The corridors were gone, the room now opened out to a large office space, cubicles littering the plain magnolia carpets. Computers humming away silently to themselves. Only a few lights were on. Like animals in a zoo, a few weary workers shifted uncomfortably in their office chairs, not noticing the two newcomers as they entered the room. Sagara was already looking around aimlessly.

“How did we…” Natoko started, her voice halting as she caught a glimpse out of the window, the lights of a city illuminating the night-scape up to the horizon. She recognised this place, in particular the three large white towers that made up the shopping district Aki would drag her to when it was their turn to do shopping. This was Fuugosuki, the city closest to Heavenly Springs, half an hour’s journey on the tram line and a ten minute walk to the centre of the city itself. How did they end up here?

And how high up was she? Even if the corridor was on an incline. Her mind stung her as she tried to grasp it, Sagara uncaring as he muttered a quick hello to one of the workers, who shifted suddenly in his chair to turn to the intruder. The man stayed silent as he regarded Sagara for a few seconds, the boy just continuing to wave at him until he got a response.

“C-can I help you at all?” the man asked, his face telling Natoko that he clearly didn’t want to provide any sort of assistance to two teenagers who popped out of nowhere. Sagara pondered this for a moment, having not moved for a conversation in the first place.

“Yeah er…” he turned round. “Hey Natoko. What was the name of our hotel again?”

“Why are we on the twelfth floor?” she asked at him as soon as she got a glance at the elevator. This night was progressively getting too much for her brain. If this was what Sagara’s life was like, no wonder he seemed to wander around brain dead half the time. It must be the only way to survive.

“Because this is where the door came out,” he replied far too literally. “I figured it would be the city. Good job it was really.”

No, not lucky. They hadn’t been running that long. And she couldn’t have been that far off when she said it was ten to fifteen miles to the city. Even if she had somehow drastically mistaken a distance that took twenty minutes to reach by train, she was positive that there wasn’t a long stretch of a building going from the town to the city.

A woman wandered into the room between them, looking over documents as her heels clicked the floor. Looking the two of them over, she hovered a few steps back as if caught between forgetting something and wanting to pretend she had forgotten something.  She lost when she caught the eye of the first man, who looked desperate for her to take control.

“Can I help you two at all?” the woman asked in a ‘your life depends upon your answer being inversely proportional to my level of bitchiness’ sort of way. Natoko tried to answer first, and failed.

“I’m Sagara. This is Natoko. Pleased to meet you. We’re intruders. We came through that door running away from possessed old people.”

The woman’s eyes lit up as soon as Sagara pointed. She returned Sagara’s smile, walking backwards to the intercom on the wall and pressing the small red button gently. “Security!” she shouted, her face fierce and mouth roaring.

Natoko sighed. The night was getting worse and it was becoming clear that it would be up to her to sort things out. She stepped forward to try to offer a better explanation, not entirely sure if she could give one, when she realised the guards were already surrounding her. She would have expected a side door, or at the extreme, the main entrance. She did not expect two men to simply fall from the boring white ceiling, followed by another two popping out of the ground as if the carpet wasn’t a physical obstacle. They were dressed mostly in black, a feeling of ninja hidden behind blue shirts and radios strapped to their shoulders. Within seconds they had formed up around them, pulling out their batons, the one wearing the cap looking towards the receptionist lady.

“Yes! What’s the problem, mam?” he asked, in a bright and cheerful voice that reminded Natoko of her sports teacher.

“These two,” she said in an authoritative manner. “They came through that door. Escort them out the building.” Natoko turned to the door they had come through, the mahogany brown wood looked out of place in a clean stylish office like this.

“Yes mam,” he shouted with a salute, before rapidly pointing to her. “You two, flank them, Futsuki, you’re with me. Restrain them if you would please!”.

As the two unnamed guards began to circle them to block off their exits, the office lady backed off a little to give them some room. Natoko found herself a little surprised at their choice of just attacking rather than asking them to leave. Sagara, not as concerned, jumped towards the first man  slamming into his stomach with a sharp kick, before sending two punches to either side of his face knocking him out cold and quick.

His boss advanced, swinging back around to try and swing his weapon into the back of Sagara’s skull. The boy ignored this, ducking and using the open space to spin round and hook his left leg round the guard’s right one before shifting his body round to lift both in the air. Letting the guard fall to the ground with a thud, Sagara let his body spin round once more and followed the man down, driving his elbow into the man’s solar plexus. After this, he shifted his weight across his elbow and flipped back onto his legs, as the men looked on at their fallen superior officer.

He didn’t wait for them. Natoko just watched him as the boy flowed through the air around them without restraint, smiling as he tore into them, lifting one up by his ankle and waving him at the other, he countered a blow and started to wail on the poor guard with his fists. The man fell back with one of his teeth going a different route. Sagara brought it for the ride as he crashed down on top of the man. Not content with merely leaving him to groan on the floor, the ninja landed on him sharply and threw another fist into the man’s face several times..

“Stop this!” a voice emanated from across the room, causing all there to freeze in their place. Sagara kept his place on top of the man, his eyes peering out of the corner to see another woman. She was impressively tall, with her hair tied back and slick spectacles adorning a face Natoko couldn’t help but see as beautiful whilst presentable and perfectly complemented by a stylish red business suit. The only thing that failed to complete the look was that she was wearing white running shoes, one of which had an untied shoelace.

“Ms. Sakimoto?” the other woman called out, her head bowing in deference.

“What is going on here?” she asked the woman, readjusting her glasses as she reached the group. As she started talking, Sagara seemed to assume she didn’t want to speak to him and went on with finishing off the remaining guards. Natoko rushed to hold him back, keen to keep some sanity in their defense.

“Th-they came in here and started causing a fuss,” the woman said, appearing very shy in the presence of what was probably her superior. “Then I called security and he started to beat them up. W-we should call the special department immediately.”

The older woman seemed somewhat distracted for a moment as stared the two of them down, Sagara wrapped p in Natoko’ arm as she tried in vain to pull him off the guard, the woman’s composed glare keeping them contained as she smiled lightly to them.

“It’s a good job you didn’t,” she said calmly, but with a veil covering her words. “We would have had the entire Futabatei clan on us if we sent this one back in a body bag. Why on earth did you call the guard on them?”

“Well… well, they’re intruders,” she decided to say, her voice teetering in fear. “They said so themselves.” It should have been a valid excuse, but it melted away before the woman in front of her. The woman grunted to herself for a moment before readjusting her glasses. “Go on, get out of here. I’ll handle these two. And you four can get lost as well.” The office lady  took a moment to look as shocked and confused as Natoko was, before quickly heading for a desk on the other side of the room. As Natoko’s eyes followed her, she noticed that the four security guards had already disappeared with the exception of a single tooth.

“I take it you are part of the clan as well.” Natoko wasn’t listening, and flinched it when she realised she was being stared at.

“She is,” Sagara said, lying before Natoko had a chance to say anything. “She’s Natoko.” The girl decided it was best for her not to protest or say anything for that matter, and gave a small bow to introduce herself. The woman didn’t respond and instead turned out of the room. Sagara following her down into a corridor with abstract pictures adorning the room exactly every five meters. Natoko trailed behind them.

Keeping a few steps behind Sagara, they followed the woman to a lavish office at the end of the corridor, decorated simplistically with few pictures and mostly modern furniture. A leather couch sat invitingly to the side, a cupboard built into the wall containing thousands of books with the type of complicated titles that told her she’d have to buy them at outrageous prices should she ever become a university student and a huge glass office table that shined in the artificial light, two flat screen monitors saddled carefully upon it, along with a big, half-ripped box with the word ‘Entrants’ written on in felt tip which looked out of place. Besides it was a tray, a lot slimmer, filled with pieces of paper with the same formatting, both contained random pictures of teenagers.

“How’s your mother, Sagara?” the woman asked, making a quick effort to clear up what she could off the desk.

“Still awesome,” he replied casually, looking to the huge plasma screen plastered against the wall.

“Good good. This won’t take long.” Natoko noticed there was no real gap between the two subjects there. “I figured I’d get you registered while you’re here and not horribly lost on the day. I’ll just need you to sign a waiver and you’ll be entered for the competition officially.”

“This is the tournament place?” Natoko said by accident, half distracted by trying to figure out what the smell was. It wasn’t bad in particular. In fact it smelled quite fresh, rosy. It was just out of place. She noticed her mistake when she saw the woman staring at her like she had just insulted her long dead grandmother. Natoko felt a huge urge to apologise.

“This is where the participants for the competition are registered. We’re not in the InBetween Realm anymore.”

“Ah, sorry.” She felt herself blush. She shouldn’t anger this woman. She was clearly very important for the competition.

Sakimoto Yuya CEO

Her eyes fell upon the name plate that was positioned carefully upon the glass desk. It was made out of the same material as the desk, and many rainbows within it as the light bounced from those above.

A CEO? Suddenly Natoko found herself straightening up as much as she could while tipping her head as far forwards as  possible without looking too obvious.

“She’s entering too,” Sagara said, as relaxed as ever, his hand scrolling left to right across the page as he signed his name with a clean composed English hand that looked like it could have been printed from a computer. Sakimoto Yuya said nothing as she passed another form to Natoko. Part of Natoko wanted to read it, her common sense telling her it was important to make sure she knew what she was getting into with this tournament, but she was already keeping them, and dropped the characters of her name down as soon as she got the pen off Sagara.

“Have you made accommodation arrangements?” the CEO asked. For some reason she looked to Natoko for the answer to this question, and Natoko wanted to smile in knowing that the woman knew Sagara wouldn’t be able to answer.

“We have two rooms at the Light Flower Inn,” Natoko replied in the most respectful tone she could.

“No, no that won’t do,” Sakimoto Yuya said, glancing over the documents and adding her own long wavy signature to the papers. “I’ll arrange for you to have a room at the Scarlet. It is the city’s finest hotel. You’ve probably gotten tired of sleeping around on futons and other low beds.”

“I am pretty tired,” Sagara told her. “But mom did say I was supposed to be doing this on my own. I can’t accept any help from members of the clan.”

“Then how about this,” the lady responded. “I will book you a room in the name of your retainer, and if you just happen to be invited by her to sleep there for the night, then that would be acceptable, would it not?”

Sagara thought about it for the whole of two seconds, with the first one point five being to log back in. “I don’t see why not.”

“Is that okay with you, Yamanaka-kun?” the woman asked. Natoko beamed with happiness and pride. The woman called her ‘retainer’. To think it could be spotted already. She must be getting things right if people could tell at a glance. She nodded with delight, and the woman settled the simple matter of the room the two would be sharing minutes later with a phone call.



“On the floor,” Natoko stated monotonously, pointing to the dark blue carpet beneath them.

“But the bed’s big enough for both of us.”

How did she not notice this?

“On the floor,” she repeated, same tone as last time.

Did the woman notice this? Was she expecting this?

“What’s the big deal of sleeping in the same bed?”

“On the floor.” Her right cheek started to twitch. He apparently didn’t notice.

“It’s cold though. Oh, and if we sleep together we can keep each other warm.”

“On the floor!” she finally shouted, grabbing the hem of his shirt and tossing him there. Too tired to argue any longer, she viewed force as being the only thing he would really listen to. “I’m not sleeping in the same bed as a man. It was bad enough the way the clerk looked at us. I don’t want the cleaner coming in tomorrow morning and finding us-” she paused for a second, the thought entering her head unburdened. “Just no.”

“Alright,” Sagara replied like a scolded dog, laying down on the floor and pulling the blanket over himself. He faced away for her, and the girl couldn’t tell if he had done it on purpose or not. Sighing, she lay down on top of the bed covers, not wanting to ruffle the only clothes she brought with her. She flipped the light switch, plunging them into darkness.

It was peaceful for a moment, finally peaceful. After the hectic three hours they had just had… No, beyond that, it felt more peaceful than she had ever had. No loud streets running away from crazed lynch mobs. No residents bounding through the halls of the dorm at the late hours, laughing and shouting about things that seemed pointless. No tension of her mother coming in through the door to wake her up at any moment. Just tranquility. It seemed strange that it was a public hotel that could bring this feeling of relaxation into her heart. The loneliness of the hotel room made her feel that she could take as big a deep breath as she wanted, and then come back and ask for more.

The peace was nice. The chaos was nice too, in its own way. But the peace has its own unique feel good, a bed fit for a queen being one of them.

She heard him breath heavily, intentionally, still awake, probably far too awake after all that had happened. She couldn’t entirely blame him. He was always bursting full of energy that to just cut it off like that was like pulling the handbrake of an aeroplane.

Who was Sagara anyway?

The thought crossed her mind almost randomly, but she felt it had been there for a while now. She knew really. He was too simple for her not to have figured most of him out already, but there were the gaps that didn’t make sense even when he sat down and talked about them. There was this Enforcer of the Balance stuff, but that was still too obscure. And the way that woman had responded to him, like he was a noble of some kind. A dignitary from a foreign land to whom the highest luxuries should be placed upon without hesitation. The woman herself was a ruler after all. Sagara must have some power to be treated like that by her.

He didn’t exactly act like a prince, although he did seem carefree; the rich pampered brat type in his own way. Though at times she could swear he wasn’t aware of it.


There was a clutter and a bang outside the door. It was enough to wake him up. Slowly, the ninja rose from his slumber. It was three in the morning, though Sagara wouldn’t see the clock.

Somebody outside walked into a wall and released a small cry. Their voice was suddenly silenced, though they didn’t realise it.

“I have a visitor” he mumbled waking up, opening the door. “I’m just going to go see her.” Outside, the hallway was silent and filled with darkness, showing some fool had forgotten to turn the light bulbs on. Everybody else in the hotel was obviously asleep, ready for whatever toils would happen in the morning, and so not a single soul stirred as the boy stepped over the depressing mass of broken and bloodied bodies lay strewn across the passageway, their insides laying neatly on top of them in disfigured piles, their blood thrown against the wall the way an angry angst artist would with paint.

From the looks of their clothing, they were to be the late night staff of the hotel, except one person, who had been known as a man from three doors down that had grunted at Sagara and Natoko as their way up to the room. He was still dressed in his white dressing gown that they had seen him in, though was now stained a dark crimson. Natoko’s discarded remains stared at her, who eyes wide and accusing.

Looking down at the corpse, their bodies arranged in the pattern to match the symbol of Ramuhnadin, Sagara stepped over them coughing morning phlegm out of his lungs and headed for the upstairs stairway, the obvious place to go for some reason in the mind of the ninja. On the stairway, things were also going badly for businessmen and chambermaids. Covering the entire area, including the wall, stairs, handrail and even the bloody corpses, with a stench of decay where swarms of insects tick and buzzed to themselves as they slowly devoured the corpses that lay festering beneath them.

Nicknamed Cthulu insects, they looked like beetles and had a mass of tentacles streaming from their mouths. None of them were flying and all of them were ignoring all sentient entities in the area. In fact, they were ignoring everything except the dead, who had their full attention as they covered them with putrid bodies. The Cthulu insects didn’t eat corpses, but they viewed dead bodies the same way German tourists viewed already overcrowded beaches and did their best to cover every nanometre of the long corridor.

Sagara walked over them, the critters sliding across what they had to avoid his bare feet, splitting his path as he walked through them. Underneath the slimy critters was a crusty shade of brown that crunched as he stepped on it, leaving the impression of drying paint. Were he to look back, he would see that it had cracked slightly, allowing a torrent of the beetles to swarm out of it.

He made his way up the next five floors to the roof of the hotel, his mind guided by an impulsive curiosity impossible to reduce. It was only at the last corner where he got to see the screaming woman. She appeared as a impressively overweight cleaning lady, currently covered in insects and shrieking in pain as they swarmed over her skin. Pounding and kicking, she desperately tried to open the door as the bugs made their way into her flesh.

“Oh god, get them off me. Please get them off me,” she screamed, begging to anyone willing to listen. Using the last of her energies to pound on the door in a hope to escape. That was the main problem with Cthulu demon bugs, their very presence was probably burning the woman’s skin, each of their six legs attacking her nervous system directly, sending her into agony worse than any sanitation job could. As he reached her, the door finally gave in, breaking under her constant bashing, seconds before he would have been able to make a grab for her. Without waiting or even noticing him the woman ran outside onto the rooftop screaming right off the side of the building, the beetles probably now regretting latching to her insides as she fell to her death. Sagara scratched the back of his head and looked annoyed at the cold air.

Here, on the rooftop, there were no corpses, beetles or strange, crusty brown floor. There was the Mongalth demon body on the roof of the staircase directly above him, waiting for him to turn to see how close he was to it. He obliged, and the creature stared at him, its large, snaky tongue flickering out of its mouth as it examined its next prey, but nothing else of particular notice. Its body may have been a beetle’s, but from its head a giant snake, which wrapped round the beetle’s head and looked a little too tight..

“Ssssoooo carefree – Hunter,” the demon hissed as it spoke to him. The hissing was loud and distinct as it trailed off the creature’s forked tongue, as if it felt that if it didn’t hiss loud enough, people wouldn’t believe that it was a giant, murderous, demon snake. “Sssome would think… that you did not care about the human scum around chew. You did not even try to help… that fat sssooow over there.” Waving to the snake happily, Sagara greeted the demon.

“Hey Melissa,” he said to the hellspawn like an old friend met for drinks. “Could we keep it quick? I need to rest today.” The demon visibly paused, then slithered a few feet closer.

“Whhhat?” the snake-beetle stated, breathing into him as it did so. “What… iiis this Melissssa talk?”

“Your technique’s improved, hasn’t it?” he replied, kneeling down to look at some of the beetles that had followed him up the stairs. He allowed one to crawl onto his hand, before crushing it with his other palm. It left sticky remains, slowly pulsing between his closed fingers and dropped to the floor. He licked his fingers.

“But you kind of messed up. I can’t smell blood. I can’t smell the insects, and this tastes of strawberries.” He eyed the goo suspiciously for a moment, looking unsure whether to toss it or try some more.

The ‘Melissa’ demon hissed at this. Sagara just smiled as the hiss came out stuttered, “I..Wwwwwe don’t know what yyyyou’re talking about. We killed those peoplessss, ripped them apart and fed them to our babiessss.” If a verbal hiss could be measured on a scale, and that would just be stupid and a precious waste of science points that could have been spent on gravity manipulation, then this hiss felt stronger than ever, the snake angered and insulted, ready to perform multiple lacerations upon Sagara’s pretty face.

“But Mongalth demons don’t consider the Cthulu beetles they use as their babies, Melissa,” he said, interrupting her. “They hypnotise beetles, not give birth to them. If you’re looking for an excuse to fight, you should just ask. You know I’ll say yes.” From his left arm, the small metal band of Draynor appeared, sliding liquid metal across his fist to form the gauntlet.

“Heh,” the creature muttered, the hissing now gone, its tongue flicking out and covering the gap before them at great speed, so even Sagara was mildly surprised when he found he could no longer move his left arm. “Fool,” it said in perfect, unrestricted by snake tongue English. “You fell for it so easily!” The giant snake closed its eyes, seeming to focus for a second, its long, slimy tongue glowing black for a few seconds.

The black energy turned to ashen rays that traveled from the monster to Sagara’s left fist spiraling around her tongue like an electric conduit. The gauntlet glowed red as the heat soared to unbearable levels.

“You’re such a fool, Sagara,” the demon said, the voice sounding less snaky and more squeaky. “The whole insect illusion was just a trick to get a rise out of you. I knew you would reveal the Draynor to threaten me. How do you like my new technique? It emits an electric shock straight through the bodies of demons, just like your gauntlet. And since Draynor’s made out of metal, you should be feeling quite unpleasant as well.”

Sagara stayed quiet, looking ahead like she was a sociology lecturer talking about the differences between ‘mature’ people and the elderly.

“Once more should do it,” and she began to laugh loudly, maniacally, repeating her technique as the yellow glow beamed through the tongue once again. “I finally beat you, Sagara.”

“Ehhh, so you hid your whip as the demon’s tongue. Cool.” Grabbing hold of the demon’s tongue with both hands, he yanked the tongue hard, pulling it towards him. The Monglath watched motionlessly as its mouth gave birth to a fully-grown, seventeen year old white girl who, completely surprised by the course of actions, crashed hard into the concrete roof nine feet below her on the floor, rolled with her momentum to turn the fall into a safe one and promptly landed right into Sagara’s fist as she did so.

Coughing with the sudden escape of air, the girl simply fell onto him, knocked cold as her body knocked her reset button.For a few minutes, the roof was silent of all but the wind.

With a sigh, the boy hoisted the girl up, before resting her onto the floor, looking half tempted to throw her off the side and just go back to bed.

“I’m tired,” he muttered to himself. “And half-naked too. It’s cold up here.” He looked around for something to help keep him warm, not wanting to take the girl back to his room. Seeing nothing else, he opted to take off her jacket, leaving the girl only in a lightly armoured vest. The cotton top was baggy, mainly to hold her equipment, so he was able to wrap into it easily, even though he was much bigger in build than her. Looking towards the unconscious girl, he examined her carefully.

“Hi Melissa,” he shouted, kicking the girl. “Wake up. You’re not allowed to sleep if I’m not remember?” Roughing her up eased her back into consciousness and the bleach hairjob girl awoke with various mumbles, as if she had been sleeping naturally, before realizing with a jolt where she was, using the energy to stand up.

“Ah crap,” she cried out. “I lost again?” She kicked the ground and watched several small pebbles fly off the forty story building. The stones were probably unaware of their potential power when thrown off tall buildings, but about to find out.

“Yep,” Sagara answered unmercifully. “Badly too.”

“But how?” the girl asked, her slim body shivering in the wind as it noticed it had been robbed of her tight jacket, causing her combat trousers to rattle with all the metal in them.

“You’ve died your hair blond,” Sagara replied instead. This was a true statement.

“Sagara,” she said, pouting. “Admire me later. Tell me where I went wrong.” She took a second to try and make a cute yet annoyed expression and failed instantly, looking like someone who had just accidentally killed their entire family with a blunt dinner knife.

“Isn’t it obvious?” he asked her raising both his arms in front of her and holding them there. “Take a moment to think about it.” Staring, the girl checked each hand, taking a moment to sniff the two pieces of flesh being dangled in front of her, but with a shrug of her shoulder showed that she didn’t understand.

“You grabbed the wrong hand with your attack.”

“Huh, but I grabbed Draynor.” She protested for a second before stopping. Sagara watched for a second as Melissa held up her own two hands and seemed to be weighing them “How?”

“King’s curse,” he said casually.

“Draynor was to my right, which means… Damn it.” She hit her hand across her head. “I got the wrong hand. You used an illusion. You used my illusion!”

“Right, Draynor can only manifest on my right hand. If it came on my left hand, my thumb would get chopped off.” To prove his point, the gauntlet faded on as if it had always been there. The weapon shone in the moonlight, the talons surrounding the wrist glistening. The girl stamped her foot against the floor.

“Aw man, I screwed it up again. I totally suck.” The girl continued her little temper tantrum against the roof of the hotel. Sagara just smiled.

“Yes, yes you do,” he said, agreeing with the deranged girl. “Now, what are you doing here?” The girl stopped her argument with the floor and turned smiling.

“I came here to see my lovely little Sagara, of course. I missed you, dear,” she said smiling, leaning up to hug him.

“No you didn’t,” he said unflinching.

“Your mom sent me here to watch over you,” she replied truthfully, looking away to the moon.

“Yeah, I guessed that too. You were hiding in Heavenly Springs before I even got there, just waiting for me.” Melissa involuntarily screamed wordless obscenities, not expecting it.

“How did you know?” she asked stuttering.

“Aki was complaining about her bananas going missing,” he explained, the grin on his face never wavering as he took the hug in. “Nobody else in that place eats them except for her, and sometimes they’re all you eat.” He yawned a little, his foot starting to etch patterns in the dirt of the ground, looking hopeful that Sleep would be merciful and sneak up behind him to knock him unconscious, hopefully without taking his stuff like last time.  “Plus. Eye of Futabatei. No hiding from me.”

“Dammit,” the girl cursed before sighing and letting her shoulders collapse, giving up on the attempt to kill him. “I have your updated mission statement for you,” she said plainly in a cut the crap attitude, pulling out a small sheet of paper written in a strange code that only she knew.

“Okay, cool,” he replied, releasing her from his grip so she could read off the sheet. Glancing over the fresh sheet of plain A4 paper, she quickly tucked it away, as if feeling it would be better if she explained in non-clinical terms.

“You came to Japan with an order to partake in the tournament being held by the Enlightened and Faithless of the InBetween Realm…”

“Yeah. I know all that. Got it all out of the way and everything. What’s next?”

“You should know what’s next, Sagara,” the girl chided him. “This is for your initiation.”

“But your job is to remind me… So, remind me.” The girl sighed heavily, continuing the debrief.

“In order to past your initiation, you have to enter the tournament and at least pass the preliminaries. This is to prove your physical capabilities. However, As you already know we’ve come across suspicions that a coven of demons are involved in this tournament. As a hunter and Enforcer’s heir, it’s your job to discover what’s happening and deal with the situation as you see fit. As your servant, I’m to assist you in whatever way your order.

“After that, I just have the same old reminders. Try to keep it secret of course and if you can’t, don’t do anything that’ll lead it back to us, and if it’s any of the higher types messing around, then definitely kill ‘em, leaving clear evidence that it was the clan that did it, unless there are humans around, of course.”

“Yeah, I know that bit,” Sagara said as he cut her off. “It’s not like I haven’t done this before.”

“Oh yeah?” the girl rebuked. “You could have handled the water spirit a bit better.”

“Ah yes. That.” He smiled and shrugged his shoulder. “That was a slip. I don’t know why I did it.”

“You let a whole hotel of people know about the existence of demons! How could you ‘let that slip?’ And you never bothered with clean up. We are supposed to keep our profession a secret, you know? What do you think the Futabatei clan is? What do you think a ninja is? Your mom would be so pissed right now if she knew what you were doing.” He was still smiling, as she continued to step forward, pushing him to the back of the wall.

“Two of them are family,” he tried to explain, his face looking like it could be dejected. “Sarah’s probably going to get told when she’s older anyway. I couldn’t help it with two of them since one of them got possessed and the other seems to have such strange demon sensing ability, and the rest just don’t care. There’s no danger, the only one at risk is probably the little overweight girl. I thought she might become scared or something, but she seemed fine. ”

“Well good for her. She becomes all nice and brave, then one day she sees a demon in an alley and tries to tackle it herself. Then what?” Melissa shouted, grabbing him by her shirt collar and pulling him to her face, her eyes ablaze with the fury of the annoyed.

“Can we do this another time? I’m tired.” Sagara whined, yawning to prove a point.

“You can’t just ignore this. You’re supposed to be a ninja,” she said, dropping him and turning around. “Do some damn ninjaring already. Or sooner or later, this open nature of yours is going to bite you.”

“Sorry,” he replied, laughing nervously as ever, scratching the back of his head.

“The clan’s worried about you, you know?” she stated, keeping her face away from his gaze. “Not me, but the elders don’t want to see you screw up and wind up dead. Too much invested effort to have you mess up because you’re lazy.”

“I’ll be fine. Don’t worry ‘lis,” he said sheepishly, not even realizing what he had said. She heard it perfectly and turned around, diving into his arms. It surprised him, and he found himself letting her hold him. He heard her breathe against his ear. There was a worry between her lips that was rare for her. He also realized how cold she was without her jacket on.

“This is dangerous, Sagara. Please, for once, just show that you care, just so I can tell properly for a change. Just so I can go about not having to wonder if you’re trying to die or not.” He felt her shiver against him and found himself resting his head on her shoulder. This was rare for her as well, he thought, her hair blowing into his face, the strands drifting across his cheeks.

“I can’t believe you really dyed it.”