Warnings: eating disorder
Notes: "Senpai" is what younger students call older students. "Kohai" is what older students call younger students. Reminder the though they're in the same grade, Amagi is older than Yukimura by at least a year. Also, "reiki" is basically life energy.
My parents were working the kitchen, like always, when I walked through the door. Mom spied me from the corner of her eye and hummed, not looking up from the bowl of ramen she prepped with sure, deft hands.
"Keiko, honey," she said. "You're home late. Where have you—"
"What have you done to your hair?"
The interjection came from Dad, who had been stirring the big vat of broth in the corner. His hands slackened around the ladle as his jaw dropped; Mom's followed suit when she finally turned her head away from her work and saw me.
"I wanted to try something new," I said, tugging at my bangs. "Do you like it?"
Mom and Dad exchanged a Look. The bottom of my stomach turned cold, the hard surface of a skating rink.
"It's—well, it's very short, dear," Mom said.
"But you're still our pretty little girl!" Dad added, trying to be helpful.
"I just wish you'd told us about it ahead of time," Mom finished, with a nod of agreement from my father. "But we'll get used to it, I'm sure!"
My fist clenched at my side, nails scraping at the still-new wounds left there during the incident with Hiei. Although my parents didn't know it, they'd said the exact wrong thing: that they wanted to control me, even in a small way like knowing about my haircuts before I got them…and that would defeat the whole point of getting a sudden, for-me hairstyle.
Swallowing back a gummy sigh, I said, "Sorry. I guess I wanted it to be a surprise."
Dad cracked a wide, nervous grin. "Well, color us very surprised."
"Mission accomplished!" Mom chirped. "Now sit, and I'll make you dinner."
Mom delivered a rice bowl with veggies and shrimp to me, in the main dining room where I sat doing homework and occasionally waiting tables. Luckily my homework for the evening wasn't too strenuous—basic math, a history essay, a chemistry test to study for—and I could pick at my meal while I worked. Absently my chopsticks trailed over the rice, cabbage, and seafood, alighting on the sliced and marinated carrots before anything else. Their bright orange color appealed to me for some reason, drawing my eye and chopsticks like technicolor magnets.
I'd popped the first one into my mouth before I realized what my subconscious was getting at.
Horror surged, more uncomfortable than any nausea. Spitting the bright orange carrot into my hand, I slipped the uneaten vegetable back onto my plate and ate the more blandly-colored foods instead. Although Mom knew how much I usually ate and planned my portions accordingly, eating every last bite of her delicious meal felt like a battle, felt like my stomach had expanded past the point of fullness and was ready to burst by the time I'd finished the rice and shrimp.
When Mom came by an hour later to collect my dishes, she patted my head and tutted. "Keiko, you didn't even touch your carrots."
"Sorry, Mom—not feeling them today," I said.
There was no way to tell her I'd targeted them first, then avoided them on principle, because bright orange carrots were perfect for a binging marker-food. I'd learned the practice before realizing it didn't always work, and now it seemed I couldn't escape—
No. Stop. Stop thinking about it.
Even though Kurama and I had put our feud to rest, and the stress of our dance along with it, it seemed I still wasn't past this…urge. This horrible act of self-loathing spurred into life by stress and fear. I went upstairs after dinner and paced across my room, feeling my stomach roil as sweat beaded between my shoulder blades. The urge to vomit was physical, yes, linked to the addictive adrenaline high triggered by purging, but it was more than that. I had only purged a few times now, but already my brain—conditioned as it was by the bad habits of my previous life—had linked purging with that high. The call of it tempted me, an addiction as difficult to describe as it was to kick. My eyes darted to the door, toward the hallway beyond and the bathroom waiting for me at the end.
My phone rang before the siren song could ensnare me. Halfway grateful, halfway angry, I snatched the phone off the cradle and snapped, "Hello?"
"Hello, Yukimura-san," said Amagi's cool, mild voice. "Do you have a minute?"
"Oh. Sure." Winding the cord around and around my hand, pulling it tight like an anchor line, I sat at my chair and propped my elbow on the desk. "What's up?"
"Just calling to check in." She paused. "How are you doing?"
"I'm OK." A lie, but she didn't need to know that. "Just got home. Everything all right?"
"Yes," care her smooth reply. "Everything's fine."
"Okay," I said.
Amagi hummed, placid. I expected her to speak, to tell me why she'd called, but she said nothing. My free hand tapped against my thigh, impatient for her to get to the point.
"So…need something?" I eventually said.
"Ah. Sure." There followed a pause so long, I wondered if Amagi had even possessed a reason to call in the first place. Eventually she figured something out, though, and said with conviction: "Right, then. I'd like your advice on a certain matter."
I blinked. "Mine?"
"Yes." She spoke with clipped assurance, confident and official. "Apart from the one incident with Hotaru, which resolved itself in short order, you have a way of avoiding social drama that I envy. I feel like you might have some advice for me."
Little did she know I stayed out of the teenage drama scene simply because I wasn't really a teenager. Smiling, I said, "It's weird to give advice to my senpai, but sure. I'll try."
"If it's any consolation," she said, "you act much older than your age."
I would've laughed at the irony if I'd been in the mood. But I wasn't, so I just told her, "Yeah. I get that a lot."
"I imagine you do," she said—but before I could analyze her wry, knowing tone, Amagi launched into an explanation.
The scenario she described sounded typical of high school drama. Two of the fangirls were squabbling over a perceived slight, one born of miscommunication and pride, and as their senpai, Amagi felt compelled to help them patch things up. Only in the course of trying to mediate, more miscommunication happened, and what started as hurt feelings had morphed into a full-blown fight.
The story took a while for Amagi to convey, explanation long and complex, attention paid to every small detail and word exchanged. The phone cord around my hand loosened with each word she spoke, tension in my shoulders abating as I listened to problems that weren't my own. Focusing on someone else's drama certainly had a way of taking my mind off my own, that's for sure.
"Well, it sounds to me like they just need to talk to each other," I said when she finished. "They've been communicating through other people and the rumor mill. Miscommunication is bound to happen when you're hearing things indirectly."
Amagi didn't sound convinced. "So you think they should just…?"
"Sit down and talk it out, yeah."
"I don't know if either of them is willing," she said. "Their pride hurts."
"Give them a bit of time to cool off, then. They'll come around." I injected my voice with as much stern gentleness as I could muster. "But before that, you have to change some things, too."
I could almost picture her lovely mouth opening with shock. "Me?" she asked.
"You've been acting as their go-between," I said, trying to sound as non-accusatory as possible. "I know you have their best interests at heart, but it's their beef, not yours. Stepping in only makes things messier."
"But I'm responsible for these girls, aren't I?" Amagi asked. "Isn't it my job to mediate?"
"To an extent, maybe. But mediating isn't the same thing as handling it for them." Leaning back in my swivel chair, I dragged a toe on the ground and rocked back and forth, back and forth, phone's spiral line stretching and compressing over and over again. "If you step out of the fray and stop facilitating them avoiding each other, they'll be forced to communicate directly."
"Ah," Amagi said. "I see your point."
"Yeah. Stepping out is the only way to get them to talk. Spread the word to the other girls," I told her. "Don't take sides, don't pass messages—just listen if they need it, and say 'I think you should go talk to her, not me,' whenever one comes to you about the other."
"You make it sound so easy. So simple."
"Simple, yes. Easy, no." I lifted a finger into the air, pontificating to an invisible audience. "It's human instinct to want to intervene when you see people hurting, but picking at a scab only risks opening it to infection. You can't baby people. You have to let them fight their own battles, even when they're your friends." Smiling to myself, I remembered all the fights between friends I'd mediated in my past life, and all the ways my good intentions had made things so much worse. "It's something you learn as you get older."
Amagi laughed. "Says my kohai."
"Old soul, remember?" I teased. "Anyway. Did I help?"
"I think so." She paused, and then she murmured, "Thank you for listening."
"And I'm here to listen, should you ever need it."
Her words sounded pointed. Intentional. Like perhaps she knew I needed someone to listen to me, now more than ever—and maybe she did know that. She was psychic, after all, though in what capacity I couldn't say. It was too bad I wasn't ready to talk just yet. Not yet.
But maybe soon.
She didn't say anything more. Neither did I. We sat there, listening to each other breathe, in companionable silence until my chair let out an awkward squeak. That got Amagi to laugh again. She had a pretty laugh—not as pretty as Kurama's, but then again, nobody is as pretty as him. That jerk.
"Thanks," I said when I worried the line had gone dead. "I appreciate that." I stood up. "Well, anyway. I need to work on my homework, so—"
"Yes, it's late. I'll see you tomorrow."
The dial tone sounded like a bell, hollow and clamorous. I put the phone in the cradle and flopped onto my bed, massaging at the cuts gouged by my nails into my palm the day before.
A startled smile crossed my face when I glanced at the clock and saw the time.
I'd been talking to Amagi for so long, I'd missed the chance to purge.
The following Sunday, Hideki wore a charcoal suit and a black tie. I would've said the look suited him, but he would doubtless make me run extra laps for that terrible pun. Instead I walked up in my shiny leather shoes and blazer, gave him the once-over, and smiled my sunniest smile.
"Wow, sensei," I said, "you sure do clean up nice."
He harrumphed, tugging at his stiff collar. In truth, my suit pun wasn't even true. Hideki looked like he wanted to peel off the suit like a cicada shedding its skin, crawl out of the linen jacket and silk tie and leave them empty on the sidewalk outside the warehouse dojo. In fact, he nearly did just that. All the collar-tugging had set his tie askew.
"Here, let me," I said. Hideki tilted his head back, staring resolutely (or perhaps even awkwardly) at the sky as I tightened his Windsor knot and set it straight again. "You wanna tell me where we're going?"
Hideki shrugged. "You'll see."
Man of few words as he was, Hideki said little as I followed him through town, answering my questions with cryptic one-word answers or even mere grunts. From the warehouse district we passed through a residential neighborhood and then a shopping area, quaint and pretty with flowers in pots lining the brick sidewalks. I thought he meant to take me to lunch, give me a talking-to or dressing-down about my recent behaviors, but instead he led me straight to the front of a small bookstore. A sandwich board out front proclaimed that today a local novelist would be signing books and giving a reading—which was cool and all, but was Hideki a big reader? I hadn't heard of this novelist before (though his name was commonplace enough to sound familiar), let alone given Hideki reason to think I'd want to attend a reading by this "Sato Shogo" person.
Nevertheless, Hideki walked straight in the bookshop's open door, heading past rows and cases of reading material and straight to the back, where a large open space had been cleared and filled with chairs. Stacks of a blue-bound books burdened a table by the far wall, partially obscuring the man—whom I assumed was the novelist—sitting at said table. He hunched over one of the blue books, pen scribbling; a woman stood in front of him wearing a large smile. Probably a fan, if I had to guess.
Alas, she was the only fan. Although the bookstore had cleared a space for this grand signing event, that woman was the only one present. Maybe the event was over, or hadn't started yet? I wasn't sure, but perhaps novelists (not to mention their novels) weren't so popular in this literature-bereft world.
My heart gave a little pang at that thought. My past life ambition had been to become a novelist. Was it even worth it in this world? Would people even read the books I still wanted so desperately to write?
Hideki didn't give me time to contemplate the matter, which was probably good for my nerves. He spotted the man at the table and waited until the woman collected her book and walked away from the writer before approaching. My sensei walked as silently as a cat to stand over the man, so quietly that at first our author didn't notice us. When he did lift his head and behold my sensei, he flinched—but then his eyes widened behind his rectangular glasses.
"Hide…Hideki-san?" he said.
"Sato-san," said my sensei with a stiff, awkward bow. "It's been a long time. You might not remember me."
"Don't be silly. Of course I remember you." Sato stood up, mouth moving between a smile and a confused grimace in turns. Eventually the smile won out; he looked Hideki up and down, shaking his head with pleased wonder. "I knew today would get a small turnout, but to think you'd show up? My, my. It's been years." The man mopped a hand over his face, smoothing his thin mustache and the scruff on his chin. Almost as an afterthought he asked, "How are you?"
"Fine." Hideki glanced around, face as impassive and expressionless as always. "Where's Kuroko?"
Sato smiled at the mention of that name. I just stood there, because it meant nothing to me—not at first at least. But then:
"Ah," said Sato Shogo—the man whose name and occupation suddenly sounded all the more familiar, especially paired with the name Kuroko. "So this isn't just a social call, or coincidence." He spread his hands, gesture supplicating. "I'm sorry, but she's at home with the kids. I'm afraid she doesn't come with me to book signings much these days."
"Damn." Hideki's lips pulled into a tiny, regretful smirk. "It was worth a shot, at least. But I suppose you'll do." Slate-grey eyes slid my way. "Come here."
Because my brain was busy piecing together clues, rapidly scouring the mental archives to make this all make sense, I did as Hideki asked without thinking about it. Sato looked at me as if noticing my presence for the first time. He wore his thick brown hair parted down the middle, looking for all the world like a nerdy writer.
Only there was more to him than that, wasn't there? A lot more.
Sato's expression warmed when he saw me, father's instincts shining through. "And who might you be?" he asked.
"My student," came Hideki's curt reply. My sensei gestured between Shogo and I, face set in that same neutral mask I'd come to expect from him—and completely at odds with the bombshell he didn't even realize he was throwing me.
"Yukimura Keiko, this is Sato Shogo," my Hideki said. "Sato Shogo, this is Yukimura Keiko. Yukimura is best friends with the current Spirit Detective."
Sato's warm expression vanished—this time into remorse. Voice low, expression somber, he said: "Another one?"
"Yeah." Hideki glanced at me. "And Keiko—"
I knew what he would say even before he said it, because just then all the pieces clicked.
"This man is the husband of Sanada Kuroko," my sensei said, "the first Detective of Spirit World."
Shogo (as he bade me call him), was more than content to pause the book signing—"It wasn't very busy, anyway"—and go to a nearby restaurant to talk in private. We sat in a secluded booth near the back of an American-style diner, one with Formica counters and vinyl seats and very little American cuisine on the menu. This was both comforting and totally disconcerting, as Shogo (in a game attempt at casual small talk) made a comment about enjoying "foreign cuisine". I didn't have the heart to tell him the menu was mostly German.
I, of course, was fucking flummoxed by the whole situation. How the shit did Hideki know Kuroko, for one thing, and how the hell hadn't I recognized Shogo's name the first time I saw it? Granted, he was a minor character in the anime who appeared for only one or two episodes, but still: I prided myself on my encyclopedic knowledge of Yu Yu Hakusho. I'd totally forgotten Kuroko's husband was a novelist in the first place! He would've been a great person to consult about the missing literature in this world. I'd have to pull my YYH-info-booklets from their hiding place and reevaluate all my notes just as soon as I got home. Had I even written down his name or remembered his existence when I made my YYH journals so many years ago? It had been nearly a decade since I made my journals, so there was a chance I'd jotted it down and just forgotten. Ten years was a long time to go without seeing the anime…
"I imagine you must be confused," Shogo said to me after a waitress (wearing a Superman costume, of all things) took our drink order. His smile seemed kindly, though it cooled a little when he turned to Hideki. "And to be honest, I am, too. It's been years since we've spoken."
Hideki—sitting with arms crossed over his chest, staring out the window into the street beyond—shot Shogo a brief glance, but he said nothing. I shifted in my seat, hands clasped tightly enough to impeded circulation.
"Can I ask how the two of you know each other?" I asked.
Hideki took a deep breath, though I probably wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't been sitting next to him. Eyes falling shut, he muttered, "I was just a kid when I discovered my spiritual powers. So was Kuroko. We liked to fight each other, and then we fought at one another's side when Spirit World recruited her."
Oh. Well, wasn't that interesting. Hideki was basically the Kuwabara to Kuroko's Yusuke, then?
"And somewhere along the way," Shogo cut in with a grin, "they met me. Never was as strong as Hideki or Kuroko, though I had my uses." He laughed, eyes on Hideki as if searching for confirmation. "We had a good time, the three of us."
Hideki grunted. But I knew him well enough to know that wasn't an actual agreement.
"Eventually Hideki went off to learn Reiki from some master in the mountains," Shogo went on. My ears metaphorically perked up at that. "What was her name?"
Hideki's mouth twitched the way it did when he was annoyed. "Doesn't matter." Shogo started to ask another question (as did I, actually) but Hideki didn't let us speak. He said, "By the time I got back, you and Kuroko were hitched."
"That we were," Shogo said—and his eyes turned sorrowful. "I'm sorry we didn't tell you first. Been meaning to say that for some time. But you didn't stick around long, and…"
"It's in the past." Shogo looked surprised at that, though Hideki wore the same cool mask as always. Eyes fixed carefully on the window, he said: "You're good together. She's happy. That's all I can ask for."
The two men lapsed into silence: Hideki staring out the window, Shogo trying desperately to catch my sensei's eye, and failing. I, of course, was busy analyzing all the little implications hidden in the way Hideki refused to look at Shogo when he wished for Kuroko's happiness with the other man. History occupied the silences and avoided gazes, filled the nooks and crannies in Hideki's features and the pauses between his words. None of my business, obviously, but very interesting nonetheless. Eventually Shogo got tired of trying to crack Hideki's demeanor and heaved a sigh, pasting on a chipper smile as he shifted his body my way.
"So, Keiko," he said. "Your best friend is the current Spirit Detective?"
"Yeah." I swallowed, knowing I should probably be careful with how much I revealed—because Kuroko hadn't liked Yusuke too much when they met in the anime. "He is."
"That's why I brought her here," Hideki grunted.
Shogo grinned, eyes pleased crescents. "I suspected you didn't come to merely reminisce about the good old days." He looked directly into my eyes, then. "So. What can I do for you?"
"I apologize, but Hideki didn't tell me who we were meeting." Shogo's mouth parted in surprise at my blurted words. "I'm still getting my thoughts in order, and if you'll just give me a moment—"
Beside me, Hideki growled. "You're overthinking again." To Shogo he intoned: "Spirit World wants her to work for them."
Like a deer caught in headlights, Shogo looked from Hideki to me and back again. I sighed, simultaneously grateful for and annoyed with Hideki's blunt nature.
"Yes," I said. "That's right."
Before we could get down to the nitty-gritty, the Superman-server arrived with our drinks. I had a soda; Hideki ordered tea, and Shogo ordered coffee. He added cream and sugar in heaping dollops, contemplating the swirl of white into dark brown as he stirred with a silver spoon. The soda tasted like acid on my tongue; I pushed the drink away.
"I imagine you're reluctant to accept such a job offer," Shogo said once he took his first sip. "I don't blame you." He met my eyes with an expression of grave solemnity. "While Spirit World has the good of humanity at heart, they ask a lot of their Detectives. Sometimes too much. Spirit World won't hesitate to sacrifice one for the good of many." He pushed his glasses up his nose, smiling behind the light reflecting off the lenses. "They're quite utilitarian in that regard. Very Japanese. My wife gladly retired from their employ when we got married. She'd seen enough for one lifetime."
Gladly retired, huh. Interesting. I pretended to take a drink of my soda, hyperaware of Hideki's eyes as they fixed upon me, sidelong.
"What position did they offer you?" Shogo asked, leaning an elbow on the table. "Detective is taken already, so…"
"They want me to be the new Detective's record-keeper," I explained. This didn't feel like oversharing—not too badly, anyway. "The Spirit Detective's handler—"
"Yes. She was injured, and they want me to keep an eye on the Detective in her place." I couldn't suppress a derisive snort. "They're calling it 'record-keeping,' but that's just a fancy word for spy."
Shogo's eyes narrowed. "You're reluctant to do it, I assume."
Since I couldn't tell him the real reason—that Spirit World wanted to keep an eye on me, too—I shrugged and demurred to his own explanation. "It's just what you said. They ask too much of those in their employ."
"But your age indicates you've only barely begun working with them," Shogo said, "so how could you know that?" He leaned forward, eyes intent on my face. "No. There's something more you're not saying."
Truth be told, I floundered—because I had not come here expecting an interrogation, and therefore I hadn't prepped myself to lie effectively. My mouth opened and closed a few times before I found the wherewithal to speak.
"I guess—I guess I don't relish the idea of spying on my friends," I said—but that was the wrong damn thing to say. Shogo leaned forward even farther.
"Friends plural?" he observed.
"I thought you said they wanted you to monitor the Detective. So far as I'm aware, there can only be one Spirit Detective," he said. Tone oddly gentle, he asked, "Is there more to the story, perhaps?"
Beside me, Hideki shifted. "Who else did they ask you to watch?" my sensei murmured.
There followed a long, tense silence—a silence in which I sat there, unmoving, because I feared drawing attention to myself might give the entire game away. I knew one day I'd have to reveal my secrets to the main YYH gang, but that did not include the husband of a former Spirit Detective and my martial arts master. Telling either of these people about my problems simply wasn't in the plan. What the fuck consequences would there be, and how the hell could I ever hope to anticipate them? And now that these two were sitting here staring me in the face, trying to drag out answers, I just couldn't—
Luckily, Shogo took pity on me.
"Hideki," he said. "I'm sorry, but could I speak with Yukimura in private?"
My sensei shrugged, but he didn't argue. "Suit yourself."
We played booth-shuffle so he could get up and walk outside. I watched him through the window as he went to the café's patio and sat down, ordering something else from a waitress dressed inexplicably in lederhosen. He shot me one blank look through the window before turning pointedly away to watch the cars pass on the street.
"Now," Shogo said. "Hopefully you can talk freely." He wore the smile my father wore when he had to talk to me about hard subjects, kind and firm and gentle. "I understand there might be things you hesitate to say in front of your sensei. But you have my word that anything you say will remain confidential."
It was all I could do to stammer: "Thank you."
"In light of that, will you tell me what's really bothering you?" When I hesitated, his smile deepened. "Perhaps this will help: I know you knew who I was before Hideki said my name."
The booth fell out from under me, then. It's a miracle I didn't flop in a shocked, boneless puddle to the floor. Shogo seemed amused at my fish-out-of-water gaping, the way my mouth opened and closed again as I tried in vain to form words. Any words.
"Well," I said. "Wuh—well." I scrabbled for the only excuse available to my addled mind. "You're a novelist, so—"
"I'm not that famous. Not enough to recognize on the street, anyway." Another of those kindly, twinkly-eyed smiles. "And has anyone ever told you you're not a very good liar?"
It felt pointless to argue. I just stirred my drink and watched bubbles course over crystalline ice cubes, dejected and frankly too tired of panicking to feel panicked. "It's a curse."
"And a gift," Shogo said. "Honesty is to be commended."
"Not when it gets me in trouble."
"Maybe so," he relented. "But the fact is, your face betrayed you as soon as Hideki said my wife's name." Once more he leaned forward. "You knew the name of the former Spirit Detective, somehow. Can I assume you're closer to Spirit World than even your sensei assumes, to have learned her name?"
Ah, writers. Bless them for constantly looking for answers, and in this instance providing me with a handy excuse while doing so. Of course he assumed I learned Kuroko's name through Spirit World. Passing a hand over my hair to gather myself, I gave Shogo the vaguest agreement I could voice: "That's one way of putting it."
But writers are more than just over-thinkers: they're observant, too, and Shogo was no exception. His eyes narrowed at my not-quite-admission, recognizing it for the dodge that it was.
"I see," he said. He took a sip of his coffee, set it aside, and placed his hands, palms up, on the table. "If you're reluctant to talk, perhaps I can do the talking for you," he said. "Give me your hands."
I started to do so—only a memory of the anime, of Shogo reading Yusuke's palms with alarming accuracy, popped like our superhero waitress into my head to save the day. My hands vanished back under the table almost of their own accord. At this Shogo merely laughed.
"Even in your silence, you reveal yourself," he said, bemused. "You already know I read palms, I see."
My cheeks burned, because holy shit, this guy! There was no fooling him, was there? Of all the adversaries I had to face, him I had not counted on. Shogo, oblivious to my inner turmoil, curled and uncurled his fingers, beckoning me.
"Nothing more than a parlor trick, I assure you," he said. "You have nothing to fear, Yukimura."
Shogo's fatherly smile and laughing demeanor were hard to deny—and to be honest, the idea of having my fortune read was more tempting that I'd like to admit, safety of my secrets notwithstanding. After all, in this world there might actually be some validity to the practice. I'd been a staunch disbeliever of everything even remotely supernatural in my old life, from god to superstition to tarot cards. Here in the world of Yu Yu Hakusho, however, the limits of possibility stretched beyond the scope of my small sight. Was I a fool to pass up a chance to have my fortune read by someone who knew what they were doing?
"Sorry," I said, hedging. "It's just—it's just that the last time I had my palm read, the psychic chased me off her front porch with a letter opener."
Shogo gasped, stunned at that admission, mouth opening to ask me just what the heck I meant (and I meant it quite literally; it was a great story to tell at parties)—but he shut his mouth when I lifted my hands. He let me lower my hands into his, probably figuring that he'd scare me off if he initiated contact. Surprisingly, he didn't immediately peruse my palm. Instead he studied the backs of my hands: the small gouge above my index finger courtesy of my teeth, the mole by my wrist, the scar on my middle finger where I'd cut myself slicing tomatoes as a kid.
"Interesting," he said.
He turned over my hand and coaxed open my fingers, next, tracing the inside of them one by one before opening up my palm with gentle pressure of his thumbs. I started to wince when he brushed the crescent moon cuts left by my nails, but his touch elicited no pain. One by one he traced the lines he found, eyebrows knitting together with ever swipe of his finger or thumb.
"Interesting," he said again. "Very, very interesting."
My pulse lurched. "Dare I ask?"
"Your lifeline." He pointed at the line, where it started between my forefinger and thumb, and traced its downward curve to the start of my wrist. "There's a distinct fissure." He frowned. "I've seen gaps in lifelines before, but your line fissures, then merges together again after the break. Can't say I've ever seen the like, to be honest."
'Sweating bullets' doesn't cover it. Shogo wasn't sure what he was looking at, but even with my limited exposure to palmistry, I had a pretty good idea of what that meant: one life ended and another began, soul travelling from one life and into the next. But there was no way I'd be clarifying that for him today, thank you very much.
But perhaps he didn't need my help to see the truth.
"But more than that…you aren't from around here." Shogo lifted his eyes to mine with a puzzled frown. "It's as if you earned one lifeline here, and another somewhere else. And this line is deeper than it ought to be given your age." His thumb traced the line again, as if to truly understand its unusual length. "You are more than you seem, Yukimura Keiko."
I didn't reply. Mostly because I couldn't.
"Truth be told, I suspected as much as soon as I saw you," Shogo said. His eyes lost their mystification, confusion giving way to frank appraisal. "Your carriage, your eyes, these lines…they belong to someone who has seen more stress than their youth would suggest. Far more. But not merely in the past." He tapped the cuts on my palm, but not hard enough to hurt. "You are under immense pressure. More pressure than perhaps you've ever experienced. And you have the urge to pull away, pull back, isolate yourself to protect yourself from harm—but it won't work."
My breath stuttered like a bad engine. "W-what do you mean?"
"I mean that you're thinking of running. Of turning down Spirit World's proposal." Shogo grimaced when I gasped; his words were so damnably true, it almost hurt. "However…pulling away, drawing back, hiding…it won't help your friends as much as you think. And it will help you even less."
His hands slipped free of mine, then, but only so he could cup them from below, squeezing in a manner far more threatening than reassuring. Dark eyes bored into mine as if to peer straight into the coils of my reluctant brain.
"You're afraid of losing control," Shogo said, "and running will ensure you do exactly that."
Our gazes held for a long time—so long I lost the feeling in my hands, lost the sensation of the booth pressing against my thighs. My head seemed to float free of its skull cage as Shogo and I stared at one another, body nothing more than the far-away memory of a forgetful soul.
Shogo blinked, and the spell broke.
"Oh," he said. He reached for the napkin dispenser on the table and offered me a tissue. "Oh, I'm sorry—here, take this."
Confused, I took the napkin—and then a drop of water hit the back of my wrist. I hadn't felt myself start to cry, but tears stained my cheeks like I'd been biking through a rainstorm. Embarrassed, I wiped the tears away and tried not to look Shogo directly in the eye. Ugh. Why was I even crying, anyway?
"Palmistry lets me see many things," Shogo said with a mortified laugh, "but if I'd known it would make you cry, I wouldn't have done it!"
"I'm sorry," I said on reflex.
"Oh, don't apologize. It's my fault." He scratched the back of his neck, smile penitent. "And I hope you don't mind, but…while palm-reading reveals much, simple observation is a powerful tool."
As though afraid he'd send me sprinting for the hills, Shogo reached for my hand—my right hand, the one curled around the napkin. Instead of looking at my palm, though, he simply took my hand in his and held it…but his finger drifted to the mark on the back of my knuckle. To that little gash carved by my careless teeth the day before in the bathroom.
"The stress," he observed in a voice like a gentle wind through flowers, "affects you in more ways than one."
Shogo didn't judge me. I sensed nothing but concern from him, temperate and kind. The knowing look told me he knew what the mark was from, but that he didn't consider me weaker because of it. I pulled my hand away out of self-consciousness, yes—but not shame. Nothing in his eyes triggered shame in me.
Much as I'd been stunned to meet Shogo today, I was beginning to feel glad for it.
"You know." He leaned his cheek on his fist, expression distant but fond. "I knew a young woman, once, who could probably relate to you." My brow arched of its own accord; Shogo continued: "She was overweight at a time when young girls are their most cruel. She tried everything to conform to their standards, to claim control of her narrative." His eye drifted to my hands. "Including what you're trying now."
It took effort to suppress a gasp of recognition. Hadn't Kuroko been vastly overweight in the anime, before getting a huge growth spurt? Was that who he spoke of?
"Eventually, though, she discovered something about herself," he said with obvious affection. "A special talent, you might say. She was noticed by people who could bring that talent to fruition." If those 'people' where those in Spirit World who had recruited her as Detective, Shogo didn't say. "She threw herself headlong into her work and found that despite its own stresses and dangers, she rather loved it. That's where she found her control." He tapped the table with the tip of a finger. "Tell me, Yukimura. What do you love to do? Any talents, perhaps?"
Because he was a published author, and because in this life I was nothing more important than a girl who kept exhaustive records of her life in journals, it was with pronounced reluctance that I told him: "I write."
"Ah." He didn't appear to care about my bona fides, grinning so widely he looked more like an excited schoolboy than a father of two. "Birds of a feather, then! I can say from experience writing is one of the best distractions."
"Agreed," I said. I'd escaped from reality and into my work too many times to quibble.
Shogo lifted his coffee mug. "From one writer to another: may you find solace in your work, and may the words flow ever free."
At his encouragement, I lifted my drink, clinked his mug, and added my murmured 'kampai' to his vigorous recitation of the same. We both drank; the soda tasted better this time around, though perhaps a bit too sweet.
The moment of levity ended soon enough. He drained his cup and set it aside, lacing his fingers together on the tabletop as he said, "But back to your more pressing matter."
"Spirit World," I surmised.
"Spirit World," he concurred. "Why exactly don't you wish to associate with them?"
This man…though I hadn't factored him into any of my planning, I liked him, probably more than I'd have guessed had I remembered him ahead of time. The kindly father-figure with insight into the supernatural, not as gruff as Hideki, not as out-of-the-loop as my father by birth. Shogo had a unique window into what it meant to be close with a Spirit Detective, making him a valuable resource in this second life of mine.
Plus, he was a writer. I'd be remiss if I didn't admit that that endeared him to me somewhat. I obviously couldn't tell him everything, but he had already intuited so much…
"There are things I don't want Spirit World knowing about me." I shrugged. "You saw my palms."
"I did," said Shogo. "But I don't know what I saw. Not really."
Shaking my head, I told him, "I can't tell you what those lines mean, and I'm sorry about that, but…you're a writer." At that I smiled. "You must know the trope of keeping information to yourself in order to protect others."
His expression walked the line between smile and grimace. "I do, though I admit I find that trope rather inconvenient."
"I do, too, but in this case, discretion is warranted. Trust me on this. You're better off not knowing." I sighed and sat back in my seat, stirring my drink until the very last of the bubbles popped. "The long and short of it is that Spirit World…they can't read palms, so far as I know, but they know something is off about me. That same je ne sais quoi you sense, I guess." Shrugging, I tried not to descend into self-pity at the thought of Spirit World suspecting me despite how hard I'd worked to remain anonymous. "I don't know what they suspect, or how much they know, but they said they found me 'interesting.' And that's enough to get my hackles up."
This time Shogo full-on grimaced. "I can see why. 'Interesting' is a dubious word indeed."
"Yeah." Leave it to another writer to see why that single word had set me so on edge. "Keeping them informed of my friends' business is a way for them to keep an eye on me, too. Ayame admitted it outright."
Shogo sat up straighter, pushing his glasses up his nose with one precise finger. "Ayame? She's still advising the Detective?"
"Oh. No. There's a new girl, but she's…on vacation." Better not get into the specifics. "Ayame is just her placeholder until she gets back."
"I see," Shogo said. "Well, I can't say I envy your position. Ayame is pleasant enough, but her manners hide a razor's edge."
"Yes—exactly!" Shogo was becoming more and more relatable with every passing moment.
"Truth be told, I've based more than a few characters on her." He laughed with the faintest hint of unease. "But, um. Don't tell her I said that."
"Your secret's safe with me," I said, laughing too. "But yeah—she's smart. Totally character-worthy. And since I'd be dealing with her if I said yes to Spirit World's offer, I worry about her noticing the things I'd rather hide."
"Associating with Spirit World closely would give them access to your life, I imagine," Shogo said.
"Yes. So the way I figure it, if I want to keep secrets, I can't risk giving them that access."
Shogo nodded, processing this…but he didn't speak right away. Eventually he crossed his arms, hooking one leg over the other as he lost himself in thought.
"Actually," he said after a minute, "I think you should risk that."
Surprise rendered me momentarily speechless. Eventually I managed, "What? Why?"
"Control." Shogo spoke the word with a confident smile, hands clasping tightly on the table. "Spirit World is trying to manipulate you, Yukimura. That is Ayame's specialty in particular. And with just one comment, she's sent you into a tailspin…and that tailspin might confirm all that Spirit World suspects about you." He leaned toward me, smile adopting a mischievous edge. "Who says you can't manipulate them right back, by taking their job as though you don't fear them at all? Why not manipulate them and her?"
Nonplussed, I stared at him. Shogo stared right back, waiting for me to get on board—but what he was saying was impossible, wasn't it? I couldn't play Spirit World, could I? Taking the job just gave them an advantage. They were too powerful, had too many resources, knew secrets of the universe a lowly human like me could never—
But when Shogo smiled, suddenly I wasn't so sure.
"I sense doubt in you, Yukimura," he said, "but you should know one thing: the denizens of Spirit World are much more human than you think." His head tilted to one side, a troublemaking schoolboy about to prank a reviled teacher. "The beings they'd like for us to regard as gods are far less powerful than they'd like us to believe…and you, I suspect, are for more capable than you even realize."
"You can't play a player," I said, too stunned to keep from speaking in English.
His brow knit. "Beg pardon?"
"Nothing, just—you're right." Jaw slack with wonder, eyes wide with realization, I stared at Shogo as though he'd just turned to diamond before my very eyes. "If I take the job, I look fearless. I look like I'm not hiding anything." Shogo's eyes bugged a bit when I swore, colorfully and vehemently. "I mean, I've been assuming they were just too powerful to manipulate, but—"
"But they're not," came Shogo's simple, laughing reply. "Perhaps I'm too atheistic to take gods seriously, but I've Spirit World make too many mistakes to take their word for gospel."
Now that I was thinking about it…I should've felt the same way. I was an atheist, too, who had seen Koenma's incompetency and King Enma's unethical treatment of demons in the anime. What was I doing, revering them and fearing them this way? I knew they made mistakes. Sure, they had resources I didn't, but Koenma was far from infallible.
Ayame was far from infallible.
And that meant—
"If you want control, take it," Shogo said. He tipped a conspiratorial wink, fond and fatherly. "I think it's yours for the taking, if you just know where to look."
He did me the courtesy of not talking for a while after that. The waitress came and refilled Shogo's drink, topping mine off with more ice since most of it had melted. When she left again, I placed my hand flat on the table and took a bracing breath.
"You're right," I said, with a grin of my own this time. "And as an added bonus, if I take the job, I can protect my friends from whatever Spirit World throws their way."
His eyes glittered behind his glasses. "There's that plural again."
"That pesky plural," I concurred—but I said nothing more. Shogo ducked his chin with a smile.
"I get it," he said. "More of what you can't tell me. But I suppose you're entitled to your secrets. We did just meet, after all."
Holy hell, his man was a treasure. "Thanks for respecting that."
"My pleasure." He tipped back his second cup of coffee and drank it down in just a few gulps; I feared for his safety, but he didn't look pained when he set the cup aside and stood. "Well, I suppose that's all the advice I can offer."
I stood, too, dipping a bow from the waist. "Thank you, Sato-san. I—"
"Oh. One more thing."
He looked at me the way he had in the bookstore: like he had seen me for the first time again, eyes narrow and searching. I straightened up and touched my hair, ill at ease under the weight of that gaze.
"The final thing I read in your palm," Shogo said—and his intensity softened just the smallest bit. "You are a caring person, Yukimura. You're sensitive and kind, and you care deeply for those you love. Some might tell you that's a weakness, but it's not."
He lifted a hand. It descended onto my short hair in a gentle, fatherly pat. I blinked up at the man—he was taller than I'd realized, a towering string bean of tender smiles and stunning insight—as he patted my hair like a doting uncle.
"Kindness, in fact, is a strength all its own," said Shogo. The corners of his eyes crinkled. "Though Hideki's aikido is definitely worth learning, too."
"Though unexpected, it was good to see you, Hideki," Shogo said. "And good to meet you, Yukimura."
The three of us stood outside the restaurant, having paid for our drinks and abandoned the booth shortly prior. Hideki had shed his suit-coat at some point, standing with hands in pockets of the slacks he probably didn't wear too often. I dipped a low bow, trying my best to look grateful. I owed Shogo quite a lot, I figured, and he deserved appropriate thanks.
"Thank you for your council, Shogo-san," I said.
"Any time. In fact…" He reached into his coat and pulled a small white card from his breast pocket. This he handed to me with a flourish. It bore a printed address and phone number, plus his name. "You're welcome in our home for dinner any time. I'm sure my wife would love to meet you and learn more about the new Spirit Detective." His chortle warmed me to my toes; it reminded me of my dad's laugh, earnest and heartfelt. "Just be sure to call and warn us first, or our guard dogs might attack!"
He didn't explain that he really meant his children might attack, but I laughed at the joke anyway. "Thank you. I will."
Hideki put a hand on my shoulder. "We'll be going, now," he said to Shogo. My sensei nodded at the author with a swing of grey ponytail. "Give my regards to Kuroko."
Shogo's mouth thinned, a smile that wasn't quite a smile at all. "You know, you're welcome to come by for dinner too, Hideki." His voice dropped low and pleading. "Kuroko would like to see you, I'm certain."
But Hideki wasn't so convinced, grunting a short: "I doubt it. Come along, Yukimura."
I followed Hideki down the sidewalk while Shogo waved goodbye, his eyes dark, sparkling crescents in his craggy face. I waved over my shoulder until we turned a corner and lost sight of him—and once we'd walked a few blocks more, I nudged my sensei with my shoulder. He eyed me askance and scowled at the contact, brow rising the barest millimeter.
"Sensei—thank you," I said.
He hummed—or grunted, rather. But it was a question, I could tell.
"I can't imagine that was easy to do." I had my suspicions about the dynamics of Shogo, Kuroko, and Hideki, but they were just that: suspicions. When Hideki didn't reply, I clarified. "I can't imagine it was easy to go to Shogo. So thank you for doing that for me. Turns out, he was the perfect person to talk to."
My teacher swung his eyes forward, face a neutral mask again. "No idea what you mean," he said, tone bland—but he was trying to be bland, to not give anything away, wearing that dispassionate mask to shield himself the same way I wore Keiko-face to school.
Unable to help it, I started to smile.
"No," I said—because he was entitled to his secrets, too. "I suppose you don't."
We walked in silence the rest of the way to the dojo. Hideki loosened his tie at some point, unable to keep its restrictive length around his neck any longer. Once we reached the dojo, I bowed to him and bid him goodbye—only Hideki had other plans. Before I'd even gotten the words out, he started speaking.
"I won't ask you to tell me what you two spoke about," he said, "but I hope you know I'm trustworthy."
Nothing in his expression spoke of jealousy, or of hurt, but it occurred to me he might resent my immediate trust of Shogo and not of my sensei himself. Smile apologetic, I said, "I trust you. It's just easier sometimes to confide in a stranger, especially if what I'm confiding could hurt them." I swallowed a lump of emotion, throat stinging. "I just…I want to protect the people I care about. And you're in that number, now."
His eyes widened the barest fraction. For a second I thought he might meet my touching statement with an assurance of his own...but I was wrong. Hideki was not one for sentiment, no matter how heartfelt.
"Oh, please." Hideki rolled his eyes. "I'm the one teaching you how to protect yourself."
"Doesn't mean I can't look out for you in my own way," I said, greeting his sarcasm with my own. I pointed, teasing. "Your tie is crooked again, by the way."
He pinned me with a glare. "I'm giving you extra laps at practice."
At that point I basically ran away, lest I anger my sensei and incur further penalties next practice. Hideki actually laughed as I beat my swift retreat, scratchy like a tree branch scraping a window pane.
When I reached home, my parents insisted I eat lunch with them.
Afterward, I went to my room, pulled the drafts of my old novels from their hiding place, and set to work.
That afternoon, I didn't purge. The distraction of writing worked—and even if it wouldn't work every time, or if I ran out of material someday, it could at least help me cope for just an afternoon.
It came as no surprise when I found Ayame outside my school one week to the day after she voiced Spirit World's proposal. Without a word I followed her away from school and back to the park where we'd first parlayed, under the shadows of dark trees that kept our secrets concealed.
"So you've come to a decision, then?" she said when we entered the clearing.
"Yup," I said.
While Ayame watched, I searched for a tree that wasn't oozing with sap and leaned against it, taking a deep breath to steady my nerves. The meeting with Shogo played over and over in my head, his advice given a few days prior thumping like a bass track through my consciousness.
Who says you can't manipulate them right back?
You can't play a player, as I'd told Kurama. And I needed to be a player now more than ever.
"Yes," I said as I got settled. "The answer is yes." I left unspoken the fact that being hands-on would give me the control I craved, and the ability to protect my friends. "I'll be the record-keeper for Spirit World."
Ayame's full lips curved into a beatific smile. She bowed, thanking me with her body language even as she said, "Very good. I'm looking forward to working together, Yukimura-san."
"However—I have some ground rules."
To my frustration, my demand didn't appear to rattle Ayame one bit. She merely stood up straight and cocked her head to one side, expression cool and curious and not at all confounded (dangit!).
"Structured communication," I told her, gesturing in the vague direction of my school. "No popping in and out of my life or showing up at my school. I'd prefer a set meeting time and place." I delivered unto her my most weighty glare. "And I'd much prefer you don't spy on me during my private life, when at all possible."
Ayame didn't even take time to think about it. Her smile returned and she said, "All reasonable requests. Consider it done."
I blinked, because I'd been expecting to have to negotiate. There went all the flash-card memorization I'd done the night before…but perhaps this ready agreement was an attempt to throw me off balance. Schooling my features back into a polite mask, I said, "Very well, then. I'm glad you're on board."
Her smile widened. "You're doing us a favor, Keiko. We're happy to accommodate your needs."
If you say so, I thought, but I didn't speak the snarky words aloud. Instead I just looked at her down the bridge of my nose and said, "OK. Down to the nitty-gritty. How does this whole thing work?"
"As stated previously, you will be expected to monitor Yusuke and Kurama, and to assist Yusuke where needed in his duties, barring fighting or placing yourself in any form of danger." She spoke as though she'd had flashcards, herself, speech smooth and rehearsed and memorized. "Materials necessary for Yusuke's duties will be delivered to your desk in your home as needed." At that she cracked a pleasant smile, demure and droll. "Don't worry. We don't need you to leave the window unlocked."
"Cool." Trying not to get creeped out at the implication she could access my home at any time was a feat of acting on my part, let me tell ya. "Anything else?"
"Yes. We'd like you to establish a weekly meeting with the demon Kurama."
My brow furrowed. I'd figured they'd just let me keep an eye on him without a formal meeting, but it's not like this wasn't doable. I'd be seeing him more than once a week as it was—especially considering recent events and conversations.
"Whether or not you reveal yourself as his 'parole officer,' as you called it, is up to you," Ayame said. She hid her smile with the sleeve of her inky kimono. "Is that a problem?"
"I believe I'll manage," I said, polite and cool—and vague.
Little did Ayame know I was already way, way ahead of her in that regard. But it wasn't the time to think about that just then.
Taking my acquiescence in stride, Ayame nodded. "Spirit World expects a report of Kurama and Yusuke's activities in writing, delivered directly to me each week. Perhaps we should meet Saturday mornings, here?"
"8 AM," I said—but it wasn't a request. It was a demand.
I think she knew better than to argue, given my tone. "Perfect," she said. One slender hand reached into her kimono sleeve, pilling from it a small object. This she held out to me. "Here. Consider this a distress beacon."
Pushing off the tree, I walked to her and took what she offered. It was, predictably, a small compact mirror—only it didn't have miniature screens inside like Botan's communicator. It contained only normal mirrors, exterior free of embellishments aside from a small pink rhinestone on the compact's silver cover.
"Press the mirror inside should you have urgent need to speak with me before our scheduled meeting," Ayame said. "I will meet you here as soon as possible in the event the beacon is activated."
Turning the object over in my hands, I muttered, "Nifty."
How cool, to get a Spirit World gadget—but wait. Why didn't I get an actual communication mirror? The ugly truth hit me in short order. Could I even see the screen of a communicator with no spirit awareness? Probably not. This was likely all I'd be getting in terms of fun gadgets. Just my luck…
Ayame let me examine the mirror in silence. When I finished I slipped it in my pocket and faced her once more. "So…is that it, Ayame-san?" I asked with faux pleasantness.
"Yes, unless you have any other questions," she replied.
I tipped an imaginary hat, smile coy. "I'll let you know."
"Yes." She dipped a goodbye-bow, which I forced myself to return. "I expect you will."
"Ok. Then I'll see you Saturday, Ayame-san."
Turning my back on her pleasant smile, I headed for the trees—only as I began to step into their ranks, something rustled behind me. Spinning, I flinched as a flock of birds took flight on the opposite edge of the clearing, an explosion of cawing crows lifting from the forest as though shot into the air by a cannon blast. Ayame wheeled to look, too, moving faster in her kimono than I think I'd seen from her before. Her long sleeves fluttered around her thighs like the wings of a bird far greater than any mere crow.
When the birds faded—flight blocked by the dark canopy above our heads—Ayame stilled. Her feet slowly pivoted her my way again, but her eyes stayed skyward, cast to the small ring of blue sky above the shadowy clearing. Eventually her gaze lowered down to me; she wore no smile, merely a look of empty appraisal
When our eyes met, her smile returned. It looked oddly brittle.
"Oh, Keiko?" she said.
I swallowed, nervous though I knew not why. "Yes?"
"There is something else, actually."
I almost rolled my eyes, the urge nearly slipping free of the polite Keiko-mask I wore like armor—because oh, look. A dramatic reveal at the end of our conversation. How predictable. Instead of snark I opted for a mild, "Yes, Ayame-san?"
"Since you're already monitoring one parolee of Spirit World," she said, every word a proclamation all its own, "we do not think it unreasonable to ask you monitor one more."
My chest hitched, breath catching like a snarl of hair around the tines of an unfeeling comb…because oh my fucking god. I was genre-savvy enough to know exactly where Ayame was headed with this—but I wasn't sure if I liked it.
Hell. I wasn't sure if I'd survive it.
But Ayame didn't need to know that.
Making a show of thinking about it, I put my hand to my chin and screwed up my eyes in thought, not allowing an ounce of apprehension to slip past my careful mask.
"I could probably handle one more, if it's just a weekly meeting," I said after a moment's ersatz contemplation. "Who's the lucky parolee?"
"You've met him before," she said—and if given the chance, I probably could've quoted Ayame's next words right along with her.
Oblivious to the heart beating rapid-fire in my chest, and to the myriad possibilities playing in endless, horrific loops inside my head, the reaper told me: "I trust you remember the demon Hiei?"
Before I could react, before I could say yes, the trees behind her stirred—but instead of a murder of crows, the demon in question stepped from the shadows of the trees.
And that's why this "record keeper" plot exists: to keep Hiei around. Surprise!
In the anime, Genkai sent Yusuke to Sanada Kuroko (the first Spirit Detective) for advice. Kuroko appeared to know Genkai pretty well and referenced her fondly. Kuroko is the main connection between Genkai and Hideki. I imagined Hideki, Kuroko, and Shogo were a little Spirit-Team "back in the day," not unlike the team that forms around Yusuke in YYH; they met Genkai at some point. YYH is a small world. As for Kuroko herself, she'll be part of this story eventually, in a way I'm SUPER EXCITED TO WRITE ABOUT.
(Also, yes: I have been chased off of a psychic's front porch with a letter opener. Will write about it sometime. I REALLY pissed her off.)
Many, many thanks to those who read and reviewed last week! TBH I had some not-so-good days, but y'all really cheered me up. Thank you so much! Yakiitori, Leahcar-Soutaichou, Just 2 Dream of You, MayaCompany, ED99, MetroNeko, Vyxen Hexgrim, Lady Rini, xenocanaan, zubhanwc3, o-dragon, Dec Jane, Melissa Fairy, General Zargon, tw2000, LadyEllesmere, Reclun, TerrorTwinEpicness, EmmieSauce, Maester Ta, Counting Sinful Stars, Tsuki-Lolita, Yume, MyMidnightShadow, Dreaming Traveler, Ceradin, A, wennifer-lynn, Selias, Finniansama, HereAfter, chi-chan, ahyeon, DiCuoreAllison, Marian, Sousie, MyHeartBeating-MWMI, RedPanda923, Beccalittlebear, Dreaming While Awake, rya-fire1, reebajee, GuestStarringAs, britneycase3, WaYaADisi1, Eternal Raine, CelticMonk, Kaiya Azure, littleteddybearstitches, MissIdeophobia, Nihil Asara, and two guests!