something more awkward, one of the two boys observing silently asked his mother, tugging on her blue house robe.
“That’s your big sister’s friend, Hiroshi.”
“Onee-chan’s?” The other boy, sitting beside his brother asked too, looking up at the tall young man in marvel.
“Yes.” Patting both of the boys’ heads on each of her side, Ms. Shiori smiled.
With a long look between the two boys and Naomi’s mother, Eiji concluded that these were the younger siblings Naomi had previously talked to him about.
“Come on, introduce yourselves.” Naomi urged her brothers on, who stepped forward one by one.
“I’m Hiroshi.” The first, and probably the bravest one, spoke.
“And I’m… Soma…” Then came the self-introduction from the last of the two, who was almost identical to his brother, yet sported a big pair of glasses that looked almost TOO BIG for his small head.
Seeing as to how the kids had mustered the courage, Eiji nodded too.
“Kanzaki Eiji. Nice to meet you.”
“Well done, boys!” Naomi clapped enthusiastically.
“Eiji-kun, would you like to have dinner with us?”
Naomi’s mother proposed, as she checked over at the lit oven.
“Uhm, I wouldn’t—“
“Yes, yes he would!”
Despite Eiji’s clear reluctance, Naomi apparently felt the need to reply for him, earning herself a very clear glare.
“That’s settled, then!” Shiori-san clapped her hands with a smile too, despite very clearly ignoring the young man.
Turns out being overbearing ran in the family.
And right as Eiji was about to resign to his fate…
“Mum, where’d you put the—“
Another girl, almost looking like a mini version of Naomi with longer hair tied in a ponytail, and similar sunset coloured irises came trotting down the hall too.
How many people did Eiji have to meet, really?
Upon reaching the living room though, the new addition to their party froze.
“We’re… being robbed!”
“Oye Kazusa, just because senpai looks like a thug doesn’t mean he is one!!”
“I look like what?”
Suddenly, the peace that once had settled in the living room was shattered by someone who is debatably, almost louder than Naomi herself.
Her younger sister, Kazusa.
“I’m sorry!” Kazusa, Naomi’s last sibling, bowed, after the misunderstanding was successfully cleared and the little sister realized her house was in fact not in any danger. She really resembled both her sister and mother, even if she still was in the second grade of middle school.
“No prob.” As unbothered as ever, Eiji shrugged at her.
“So you’re having dinner with us, uhm Eiji-senpai?”
“Don’t call him senpai, Kazusa. Only Onee-chan can call him that.” Naomi proudly scoffed at her sister.
Again Naomi corrected her.
“How about… Onii-san?”
“Ho, I like it. Puts you in a little sister role, meaning you’re out of my territory.”
What territory was she talking about? Eiji would rather not ask aloud.
“Whatever is fine by me…” Again Eiji shrugged, sinking further into the sofa, after their group relocated from the kitchen.
“Onii-chan!” Hiroshi chimed, jumping animatedly. “Let’s play a game!”
Like Naomi, her family didn’t really need more than half an hour to cozy up to you.
“A game?” Eiji raised a brow, while Soma offered him a controller.
“Oh, be careful what you wish for guys, senpai is really good at this game!” Naomi chimed from the side, as Kazusa cocked her head.
The two boys though, didn’t take that lying down.
“Let’s have a great match, then!”
As Hiroshi and Soma bopped their heads one after the other, the very familiar game of street brawlers was booted up on a console connected to the living space’s TV set.
And in no time at all, the action had started.
While Soma proved to be a strong opponent for Eiji, his skills lacked the polish of the young man’s weapon arsenal.
Eiji really was a master in the game.
“I-I’m losing!!” Soma muttered, distressed, mushing button after button.
“What a fierce battle!” Naomi looked on, her eyes glued to the screen.
While his brother was taking a beating though, it seemed Hiroshi had just gotten a brilliant sabotaging idea.
“Take this!” With a start, the boy jumped on Eiji’s shoulders and covered his eyes, cutting off his vision to the screen.
“Hey, quit it!” Kazusa and Naomi chided, while Eiji kept on mushing buttons, unfazed.
“Hm.” Eiji smirked. He didn’t need to watch his opponent’s movements to win. He could sense them. Hear the combos amidst the button mashing.
“Woah, senpai is unlocking his latent potential!” Naomi looked on in marvel. With a click, she snapped a picture of Eiji, like an artist junkie looking at a historical, groundbreaking art piece.
“Onii-san is amazing…!” In the same wavelength as her sister, Kazusa too looked on, mouth agape.
“Too strong…” Soma fell to his back, almost as if he were mortally wounded, as the words “P2 WINS” flashed across the screen.
“Amazing…” Hiroshi too, withdrew his hands that covered Eiji’s eyes, and looked at the screen with eyes as wide as saucers.
“Who’s next?” Cockily, Eiji surveyed his surroundings, as his potential rivals cowered in fear.
One brave soul though, stepped forth.
“I… I will defeat Onii-san!”
Kazusa declared passionately.
But of course, she didn’t.
Eiji beat everyone. Twice. And Naomi more than thrice, who pouted all through dinner at how much her gaming training hadn’t amounted to much.
At the dinner table, the atmosphere was lively, and fun. Naomi’s family certainly knew how to have fun as a group, and despite her dad being absent most of the time due to work, her mother matched the energy of her kids quite well.
For the first time in a while, Eiji had dinner with more than Naomi and himself. For the first time in a while, Eiji sat at a family dinner table. A family that albeit briefly, made him feel like home.
“So how’s the food?”
“Oh, Hiro, how’d you get rice on your nose?”
Naomi sighed, and picked up a napkin, before proceeding to wiping her little brother’s face.
“And you Soma, don’t eat so fast…” The young girl sighed once more, watching the little rascals she called brothers.
Eiji didn’t say anything, but instead watched the scene unfold.
Naomi really was a big sister when she needed to be.
And it seemed her mother had caught on the same thing, as she flashed Eiji a knowing smile.
“Kazusa, stop passing me your vegetables.”
“But they taste like dirty socks.”
“Shh, mum’s gonna hear you!”
“It’s not mum… It’s the broccoli’s fault!”
Chiding the last of her rebellious siblings, Naomi continued to eat her dinner as usual.
There was something about her though, that Eiji couldn’t quite pin down.
Wasn’t that how Hifumi acted with him too?
With a pang of nostalgia within him, Eiji finished the last of his dinner.
After the last meal of the day for the Mizuno family concluded, Naomi somehow managed to drag Eiji to her room, in the pretense of extracting exorcist related information, that she missed due to her absence.
“Is that all…?” Naomi raised a brow, in disbelief, hugging her pokemon-shaped pillow to her chest.
“Why would I be lying?” Eiji shrugged, as his gaze wandered through the room. Incidentally, the space Naomi called her own, was split in half between her and her sister, Kazusa, who was currently in the living room. The room’s walls were either lined with colorful stickers bundled mostly with pink and yellow, or anime wall prints and figurines, and peculiar wall decorations consisting of classic horror movie posters.
It felt like someone had ripped the whole room’s vibe in half with a scythe, and awarded a different feel to each respective side.
It wasn’t hard to grasp which side was Naomi’s either.
“Then why aren’t you making any moves, senpai?”
“I decided against it. For now, we need to be patient.”
“Heh, you said we….”
As Naomi giggled, Meh who had popped out of thin air, hovered over her messy desk.
“Oh, Eiji-dono! Look!” The familiar cried out.
This looks like you!”
The shikigami’s cries caught Eiji’s attention at once, who despite himself peeked at a sheet of paper on the girl’s desk.
Indeed, there was a hand drawn young man displayed there, wielding what looked like lighting, and wearing his blonde unkempt hair in an unruly swept back style.
The art was drawn with a pencil, so it was probably still not completed.
“H-Hey!” Naomi picked it up, her expression indicating slight embarrassment. “I-It’s not finished yet!”
“Yeah, there’s still coloring, as well as polishing the outlines and—“
Naomi went off about her drawing knowledge, as Eiji looked on in thought.
He remembered the sketchbook he had picked up for her, a few weeks back.
Somehow he felt kind of glad she hadn’t dropped the hobby she was so talented in.
“I was also thinking of showing it to you when it’s done, but Meh-chan spoiled it…” Dejected, she let the drawing back down.
“Apologies, Mizuno Naomi…” Meh squinted apologetically, as he hovered lower into the air.
Before the girl could reply, there was a knock on the door of Naomi’s room.
After getting permission, Naomi’s mum walked in.
“Eiji-kun, it’s getting late, would you like to stay over for the night?”
“Yes, yes he would!”
Yet again, Naomi had taken the liberty to reply in her upperclassman’s place.
“Then it’s settled!”
Resigning himself to his fate ONCE MORE, Eiji just sighed in response. There was really no way for him to say otherwise in this household, was it?
The next day, while Eiji and Naomi left for school, with Kazusa having already gone her way before them, her mother waved at them from the door.
“Have a nice day at school! And don’t come back too late!”
“See you, mom!”
With an energetic wave, Naomi smiled back.
“Thank you for having me.” Eiji too, decided to bow, despite it being slightly out of character for him. He really was well taken care of by the Mizuno family yesterday.
‘Don’t sweat it, come by anytime, Eiji-kun!”
And with that, the two of them were off. How long had it been since Eiji was sent off to school by someone?
And how long was it since Eiji actually attended Saturday classes at school to boot?
The day hadn’t even started yet it was already stocked full of surprises.
It was also quite new, how nobody had judged him harshly due to his rough appearance, and was accepted as just another high school student. It seemed Naomi’s family really lived by the “don’t change a book by its cover” idiom. Excluding the thug comment, made by Kazusa, of course.
“Hm, hm, hm…”
As Naomi hummed a song to herself, Eiji looked over in her direction.
“It feels like we’re a married couple, senpai! Waking up, going to school together like this!”
“Married couples don’t go to school, idiot.” Eiji retorted, unamused.
“Oh they do! My mother was 17 when she had me!”
That solved the mystery of why Ms. Shiori looked so young, despite already being a mother of two girls, and two twin boys.
“E-Eiji-dono!” And right as the atmosphere between them had grown peaceful, Meh emerged from nothing once again. This time though, his tone carried a great sense of urgency.
And Eiji was quick to catch on, too.
“The malevolence is rising! Again! But this time it’s massive! Something grave is about to happen!”
“Eh?” Naomi uttered, bewildered, as the young man beside her darted down the road in a flash.
“Point me to it! Now!”
Was this about that Honoka girl again? Was it a specter attack out in the day? No, that couldn’t be possible….
Kicking off the ground time and again, Eiji followed his Shikigami towards the source.
Not a few seconds later, he saw her.
Takenaka Honoka, on her way to school, stopped at a streetlight with only her as the sole pedestrian waiting to cross.
With a click of his tongue, Eiji rushed forward even faster.
He knew what was about to happen after all.
As the street light turned green for pedestrians, giving the lone girl the go ahead to cross the street, a red sports car came speeding down the road at incredible speeds.
Time seemed to freeze, as Honoka’s feet touched the concrete paved road, and the car edged even closer.
The car was about to hit the helpless student, defying every law and logic, the driver unable to step on the brakes fast enough.
And it would have, had it not been for Meh and Eiji.
With one long leap, the young man a few ways behind her, jumped forward and tackled Honoka across the street, sending both of them flying ahead off the road, ahead off the speeding car.
“AH!” The girl winced, as both of them hit the ground with a thud.
“Phew…” With a relieved exhale, Eiji sat up from the position he was lying in, as he watched the speeding car continue on down the road.
Still paralysed however, Honoka looked back and forth between the street, the car and Eiji, her eyes wide and her pupils the size of buttons.
“H-How?” Was all she could utter, as she looked back at Eiji, locking her gaze.
“Senpaiiiii!!!” Just in time, Naomi came rushing down the street too, eager to join her two schoolmates.
Ignoring Naomi’s loud call, Eiji turned to Honoka, his face oozing a mixture of seriousness, and urgency.
“I’m an exorcist. And you’re coming with me.”