Chapter 1: I took an oath by the blood of my hand
“I promise to keep your daughter safe, miss. She'll be training with me.” Pink assured the girl's mother. The woman nodded, her scarlet spoonbill daemon nodding along with her.
Pink went over to the crying little three year old girl and her daemon. The girl's daemon, Bianca, was in the form of a tabby kitten and was spitting and hissing at Fiore.
“Asuna, this is one of the Ryusou knights. She's going to train you and Bianca to be heroes.”
Asuna picked up Bianca and glared. “I don't want to go.”
The three Masters and their new trainees had a long way to travel from their home village back to the main temple settlement, at least a day's trek, in fact. When it started getting dark, they'd stopped in a valley that was sparsely covered in trees near a lake and had made a fire and ate before going to sleep. It was cold outside, since it was getting close to winter. Despite the sky being filled with stars, it was still dark. The three Masters had left the children to sleep together a small distance away, not too far away to lose track of them, but not too close that they disturbed their sleep.
Kou stared at the other two children, both younger than him. Kou was 60, Melt was 50, and Asuna was 30.
Sara changed into a lion cub and growled as she climbed into his lap. “This isn't fair. They could have picked one of your older siblings instead.”
Kou petted her back, pressing his face against her side. “But they didn't.” He replied, keeping his voice quiet so as not to wake the others.
Bianca was curled up around Asuna as a weasel while Hibiki had turned into a bear to keep Melt warm.
Asuna shivered and started whimpering.
“She looks cold.” Kou noted.
Sara tilted her head to the side, ears swiveling around. “Should we ask someone for a blanket for her or something?”
Kou shook his head. “I don't think so.”
“But she's so tiny. She could get sick from the cold.”
“I don't think that's how it works, Sara.”
“But she's practically a baby, Kou.”
Kou stood up. “Can you turn into an owl?” His daemon did just that, flying over to where the Masters were sleeping then back to him.
“Master Red is on the right, near that scraggly tree.” She said.
Red felt something settle down next to him. It wasn't his daemon; Humayra was curled up on his chest. He looked around for whoever it was before he made out a silhouette and saw it was the boy he was going to train, Kou.
The six year old was standing next to him, Sara perched on his arm in the form of an owl.
Red stared at the boy silently for a few seconds. “Little one, why are you over here instead of with the other two like you're supposed to be?” Kou shifted slightly and grabbed Red's sleeve.
“Asuna was cold. I was wondering if there were any spare blankets for her.” He answered.
Red grunted as he got to his feet and looked through his pack. He grabbed a blanket and handed it to Kou. “Here. I hope this helps.”
Kou nodded and bowed. “Thank you.” He raced over to the other kids and covered Asuna and Bianca with the blanket.
Blue awoke to Melt climbing on him and Hibiki in the form of a crow trying to pull out one of Akari's tail feathers. He got to his feet and went over to the fire where Red was heating up biscuits for the children.
Pink was holding Asuna in her lap and talking to her about something while Bianca and Sara shifted between various animals while Asuna and Kou cheered them on.
Twenty years later…
“Kou, I don't like it when you break the rules. You're setting a bad example for Asuna and Melt.” Sara whispered from where she was perched on his shoulder as a sparrow.
Kou shushed her and went back to browsing the books on the shelves.
He'd snuck into the outsider city an hour or so away from the temple with the help of a witch, Emi. The city, called Fujikawaguchiko, had a library filled with books. Kou had started sneaking out to get books a month ago.
The library smelled of old paper and ink and wood from the shelves and desks. Sunlight streamed in through the windows. Library staff and other visitors passed through the halls, paying no attention to the eight year old boy and his daemon. Kou grabbed a book on natural philosophy and another on the Northern expeditions and the Kingdom of the armoured polar bears and stuffed them into his bag.
Sara turned into a crow as Kou raced out of the library and down the sidewalk. Once he was out on the street, he ducked into an alleyway. There were a couple street kids around the area that he'd become familiar with; Daiki, Natsumi, Haruka, Rita, and Matoi.
They'd helped him out after he'd gotten them food before. In exchange, they'd taught him how to sneak around and how to steal and hide stuff. None of them were in the area today.
“Kou, we need to get going.” Sara reminded him.
“I know, I know. Just shut up already.” He grumbled, pressing himself against one of the alleyway walls.
Kou turned around to see his mentor standing at the end of the alley with his hare daemon standing next to him. Both of them looked angry.
Kou, Asuna, and Melt had quickly learned that Master Red was the kindest of the three masters. He treated them like children and acted more like a parent than a mentor at times. However, he had a temper and didn't like when one of them broke the rules. Asuna and Melt had stopped sneaking off after getting lectured by him before, but Kou had managed to avoid his wrath, at least, until now.
Master Red glared. “Kou, Sara,” He said sternly. “What do you think you're doing?”
Kou didn't say anything. Sara changed into a garter snake and tried to hide in Kou's collar.
“What have I told you about going outside Ryusoul tribe territory?” When Kou didn't answer, he went over to him.
Master Red glared as he bent down and grabbed his arm. “It is forbidden. You could have gotten hurt. You could have gotten lost.”
Kou and Sara sulked in silence as Master Red and Humayra brought them back to the temple.
Kou handed Melt the books he'd asked for.
“Here, Melt.” He said.
His friend took the books eagerly.
“Kou, are you okay? Did you get caught sneaking out?” Asuna asked. Bianca turned into a python and curled around Sara, who was curled up on Kou's bed as an anaconda.
Kou nodded. “Yes. Master Red caught me coming back here and lectured me.”
Asuna jumped up on his bed and hugged him. “Don't worry, I'll help you out with whatever punishment you're given.”
He smiled. “Thank you.”
One hundred years later…
Banba's heart beat quickly in his chest, Hina shrieking frantically as she flew around him. Her tiny olive green and white body zipped past his head, stretching the limits of their bond as she called Kanon and Towa's names.
His brother had been taken by outsiders, according to the local Witch clan. A couple witches and outsider humans had been taken as well, including a friend of the Mt.Fuji clan, a nineteen year old named Tatsui Ui.
The Witches had told him that they'd find them and break them free.
Kanon changed into a wren and pecked at the bat daemon restraining her as Towa bit and scratched the scholars around him. He struggled free and ran down a tunnel. It was a sewer, judging by the smell, but Towa didn’t care.
Kanon turned into a sea snake and swam alongside him as he ran. He made it out of the sewer tunnel and into a field. Towa ducked into the field, crouching down against the ground. Kanon turned into a gecko.
“We need to find a better place to hide.” She told him. Towa quieted his breathing and nodded before getting up and moving toward the nearest tree he could find. They climbed as high as they could and watched. Kanon turned into a spiny mouse.
He heard footsteps and saw a woman come out of the sewer tunnel, a small speck of color flying after her. She ran into the field. As she hid, Towa could see the girl's daemon better. It was a rainbow colored bird.
Towa stayed there for an hour before slowly climbing down. When he saw that no one seemed to be looking for him or the girl, he went over to her.
“Hello.” He said.
The girl jumped, turning to face him. He raised his hands up, showing her that he was unarmed. Kanon turned into a sparrow and perched on his shoulder.
The girl relaxed. “Who are you?” She asked.
“I'm Towa. This is Kanon.”
“I'm Tatsui Ui. This is Shinju.” The rainbow bird landed on her shoulder.
The two of them stood in silence for a bit before Kanon spoke. “How did you get kidnapped?”
Shinju ruffled her feathers as Ui answered. “We were at a meeting with foreign scholars with my dad when the guardians providing security for the conference turned on everyone and kidnapped us. My dad and several others escaped, but I wasn't so lucky. Before they turned on us, one of the scholars from...Brytian or Eireland, I think it was, gave me something and told me to keep it.”
Towa stared at her intently, curious about what she was talking about. “What was it the scholar gave you?”
“Her name was Mary Malone and her daemon was an Alpine chough named Steven. She handed me a spyglass that looked like it was made of electrum. The same one she used to help Lyra Silvertongue and Will Parry eighteen years ago.”
Towa frowned. “I'd like to help you get it back. I know a couple witches that can help. Oh, and my older brother, Banba, can probably help too.”
Ui looked thoughtful before nodding. “That sounds good. Thank you.”
Banba hugged his brother. Towa started telling him about Ui and the electrum spyglass.
“Shh. I'll help her, but first, I want to know if you're alright.” Banba said.
“I'm fine, brother.” Towa insisted. “We need to help Ui.”
Towa held the spyglass in his hands. “What does it do?” He asked Ui.
“Mary Malone used it to see Dust.” Shinju explained. “Try it.”
He brought it up to his eye and looked at his brother through it. Banba and Hina were covered in golden Dust, as was the sword he carried.
“Wow.” Towa breathed. “It's beautiful.”
Ui laughed. “It is. Now, let me see.”
Three years later...
Master Pink opened her eyes to find herself in a quarry. Something tapped her on the shoulder. She turned to see an old shriveled man. “It's time to go now, Pink. Come with me.” The masculine sounding voice was soft and comforting. It held out a hand. Pink took it without question. Her Death led her down to a dock.
Master Red was already there. Someone else was also, someone she hadn't seen in years.
“Black!” She said, hugging the other woman. Black had died years ago from a Minosaur attack while trying to protect her eldest son.
Master Black grinned. “Glad to see you two again.” She greeted. Her Japanese squirrel daemon, Eurig, wasn't there with her.
“Where's Blue?” Master Red asked.
Black shrugged. “I don't know. Maybe he went... wherever people like him go?”
Blue had always been weird. No matter how old he got, he always seemed to age slower than them, he could sneak into practically anywhere simply by acting like he knew what he was doing, almost like a witch. The others had joked that Blue was possibly either a Witch's son or even a former Witch himself.
“I'm right here.” They turned to see Blue coming over to them.
“Why are you here, Black?” Blue asked.
“I was waiting for you all.” She replied.
A skeleton wearing a black cloak and holding a scythe appeared along with a rat skeleton wearing a black cloak and also holding a miniature scythe.
HELLO, BLUE, RED, AND PINK. AND BLACK, TOO.
I AM DEATH.
“Mr. Death, sir, the temple we draw our powers from is destroyed. Our trainees can't fight the Minosaurs without the Temple's power. Is there anything we can do to help them, one last time?” Blue asked.
Death looked thoughtful. YOU CAN USE YOUR OWN SOULS TO POWER THEM INSTEAD. THE DUST FROM YOUR GHOSTS SHOULD BE ENOUGH, AT LEAST UNTIL THE TEMPLE IS FIXED.
Pink bowed. “Thank you, Death.”
Asuna stared as her Ryusoul knight glowed briefly. She watched in awe as Ankyrose, the Dinoknight she'd heard so much about growing up and training, appeared. Bianca growled and pressed herself against Asuna's side.
“Thank you, Master Pink. I promise you, I won't give up.”
Chapter 2: I put this heavy heart in you
Banba is roughly around the equivalent of 13 years old in the flashbacks, while Towa is 3.
Chapter title is from "Heirloom" by Sleeping at last.
Banba hadn't come back.
His brother had gone out on patrol with his mother early in the morning before the sun rose to train. Towa had been left alone with no one except his grandfather for company. His mother had promised that they wouldn't be gone long. Just a few hours, at most.
Towa shivered in the cold and curled up under his blanket. He'd been alone for a couple hours now. Kanon shifted into a clouded leopard cub and growled, glaring at the trees outside the house.
Brother, please come back soon.
Kanon angled one ear, then the other toward the entrance, tilting her head to the side to hear better. Her tail swished over the floor. Towa sat up and grabbed his daemon, helping her onto his bed.
“Hear anything?” He asked.
She shook her head, ears flattening. “No.”
Towa wilted slightly. Kanon turned into a bat eared fox and curled up next to him.
The sound of footsteps and wings flapping came from outside. Someone knocked on the door.
Towa walked through the halls of the temple.
“Are you sure the map was marked correctly?” Kanon asked. She'd taken the form of a striped hyena and was sniffing the air nervously. The fur along her spine was lightly bristling.
“Yeah, it's correct. Ui said so herself.” Towa reassured her, running a hand through her fur.
As they entered a large chamber, something growled. Kanon growled back, baring her teeth. A green Smilodon creature emerged from the shadows, it's eyes glowing yellow.
“Tigerlance…” He stared in awe before reaching out and touching the Dinoknight's face. Tigerlance snarled, backing away and glaring at him.
Towa frowned. “Why are you acting like this? Do you not like me?”
“I think it doesn't like me.” Kanon said. She turned into a sand cat and sat next to Towa.
“Didn't Banba mention that the last Ryusoul Green had a hyena daemon?”
“I think so. He mentioned a brown hyena, though, not a striped or spotted hyena.”
Tigerlance snarled. Kanon lowered herself to the ground. The Dinoknight lowered it's head and sniffed both Towa and his daemon. Tigerlance chuffed like a snow leopard and stood up straighter. Both human and daemon exhaled in relief.
Kanon turned into a monarch butterfly and flew onto Towa's head.
“We should go check on Ui and Banba.”
Towa nodded in agreement and started walking back the way he'd come. He turned briefly to see Tigerlance following him.
Banba followed Master Black through the forest. Hina hurried behind him in the form of a komodo dragon, flicking her tongue in and out and hissing happily.
He approached the clearing he usually trained at with his Master. Master Black kept walking. Banba exchanged a confused glance with his daemon. She turned into an atlas moth and landed on Banba's head.
“Banba! Hina!” Eurig snapped.
Banba hurried after his mother. “Why aren't we stopping where we usually train?” He asked.
“We're going a bit further out than usual today.” Master Black told him. “To a cave near here.”
Banba perked up. “Why?”
Eurig chittered at him in annoyance, which Hina responded to by turning into a dragonfly and whizzing around him before flying back to Banba.
His mother glared sharply at her daemon, the squirrel backing off a bit. “We’re going to see one of the Dinoknights, Mirneedle.” She answered.
Banba hugged her, grinning. “That's great.” He'd heard tales about Mirneedle from his mother for years.
They trekked through the woods for what seemed like forever until they came to a cave entrance. As they approached the opening, Banba couldn't help comparing the entrance to the mouth of a monster, waiting to swallow them up as they went in. Hina shifted into a badger, sniffing the cave walls and floor as they walked down a winding tunnel.
Master Black stopped suddenly.
“Master, why did we stop?” Banba asked.
“Shh. I hear something.”
He stayed still, straining to hear anything but couldn't hear a sound. Hina turned into a bat. Banba stood still, using Hina's senses to listen for anything odd. He heard whispering. Speaking. Someone other than them was in the cave.
He froze as a large figure appeared at the end of the tunnel, a strong, sickly sweet flower smell following soon after.
“Get out of here. Now.” Master Black whispered to him.
Banba froze. “But -”
He turned and ran back down the tunnel and out of the cave. The smell of flowers hit him immediately as he ran into the forest. He ran for several minutes and finally stopped near a large tree. Hina turned into a snake and curled around his arm.
He heard footsteps.
Something hit him in the side. He rolled and kicked his attacker when the next strike landed.
Hina turned into a leopard and snarled as he got to his feet and grabbed the practice sword he had.
Banba looked around. There was no one there but Master Black. Eurig had climbed onto a tree branch.
"Mom!" He said, running over and hugging her. "Mom, who was in the cave?"
"A member of the Druidon tribe." Master Black answered.
"Banba, I'm sorry."
Before he could do anything, Banba was roughly thrown against a tree. He bolted, running through the woods as fast as he could. He tripped and fell down a small slope. His ankle was twisted.
Hina flew over to him, turning into a golden eagle.
A knight wearing silver and purple armor appeared at the top of the slope.
Banba got up wobbling on his twisted ankle and held the practice sword up. He wasn't that great of a fighter. He'd only been practicing for a year.
The knight moved toward him and slashed at him with a sword. Banba dodged, stumbling as the knight's shield hit him in the head. His ears rang as the knight hit him with the shield two more times, once on his legs, the second on his shoulders.
He heard someone speak but he couldn't hear them through the ringing in his ears. The knight left.
He felt something tiny settle on his shoulder. Banba turned his head to see a tiny songbird with a green back, white belly and face, a black head with a yellow stripe, and black eyes. "Hina." He mumbled.
He felt something in his brain seem to click together as he realized why Hina was in that form. "No, no, no, no, no." He mumbled. She'd settled.
"We need to get back to Towa."
Banba stared at Mirneedle, emotions bubbling up inside him. He'd travelled for ages to find the Dinoknight's new resting place. He hadn't expected it to take one hundred and thirty years.
Ui stood next to him, Shinju perched on her hand. "Hi, I'm Shinju." The rainbow bee eater said, flying over to the Dinoknight. "Banba and Hina told me and Ui about you. You look awesome."
Mirneedle made a honking noise.
Chapter 3: Memory
Towa shifted in his sleep, whimpering. Kanon whined, kneading her tiny bat eared fox paws against Towa's back. Banba stared at his little brother. He grabbed the small amount of water he had and poured it on the ashes of their campfire.
Hina flew down from the tree branch she'd been sitting on and landed next to him. He held out a hand and she hopped up onto his palm.
"We should try to find Mirneedle tomorrow morning." She said. Banba nodded.
"Brother," Banba looked up to see Towa awake and staring at him.
Towa went over to him and hugged him. Kanon turned into a spoonbill and glared at the darkness around them. "I miss Mom." He mumbled, burying his face in his brother's side.
Banba picked him up as Hina flew over to Kanon. "I know. I miss her too."
An hour after he'd arrived home, his grandfather had taken him to a healer. Two weeks later, his injuries were mostly healed. Then, he'd taken Towa and ran away.
Chapter 4: Not what was expected
"Your daemon is so tiny, Banba."
Both Banba and Hina turned to glare at Asuna. "So?"
He cupped his hand and Hina hopped off his shoulder and into his palm. The green and white feathered songbird chirped angrily at Bianca.
Asuna realized what she'd said and backpedaled. "I-I mean, I didn't expect her to be so tiny, since you're...tall…" She trailed off.
Chapter 5: Stories
Melt had heard stories about the Dinoknights before, first from his father, then from Master Blue.
His father had said that their people didn't have daemons at first but had gained them after meeting the Dinoknights.
Master Blue had told him something else. Their ancestors did have daemons. The Dinoknights themselves were the ones who didn't. They were created from living, breathing animals during prehistoric times by the Ryusoul tribe's ancestors.
Seeing the humans with souls, the Dinoknights had wished for souls as well. They envied the tiny humans and their daemons, so the Ryusoul tribe's ancestors began working metal and stone into armor for each Dinoknight, similar to the armor of the Armored bears in the North.
The Dinoknights had decided to protect the Ryusoul tribe from outside dangers ever since.
"But where did our ancestors come from? Why are the Druidon tribe alien and we're human? Does it have anything to do with us mixing with witches and outsiders?" Melt asked.
"Maybe." Master Blue laughed. Akari had tried her hardest to answer his and Hibiki's questions.
Chapter 6: Gold Chronicles, part 1
I wrote this story before Kanaro appeared in the show and before we knew anything about his sister.
(Kanaro) Nanami (means "seven, sea" in Japanese) - a saltwater crocodile, nonbinary, they/them pronouns
(Oto) Anup (means "watery" in Sanskrit) - unsettled, male
The man stumbled slightly as he made his way down to the beach. A large saltwater crocodile followed him. He stopped at the cliffside and disappeared into a cave.
Ui exchanged glances with Shinju. Banba and Towa had mentioned a person who they thought had Ryusoul tribe technology had visited them a couple times. He could possibly help them with Minosaurs. Quietly, she snuck into the cave and ducked into a small cranny.
The cave itself was large, about the size of a small house, with a small hole in the roof that let in sunlight and wind. The place smelled of rock and dust.
The man unwrapped the scarf and shawl he was wearing and placed them in a corner. Ui stared.
He looked young, possibly in his early twenties, with a face that some women or men might've found attractive and chin length black hair. He sat down in front of a pool of water that sat in the back of the cave.
Kanaro's people had evolved to live both underwater and on land, if the need ever arose for them to leave their home, possessing both lungs to breathe air and gills to breathe oxygen in the water. (His gills were six pale greenish colored slits, three on each side of his neck.) The Ryusoul tribe of the Sea also possessed thin webbing on their feet and hands. (Kanaro and Oto had had to cut the webbing on their hands off in order to blend in with human outsiders.)
Their daemons had similar adaptations as their human counterparts.
The Ryusoul tribe of the Sea had lived in relative peace until 1901, when a past bearer of the Subtle Knife, a young girl no older than eleven or twelve years old, had opened a window from Cittàgazze to the largest city in the territory of the Ryusoul tribe of the Sea. The girl had been quickly sent back to her own world and the window closed, but by then, a couple Spectres had already been created and had started roaming in their territory, eating people's daemons and leaving them soulless shells of themselves that died soon after.
The population of the Tribe took a hit after two years before Kanaro's grandmother had summoned the Kishiryu that protected their tribe, Mosarex, from an underwater volcano in a deep sea trench. Mosarex had eaten the Spectres.
Eventually, their population started recovering their numbers, albeit rather slowly and not quickly enough to protect themselves from the Drudion Tribe's return. Kanaro had surfaced to find a potential suitor, reasoning that outsider genes would help recover their population numbers faster.
His little sister, Oto, had followed him at first, without him or their parents knowing. He'd quickly found out. His sister, despite only being 110 years old, was stubborn and refused to take no for an answer unless she had a very, very good reason to. Her daemon, Anup, had been close behind.
For the past ten years, they'd travelled around trying to find someone, but with no success. The Skywall Incident had made their efforts harder, trapping them in Touto.
Kanaro shook his head, banishing those thoughts from his mind.
His daemon came over and lowered themself into the pool next to him. "Did you find any intruders, Nanami?" He asked.
The crocodile shook their head. "Nope."
He dove under the water, swimming through a narrow tunnel and out into the ocean. Oto was already waiting for him. Anup was in the form of a beluga whale.
Chapter 7: All my nightmares escaped my head
Date in flashback: 1858
(Mioko) - Keisuke (means "blessing" in Japanese) - a white cheeked honeyeater, male
Chapter title is from "Welcome home" by Radical face.
Banba and Towa had met Mioko about a month after they'd left the village.
They'd been trying to find a place to stay the night when a black and white bird with white cheeks and a yellow tail flew over to them. At first, Banba had thought the bird was a Witch's daemon. Hina flew over and talked to them for a while. His name was Keisuke and he asked if they were lost.
"Yes, we were just looking for a place to sleep tonight." Banba replied.
The bird laughed. "I can help. My human half runs an inn for travelers. She'd be happy to help you two."
Banba and Towa followed the honeyeater for a few blocks until they came to a house. He told them to wait before he flew into a window. A few minutes later, a young woman opened the door. When Banba explained why they were there, the woman smiled and told them they could stay for the night.
That night Banba had woken up in the middle of the night from a nightmare. A month ago, Hina would have shifted into a cat or a snake and curl up on his chest. But she'd settled as a tiny bird.
He checked to make sure Towa was still asleep, which he was. Kanon was curled up on top of him as a wildcat.
Hina perched on his shoulder as he got up and went outside.
Banba sat down on the ground and stared off into the trees just outside the inn. He tried not to cry around Towa, because if he cried, then Towa would get upset and start crying. Hina shifted slightly and flew onto his knee.
He heard footsteps and felt someone place a hand on his shoulder.
“Are you alright?” It was the owner, Mioko.
Banba wanted to tell her that he wasn’t okay. His dad was dead (had been for years, in fact), his mom was possessed by a weird armor that was probably working with the Drudion tribe, and he was struggling to take care of both himself and his younger brother while also trying to train himself. Instead all he said was, “I-I had a nightmare and came out here because I didn’t want to worry my brother.” His voice was trembling. He could feel Hina shaking as she perched on his knee.
Mioko sat next to him. Keisuke perched on her shoulder and leaned over to preen Hina's feathers a bit.
Banba cried. He wanted to be left alone to deal with his problems. But he also wanted someone else to help take the weight off his shoulders. He felt Mioko embrace him. They sat together for however long it took for him to cry until all his tears were gone, his tears falling and soaking into the yellow and white fabric of Mioko's robes.
"Do you want to go back inside and help me make breakfast, Banba?" Mioko asked after he'd stopped crying.
He nodded. "Yeah. I guess. I'd like to help."
While he helped her cook tamago kake gohan, she continued to talk. Mostly small talk about how she'd started the inn, her leaving the Ryusoul tribe, or her short-lived relationship with a witch.
One thing she said stuck with Banba through the years; "When someone dies, we can mourn them, but we need to know when to move on eventually. Its the best we can do to honor their memory."
A month later, Banba and Towa left the inn and set out for somewhere else.
Banba hadn't seen Reika for years. Hearing that she was now the assistant to the Houkto Prime Minister had been surprising. Ui had done research and had contacted her to see if they could talk.
"Banba!" He tensed slightly as Mioko hugged him.
Hina chirped in surprise, flying from Banba's vest pocket to his shoulder.
Kanon turned into an african wildcat and hissed as Keisuke landed on her head and started preening her ears.
"Mioko," Towa said. "When we talked over the phone, you said you knew something about Gaisorg's whereabouts."
Mioko frowned. For some reason, the expression seemed wrong on her face. "Yes, but you need to defeat my Minosaur first."
Kanon leapt into Towa's arms and growled. "No." She said. Her tail was puffed up and her ears laid back. Towa gave his daemon an apologetic glance. "We'll do it." He said.
Chapter 8: Natural
(Master Green) - Chou (means "butterfly" in Japanese) - a brown giant short faced hyena, female (Pachycrocuta robusta)
The land Ryusoul tribe, most likely due to their close proximity to the Mount Fuji Witch clan, have a rather high percentage of people who either A) Have witch ancestry, B) are the children of Witches, or C) Witches who have decided to leave the clan and live with the Tribe.
The Mount Fuji clan uses a small valley of dead land for witch daemon seperation rituals and other witch lore. Like the Northern witch clans, the Mount Fuji clan uses cloud pine branches to fly. (Though some witches use branches from other trees)
Master Pink had been a Ryusoulger for 50 years by the time the Witches had told the Elder of the tribe about a prophecy involving the Ryusoulgers and the return of the Drudion tribe. Pink had thought nothing about it. The Mount Fuji witch clan's queen at the time, Ayane, was not very pleasant to be around. Neither her, nor her teammates, were told the prophecy until years later when the Elder had asked them to start training the next generation of Ryusoulgers.
She'd thought training the next generation while they were so young was unfair to them. They were children. Training usually started around the age of 80 or 90, traditionally. But the Elder had insisted. Pink, Blue, and Red had tried to put off actual training until they thought their trainees were ready. A few chores or odd jobs here and there for them, no actual battle training until they were around 80, letting them play and act like children as long as they could.
Green and Black had done the same with their oldest son, Banba. Black was going to train her son once he turned 100, but she'd gotten pregnant with her second child and shortly before she'd given birth, Green had gone missing.
Green and Blue were weird. Both men had been found by the Witch clan outside of their dead lands 320 years ago, just after the original Ryusoul Blue, Naoki, and Ryusoul Green, Shun, of their team had died.
Blue had been around twenty, by outsider ages, while Green had been around twenty-seven.
Blue had been semi-conscious and had been rambling about Oni, Makamou, and Yokai. They suspected he came from the north, despite his claims of being from the Kanto region. Most Yokai reports were from the north or Okinawa. His eurasian magpie daemon, Akari, had been curled on his chest. He'd been wearing an orange, green, and blue jacket on top of a white uwagi shirt and black hakama pants. He smelled faintly of rose petals. A whistle was tied to his belt.
Green had been in slightly better shape, his brown hyena daemon was snarling at everyone. It had looked a bit too large to be a normal brown hyena. The fur was also longer. He'd been wearing a green and white kimono. He'd been barefoot.
Eurig had hopped up on the stumbling hyena's head to direct her as Humayra pressed against her side to help her go around obstacles. Fiore had picked up the magpie in his mouth and carried her back to the village healer. Pink and Red had supported Blue while Black had supported Green.
It had taken an entire day for them to regain consciousness.
Blue had been the first awake. Akari flew around the room, shrieking profanities, as Blue panicked. He'd been calling for someone named "Akira" and had been rambling about "Gyuki" and "Ushi Oni".
Pink had been very very annoyed by this. Fiore had head-butted the magpie and had caught one of her wings in his mouth. Humayra and Red had tried to calm the two down.
Green had mumbled something about "damn bat wing dinosaurs" and had fallen back asleep.
After getting them calmed down enough to answer questions from the Elder, the two had made the decision to stay.
Blue had introduced himself as Ibuki. Blue called his daemon, Akari. Green had introduced himself as Nori. Green called his daemon, Chou.
When they'd heard that two of Pink, Red, and Black's teammates had died, the two men had offered to train as Ryusoulgers.
After a few years, Green retired due to health issues. Being a Ryusoulger was having bad effects on his health. Black had gotten married to him shortly after and had given birth to their first child a year later.
Over the years, Green's health started getting worse. Then, one day, about a month before his second son had been born, he'd disappeared into the deeper parts of Aokigahara and never came out again. Black had been frantic, searching for her husband, but not finding a single trace of him or his brown hyena daemon.
Blue had an odd martial arts style of fighting that he called Ongeki-dou. Once he started training as Ryusoul Blue, he combined the two styles of fighting. It was an odd mix of fighting techniques. He'd taught it to Melt, though the younger man didn't really use the Ongeki-dou techniques often.
Blue and Pink would sometimes look after Black's younger son, Towa, when she was doing patrols or training Banba.
When Banba had returned to the village, injured and bloody and alone, Blue had panicked. He'd lost another teammate.
They'd arrived at the healer's, Master Red having stayed behind to watch their trainees. Akari had flown over to Hina and made sure the boy's daemon was alright. She'd settled shortly after Master Black had been killed by a Minosaur, according to Banba.
Pink and Fiore thought that there was something Banba wasn't telling them, but had decided not to push the matter. The boy had been hurt and traumatized enough.
Two weeks later, Pink and Red had gone to the boys' house to check on them. They were missing. They'd searched for an entire day until they'd been forced to give up.
Years later, the Skywall had appeared, separating Nippon into three parts. People, mainly outsiders, were getting kidnapped and came back either as monsters that outsiders called Smash or as normal looking humans. Still, something was off. Maybe it was the Nebula Gas. Pink didn't really care.
Then the Drudion Tribe had returned.
Chapter 9: The man and the woman
Akira sat on the edge of a cliff, staring out over the horizon. This was the place her mentor had disappeared through a window in the air almost 320 years ago now. Ibuki had gone after an ooari makamou that had escaped through a window in the air and had never returned. The Takeshi organization and the other Oni thought he'd died or been killed by whatever was on the other side.
Akira hadn't really believed any of those rumors. That's all they were to her; baseless, false rumors.
The window had closed two weeks after Ibuki had gone through it.
Akira threw herself into her Oni training alongside Asumu, her friend. There were still makamou to fight and peaceful youkai to protect and the world didn't stop turning for them just because they'd lost a close friend and mentor. Akira became an Oni four years after Ibuki had disappeared.
She heard footsteps behind her and got to her feet. Akira took out her transformation whistle, the silver and white metal cold in her hands as she brought it up to her lips and blew into it. A sharp whistling noise followed and a tornado of air swirled around her.
As the tornado faded, a man with blue hair and a eurasian jay stumbled out of the trees. The man looked young, in his early twenties. He wore European like clothing; a white shirt, black pants, black shoes, and a brown and blue coat. He had scratches all over. The jay bird shrieked.
"Who are you?" Akira asked. "Tell me now."
The young man stared at her Oni form, not in a scared or nervous way, but calculating, suspicious, like he was trying to figure out if she was a threat to him or not. "My name is Melt." He answered. He incidented the eurasian jay that had now settled on his shoulder. "This is Hibiki." A sword was strapped to his back, the sheath made of thick leather that had been dyed blue.
"Let me see your sword and sheath, Melt." Akira said.
The younger man and the jay both stared at her in confusion for a few seconds before Melt took the sheath off, carefully unstrapping the leather harness that kept it on his back. He gently laid it on the ground at his feet. "Be careful with it, okay? It...it means a lot to me."
"What's your name?" Hibiki asked. Akira froze, shocked that the bird had spoken. She quickly found her voice again. "Akira, but I also go by Kamen Rider Amaki."
She bent down and picked up the sheath. The leather was strong and firm, yet old and slightly cracked. It was well cared for, treated and cleaned carefully by expert hands. The blue color had faded slightly with age. On one of the straps was a gray colored T-Rex head. On the sheath itself, almost indistinguishable from the normal blue coloring, was a darker blue symbol shaped like the symbol of Ibuki's Oni face.
She cancelled her transformation. "Where did you get this?" Akira asked.
Melt tensed. The woman, Akira, sounded like she was trying (and failing) to hide the shocked tone to her voice. "I got it from my Master, the former Ryusoul Blue. Its from our tribe, the Ryusoul Tribe. It was made to represent the Dinoknight, Triken." He answered.
(People's daemons seemed to be invisible in this world, he'd noticed. But somehow, he knew that the woman before him wasn't severed. She still had a soul.)
Akira took out something that looked like a whistle. "It looks like my transformation whistle." She mumbled.
"Can I see that?" Melt asked. Akira handed it to him. The designs did look pretty similar. It was blue with a silver snarling face on it. He frowned. "You're right. They do look similar."
Akira took her whistle back.
Melt felt Hibiki's talons scrape his shoulder as his daemon pulled on his ear and glared at him. The jay puffed his feathers to make himself look larger. Right, right, I need to get help.
"Do you know where I can find a healer? I got injured earlier and I've been trying to look for someone who can help."
Akira stood up. "There's a healer in the city a couple miles from here. I can bring you there."
Akira summoned a motorcycle. "Hop on." She said. Melt sat behind Akira.
Chapter 10: Gold Chronicles, part 2
"I'm tired. Are we there yet?"
Kanaro heard his mom and dad groan as Oto asked the question for the tenth time since they'd arrived at the Catlins on the South island in Aotearoa. His family had a tradition of going here every year to see the southern lights.
His father's long finned mako shark daemon glared while his mom's velvet bellied lanternshark daemon huffed in annoyance. Nanami and Anup turned into sea lions and barked and chased each other through the sea cave.
As they exited the sea cave, the sun had set and the stars were coming out. They surfaced, taking in breaths of sea salty air.
"When will the lights start?" Oto asked.
"Soon." Their mother said.
As they floated in the water, they sky lit up in stripes of green, pink, and orange.
Oto had asked Kanaro insistently about becoming a Ryusoulger. She wanted to be like him and train to protect their tribe from the Drudion. Mosarex had been delighted, even though Kanaro tried to dissuade the mosasaur Dinoknight, and had agreed to train Oto and Anup as a backup in case Kanaro and Nanami got hurt.
Chapter 11: Through the valley
Ibuki got to his feet as the ooari makamou disappeared. He looked around, trying to find out where he was. A place somewhere in the mountains. It looked a lot like the place he'd left. Thick trees grew along the sides of the mountains and towered over his head.
He heard rocks fall nearby and turned to see a man who looked a little older than him. He recognized the man. The twenty-seven year old, Nori, was the warlord who protected the village that Ibuki and Akira had been called to help with a pack of ooari makamou troubling the village. He'd arrived in Nihon three years before.
Ibuki ran over. "Are you okay?" He asked.
The warlord glared. "I'm fine, you useless Oni. You let that damn makamou escape." His face twisted angrily as he brought out his sword.
Ibuki raised his hands up. "Calm down." He said. "We won't get anywhere if we fight each other. Do you know how to get back to your village?"
Nori glared. "Of course I know how!" He spat. The man turned and walked back along the mountain path that led to his village.
Ibuki heard a snarling noise and froze. Nori stopped. A large wolf, the ooari makamou Ibuki had chased through the window, appeared from the trees. Ibuki grabbed his transformation whistle and blew it. A tornado of air swirled around him. As he changed into his Oni form, the wolf shaped makamou approached them. The two turned and ran. The wolf chased them through the trees. Ibuki scanned the area for a way to escape and spotted a small crack in the rocky valley up ahead. He grabbed Nori by the arm and dragged the man into the valley.
Strangely, the wolf refused to enter. As the wolf turned and trotted off, Ibuki felt a strange sensation. It felt like when he'd followed the ooari makamou through the window in the air.
"We need to get back to my village." Nori said after a few minutes. He turned to leave but Ibuki grabbed his arm, pulling the warlord back. Ibuki cancelled his transformation. "No, not through the way we came in." He hissed, glaring at him. "The makamou is out there waiting. It will jump us if we go out that way. We'll have to go through this valley and find the other end."
Nori glared back. The man looked like he wanted to argue with him, but instead he nodded. "That sounds like a good idea, Oni."
The two of them walked through the valley. As they went deeper, there were fewer and fewer signs of human inhabitants. Something seemed to pull at his chest, like it was trying to tear his heart from his ribcage.
"Do you have family back home?" Nori asked him. Ibuki guessed the man was asking out of boredom.
"Yes, my mother and my father, along with my apprentice, Akira."
"I have a wife and a daughter in my home country."
"Really?" Ibuki said. "How old is your daughter?"
"She's a year old, last I saw her. She's probably around four or five years old now."
Just as the sun was beginning to set, Nori collapsed on the mossy lichen covered ground and screamed. Ibuki ran over, collapsing halfway there, face planting into the ground. The sensation in his chest grew so strong, he thought for sure his heart was being torn and ripped to pieces by something far stronger than him or the warlord. Then suddenly, the sensation stopped.
He saw something black and white colored out of the corner of his eye. He struggled into a kneeling position. Ibuki stared in shock at the magpie. Gingerly, he reached out and touched her, his fingers brushing the white feathers of her wings. “You’re beautiful.” He mumbled. Only moments ago, this beautiful female formed bird had been nothing but a voice in his head.
The bird turned her head to the side. "Hello." She sounded nervous talking to him.
Ibuki turned his head to check on Nori and saw, to his surprise, a large brown hyena with long fur. She growled at Ibuki.
Nori got up and stared at the brown hyena, his expression dumbstruck. He said something in what sounded to Ibuki's ears like Mandarin Chinese spoken with a hoarse throat, half speech, half growling. The hyena tilted her head towards him, her ears perking up slightly.
Ibuki moved away from the man and felt the magpie follow him. "Do you have a name?" He asked her.
She ruffled her wings. "I have none, for I was just born."
"What are you?"
"I am you. I am your soul, the human part of you."
"Prove it." Ibuki challenged. "What was my name before I became an Oni?"
The magpie laughed in amusement. "Izumi Iori."
He stared in shock. "You really are me."
"Yes. Now, shall we continue?" She snapped, clearly impatient.
Chapter 12: Hold onto your heart
Chapter title is from "Your bones" by Of Monsters and Men.
Banba hadn't really trusted the others at first, no matter how much Towa and Ui liked them. The three, especially Kou, were too naive, too isolated from the rest of the world. He had to admit, though, that he admired their fighting skills. They were much better than his and Towa's.
"You care for them like you do Ui and Towa." Hina said to him one night. "Admit it."
He glared at the tiny bird until she stopped pecking at his shoulder. Instead she flew up and settled in his hair. "So, what if I do?" He replied, folding his arms across his chest.
Hina laughed. "I've taken a liking to Hibiki myself. He's pretty good at helping with strategies for fighting Minosaurs."
The more Banba hung around the other Ryusoulgers, the more he grew to (grudgingly) like them. They needed help fighting the Drudion tribe, same as he and Towa did. The loss of their village had hurt them more than they cared to admit.
So Banba decided to make it his job to take the stress off their shoulders.
Banba was not the best at planning attacks. He had a tendency to improvise when something he hadn't expected came up.
He was busy looking over the location of a Minosaur with Melt. Hibiki was hopping all over the map, disturbing the pieces they were using to represent Minosaurs and themselves. He'd pick up a piece in his beak and place the piece on the wrong side of the board.
It was annoying and it was making planning harder. Hina dove at the jay and started preening his wings, grumbling about how his feathers were dirty again.
Banba was helping Asuna make dinner one night. She turned to him. "Can you help me gather the spices for the hot pot?"
He nodded. "Sure." Hina helped by getting stuff off shelves and bringing it to them when they needed it.
"Are these the right spices?" Hina asked.
Bianca sniffed the spices Hina had gotten. "Yep. Those are the right ones."
After defeating a Minosaur, the five Ryusoulgers had been so tired, they'd gone to bed slightly earlier than usual. Melt and Asuna were in a spare bedroom, Towa shared Ui's room, and Banba and Kou shared the couch. The couch folded out into a bed that was large enough to fit two people and two medium sized daemons. Sara was curled up next to Kou and Hina was perched on one of the couch's arms.
Kou shifted slightly in his sleep and mumbled something inaudible. Banba pulled the blanket over Kou and Sara. Sara leapt over Koh and settled back down in between him and Banba.
Hina flew over and settled on Kou's side the same way she sometimes did when Towa got scared when he was younger.
Against his common sense, Banba reached out. The only ones who touched each other's daemons were siblings, parents and children, close friends, and lovers. As far as Banba was concerned, Kou was none of those things to him. (Though sometimes he did feel like he was chaperoning a bunch of children.) He gently scratched Sara in between her ears. The siamese cat purred but didn't wake up.
Kou mumbled something and rolled over onto his back.
Chapter 13: Now my head's splitting at the seams
(Kreon) Ffion (means "foxglove" in Welsh) - a blue feathered utahraptor, nonbinary, she/her pronouns (pronounced FEE-awn)
Master Black was desperate. She was known for being protective of those she cared about. After two of her teammates, Naoki and Shun, died, her protectiveness grew stronger. Eurig kept having to dissuade her from reckless acts that could get them all killed.
Her husband going missing had practically thrown her over the edge. Black and Green had argued over who would train Banba. Black said she would do it since Green was sick and couldn't fight for very long anymore. Green had said that he would do it since Black had to take care of their second child. Eurig had countered that Green could stay behind and take care of the younger child. Chou had growled back that they needed to rest after the child was born. This was different than when she'd been pregnant with Banba.
She'd found Mirneedle thirty years after Nori's disappearance, a Dinoknight thought to have been destroyed by the Sea tribe millions of years ago. She was the first Ryusoul Black in ages to find Mirneedle.
Master Black asked the Dinoknight a question. "Do you know what happened to my husband and teammate?"
Mirneedle answered, their voice full of sorrow. <He died trying to find a way home. The Drudion tribe turned him into a Minosaur.>
"Home?" Eurig snorted dismissively. "But this is his home."
<No. He came from somewhere else like Blue did. Another world, perhaps.>
Black didn't believe them. She needed proof. Surely, Nori wouldn't just leave?
Black found proof. When she'd taken Banba to meet Mirneedle, a suit of armor attacked. As Banba ran, Black fought the armor. The armor was strong but she defeated it because she was scared of the Drudion tribe getting their hands on Mirneedle.
She tried to warn Banba but it - the armor, Gaisorg - took control and hurled him onto the ground. He ran, fell, got up, raised his sword to defend himself. Hina snarled beside him as a leopard. He hadn't stood a chance.
Over the years, one of the Drudion tribe scouts, Kreon, planted seeds in the armor to control her easier. Eurig had struggled when Black couldn't; biting, tearing, snapping, throwing the seeds away.
The mushroom creature had planted seeds in her daemon too, their own daemon, a blue feathered utahraptor, holding down Eurig as the seeds were planted. The flowers grew, the roots digging into Black's arm, her shoulder, Eurig's tail, his stomach, his eye. The flowers bloomed red poppies, pink fireweed, pinkish sunset foxglove, yellow dandelions.
She had flashes of lucidity at times. Banba, now grown, staring at her in shock. Her son and his tiny little songbird daemon the only splash of color in a room full of whites and grays and silvers. "Mom." He said, shocked. Hina landed on his shoulder, Banba clinging to her as tight as he could without hurting her.
Chapter 14: Birds
Melt couldn't help thinking about Master Blue. Both him and Akira seemed to come to the same conclusion as they drove to the healer: their mentors were the same person.
The healer took one look at Melt and ushered him inside his clinic and started cleaning and bandaging his wounds. The man, Asumu, Melt learned he was called, had studied to be a doctor alongside his Oni training. Until his mentor, Hibiki, had lost control of his Oni spirit and became a Gyuki, an ox youkai.
Melt shuddered slightly. Hibiki cawed warily. His own Master was a bit of a jokester at times and had enjoyed playing pranks or confusing others. However, when he got angry or protective, he sometimes acted oddly.
Once when Melt was a teen, around 117 years or so, he, Kou, and Asuna had decided to go mess with the witch consul. It had been sometime during the 1890's. The witch consul lived closer to Mount Fuji than the rest of the tribe and it was a roughly twenty minute walk from the village to the witch consul's house.
Hibiki had stolen something he wasn't supposed to touch, an old cloud pine branch that the witch consul kept above their door. The newest witch consul, a young woman named Chiyomaru, (the old witch consul, Sakura, had died 40 years ago) had yelled at him. Her daemon was a sloth bear who snapped at Sara and Bianca as the two younger daemons teased her by turning into birds and diving at the bear's head.
Master Blue had gotten word of what was happening and had immediately shown up. Akari had scolded the three kids while Blue tried to calm Chiyomaru down.
"Chiyomaru, I apologise for my student," he said, turning to glare at Melt and Hibiki. Melt shrank slightly under his mentor's stern face. "It appears he still needs to learn to not act like a barbarian."
"Figures he's acting like one, considering you're an Oni." The witch consul's daemon spat, growling.
Melt had heard the rumors before. Some villagers whispered that his Master was a demon or youkai. Melt didn't believe them. Most members of the Ryusoul tribe were wary of outsiders. To have an outsider as a Ryusoulger was unheard of until Master Blue (and the now deceased Master Green) had joined, so it was expected that some people didn't like him.
Master Blue had straightened up, turning to glare at the witch consul right in the eyes. "What did you just say?" He said calmly. It was less the normal kind of easygoing calmness he usually used and more the angry calmness his master used when he was upset. The Ryusoul and the small whistle he kept on his belt made a clink clink noise as he got up in Chiyomaru's face.
Chiyomaru backed up slightly. Her daemon growled nervously. "I-I-I…" She stammered before giving up.
"Children," Akari said, addressing Melt, Asuna, and Kou. "Go back to the village and leave the witch consul alone for the next week."
The three kids had quickly left. No one messed with Master Blue when he was angry. Not even his own teammates. Hibiki had turned into a tanuki and said he thought he heard whistling and bird wings.
Sometimes, Melt had caught his Master patrolling alone without his magpie daemon in sight. Then she'd suddenly appear out of nowhere.
Asuna had claimed once to see Master Blue grapple a deer and kill it with his bare hands. (She said this while they were eating venison stew, so she might have just been trying to mess with him and Kou.)
Chapter 15: Because
Nori was ill. He'd been growing sicker over the years. It started with breathing issues which had forced him to retire early.
Ibuki had helped take care of Nori and Sakura's children when they'd been busy.
"Do you want to stay here, Nori?" Ibuki asked one day. He was watching Banba while Nori grilled fish for dinner. Banba had turned 30 a few days before. The toddler was sleeping in Ibuki's arms after running around earlier.
Akari preened Hina, who'd taken the form of a black furred monkey.
"As much as I'd like to go home," Nori said, not taking his eyes off the fire. "I think I'll stay here."
"Because of my son and my wife."
Chapter 16: Sacrifice
Mioko didn't know what exactly pushed her to want to become an astronaut. Maybe it was the novelty of the idea. In her long life, she'd done many things, but she'd never gone into space or to another planet before.
Keisuke had helped her with all the necessary requirements. She'd learned to fly a zeppelin and had been a pilot for twenty years before. She knew enough about experimental theology and heavenly theology (stars, planets, comets, the sol system, etc) to pass the test.
Being in space, seeing the moon, the Earth, Mars, from the station she was in, was the most beautiful thing she'd experienced. The Ryusoul tribe, both the sea and the land tribes, were tiny little specks on the huge planet of green, brown, and blue, she realized.
When the shuttle landed on Mars, Mioko got into her spacesuit, Keisuke slipping himself into a pocket on the inside of it. Larger daemons, like her crewmate who had a caracal or the other who had a Cathaynese crocodile lizard had specially made smaller spacesuits made to fit their daemons.
Mioko had discovered the ruins of what looked like a temple. Souichi had entered it with her. Their third crewmate, a man named Kengo, had refused. Souichi had investigated the main room while Mioko had went through the two rooms off to the side. They'd gathered artifacts and brought them back to the shuttle. After what felt like an eternity, but was actually only a few hours, they went back home.
That's when things started getting strange. Souichi started keeping his sleeping quarters several degrees cooler than the rest of the ship. Even Mioko, who was used to cooler temperatures than normal humans, couldn't stand it. Something had seemed slightly off about him since then.
She was ultimately relieved when they landed. A few days later, a ceremony was set up. The current Prime Minister had been unable to attend, so his son had gone instead.
Then, Souichi touched the box, the Pandora Box, and the Skywall appeared. The light had shone on her. Ever since then it felt like something was wrong with her. Something was wrong but she couldn't figure out what it was, like everything had been shifted slightly to the left while she was sleeping.
Mioko had applied for the job of the Houkto Prime Minister's aide. She had a small knowledge of politics.
Keisuke...Keisuke stopped talking to her after three years. It should have been more alarming to her, perhaps. But it wasn't. It felt oddly right for her daemon to be silently sitting on her shoulder at government meetings. Her heart guarded and closed off to the people around her. A small voice in her ear whispered that she needed more power, more fertile land for growing crops in Houkto, more guardians stationed at the Sky Road exits between Touto and Houkto and Houkto and Seito. She was the one who'd suggested they attack Touto.
They needed soldiers, so she sent people to recruit. She even underwent being dosed with Nebula Gas herself (against Keisuke's advice that she'd end up hurt), just in case.
Until Banba, Towa, and Ui showed up. A small, tiny little scrap of compassion fluttered in her when she saw the boys. They were looking for their Master.
You should help them. A small voice said in her ear. It wasn't Keisuke's voice.
So, she told the boys she knew something about their Master.
While they left the room, Keisuke spoke for the first time in six years. "Mioko, we don't know anything about their Master. How are we supposed to help them?"
"We'll find a way." She assured him.
Right after she'd left the hospital, Keisuke changed forms. His body twisted and snapped as his shape changed. This was worrying. Daemons didn't change form after settling. He screamed. Mioko collapsed, doubling over in pain. She felt nauseous.
As the nausea died down, she turned to stare at her daemon. He was no longer a white cheeked honeyeater bird. Now, he was a massive deer, much larger than a moose. A Gaelic giant deer.
Mioko didn't really remember clearly what happened next. She stood up. And spoke.
"Ah, it appears I'm beginning to regain some of my power now." The voice was hers, yet also not hers at the same time. She shuddered.
Chapter 17: Frozen
Towa ran after the strange man. Kanon was on his heels as a springhaa. She ran past him and leapt onto the snow leopard's tail. The leopard turned around and snapped at the smaller daemon, lashing her tail until Kanon was thrown off.
Kanon got to her paws and turned into a gibbon and threw herself, screaming and hollering, at the man. He was dressed in older European clothes with brown hair and black eyes. He'd tried to steal the MeraMera soul and the BiriBiri soul while the Ryusoulgers had let their guard down. He claimed to be a colleague of Naohisa's. The man threw Kanon off him.
The others caught up soon after. Just as they did, plumes of smoke surrounded them. A loud scream made them all turn around.
"Oto!" Kanaro shrieked, bolting off into the smoke. "Kanaro, stop! It could be a trap!" Banba called as he ran after him.
Kanon turned to Sara. "What should we do?" She asked. She was switching between forms rapidly and stopped on the form of a brown furred creature with white spots and a shrew like face, a quoll.
Sara's ears flattened. "We can't get seperated from our teammates." She said.
"Right," Kou said. "We're going after Banba and Kanaro."
The four of them raced after their teammates into a warehouse. Towa's eyes widened in shock and he took a step backwards. Kanon switched between a lion, a rooster, a mouse, a pika, a hare, a crocodile and a few forms that were too fast to be seen.
The warehouse was empty except for something on the ground that glittered in the sunlight. Melt went over to inspect it.
"It's ice." He called. The others went over.
"The trail ends here, but I don't smell any signs of Banba, Oto, or Kanaro." Bianca said. She paced around, sniffing the ice on the floor. "Their scent just ends here."
"That's not good." Hibiki noted. "Do you think the Minosaur we were fighting got them?"
Sara hissed and lashed her tail. "I doubt it. We defeated the Minosaur. Even if we hadn't, the Minosaur's powers had nothing to do with ice."
Towa noticed something on the roof of a building across the street. A person. "Guys, watch out!" He shouted.
Something whizzed past him as he dropped to the ground. Kanon turned into a rat and scurried into his shirt. More things whizzed past him. Bullets, he realized. He counted them. One, two, three, four, five, six.
Towa opened his eyes and rolled out of the way, pressing his back up against a wall of the warehouse. He heard footsteps as Kanon poked her head up from his shirt. He ran behind a stack of crates and crouched down.
A man came into view. He wore a poncho and a large hat. His hair was black with a white skunk stripe in it. This man didn't have a daemon. Kou, Melt, and Asuna were frozen in ice. The man touched each one. Towa stifled Kanon and turned away from the scene.
The sound of cracking and shattering ice made him startle slightly. He bumped a box. Towa stiffened, shaking. He turned to see something that wasn't a man.
The creature still had something on it's head that looked like a hat. It also had two safes, one on each leg. It came straight toward Towa.
"What's this?" The creature said in amusement.
Towa shrank back. He scrambled backwards, got to his feet, and ran out of the warehouse. He ran out the exit. He ran into something he thought was a pillar but as he backed up, he realized it was another frozen person.
He stared in shock as something hit the frozen form of his brother. The ice shattered into pieces, taking his brother with it.
Towa bolted to his feet as he saw something coming behind him. He ran, Kanon running alongside him. Ui was waiting for him back at her house.
She ran over to him. "Towa," She said. "What happened? Where are the others?"
So Towa told her. Ui's expression changed from shock to horror then to anger as he spoke.
She hugged him. "Towa, don't worry. We'll find a way to get them back."
"D-did you find anything on the strange man while we were gone?" Kanon asked. She took the form of a tree kangaroo and jumped into Towa's lap.
"Not much." Shinju admitted. "But I stole something from his coat pocket." She flew over to the table and picked up a note in her beak.
Towa grabbed it. The note was vague and didn't hold a single clue as to who or what had done this. But the signature was familiar.
Karino Mioko and Keisuke
Chapter 18: Makamou and Onbake
Melt was woken up sometime during the night by Amaki shaking him. Hibiki shook out his feathers as Melt got up.
"Melt, we need to go." She said urgently.
"Why?" He asked, watching as she ran around the room and grabbed her trumpet and a couple discs and shoved them into her bag along with a pair of red taiko drumsticks.
"Makamou attack." She said which answered absolutely nothing.
Melt glanced at Hibiki. "Is that a Youkai?" He asked. The jay preened one of his feet. "Maybe. I don't know."
Melt shook his head. He grabbed his Ryusoulken, careful not to tear any of his bandages or pull any of his muscles accidentally. Slowly, he made his way out of the clinic. Hibiki flew ahead of him and alerted him to any obstacles. Once he made it outside, he saw a sight too weirdly bizarre to panic about yet too terrifying to be funny.
Amaki, now in her Oni form, was battling a giant crab. Another Oni, presumably Dr. Adachi, was fighting a giant cat creature with two tails. Melt froze, watching them. Adachi - no, Hibiki - took out what looked like a wooden disk and stuck it on the cat makamou. It grew and held the makamou in place. Hibiki raised his taiko drumsticks and started beating the wooden disk with them like playing a drum. He beat the disk faster and faster until the cat makamou exploded.
Amaki played her trumpet, shooting beams at the giant crab until it exploded like the cat makamou.
Asumu turned and spotted him. He ran over. "What are you doing?" He asked. "Go somewhere safe."
Melt scowled. "No, I want to help."
"Akira!" Asumu called. Akira raced over and helped Asumu bring Melt over to a safe spot to sit. The two of them started discussing things almost immediately.
"Do you two mind explaining what's going on here?" Hibiki demanded, glaring at the two Oni.
Asumu exhaled and nodded. "Alright. There's been an increasing surge of makamou attacks both in the country and the city for roughly three years now. I've heard rumors about this recent surge of makamou but so far, only two have any kind of supporting evidence," He started pacing back and forth. "The first rumor is that some say it's because of an ipadada, a deceased soul filled with hatred, going on a rampage and riling them up."
"The second is that the rip between the worlds caused twenty years ago awoke an ancient emperor and his army, the Kibonai Family, from his 500 year sleep and that he's been slowly growing his army to attack and take over Nihon."
Melt nodded. "That sounds reasonable." He said, even though he still didn't really understand what Asumu was talking about.
"But wouldn't the Onbake deal with any ipadada?" Akira objected. "If it was truly an Ipadada, then they'd know and they'd take care of it themselves."
"What's an Onbake?" Hibiki asked.
"Onbake are objects or animals that are given souls after being shown human gratitude over a long period of time. They mostly help out in rural areas where us Oni can't go due to the areas being either dangerous or inaccessible." Asumu explained. "I know of one who runs a ramen shop in the city. You want to go there?"
Melt stood up. "Yes."
Amaki nodded. "I'll get my motorcycle."
The version of Tokyo in this world was much like the version in Melt's world. It was a large city with tall, towering buildings. Amaki parked outside a shop and led Melt down an alleyway before turning left and walking for a bit. The ramen shop was a normal ramen shop.
“Good morning, Otaki.” Amaki called as she entered.
An old woman behind the counter smiled. “Good morning. If it isn’t Ibuki’s apprentice. How goes your training?”
Amaki nodded as she and Melt sat down at a table. Hibiki settled down on the seat next to Melt. The friendly atmosphere was calming. It was like something you’d see in the country. (For some reason, he couldn’t stop thinking about how the tribe elder had become a ramen truck owner. The elder’s buttonquail daemon looked hilarious.)
They ordered ramen. As they waited, Amaki introduced Melt to the Onbake. Taihei, a samurai's helmet from the Sengoku era, Ikechiyo, a goldfish who'd belonged to the head prostitute from Kyoto in the Edo era, and Tomosuke, a Shiba Inu dog who'd lived with a doctor from the Edo era.
"Nice to meet you all." Melt said.
"Hey, Amaki," Taihei said, clapping a hand on the Oni's shoulder. "How's your investigation on the Makamou attacks going?"
Amaki frowned as Ikechiyo handed her and Melt their ramen.
"Thanks for the food, Otaki." Melt said.
"My investigation hasn't been going well. We have uncovered no new information." Amaki told Taihei. The woman ate some noodles.
Melt was struck by how alive everyone in this world seemed without daemons. He wished he had Asuna or Kou's skill with witch magic. He'd heard that witches could see the daemons of people who came from worlds without daemons, or whatever else functioned as those peoples' souls. He'd never been very good at that. He was good at the not quite invisibility technique that the Witches did, staying quiet and moving quickly so that when people did notice him, they were surprised that he was in the room. He'd done it once when his parents had asked Master Blue to stop teaching him the "Ongeki-dou" techniques that he'd been weaving into Melt's training.
His Master had always carried around a small whistle tied to his belt along with his blue Ryusoul. He treated the whistle with the same amount of protectiveness and care he showed his daemon. Melt and the other 22 students under Master Blue's training (9 girls, 8 boys, and 5 non-binary kids) had made a game to see who could steal Blue's whistle and keep it hidden from him the longest. Melt had only won once. Master Blue had found out and put a stop to it. Akari had overheard some students talking about the game and had reported it to him.
Hibiki wasn't really settled. This was a not very rare, yet also not common occurrence. Some daemons just never settled, even if their humans had grown up or acted like an adult was expected to. It had nothing to do with immaturity or trauma, Melt suspected. It just happened.
Hibiki still changed forms sometimes in private, but he preferred to take the form of a jaybird to "match" Master Blue. Kou and Asuna knew. They were fine with it. (Melt had his suspicions that Banba, and possibly Kanaro, had settled early, but he hadn't had the time to talk to either of them about it)
"So, Melt, where are you from?" Tomosuke asked.
Hibiki fluttered onto Melt's shoulder, turned into a habu viper, and wrapped himself around Melt's arm. "I'm from Aokigahara. I've lived there with my tribe for my entire life. I only started living away from them the last two to three months." Melt replied.
"Amaki, have you heard the rumors about the mansion near Aokigahara?" Ikechiyo asked.
Amaki gave her a confused look. "No."
"People have been saying they've seen people or possibly youkai around the mansion. Maybe you can investigate there."
Melt handed their empty bowls to Tomosuke as Amaki paid Otaki. "Thanks for the information." He said.
Hibiki turned back into a eurasian jay and flew outside as they got ready to leave.
Chapter 19: No matter how hard the storm and the rain falls
(Nada) Ahti (named after the Finnish god of the sea) - a desert crocodile, male (Crocodylus suchus)
(Misaki) - Ryu (means "dragon" in Japanese) - a Japanese weasel, male
(Kento) Kiku (means "chrysanthemum" in Japanese) - a swan goose, female (Anser cygnoides)
(Takeshi) Yuki (means "snow" in Japanese) - a red faced spider monkey, female (Ateles paniscus)
Title is from the theme of Signal: Choki mikaiketsu jiken sosahan, Don't leave me by BTS.
I included Signal in this because I watched the show with my mom and she really liked it. So, I wrote something for her.
Nada watched Kou and Master Red training. Your skills are better suited to being a healer than a knight, Nada. He couldn't help feeling angry as he thought about Master Red's words. At the age of 225, he was the oldest of Master Red's students. Kou was only 153. The younger man wasn't even settled yet. He was immature, forgetful, and way too reckless.
Ahti had settled as a desert crocodile. Surely having an animal like that as his daemon's form meant he was suited to fighting, right?
He'd only been a part of the land tribe for twenty years. Kou had been born into the tribe. (It's not like he could have trained in his own tribe. The Sea Tribe's Dinoknights had been destroyed by the Land Tribe's millions of years ago. The royal family's children had already been picked by Mosarex, anyway.)
"Nada," Ahti said. Nada reached over and lightly patted his daemon's snout. "He probably didn't mean to insult you. He's been training with Kou far longer than he has with you."
"I know, but…" Nada trailed off and shook his head. There was no use feeling jealous of Kou.
He wasn't sure exactly how he'd found the window to the other world. He'd been diving for Ryusouls with his daemon.
Kou, Melt, and Asuna had been tasked with finding Ryusouls on a nearby mountain. Nada had decided to dive into a river. As he swam deeper, something felt strange. How deep was this river? He turned to Ahti.
<Shouldn't this river be shallower?> He said.
Ahti blew bubbles from his nose. <I think so.>
A familiar tinge swept past his gills. Saltwater? In a river? Nada knew this small mountain river didn't flow into the ocean. Why was there saltwater?
He swam on, his body feeling strange as he continued. He saw sunlight above him (or was it below him?) and swam toward it. He surfaced in a bay, a bridge above him. Lights from impossibly tall buildings shone on the shore. Nada floated in the water, taking deep breaths as he stared at the night sky.
At first, Nada had drawn stares from people on the streets. So he'd stayed near the docks. No one in this world had daemons.
He heard something. Someone screaming. He raced toward the sound and found a woman lying on the ground in a back alley.
Nada ran over. He checked her pulse. She's still breathing. He hoisted her onto his back and quickly tried to find the nearest healer. Half an hour later, the woman was in the hospital being treated for broken ribs, bruises, and a broken leg.
One of the healers came over to him. "It's thanks to you that she made it here in time. Any longer out on the streets, and she would have died."
Nada nodded. Maybe...maybe I can protect people without being a Ryusoulger. Maybe I can find some other way to do so.
Eighty years later…
"Hey Ueno!" Nada looked up from the paperwork he was doing as Lieutenant Sakurai approached his desk.
She handed him a file. "We're doing work on the Osaka disappearances from 1993."
Nada took the file. "Sounds interesting." He remarked.
Lieutenant Saegusa wrote down the facts of the case on the whiteboard. Both of them seemed a little more excitable than usual lately, he'd noticed. As the two other officers packed up to go home for the night, Nada followed.
"How goes your search for Oyama?" Nada asked.
"We might finally have a lead on where Oyama is." Saegusa answered.
Saegusa Kento, Sergeant and profiler in the Cold Case division of Josai precinct. Younger brother of Kato Ryota. Nada had worked with him for only a year in the Cold Case team. He liked Kento's strong sense of justice. If he had a daemon, it would be a goose or a duck, probably a swan goose or a mandarin duck.
Sakurai Misaki, Leader of the Cold Case division of Josai precinct. Apprentice to Oyama Takeshi. Worked for the Violent Crimes division until 2018. He'd been working with Sakurai since she'd first joined the police force back in 1997. Her determination and her empathy toward the victims of crimes was something he respected. Her daemon if she had one would have been a stoat or a weasel, most likely a Japanese weasel.
Nada himself had worked for the Violent Crimes division for almost twenty-four years before being transferred to Cold Cases in 2018.
"So, where'd you guys narrow your search down to?"
Sakurai smiled a little. "A small town in Okinawa. Maybe we can take you there sometime, Nada." She flashed a teasing look at him. "I know how great of a friend you were to Oyama."
Nada laughed. "I'd love to."
Ahti was waiting for him when he went to his apartment. Over the years, he'd learned how to stretch out the bond between himself and his daemon.
If Oyama had a daemon, Nada thought, it would have been a spider monkey, perhaps a black headed or red faced one.
Gangler sightings had been reported in the area as recently as two weeks ago. “Welcome home.” Ahti said. He nudged Nada’s leg as Nada took his shoes off and sat down on the couch. The crocodile daemon climbed up onto the couch. “So,” Ahti said. “Did you find out anything new about Takeshi’s whereabouts?” Nada grinned as he told his daemon what Sakurai and Kento had reported.
Nada got up and stretched. "What do you think I should make for dinner tonight, Ahti?" He asked.
His daemon gave him a passive look. "Tamagoyaki."
Nada frowned. "I'm not making that again. I did that last night. Any other suggestions?"
"Pork tonkatsu soup. We have leftovers from the last pot we made two nights ago in the fridge."
Nada hummed to himself as he got the leftovers from his fridge and heated them in the microwave.
The next morning when he came into work, Nada noticed that Lieutenant Sakurai and Sergeant Saegusa were missing.
"Hey, Yomada, Kojima, have either of you seen Saegusa or Sakurai?" He asked the other two members of his team.
Both men shook their heads. "They haven't come in at all today." Kojima answered. He adjusted his glasses.
Nada frowned as he took the case file he'd been given yesterday out of his bag. He placed it on his desk. "I'm gonna go check with Dr. Anzai."
He entered the medical lab and said hello to the members of the forensics team. This wasn't an unusual occurrence; Nada and Sakurai dropped by the labs often to talk to Rika when they were searching for Oyama or needed help identifying remains. Kento had started making dropping by part of his own routine as well when he'd been investigating Oyama's disappearance and other cases.
Rika wasn't in the room when Nada entered. According to her assistant, she'd gone to a crime scene to check remains and would be back in an hour. So Nada occupied his time by examining the bodies currently in the lab.
He'd been a doctor, specifically a medical examiner, for thirty years before he'd decided to become a cop. He sometimes helped Rika examine bodies that were brought in or examined bodies himself when Rika was on sick leave or was busy.
Ten minutes later, Rika arrived.
"Oh, hello Ueno." She greeted.
"Good morning, Doctor." He replied. "Did you see either Sakurai or Kento come in earlier?"
Rika shook her head. "No, Sakurai called in sick earlier." She started arranging the remains from the scene she'd been at.
Nada left the lab and took his phone out to text Sakurai.
I heard you called in sick, 0.5. Want me to bring you anything?
No. I'm fine. I'm at the hospital right now.
Nada stared at the text. How the hell did they both end up in the hospital? Did Kento almost die again? Sakurai had told him about the burglary case and how Saegusa had tried to help a guy recover his kidnapped daughter. The refrigerated truck that the newly released burglar had directed him and the guy toward had been a trap. Kento had gone inside and had accidentally flipped a switch, making the truck explode. According to Sakurai, Kento had died. But Kento had been on sick leave at the time and the case had been solved years ago by Oyama. It hadn’t made sense until Sakurai had told him about how she and Kento had communicated with Oyama in the past through an old walkie-talkie without any batteries.
Where are you?
The address was texted to him. Nada left and went to his car before driving to the hospital.
After he checked in, he went straight to the room number Sakurai had texted him. Room 201.
He gaped in shock, standing in the doorway for a few seconds. "Sakurai, what the hell happened here?" He asked.
Beside Sakurai was a weasel. Kento was asleep in a hospital bed with a swan goose on him.
Chapter 20: Mansion of the Full Moon
Melt hopped off as Amaki parked her bike. Hibiki settled on Melt's shoulder. Amaki put their helmets up. She didn't say anything. Melt got the feeling that she was avoiding talking to him.
"What was your mentor like?" He asked. Amaki avoided looking at him as they started walking in the direction of the old mansion.
"He was a bit stern when he thought I was being reckless, but if I had a good idea, he listened to it. I sometimes helped him take care of his dojo when he or one of his other students were injured." Melt thought he caught the slightest hint of a smile on her face. "What was yours like, Melt?"
"When he wasn't training or teaching, he'd babysit the younger kids in the village whenever their parents were busy or sick."
Amaki laughed. "That sounds like something Ibuki would do. He was always patient and helpful toward the younger students, like Asumu."
As they walked deeper into the forest, the atmosphere grew heavier, like something was lurking in between the trees and watching them. It sent shivers down his spine. Hibiki nervously preened a wing.
Just as they approached the gates of the mansion, Amaki grabbed her whistle off her belt. She blew into it and transformed. Melt grabbed his ryusoul and inserted it in his ryusoul changer. "Ryusoul change!" His suit formed around him and Hibiki turned into a haast's eagle. He drew his sword. A group of black clothed creatures with white fox masks appeared from the trees. As they unsheathed their swords, Melt and Amaki attacked.
Amaki's trumpet was also a gun, apparently. She shot at several fox masked youkai, destroying them easily.
Melt grabbed another Ryusoul from his belt. Kata soul! Ryu! Soul, Soul, Soul! Kono Kanji! The speed soul armour formed around him and Melt dashed, slashing at the remaining fox mask youkai. The youkai exploded.
Melt turned to face Amaki. She was already climbing over the wall into the courtyard. He sighed and followed her. As his feet hit the overgrown lawn on the other side, the anxious feeling grew stronger. Amaki's helmet dissolved, but only her helmet. Melt cancelled his transformation. The courtyard of the mansion was covered in overgrown grass and flowers. A cracked stone path with an old fountain stood in the center. The path led up to the house. A wooden sign was nailed in the grass next to a bench.
Welcome to the Mansion of the Full Moon. Enjoy your stay.
Melt thought he heard laughter in the distance. He went up to the doors and opened them. Inside, he was greeted with a dojo. He turned to see a mountain outside. He was wearing a karate uniform. Amaki came in behind him. She was no longer transformed; instead she was wearing an uwagi and a black hakama. Hibiki shrieked in surprise and flew onto the ground.
Something wasn't right. Amaki walked ahead of him, carefully moving across the wooden floor, her footsteps light and quick. Her whistle hung around her neck.
Hibiki turned into a mandarin duck and hissed.
The floor creaked as Melt moved forward. He felt like he was moving through a thick snowdrift or syrup with each step.
He turned his head to look at his daemon. Hibiki's feathers were puffed up in a threat display. Maybe this wasn't such a great idea. I don't even know what I'm doing. His throat felt like it was closing up and he felt tears prick his eyes. For some reason his right arm was itching.
"I'm never going to find out what happened to my mentor." Melt turned as Amaki appeared beside him. "Its my fault he disappeared."
Melt couldn't help thinking about how Master Blue had died.
Master Blue, Master Pink, Asuna, and him had gone to fight the dragon minosaur after Kou and Master Red had gone to defend the Dinoknights' temple.
They'd lured the minosaur away from the village. Melt had been terrified. It was his first time he'd actually fought a minosaur. Hibiki had shifted through several forms already. The minosaur had readied a blast of fire breath after knocking them out of their transformations.
Fiore had shoved Bianca as Master Pink pushed Asuna. Master Blue had pushed Melt out of the way.
Melt startled, the scenery changing to an old hallway. A room was up ahead. A sharp clean smell pierced the air mixed with the iron tang of blood. A person who's face he couldn't make out stared at him. They were holding something. The image disappeared. His arm itched again. His throat still felt like he couldn't breathe.
Melt slowly turned. Amaki was not standing next to him.
A woman dressed in a pale blue yutaka with pink flowers on it and short black hair was where she'd been standing. The woman did not seem human.
One of her hands was gripping Hibiki's wings, a green substance blackening his feathers. Her other hand was around Hibiki's throat.
She grinned as Melt reached for his sword and collapsed to his knees, coughing and gasping. Breathe, breathe. I can't breathe.
"Please, stop!" Amaki begged them. Her panicked voice sounded muffled as if she was underwater. “Don’t kill him, please!”
"Don't worry, heavenly oni," The woman spoke in a man's voice. "We won't kill your friend."
Melt looked to see a man wearing a brown yutaka with long black hair beside him. He was holding Melt's sword.
"Why…" Melt asked before coughing. He made eye contact with the Woman. "Why...are you doing this?"
The Man answered in a woman's voice. "We need fear energy to revive our emperor." He grinned as he pressed the sword against Melt’s throat. “And you two have just the right amount we need. After that, we'll feed you to our child.”
"W-what...do you mean?" Melt asked.
The Man smirked as he took out a shuriken from his pocket. The Woman pointed to the ceiling.
Melt craned his head to look at the ceiling. His heart stopped and the hair on the back of his neck stood up. "What the hell is that!?"
A giant creature that resembled a tangled mess of skeletons was clinging to the ceiling. It dropped down, clinging to the ceiling by it's feet.
Melt bolted to his feet and inserted his ryusoul into his changer. He transformed. Hibiki turned into a Haast's eagle and flew at the Woman's face, his talons making deep gashes on her face and hands. Melt wrested his sword from the Man and backed away.
Someone grabbed his arm and dragged him away from the Man and the Woman.
As they exited the mansion's grounds, Melt slumped over against a tree as he caught his breath.
Amaki looked to be in rough shape, her back bleeding from long scratches.
Melt's right arm had a green substance on it, the wound smelling rotten and blackened. Hibiki's feathers that were affected by the substance were falling out.
He carefully touched the wound with a finger. A hand slapped Melt's hand away from the wound. The Oni in front of him looked like Amaki's Oni form, but with gold accents instead of silver.
Amaki stared at the other Oni with wide eyes as if she couldn't believe what she was seeing. "Ibuki." She said.
Melt turned to stare at the Oni. "Master Blue?"