K: Holy crap, it's been a while. Sorry, guys. I've been busy reading other people's stuff, having cosplay take over my life, graduating from UCD… Anyway, sorry again for the horrendous delay.


Disclaimer: Yu-Gi-Oh is not mine, but the story concept is. Steal it before I publish the original version and I'll sue your pants off.


Dedications:

To everyone who's been waiting patiently for YEARS for me to continue this. I'm sorry it took me so long.


The Apparition

Encounter V: Reflection


I lay awake long into the night. After all that had happened in Rakuen, I couldn't help but dwell on that frightened woman's words, wondering if the spirit was really as powerful as he'd claimed. Considering what had happened to my dad, all signs pointed to yes on that one, but I had a feeling that incident had only been a small demonstration of whatever unearthly abilities he had. Then there was the other thing—the whole "foolish mortals" part. Did that mean that he was something more sinister than just a ghost? Was he really some kind of demonic creature hell-bent on tormenting me for the rest of my life? Or am I just looking into it too much?

I sighed and stared up at the dark ceiling, my eyes idly searching for an answer it couldn't possibly give. Eventually I grew tired of it, the crick in my neck prompting me to rise from my seat at the desk and flop down onto my springy mattress. Lying spread eagle on top of my comforter, I closed my eyes, mulling over all that I knew about my phantom stalker. Even though he scared the crap out of me every chance he got, he didn't seem like he was deliberately trying to hurt me. In fact, every time I had been injured was simply out of surprise on my part, which had resulted in various bruises, bumps, and scrapes due to my carelessness in such a panicked state.

Really, though… Could anyone blame me for reacting that way? I may not have any friends to compare myself to first hand, but I'm pretty sure just about anyone would freak out if faced with something supernatural. But… now that I think about it, he's let me be both times I've seen him face to face. It's almost as if he chose to back off since he knew I was afraid…

But if that's true, why won't he stay away from me? If he doesn't want to frighten me, then why does he keep coming back? Just what exactly does he want from me, anyway?

Mussing my bangs irritably, I resumed my search for answers in the textured paint plastered on my ceiling. Whatever he wanted, it obviously had something to do with this "Omote" person. Maybe if I manage to figure out who he is, and why he's so important to the spirit, I can work out a way to get Mr. Tall, Dark, and Transparent to realize I'm not who he thinks I am and leave me alone for good. Whatever the result, it's worth a shot, right?

Problem is, where the hell am I supposed to start? It's not like I can just type the name into a search engine and see what pops up. Well, I can, but I highly doubt I'll find anything useful.

I turned my gaze to my desk, pondering whether to turn my screen back on and start researching whatever I could. It was already pretty late, and I had to start getting ready for school in a few hours. After a quick glace at the clock, I closed my eyes, pinching the bridge of my nose. At this point, class was going to suck tomorrow, whether I slept or not. Two hours just wasn't enough, and that was assuming I managed to calm down enough to fall asleep as soon as I hit the pillow. So, really, what did I have to lose?

That settled, I rolled sideways off of the bed, then hoisted myself back into the swivel chair and switched my screen back on. I wiggled the mouse a bit to wake it up, then called up my web browser and brought up my preferred search engine.

"Let's see…" I muttered, clicking on the open bar. "He didn't write it in kanji, so…"

Backspacing so that the kanji turned back into hiragana, I nodded and clicked 'search.' Several sites and web videos popped up, and after a moment of browsing through their summaries, I sighed. Sure enough, they were all sites regarding Aikido and tatami mats. The only other site listed had something to do with sociology and the dualism of 'public' and 'private' face in Japanese culture.

"Well, great. As interesting a topic as that may be, it still doesn't help me figure out who Omote is."

I sighed, leaning back in my chair and running through my options. Setting 'Omote' on the back burner for the moment, the only other thing I could think of that might aid my research was the incident at Rakuen. The people there obviously believed in the supernatural, so maybe they could help me figure out what kind of entity he is, and how to exorcise him or something.

"…assuming they even let me set foot in their store again."

Scowling, I tried to think of other ways I could ask for help without the possibility of them shoving the door in my face. I could always call or e-mail them, I suppose…

Reaching for the keyboard, I pulled up a city search and typed in Rakuen. The first site had their address and phone number listed, as well as a link to their website. Clicking the link, I scanned their page for a 'contact us' tab and jotted down their e-mail on a piece of paper. After opening a new tab and bringing up my e-mail account, I clicked on 'new message' and copied their address into the recipients bar.

"Now… how to word this?"

I settled back in my chair, idly tapping out a rhythm on the smooth, worn edge of the desk. How should I approach this? Should I tell them of my situation outright, or ease into it by asking several questions regarding the store, and branch out from there? Which method would prompt the desired response?

I decided to go with the latter option. After all, I didn't want them to ignore me or think I'm crazy. I figured, if I were in their place, I wouldn't really take someone seriously if I received an e-mail out of the blue that asked me to help with a malevolent ghost. Particularly if the beliefs my workplace represented were frowned upon by a majority of society. I'd probably think they were pranking me.

Alright, then, if I was going to ask them questions, they'd better sound as legitimate as possible. Heading back to the first tab, I wandered the site until I had a good sense of what kind of services Rakuen offered, and what kinds of questions were safe enough to ask without giving anything away. Now I was faced with a different decision; would I write to them under the guise of a curious customer, or as a local student researching holistic methods of healing, with a focus on potential dangers regarding the spirit? They would be less likely to ignore a query from a potential customer, but my lack of knowledge and more probing questions would be easier to accept as a student writing a paper. Whichever one I chose, I only had twenty minutes before the alarm went off and I had to get ready or risk missing the train.

Shaking my head, I gathered my thoughts and tried to word my message as politely as possible. After sending it off and shutting down my computer, I rose just in time to silence my alarm. Rubbing my eyes, I stifled an indignant groan and stumbled into the bathroom to douse my head in cold water and face the day.