The footsteps echoed between walls in an alley. After Aoi got into a secluded spot behind the nightclub, Aoi could hear his target’s footsteps easier. Though the place was not entirely abandoned, but leaving the nightclub itself was already lessen his task’s difficulties enough.
Few steps ahead of Aoi, the man stepped his foot on a wall before he jumped over a tall barb-wired fence. After the said man landed his feet at another alley across Aoi’s position, the said man hurriedly stood and started to run again.
“Reita! Wait!” Aoi called as he stopped before the barb-wired fence.
“He’s no longer ‘Reita’, Darling.” A heavy-flamboyant voice could be heard from Aoi’s right side.
Aoi turned his head toward the flamboyant man in black. “But, Takashima—”
“You’re not going anywhere!” Another man in red shouted. From Aoi’s left side, the man in red pulled his fist and it started to glow in red. When it looked like his fist was going to get burned, the man in red swung his burned fist and punched the barb-wired fence, blew it up apart. The barb-wired fence destroyed, and new path opened for the three of them.
The flamboyant man in black whistled as he played with his black cane. “Kouyou-chan is really fired up today!” he said as he pressed his sunglass upon his nose. “Thanks to you, Darling, for agreeing to become our Hunter!” The flamboyant man in black patted Aoi’s shoulder.
Aoi looked at the man named Reita. Reita turned, and it shocked him when he saw the destroyed barb-wired fence. When Reita wanted to run again, he stopped his step once he saw a tall thick wall in front of him. Reita looked to his right and left side, and what he found were the same flat tall thick wall with nothing to step onto. It’s impossible to climb up those walls.
Reita turned his back on the wall, and faced Aoi who stood between the other two men. Takashima was the one in black, and Kouyou was the one in red. Reita growled as he pounded his right hand to the air. A burning fire appeared in the air and Reita grabbed it with his right hand. The burning fire then turned solid and became a wand in Reita’s palm.
“I’m The Magician!” Reita exclaimed himself. “I’m carrying Apollo’s name within me!” Reita’s words brought a fire at the top of the wand. That moment, the wand looked more like a torch than mere baton. “I’m the sun, and all of you shall perish inside my flame!” Reita shouted and the fire grew longer, made Reita looked as he’s holding a fire sword.
“Apollo,” Takashima giggled.
“You have no right to call THE name!” Reita yelled as he drew the fire sword toward Aoi, Kouyou, and Takashima.
Smiled, Takashima followed by drawing his cane toward Reita. “Yes, well, WHATEVER, Apollo. You can blaze your fire all you want; you can forbid me to call THE name all you want, but, can’s you see? Now we have our Hunter to face you,” Takashima said that made Reita growled again. “You just won’t burn anything, Magician.” Takashima then stretched his cane in front of Aoi. “Hold the cane, Darling.”
Aoi hesitated. “But—”
“Then I’ll burn you all now!” Reita shouted as he ran right to Aoi with the fire sword in his hand.
“Aoi-san!” Kouyou screamed as he held and stretched Aoi’s left hand toward Reita who’s getting closer to them.
Gasped, Aoi did as he told. He submitted to anything he heard that moment. He held Takashima’s black cane with his right hand, and what happened after, was Takashima’s cane turned to be so cold as ice.
“Freeze…” Takashima whispered as he grinned.
Reita was about to swing his fire sword toward Aoi when at the same time, in an instant, a cold haze flowed out from Aoi’s left palm. The cold haze took off at fearsome speed toward Reita’s blazing fire sword.
Reita didn’t have the time to dodge the moving cold haze. The fire on his wand stopped burning as the cold haze spun around the fire blade like a spiral. The cold haze crawled from the blade, to the wand, and reached Reita’s hand.
The cold haze then extinguished the flame on Reita’s wand and Reita was forced to let the wand off of his freezing hand. The wand fell onto the asphalt and it rolled to Takashima’s feet. Watching it all in silence, at Aoi’s left side, Kouyou let go of Aoi’s hand.
“What… had… happened?” Aoi looked at everything around him: from the tiny cold haze that still lingered on his left fingertips, to the frozen fire wand that fell from Reita’s hand. Slowly, Aoi let go of Takashima’s black cane from his grip.
Takashima just stroke Aoi’s black hair and gave it a peck. “Thank you very much for your cooperation, Darling. You’ve done so well!” Takashima complimented before he used his black cane to support half of his weight as he kneeled on his right foot.
The flamboyant man in black took Reita’s fire wand before he got back on his feet and stood as he smiled. “You know, Magician, Apollo just won’t let the sun shines without his fire.”
“Shut up…” Reita panted before he looked at Aoi. “You, Young Man.”
“Y… yes?” Aoi stuttered.
“Are you really going to do this until you can retrieve all Arcana Power?”
“Y… yes.” Aoi’s answer still stammered.
“What made you want to go that far?”
“Because…” Aoi looked straight to Reita’s eyes. “Because I’ve promised that I’ll help them… Kouyou and Takashima.”
“What have they done to you that made you wanted to go this far?” Reita asked again. He looked at Aoi, who’s that time, didn’t reciprocate his gaze, and didn’t answer the question either. “You won’t tell me, I see.” Reita smiled. “Very well then. Is there anything I can do for you?”
“That is how I pay you some respect for the courage you have when you fought me before,” Reita explained.
“Oh! Mm…” Aoi hesitated before he answered. “I just want you to let me to control your freedom.”
Reita lowered his gaze as he exhaled. “Is there any other request?” he asked. “I can actually give you a Fire Power that can burn anything, if you want it.”
“No.” Aoi scratched his head. “That’s… too… frightening…”
“So, you don’t want it?” Reita asked, and he saw Aoi shook his head. “You still want me to let you control my freedom?” That time, Aoi nodded. Again, Reita exhaled. “Well, that is the only thing I can do right now, isn’t it…” Reita then kneeled in front of Aoi.
Kouyou then walked closer to Reita. “You’ve enjoyed your freedom too much, Magician,” Kouyou said as he stretched his right hand, and pointed his palm to Reita’s forehead. “Now is the time for you to return to where you belong.” With those words, Reita closed his eyes. A fog-like smoke evaporated from Reita’s body.
Takashima then took out a blank card from the pocked in the inner part of his black coat. Takashima throw the blank card in the air. The blank card spun and stopped above Reita’s head. The blank card then absorbed all of the fog-like smoke that evaporated from Reita’s body.
The fire wand that was still in Takashima’s palm was also evaporated and absorbed into the blank card. Across of Takashima, Kouyou kneeled fast and caught Reita’s body when Reita lost all of his energy and fell.
“I... is he—”
“He’s fine,” Kouyou cut of Aoi’s words. “He’s just unconscious. His body got weak suddenly because The Magician’s soul fragment, Apollo, had just forced to spend all of Reita’s energy earlier before left him like this.”
After all of the fog-like smoke absorbed from Reita’s body to the blank card, the card spun again and flew back to Takashima. Takashima caught the card and showed it to Aoi. “Here you go, Darling,” Takashima said. “This is the first card you’ve successfully captured! The Magician.”
Aoi looked at the card. The once blank card now had a picture on it. Aoi could saw a picture of a male figure in red robe with an “infinity” sign hovered above his head. “I guess…” Aoi started as he looked at the card with number one in Romanian letter written at the top part of the card. “I didn’t do anything… you guys were the one who beat Reit—I mean, Apollo, The Magician’s soul fragment.”
“No, Aoi-san,” Kouyou corrected as he carefully lay Reita’s body on the asphalt. “If we don’t have you right now, we won’t know where we should transfer our energy to beat The Magician.”
“Ah…” Aoi nodded slowly. “Is that so..?”
“Yes,” Kouyou answered as he stood back up. He turned and faced Aoi. “This was just the beginning of everything.” The man in red stepped closer to Aoi and held Aoi’s left shoulder.
Across of Kouyou, Takashima held Aoi’s right shoulder. “We’re looking forward for our next cooperation, Darling.”
The next morning, a loud noise suddenly filled Aoi’s modest apartment. Aoi stretched his arm out from his blanket and touched everything on the night drawer that might produce the loud noise. When he finally touched a cold object, Aoi pressed one button on it, and the loud noise stopped. Aoi took the cold object in his hand, into his blanket.
“Seven in the morning…” Aoi mumbled with his still crisp sleepy voice from inside of his blanket as he looked at the alarm clock he took earlier.
“Ohayou gozaimachuuu, My Darliiiing~”
Aoi fell silent. He put his mind to work. Suddenly Aoi’s eyes grew wider as he pushed away his blanket. Aoi got up from his sleep position and found the man in red was currently looking at him in silence, and another – flamboyant – man in black smiled and pulled his blanket away from Aoi very slowly.
“WHAT DO YOU WANT, YOU PERVERT!?” Aoi slapped Takashima’s face before he pulled back his blanket to his chin.
“Daaarliiinng!? You don’t have to slap my handsome face, do yoouuu!?” Takashima held his redden left cheek.
“Wh... what are you doing here!?”
“It’s easier to detect the other Arcana power when we’re around you, Aoi-san,” Kouyou, the man in red, answered that time. He closed the distance between him and the bed where Aoi laid down. He showed The Magician card to Aoi.
“Oh, gosh…” Aoi hid his head under his blanket. “So it’s not a dream after all…”
“Wake up, My Darliiinng!” Takashima sang as he already got back to his cheerful behaviour. “Or you’ll be laaate!” Takashima pulled open Aoi’s blanket. “Don’t be too shy! You still have your clothes intact all over your beautiful body, Darliiinng!”
“GET AWAY FROM ME!” Aoi used his foot to pushed Takashima away.
Aoi Shiroyama, twenty-six year old and worked a double-job at a café called “Fortezza”. He’s a waiter and also a coffee maker barista.
“You work full-time there?” Takashima asked as Aoi was getting ready. “You’re only work in that one place? Oh! So you must be a fun person!” Takashima clasped his hand together. “Working in a café makes you meet so many kinds of people, right?”
“Yes, I only work in that one café. Yes, I work full-time there. Why not? It paid well. So, no, I don’t really need to find more job. No, I’m actually not really fun to be with. I rarely talked to the customers, and I only had ONE co-worker, so…,” Aoi exhaled. “Practically, my co-worker at my workplace is my only friend.”
“Didn’t you go to a college before?” Takashima asked again. “Don’t you have a dream job? Oh! Maybe some of your friends at your college before can suggest you to some other place? Or, is being in a café is your dream job, Darling?”
Aoi exhaled again, and rolled his eyes this time. “No, I didn’t attend any college. So, no, don’t even expect me having college-friends. I’ve told you my co-worker is my ONLY friend, I don’t think even I have the right to add my café’s owner to my friend list. YES, this is my dream job. And, yes, you asked too much, Takashima, now shush!”
Aoi didn’t lie. Hiroto, his co-worker was his only friend. Hiroto was the only person he ever invited to come over his apartment, and also, was the only person Aoi could have a pretty long conversation with. That’s why, his meeting with Kouyou and Takashima was a huge change in his life.
Moreover, they introduced Aoi to this so-called Magic Power. Aoi knew magic only from animes, mangas, movies, novels and such before. This time, he had to face it in his real life.
Aoi looked around his small apartment. He used to live alone in it. Now, when he had to share it with Kouyou and Takashima, suddenly, Aoi found his apartment looked even narrower.
Well, actually, Kouyou and Takashima didn’t really live with Aoi inside the apartment. Per say, they’re not too solid to be called “human being”, yet they can still be touched to be called “astral creatures” too. Aoi himself never found the motivation to ask them about it either. When Aoi saw them could appeared anywhere anytime, it was already more than enough for Aoi.
That morning was one of the examples. After Aoi got The Magician card the night before, Aoi got home to his apartment, and he made sure that both of them, Kouyou and Takashima, were OUTSIDE of his apartment. But after Aoi woke up this morning, those two men were already inside his apartment, beside his bed room, watching he’s asleep. Watching him all night? Yes. Aoi bet at it; because it was exactly similar to Aoi’s first encounter with those two men.
Three days ago, Aoi almost got into an accident. Aoi saw a little boy playing with his balloon at the sidewalk. The little boy by chance kicked the balloon and the balloon flew to the road. The little boy tried to catch his balloon, and ran over to the road.
That moment, Aoi turned his head and saw a truck drove so fast toward the boy. Without letting his mind stopped him, Aoi ran to the little boy, and pushed the boy back to the sidewalk. A moment later, Aoi looked at his own feet that stood exactly at the same place as the little boy earlier: right in the middle of the road, with a big truck moving fast right to him.
Aoi looked at the truck and closed his eyes. He submitted himself to everything that would hit him after that, but it didn’t come. More than ten seconds passed when Aoi didn’t even hear the truck’s honk, the machine sound, the buzzing traffic, or anything. When Aoi dared himself to open his eyes, he didn’t see the truck anywhere near him. He didn’t even see the little boy or the sidewalk.
He’s at some beach.
He looked around to make sure whether he’s just dreaming, or he just woke up after fell asleep on the beach at his latest vacation, or he’s in somewhere near heaven or something in between. Until he saw Kouyou and Takashima on the same beach.
Kouyou, the Joker, the man in read, and Takashima, the Albino Joker, the flamboyant man in black, were how they introduced themselves when Aoi saw them at the beach. There were only the three of them on the beach that moment.
The two men asked something about “sacrifice” and “agreement”. Without properly asking for confirmation in return, Aoi just closed his eyes and nodded. The second time Aoi opened his eyes after that, Aoi found himself already lay down on the sidewalk.
Several people were looking at him that time. They asked whether Aoi’s alright, or did he hurt, or something else. A woman even thanked Aoi for saving her son who played with the balloon earlier. Aoi only nodded slowly and answered it in a low voice as he looked at Kouyou and Takashima behind the crowd.
Aoi’s eyes grew wide. Those were the same two men he met at the beach. He saw Kouyou nodded his head to Aoi, and Takashima smiled at him. After they met again for the second time the day after, Takashima explained that the “beach” Aoi saw before was an “area” inside Aoi’s mind. It positioned between the real life and the next world.
Here they were now. Aoi agreed to help them capturing all the Arcana Power that rebelled and fled to only God knows where. And when Aoi faced one of the Arcana, like when he faced The Magician who synchronized with Reita, Kouyou and Takashima would lend Aoi their power to keep Aoi in an equal power-level with the Arcana.
And Arcana is..?
“They are…” Takashima fell silent and turned his head to Kouyou. “How did you explain it, Joker-honey?”
Aoi stared at Takashima. He called himself “Takashima, the Albino Joker” but he dressed ALL in black. Why didn’t he call himself “mafia” instead? Aoi thought. Only the shirt he’s wearing was white. Takashima REALLY had this pale skin, but it still wasn’t pale enough to be called “albino”.
Takashima wore a black fedora hat, black sunglasses, and even wore black lipstick. Repeat: BLACK LIPSTICK. Yes, Aoi was certain that Takashima IS male. He was just love to… put on some – serious – makeup.
The flamboyant guy also wore black gloves, black coat, black vest, and black pants, with white tiny lines. Add more to it? Takashima wore black high-heeled boots, and taking his black cane wherever he goes. Oh, and, Takashima smoke cheroot, the entire time.
Takashima walked as if this whole world was his private catwalks, it’s getting on Aoi’s – and Kouyou’s – nerves sometimes. If only Aoi didn’t see how Takashima had helped him fought against Apollo’s soul fragment inside Reita, The Magician, the night before, Aoi wouldn’t fine Takashima’s manly side. “Very androgynous…” Aoi mumbled under his breath every time he saw Takashima.
Takashima, the Albino Joker had the opposite behaviour from his counterpart: Kouyou, the Joker.
“Joker-honeeeyy?” Takashima called for the second time.
“Oh, you are SO not romantic,” Takashima sneered.
“Shut up, Albi.”
“Hey, I thought I’ve told you to call me ‘Takashima’?”
“That’s exactly the same reason why I want you to stop calling me ‘Joker’.”
“Guys?” Aoi called lazily between them.
“Oh, we’re sorry, Darling,” said Takashima – cheerfully again – as he returned his gaze to Aoi. “So, The Arcana is a really big magic energy. It embedded to several cards. Each card has different skills, and they are all WEIRD.”
“Unique,” Kouyou corrected. “Maybe you could actually compare it with how we cast spells when we fought The Magician last night, Aoi-san.”
Aoi looked at the man in red. “Could you… please… drop the ‘-san’?”
“No,” Kouyou answered, and Aoi sighed.
Here were Kouyou. Kouyou and Takashima shared the same hair colour: brunette. But in Kouyou’s case, it got reddened a bit as an effect from the red energy that oozed out from his eyes. If Takashima dressed in all black, Kouyou dressed in all red. His reddish-brunette got even redder from the affect from his red long coat. Kouyou looked really like a walking blazing fire.
“So—” Kouyou continued his explanation. “—Arcana are dangerous power. They could even synchronize with human beings. If there any human got possessed by Arcana Power and they couldn’t control it; that is when the problems started. Arcana Power could erupt, and made chaos everywhere. If the human could actually controlled Arcana Power within them, other problems could occur if they tempted to use it for bad deeds.”
“Bad deeds?” Aoi asked. “Such as?”
“Erasing all your memories.”