The life of a reaper can get a little boring, so why not spice it up with a little game? Rules are not a problem for a reaper of such power who can even reap unmarked humans. The next target is the newly revived Chika Akatsuki.
Angel of Death
The sound of shattered screams will echo through the night. To take such a desolated road was their biggest mistake and they would pay for it with their lives. The car stops, under the eerie dim light of the moon. The angel of death, in the guise of a young girl stands on the road, accepting guilt of having thrown that rock at the car. A man angrily comes out of the car, blood dripping from a cut on the side of his face where the rock hit him and several other smaller cuts on his face from the pieces of shattered glass. It was a pity; he was handsome, but not anymore, not with his face covered in blood.
In one swift motion, the girl calls forth a scythe and while the young man is in shock from the weapon's appearance out of thin air, she decapitates him, with such force that the head goes flying to the car hitting the wind shield. The woman who accompanied him in the passenger seat lets out a horror filled scream when she sees the man's head impact the glass, cracking it slightly before rolling down and falling in front of the car, with a trail of blood in its path.
The man's lifeless body stands on its feet, being showered by blood gushing out from the neck and staining his clothing red. A few seconds pass, the scent of blood is in the air and also the scent of death, her scent. The man's body falls to the road, the pool of blood continues to grow around it making it hard to believe humans truly have that much red liquid in their bodies.
In the car, the woman finally reacts and hurries to the driver's seat. She screams again, in an ear splitting shriek, when the girl moves forward and pounds the car with her scythe, blade down. The engine must have sustained too much damage, because the car isn't starting.
The woman exits the car and runs, and the angel of death is left behind to laugh insanely in blissful victory. The hunt wouldn't be the same if all her victims gave up easily, and she fades away.
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The girl of death reappears in another world. Her scythe is no where to be seen but can be easily called if needed. The dark world is full of corpses, the in between where the dead can become trapped until it is decided where they belong. Those zombies are quite different from the ones under contract, legal or not. They're rotted, nearly to the bones, and yet they move.
The corpses grab on to the girl's pale flesh scratching, though no cuts appear, rotten blood and flesh mix together, until she's nearly covered in corpses, but there's the door, there is no need to stay in that alternate dimension with the door right in front of her.
When she crosses that door she's back in the place called Earth. Passing through that dimension allows her to move with amazing speed to where she needs to be. From the human point of view it looks like teleportation, but there is a short distance she must walk before reappearing through the in between.
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"Help! Help!" The woman who ran away screams in a panic.
The officer stops his patrol car abruptly when he sees the panicked woman running on the road. "Miss, what happened?"
"Dead! He's dead! She's death, she killed him!" The woman screams and clings to the officer. The look in her face is of insane terror, she's sweating cold, trembling, crying, screaming, eyes wide open, teeth chattering, nails digging into his blue uniform, her gaze is lost, insane, in terror. She pales further and freezes, incoherent sounds, coming from her throat.
The officer feels a strong presence from behind. He turns and stares into the face of death, ghostly pale skin, glowing blood red eyes, long uneven black hair, blood red long nails, black ragged cloak, silver scythe in hand.
The assassin girl steps forward, holding out her scythe with the blade to the back. The officer reacts, reaches for his weapon and shoots. The bullets collide with the girl and fall to the paved road at her feet slightly dented. He panics and shoots until he has no bullets left.
The assassin, the angel of death, hits the officer with the blunt end of the scythe's handle. He is knocked unconscious and hits his head hard as he falls, blood coming out of his forehead.
The woman makes a run for it and the assassin gives chase. She uses her scythe to cut through the woman's back, around her spine and through her stomach. The assassin laughs, as the agonizing woman goes limp, life quickly slipping away from her. The only thing holding her on her feet is the scythe.
The angel of death twists the scythe and the victim screams, she could only scream louder if she had more air in her thirsty lungs. The assassin pulls the scythe up, easily cutting the rib cage and lungs, and the victim's life is gone.
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A young girl, human in appearance buys the newspaper from a street vendor. She flips around the pages until she finds what she's looking for and grins, almost insanely at the article.
Her blue eyes scan the page, blond hair blowing in the light breeze; and her world is silent among the busy streets. She turns a corner and walks into an alley with the newspaper in her hands. She fades into the shadows and nobody sees her disappear.
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As she crosses the in between, the corpses once again cling to her. They're weak crawling on the ground; they can hardly reach above her waist. She holds the newspaper above their reach and reads. "Allen Robinson and his wife Brittany Robinson were found dead..." She skips a few lines scanning over the contents of the news article then laughs insanely and victoriously when she finds what she was looking for.
"The police officer Howard Mallard who was found unconscious at the scene was concluded to be the killer, after suffering from a previously undiagnosed mental illness." Sudden insanity out of fear was a more accurate thing to say than a previously undiagnosed mental illness. "A... B... C... Who shall I kill whose name begins with C?"
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Their father, Yuuri, is out of town because of his work, and the two siblings are alone in the house. Chika Akatsuki has recently been revived from his zombie state and now he is a living human. He also finished high school recently and is taking some time off before deciding what he will do with his life from there, after all high school, a part time job, and zombie hunting all at once can leave anyone in need of taking a break.
Chika's sister Momoka wakes up and yawns. She reaches for her ringing cell phone and answers it "hello?"
"Who are you and why are you answering my boyfriend's phone?" A hysterical woman speaks through the cell phone. Apparently she needed comforting in the middle of the night and dialed the wrong number.
Momoka did not have the patience to deal with the idiot who woke her in the middle of the night because she was always using her cell phone and forgot to turn it off. Instead of explaining what was going on, Momoka makes suspicious noises that would surely cause the jealous woman stress. "Sorry sweetie but he doesn't want you anymore, we're quite happy at his place making sweet hot love," and she hangs up.
No doubt about it, the woman must be getting ready to storm her boyfriend's place and search for the one he was cheating with.
Momoka turns off her cell phone and lays down, but sleep does not come to her. Instead she gets up and goes to the kitchen for a glass of water.
Momoka makes her way down the stairs and into the kitchen. She takes a glass from the cupboard and decides on pouring herself some milk instead. She sets the clear glass down on the counter and searches the refrigerator for a milk carton. After finding it she pours herself a cool glass of milk and returns the carton to the refrigerator.
Picking up the glass full of milk, Momoka starts heading back to her room, bringing the white liquid to her lips, and suddenly she drops it.
Standing before Momoka there is a strange girl that the human swore wasn't there before. The girl is wearing a ragged black cloak, her eyes are blood red to match her long nails. Her skin is unnaturally pale and her hair messy, uneven and black. The reaper laughs and changes her appearance. Her hair becomes white, her skin gains a little color, her eyes are the most angelic pools of crystal blue and her ragged black cloak become silk white robes lined with gold. The only thing she doesn't have is a halo. "Am I still scary now?" She mocks.
Momoka struggles to push her voice out of her throat, but by the time it responds, her will to scream has melted away, instead she asks. "Who are you?"
"It's a sad story," the reaper answers, "you see I have no name, I am one of those reapers who has no use for an identity, such a trivial thing is a thing of the mortals. But if you must call me something, then call me your brother's killer." The reaper, in her angelic form flies up the stairs towards the boy's room.
"Chika!" Momoka screams at the top of her lungs and rushes after the angel of death. "Chika!"
Immediately after hearing his sister's voice, Chika wakes up and jumps out of bed. "Momoka!" He rushes out of the room and bumps into an angelical being, but he senses something dark about her. The boy, the young man, was wearing only pajama pants. The angelic assassin runs a hand from the side of his face, down his chest, he slaps it away. "Who the hell are you?"
The reaper's appearance changes slightly, her white hair and robes become stained with blood and her eyes become completely black with three glowing red pupils in each one. "I am death..."
The crash of porcelain is heard. Momoka had smashed Yuuri's favorite base over the reaper's head. "Stay away from my brother!"
The reaper laughs. "Foolish girl!"
"Momoka, run away!" Chika urges her to escape.
But Momoka remains rooted to the spot. "I'm not leaving you." Somehow she has become quite attached to her brother, not that he was complaining since his adorable little sister had finally stopped ignoring him.
"It's fine Momoka, I can handle this," for once Chika really wishes he was still a zombie, but it would have been no good without Shito if he was. Shito... he too was revived and had disappeared soon after, Chika wanted to go look for him but he didn't know where to start, the searches around the city had been proven fruitless but he wasn't giving up.
"Can you really?" The reaper mocks. She eyes the girl who dares tried to defend her dear brother. Mortals were to cower in fear, not fight back. She could hurt them both, she would choose one as her toy to torture and the other as her next target. Chika started with a C, if he was the target the game would end too soon, besides, the reaper very much preferred male toys. "Momoka Akatsuki," the human names are no mystery to the reaper, somehow she simply knows.
Chika looks at the reaper with wide eyes. He understands what she is saying. "No!" He cannot let his sister become the killer's target.
"My game wouldn't be fun if I broke my own rules, I have A and I have B, after the others it will be M's turn, Momoka's time approaches. Have fun in your last few days together," the echo of a sadistic laughter is left in the empty air, as the reaper fades leaving the siblings in their home alone.
"Chika..." Momoka's eyes are teary, she does not fully understand the situation but she knows it's bad. "That was a real reaper, they really exist."
Chika had never told anyone about his involvement in zombie hunting; he didn't want to worry them. "It'll work out Momoka, I'll keep you safe, I promise" and he would do anything to keep that promise.
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Koyomi arrives on time for her hair appointment and she greets the stylist with a smile. "Good morning!"
The stylist smiles back, "good morning Koyomi!" Koyomi is seated and a peach colored salon cloak is placed over her. The stylist runs her hands through the girl's long green hair. "What would you like?"
"A trim, not too short and make it layered and cute!" Koyomi is very cheerful today.
The stylist smiles, "Sotetsu is coming to the city soon isn't he?" It is not hard to guess judging by Koyomi's mood.
"How did you know?" The color pink faintly appears on Koyomi's cheeks.
"I have my ways," the stylist laughs, and though is day time, and the morning no less, she sees a ghost reflected in the mirror and screams dropping the comb and scissors she had just picked up.
Koyomi had picked up a magazine and was flipping through it. She looks up but the unnatural reflection is gone. She looks at the stylist. "Chihiro, what's wrong?" She leaves the chair and tries to comfort her friend. "Chihiro..."
Chihiro shakes her head. "It's nothing, just a trick of the light." The same ghostly figure now stands behind Koyomi and Chihiro holds her head, eyes closed tightly. "Behind you." She did not know if it was only her imagination, if she was going insane.
Koyomi looks over her shoulder but there is nothing unusual there. "I don't see anything, but you look like you saw a ghost. Are you feeling sick?"
"I did see a ghost," Chihiro mutters in fear. "First in the mirror and then right behind you..."
A silent pause occurs and Koyomi can think of nothing more to do than place a hand on the other woman's shoulder and try to be supportive. "You should take the day off."
Chihiro takes a breath. "Alright..." She tries to tell herself that it's only her imagination and nothing more.
Koyomi removes the peach salon cloak; she is wearing her usual red track suit. She helps Chihiro close the shop and accompanies her upstairs to the living area. "Is there anything I can do?"
"Don't worry Koyomi; you've already done a lot. I'm sorry I couldn't work on your hair today. I don't know what came over me," Chihiro starts to feel silly for thinking she saw a ghost, but once again the white transparent figure appears, the ghost stands right behind Koyomi and Chihiro stares unable to speak of it anymore.
Koyomi looks back but the ghost is already gone. "Maybe you should go lie down, can I bring you anything?"
Chihiro doesn't want to trouble Koyomi but her own delusions are scaring her, little does she know they're real. "If it's not too much trouble, tea please." She's on the verge of tears.
Koyomi nods and gives a thumbs up trying to lighten the mood and cheer up her friend. "No problem!"
Chihiro heads towards her bed room and Koyomi goes to the kitchen. Chihiro lays down on her bed and the ghost appears again floating above her. "Don't scream."
Chihiro is terrified beyond words but she obeys, managing only to nod her head. She wants to ask the being what it wants, what she wants, since the voice sounded female, but Chihiro's voice does not respond.
"Do as I say..." the ghost orders. "Say: I took Chika's place."
Chihiro is too frightened to speak. She opens her mouth, soft sounds escaping but no words, not even a whisper.
"Say it! Say: I took Chika's place." The ghost insists, coming closer. The white spectrum takes the shape of a blurry female face making her even creepier than before. The face does not move when words are spoken, expressionless like a porcelain doll that carries a curse.
"I... I-I took, Chi," all her oxygen escapes her and Chihiro takes a deep breath, "Chika's p-place."
"Say it clearly, that is all that I want from you," the ghosts commands, voice softening a little.
Chihiro swallows the lump in her throat and breathes deeply. She does not understand why the being wishes for her to say such a thing but she starts to mistakenly believe that the ghost will go away and spare her life if she obeys. "I took Chika's place."
"Yes that's it; say it again, just one more time." The ghostly face becomes more human looking though still made of pale transparent white, and the voice becomes gentle, almost soothing.
"I took Chika's place," the words ring out clear as crystal in Chihiro's voice. She hopes that with that said it will all be over and the nightmare ends. In a sense, it will.
"Good girl Chihiro, you've done will to deliver my message. Unfortunately your name has doomed you," before Chihiro can say anything, a scythe appears in the ghost's hand and stabbed into her heart. While most reapers leave few traces of their work, this one is quite bloody and she did not give Chihiro time to scream.
The reapers searches the drawers in the room for an extra pair of scissors then carefully places them in Chihiro's hand, not how one would normally hold them, but with her fist closed around them. The reaper moves the victim's hand and stabs the scissors into her heart in a picture that simply screams suicide. She could not have Koyomi as a suspect; the girl with the dead man's tongue had a message to deliver. With her work done, the reaper disappears.
Koyomi makes her way up the stairs with a tray of warm tea. She also found a muffin in the kitchen and decided to bring it. Chihiro might need more than just warm tea in her stomach to start feeling better. "Chihiro, I brought the..." Koyomi stops at the door, eyes wide in surprise and shock. She drops the tray of food and rushes to her friend's side, "Chihiro!" She desperately searches for a pulse on the dead girl's neck and finds none. "Chihiro! Chihiro!"
Trembling and panicking, Koyomi searches her pockets for her cell phone, dropping the device several times before finally being able to dial. There's a notice of a received text message from Sotetsu, but Koyomi doesn't even see it as she dials nine, one, one.
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"Why can't you bring her back?" Koyomi slams her fist against the ferryman's desk.
Bekko sighs and pushes up his glasses. "Because her death has already been known. You shouldn't have called nine, one, one. Think about Shito and Chika, A-san and B-san, everyone believed them to have miraculously survived."
"Shito was different, he was born from a zombie, born dead and yet he was revived," Koyomi argues. It is not like her to get so upset, but she cannot help it this time.
"Shito didn't have an identity, if anything covering up for him was easier," Bekko tries to explain.
"Then it's my fault because I automatically called nine, one, one and revealed her death to the outside world? Are you saying I'm responsible?" Koyomi yells loud enough for the people at the neighboring offices to hear, which is not good.
Ohtsu, the only other person in the office besides the ferryman tries to calm Koyomi to no avail. Angry and frustrated, she pushes Ohtsu away with a right hook, knocking off his glasses. "Bring her back!"
That is when Bekko realizes that he is talking to Yomi, not Koyomi. Maybe Yomi had a thing for that Chihiro girl. "I can't bring back ghosts, there has to be an explanation or she will be thought of as a ghost," Bekko explains in a matter of fact tone.
The word 'ghost' pushes Yomi back into the depths of Koyomi's soul and once again Koyomi is in control. "Chihiro saw a ghost, was it a reaper?"
"Could be..." Bekko replies.
Ohtsu picks up his glasses, Koyomi has no idea Yomi broke them. He throws the broken pair away and takes out another pair from his jacket then puts them on. "I will investigate."
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Not Chika, nor Momoka, got any sleep the previous night. When morning came they were off to Michiru's house.
Chika and Momoka arrive in front of the house. Thanks to the inheritance Michiru had finally claimed, she was able to live comfortably. Michiru was expecting her guest and opens the gates for them.
A large saint bernard dog comes to greet them with a slow lazy walk, and softly wagging his tail. Following the fat dog is his owner, Michiru Kita, who leads her guests inside.
"Chika told me what happened on the phone..." Michiru isn't sure how to start the conversation. She makes her way to the living room where snacks had already been served for the expected guests.
Momoka nods her head and sits down on the couch. Normally, the cookies and Pepsi on the coffee table would be very appetizing, but she is not in the mood right now.
Michiru takes off her glasses and pretends to clean them with a napkin. She is actually looking for a black ring on Momoka or Chika's necks. She finds none and puts her glasses back on, shaking her head so lightly that only Chika, who was searching for a signal, notices the gesture. "Sometimes talking about it helps."
"It sounds crazy, but I saw a reaper try to kill my brother..." Momoka went right to the point.
Michiru bites her lip and her thoughts speed up. She has not seen Zarame ever since he recovered his core, he no longer spends time at the news paper stand near the subway that he used to frequent. Michiru concludes that her only choice is to wait for Zarame to show himself and ask him then. "The reaper might not return..." Michiru ends the silence that was becoming quite uncomfortable.
"She'll be back," Momoka speaks quietly. "She'll be back for me."
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Ohtsu leaves the office just as Chika enters. "Ferryman! I have a reaper problem."
Bekko sighs, ever since Yuuta recovered his life, work had been piling up at the office and everyone had some kind of problem. "What is it now?"
"A reaper has threatened to kill Momoka..." Chika explains. "I went to Michiru's place, Momoka is there now. Michiru didn't find a ring around her neck or mine. The reaper was targeting me, but now she wants to go after Momoka. What's going on?"
Bekko answers honestly, "I don't know... If a reaper is powerful enough, they can break the rules. I don't know why you or your sister were targeted, as much as I don't know about Chihiro."
"Chihiro?" Chika asks, he was unaware that there was more happening than what took place at the Akatsuki house.
"My friend Chihiro committed suicide, her family arrived after the doctors were done with the examination and practically kicked me out. I was there but I couldn't stop her... I only left her alone for a few minutes and I don't believe it was a suicide." Koyomi had been sitting in a corner of the office so quietly that her presence did not become known until now. She gets up from her corner and sits at the couch sighing sadly. "She was murdered by the ghost she said she saw."
"Chihiro..." Chika repeats the name, a memory surfacing. "The reaper can change her appearance, Momoka saw that. The reaper said she had A and B, she's after the others before M. I'm C, or I was going to be..."
Something clicks in Yomi's subconscious and she surfaces activating the dead man's tongue. At first the words are fearful, whispered and hard to understand until finally they come out clearly "I took Chika's place."
After the message is delivered, as the reaper expected it to be, Koyomi returns to consciousness and holds her head. "Did I say something just now? Was it Yomi?"
Chika nods slowly. "It was the same reaper... She's going to continue following the alphabet until she reaches the M for Momoka..."
"More innocent lives..." Koyomi looks angry. "Bekko, what can we do to stop her? We can't let this go on!"
"There is truly not much that can be done." Bekko truthfully speaks. He looks up some files on a computer, as if searching for something. "I can offer Momoka a zombie loan if you keep her death a secret. Other than that, you should try to talk to Zarame, he might know something. Ohtsu is already investigating; I will inform you both of any discoveries."
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Sotetsu goes to the Z-Loan office, he is still a zombie. It is the afternoon now, Momoka is still at Michiru's place, Koyomi tries helplessly to get information out of Yomi, which she does not have beyond that one quote, and Chika searches for the reaper girl around the city regardless of the risk.
Sotetsu is surprised to see that he did not arrive at a cheerful environment. "Why is everyone so gloomy?"
"A rule breaker reaper is stalking Chika and has killed Koyomi's friend," Bekko looks up from the computer for just a moment to say this, then continues his work.
Koyomi nods. "Whatever her reasons are, she's trouble." It made her sick to think there was no reason beyond cruel amusement.
"Man... and I thought I was having a bad day. I'm sorry about your friend Koyomi," Sotetsu takes a seat next to her on the couch and offers her some comfort.
Koyomi returns the warm embrace and whispers, "what happened? You're late..." She feels guilty to have forgotten Sotetsu's arrival after visiting the United States.
"When we were getting off the plane, some guy in a suit fell off the ladder. I felt a strange presence but didn't see anything." Sotetsu explains. "It was a nasty fall but not bad enough to kill someone... he still died. They were making a big fuss because he was an executive from the US in an important business trip to Japan."
Koyomi looks at Sotetsu, expression pained. "What was his name."
The silence of the Z-Loan office becomes all the more apparent for Sotetsu doesn't have the answer. "I don't know..."
Bekko turns the flat computer monitor over so that Koyomi and Sotetsu can see it. "His name was Daniel Johnson," news travels fast along the internet. "Another unmarked human..."
Koyomi realizes that it must have been the reaper girl again. "It was her..."
Bekko only nods.
"What exactly is going on?" Sotetsu isn't informed yet, but he can tell it's serious.
"A rule breaker reaper is taking lives in alphabetical order, possibly for her own amusement," Bekko explains. "When Chika met her she mentioned having A and B."
"My friend Chihiro was C, she took Chika's place in the reapers sick little game. The reaper must have forced her to say 'I took Chika's place' before dying so Yomi would repeat it for Chika. She threatened to kill Momoka when she reaches the M," Koyomi sadly explains, a few more tears escaping. "It's my fault she can't come back. I was stupid and called a doctor, Bekko can't bring her back after her death was confirmed..."
Sotetsu hugs Koyomi tightly and looks at Bekko.
The ferryman shakes his head. "I really can't." Others could, but Bekko wasn't, isn't and will not be associated with them.
"It's not your fault," Sotetsu tries to console Koyomi, but her guilt haunts her.
The door to the office is opened and Chika enters, he greets his friends, though not cheerfully. Not a lot of progress has been made.
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It is the evening and Chika, Momoka, Koyomi, Sotetsu and Yuuta have gathered at Michiru's house as planned. The occasion was supposed to be cheerful but it isn't. Shito is missing from the group, he has gone to China, claiming there were things he needed to do, and has not yet returned.
The group gathers in the living room, the big screen TV plays softly. A variety of junk food can be found around them, the volume is turned up, soft chatter continues.
A girl with blue hair goes on stage on TV. She is dressed in black leather and carries a pink and blue electric guitar. She greets her audience, they want her to sing. The concert starts and then it ends all too soon. The singer falls, mysteriously fainted, in reality dead. The heavy headlight from the center of the stage gives out and crushes her, the frame of the round light breaks, becoming similar to a deadly sword and stabs her heart.
The camera is still on her, the fans scream and the security team rushes on stage. In front of the TV at Michiru's house, a deadly silence falls in and they all watch.
The security team and doctors free the blue haired girl, they helplessly try to revive her and it doesn't work. The fans are at an uproar, they did not stand in line for hours and pay hundreds for their tickets just to see the singer die. They invade the stage thinking they can somehow do better than the doctors, it all spirals into chaos.
A camera is dropped and broken, the view on the TV switches to a helicopter flying over the chaos. They can't stop watching, then Chika takes note of something, something that both angers and worries him. "Ember..."
To anyone who did not know his situation, the name was a mere expression at his surprise at the singer's sudden death, but to those who knew, everyone there save for Momoka who was not informed of the death of C and D; to the others Ember was not just Ember, she was E.
A and B, Allen and Brittany had been killed before the reaper went in search of C, Chika, who was spared and instead Chihiro was killed. Daniel was the next victim and now Ember.
Chika slips away and Sotetsu follows, the first signals for Michiru and Koyomi to keep Momoka busy. The younger girl refuses to stop watching the report. With all that's been happening the last thing she needs is to see one of her favorite artists die, but she can't look away.
Yuuta is open mouthed, eyes wide, chocolate chip cookie held between his thumb and index, untouched. He looks at the empty space where Sotetsu and Chika used to be and quickly follows them, laptop in hand.
The three boys plot and plan and realize it's useless so instead they vent. Then Yuuta types, "I'll see if I can find anything..." but he doesn't know what exactly he's searching for.
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"She wants me to know how far she's gone," Chika punches a wall in frustration, knuckles stained red. "How many people have a name that starts with C? She chose Chihiro because she wanted Koyomi to tell me. She wanted to make sure I didn't think it was a coincidence so she made Chihiro say she took my place so Yomi would repeat it. She chose Daniel because Sotetsu was there and could tell me about it. She must have known we were watching Ember's live concert. It's been three people already and the day isn't even over. She'll be at the M in no time."
"Let's go to Z-Loan," Yutta stopped typing, his hands forming Kenken and Konkon. "Bekko always knows more than he lets on. Kenken and Konkon agreed. Distract him while I hack his computer."
Chika and Sotetsu agree, they give out a few excuses meant mostly for Momoka, because Chika wants to protect her but deep down he knows he'll have to clarify things soon. For now he leaves her with Michiru and Koyomi and the three boys go to the Z-loan office.
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Chika, Sotetsu and Yuuta arrive at the Z-Loan office on Sotetsu's motorcycle. All the other offices are close and only the light of Z-Loan shines in the building and one small light on the first floor.
They enter and hear a voice, "the building is closed you can't... oh it's you guys." The janitor had become familiar with the Z-Loan employees during the time they still worked there, though he did not know and still doesn't know what the office's secret is.
"We're working late," Chika did not completely lie, they were working and it was a job with lives on the line.
"Go right up then," the janitor continues cleaning and the three boys head for the elevator.
They arrive at the floor occupied by Z-Loan and go in, as expected, they find Bekko there. The ferryman looks up from his work, "what is it?"
The three boys, two humans and one zombie look at each other realizing they had not formulated a plan. Instead they talk and think at the same time. "Did you see Ember's concert?" Yuuta, or rather Kenken asks.
"I believe it was cancelled thanks to Chika's new stalker. I'm afraid I still can't help you, there is truly nothing I can do, I am only a ferryman after all." He still pretends he knows not much beyond what the others do.
Chika is impatient, he decides to be direct. "You're coming with us," and he takes Bekko's arm pulling him to his feet, Sotetsu taking the other.
"No need to get carried away," Bekko speaks calmly, not noticing the irony of his words. He does not struggle as they drag him out of the office.
Yuuta closes the door and gets to work. The fact that Bekko went along so easily makes him suspicious, but maybe there was something that he could not tell that he would let them find out instead.
Yuuta examines the database, marked as restricted to ferrymen only. Maybe Bekko was letting him see something he couldn't tell, or letting him see something he wouldn't otherwise believe. Yuuta starts to search, he does not know anything about the reaper so instead he searches by the name of the latest victim.
A list appears on the screen, white letters in a black background, a list of files and Yuuta chooses the right one. He scan's Ember's profile searching for the cause of her death, two are listed, the real one and what was thought.
It either was or would be determined that Ember fainted due to exhaustion; she had been working hard on that tour. There was a mistake setting up the lights and one of them fell. Due to assembly problems it came apart and killed her.
In reality, Ember fell not because she fainted, but because she died. The light was just a cover up, because humans need explanations. If mortals cannot explain something, they either try to destroy it or follow it obsessively and take it apart until they understand it.
The reaper cannot be destroyed by a mere mortal, or a mere ferryman, or zombie, or golem or most creatures. Not that one, she is far more powerful then Zarame, and many other reapers as well. But she does not want to be followed; she is the stalker not the other way around.
Yuuta looks up the profile for the reaper girl, it is not very informative. Her name is unknown, her age is unknown but thought to be over a thousand, her picture was actually a group of pictures. Yuuta reads, "a dangerous reaper with the ability to shape shift and one of the most powerful known cores, possibly second only to Grim himself. A known rule breaker who kills and even guides unmarked humans. She often kills following a pattern such as a certain eye color during one week, ages to match the days of the calendar and alphabetic order. There is no known purpose to any of this and it is concluded she does it for her amusement." The information Yuuta was looking at made the situation even more hopeless. He scrolls down and reads a little note at the end. "Suspected to have killed three ferrymen..." So that was what kept Bekko trying to avoid her. The reaper was dangerous, even to those who were supposed to be in a way her allies. But who was she really and why was she so powerful? If only they knew, if only they could find out and then find a way to stop her.
Humans really are curious creatures, they would stalk death itself for the sake of knowing how to stop it, even if it means dying and taking the secret with them; they wish to know. Yuuta pokes around the database a little longer but finds nothing useful and leaves.
Bekko pretends to struggle and easily breaks free just as Yuuta exists the office. "You did not touch anything, I assume?"
"You assume correctly," Yuuta, Kenken and Konkon reply.
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He thought he saw someone, and the elderly man goes to take a closer look. Maybe the boys from Z-Loan finished their work quickly and came down to the first floor again, they had stopped going to work so he thought they had moved on from their jobs there after they were done with high school, but today they returned. He turns a corner following a shadow, an unknown figure. He feels a little frightened, but pushes the thoughts away to the back of his head where they stay. Humans have a sixth sense sometimes that against their better judgment they often ignore.
He continues down the deserted hall, plastic plants forming odd shadows, the silence heavy and the light very dim. The figure stands in front of the elevator pressing the button for it to come down and the man breathes in relief. "Ah, it's you Miss Kita," the janitor finds what he had gone to investigate. The night shift could be eerie but the building was busy and crowded during the day and that left no room for cleaning.
The lavender haired girl turns around, and looks at the man standing there looking relieved, as he should not be. "Only the Z-Loan people and the cleaning crew would come here this late."
The janitor laughs in agreement. "That's true. I'm glad it was you, for a minute I thought I was imagining things." Or worse yet, he had thought for a moment that he might not be imagining things, and that those things were real.
"Oh no, you're not imagining anything, I am indeed here... death is very real," a scythe appears in her hand and her appearance changes, this time she looks like one of the corpses from the in between. Her lavender hair is much longer, split and greasy. Her flesh is rotting, green eyes glowing unnaturally. "Time to say goodbye, Fuji."
Fuji yells and runs for dear life. He heads for the stairs and dashes up with speed beyond what one would think he can achieve. He stops for a moment and looks back. He then looks towards the elevators and sees the lights on. He rushes down the stairs again, assuming she has gone up the elevator.
He stops at the end of the stairs, seeing the zombie reaper standing before him. "Came back to face your destiny?"
Fuji realizes that the elevator's light must have been on because Chika, Sotetsu or Yuuta are coming down, maybe even Bekko himself. He runs up the stairs again. "Chika! Sotetsu! Yuuta! Bekko!" He yells as loud as he can. "There's a..." what is she really? "a monster!"
The elevator doors open on the first floor, Chika, Sotetsu and Yuuta rushing out. "Damn it, Fuji!" Chika rushes towards the back exit were he was sure Fuji's voice was coming from. He should have known Fuji would be next, but somehow he didn't.
"Chika!" Yuuta yells for him to stop, they can't beat a reaper like her, the one without a name, not unless they find a weakness and she might not even have one.
Sotetsu rushes after Chika, Yuuta following as well. Sotetsu calls out his axe, as the only zombie of the group he is the only one capable of materializing a weapon in such a way. "Chika, out of the way!" Sotetsu spots the reaper, in the shape of rotting Michiru. He brings the axe down on her and nothing happens. He had hit something so solid, so invulnerable that even the sharp axe of plasma had no effect.
"Stop this!" Chika stands between the reaper and Fuji, "why keep killing people simply because of their names? They're not even marked!"
"Chika!" Yuuta warms him. If the reaper is angered she could easily kill them all.
"Because it's so fun to play with you. I have your full attention now, don't I Chika?" The reaper laughs evilly and her appearance changes again. Her flesh is pale but healthy, her clothing made of black leather similar to what Ember was wearing when she died, her hair a fiery red in a high ponytail and on her back a pair of black bat wings.
Chika attacks while Sotetsu continues to hit her with his axe to no effect and Yuuta yells and screams and nearly begs for them to leave the deadly creature they can't hope to beat.
The reaper stretches her wings, one wraps around Chika and the other around Sotetsu trapping them both. Yuuta stands before her and a terrified Fuji lays on the floor trembling. "Please don't... You have no reason to, what would you gain?"
"What would you know little mortal," the reaper lifts her scythe but Yuuta doesn't move, he will not abandon everyone.
"Even if I break the rules of my own little game, it doesn't matter, I'll kill you too Yuuta." The reaper lowers the scythe and at the last moment Yuuta is pushed out of the way.
Fuji receives the impact but this time the scythe does not leave the scars it left on A, B and C. It is similar to the death of D and E, a death without scars, simply reaped. "Killed and guided, you can't make this one a zombie even if you try."
In shock and desperation, Yuuta jumps to his feet and attacks, Kenken and Konkon in tightly close fists. He is easily pushed aside and along with Chika and Sotetsu, Yuuta is left there, at the back exit of the Z-Loan building, next to Fuji's dead body; and the next day the story would be that old Fuji died of heart failure.
The reaper fades away, casting one last look at Chika and speaking as she disappears. "Try to stop me, Chika..." because she likes his attention on her and she likes his strong emotions, even if they are made of hatred and anger, she fades away to nothingness.
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"Chika, stop pacing, it won't help anyone if you just keep doing that," Chika stops, looks at Sotetsu then continues walking all over the small space of the crowded Z-Loan office.
Chika, Sotetsu, Yuuta, Michiru, Koyomi and Momoka are all there, along with Bekko and Ohtsu. Bekko has remained neutral, insisting that "the impossible cannot be challenged," perhaps hiding something, it was hard to know. Ohtsu's investigation had been independent from Z-loan, not that he discovered much more than what the reaper wanted them to know.
Momoka has been told the truth.
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The two siblings are sitting in the guest room of Michiru's house alone, where Chika was planning to somehow explain things. "I don't even know where to start..." he had admitted that time, though it was not like him.
"From the beginning," Momoka suggested.
"It all started with the bus accident... everyone thought I miraculously survived but I didn't. I was turned into a zombie and my right hand was switched with Shito's." Chika had decided not to go too deep into Shito's past, that was his secret to keep or reveal and Momoka would understand without that information anyway.
"But you're here..." Momoka was confused to hear Chika say he was a zombie, he looked normal.
"I'm not a zombie anymore, and I didn't look different when I was. The only difference was a black ring around my neck that reapers can see... Michiru could see it too, it's a special ability of hers. Because of the hand switch, Shito and I couldn't go too far away from each other or our hands would rot and fall off, and we also needed to switch hands back to summon our weapons but we couldn't keep them switched for a long time. Sotetsu is still a zombie and can still summon his weapon formed by plasma," Chika paused.
Momoka tried to take in all the information. If it was being said at any other time, she would tell her brother to get some rest and stop imagining things, but she had seen a reaper and she knew that something was going on. Momoka wasn't stupid, she could easily tell when something was being hidden from her and was waiting to be informed, on the verge of running out of patience and asking for, or demanding, answers. "I believe you," was all she could say to make her brother continue his narration. A moment of silence passed and Momoka urged Chika to continue, "about the reaper..."
"She's coming back, but I won't let her hurt you. I'll protect you with my life and soul, Momoka," such was the endless brotherly love of Chika and need to protect his little sister.
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"Three days," the white and black haired boy announces. "It's been three days and she has killed how many?"
Yuuta looks over his notes repeating the names; only the first names since that was what the reaper based her killing on. "Geraldo, drowned in the coast of Brazil." After the reaper knew that the Z-loan group was keeping track of her killings she stopped making them obvious to them. Yuuta kept some information from Bekko's database and was able to access it, though Bekko never asked how Yuuta obtained the names of the victims. Yuuta reads the next name of the list, "Hayden, killed in a car accident due to icy roads in the north of Canada. Isis, death by dehydration and heat stroke in the desert of Egypt. Jem, died during child birth in the United States, her twin babies who did not have names yet, did not make it alive either."
Chika clenches his fists tightly, glaring at a wall angrily. The reaper was killing innocent unmarked humans and not only that, but children as well. Usually she did not kill anyone but her chosen victim, such was the falsely accused officer Howard from the case of her first two victims Allen and Brittany, but apparently newborn children did not count because they had no names yet.
Koyomi feels her stomach turn, and her head becoming light. She remembers the alphabet all too well and K is the next letter. She notices Sotetsu glance at her as if not wanting to even consider the thought.
Finally Bekko speaks up, "because she was killing unmarked humans I thought she was only killing them not guiding them as well. A misinformation on my part, but like I said, it is best to avoid this one."
"That basically means zombie loans are useless," Chika speaks bitterly.
It had been tested with Fuji and confirmed by Yomi when she randomly started yelling 'try to revive me' in Portuguese, no doubt something that the reaper made her Brazilian victim say.
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Koyomi returns home to her apartment, she has not checked her mail today on the first floor mail boxes and did not care to do so. Right now finding a job in something other than repeating quotes of the dead is not one of her top priorities. The possibility of being the victim of K haunts her. It is likely, she thinks, after killing people from far away lands, that she would kill someone closer to Chika and then maybe take a small break and let him suffer with the wait of knowing there was only one person whose name starts with an L between Momoka and death.
Her heart pounds and every sound she hears is louder and much scarier than ever before. She tries to push the thoughts away and steps into the bathroom for a much needed warm shower, in hopes of not losing what is left of her sanity.
She opens the warm water, letting the tub fill up and goes to retrieve some fresh clothes to wear after her shower, which she decides might be a bath instead. She takes some pajamas from her closet and returns to the bathroom in time to turn the water off, preventing the tub from overflowing. The entire time, she can't shake the feeling that she's not alone.
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Zombie Loan. Written for Snow's challange at Plot Whole, later revised. Did you catch the references to Danny Phantom and Disgaea?
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