A new day in that neighborhood started with a cloudless sky and the cool breeze of fall. It was too early for the sun to be warm yet, but everything was showered in golden, giving the owner of one of the many Victorian houses of the street a good reason to stay in the porch after picking up the newspaper, leaving his mug of coffee over the wooden rail of the balustrade.
Akoya took a deep breath with a calm smile as he hugged himself. He was wearing his favorite fluffy robe, the one of almost the same color of his hair, which was still braided so it wouldn’t get tangled in his sleep.
He felt a presence coming from inside the house, approaching him, so he wasn’t surprised when a cat jumped and sat by his side. The animal stretched and yawned, much to the other’s amusement.
“Good morning” greeted Akoya.
“Morning.” answered the cat, licking his bright pink fur “Why are we up so early again?”
Akoya shrugged. “I couldn’t go back to sleep after I woke up at sunrise”.
“Yeah, I felt it too. I forgot”.
“Of course you forgot.” the youngster grabbed the mug again, making a face after taking it to his lips “It’s cold” he put both hands on the mug and not a second later steam was coming from it again.
“Are you implying something, princess? And when was the last time you had coffee for breakfast?”
“I’m not implying; I’m clearly accusing you of spending most of yesterday in the ochre house. I don’t even know at what time you came back.” another sip from the mug “And my herbal infusions can’t make up for rising so early”.
The cat got close to the other and lay down, fighting against the sleepiness.
“If I had remembered what day was today I wouldn’t have spent that much energy last night”.
The other choked on his coffee. “Too much information, Ryuu.” still, he petted the animal “But yes, the first day of October always has a different energy. Not as much as the last one though”.
“Yep.” Ryuu stretched again “You can feel the magic around through the entire month. The fun kind of magic, at least”.
“I thought you liked Christmas too”.
The cat sat straight and waved his tail, watching the other with complete seriousness. For a cat, that was.
“Not after you gave me that awful sweater last year”.
“Consider it payback for the dead pigeon” Akoya finished the contents of the mug and turned to enter the house once more.
“I’m a cat! What else was I supposed to give you? You should be thankful I bothered getting you something”.
Ryuu jumped down, and when he stood up he was not a cat anymore but a teen with hair the same color of the fur and the same brown eyes, wearing a loose shirt and pants. Yawning once more, he followed the taller one.
“You are a familiar, you have two forms” he heard Akoya said from the kitchen.
“But no money”.
The boy leaned on the threshold of the kitchen, watching the other wave his hand so things levitated around the place, cleaning themselves up.
“We work together, half the earnings are yours and you know it. I just administrate them” Akoya turned to the other and smirked “because I happen to be the one with thumbs”.
“Ha ha.” answered Ryuu sarcastically “No, it’s because you’re the witch. Although I think a letter is wrong there”.
“Aren’t you a darling” one last movement of the hand, and Akoya had the kitchen already working on preparing lunch.
Ryuu stretched one more time in an overly dramatic way, before putting his hands on his hips and grin on his face.
“So, ready to start the day? Let’s make good use of being up this early”.
“Have you eaten already?”
“Yeah, I had something at Io’s house before returning”.
“That was hours ago…”
“I’ll hunt something on the way. Come on”.
Ryuu turned around and rushed to the staircase, with Akoya following at a slower pace, being the one yawing now.
“Where do you get that much energy from? You know, there was a time when you couldn’t even stand up while your siblings were already jumping around”.
“Well, if you’re complaining about the extreme change, allow me to remember you thanks to whom it happened.”
Ryuu was already in his room. Maybe it was because of his true nature, but he was fond of animal print, so most decorations had those patterns. Apart from that, the room had nothing out of the ordinary; except perhaps the big scratching posts and high planks. He was already at his closet, trying to decide on that day’s outfit.
It was Akoya’s turn to be the witness at the door. “And this is how I get repaid for saving your life”.
“You didn’t save my life; I was going to be perfectly okay, I was just a late bloomer. You only accelerated the process.” Ryuu found a nice violet top and held it high as he considered it.
“Right, you tell that to our moms. And that’s not yours” pointed Akoya, recognizing the top.
“They only told you that so you would stop whining like a five years-old.” Ryuu then tossed the top to the other “As I’d wear something so tacky anyway”.
Akoya caught the piece of clothing, frowning as he went to his own room. “Then why did you borrow it in the first place? And I was a five years-old”.
The witch’s room could only be described as glamorous. All in soft pastel colors, even the various amulets and trinkets looked classy.
Just like in the kitchen, things floated around him; his braid got unmade by its own and a brush attended it, the robe put itself inside the closet, and the bed was being made by and invisible force.
“I call dibs on the shower”.
“All yours, Akoya, I showered at Io’s”.
As the witch made his way to the bathroom, he stopped to smirk at the other again. “You could have just licked yourself”.
However, the malicious grin he got from Ryuu made him regret having opened his mouth.
“I don’t need to, I have Io”.
“Oh, my God, you brat! Did you really have to say that?!” he slammed the bathroom’s door, hearing Ryuu claim he ‘brought that upon himself’. The familiar was right, of course, but he wasn’t going to let him know that.
“Akoya.” Ryuu knocked the door, still doubling up with laughter “Ako-chan, stop being such a drama queen”.
“Shut up, you’re disgusting!”
“Just tell me what are we going after”.
“Why, wormwood, of course; it’s the best time of the year for it”.
“Okay, so no gloves this time?”
“No, but most probably we’ll go for some mandrake in a couple of weeks”.
They left the house shortly after, greeting some neighbors on their way to the woods. They weren’t the only ones affected by such a special month. It was the same every year since there was no normal human in that street; all of the mythical creatures that inhabited it found a refuge in that neighborhood of Salem, Massachusetts. It was one of the many dispersed around the world.
It was already sundown when they returned; that basket that originally contained their lunch was now carrying various plants, roots and berries.
The pair’s house was in the middle of the right side of the street; the ochre one in which Ryuu spent most of his time was almost at the end it. To the left side stood a green house, in front of which they already were.
Ryuu was in his cat form, chasing some flying bugs on their way back home. The only thing he got as a warning was Akoya’s voice.
“Oops, here he comes”.
A blond teen boy came running from the green house’s garden; a dim glow was coming out of him, making his smile even brighter.
“Oh, hell no!” Ryuu hurried to Akoya’s side, climbing to his shoulder in an attempt to get as far away as he could from the younger boy.
“Good evening, Akoya-senpai, can I cuddle your kitty?” asked the cheerful teen.
“You little desk lamp, stop talking like I’m his pet or some-…!”
“But of course you can, Yumoto.”
In a cruel act of treason, Akoya handed his familiar to the boy. At least Ryuu managed to scratch the witch’s clothes in the process.
“Thank you!” exclaimed Yumoto as he hugged the animal, ignorant of the furious looks he was giving Akoya.
Just by placing his hand on his shoulder, the witch repaired the damage. “I see you have already materialized”.
“Yes! I love October, the whole season actually! I get strong enough to leave the lantern, and I missed hugging kitty”.
“Kitty has a name.” Ryuu tried to put some distance between them, but to no avail “Still, nobody ever bothers in asking him his opinion. Why don’t you go cuddle the Dasguptas?”
“Oh, because they haven’t changed yet. Besides, Atsushi-senpai told me not to surprise-cuddle them again, and you’re fluffier anyway”.
“Huh, lucky werewolves.” the familiar had enough attention for one day, so he turned to his human form; however, that didn’t stop Yumoto from holding him by his midsection now. So, he looked at Akoya “Hey, Yumoto, do you know what’s fluffier than me?”
The witch’s expression changed to horrified in less than a second. “Ryuu, don’t you dare…”
“What?” asked the teen with all innocence
“Akoya’s hair, it’s longer than last year”.
“Really?” finally, Yumoto released him and went after Akoya.
“N-no, Yumoto!” now it was Akoya the one getting away from the boy, placing his basket in front of him as protection “You know very well my hair is off limits”.
“But it does look so fluffy!”
“That’s beyond the point. Where is Atsushi? He’s the only one that can control… Oh, there he is”.
The three of them turned to the green house just in time to see the one in question exit the place while speaking on his phone. Atsushi waved at them and then turned his attention to the end of the street, as if trying to see something. He spoke a little more before hanging.
“Hello, everyone” greeted properly with a courteous smile that nonetheless allowed the others to see his fangs.
“Hey, Atsushi. Fresh out of bed?” asked Ryuu going to his encounter with the other two behind.
“Not really, I had to wake up before sunset today”.
“Why? If I may ask” inquired Akoya, the matter of his hair forgotten when Yumoto seemed to remember something.
“Are they already here, Atsushi-senpai?” the smaller boy tried to see something in the same direction as Atsushi a moment ago.
“No yet, but they are nearby, I’m just making sure they won’t get lost. We are waiting for…” Atsushi was answering Akoya when his phone rang again “Excuse me”.
He walked away, giving some instructions with Yumoto following him. Akoya and Ryuu were left sharing confused looks. Suddenly, they felt a cold breeze behind them.
“They sure are taking their time” said a monotonous voice at their backs. Turning around, witch and familiar discovered a translucent figure, a young man, with a bored expression.
“I’ll take it you know who’s coming, En” said Akoya.
“Yeah, an old friend of Atsushi’s from when he was still with his coven in Japan.” explained the ghost, scratching the back of his head.
“That must have been like seventy years ago.” pointed Ryuu, raising a brow “As far as we know, Atsushi came to America shortly after the war ended, right?”
“They lost contact after that, yeah. But now, thanks to the internet and whatnots, they found each other, and it seems the guy was looking for a place too.” En pointed at the house a couple of constructions from theirs, the one with the elegant metal fence and a ‘for sale’ sign in its yard until that very morning “Atsushi helped him with the paperwork and stuff… here they are, at last”.
They turned in time to see a couple of vehicles turning round the corner.
“Wait a sec,” said Ryuu “I know that car”.
Surely enough, one of those was a very familiar orange car that didn’t stop in front of the owner’s house, but where they stood. Behind it came the big moving truck.
“Evening” greeted the car’s driver after steeping out of it.
“Io!” beamed Ryuu, going to his encounter and putting his arms around him, getting the same response from the other. Some steps away, they could hear a polite ‘hello’ from Akoya and a casual ‘yo’ from En.
Moments later, Atsushi and Yumoto appeared.
“Io,” called the vampire “you found the truck”.
“Yes, I was returning home when I recognized the moving company’s logo.” answered Io, now with just one arm around Ryuu’s shoulders “Those golems must me new, they were going in circles”.
“Thanks for guiding them”.
Atsushi excused himself once more and went to the truck, always followed by Yumoto. The first figures to descend from there were a couple of bulky men who, for everyone else, just had the worst skin ever, but for creatures like them it was obvious they were made out of clay. The golems didn’t acknowledge them and got to work without delay.
From the other door of the vehicle came a boy around their ages, at least in appearance; with short hair of such a light shade of lilac it was almost white, and green eyes that quickly scanned the street.
Turning around, the boy found Atsushi coming his way.
“At-chan” he said with a shy smile, extending his hand, but got instead the arms of the other around him, to which he clumsily responded.
“It’s been so long,” said Atsushi after letting go “it’s good to see you, Kin-chan”.
The boy seemed somehow relieved by Atsushi’s words because his smile became more sincere, looking at the other in a fond way now.
“It is good to see you too. Thanks for helping me find this place”.
“My pleasure; after all this time, it’s going to be great to have you around again. Come, I’ll introduce you to everybody.” Atsushi didn’t wait for a reply as he dragged the other to see his friends “Guys, this is a very old and very dear friend of mine, Kinshirou Kusatsu”.
Ever so awkwardly despite his best efforts, Kinshirou bowed.
“It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance”.
“Atsushi, when you said he was old, I didn’t expect his manners to be so too” commented En, finding this guy amusing already.
Kinshirou, however, quickly stood straight.
“I-I offer my sincere apologies if I have somehow caused you offense…”
“Kin-chan, relax.” Atsushi placed a hand on Kinshirou’s shoulder, hoping it would be reassuring “He just meant there’s no need for that much politeness”.
The newcomer sighed, releasing even a little tension. “I’m sorry; it has been a while since the last time I found myself around a large group of people”.
Nobody mentioned they were just six individuals.
“Oh, right.” said Atsushi in sudden realization “You said you were coming with one more person”.
“I am.” Kinshirou turned to the truck “Ibushi”.
From the vehicle’s cabin came a big akita dog that stood loyally at Kinshirou’s side. His fur was dark with the slightest green highlights, and his eyes were of a crimson color; he was an impressive sight.
En pointed at the animal. “That’s not a person, buddy”.
Yumoto launched himself towards the dog and everybody held their breaths, but the animal just sat down and let the teen hug him.
“Yumoto, I’ve told you not to do that with animals and creatures you don’t know.” Atsushi lectured him “It’s dangerous”.
“Oh, Ibushi is completely harmless” explained Kinshirou.
Ryuu, however, was not that calm about it. He finally separated from Io to approach Akoya. “Hey, it’s that…?”
“I’m absolutely sure it is” answered the witch, just as suspicious.
Kinshirou looked at them “I beg your pardon”.
“That’s a familiar” stated Ryuu bluntly.
As in cue, the akita dog turned into a tall young man, the tallest of the group now, with short wavy hair the exact same color of the animal’s fur. Yumoto, just like with Ryuu, still clang to him, now barely reaching his chest, and the other placed a hand on top of the teen’s head.
“Good evening, I’m Ibushi Arima, Kinshirou’s familiar.” he introduced himself, smiling gently in a way nobody would have expected of someone who was also that imposing canine “Pleased to make your acquaintance as well”.
“Hold on, a familiar?” En turned to Kinshirou “Are you a witch? Atsushi said you were a vampire too”.
Kinshirou and Ibushi share a look and the shy smile returned. “It’s a long story”.
“And you must be tired from the trip.” said Io, checking his watch “Those golems seemed to be lost for a while when I found them”.
“They still have a lot of work to do.” Atsushi took a couple of steps back to check on the golems and the furniture left in the truck “Let’s go eat something at home”.
“Oh, why don’t we have dinner at our home?” offered Akoya.
“Yeah, we always gather at your place.” seconded Ryuu “It’s October, En and Yumoto can finally move freely, let’s have a change of scenery”.
Everybody agreed on the idea and followed them to their house in order to help with the preparations.
The newcomers stayed behind, looking at each other again, coming to some kind of understanding. Kinshirou broke the visual contact when he felt a hand on his shoulder one more time.
“Welcome to the neighborhood, Kin-chan”.
Kinshirou returned the warm smile as he and Ibushi let the other vampire lead the way.