Something had happened today. She hadn’t found out what.

Natoko had never been up this high in a building before. The city skyline was an impressive one, such a condensed scattering of lights and sounds that it almost appeared as a field of light bulbs. Despite all this, on top of the hotel, it was eternally quiet for the young samurai, the sounds from below failed to reach her, and even the loudest siren couldn’t reach up here.

She sighed heavily. Something had happened today.

They had all returned to the hotel late that night. She had already met up with Otsune and the others and showed them to the hotel, Fujiko limping through the door with Gen practically dragging himself in behind her. Getting an extra room for them had been a minor problem, but easily sorted when Ms. Sakimoto’s name was mentioned. They should have gone to a coffin hotel in her opinion, but they had insisted in staying in the rich hotel with them.

Something had happened today. She couldn’t even think what it could possibly be.

Aki had been the first to arrive, literally jumping into the restaurant and mauling the samurai with her usual affection, the others following closely behind. There was another girl with them, with brown hair and a ribbon tied around her head, part of her clothing had been singed, and she was wearing Sagara’s jacket.

She didn’t know why, but that was the first thing Natoko had noticed.

Sagara seemed…different. He wasn’t tense- she wasn’t even sure if that was possible for him, but he wasn’t relaxed either. He was distant, and only got through three servings of ramen before excusing himself. Later, they had found him sitting in the lobby, just laying back and watching people walk back and forth as he played with a folder that he had received about the tournament. The others didn’t seem to notice that there was something wrong. When she thought about it, there was no real reason to think that something was wrong. Aki was fine, no change there. Maybe a little more hyper than usual, even now sat atop her shoulders and pulling hairs out one at a time. Sarah only spoke with the group whenever they did something to annoy her, and Sakura was as shy and unresponsive as ever. It seemed that without having anyone to talk to her about how nice her cooking was, the young girl was at a loss for conversation, but other than that, everything was fine.

But there was something wrong.

She stood up, clutching her sword tightly and resisting all urges to scream her curiosities into the atmosphere. It wasn’t like her to be curious about things, but she really wanted to know what had happened. The tournament was making her nervous, and anything to pull her thoughts away from it for an hour would have been most appreciated.

“You are Natoko, yes?” a voice said behind her, causing her to turn, surprised she hadn’t sensed anyone on the rooftop. It was a young girl, about her age. She was clearly a foreigner, as her bleached hair actually suited her. She looked like she was ready for a fancy dress party. She was wearing metal plates on her shoulders and had a mask covering the bottom half of her face. It looked silly. Natoko briefly wondered if people would think that of her if she went to America dressed in her hakama.

“Listen, I’ll make this quick,” the ninja stated, walking up to the her. “Sagara has told you about things he shouldn’t have. About the InBetween Realm. About demons. I know he isn’t entirely at fault, nor are you.” Natoko stared at the girl sternly, not sure of her intentions. “But the InBetween Realm remains hidden for a reason. If everyone started to find out there’s a realm of infinite corridors, it’ll cause more havoc than it’s worth. People would start worshiping demons more for power, chaos would occur everywhere all at once, and that’ll become problematic for everyone.”

Natoko continued to watch the girl as she spoke, wondering her connection to Sagara.

“It’s our job, mine and Sagara, to make sure these demons and devils don’t get in the way of humans, shoving their hands where they don’t belong, affecting our fates like we were all on some chessboard. To do this, we need secrecy, you understand?” She didn’t wait for Natoko to reply. “What I’m basically giving you is a warning. Don’t spread this around. Keep it quiet, and to yourself. Don’t even mention it to people you trust, or even people that already know about it. Let them forget. Let them rationalise it into something else. And most importantly don’t start thinking you’re a demon hunter now. You’re not. Got that?”

Natoko stared at her, and the girl ninja took her silence as a confirmation. The two girls looked on at each other, each unsure of the other. Finally stepping back, the female ninja just faded out of sight, and before she knew it, Natoko was spinning round, shocked at the disappearance of the girl. Realizing that she had really gone, the samurai sighed, scratched her head, and went to sit back down, Aki panicking as she lost her balance on the samurai’s shoulders. Holding Iziz tight between her legs, Natoko looked out to the skyline again, musing over what had just happened.

“Should I have said something?” she asked the person above her. “I don’t speak a word of English.”