Chapter 10:

Day 127: A Very Hungover and Melancholic Christmas With My Ex-Girlfriends

Death by Ex-Girlfriend: War Cloud

The smiling girl and the crying goddess, caught in a chance meeting in the middle of the graveyard.Bookmark here

"Oh! I'm sorry!" Aika recoiled. "I didn't mean that you couldn't sit there! I'm actually really thankful my mom has some company. I can't come up here often, you know?"Bookmark here

"You can't come up to visit your mom's grave?" Tsukiakari asked insultingly.Bookmark here

"Ah! I didn't mean it like that either!" Aika said. "I love her, but my life is busy now. Some talent scouts sought me out for my music and I'm already recording my first album."Bookmark here

Impressed, Tsukiakari gave her a polite smile. "I see! That's pretty cool."Bookmark here

Aika sat down with Tsukiakari, both of them enjoying the sight of the gentle snowfall.Bookmark here

"I don't want to pry in a stranger's business, but do you perhaps want to talk about why you were crying?" Aika asked.Bookmark here

Tsukiakari shrugged. "I'm just scared, I guess."Bookmark here

"Of what?"Bookmark here

"I might not have very long to live. Maybe a couple more days, at best."Bookmark here

"What?!" Aika shouted. "Are you sick or something?"Bookmark here

Tsukiakari chuckled. "No, that's not it. It's not something you'd believe. My hope is that I'm wrong, but I can't stop crying. Just knowing that it's near and it's permanent..."Bookmark here

Aika took a moment to think before turning her gaze towards the pallid clouds above. "Life is so short, you know? You shouldn't spend so much time being down about it. I mean, it may be rude, since I'm not in your position. But I think you would have lived a full life if you lived your last days smiling!"Bookmark here

"You're quite the optimist, you know that?" Tsukiakari tittered.Bookmark here

Aika smiled. "Yeah, I get that alot!"Bookmark here

Tsukiakari stood up, brushing flakes of snow off of her bottom. "Well, I should get back. Sorry for taking up your time."Bookmark here

"Ah, wait! You didn't tell me your name! My name is Aika. Aika Mihara."Bookmark here

"It was nice to meet you, Aika. My name is Tsukiakari Senkumo."Bookmark here

"Senkumo? Like, 'A Thousand Clouds'?"Bookmark here

Tsukiakari shook her head. "No. It's written as 'War Cloud'."Bookmark here

"Whoa..." Aika gasped. That's such and odd name. So cool though! I hope you find solace, Tsukiakari. Please be well. And if we never see each other again, please rest in peace."Bookmark here

Tsukiakari waved goodbye and started her walk back home. After Aika paid her respects to her mother, she ventured out of the cemetery and ascended the steps of Izanami's shrine. Hardly anyone came to this particular shrine since it was so out of the way. The only two people taking care of it were a set of eight year old twins. They were both girls, both pale like Izanami herself, and completely inseparable. They wore the red hakama and white kosode of shrine maidens, but one of them tied their hair up into twin side buns, while the other wore hers unbound. Their names were Akatsuki Nisshoku and Omagatoki Gesshoku. Otherwise known as the Shoku Twins.Bookmark here

Aika reached the shrine and met the twins as they swept the courtyard of snow. "Hey! Akatsuki! Omagatoki!"Bookmark here

No matter what, the twins always held hands during certain points of the day. Before dawn, before noon, and before sundown, they would always join hands for at least one hour. Since noon was nigh, the twins held hands accordingly.Bookmark here

"Oh, look it's—"
"Aika."Bookmark here

When one spoke, the other would complete the sentence. Though, this only seemed to happen when the twins joined hands. Omagatoki would always speak first, and Akatsuki would either continue or end the sentence. It was as though their minds were linked whenever they held hands. Even when answering a question directed at her sister, Omagatoki would speak first, giving her sister's answer. The twins were freakishly strange when they held hands, but that didn't stop Aika from taking a liking to them.Bookmark here

"Wow, your hair is getting so long, Omagatoki! Why don't you try tying it up like your sister?" Aika asked.Bookmark here

"Sister's hair is not tasteful—"
"in my opinion. Anyway, Aika,—"
"what brings you here?"Bookmark here

"Well actually, I just came by since I was close. Oh, but I do remember something interesting! I actually met a girl who had a really cool name, like something out of an action manga or a light novel!"Bookmark here

Omagatoki's cute and pale face reflected a certain shyness, in contrast with her facially apathetic sister. "Really?"Bookmark here

"I believe her name was Tsukiakari. Tsukiakari Senkumo, with the Senkumo part being written as 'War Cloud'. What a fearsome name! She had these bright, red eyes too!"Bookmark here

The twins looked at each other with their eyebrows raised, then refocused on Aika.Bookmark here

"I see. We actually—
"know that girl. We've known her—
"for years, in fact. She's—
"a war goddess. or rather—
"she used to be one."Bookmark here

"Wait, what?!" Aika recoiled. "Her?! That woman I met is a goddess? How long have you known each other?"Bookmark here

"That point is—"
"not very urgent. What we must focus on is—"
"the fact that Tsukiakari is—"
"still alive. Do you know—"
"where she lives?"Bookmark here

"Oh, sorry, no. I never did find out that much about her." Aika lamented. "Actually, she did say that was going to die soon. That's why she was crying when I met her."Bookmark here

Aika and Omagatoki let go of each other's hands as the time struck twelve on the dot. When their hands weren't joined, the two girls spoke independently of each other and exhibited their own, individual personalities, rather than their single-minded quirks.Bookmark here

"Die?" Asked the stone-faced Akatsuki.Bookmark here

"It must be about Bishamon, Sis. Lady Amaterasu did say they had found an old enemy of Heaven." Omagatoki said. "It must've been Gekko."Bookmark here

"If that's the case, Bishamon was the one sent out to hunt her. How did she find out Bishamon is after her?" Akatsuki asked.Bookmark here

"I'm a little confused here." Aika said. "Who's Bishamon?"Bookmark here

"Don't worry about it. Sis and I will handle this." Omagatoki said.Bookmark here

"However, Aika, I must urge you to keep your distance in this matter." Akatsuki warned. "It's not good for humans to get too involved in the world of the supernatural. It's risky enough that you associate with us."Bookmark here

"Hmm...if you say so." Aika groaned. "I won't get directly involved, but still, if a girl needs help, someone has to help her."Bookmark here

"We will." Akatsuki assured. "We're indebted to Tsukiakari, after all. We'll do whatever we can to help her."Bookmark here

After her chat with Aika, Tsukiakari waddled through the park and marched back home, her head still aching from the alcohol-fueled debauchery of the previous day. She stopped at the front door, remembering that Yoko had given her a spare key so she could enter and leave as she pleased. She unlocked the door and stepped inside, only to be surprised by everyone waiting by the Christmas tree, which had a mountain of gifts under it. Isabella, of course, footed the bill for most of the gifts.Bookmark here

"Welcome home, Tsu Tsu!" Isabella sang. "We're all still hungover like a towel on a towel rack, but we weren't gonna open up these gifts without you!"Bookmark here

"Sit with us. Izzy got you something." Osamu said.Bookmark here

The goddess's anguish was relieved just enough to make her smile. "I'd love to."Bookmark here

Isabella handed her three gifts, all of them quite sloppily wrapped. "Hehe, I'm no good with wrapping. It only looks halfway decent because Yoko and Osamu showed me how to do it."Bookmark here

"It gets better with time and practice, Izzy." Yoko assured.Bookmark here

"Thank you so much, everyone!" Tsukiakari sang.Bookmark here

Tsukiakari tore through the wrapping to find a small, black jewelry box. Opening it, she pulled out a silver necklace with a heart as its pendant and a crescent moon engraved in the middle of the heart.Bookmark here

"I know how much the moon means to you." Isabella said. "We're not always going to be able to see the moon beyond the clouds this winter, but you can at least keep it close to your heart."Bookmark here

Tsukiakari's eyes glistened with welling tears. "Izzy, this is so sweet! I don't know what to say!"Bookmark here

(I wonder...has Tsukiakari ever had a Christmas before? Or, even received gifts at all?)Bookmark here

"Next one!" Isabella excitedly urged.Bookmark here

The next gift was a custom made katana, created without a handguard. The blade's hilt was black, decorated with golden hearts all the way down to the butt of the sword.Bookmark here

"You bought her a weapon?!" Osamu recoiled, shocked but also annoyingly unsurprised.Bookmark here

"Of course I did!" Isabella shamelessly confirmed. "We both love weapons! I mean, I know it's not guns, but I can still respect a love for weapons!"Bookmark here

"If only I could hurt you in a non-abusive way..." Osamu groaned.Bookmark here

"This is amazing! It's much better than the sword I have! How much did this cost?!" Tsukiakari asked.Bookmark here

Isabella snickered. "Please, money isn't a problem from me. I've got loads of it, so don't worry!"Bookmark here

(Yep, Izzy is one of those rich, slightly above-stupid blondes.)Bookmark here

And the last gift...Tsukiakari freaked out in a fit of fear when she saw what it was. It was her worst fear, the only thing that could break the spirit of the goddess. It was...onions. Lots and lots of onions. Red onions to be specific. Tsukiakari was reduced to tears, like a terrified child. She held onto Yoko and Izanami for comfort as flashbacks of the Abominable Onion's last attack on her precious face surfaced.Bookmark here

"Onions are so scary, guys!" Tsukiakari squirmed.Bookmark here

"I know, my love. I know." Yoko said, patting Tsukiakari's head.Bookmark here

(My love? There is definitely some girl love going on here that I don't know about.)Bookmark here

"You should know better, Izzy." Izanami said, wagging her index finger.Bookmark here

Isabella laughed until her stomach cramped up. She could hardly even breathe enough to talk. "Did you see her face?! She looked like I bought a time bomb or something!"Bookmark here

"Great. So now that we have all of these onions, I guess you'll have to eat them, huh?" Osamu said.Bookmark here

"What?! That's like a dozen onions there!" Isabella complained.Bookmark here

"Maybe you should've thought about that before you decided to spook Gekko with them. Apologize!" Osamu scolded.Bookmark here

"Come on man, it was just—"Bookmark here

Osamu grabbed Isabella's breasts as hard and tightly as possible. Normally, this would hurt a girl, but Isabella felt nothing but pure pleasure. Her scream was more like a moan, in that regard.Bookmark here

"Say it!" Osamu commanded.Bookmark here

"Oh god yes!" Isabella moaned. "Tsu Tsu, I'm..."Bookmark here

"Say it!" Osamu demanded further.Bookmark here

"Squeeze them harder!" Isabella urged.Bookmark here

(She's enjoying this?!?)Bookmark here

Nonetheless, Osamu tightened his mighty grip.Bookmark here

"I'm sorry, Tsu Tsu!"Bookmark here

Osamu finally let go, leaving Izzy short of breath.Bookmark here

"Why did you stop? I was so close!" Isabella chided.Bookmark here

(Close to what?!?!)Bookmark here

Tsukiakari found their banter amusing, refreshing even. She was living in a weird house filled with a weird, young man, and his crazy ex-girlfriends, and she couldn't be happier.Bookmark here

"Thank you, guys." Tsukiakari said. "I really appreciate what you've done. Not just today, but all of the days we've spent here. I owe you everything for making me smile this much for the first time in my life."Bookmark here

(If I could just explain how much her smile pleased me and tortured me at the same time...)Bookmark here

It was now time for the night. Or rather, it was time for Omagatoki and Akatsuki to bring about the night. If you had a hunch the twins' ritual of holding hands at specific points in time during the day was odd, you were right. It was already obvious they were no ordinary twins. Their connected speech patterns, their need to stay together, and their involvement with Tsukiakari and Izanami were all the warning signs one would need. You see, their names directly outline their responsibilities. Just as Akatsuki was responsible for bringing the day time and the solar eclipses, Omagatoki was in charge of bringing dusk, leading the world into night. She was also in charge of bringing about lunar eclipses. They weren't gods, but they weren't humans either. They were spirits living among the mortals in the physical world, albeit in isolation.Bookmark here

They sat inside of the shrine, holding hands and drinking tea. Dozens of candles illuminated the inside of the shrine, shining against the polished wood and golden statues of Izanami.Bookmark here

"Tsukiakari is still alive, but it appears her time is short. What should we do, sis?" Omagatoki asked.Bookmark here

"Nothing, for now. We can't take on Bishamon directly." Akatsukin warned. "We need to find a more underhanded way of defeating him."Bookmark here

"Master Tsukuyomi would've wanted us to intervene right away." Omagatoki complained.Bookmark here

"We are powerless right now. If she's so fearful, I can only imagine Heaven has found out she's been alive this whole time. They won't let her reincarnate after she's killed, not after everything she's done." Akatsuki explained.Bookmark here

"I suppose you're right." Omagatoki sighed.Bookmark here

(Those twins...I never could have guessed, since I never met them. But I'd soon find out that they were the key to everything.)Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.