“And why do I have to carry all the bags?” a weary Gen asked, stepping off of the tram and onto Fuugosuki platform, where a stampede of busy commuters ricocheted off of him in an attempt to escape the cramped carriage. Otsune never could tell exactly why there were so many people on the tram all the time no matter what the occasion. The only time it ever seemed different was rush hour, where it became customary from some to die whilst traveling home in the stampedes.

“What are you talking about, idiot?” the small blond haired girl asked him, safely avoiding the rush by ducking under the rucksack the landlord was wearing. “We’re carrying bags too.” Over Sarah’s left shoulder was a stylish black backpack. Itno doubt seemed very light from Gen’s point of view and practically empty. Before he could comment Aki jumped in front of him, nearly causing him to drop the entire load.

“Yeah look I’m helping” the African girl commented, waving a small plastic bag in front of his face. Gen could see that it clearly only contained Bananas, the bag only getting lighter before him.

“But, that’s nothing compared to– to…” He knew giving a list of three suitcases and a rucksack that was one and a half times the size of his upper body would not have any effect on the girls.  He chose silence instead.

“Bear with it Gen,” Otsune said, patting him on the backpack as firmly as she could, causing him to stoop slightly. “It’s just to the hotel and possibly up a few stairs.”

“I won’t make it out of… the station at this rate,” he said back to her, turning to see she wasn’t even listening to him.

“Want me to take that, Sakura?” Otsune asked the younger girl, who was currently carrying the only remaining suitcase, which was about half her size. Even so, the timid girl was trying her best to keep it off the ground.

“It’s okay, Otsune. You should ask Sakura if he wants you to hold something,” she replied, trying to be as helpful as possible and clearly not in on the joke.

“Yes. Please do,” mumbled Gen, his face turning a dark shade of red that implied that soon it would burst. Otsune found herself blanking him out mentally, staying a few steps ahead to walk alongside Fujiko, who seemed deep in thought for a moment.

“Hey… Otsune?” the student turned to her writer friend as she addressed her. “Do you think… what with this tournament and all, that we’re gonna see some more demons?”

“What?” the student replied. “You’re sounding serious all of a sudden.”

“Well, it’s just,” Fujiko paused for a second. “It’s kind of weird, isn’t it? Sagara says he’s some kind of demon hunting ninja, right?”


“Well, normally it’ll just sound corny and we’d assume he’s some stupid otaku fanboy, but-”

“But then we saw the demon ourselves, right?” Otsune finished the sentence for the girl. It had been on her mind as well.

Fujiko giggled uneasily. “Right.”

“What demon?” Gen asked behind them, before gravity once again demanded his attention.

“And now you’re worried that when we get to this tournament, something like that might happen again?”

“Yeah. Just a thought, you know?” Fujiko seemed embarrassed for the first time in years to her old friend, but she was thinking things along the same line.

“I don’t know if we should be worried or not.” Otsune stated.


“I mean…I’d like to think that that guy would be all heroic and say something like ‘I wouldn’t bring you along if it was dangerous…’ but I still don’t know him enough. He might not really care. He certainly didn’t seem all that concerned with that water spirit. I mean, I know he helped Natoko and I guess all along he was trying to help her…but then why did he even have to fight her in the first place?”

“That’s true. If he knew she was a demon, then why not just find a way to exorcise her from Natoko anyway.”

“Yeah…” The two fell quiet as they left the station, the hustle of the street drowning out conversation while they adjusted.

“Where are we going?” a voice said from beneath a shell of bags, stopping by the front of the small park.

“Oh,” Otsune stuttered. “I don’t actually know. Where did Natoko say she was staying?”

“Ano…” Fujiko stalled. The girl had been severely drunk at the time of the phone call and it was only her miraculous recovery time that allowed Otsune to bring her along at all. “The Scarlett, was it?”

“Couldn’t have been,” Otsune said dismissively. “That place is far too expensive.”

“Are you guys going to the hotel first?” Sarah asked several steps ahead of them. “Make sure you put my stuff in my room.”

“You’re not separating from the group, Sarah-chan,” Otsune replied sternly, understanding the girl instantly. “The hotel is first. You can find Sagara later tonight.”

“No,” Sarah shouted, not caring for the girl’s feeling. “I want to find Boss as soon as possible. If we find him, we’ll probably be able to stay where he is.”

“Oh, is that it?” Fujiko slyly grinned, finding something she was able to focus on without getting worried. “I thought you rushed us out here a little too fast. Trying to make sure those two can’t get together? Quite the jealous type, aren’t we?”

“Moron,” shouted Sarah, kicking Fujiko’s leg. “I’m not jealous, I just reckon he’s an idiot if he starts going out with that girl. We have to find him as soon as possible.” The conversation was interrupted by a noise behind them. They turned to see that Gen’s legs had had enough and insist that he collapse.

“Fine, you stay with the weirdoes,” she grunted at Fujiko. “I’m gonna go find boss.” Running off in the opposite direction, she was towards the end of the park before anyone could say anything.

“I’ll go too,” Aki shouted, running after her partner in crime. Shortly following her was Sakura.

“And me,” she said weakly, dropping her suitcase with Otsune and chasing after the other two. Otsune watched them, not intending to try and find the boy in a city of millions.

“Are they gonna be all right on their own?” she said turning to the others, even though she knew there was no one there responsible enough to answer that question.

“I should be more worried for the city,” Fujiko replied sarcastically, somehow pulling a bottle of sake out of nowhere, causing her friend to attack her with rancorous eyes. “Relax girl, they’ll be fine, Aki probably has her mobile anyway. And you know what the foreign kid’s like.”

“I guess you’re right,” she said sitting down with the rest of them. “We might as well just enjoy ourselves.”

“Plus, it’ll give Tina a chance to air out as well.” From behind, Otsune heard the her friend fall down onto the grass with an exhausted slump. Otsune watched her with concern, even as she kept her distance. Whatever horrible accident Tina had had with her make up this morning hadn’t had chance to clean itself up and the girl had been sullen for the whole trip since.

“Leave her be.”

“Well, I’m sure they would smell good if they were used individually, Tina-san,” Fujiko continued to joke, getting elbowed lightly in the rib as punishment.

“Ah, please don’t call me that, Fujiko. It sounds weird,” Tina asked. But ignoring her comment, Fujiko intoxicated mouth could only continue, the effects of the sake working more as an on/off switch rather than a gradual descent into inebriation

“Later if you want,” she said with a slur. “I could help you out, show you how to do it right. If you’re looking to seduce a man, perfume should be used expertly, not twenty bottles of twenty different brands just poured over you.”

“No thank you, Fujiko. I’m not looking to seduce anyone, I just-”

“Well, talk to me when you’re ready to admit it to yourself girl,” she said, practically shouting as she interrupted the more timid girl. “Although I wonder who it could be…”

“Fujiko! Leave her,” Otsune commanded, knowing that one friend wouldn’t stand to her own defense, and the other would never even think of stopping.

“Ah, maybe it’s Otsune,” she said excitedly, pointing to the girl besides her. “You’re always so protective of her. I’m sure you two would make a wonderful couple.” Her voice turned sweet, as if she was complimenting something cute.

“You’re sick, Fujiko. And you’re seconds away from dying as well.”


The small café had been one of her favourite places to hang out since she first stumbled across it when in hiding from her boss years ago. The quiet bustle of elderly businessmen passing through for a quick coffee was as amusing for her as it had been for them. With only enough roof to house about twenty people, on tables and at the bar, Raiko was always looking to get a wall seat whenever she swarmed in there by herself. She didn’t recognise anybody today, except for the master of the store, but that was okay. She had someone else to talk to today.

“Whoa, slow down there, boy,” said Raiko, tucking into her own waffle slowly. “I’d prefer you to appreciate that what I’m treating you to.”

“It’s really nice,” Sagara said, the current wave of fibre stored in his cheeks. “What did you say this was again?”

“Don’t you know?” Raiko replied confused, looking around expecting to see they were drawing a crowd at his behavior, everyone politely disdaining from watching. “It’s a corn dog. They’re from your country. Not mine.”

“It’s nice whatever it is.”

“Yeah? Cheap as well. All the other places round here charge about the same amount you’d expect to pay to eat the President of the United States, but this place stays nice and cheap even during recessions. So eat as much as you want. Just eat it slowly.”

“I can probably manage that.”

Munching into the corn dog, it was gone in a matter of seconds, disappearing down the mouth of the ninja before it could scream for him to stop. Raiko waited for him to finish chewing, before ordering another one.

“So, Sagara. Tell me about yourself.”

“Huh?” Sagara mumbled back in response, a glass of apple juice blocking his limited efforts to speak coherently

“Well, I just figured if I’m going to show you round town today, you could repay me by telling me about yourself while we do. Balance things out, as it were.”

“Ah, okay.” Sagara went back to drinking.

“I’ve always been curious in meeting one of the other members of the clan. I only know Ms. Sakimoto from part time work. But I’m thinking the future Enforcer should be a lot more interesting.”

It didn’t seem to bother him that she knew everything. Had he already been told about her from Yuya? The Futabatei were supposed to be careful in talking about work related matters, but all he was doing was nibbling on the stick to get whatever remained of the dog off of it. It wasn’t ver cute of him when she thought about. She got the feeling he was the type who’d be very pretty as long as he remained quiet and motionless.

“Are you allowed to talk about it?” she asked him concerned, hoping that he wasn’t too shy about not saying anything.

“No. It should be fine,” he replied, continuing to gnaw. He took a few prolonged seconds before finally saving wood away. “I’m Sagara,” he finally said.

It took a while to get anything else out of him. At first all he seemed interested in was telling her he had brown hair and brown eyes, though they were sometimes also green. Three Corn dogs and a waffle later he wasn’t shutting up.

“And once I’m through the tournament there the whole problem with the demons. Melissa says I have to focus on both, but I don’t know where to start with the demons.”

“I know what you mean,” Raiko replied absently. “I’m supposed to be looking after some of the demons handling the bets and I just know it’s not going to work out. There’s this stupid fat locust demon that makes things you find repulsive sexy, and if he even thinks of doing something to me…” Sagara was staring forwards now, his expression unmoving. It was exactly the same as before, but Raiko found it different somehow. “What?”

“You know where the demons are?”

“You haven’t heard?

“Huh? Heard what?”

Raiko brought her hands to cover up with her mouth. What had she just said? There was no way for her to know but it should have been obvious.

“Of course. It’s your initiation, isn’t it? Oh damn.” Feeling incredible stupid, she stamped the floor under the table, looking away from him, her mouth fumbling the game. “I’m not even sure if I’m allowed to tell you. You’re supposed to find it out for yourself.”

“Well, I suppose now I have.”

“Oh, you mustn’t tell Ms. Sakimoto,” pleaded Raiko. “If she discovers that I’ve been telling you things relating to your initiation. You’re not even supposed to know she’s handling the matter in case you fail.”

“Well, it’s good to have a backup.”

“No, it’s not,” insisted Raiko. “f you know you have backup, you’ll go lax. You’ll start thinking that it’s okay because someone else can handle it if you fail. But this is all supposed to be for you, Sagara. The only reason I think Ms. Sakimoto set this up is so that you could go in and deal with it. It’s supposed to be your actions. That decides the fate of this tournament. Your decisions. Your free will. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?”

Raiko realised she was panting now, her legs also standing up and her voice doing very little in keeping the secrets of the Futabatei away from everyone else in the café. She coughed to stop herself, and sat back down. “Sorry.”

“That’s okay,” Sagara said, sounding more genuine than he should with spilled secrets. “Besides, you’re wrong.”

“I am?”

“That’s right. It’s not my choice at all. I am just to obey my mother’s commands. I must enter the tournament and root out the demons. That’s my duty, and that’s all I need to do. Other than that, it’s just waiting and finding them… though I suppose what you said just helped. I didn’t know there was betting going on. Though it doesn’t matter about what you just said, since I won’t fail.”

“I see,” she said after a few moments, coming to an misaligned understanding that she wasn’t sure of. “So you’re trapped too.”

“What’s that?” It passed her mind for a moment, that one special moment where she could reveal everything to a total stranger. But this wasn‘t a total stranger. If she had understood what he had just said. He was the one person she could never tell.

“Let’s get out of here,” she said, hating the bright lighting and flowery drapes all of a sudden. This was supposed to be her hiding place, but it served a more torturous function as well when she wasn’t noticing.

“Okay,” he said, apparently unconcerned for the half glass of citrus left on the round table and her own half eaten waffle. Paying the master quickly, she stormed out the main entrance, her envoy in tow.




“When did that happen?”

“Excuse me?” Raiko turned round the corner, through the shortcut alley to the arcade. She had promised him the delights of pachinko, and if they got there before lunch, they’d miss the mass of lunch time goers.

“My eyes aren’t working?” he complained, rubbing them. “They been like this all day?”

“Have you got something in them?” Raiko asked back, walking in reverse to glance at the brown irises behind her. He was rather handsome when she got a close up glare of him. It made the creature inside her stir a little.

“No, that’s the problem. Well, not much of a problem I guess. It’s not like I need them today.” He carried on walking, his hands sinking back down into his pockets.

“You know, Sagara. Even for a faithless, you’re quite fu… ah!” she gasped, noticing the sudden positioning of a wall behind her. It was bouncier than the brick wall she might have expected, even as it were stiff and large. Slowly turning around, she found someone staring down at her, a huge man made entirely of muscle and leather, a red bandana wrapped around his head.

For someone so large, it was amazing she hadn’t sensed him by body presence. Raiko looked up to the face of the thirty something body builder with a caution she would reserve for bears. The man leered down at her like a giant noticing an ant for the first time, and arced slowly towards her.

“Ah, excuse me,” she got out as quickly as she could. At times like this, she figured apologising and getting away was the smartest course of action.

“Quite alright, miss,” the older man growled with a surprisingly light hearted voice. “Wasn’t your fault.”

“Ah, thank you, excuse us.”

“It was mine. You were going to bump into me no matter what you tried.”

Stay calm, she told herself, keeping an eye on the bruiser in front of her. Now that she looked, there were two others in the alleyway with them. Kids, barely teenagers from the looks of things. One was sitting on the dumpster. Both had a look of hyenas on them.

“Is there anything we can help you with?” She knew she was setting herself up. A comment like that screamed for them to reveal their ill intentions, but it was either that or let them have complete control of the field.

“Oh we just hang round here at lunch, take what we can from those wanting to use this shortcut. There’s always some old geezer more than willing to let us snag some money off of him, but I guess we can take a few kids as well.”

She had never seen them before, though she had been out of town for a while. She certainly hadn’t expected to have her tuft taken away by Yakuza wannabes though.

“But we’re older than you,” Sagara replied matter of factly. Raiko frowned. There was no way this man was younger than them. His lackeys for sure, but this wasn’t the time to be thinking such things.

“Oi, wash your mouth and show some respect, boy,” the thug continued, brushing passed her and into Sagara’s face, the two boys stepping up to show she couldn’t run away. “My friends here may be a little young, but I’ll bitch your ass if you start acting like you’re older than me.”

“But I am older than you,” Sagara stated, looking quite confused. “You’re fifteen years old. Same as those two.” Raiko began discussing in her head if this was just the right time for such a debate, though it also occurred to her that Sagara probably had no money whatsoever on him and wasn’t concerned as she was that they might make a grab for it before running off. She had just got to the thought of sneaking her purse into her khakis a little more to make it ungrabbable when the larger guy stamped his foot.

“Like fuck am I?!” the pack of large muscles cried out. “What the hell would you know?”

“I’m not sure,” Sagara replied. “It’s just somehow I know you’re not any older than fifteen years and four months.”

“Whatda ya say, brat,” the thug seemed uncaring for words now, and raised his fist to continue the discussion. Was Sagara right about it or something? How could this brute, who must have weighed in at a heavyweight level and looked not to have an once of fat on his body be only fifteen years. Reality interceded before the answer and Raiko watched as Sagara slipped back and away from an attack that didn’t come, circling behind the supposed teenager and next to Raiko, who congratulated herself on allowing them to get surrounded by street vagrants.

“Hey Sagara,” she whispered to him. “You better be as strong a fighter as you should be. I won’t be able to protect you otherwise with this many.”

“Does that mean we’re to fight them?” Sagara asked, not entirely stupid. “But they’re not demons.”

“Look out!” Raiko screamed before she could answer, the larger one lunging forward to punch him, knocking him back. The right hook connecting with his jaw, Sagara could only spit saliva as he fell. Raiko watched as the ground came to meet him, stopping inches before him, the boy now wrapped round the punk’s punching shoulder, dragging him along too.

“It’s okay, Raiko. I’m strong,” he stated casually, looking fine even with a curled up hand in his jaw. The girl breathed a sigh of relief as he hung there like a playful rat, tying the thug up for moments as he swung back round and away from his attacker.

“Shit, get them!” the thug shouted. “Let neither of them escape the alley.”

“Although Natoko did tell me that I shouldn’t train today,” the ninja mumbled with the group charging towards him, as he pondered his moral situation. The first one came at his right. Holding a baseball bat, jumping up at the ninja, swinging the blunt piece of wood towards his forehead. Tilting his neck, Sagara shifted his shoulder to the side, narrowly dodging the weapon. Because of his lunge, his attacker ended up stepping pass him, and had to take a moment to regain his balance. During this time, Sagara turned around and, grabbing his head, pushed the bat-wielding punk into the wall face first. Letting go, he heard the boy making a groaning noise, his nose also broken, collapsing to the floor in a heap.

Raiko cringed, she didn’t know why she had been so worried. Grinning, she looked to her own opponent, whichever one would approach first, that is.



Melissa observed; her view of the alley sufficient to take it all in, even the bruise Sagara would later receive from the attack. How did he do this? He was a fool of the highest degree. Even swimming effortlessly around his opponents like they were stones in a pond, Sagara was still an idiot to get into this fight in the first place. Random punks! Even worse would be that he’d probably prolong it. And for as long as possible.

And there wasn’t time for any of it.

The boy with the baseball bat was getting back up. Sagara dodged the other boy’s attempts to shove him towards the floor and noticed him try another overhead swing. It was simple for her lord to evade it, moving swiftly to the side and smiling nervously as the bat slammed into the head of the defenseless youth, knocking him flat and up. It took a few seconds of stifled comprehension for the bat boy to realise what he had done, having not seen his friend before the bat had swung him back round to face his accidental betrayal complete with blood stained face. Deciding to place his blame solely in Sagara rather than accept it in himself, he charged once again with a howl swinging his bat madly straight for the ninja.

As she expected, this completely missed Sagara, who evaded by jumping high into the air. His eyes ignited in fury, the boy spun around trying to find his target . With no other clue, he looked up to see a dark shadow flying towards him in front of the piercing sunlight. Instinctively raising his club up in order to block what was coming at him, Melissa saw the boy close his eyes, flinching too hard as Sagara skidded off his shoulder, knocking him down, but not out.

Already rain clouds were zeroing unnaturally in on their direction, all the buildings that they were covering fading away like dreams that never were. There was no doubt something had zeroed in on him. Curse him. He was supposed to never be found. Even if he was, he was supposed to have certain wards to protect him.

“And as much as I would like them to teach you a lesson, it would cause problems for us later on.”

“Daisuke,” the large man, or boy in Sagara’s eyes, shouted, the girl standing between them not even trying to attack him yet. “Ushiro!”

Far too late. A boot lightly pressed itself against the boy’s nose, breaking it as light as one would safety remove an eggshell, his legs appearing to willingly fall from underneath him before her lord could crash down into him. Now, all four of those who had appeared from nowhere were on the ground, with only two left, and only about two minutes left at the same time.

An attempt at redemption, this is what this was. Her lord had let himself get blindsided the other night, a result of being stupid enough to assume the person wouldn’t attack with his back turned. Even if he didn’t realise it himself, he had let the fight happen, or wanted it to. But there wasn’t enough time, and he had no intention of beating up normal humans without a good reason.


“Kisama! Buttoukorosu,” screamed the punk, dropping the bat to feel his nose. Sagara waited patiently for the boy to get his bearings back as the world started swirling around them. Despite his weak size, the boy was doing surprisingly well at standing up to Sagara.

“Yamarou, Daisuke!” the muscular man called out in Japanese. “Tsuyosou, Daisuke. Tame ni tsuyo sugiru. Kare o atsukauyo.” Clapping his hands, the man stepped up to get Sagara’s attention, the smaller one stepping back.

“Omoshiro so,” the man babbled, standing directly in front of Sagara engulfing her lord within his shadow alone. “You’re pretty interesting. Fight like a kung fu film, do ya?” Melissa’s head clicked. The language barrier just dissipated.

“Erm…thank you,” Sagara said casually to the piece of steel in front of him. “You look strong yourself. I’ll fight you next.” Hearing this, the man burst out into hysterics that made him look like a bad actor.

“Fight me, you little prick?” His expression changed, scrunching up like a chocolate wrapper, becoming deeply offended by the mere request. “You think you can fight on my fuckin’ level? Acrobatics. Evasion. Precision. They all mean fuck all my strength!”

She was aware of her eyes widening, the man’s fist was already pass the point where Sagara’s stomach had been, the force  knocking him back. The fist was huge, and covered her lord’s abs easily. It was only on him for a second, and then his body moved away from it, giving his back enough space to slam into the wall, the hard brick refusing to budge before him. Her lord winded, he fell to the floor with a moment of daziness. That was good. Anyone else would have had their cheeks shredded as their teeth tightened over them, but Sagara was relaxed enough to absorb the blow without much damage. The wall hadn’t helped though. The girl screamed out his name,.

“Shall we try?” said Sagara, answering a question Melissa must have missed. Her lord slowly rose up, appearing undamaged to the thug before him and ready to fight for real, when the tweeting of a bird suddenly muted outside of the ally reminded her there were more pressing concerns to deal with.

“Run, you moron,” she shouted, breaking the silence she was supposed to keep round others. She hoped the kids wouldn’t understand her. “This place is trapped in a Spinner!”

“No, it isn’t,” Sagara shouted back without looking at her. “I would have…” he stuttered, breathing heavily, “noticed…” He stopped in mid sentence and she watched as he brought his hands up to his eyes, rubbing them raw as she noticed the thug looking up at her with an astonished gape.

Seeing his expression, she set up the motions for an illusion of heavy air to cover her existence, only to freeze up herself when she saw it wasn’t working. Feeling like she had forgotten batteries, she clenched her muscles to get the illusion working, only to generate nothing. Now she was definitely exposed.

“I can’t sense it,” he shouted back up to her. “I can’t sense anything.”

“The girl,” Melissa said in surprise, looking at the wall of the cafe, as a large metal gate shot up and around the brick and mortar, raising itself into the skies around the building almost as fast as she could jump into its newly formed cage.

“The building’s been possessed by a Spinner demon. It’s shunting us. I didn’t even know something like this could have a voice.”

“It’s an evil café?” the girl said. “That’s just stupid.”

“I don’t know why, but there’s something stopping any special abilities here,” Melissa informed him, starting to climb down the stairs. “I can’t even form illusions at this point and I’m guessing you haven’t been able to sense spirits since you met this girl this morning.” She went to drop down from the stairwell, to land next to her lord. She didn’t make it, the air hanging onto her feet. She found herself levitating against her own will.

“What the fuck?” the man shouted, and she realised they were too far gone now. His little friend didn’t wait for an answer, turning around and running out of the alley as fast as he could, the final part of the gate raising itself into the sky as soon as he passed it, not even turning around to look.

“Oh, we’re trapped,” Sagara stated obviously, looking around to find a way out.

“What’s going on, Sagara?” Raiko asked behind him. “This is a Spinner. Why is there a Spinner demon coming after us?” Looking on, Melissa saw the two face each other, Sagara seemed concerned about something else now, staring at the girl for more reason than answering her question.

“You tell us,” Melissa interceded. “We’re being awfully setup today. And it’s quite easy to see who to blame when you’ve only known them a couple of hours before they lead you down a dark alley containing random encounters.”

“You’re saying I did this?” Raiko said offended, apparently having no problem arguing with someone who was floating six feet above her. “I’m one of you. I serve the Negotiator of the Balance, Sakimoto Yuya. And besides, he just fell into my room.”

“Yes I know. I learnt of your presence last night.” Melissa scanned the girl for the usual abnormalities. “I was willing to pass this off as just a lonely girl who wanted to meet someone else made out of demons until about three minutes ago. Now I’m wondering how many of our laws you’re breaking.”

“I’m not breaking any. I just wanted to meet him.”

“I’ve noticed nothing wrong with me all day,” Sagara interrupted.

“What?” both girls asked sternly.

“All day, I felt no change in my eyes. That can only mean that whatever is wrong with the eye of Futabatei happened when I woke up that morning, and I woke up next to you.”

“The Eye of Futabatei?” Raiko replied. Melissa was slowly understanding now. What was stopping her illusions, and the boy’s eyes, it could only be one thing really. “Of course, you would have that, wouldn’t you? But isn’t it supposed to be automatic?”

“Sagara,” Melissa chimed. “They’re beginning the switch.”

“We’re caught in their trap, Melissa. Might as well go for the ride,” he replied, keeping his eyes on the girl as he considered her question. “I’m a little different to the rest of my family. I have to activate it, but how have you stopped it?”

“Then, then,” Raiko fished into her pocket, pulling out the long line of fabric that made up her headband. “It must be this.” His new, supposed friend pulled the end of the bandage out of her pocket, revealing a glowing gem that had been wrapped up inside the headband. It was dark green and looked like a large expensive emerald, but what was most notable about it was the complete absence of light that refracted through it. In fact, light would just physically stop just a few millimetres before it reached the jade rock. Melissa recognised it instantly

“A Neutralis shard?” Melissa shouted in shock. “Who are you to have one of those?”

“Oh, sorry. She’s Raiko,” Sagara explained. “Raiko, this is Melissa.” The girl called Raiko stared at him, both girls knowing this is clearly not what she meant.

“Oi!” the large man shouted out. “We’re still fighting here. I don’t give a fuck what’s going on around us.”

“You should,” Melissa explained, hovering in front of him, her ability to obey gravity’s laws failing her as she spoke to the muscle bound fool. “We’re being transported to the InBetween Realm, more than likely by a demon.”

“This!” she said, turning to Sagara as she flailed her arms in all directions. “This is what you get for being too relaxed about demon hunting. Not only do you leave enough evidence of that demon for a trace last night, but now we’ve got no choice but to drag innocent people along.”

“Just what the fuck is going on?”

“Shut up. Don’t say anything,” she stressed to the man, trying to get in his face despite her current midair paralysis. “Don’t touch anything and don’t move about, and you might survive.” Her body was disobeying her without gravity, and she felt her weapons jangle as she flipped upside down.

“He’s got no where to go anyway,” Raiko said over them. “We’re already no longer in the city.” The new girl turned to Sagara. “Looks like I’m not going to get to show you around,” she said with a hapless grin.

“Looks like,” he replied sheepishly. “Could you turn that thing off or something? I have a feeling I’m going to need my eyes.”

“Erm, sure,” The girl mumbled, and Melissa’s peeked over as the girl waved her hand over the strange green gem. The emerald stone hummed loudly as the charge built up before cutting off as it switched to standby mode. The girl put it in her pocket and already Melissa felt her senses tingling again, like they had been lightly brushed with a feather. If that was the case then her illusions were probably back up too, although in front of two unknowns wasn’t the best time to show anything special off. It was a very good thing that she had dyed her hair recently. Some respect might have been lost if these people saw it turn back to its original colour.

“We’re still traveling,” Sagara said, his Eyes of Futabatei now prominently green and scanning the area. “We haven’t reached whoever is trying to kidnap us.”

“Kidnap us?” Raiko shouted out, now looking around appearing more worried than before. “What’s going on, why are we being transported like this? Don’t the demons only do this when someone’s really insulted them?”

“I’m not sure, but I’m guessing it’s a vendetta. I have so many of them,” Sagara said with a bright laugh, the type reserved for happy, nostalgic memories. On the floor, Melissa noticed that the unconscious boy fading away. It was only the big guy coming with them it seemed. Sleep wouldn’t allow any of its citizens to travel back and forth between realms without its say-so and it’ll be good if they could only go further with only faithless here. “By the way, if you feel something try to grab you, just try to ignore it. It’ll be a spectre. They’re only curious as to what we are.”

“That’s what it is,” Nobori grunted as he got back up, “I was hoping it was a girl trying to feel me up.”

“Shut up,” Raiko grunted. “You have no idea what’s going on here, so just be a good, little boy and be quiet.”

“Yo, fuck you!” Sagara ignored the obscene outburst and tried to enlighten his opponent.

“Basically what’s happening is we’re being taken to… somewhere by evil unspeakable creatures of doom. To do that they use a Spinner, picking up parts of our reality and replacing it with their own really, really fast, so it doesn’t leave a mark. This will all change when we get there, but basically we traveling through an inbetween inbetween realm before we get to the InBetween realm and this dimension’s native inhabitants are looking at us confused. However, because of the illusions being set up by evil enemy number one, we aren’t supposed to be able to see them. Now that I have my eyes working again, I can.”

“So….” Nobori said thinking. “If I ignore half of the crap you said, what’s going on?”

“Not basically, we’re being kidnapped.”

“And why?”

“Like he said,” Melissa piped in, finally having enough of futile attempts at secrecy. “It’ probably a vendetta. Those morons from the False Balance.”