Actions

Work Header

Awakening of the Goddess

Chapter Text

" Say, we will meet each other again?"

" Yes, of course."

" Promise?"

" I promise. Now go and don't look back."

 

The alarm clock rang loudly. Chihiro Ogino, still groggy, sat up on her bed, rubbing her eyes. Finally, realizing she was awake, she sighed. It was that dream again. The dream she had so many times in the past. It was always the same. The silhouette of a person giving farewell to her and making a promise. Who that person was, the girl had no idea.

 

Every time Chihiro had this dream, she would wonder the same thing. If, by any chance, it had to do with the mysterious memory gap she had. Years ago, when moving to the town where she currently lived, they found a strange tunnel on the way. Memories were blurry after that and the last thing she remembered was them turning back with the car since it was the wrong way and arriving at their home.

 

Things got strange after that. They discovered that months have passed since they left their old town. That wasn't right, was it? Their car travel only took a few hours!

Still, the reality was harsh. To their luck, their house was bought, but the family faced many other problems. Her parents on finding a job, Chihiro on enrolling in the school and getting used to it. Because of the mysterious event surrounding her family, all other students were afraid of her and kept their distance.

'If you get close to that girl you will be cursed and disappear in 7 days!' That was how rumors went. Therefore, with a few exceptions, she pretty much had no friends. Even in the present, 6 years later, they continued.

 

"Chihiro! You will be late to school!" her mother called from downstairs. Once again, the girl yawned and finally got off of bed. Putting on her uniform, she went downstairs and greeted her parents, settling down to eat. Finally, she left towards school.

 

Chihiro lived in a small town, but her school was certainly not small. That was because the teenagers from neighbor towns also went there as well. It was pretty much a nice school. Even though she was isolated and received stares often, she didn't mind it. Rather, she was used to it. Plus, it wasn't like she didn't have any friends at all. Arriving at school, she put changed her shoes to the indoor type and went towards the classroom.

 

"Chii-chaaaaaan~!" An energetic voice echoed by the hallway, along with running footsteps. Suddenly, Chihiro felt something - or someone - jumping on her back.

 

"Na-Nao-chan, stop! You will break my neck, you will break my neck-" Finally, she lost her balance and fell on the floor, with a girl on top.

 

That girl finally stood up and held out a hand, laughing. "Hahaha, sorry, sorry! Chii-chan, your reactions are always too funny!"

 

That was Nao Fujioka, one of the two girls Chihiro considered to be friends with. Nao was a 'wild' girl, with straight long hair tied into four pigtails. Two behind her shoulders and two in front. She was someone who was often in trouble with the teachers and was considered to be a delinquent by many. Chihiro knew better though. Nao was kinda weird, but she was a really kind girl.

 

Another voice sounded behind Nao. It was a much gentler voice, like the one of a mother. Still, it belonged to someone the same age as them. "Nao. If you keep doing that you will really end up sending Chii to the hospital."

 

A half-foreign girl with a pale skin and wavy blond hair, using a blue hairpin that matched the color of the eyes. She had the air of a ladylike frail girl, what made people find difficult to approach her. Some even tried, but the only ones she was truly able to be open with were Chihiro and Nao. Her name was Yuka Hashimoto.

 

Nao and Yuka were childhood friends. They grew up together and got into the same school and high school. They ended up in different classes, though, Nao ending up in the same class as Chihiro. That was what started everything. The wild girl learned about the rumors of the cursed girl and got interested. Before anything could even be said, a certain brunette was already being dragged to eat lunch with the duo. She had been friends with them for one year already. They were all people who had trouble fitting in the crowd, but together they always had a blast. Things were so different a year ago...

 

It was lunch time. Chihiro would sit alone in her desk as always. Her homemade lunchbox to many would be a sight to behold in terms of food, but for her, it tasted bland. She felt bad for the meal so painstakingly made every morning by her mother, but to eat alone while watching everyone group together and have fun was painful. Things have been like that for five years, but Chihiro couldn't get used to it. She really missed her friends from her previous town.

 

Her thoughts were interrupted once she felt a tug on her ponytail. It was as if someone pulled it fiercely. Then, it came loose.

 

"Ah…" Chihiro tried to feel around her hair, looking for something. What happened? Where was her hair tie!?

 

"Hey, cursed girl! Looking for this!?" A boy from her class laughed. In his hands, there was her purple hair tie. Chihiro paled as the boy kept mocking her. "You always come to the school in the same ponytail using the same ugly tie! Try to change a bit!"

 

"Hey, don't mock her~" Another classmate laughed, joining the fun. "It’s probably some kind of voodoo spell so she won't disappear again!"

 

Clenching the fists, Chihiro walked towards the boy. "Give it back!" She tried to reach her tie but the other boy raised his hand out of her reach.

"Too bad you’re small! Otherwise, you might have been able to get it. Here, catch!" He threw the hair tie to the other classmate, who was dangerously close to the window. Catching it, he threatened to let it fall from there.

 

"Stop!" Chihiro shouted, but she couldn't move. If she moved, there was a chance that he would release his grip on the tie. That tie was important to her. She didn’t remember how or when she got it, but as long as she had it, no matter what, Chihiro believed she could go through anything. That everything would be alright, regardless of the situation.

 

Probably- No. She was pretty sure she must have received this gift from someone really special.

 

"Stop, you two!" A female voice was heard. The brunette knew that voice. Wasn't it from her classmate...what was her name again...Fujioka? That should be it. She was rumored to be a delinquent and have beaten up a whole school gang with a single hand. The same type of crazy rumors Chihiro had about her. The only things she knew about her, however, was that she always arrived late and that she didn't respect the uniform regulations, using a skirt shorter than should be used. Still, the two boys also knew well about those rumors. So well that they were now pale.

 

"She asked already, didn't she?" The black-haired girl gave a smirk, crossing her arms. "Give it back to her, will ya?"

 

"U-ugh." It took only a few seconds for them to surrender. "Fine! We don't want to get cursed by holding it for too long anyways!" Violently, the classmate threw the tie back to Chihiro and ran away with his friend. Chihiro caught her hair tie with a relieved smile.

 

"Err...Fujioka-san?" She approached the girl carefully, maybe a bit hesitant. "Thank you. This is really precious to me so- I'm really grateful, I really owe you one." She gave a bright smile, truly happy to have it back.

 

"Those boys are dumb, so they might come back." Nao smiled, moving her hands and resting them on her hips. "If anything like that happens again, call me, I won't hesitate to chase them away! Also, call me Nao! 'Fujioka-san' sounds too formal."

 

"Then Nao! Thank you!"

 

"That said, is this tie that important from you? Is that some sort of important gift from someone?"

 

"Huh...maybe?" Chihiro gave a weird smile.

 

Nao looked surprised. What a weird answer. "Maybe? What do you mean maybe? Don't you know?"

 

"I don't know exactly, but I know it is important. Like an amulet of sorts. It has always helped and cheered me up."

 

Nao blinked once. Twice. Then burst out laughing. "Hahahaha! You’re a really weird girl, aren't you Chii-chan?"

 

"Chii-chan!?" Where did that nickname full of closeness and familiarity come from? They had known each other for only five minutes!

 

"Yeah! Your name is Chihiro, right? Chihiro Ogino. Therefore, Chii-chan. I like you, so consider it a display of friendship!"

 

"Ah...yes…" The girl only nodded dumbfounded, still trying to process that, apparently, she had just made her first friend since she moved into the town. However, before she could even be aware of it, Nao had already grabbed her hand and was pulling her out of the classroom. "W-wait, where are we going!?"

 

"We are going to have lunch with Yuka! Come on!"

 

"Who is Yukaaaaa!" Chihiro cried trying to match her pace with the fast-paced girl in order to not trip over herself.

 

"Yuka is Yuka! I’ll introduce her to you!"

"I'm Yuka Hashimoto, Nice to meet you." Yuka bowed politely. Compared to the hurricane that was Nao, Yuka seemed like a calm oasis in the middle of the desert. They couldn't have more opposite personalities and yet, they were best friends. Yuka was having lunch under the shade of a tree, which Nao later said to be their secret spot.

 

"I'm Chihiro Ogino, nice to meet you, Hashimoto-san." She returned the bow, relieved to be finally able to sit and rest after their mad dash through the school.

 

"You are really cute, Chii. Don't worry about formalities, you can call me Yuka." Yuka smiled.

"...Chii?" She blinked.

 

"Your name is Chihiro Ogino, right? Therefore, Chii. Take it as a token of a new friendship."

...Right, maybe they weren't so different after all.

 

"Why are you two befriending me though? Haven't you heard the rumors?" Chihiro frowned. They weren't true, of course, but most of the students still believed it.

 

"You are interesting, so I have wanted to talk to you for a while!" Nao grinned. "I mean I was kinda hesitant, because I thought I would have only scared you, but you seemed so cool fighting for your precious gift back then that I had to know you more!" Nodding, she pointed a thumb to herself. "Also, if you haven't noticed, we aren't exactly popular either. Well, Yuka is popular, but to an extent everyone just stays away admiring her."

 

"Strangers also send me weird letters every day. I feel like I am being stalked." Yuka sighed, but Nao shook her head.

 

"You mean the confession letters? They are declaring their undying love for you, Yuka! You could try meeting one of those guys some time."

 

"I don't want a boyfriend, I want friends." The blonde once again sighed.

 

"Everyone treats her like a frail princess, though. So you see, Chii-chan. Treat her normally okay? Like, don't even be afraid of doing things like flipping her skirt-"

 

Nao, with a motion, did exactly what she said and flipped Yuka's skirt, earning a heavy slap across her face.

 

"See? This girl has a monster strength, no way she is frail!"

 

"Nao-san…" Chihiro frowned. "There is a hand imprinted on your face."

Since then, those three would meet each other every day. The food that was once bland would be colorful and tasteful as she spent her meals with her new friends. It wasn't painful anymore because she wasn't alone.

 

During that afternoon, the trio went to their secret spot and had lunch, while chatting.

"Say Chii-chan, I saw you drawing during class. Were you drawing dragons again?" Nao asked casually, catching Chihiro's attention and using this chance to steal the croquette from her lunchbox.

 

"Ah, my croque-that was dirty, Nao-chan!"

"It's alright, it's alright, just answe- AAAH- Yuka! You stole my octopus sausage! I was saving iiiiit!"

 

"Justice has prevailed," Yuka said calmly with a proud smile, putting the food in her mouth.

At that comical display, Chihiro laughed. "Yep! I'm drawing it again! I tried going for western dragons for once, but in the end I ended sticking to the eastern type. I can't seem to get tired of them!" She opened her notebook, showing her latest drawing with a big smile. It was a white dragon with green details. It almost seemed magical. Nao and Yuka watched, amazed.

 

"It is amazing, Chii!" Yuka praised. "You are such a great artist. I heard that drawing the anatomy of humans is pretty difficult but it is even more difficult to draw the anatomy of animals, especially the fantastic ones!"

 

"Well...I don't know how to say it. Do you know how I was saying I tried to draw a western kind earlier? I couldn't manage to get the proportions right, I think I'm just good at imagining some types of creatures."

 

"Once you drew a giant baby and a tiny grandma, right? They were so cute~" Yuka giggled. "You are so creative Chii."

 

"I just draw what comes to my mind. Sometimes what shows in my dream too." Chihiro blushed, embarrassed.

 

"Like the mysterious boyfriend you can't figure out who he is? The one who says in a terminator voice 'I'll be back'?

"Wait, what? No he isn't my-wait, who has a terminator voice, Nao-chan!? I never said anything about this!"

 

"Nao is also really creative. In her own way." Yuka smiled awkwardly. "If Chihiro ever had a dream with a guy saying 'I will be back' in such way, it wouldn't be a romantic dream, it would be a creepy one."

 

"I never said it was romantic,” the girl mumbled, munching on her egg roll to hide her embarrassment.

 

"But we’re serious when we say you could be an artist, Chii-chan!" Nao smiled. "Have you thought about making commissions? Debuting in a con? Maybe making R-18 comics without your parents realizing!?"

 

"Stop while you are ahead, Nao-chan…" The brunette gave her a sharp look. That was almost threading into a dangerous territory.

 

"By the way, have you heard the rumors?" Yuka coughed softly, using this chance to change topics.

 

"Rumors?" both asked curiously.

 

"It seems that some people are receiving weird emails. I don’t know if it is a chain message, a virus or just a prank, but many people are getting these emails with a weird link."

 

"A link? To what?" Chihiro looked confused.

 

"I don't know. It says it is a link for a demon summoning program."

 

"That is a virus. Totally a virus." Nao declared. "Who would be so dumb to believe something like this? Actually, had anyone downloaded it at all?"

 

"Yes, I know someone who downloaded it on their smart phone."

 

"And…?" Chihiro leaned in, eager to know more.

 

"Nothing happened. Nothing except they got an app that can't be deleted at all. Every time they delete it, the app returns. Also, if they try to open the app a white screen shows up, but nothing else."

 

"See? Called it. Vírus. Bye bye, phone." Nao sighed. "Chii-chan, what face is that? Are you disappointed?"

 

"Huh, not exactly." The girl laughed sheepishly. "But wouldn't be interesting? If...fantastic creatures existed." With a longing look, she stared at her own drawings. Yes, she was disappointed. She didn't know why, though.

 

"I'm home, Mom."

 

"Welcome home, Chihiro! Dinner will still take a while."

 

"Okay! Is Dad home?"

 

"Dad is working on an extra shift today. He will come home late."

 

"Alright."

 

Leaving her shoes in the entrance, Chihiro went to her room upstairs. Thankfully she had little homework this time so, after finishing it, she had some free time before dinner.

Now, what to do…

 

She could watch television, read a book, or maybe…

 

Chihiro remembered what her friends talked about that afternoon. She was just going to check her email. Just a look couldn't hurt, right?

 

She turned on her computer and opened her inbox. Nothing was there. Then she checked the spam box.

 

"Ah!"

 

There it was-! A weird message from some guy called Steven.

Topic: 'For those who have courage to survive'

 

The topic was already fishy enough by itself. Maybe she shouldn't go further.

Even so, Chihiro clicked it.

 

There was the weird link, an attachment called 'Demon Summoning Program'

If it wasn't a virus it was obviously a prank.

But...

It would be nice if fantastical creatures existed, right…?

 

Could something change if she pressed that button? Something that didn't change for anyone else?

There was only way to know.

Taking a deep breath, Chihiro shut her eyes tightly and finally clicked the link.



Chapter Text

The alarm clock rang once again. Chihiro woke to another day as usual. After changing into her uniform, but before going downstairs, she checked her smartphone. A weird app icon showed on the screen. She pressed her finger on it and a blank window opened, much to her dismay.

"I wonder if my phone has a virus now. I should run a scan later," Chihiro sighed. The previous day, she had summoned all her courage to download the infamous 'Demon Summoning Program' that was in the link of the spam email everyone was receiving. Over and over, she tried using it after it downloaded, but, like her friends said, nothing happened. To make things worse, the rumors about it being unable to be deleted were true as well. Every single time she tried to remove the app, it gave her an error screen. That aside, her phone seemed fine for now, but there was no way it was going to be left unscanned.

"Good morning, mom!" Chihiro greeted, descending the stairs.

"...Ah. Good morning, Chihiro." Yuuko Ogino finally noticed her presence. She had finished making breakfast, and was eating while watching television. Maybe the television was what distracted her. It wasn't natural, though. Usually, her mother would always turn it off before eating. She always said it was bad manners otherwise. Noticing her daughter's surprised look, Yuuko frowned, apologetically. "I'm sorry, Chihiro. This is important news. It happened in our neighborhood."

"Important news?" Chihiro sat down on the chair and held her chopsticks, saying a quick thank you for the food. Like her mother, soon her attention was drawn to the news that was airing.

"Around 6:00 am, a body was discovered in the park near Yellow Flower High School. The deceased's identity is-"

Chihiro had stopped eating completely. Normally, such news would certainly not be acceptable during breakfast. Still, Chihiro understood why her mother kept watching it. It wasn't like she knew who was killed, but she did know the place where the person died.

"That's...my school. Wait, isn't that the park I pass by everyday on my way to it?"

The news report continued.

"-the body was found in such state that it was almost unrecognizable. 'It was as if it was mangled by a wild beast', was what the first person who discovered the body said. Currently, police have been checking animal shelters, zoos, and forestry services to make sure that-"

Finally, Yuuko turned it off.

"I'm sorry you had to listen to such an unpleasant thing while eating, Chihiro," she sighed. "But it was in the park you usually pass by, you see. You understand, right? Can you please take another path today to school? The park is barricaded anyway, so I doubt you will be able to go through there."

"Ah. Sure," Chihiro nodded, looking a bit gloomy. She wasn't sure why. Weird murders happened all the time across the globe. Still, to have one so close to home made her shiver. Her mother, noticing her daughter's apprehension, put a hand on her shoulder with a smile.

"Don't worry. There are lots of police officers patrolling the city. You will be alright. Dad went to work normally today as well. You are safe."

"Thanks." Chihiro smiled, looking down at her half-empty rice bowl. "I know."


It was just like her mother said. There were police officers everywhere. They were patrolling every street. Probably because it was a small city, and incidents like that simply didn't happen there. Especially such a bizarre death, Chihiro smiled dryly. Police officers should make people feel safe, yet it made her just feel more unsettled. It was an ominous feeling she didn't know how to describe. The feeling of a danger lurking underneath everyone's nose.

Chihiro shook her head. "Stupid, stupid!" She said to herself. Nothing had changed. She was still going to school as always, going to have a normal day as always, and the next day would also be the same as always. In a few months she would have her much-awaited school trip to Tokyo. Of course, before that, there were final exams which she would have to study for. That was it. Just things that normally happened to a human. The world wouldn't end so suddenly like that. No magical turn of events. No super-powered villains, no monsters, no dragons- Just her dull, yet cherished life.

"It would be nice if magic existed, though." Feeling more relaxed, Chihiro hummed, trying to change her bad thoughts with happy ones. The magic she imagined was something that made people happy. The monsters she imagined were creatures who also had their own dull and cherished lives. They weren't so different from humans. Yes, if it was that way, it would be fine. She wouldn't even mind living in a world full of strange creatures if that was the case.

Lost in her fantasy, Chihiro only noticed she had arrived inside the school once she was in front of her classroom. A bit embarrassed for spacing out so easily, she slid open the door, giving her usual good morning, yet only being answered by Nao. That was also normal. The teacher soon arrived and the homeroom started.


"My parents were totally freaked out, you know…" Nao said as the trio of friends were once again eating in their secret spot during lunch. They had a rule to always share what they wanted to there and nowhere else. That was because, while Chihiro and Nao were in the same class, Yuka was in a different one. Chihiro and Nao could use the intervals between classes to talk to each other, but that would mean leaving Yuka out. So they didn't talk much during class. Instead, they waited for their friend to join them during lunch.

"With the freak murder incident?" Yuka asked, waving her chopsticks slightly.

"Yeah, they even tried to convince me to stay home." Nao shrugged. "I mean, I would love to, but then they would come back later complaining I didn't get good grades because I was skipping classes. They're unfair like that."

"So? You're already settled for bad grades," Chihiro sighed. "You know, if you try to study ahead of the time, maybe you can get better grades."

"Impossible." Yuka sighed. "Nao always only crams the last minute."

"Objection!" Nao argued. "I always try to study but my comic books always calls me back!"

"Overruled! You are basically admitting you only study at the last minute!" The blonde replied, but Nao just grinned.

"Hah! You don't know anything. I can't even cram at the last minute because I end up playing games instead!"

"That's even worse," Chihiro muttered.

For a while, they kept joking around. Finally, Yuka asked:

"So...what do you think happened? To the man in the park. People at school were saying it was probably some wild animal that attacked him."

"I heard the newscaster saying something about the police investigating animal shelters, but my mother turned off the television at the time." Chihiro laid down her chopsticks. While she was curious about the situation, the conversation itself wasn't really appetizing.

"There are also people saying it was a murder disguised as an animal attack," Nao commented. "I'm not really sure, though. I mean, how could someone pretend to be an animal?"

"...In truth, this isn't the first case." Yuka finally said, earning surprised stares from both Chihiro and Nao. "Do-don't look at me like that! It is the first case in this city. But you see, my father is a detective, so I heard him saying a few things on the phone this morning. From what I heard, there have been a few similar cases around Japan in the last few weeks. Mostly in Tokyo, but one or two in a few other cities as well. They are trying to keep it confidential though, so don't mention this to anyone, okay?"

"As expected of a detective's daughter! She knows what's going on!" Nao clapped and then stared at Chihiro. "That reminds me, it was Yuka's father who handled Chii-chan's family case right?"

"I didn't know Yuka-chan back then, so when I met her I was surprised when she had the same family name as the detective who questioned me," Chihiro smiled. It was six years ago, after the mysterious three-month gap in her life. Detective Hashimoto visited their house over and over again after that, but nothing could be explained. They couldn't remember anything, after all. Not even now.

"You know, maybe Chii was spirited away," Yuka suggested.

"You think so too, Yuka?" Chihiro frowned.

"Spirited away? What was that again?" Nao asked curiously.

"Oh, that's what it's called when a child disappears for awhile, and then reappears without any memories. They say the child has wandered into the spirit world. Or maybe taken by spirits and hidden there."

"Well, I don't know," the brunette sighed. "I mean, what happened was obviously not normal. I truly believe something extraordinary happened. Whether it was being spirited away, time traveling, or even being abducted by UFOs... anything that would explain what happened. There is also the more common explanation the doctor said: 'It was probably caused by some sort of traumatic experience that the family doesn't want to remember'."

"Someone actually said that?! That is totally inconsiderate!" Nao stood up, getting angry. "I mean, there are so many explanations for what happened, and yet they come up with something to make the whole family afraid for no reason!"

"It's okay, Nao. After all, the case couldn't be solved." Chihiro smiled sadly. "Because no one could explain what happened, people assumed that was because I was cursed."

"You aren't cursed, Chii-chan! You are a bit weird, and kind of a klutz, but those aren't bad things!" Nao said firmly, while Yuka nodded along with her.

"It's fun talking to you, Chii. You are kind, and sweet, and always come up with interesting and unexpected things to talk about." She smiled.

"Thank you, you two." Chihiro also smiled, feeling encouraged by them.

Lunch break would probably be over soon. There was still one thing Chihiro wanted to talk about.

"Talking about unexpected things…" She continued in a resigned tone. "I'm sorry. I did it. My phone probably has a virus, now." She showed the phone screen, with the strange app icon.

"...Chii-chan," Nao said seriously. "I don't know if you are brave, or just an idiot."

"I'm sorry."

"Then? Did something happen?" Yuka asked curiously.

"Nothing. It was like you said. A blank screen when opening the app, and it won't let me delete it."

Nao sighed. "I'll give you the name of a good anti-virus program for you to download after you get home, okay? So just relax."

"Thanks, Nao."

The bell announcing the lunchtime was over rang. Saying goodbye to each other, the trio dispersed.


After classes were over, Chihiro went straight home. Unlike her friends, she didn't have club activities after school. That was mostly because she couldn't fit in any club. Even if it was basketball (which Nao belonged to), or the theatre (which Yuka was in), Chihiro didn't feel like receiving weird stares from people who she should work together with. She went home taking the alternate path she took this morning, so it would be safer.

Even though it was supposed to be safer, there were a lot less police officers than in the morning. In all honesty, Chihiro felt relieved by that. It meant slowly, things were returning to normal. She really was worrying too much, after all.

Her phone buzzed, earning a surprised 'huh' from Chihiro.

"It must be Nao," Chihiro smiled, picking up the phone. "She was going to send me an antivirus after all."

Wait.

Wasn't Nao having club practice at that moment? ...Could she be ditching it?

Chihiro finally realized it wasn't Nao. Rather, the Demon Summoning app was making her phone buzz. She was about to open it when she heard a piercing scream.

It was the voice of a woman. A scream that would freeze anyone's blood. The scream of someone who was in danger.

Chihiro began panicking. A feeling of dread started to overtake her. No, that wasn't right. She had to calm down. Taking a deep breath, she looked around for a police officer. There were so many this morning, why wouldn't they patrol during the afternoon as well? Did they deem areas outside of the park of no importance? That made sense. Policemen had shifts as well. And, considering it was a small city, they probably didn't have many personnel to spare.

Shaking her head, Chihiro ran in direction of the scream. She couldn't just stand around thinking! If someone was in danger, a minute could make difference, right? She was only going to check. If there was something really dangerous like an armed robber or a wild animal, she would call the police. That was common sense!

Following the voice, the brunette found herself in an alleyway. There was still no sign of police officers. The screams also died down just a few seconds before she arrived. Was the woman alright?

"Ah…"

That puddle on the ground.

It was blood.

Ahead, there was a woman laying face down. She was injured and blood seeped from her wounds. There was no one else there, but that didn't matter. Someone was really dying before her eyes.

For some reason, she felt this wasn't the first time.

"Ah, focus!" Chihiro shook her head. It wasn't time for her fantasies now, she had to do something! That decided, she ran towards the woman and kneeled close to her.

"Miss! Are you alright? Answer me!" She shook the woman, to no avail. There wasn't any response at all. Chihiro examined her face and sighed in relief. Yes, she was still breathing. She wasn't dead yet. "I have to call the police...and an ambulance!"

Chihiro's breath was unstable and her fingers were trembling. Using a touchscreen in this situation was not something fun. She tapped the wrong numbers over and over again. Maybe she should be glad. This reaction meant her life had been a carefree one, one where she never had to call for help. It wasn't something she was used to. Of course, in school, children were always taught about safety measures like emergency numbers, or who to call when finding someone in trouble. Everyone would agree, but there was no doubt no one would ever wish to dial these numbers.

Chihiro took a breath and tried to dial the number again. This time she was calmer. This time she was going to do it.

Or not.

It just happened that her eyes wandered over one of the woman's wounds. At first, Chihiro had thought they were wounds from a knife. But they weren't. They were like…

"Claws." She gulped.

Who...or what was able to do that?

'Hungry.'

"!?" Chihiro suddenly stood up. She heard a voice. They weren't alone!

'Woman isn't enough. Still hungry.'

Something appeared from the shadows. Something that shouldn't be there. A small, yet ugly and purple creature caressing its inflated stomach with claws stained with blood. That thing wasn't a human, but it wasn't an animal either. She didn't know what it was. She was afraid. But the thing didn't care. It saw Chihiro and was approaching slowly.

Then, it occured her.

She had to run.

If that thing caught her, she would die for sure!

And then Chihiro ran. As fast as she could, without looking back. Maybe, if she didn't look back, the creature would disappear as if it was a mere dream. Still, she could hear the footsteps from the monster. They simply wouldn't go away.

Those footsteps kept chasing her for a good while, before finally stopping. Chihiro still kept running without care, until she finally noticed she was in front of the door of her house. With a ragged breath, she stopped for the first time in what it seemed an eternity and looked back to see if she was still being chased.

"There's nothing…"

In relief, Chihiro relaxed her body, letting herself fall on her knees. She was scared and tired. Once again, she questioned what that creature was. If it wasn't an animal, nor a human, what was it?

Her hand wandered to the smartphone that was buzzing just a little before meeting the monster. On the screen, a notification from the app showed.

A notification that it was detecting a demon nearby.

"A...demon…"

That night, Chihiro took a long time to sleep. Even after she fell into a slumber, the events of that day kept haunting her in her dreams.

Chapter Text

An unfamiliar landscape surrounded Chihiro. She could hear the wind moaning through the vast grass field she found herself in.

 

A strong voice resounded in her head. It was the voice of a male adult.

 

‘Ah, I knew it. This is probably a theme park. They built a lot during the 90’s.’

 

This voice...that was her father’s. But where was he?

 

Searching for her parents, Chihiro began walking. Before her, a bridge appeared. The sound of a train could be heard. It came from below the bridge, running through rails surrounded by water. She hesitated. Something about this was so...familiar.

 

‘You shouldn’t be here! Get out!’

 

This time, the voice of a boy rang inside her head. It was a familiar, yet unknown voice. Although she had heard it before, she didn’t remember where from.

 

“Who are you?!” Chihiro covered her ears. “You keep showing yourself in my dreams but I have never met you before! Why?”

 

No one answered.

 

“Hey, Chihiro.”

 

Another voice. She knew that one. This time, when she turned around, there was a person there.

 

It was Nao.

 

“If you could create your own future, if you could achieve any wish as long as you had the willpower, would you do it?” Nao smiled softly. “Because we, humans, are weak, we are always afraid. We have to turn a blind eye to our surroundings and leave behind what is really important to us. If we had any real power, couldn’t we create a world where such suffering doesn’t exist anymore? A world where we can make our own fate…”

 

Nao offered her hand, waiting for Chihiro to hold it.

 

Chihiro hesitated. Of course, there were many times she wished she was stronger. Like how she couldn’t save that woman attacked by that weird creature, or how she almost couldn’t save herself. Because she was weak, she had to resign herself to her fate. People say that with enough determination anything can be done, but there are many things that can’t be solved with determination alone. If a world existed where anything could be changed as long as someone had enough resolve…she thought that might be a good thing.

 

“Chihiro, no!”

 

A second voice called her. Chihiro turned around again, this time finding Yuka.

 

“There is a reason humans are born this way. Don’t you know the saying? When someone gazes at the abyss, the abyss gazes back at you.” Yuka also smiled softly. “Yearning for more than you should have will just make you suffer. After all, desires just create conflicts.” Like Nao, she also held out a hand for Chihiro to grab. “To create a world where everyone can live in harmony, I need your help, Chihiro.”

 

Chihiro could understand that, too. Desiring too much was wrong. Of course, her daily life wasn’t perfect, but she was happy enough with it. Why did she care about remembering something that hardly affected her anymore? Why did she care if magic existed or not? Shouldn’t be satisfied with she already had? Even if that meant closing eyes and ears to what happened around her. But...would that be the right thing to do?

 

The two girls called Chihiro’s name over and over. However, she could only answer one of them. It was like two paths sprawled out in front of her. She couldn’t stop, she couldn’t go back.

 

Then, who should she answer?

 


 

 

“Chihiro, wake up!”

 

A shout woke Chihiro from her dream. Her mother had a hand on her shoulder, shaking her gently.

 

“Mom…?”

 

“Chihiro, are you alright? You seemed to be having an awful nightmare. You were squirming and crying…”

 

“I...was?” Chihiro lightly touched her eyelids with her fingertips. As her mother said, they were wet. She had been crying. She wiped her tears and gave a faint smile.

 

“I’m fine, now. I’ll just change into my uniform and will be downstairs soon.”

 

“About that, Chihiro…” Her mother frowned. “It’s better for you to stay home today.”

 

“Huh?” Chihiro blinked, confused. She wasn’t sick or hurt, so why skip school?

 

“Another person was found today. This time it was a woman, around her 30s. She… well, it’s suspected she was murdered. I’m honestly worried, and your father is, too. Tomorrow is Sunday anyway, so, please, at least stay home this weekend, okay?”

 

“A-ah…” Chihiro could feel her blood quickly growing cold. The woman who died was probably that woman. The previous day, when Chihiro found her, she was barely alive. Now that she thought about it, it was her fault. She left the woman to die.

 

“A…….aaaaaaaah---!!!” Chihiro began crying. Even with her face covered by her hands, tears wouldn’t stop flowing out and falling on her bed sheets.

 

“C-Chihiro?! What’s wrong!? Chihiro?!” Her mother called out to her, but there was no answer. Only her sobs.

 

Scared, regretful, sad, and anguished. She felt so many different emotions that tears weren’t enough to release all those feelings. She wanted to scream. Someone was dying in front of her. She had the power to save that person, and yet she didn’t do anything. Now, that person had died.

 

Chihiro knew why, though. It wasn’t just a murderer. The woman wasn’t killed by a human. A demon killed her. The man that died the previous day was probably killed the same way, too. But who would believe her? If she even dared to tell anyone, she might only end up being considered a suspect in the murder.

 

“Yuuko, what’s wrong?” Chihiro’s father entered the room as he heard his daughter’s cries from downstairs. “What happened?”

 

“I don’t know. I think it was a nightmare…” Yuuko gently patted her daughter’s back, unable to do much else.

 


 

It was afternoon. Rain poured outside. Chihiro laid on her bed, staring at the ceiling with red eyes. Her right hand rested on her smartphone. She wondered whether or not to call Nao and Yuka and tell them what happened. Maybe they would believe her.

 

“Or maybe they will just laugh it off, saying it was a dream.” She sighed and finally turned the phone on, though not to call them. She wanted to check the Demon Summoning app.

 

“The log of the meeting is still here,” Chihiro mumbled as she confirmed that it truly located a demon. “Could it be--?”

 

An unpleasant thought went through her head. What if it was this app that summoned that creature? It was called a summoning app, after all. Maybe, these weird murders happened because of this program?

 

“That can’t be!” Chihiro said, shaking her head. If that was the case, shouldn’t the log say ‘demon summoned’, not ‘demon detected nearby’? At least, that was what she hoped.

 

Now that she thought about it, wasn’t the title of the email something along the lines of ‘humanity was in danger’? Could this be the danger it was talking about?

 

Chihiro took a deep breath. This wasn’t the time to hesitate. Even if they didn’t believe her, they at least could give some advice. She had to call her friends.

 


 

 

“I’m sorry for making you two come here. Mom and dad wanted me to stay home today.” Chihiro sighed.

 

“It’s okay, Chii. My mother took me here by car from school. I told her I was worried, since you were absent.” Yuka smiled.

 

“In my case, my parents didn’t allow me to go to school either. I doubt they would allow to go to your house in this situation, so I snuck out of the house through the window, hihihi~”

 

“Nao-chan, you didn’t need to! What if your parents find out?” Chihiro gave a downcast look. Nao didn’t need to go that far for her...

 

“It’s okay! I left a note saying ‘going to visit a friend; will be back soon’. They won’t get worried.”

 

“I think they didn’t want you to leave home today because they would be worried about you in the first place, but, whatever you say.” Yuka sighed. “What did you want to tell us, Chii? You said it was urgent.”

 

“Well, to be honest… remember when I said I downloaded that weird app?” Chihiro decided to start from the beginning. “Yesterday, when I was going home, a notification from it appeared.” She showed her phone log.

 

“Demon detected nearby? The heck?” Nao raised an eyebrow, confused.

 

“I didn’t see it until I got home later, but… as soon as my phone buzzed, I heard a scream. I got worried so I decided to try and find where it was coming from. I just wanted to see if the person who screamed was all right.”

 

“And then?” Yuka paid attention. She could tell that little by little, Chihiro’s behavior while telling the story was changing. She was getting more anxious and fumbling more. It was almost like someone who witnessed something that should never have seen.

 

“W-well...I saw a woman...she was...really hurt....barely alive.” Chihiro bit her lip and finally shouted. “It was the woman who was reported today to have been murdered!”

 

“What?!” Both Nao and Yuka couldn’t hide their surprise.

 

“Didn’t you tell the police? Chii, you’re a witness!”

 

“I didn’t! I mean, how could I? As soon as I tried to call the emergency services, something… something weird appeared!”

 

“Something weird?! Like what?” Nao frowned.

 

“I don’t know, exactly. It wasn’t human. It wasn’t an animal, either. It was something small with a big head and a big belly, and it had sharp claws… it started chasing me, so I ran away. I kept running till I got home. I ended up staying hidden in my room until I fell asleep. Of course, I didn’t call anyone. So… the woman died.” Tears were starting to gather again. Because her friends were there, she tried to hold them back. “You probably don’t believe me, but…”

 

“So...you believe that thing was the demon that was shown in the notification?” Yuka smiled softly.

 

“Huh…Yes.” Chihiro was surprised. Instead of them laughing off, Yuka was even asking for more information. And Nao was---

 

Wait, what was Nao doing?

 

“Ah, don’t mind me. I’m just turning on your computer. I mean, you still have that email in your inbox, right? Gonna use it to download the app on my smartphone too.” She smiled.

 

“Wait, then-- do you believe me?” Chihiro wiped her tears with her arm and stared in shock.

 

“Well, if Chii-chan says so, why not? Plus, even if it’s a prank, we can just laugh together later!”

 

“Also, if you stop to think about the method of the murders, what you said makes sense, Chii.”

 

“Thank you… thank you so much…!” Chihiro smiled brightly. To have friends who supported her was truly a wonderful thing. Without them, she would never leave the state of fear she was in before.

 

Nao and Yuka also downloaded the program on their phones. Of course, like Chihiro, they would just see a blank screen when opening it.

 

“I guess we can’t confirm if it works or not until a demon is detected.” Yuka proclaimed. “Chii, Nao… getting too deep in this mystery might be dangerous. These demons have murdered people, after all.”

 

“Even so, we can’t just sit and wait, right? I mean, if there are demons wandering around this town and killing people, I will certainly welcome an app that can detect them.” Nao answered. “Plus, if Chii-chan got already involved, no way we can leave her by herself, right? We’re friends!”

 

Yuka nodded. “I agree. Plus, I doubt the chain of murders is over yet. My father is actively investigating these crime scenes and honestly, I’m worried about him. If demons are truly behind this, then it might be dangerous for him, too…” She looked at Chihiro and noticed she was silent, only staring at her with mouth agape. “Chii, you have been quiet. What’s wrong?”

 

“A-ah, nothing. I’m just still a bit surprised. You not only believed me, but you’re even trying to help me find solutions. Thank you.”

 

“Chii-chan, stop thanking us like a broken record and help us think too! We must come up with a plan!” Nao poked Chihiro’s nose, startling her a bit.

 

“Y-yes! Maybe… huh… ah, that’s right, the sender! The one who sent the emails, right? That person called Steven,” Chihiro suggested, pondering over it. “I mean, if he sent us something that actually worked, maybe he already knew about the existence of demons.”

 

“Hm, the email also said something about humanity being in great danger, right? Could this be the danger he was talking about?” Nao crossed her arms and Yuka sighed.

 

“There is no way we can track him down, though. The email address looks like a spam address, anyway.”

 

“Then there is only one option!” Nao stood up. “We have to track down a demon!”

 

“Nao!”

 

“Nao-chan, that’s dangerous! That thing tried to kill me!”

 

“So we just wait until one ambushes us like they did with you? Or maybe wait for more corpses to drop around the city? Ah-- I mean, sorry,” Nao glanced away. Maybe she said too much.

 

Chihiro looked down, sadly. She remembered the woman she left to die.

 

“Maybe you’re right. I… I don’t ever want to feel this way again. If I can do something to make up for what I’ve done… then that’s probably our best shot.”

 

“Wait, I’m against it! What if we get attacked? We can really die!” Yuka protested, standing up as well. Nao frowned.

 

“Hmm, maybe… maybe then we should walk with an easy-to-hide weapon, or something? Like a knife?”

 

“So, you’re basically saying for us to carry hidden weapons... while the police are looking for murder suspects so that we can stab a demon if it attacks us?!”

 

“...Basically?”

 

Yuka hit the back of Nao’s head. Nao groaned in pain, mumbling something about ‘only trying to help’.

 

“Well, I think Nao-chan might have a point.” Chihiro raised her voice. “I mean, it wouldn’t be weird if, with a murderer on the loose, people carried stuff to protect themselves. It doesn’t need to be weapons, exactly. Maybe something like pepper spray.”

 

Yuka sighed and sat down on the floor again. “Then, promise me one thing. You’re just going to test to see if the app sends notifications of demons nearby. As soon as you get the notification, run away. Then we can decide what to do after that. Promise?”

 

“Promise!” Both girls nodded, grinning.

 


 

 

It eventually got late, and Nao and Yuka had to leave. Chihiro, after having dinner, spent the rest of the day in her bedroom.

 

Her phone buzzed, and Chihiro curiously grabbed it to see who was sending her a message.

 

Her eyes widened and she almost dropped her phone. It wasn’t a message. It was a notification of another demon.

 

But where? It couldn’t be inside her house, right? Could that thing from yesterday have followed her?

 

Her father and mother were probably already asleep in their bedroom. That meant she was the only one awake in her house.

 

“Sorry Yuka-chan,” She mumbled. “It’s impossible to run away in this case…!” As she told herself that, Chihiro decided to look for the demon.

 

First, she grabbed a broom. It would be her self-defense tool, in case something happened. Then she opened the app window. It was always a blank screen but maybe, since there was a demon nearby, something would change.

 

“Ah--!”

 

She was right! On the top of the white screen, a yellow bar had appeared.

 

“What is this…” Chihiro walked around and watched the bar change color to a bluish tone. Could that be some sort of proximity detector?

 

Using it, she searched everywhere in the house. While in her room the color of the bar would become blue, near the house entrance it would become a dark orange. If the demon was nowhere inside the house then…

 

Maybe it was right outside.

 

Chihiro put her hand on the front door knob. Something that killed people was only blocked by a single layer of wood. If she opened it…

 

Saying she was afraid was an understatement. But she couldn’t back down now. If it was that close, if her parents opened the door or maybe even a window, that thing might leap on them!

 

She took a deep breath and held the broom tightly. Finally, mustering all courage she had, Chihiro opened the door.

 


 

 

“Hey, have you heard the rumors?”

 

“Yes, yes, I have heard.”

 

“Somehow, the entrance between our world and the human world was severed.”

 

“I heard it was a human who did it… he tried to play God and was attacked by the gods himself!”

 

“Regardless, now we can cross to the human world at will.”

“Who would want to go there? The human world is stinky, and messed up. Our world is much better.”

 

“But they are also delicious...kwehehe…”

 

“What are you doing? Shouldn’t you go back to your jobs? The clients are waiting.” Haku approached the employers of the bath house with a scowl on his face. As they apologized and dispersed, he gave a tired sigh. He was tired of hearing the same rumors everywhere.

 

Haku didn’t know how much time had passed, exactly. After all, the time in the spirit world flowed differently than it did in the human world. Sometimes it went faster, sometimes it went slower. For spirits, that didn’t matter though. For those who lived for centuries, everything happened in a blink of an eye.

 

So, for Haku, his meeting with Chihiro that happened years before felt like only a few weeks, maybe.

 

Of course, it wasn’t that he missed her. In his heart, he already believed they would never see each other again. At least not within a human’s life span. Humans belonged to the human world. Spirits, gods, and demons belonged to the spirit realm. Chihiro had her memories erased when she left the bath house and, even if he promised to see her again, it would be selfish of him to do so. She deserved to live a normal life.

 

That was why the rumors irritated him. Spirits talking so casually about mingling with humans and invading their realm was nothing less than a bad joke. Haku was aware, though. Not many spirits cared for the humans, the same as not many humans cared about the spirits.

 

On rare occasions, humans and spirits came in contact. That happened in places with thin boundaries between the realms, sacred places where the spirits are able to make it their home, and through rituals and prayers. Haku was only able to have a the briefest contact with the human world through his river, which was his physical embodiment there. That was how he was able to meet Chihiro in the human world.

 

Eventually, he lost his home as humans destroyed the river for further urban development. Even though he told Chihiro he would quit serving as an apprentice to Yubaba, the truth is that he had nowhere to go, so he couldn’t leave the bath house so easily. Of course, since Yubaba’s control spell was destroyed and he had his true name back, even though he couldn’t leave, she couldn’t do him harm either.

 

“Would you stop with that at once?!” Haku scolded another worker. “Rumors like these are dangerous! What if one of our clients truly believes it? How will you take responsibility for that?”

 

“I-I’m sorry, Master Haku! I will be careful!” The frog flinched and ran away. Haku clenched his fist.

 

There was no way that such a tale was true. If, by any chance, the barrier between the human and the spirit world really was broken, demons from everywhere would sooner or later swarm it. And, if that happened, the human world would certainly be no more.

 

That was certainly a bad joke that no one should ever think of spreading around.

 

Chapter Text

Chihiro stared at the locked door before her as her hands gripped the doorknob tightly. Mustering all of her courage, she opened it.

 

“Gah!!!”

 

Something suddenly leaped on her. However, this time, Chihiro wasn’t surprised. Of course, she was scared, but she had already expected something to attack her. Therefore, as if it was an automatic reaction from her body, she swung the broom and hit the flying creature before it reached her.

 

Being blown away, the creature hit the wall and fell on the ground. Chihiro gripped the broom tightly and approached. As she looked at what was supposed to be the demon, she couldn’t help but voice her surprise.

 

“A...fairy?”

 

It was a really small female, so small it could fit in the palm of Chihiro’s hand. She had fairy wings and was dressed in blue clothes. The fairy, still rubbing her head, finally noticed Chihiro’s presence and snapped.

 

“What do you think you’re doing, you psycho?! Are you trying to kill me!?”

 

Chihiro was taken aback by the sudden outburst. It took a few seconds for her to find the proper words to argue.

 

“Y-you were the one who leaped on me! You are a demon, aren’t you? I was just protecting myself!”

 

“Hmm?” The fairy gave a small smirk began flying. She approached Chihiro, who gave a step back. “You're pretty gutsy for a human, aren’t you? Rather, there aren’t many humans who know about us.” The demon giggled. “Is this your house? It’s not too shabby, so I guess it works.”

 

“Works…? For what?” Chihiro frowned. She didn’t like where this conversation was going…

 

“Simply put, I’ll be staying here for a while.”

 

“W-what?! Why?!” It was so sudden she couldn’t comprehend the request. Her mouth was open agape and she couldn’t even find words to refuse it.

 

“Well...it’s an embarrassing story so, if you tell anyone, I’ll rip your nose off.” The fairy winked, shifting to a sitting position as she kept herself in the air. “There are these ugly demons; their names are Gaki. They’re completely depraved jerks, not to mention bullies as well,” she explained, nodding to herself. “Can you believe it? A group of them ganged up on me and tried to eat me! I defeated most of them with my fire magic, but they still managed to hurt me, so I had to flee.”

 

“Fire magic?” Chihiro’s eyes widened in curiosity, but the demon answered with an angry face.

 

“Hey, I’m telling a story here! Save your questions for later. Honestly, what a rude human…” sighing dramatically, she continued “Well, I’m sure they are still looking for me, but I ended up wounded and exhausting my powers. So I need a place to hide and recover. It pains me that this place ended up being a human house, but at this point I have no choice.”

 

Certainly, the fairy was covered in bruises. Before, Chihiro thought they were from being hit by the broom but maybe they were also from being attacked.

 

Chihiro frowned. She didn’t know what to do. Up until now, she believed demons were only murderers who were behind the series of freak deaths in her town. However, this demon was genuinely asking her help.

 

If this demon was telling the truth, then she genuinely didn’t want to turn down.

 

“Alright.” Chihiro smiled. “Just keep the fact that you’re here a secret from my parents. I don’t want to get them into trouble.”

 

“Very well.” The fairy grinned. “That’s right, I haven’t introduced myself, right? I’m fairy Pixie, nice to meet you!”

 

“I’m Chihiro Ogino, nice to meet you too.” She bowed politely.

 

“I don’t like owing favors, ‘specially to humans. So in exchange of letting me stay here, I will let you make a contract with me. If you need anything, just summon me, alright? As long as I’m recovered, of course.” Pixie smiled, but Chihiro frowned. She couldn’t understand the meaning of those words.

 

“Contract? Summon? What do you mean?”

 

“Don’t pretend to not know! I can sense it, you know. A summoning circle inside your pocket.”

 

“A summoning....circle?”

 

The only thing that was inside her pocket was…

 

Her smartphone.

 

Chihiro took out her phone and opened her app. An icon with Pixie’s name was there now, under the detection bar that was now blue once again. Pixie, curious herself, approached to see the screen.

 

“Weird, I thought I sensed a summoning circle, but the energy I’m feeling comes from this device.” Pixie frowned, now confused herself. “No, this definitely can summon me, I’m sure of it. Maybe it has the same properties of a summoning circle? Human technology is surely weird…”

 

“I’ve never heard about something like this either,” Chihiro replied. “I mean, a few days ago I didn’t even know demons existed.”

 

From what Pixie said, she now could make a few conclusions, though. First is that this app allowed her to detect and summon demons. Second was that it didn’t summon demons out of nowhere. It only summoned demons who allowed her to be summoned. In other words, demons who she made a contract with.

 

“I guess I at least understand it a bit better than before, though. Thank you.” Chihiro smiled. Pixie blushed and looked away with a ‘hunf’.

 

“O-of course you need to thank me! It’s an honor for a lowly human to be able to summon a demon, you know! Now show me the bath! That chase made me all muddy and stinky!”

 

“Sure!” Chihiro beamed, feeling like she had made a new friend.



“A gap?”

 

“Yes, that is how I arrived here.”

 

Inside Chihiro’s bedroom, she chatted with Pixie. She had a lot of questions, so it was really useful to know a demon to talk with.

 

“I’m sure it’s probably the same for the others,” Pixie explained. “That’s why there are so many demons in your world right now. Rather, I’m sure the number will just keep increasing.”

 

Chihiro didn’t like that idea. If just a few demons were enough to cause so many murders, what was going to happen if they swarmed the country? It was an ominous thought.

 

“I still don’t understand exactly what this ‘gap’ thing is. Can’t it be fixed somehow?” she asked, voice filled with worry.

 

“Well, I said gap, but it’s actually much worse.” Pixie scratched her head, thinking of a way to explain. “Basically, between the world of demons and the world of humans, there is a boundary. This boundary stops both from crossing sides. There are rare cases where the line between these worlds becomes thinner, allowing crossing but…” Lifting a finger, the fairy stared directly at Chihiro. “This time, it disappeared completely. Basically, a permanent connection between our worlds was made.”

 

“So now demons can come here at will? But how did that happen in the first place?”

 

“Rumors say that a human did it. Through human technology.”

 

“A human!?” Chihiro couldn’t believe her ears. She remembered the words that Pixie said about their technology. So there was a reason for that. “B-but there should be a way to revert it, right? If we find the human who did it, maybe…”

 

“Don’t ask me, I’m a demon. I don’t really know that much about human stuff,” Pixie retorted flatly.

 

“Still--” She bit her lip, looking down. “If we find a way, everything will go back to normal, right? We won’t be in danger anymore…”

 

“I agree that it will minimize the damage on your world, but it won’t be that easy. Even if you manage to create a new barrier, there are already a lot of demons here. And the longer you take to do it, more demons will show up.”

 

“Pixie…” Placing her hands and knees on the floor, Chihiro touched it with her forehead as she simultaneously lowered her body. “Please, help me! I have people I need to protect!”

 

Pixie grinned. “I like that. Sure, why not? I made a contract with you, after all. I’m under your orders.”

 

“Thank you,” Chihiro said as she raised her head with a smile. However, Pixie answered with a rather stern face. Chihiro wondered if she said something wrong, but soon noticed it was the fairy who wanted to say something important, instead.

 

“Now listen. As amazing as I am, there are stronger demons than me. If you think you can charge blindly just with my help, you are wrong. The broom caught me by surprise last time, but you better not rely on it. Since you're a human, you can’t get strong like us. Therefore, I suggest a weapon.”

 

“Wa-wait...are you telling me to carry a weapon around?” Didn’t Nao said the same thing the previous day? “Doesn’t a pepper spray work?”

 

“No! You need weapons. Like a knife, a sword or maybe...what's the name of that thing that shoots...things from distance? C’mon, you humans use a lot.” Pixie has seen it before, but she didn’t remember the name. Chihiro, however, had a pretty good hunch.

 

“A gun…? I can’t carry a gun! I'll be arres---”

 

Pixie raised a hand, interrupting her.

 

“I think you don’t understand how dangerous demons are. Are you really serious about this?”

 

“Even if I am...where will I get a gun? There's no way I’ll be able to get my hands on one.” In truth, Chihiro wished she didn’t need to use a weapon. Especially a gun. They were made to kill people. Even if they were demons, to carry a weapon meant she was ready to kill.

 

She didn’t want to kill.

 

“That is...up for you to figure out. I have no idea how you humans are able to do it.” Pixie sighed. “Listen, I’m lending my power to you, so don’t disappoint me, okay? It’ll be embarrassing for me if my new master dies.”

 

Chihiro nodded half-heartedly. “Alright.”

 



Chihiro’s parents were reluctant to let her go to school on Monday. However, since there weren’t any reported murders during the weekend and they couldn’t afford Chihiro to lose more classes, they had no choice.

 

“Chihiro,” Pixie called her before she left. “Be careful. Today is a full moon. Full moons always make demons excited.”

 

“What do you mean?” The girl turned around. “Plus, the moon’s only out during night.”

 

“Just the fact it’s the day is enough.” The demon smirked. “Demons are strongly influenced by the moon phases. Be careful today, alright?”

 

“...Alright.” Chihiro understood she had to be careful, but she didn’t exactly understand what Pixie meant by ‘excited’. She decided to keep the warning in mind as she went to school.

 


 

The school was rather empty compared to other days. It was obvious many people were absent. Still, it has never been so noisy before as it was now, because even though there weren’t any reported murders, the number of rumors increased drastically.

 

“I saw, I swear I saw it!” A boy from her classroom talked with his classmates. “Some weird thing banged at my door during the night! It wasn’t an animal and was staring at me!”

 

“Dude, calm down....you were dreaming,” the friend answered, but the third boy from the group shook his head.

 

“I’m not sure...my friend told me she would be staying home today. It seems she went to the karaoke yesterday and something kept chasing her. She got this huge wound on her leg while attempting to flee.”

 

“Why didn’t she report to the police!?”

 

“And you would think they would believe her? At most they would think it was a prank!”

 

Small groups were talking to each other and discussing the current events. It continued for a long time, since the teacher hadn’t arrived at all. Nao also used that chance to talk with Chihiro.

 

“Hey, isn’t our teacher awfully late?” she said, concern showing on her face. Even if the teacher decided to stay home because of the incidents, wouldn’t he call the school first? They hadn’t received any news about the teacher at all. Homeroom was almost over already.

 

“That’s unusual…” Chihiro nodded. “I’ve never seen him being late before.”

 

A chime rang. It was the sound that always played from the speakers in each classroom before a school broadcast.

 

‘Attention, students. Due to a certain incident, all classes were canceled. Please go back home straight away. Repeating. Classes were canceled. Please go home straight away.’

 

The chattering sound increased.

 

Nao glanced to the speakers. “I wonder what happened.”

 

Chihiro nodded.

 



“Hey, Chii. I've been wanting to ask you something.” As Chihiro, Yuka and Nao walked together home, Yuka asked. “Can I stay with your family for a while?”

 

“Huh?” Chihiro looked surprised. “I don’t mind, but I have to ask my parents. Why?”

 

“You see, with all this commotion going on, my father is hardly at home anymore. So he thought that it would be better for me to stay with someone I trust than stay home alone.”

 

“Well, you make sense when you say that.” Nao nodded. Then, she halted her steps as a big grin formed on her face. “Actually, Chii-chan. Your house is pretty big, right? If there’s an extra person you wouldn’t mind having two instead, right?”

 

“Wha--” Chihiro could barely open her mouth to say anything. Nao didn’t even wait for an answer.

 

“Count me in too! I’ll stay at Chii-chan’s house for a while! It’s not fair for you two to have fun alone!”

 

“Nao!” Yuka scolded. “What about your parents? There's no way they’ll let you.”

 

“It’s alright! We won’t be alone and they trust Chii-chan’s parents! I’m sure that if I explain everything, they’ll agree!”

 

“Your life’s devoid of any concerns at all, isn’t it?” Yuka muttered as Chihiro laughed.

 

“Maybe we should be more like her, Yuka-chan,” she said with a smile as Nao nodded proudly.

 



“That’s...just nasty.” With a handkerchief, Detective Hashimoto covered his nose in an attempt to block the awful stench that filled the area. Before him, the remains of a man could be seen. It was the body of a teacher from the high school of his daughter. Once again, another murder has happened.

 

“It seems he bled to death. He’s also covered by teeth marks...whatever killed him, I certainly don’t want to meet it,” one of the detectives said.

 

“Okay, let the forensics team carry the body away. We're done here.” Hashimoto ordered as he took a few last notes in his journal.

 

“Hey, what’s that?” One of the detectives pointed to something. Everyone looked. Then, the detective felt a chill run down his spine.

 

Whatever that was, it wasn’t human. It was an abomination. A humanoid form without a face. It only had a fang bearing mouth which ran from its head to its hips, like an open fly on a piece of cloth. It was joined by many similar creatures. Soon, the detective and the other policeman in the scene were surrounded.

 

“W-what are they!?” a newbie screamed while trying to back away.

 

“I don’t know, but I don’t think they’ll be willing to let us go.” A veteran answered, trying to stop his body from shaking.

 

Detective Hashimoto bit his lip and raised his gun. The other members did the same. They were all afraid. Those monsters...they were probably the reason behind the freak murders. If they didn’t do anything...they would end up the same as the rest of the dead bodies.

 

With his finger on the trigger, the detective thought about his daughter, Yuka. It was a good thing he suggested her to stay over at a friend’s house. He had the feeling he wouldn’t be able to go back home to be with her anymore.

 

As the demons jumped onto the group, screams and shooting sounds echoed.

 


 

 

After her parents’ consent, it was decided that both Nao and Yuka would be staying at Chihiro’s house for a while. To inform her father, Yuka called his cell phone. She waited for a while, but nobody picked up.

 

“Weird…” Yuka muttered after a while, trying to redial the number.

 

“What’s wrong, Yuka-chan?” Chihiro asked.

 

“I think his phone is turned off.”

 

“Are you sure he didn’t turn it off because of his job?” Nao raised an eyebrow, while Yuka nodded.

 

“Maybe…I’ll try calling him later.”

 

“Alright.” Chihiro smiled and, making sure her parents weren’t nearby, she clapped her hands together. “Let’s go to my room! I want to introduce you two to someone!”

 

“Someone? Don’t you tell me...a demon?” Nao smirked, joking around. However, as Chihiro answered her back with a bright smile, Nao’s face turned into one of bewilderment. “Wait. Are you serious?”

 

“Let’s go!” Chihiro walked ahead, but then stopped when she noticed only Nao was following her. Yuka stood still, gazing her phone worriedly.

 

“Yuka-chan?”

 

“Ah-- Sorry, yes, let’s go!”

 

For some reason, Yuka couldn’t help but keep feeling uneasy. She gazed at the turbulent clouds gathering outside the window before finally following her friends. A storm was probably coming.







Chapter Text

“It’s raining…”

 

Chihiro muttered as she walked to her room’s window to close it. Nao and Yuka were sitting on the floor together with Pixie, who had introduced herself to them earlier.

 

Nao eventually moved her hand, reaching the tiny demon’s cheek and pinching it fiercely.

 

“OUCH-- Stop--!” Pixie angrily shook the girl off. “What was that for!”

 

“Well, I thought it was a dream so I had to make sure I was awake,” Nao answered, trying to hide her shock of meeting a demon for the first time.

 

“You’re supposed to pinch yourself in that case!” Pixie argued, upset. “Chihiro, your friends are rude! Really rude! Can I burn them?”

 

“Why am I included?” Yuka frowned “I didn’t do anything to you.”

 

Chihiro turned back to them, smiling. “You say that, but I think you’re all getting along just fine.”

 

“You’re a funny girl, to accept so easily that humans and demons can get along,” Pixie commented, her eyes showing her surprise.

 

“I don’t see why not.” Chihiro sat by their side. “I mean, you’re the first friendly demon I have ever met, sure, but if there are others like you, I would love to get along with them too,” she said brightly.

 

“Chii-chan has always loved the supernatural. Rather, we’re pretty sure she had even experienced supernatural things in the past, she just doesn’t remember,” Nao said proudly, boasting about her friend.

 

“I can tell. That she experienced it, I mean,” Pixie said simply.

 

“Yeah, I kno--- Wait what?” Nao suddenly turned to Pixie, confused.

 

“What do you mean, Pixie?” Chihiro was now also curious. Maybe she knew something?

 

“Your hair tie.” Pixie pointed to it. “I haven’t noticed before but now that I’m close to you, I can sense something magical about it. Say, who gave it to you?”

 

Chihiro paused. That hair tie has always been important to her. It was an important treasure. Still, she knew nothing about it. “I’m...not sure. I...I can’t remember. I just know it’s really important.”

 

“Then I will tell you this,” Pixie said in a serious tone. “Whoever gave it to you, they were not human.”

Chihiro gulped nervously. She had always had her doubts about her mysterious memory lapse before, but now she was certain. Whatever happened during that time, it wasn’t something that could be explained by humans.

 

Nao smiled softly at Chihiro. She was happy her friend has finally gotten a clue about her amnesia. Still, she was surprised Yuka didn’t say anything about it. Rather, she didn’t even react. “Yuka, say somethi--huh? What are you doing?”

 

Yuka was typing on her smartphone. It took a few seconds to notice someone was talking to her. “A-ah, sorry. My father should have arrived home already by this time, but I can’t reach him at all.”

 

“Maybe he is working extra hours?” Nao suggested.

 

“He would have told me,” Yuka said, a hint of concern in her tone. “He said himself he was going to keep in contact with me since things were dangerous around here lately.”

 

“Specially today,” Pixie muttered, everyone turning to her in surprise.

 

“What do you mean?” Yuka asked, confused.

 

“Today is a full moon,” she answered, turning to Chihiro. “Remember what I told you?”

 

“A-ah, that…” Chihiro frowned. “You said that the demons get excited during full moons.”

 

Yuka suddenly got up.

 

“Chii, your parents sleep early, right? They should be sleeping right now, right?” she said in a tone of urgency.

 

“Yeah, bu-but why?”

 

“I’m sneaking out! I need to check on my house!” Yuka turned away to leave the room but was blocked by Pixie.

 

“Wait, didn’t you hear!? It’s a full moon tonight! It was dangerous already in the morning, but now…” The demon frowned. “I hate to say that, but probably a lot of people are going to die tonight.”

 

“Why do you seem fine them?” Nao asked, gradually getting worried as well.

 

“Demons bound by contracts don’t get influenced much” Pixie then noticed Yuka had circled around her and was already leaving through the door. “Are you listening at all!?”

 

“I don’t care.” Yuka clenched her fists. “My father is a policeman! He is directly involved in these cases. He can be in danger!”

Without saying anything else, she rushed through the door.

 

“Wait, Yuka!” Nao immediately went after her, also leaving the room. As her childhood friend, she wouldn’t think twice on following her.

 

Chihiro bit her lip. “Pixie, we’re going too.”

 

“Are you all nuts!? Today is a full moon !”

 

“I know but...they are my best friends, you know? I can’t let them just go like that.” Chihiro smiled. “If danger arises, can I count on you?”

 

“It’s not like I have a choice, I made a contract with you.” Pixie sighed. “Let’s go!”



Yuka was pretty sure Nao and Chihiro were chasing her at some point. That didn’t matter, though. She kept running without even looking back. She would probably need to apologize to them later, but for now her focus was something else.

 

Soaked wet from the rain, Yuka could finally see her house in the distance. A wave of relief passed through her. The lights inside her house were turned on. Her father was probably inside.

 

Walking towards the door, she hesitated a bit before using her key. Her father would probably be mad. Dashing through the rain, without an umbrella, in the middle of the night and during such time of danger. Yuka wouldn’t escape with just being grounded, she was sure. It didn’t, matter, though. For now, she only wanted to see her father’s face.

 

Opening the door, Yuka stepped inside. Watching tv, was no one else than her father.

 

“Father!” She smiled and ran towards him.

 

“Yuka!?” The detective jumped from his seat, surprised. He rushed to his daughter, with a stern expression “What are you doing here? You are drenched! You were supposed to be at Ogino’s house!”

 

“I know, but...you didn’t answer any of my calls and today is…” Yuka bit her lip. She wanted to tell him about the full moon and the demons, but she didn’t want to say anything without Chihiro’s permission first. “A-anyways, I was worried. I’m sorry.”

 

Detective Hashimoto put a hand on her cheek and smiled. “I’m glad you were worried, but that was too dangerous. What if a demon caught you? Promise me to not do that again, alright?”

 

Something was wrong.

Yuka looked up, surprised at her father answer. “Father…? You know about the demons?”

 

There was something really wrong.

 

“You too, Yuka?” Hashimoto smiled. “As expected of my daughter.”

 

Slowly, his hand moved from her cheek to her neck.

 

“....Father? What are you doing?”



“Is that her house?” Pixie, being carried by Chihiro, asked Nao. Since it was raining, her wings were completely soaked, which made it difficult to fly.

 

“Yeah, how do you know?” Nao asked surprised. There were many similar houses in the region, so it was weird that Pixie found the right one so easily.

 

“I can feel it! There is a strong demon inside her house!” Pixie proclaimed and both Chihiro and Nao looked at her, in disbelief.

 

“What!? Doesn’t that mean Yuka-chan is in danger!?” Chihiro felt her blood go cold. Someone actually close to her was in danger. Someone important to her.

 

Nao clenched her fists. She felt the same as Chihiro. “What are we waiting for, let’s go!”

 

“We might die!” Pixie warned.

 

“But if we don’t do anything, Yuka-chan will certainly die!” As Chihiro said that, both her and Nao rushed towards Yuka’s house.



“Fa...ther…” Yuka gasped. With a single hand, the man who was supposed to be her father was lifting her up and strangling her. Her own small hands tried to release the strong grip, but it was useless.

 

“I like this face...I really like it….what a nice face you have…!!! So young, so full of emotions, so delicious---” His face contorted into a wicked grin as he licked his lips.

 

“You’re not…” She choked as tears flowed out from her eyes “Who are…”

 

Even if he was choking her to death, Yuka wanted to believe that man in front of her was her father. Because, if he wasn’t her father, that meant he was for sure---

 

“I’m a demon.” He muttered, approaching his face to hers. “Your father was pretty delicious. Such sense of duty, such caring for his daughter. His memories were full of you during his last moments.

 

“Wha...t…”

 

“Your father was so delicious that I wanted to try devouring you as well! So I took his appearance to be able to meet you!”

 

Yuka stopped struggling. Her hands fell to her sides. She hasn’t lost consciousness yet. Still, she had lost the will to fight back.

 

Yuka couldn’t accept it. She only wanted it to be a dream, a terrible dream. However, she knew she was very well awake. And probably, in a few more seconds, she would fall into a sleep she would never wake up from.

 

If that was the case, no one would blame her. It would be completely alright to just close the eyes and let the body fall into this slumber. If she was lucky, she would probably die from being strangled before the demon attempted to eat her alive.

 

If only these demons didn’t exist…

 

“Yuka-chan!!!”

 

A scream made her open her eyes. The demon’s grip unconsciously became softer as he focused his attention on the figures who stood in front of the door.

 

“Mister Hashimoto!? What are you doing to your daughter?” Nao growled, glaring daggers at the supposed father.

 

“He’s not a human, Nao!” Pixie exclaimed. “He is a demon using his skin!”

 

The demon, noticing their presence, smirked. Using a human skin, it had the advantage of being able to speak to humans. There was no further need for it, though. For the demon, they weren’t humans, but food, after all.

 

The creature pulled its skin as if it was a mask, revealing it’s grotesque form. A being with no face except for a large vertical mouth that went from the head to the hips. It gave a shriek, letting go from Yuka to attack the two intruders.

 

“Stand back!” Pixie flew in front of Chihiro and Nao. “Agi!

 

Pixie unleashed a fireball towards the abomination. It was the perfect spell against Pisaca, the demon who would usually haunt cremation grounds.

 

Pisaca howled in pain and fell on his knees, trying to recover from the damage. The two friends rushed towards Yuka, who was still gasping for air.

 

“Are you alright, Yuka?” Nao asked.

 

“......”

 

“Yuka-chan?” Chihiro frowned at her silence.

 

“......”

 

“Watch out!” Pixie screamed. The demon was already getting up once again. She tried to cast another fire spell, but this time, the creature disappeared into the thin air.

 

“It’s gone!?” Nao looked everywhere, but there was no trace of it.

 

Chihiro bit her lip. Something was not right. Immediately she grabbed the summoning app and checked the radar.

 

“It’s still here!” As Chihiro turned to alert Nao, she saw the demon appearing at the worst possible location.  “Nao-chan! Behind you!”

 

Nao couldn’t even react. A hand fiercely slammed against her back, launching her across the room, against a wall before turning invisible again. Pixie clicked her tongue. Without seeing it, she couldn’t attack at all.

 

“Nao-chan!” Chihiro screamed. There was no answer from her friend, who had fainted due to the impact. She shut her eyes tightly before hearing another scream.

 

This time, it was Pixie who was struck. Pisaca held her firmly in a fierce grip, crushing every bone of hers. It finally let go, causing the fairy to fall limply on the floor.

 

“Pixie….!!!” Her eyes widened in disbelief. How could they fight against an invisible creature?

 

Chihiro felt powerless. She felt as if she was a fly caught in a spider’s web. Without even knowing what attacked them, they would be eaten. Even her legs wouldn’t move at all.

 

‘It’s a dream, it’s all a dream! Disappear, disappear…’

 

She had felt like this before. Cornered and at loss of what to do. Back then, how did she manage to find a way out of whatever cornered her?

 

It was too late to find out, though. Pisaca appeared in front of her. This time, it wasn’t like the other two sudden attacks. As it loomed against Chihiro, who had fallen on her knees, its teeth wriggled as if they were small tentacles. Of course, they weren’t tentacles. They were sharp tools to digest its meal.

 

Chihiro could pretty much figure who would be the appetizer.

 

Even though she knew, she couldn’t move. As her life flashed before her eyes, a single name came to her mind, as tears flowed down her cheeks.

 

“Help me...Haku…”

 

*BANG*

 

A sudden noise echoed. The demon staggered back. Holding her father’s gun with trembling hands, Yuka aimed at the monster.

 

Of course, Yuka has never handled one before. She had heard about a few things like the safety trigger and the bullet reloading, but it was only knowledge. She didn’t know how to aim, she had to fumble around to be able to put the bullets in, she almost forgot to pull the safety trigger, and the recoil almost made her fall backwards.

 

Still, her adrenaline wouldn’t stop running through her veins. Everything seemed so foreign, like a movie that was happening around her. That was how detached from reality Yuka felt at that moment.

 

The only thing the detective’s daughter was aware of was that she had to shoot it. So she wouldn’t be completely cut off from her own world, she had to do it.

 

Tears wouldn’t stop running down. The demon who had just recoiled briefly at the damage, was ready to go invisible again.

 

Yuka wouldn’t allow it. She kept shooting. She would keep shooting until all bullets were run out. She wanted to close her eyes, but she refused to do so. Unless she burned that image in her eyes, she wouldn’t feel at peace.

 

“Yuka-chan!” Chihiro ran towards her and held her arm. “Yuka-chan, stop! You have killed it already....”

 

“Huh…” Yuka lowered her gun, a shadow of uncertainty going through her glassy eyes. “I...killed...the demon?”

 

Surprisingly, most of Yuka’s shots hit it. It has been a merciless barrage against the creature.

 

Chihiro hugged Yuka tightly. She thought they would die that night. But they were all alive. “Everything is fine now. So you can already rest, Yuka,” she said with teary eyes.

As Yuka felt Chihiro’s warmth, all her feelings came back to her. Sadness, anger, fear, regret. Her father was truly dead. Her friends almost got killed. Yuka herself was almost killed.

 

She was also unable to hold her tears anymore and began to cry fiercely.

 

It was scary, it was painful.

 

“Chihiro, tell me! Tell me why things suddenly got so messed up! I want to go back! I want to go back in time to when my father was alive! To when there were no demons! To when we could all have fun together!”

 

Chihiro, a few moments ago, had asked herself the same things as her friend. Her thoughts strayed to when she almost died. Back then, she was pretty sure she remembered a boy. A boy who gave her strength and allowed her to find her own.

 

Nao and Pixie, who were injured and Yuka, who had her heart shattered. If it was possible, could she find once again her own strength and be able to give it to the ones precious to her?

 

Chihiro felt that if she wasn’t able to do it, she wouldn’t be able to survive in this new world filled with demons.

Chapter Text

It had been a few hours since the incident with Pisaca. Chihiro’s group decided to spend the rest of the night at Yuka’s house, since it would be unwise to risk themselves by going out in their injured state.

 

“How is she?” Chihiro asked as she noticed Nao returning from Yuka’s room.

 

“She’s sleeping. I don’t blame her. She was crying till exhaustion. Pixie’s there too. I’m surprised someone so tiny can snore so much.” Nao shook her head. “You should sleep too, Chii-chan. It’s really late already.”

 

“I’m...not sleepy.” Chihiro, who was sitting on one of the ruined seats in the room, forced a smile and looked down. “How about you? Aren’t you sleepy?”

 

“Well I am sleepy, but I can’t sleep. I feel like a zombie, to be honest.” Nao shrugged, cracking a half-hearted joke. If it was an attempt to lighten up the heavy atmosphere, it completely failed.

 

“I sent a message to Mom saying I had some business at Yuka-chan’s house and would return home during morning with everyone.” Chihiro sighed, checking her message box. “I had to lie, saying that her father is here taking care of us, or she would flip out.”

 

“Then? What did she say?” Nao asked back, raising an eyebrow.

 

“She said, ‘We will have a serious chat later. Nao and Yuka included.’”

 

“Then did she flip out!” Nao retorted. “Well, I guess that’s better than being eaten. We should be glad we’re alive.”

 

Chihiro nodded. Her expression, however, had shifted to something more serious. “Tomorrow, let’s search for demons.”

 

“Okay. ...Wait, what!?” Nao turned her head to Chihiro, whose expression hasn’t changed. She was confused and surprised by the friend’s sudden decision. “Are you sure about this? We are talking about demons !”

 

Earlier, Nao would’ve been completely okay with the idea. Now, she wasn’t so sure. She had seen what a demon was capable of. She couldn’t deny she was rather scared.

 

“Then, what do you want to do?” Chihiro frowned. “We can’t pretend we aren’t involved anymore.”

 

Nao closed her eyes. She understood what Chihiro meant. They were just humans. If they wanted to be stronger, they needed to make contract with demons. If they were stronger, Yuka wouldn’t have to suffer like that.

 

Maybe, the fact she was feeling fear was just another proof that she was weak. That, should some tragedy like the one before happens again, she wouldn’t be able to do anything. That thought alone ashamed her.

 

“I want to be stronger. Much, much stronger. Stronger than any demon!” Nao clenched her fists, closing her eyes tightly. “But that is impossible for me. I’m just a human.” Slowly opening her eyes, tears blurred her vision. “But the truth is that if I want to change anything, I need to be strong. It’s not about whether I want or not, but that I have no other choice!”

 

“Nao-chan…” Chihiro looked down, unsure of what to say. She understood what Nao felt. Hopelessness. Forget being human. They were just children. They were still in high school. They couldn’t win a fight against an adult, let alone a demon.

 

“But…” Nao wiped her eyes just for tears flow again. “If we manage to get demons on our side, their strength will also be our strength, right? That’s what you are trying to say, right?”

 

Chihiro smiled. “We don’t need to be strong to get demons on our side though.”

 

“We...don’t need?” Nao stared, surprised at the answer.

 

“Of course not!” She smiled brightly. “Did you know? There are much more types of strength than you think. In my opinion, humans are strong. Just not the type of strong most people expect.”

 

“What do you mean?” Her friend sat down, looking surprised. Something was different about Chihiro. If she didn’t know better, Nao would have guessed she was talking from experience.

 

“I’m talking about the strength of not giving up.” Chihiro stood up. “I never intended to fight the demons I want to contract with, in first place. I was thinking about convincing them.”

 

“Chii-chan.” Nao sighed. She had to present the clear facts to the girl. “They. Are. Demons.”

 

“I know, but...for some reason...for some reason it feels natural to me. When Pisaca was about to eat me...since then…” Chihiro put a finger on her chin, thoughtfully. “I’m not sure but it was as if someone said ‘Everything is going to be alright’. At first I was in shock due to the events that had happened, so I didn’t pay attention to it. But now I feel a sense of comfort.”

 

“Sorry, Chii-chan, I’m...not sure what you are trying to get at. You aren’t making much sense.” Nao frowned.

 

“I’m not sure either. I just feel that I able to do this. I’m able to make contracts as long as I don’t give up. That and…”  Chihiro looked down. “I have this familiar feeling...I think...I think I met demons before, a long time ago.”

 

Nao jumped towards Chihiro and put her hands on her shoulders, with a big smile. “You mean…! Your memories are coming back!?”

“I-I’m not sure yet! It’s still too vague to me!” Surprised by her friend’s outburst, she stepped back.

 

“Even so that’s great news!” Nao let go, wiping her face for good one last time and letting a smaller smile. “Alright, if you are so sure of it, Chii-chan, I will trust you. You seem to have your own reasons, not to mention that you always had a good intuition. Once it’s morning and Yuka and Pixie are awake, we shall search for some demons on our way back home!

 

Chihiro smiled brightly, back. “Yeah!”


 

It had been a busy night at the bath house. The manager, Chichiyaku, was tired. He had been working non-stop since evening. Requests for different infusions and guests kept coming without stopping. Not to mention, due to all the rumors about demons ending in the human world, Haku was in a really bad mood, which meant that he was getting scolded much more often.

 

“Maybe I should make a life for myself in the human world,” he mumbled sourly, giving another tag to an employee.

 

“You shouldn’t do that, mister, you’re going to get yourself killed,” a voice came from below him.

 

“Huh?” He looked around, but couldn’t find anyone. Then he looked down. There was the source. “A-a child? N-no wait, a human? ...Or maybe not.”

 

The small girl in front of him looked like a human, but the smell was definitely of a demon. A girl with snow-white skin, waist-length blonde hair and red eyes. She wore a simple blue dress with white socks and doll shoes.

 

“W-what is it, little miss?” Chichiyaku smiled awkwardly. He wasn’t good on dealing with children. Even though if he wasn’t sure if she was one or not. Age couldn’t be guessed by looks to demons. Haku himself, in the past, used the form of a child, although, currently, he looks like a teenager.  He had heard somewhere that spirits who could take the physical form of a perfect human, like Haku, are rather powerful.  

 

“I’m here to see Miss Yubaba. Could you direct me to her?”

 

“What do you mean, Yubaba!?” Haku exclaimed inside her study. She had expected that. After all, the news she was sure he would be shaken by the sudden news she gave him.

 

“Like I said, there is one of those nearby. One of those breached boundaries,” Yubaba answered, calmly smoking from her pipe. “If a spirit passed by it, they will reach the human world. Of course, if a human goes through, it they will reach this world as well.”

 

“Weren’t those just rumors!? Besides, how did you learn about that!?” Haku clenched his fists. “If these tales are true, then the human world--”

 

“It’s not of my concern,” Yubaba interrupted “And I was suspicious, alright? The boundary between there has always been thin enough, that was how that Sen brat passed through. I decided to check myself just to be sure and guess what? It’s completely broken. Not only humans can pass easily, but the same for spirits. Rather, anywhere with a boundary. It doesn’t matter if they are strong or weak, because they don’t exist anymore.” She let out a chuckle. “Heh. I don’t know the extent of it, but the humans are sure in a nasty mess right now.”

 

“Tell me.” Haku was shaking. He tried his best to keep his composure but it was in vain. “How did that happen?”

 

“It was just as the rumors said. A human was trying to make an experiment. He was messing with the space itself to be able to create a machine that would allow humans to teleport between places,” Yubaba said in a mocking tone.

 

“Teleport?” Haku looked surprised. Were humans really able of creating something like that?

 

“Alas, it failed. Instead of bending the space, he cut into the spirited world and destroyed what it kept apart from the human world. What a fool.” She took another puff of smoke and laughed.

 

“You seem to know all the details. Mind telling me how you got this information?”

 

“Huh? That man told me himself. I met him when I was checking the tunnel boundary. He said his name was Steven, or something like that. A weird one, that human.”

 

“.....” Haku stood silent. It was just...too much to swallow. But, despite everything, those facts still meant a single thing.

 

Chihiro was in danger.

 

He had decided to not involve himself with her anymore. The life she deserved didn’t allow him to be around. Even though he promised he would see her again, it was nothing more than a painful lie. It didn’t matter though, she probably didn’t even remember about it anyway since he erased her memories. He was sure she would never be involved with the spiritual again.

 

Then, why was her entire world about to crack apart?

 

“Yubaba…” He began to speak in a trembling voice. “Please, let me..”

 

“You are not going,” she cut him off.

 

“But--!”

 

“I told you, I don’t care what happens with the humans, as long as it doesn’t affect my business.” Once again, she lit her pipe. “And despite having your name, you still have nowhere to go so you have no choice but obey me.”

 

“Yubaba!!” Haku took a step forward.

 

“If you want to try your hand at fate, you can always try to go through the tunnel although it might not be the wisest decision. The human world is a scary place, you see? So to avoid people wandering in and guests wandering out, I hired a guard dog. She must be arriving soon, that demon.” As Yubaba let out an eerie grin, small footsteps could be heard approaching.

 

“It is rude to call me a guard dog, Miss Yubaba.” A small, blonde girl entered the room, smiling. “I’m still only acting on my own interests.”

 

“I know, I know. Rather than hiring you, it is a cooperation, right? Otherwise, I would have set up a contract to steal your name.” Yubaba chuckled. “Ah, such a beautiful name, it is a pity I can’t have it.”

 

“Who are you?” Haku asked, suspicious of the new guest.

 

The girl smirked. “I’m Alice. Will you be my friend?”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Alice, this boy can’t be your friend. He already belongs to me, you see,” Yubaba said simply. “You will already make plenty of friends while guarding the tunnel. I told you, didn’t I? You can do whatever you want with them.”

 

“Yes!” Alice clapped her hands happily. “That girl included, right?”

 

“That girl?” Haku paled. “What girl are you talking about?”

 

“Yubaba told her name was...Sen, I think?” Alice smiled brightly. “I’ve heard so much about her! I have never met someone with so much in common with me. I came all the way here for the sake of meeting her, just to discover she isn’t here anymore.” She looked disappointed but then smiled again, twirling and opening her arms. “But then the barrier breach happened! I’m sure of it! That girl will come here again! And I will be ready to meet her at the tunnel! She will die for me! And then we will become best friends!”

 

“You plan to kill Chihiro!? I won’t let it, Yubaba!!!” Haku began readying a spell. No matter what, he would protect her!

 

“Calm down, will ya?” Yubaba relaxed on her chair, ignoring the spell Haku had been casting. “The one who says she will show up it is this girl, not me. The only thing we agreed is that she won’t let anyone cross the border on the tunnel. At the same time, however, she isn’t allowed to leave it either. A demon is bound by their word and you know it.” Yubaba sneered. “Of course, if you or Sen decide to pass through the tunnel, you will have to face this girl. A girl who was spirited away herself once, lost her sanity and became a powerful demon after her death. That is Alice.” The witch chuckled as Alice bowed slightly, flattered.

 

Haku stopped his spell. He didn’t know how powerful Alice was, but he knew Yubaba was really powerful. Fighting her and another enemy at the same time would result in his loss for sure.

 

“Then, Miss Yubaba, I’m going ahead. I will be at the tunnel if you need me.” Giving a childish smile, Alice started running, before Yubaba stopping her once again.

 

“Ah, wait!” Yubaba called and Alice turned to her. “I forgot to ask. Aren’t the counts with you?”

 

“I ditched Mister Red and Mister Black. They would never allow me going out on my own. I want to have my own adventure this time.” Alice smiled and left.

 

“...I will be going too.” Haku said coldly and left without waiting for an answer. He needed to see Zeniba. Then they would probably be able to find a plan to pass through both Yubaba and the girl called Alice.

 

Yubaba smirked. Now the tunnel wouldn’t be a concern anymore. If there was anything that was worrying, was that Alice was there without the counts consent.

 

Count Red and Count Black. Both were Alice’s guardians and always followed most of her whims. It was said that once they created a whole city of fake people that would entertain while luring real beings to be killed and have their souls subjudged to her. Their true names were Belial and Nebiros and they were feared even among the most powerful spirits.

 

Then again, this also could be something in her favor. If Alice broke her promise and went out of control, she just had to inform the two counts and they would retrieve her, maybe even be grateful.

 

At the end, it was a worthy gamble.

 


 

Yuka woke up in her own bed. She wasn’t sure why, but her face was wet. It took a while, but she remembered.

A monster wearing the skin of her father, almost killing her and her friends, only to be killed by a gun that belonged to her father himself.

She didn’t know whether it was reality or a nightmare. Of course she would doubt it. She woke up in her usual bedroom, a quiet and comforting place where nothing seemed to have changed. It would be easy to say it was just a dream.

However, as soon as she stood up, her neck and throat screamed in pain. It was probably the pain from the demon’s strong grip around her neck. Turning on the lights, she approached the mirror and noticed the purple marks around it.

 

“It wasn’t a dream.” Yuka smiled sadly. She wanted to cry, but she had no tears left. “Chii and Nao are probably still here, then.”

Yuka looked around and noticed Pixie sleeping on her desk. She had some bruises, but nothing worry.

 

“If you weren’t under Chihiro’s contract…” she mumbled, walking towards the fairy. “Wouldn’t you be the same as that thing?”

 

Of course, there was no answer. Yuka asked in a low voice, which was not enough to wake her up. Trying to get rid of useless thoughts by shaking her head, Yuka left her bedroom and went towards the living room.

 

As she expected, Chihiro and Nao were in the trashed living room, where the fight happened.

 

“Yuka-chan!” Chihiro stood up from the couch and ran towards her, followed by Nao. “How are you feeling?”

 

“Hey, everyone…” Yuka smiled sheepishly “I guess I’m good. I’m not sure. I definitely feel better after sleeping, though.”

 

“Yeah…” Chihiro frowned, covering her mouth. She regretted asking such obvious question. “Sorry.”

 

“Yuka, what do you want to do from now on?” Nao asked and Yuka looked away, unsure of how to answer.

 

“I don’t know yet. I certainly don’t want this incident to repeat, though.” Yuka stared at her friends. “Never again.”

 

“Yuka-chan.” Chihiro took a step forward. “Me and Nao decided to face the demons head-on. We want to make contract with other demons beside Pixie, so we can protect ourselves and our family, at least.”

 

“Yeah, I...I understand it’s necessary, but I’m not too comfortable with the idea of working together with the same kind that killed my father.” Chihiro and Nao opened her mouths to talk, but Yuka shushed them. “I’m not comfortable, but I have no choice. Ironic as it is, I’m aware that if I want to get rid of these demons, I need help from the demons themselves.”

 

“Well, that’s settled then! Shall we wake Pixie up and have a strategy meeting? The sun isn’t up yet, so we can’t go back to Chihiro’s house, anyway,” Nao said with a grin, but her question was met with silence. Yuka was looking at Pisaca’s corpse and Chihiro was looking at Yuka, concerned. It was natural her friend wasn’t acting like her natural self, but she didn’t like how her eyes seemed so cold and distant. It gave her a bad feeling.

 

It took a while, but Chihiro’s finally noticed Nao’s question and suddenly turned to her, smiling awkwardly. “A-ah, sorry! Ye-yeah, you’re right. I’ll call Pixie right away!”

 

Chihiro ran to Yuka’s bedroom, almost tripping on the way, to wake up the fairy.


 

“So you want to have more allies, huh. I’m glad you asked for my help. Things are getting serious now, so you won’t survive without contracts.” Pixie said, flying around to make sure at least her wings were recovered from the damage. “Basically there are two important facts to a demon join you. First, they must like you. Second, they must have something to gain from allying with you. In other words, just butter them up and have some sort of bribe ready.”

 

“That’s…kinda of a scam, isn’t it?” Chihiro sweatdropped. She had to admit it seemed simple enough, though.

 

“It isn’t a scam if they know what they’re get into.” Pixie sat on Chihiro’s head, crossing her legs. “Now answer me. How would you bribe a demon?”

 

Nao’s hand shot up, as if she was in a class. “Money!”

 

“Please take this a little more seriously,” Yuka scolded, but Pixie grinned.

 

“Correct! Money is always the answer!”

 

“Huh!? She’s right!?” Yuka turned to Pixie, who was smiling.

 

“Well, to be precise, not your money. We’re talking about the underworld currency called Macca.”

 

“That’s a problem then.” Chihiro frowned. “We don’t have macca at all. How do we get it?”

 

“Where demons are, there is macca. For example…” Pixie left Chihiro’s head and flew towards Pisaca’s corpse. She began investigating it, earning some disgusted faces from Chihiro and Nao. Soon, she found a few yellow coins. Holding them with both her hands, she returned to the girls.

 

“This is macca. Mr. Pisaca probably won’t need it anymore, so we’re claiming it.”

 

Pixie handed Chihiro the small amount of money. Since they were soaked in blood, due to the battle, Chihiro used the hem of her shirt to wipe them off. Now that they were clean, she could figure out some numbers engraved on the coins. “100, 200, 500…We have 1000 macca, I think?”

 

“That’s right, macca’s values are pretty easy to read, even for humans.” Pixie smiled. “It’s fine to use everything by negotiating with demons, but don’t forget there are some brokers that deal with macca, so it’s always nice to have it around.”

 

“Does that mean we can already go searching for demons?” Nao asked.

 

“Not yet!” Pixie once again sat on Chihiro’s head, who smiled upon the fairy’s antics. “They can ask for many other things as well. They can ask for stuff, favors, anything.” She crossed her arms. “But one thing they might ask and you probably don’t know what is--”

 

“Food?” Nao asked joking.

 

“Nao!” Yuka scolded again, but Pixie pointed at Nao.

 

“Exactly! Food!”

 

“Wait, seriously?” After that, Yuka decided to not say anything else.

 

“It’s not any kind of food, though, but the purest, richest of them all, for demons at least. We call it ‘Magnetite’”

 

“What’s that, Pixie?” Chihiro asked.

 

“A substance encountered in the human world. It is difficult to see, but it’s everywhere. Demons need it to survive in the physical world, basically,” she stated, earning a few curious glances. “Most of demons can easily survive through the magnetite existent in the atmosphere. Stronger demons won’t be able to survive unless they get larger quantities.”

 

“And where do they get it?” Chihiro hesitated a bit, before asking. Somehow, she had a feeling she knew the answer.

 

“Humans.” Pixie smirked as the three girls suddenly felt a pit in their stomach.

 

Yuka’s eyes widened and she suddenly sat up. “You aren’t telling us to---!”

 

“Calm down, I’m not.” She retorted. “While it’s true that humans are the richest resource, there are many other ways. Lots of demons have magnetite in their bodies as well. There are also some places with concentrated quantities, although I don’t think you will be able to find it, unless you’re demon yourself.”

 

Yuka, even though still not really convinced, managed to calm down and returned to the couch.

 

Pixie once again approached pisaca and grabbed a few green crystals. “Here are some samples.” She handed them to Chihiro and the other two girls approached to give a closer look.

 

“They are beautiful,” Yuka commented, earning a nod from Nao.

 

“You said they are everywhere, how have I never seen then?”

 

“The magnetite in the air is too small to be seen. In a human’s body, it takes the shape of a transparent liquid,” Pixie explained. “It can’t be detected at all, except for demons. This one I’m showing you, though, is a high concentrated solidification of magnetite. The concentration is such that the assume the color green. Higher concentrations have a blue color and even higher ones have a purple color.”

 

“Sounds confusing, but I think I got it,” Chihiro said “So that is why demons find humans delicious?”

 

“Exactly!” Pixie nodded. “Any questions?”

 

The trio looked between themselves and shook their heads. Then, Chihiro suddenly flinched as a few morning rays went through the window and hit her eye.

 

“I guess it’s already morning.” She smiled, moving her bangs away to see the bright sky through the window.

 

“Already? I feel like this night was just too long.” Nao raised her arms, yawning.

 

“Well, today will be a much longer day.” Yuka gave a small, brief smile, glad the night was over as well. “I’ll probably not be returning to this house anymore.”

 

“Isn’t there anything you want to bring with you?” Chihiro asked.

 

“No...they would only make me miss this  place even more.” Yuka shook her head, and then noticing something against both of her hands.

 

Chihiro was holding her right hand, while Nao was holding her left. Pixie laid on Yuka’s head with a smile. They didn’t say anything. They just wanted Yuka to know they were by her side.

 

She closed her eyes smiling and muttered a small ‘thank you’

 

Together, they left the house, towards Chihiro’s home.