Chapter 31:

The God Ritual (2)

The Songstress of Avalon

In the sea of nothingness, its disgusting laugh was all I heard.

“I can see your beloved Tokyo Station right there!” it had no body with which to point, but I still looked instinctively in some random direction.

It was right - I could see the hustle and bustle of Tokyo Station before me. All I had to do was reach my hands out towards it, and I'd be home…

Seeing that I didn’t even have the strength to raise my arm - or perhaps the prospect of returning home no longer appealed to me - Rakshasa continued its relentless taunting. The things it said, it would be better not to repeat. When it realised that it wasn’t going to get a reaction no matter what, its tune began to change.

“You know, there’s still something I don’t understand about you humans,” it had no body with which to stare, but I still felt a malicious gaze focused on me.

“And what’s that?”

“Your emotions,” it said. “I live inside you, Ayato. Inside your damn mind! By all accounts, I should know your every irrelevant thought, but I can’t pinpoint the exact moment you started falling for that girl.”

“That sounds like your own problem.”

“I’m just saying it was a bit sudden, that’s all. Like a badly written love story or something,” it mused. “But maybe it’s time for some introspection. You don’t like this girl, after all, because you have absolutely no reason to.”

“What are you trying to say?”

“I’m trying to say that everything you’ve worked for is right in front of you, but you’re hesitating to take it. And why? For some girl you barely even know? Don’t you see how little sense that makes?”

“I don’t expect someone like you to get it,” I snapped. “I never said I liked her. It just… it doesn’t feel right to go home now.”

“If there were an unoccupied body right in front of me, that busty goddess from earlier knows that I’ll be taking it,” Rakshasa spoke crudely. “It doesn’t even have to be nice - an out of shape, middle aged man, or a pint-sized old woman…!”

I stared out into the rainbow-coloured void, but nobody returned my gaze. I could vaguely hear the distant voice of a female train attendant, asking if anyone in the train car wanted to buy snacks. The roar of the Shinkansen. Broodingly, I turned around, although I knew I couldn’t escape Rakshasa’s formless gaze.

“Wait, wait, let me finish,” it continued to goad me. “Sheesh, don’t sulk. I can take you to Avalon, you know. I didn’t say it earlier, because I just know that you’d regret it if you went back.”

“What do you mean you can take me back?” I was intrigued, but sceptical.

“Don’t you know who I am?” it sounded like I had hurt its feelings. “If I release all of my power, I can engulf this entire universe, see? Everything will burn until there’s nothing left, and when there’s nothing left, you’ll be back where you were before you entered this universe.”

“The embassy library,” I said.

It nodded; well, I imagined it would nod if it could. “There’s just one catch. The portal will become useless; after all, the universe connecting Avalon and Japan will be pure ash. You’ll be stuck in Avalon again.”

“Fine by me,” I steeled my resolve; as long as she and I were together…well, that was enough, wasn’t it?

“Ah wait, there’s one more thing. I’m not going to do this for you for free, you know…”

There it is. Now what could Rakshasa possibly want? Would he ask for my soul, like a typical demon, or the lives of my loved ones? Ah, that’s right - I should have known he would ask for the one thing that he has wanted since that fateful day when I made that contract with him. In some ways, he was as single-minded as me.

“Give me a body.”

“If I give you my body, then there’s no point…”

“Not your body, fool. Give me a body. Any kind of body will do, but make it a nice one. Preferably humanoid. Bipedal too. I don't want to be some freak.”

“How the hell am I going to get you a body? I only have one, and I’m sort of using it right now!”

“You could wish me one,” he grinned. “Remember what you asked the goddess for? You wished for the goddess to send you back to Japan, but you’re not going back now, are you? You still have your wish, so I want you to wish me a body.”

Certainly, I had asked the goddess to send me back to Japan - rather than bring me outright, she had conjured up that portal and expected me to make the journey myself. But did the goddess’ magic really work like that? So long as I don’t actually step foot in Japan, I could retain my wish?

Well, it was worth a shot so I agreed.

Suddenly, my surroundings began to feel hot. The orange and red of the rainbow suddenly began to dominate the space around me. I could feel the very universe beginning to burn up. As the heat slowly became unbearable, Rakshasa’s invidious voice drummed in my head, demanding that I keep my promise.

But my own thoughts soon drowned him out. I didn’t know the details yet, but for some reason Arisa couldn’t or wouldn't return to Japan. That’d definitely put a damper on our potential future, but goddamn it, that’s something we should have discussed together! I’d have to give her an earful for pushing me.

I’m sorry, Tsumugi. It might be a while before I can become a doctor…

The orange and red of the rainbow had long since engulfed the entirety of this universe, and everything had been burned to a crisp. Colour didn’t even exist anymore - the red and the orange were long gone, and all that was left was a pristine white - the world had become a blank canvas.

And then everything was black. At least until I opened my eyes.

Arisa stood over me, looking positively distressed, but radiant despite that. When she saw that I was awake, she bent forward, making no move to wipe away the burgeoning tears forming in her eyes. She was cradling my body, and spouting all sorts of nonsensical things.

“Idiot! Fool! Why did you come back? Stupid… so stupid…”

“I’m the hero who saved the world,” I said, realising that there was still plenty of strength in my body. I could easily sit up by myself, but I decided to rest here for just a little while longer.

“An idiot hero…”

Despite myself, I laughed.

“I deserve a happy ending, don’t you think?”

Another laugh could be heard - the sound was sweet, but the cadence of the laughter was deeply unnatural, rising to a shriek and lowering to a grumble with every syllable. It reminded me of that cult classic horror movie - the one where a devil possessed a little girl and spoke diabolical things using her voice.

“Does a perverse mind like yours truly deserve a happy ending?” this feminine voice cooed.

I sat up, and saw her in the distance. Arisa, too, was staring at this strange figure - the ninth person in the room. As though oblivious to us, she was admiring herself in the mirror. Although lovely, she shifted her head to this angle and that, as though looking at her own reflection for the first time.

That black hair, that sweet voice…

“Out of all the bodies you could’ve given me…” she slowly directed her gaze towards us - I recognised the amber eyes immediately.


“Ho?” she licked her lips, inching closer towards us. “Ah right, that was her name, wasn’t it? I remember reading your mind. OK, Ayato, you can call me Tsumugi if you want…”

“Ayato,” Arisa looked at me gravely, “is that…?”

“My childhood friend,” I answered. “Well, it’s not really her. It’s the demon that lives inside me, but…”

Tsumugi cackled - or Rakshasa did - damn it, I was so confused!

“You said you wouldn’t regret it, right? What are you waiting for? Kiss the bride! Happily ever after! Ahahaha, Ayato, I love you! This is the best….!”

How many years had I waited for Tsumugi to say that to me? Since I was in 1st grade at least, but for some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to be happy about. Anyway, who would be happy if their dead childhood friend said that she loved them, but in another world?

But the suggestions she made weren’t so bad. Was it time to kiss the bride? Not that Tsumugi/Rakshasa would be able to see; she leapt out of the room and had sped out of sight before Trajan could even stick his head out of the window to shout after her.

But I was still here, and so was Arisa. And frankly, that was all that mattered.

Steward McOy