A/N: I'm apologizing AGAIN! And I should be. ^_^ But seriously, I was reading on Daily Writing Tips that, "There is no perfect time to write. You just have to do it." Now that I'm out of school and have a full-time job, I'm even busier than I was when I was in school. My new plan: To quit on the, "All right ... tonight I'll make some time to write." Yeah, that's not working. I just need to do it. So, again, I'm determined to finish everything. Love you guys who have favorited my story! It's going to get scary in the very near chapters!

Chapter 9

Mom and Dad got home a little after 11:00 to find an odd sight – Hitomi sitting at the dining room table with the young man who had dinner with them the other night and two of her students. The four seemed to be busy playing a card game and talking quietly. They all smiled as Mom and Dad came through the front door.

"Hitomi?" Mom said, in shock. Hitomi never had friends over to the house this late in the evening.

Soubi spoke instead, "Mrs. Shinonome, please forgive us. Hitomi called and asked me to come when she found that two men had followed her home from the bus stop."

"Mom and dad, this is Youji and Natsuo Sagan," Hitomi said. "Soubi's taking care of them while their mother is … overseas on business."

Now that that was out of the way, Hitomi relaxed a bit.

Dad helped mom out of her winter coat as mom was saying, "Hitomi, you really shouldn't be taking the bus or the train after hours. You should've taken a taxi home instead."

Hitomi looked at Soubi, who was beating them all bloody, except for Youji, in cribbage, "You're right, mom. Next time I will … take a taxi … when I'm downtown. I ordered dinner. It's in the oven."

Dad said nothing, going right for the kitchen as soon as his coat and shoes were off. He paid no attention to Hitomi's guests, for which she thanked her lucky stars. Soubi had paid for dinner – pizza for the boys and a variety of noodle dishes for the rest of them.

"Thank you," she said to him as he stood to leave.

"But our game …," Youji said, in mid card throw.

"It's late," Soubi said, "and you lost. You know it, I know it. Just admit it and move on."

Youji gave him the evil eye but put his cards down anyway. Natsuo was already heading toward their shoes and coats.

Youji looked up at Hitomi, suddenly all sweetness, "What about a good night kiss?"

She ignored him and moved around the sofa to be sure that her parents were occupied in the kitchen.

"Don't worry," Natsuo said as he put on his coat, "we'll keep you safe from Seimei."

Nice thought. But she still felt shaky, especially after what Soubi had to say about the incident. Hitomi was so rattled that she almost didn't notice when Soubi gave her a kiss on the forehead,

"Yes, don't worry," he said, "now that we know about Seimei, he won't be back."

Good thing he was so confident. Once the three of them were out the door, Hitomi locked both doors again, listening to her mother chatter away at Dad in the kitchen. She took a deep breath to calm herself and then went in to be sociable. Had she gone straight to her bedroom, Mom would've been suspicious. As soon as she was through the door, Mom said,

"The airport was actually nice tonight, Hitomi. You should come with us next time!"

Right. That prospect was about as thrilling as having dinner with grandparents. Hitomi sat down to listen, anyway, her mind a million miles away. She wanted to appear normal, although that wasn't easy considering her current state of mind. After Soubi (with side comments from the fairies) told her all about Seimei and Nisei, she had asked will my parents be safe? Soubi assured her they would. Seimei wasn't interested in her parents. He was interested in … Hitomi.

While mom went on to talk about uncle's good mood, Hitomi excused herself from the table to make tea.

It had seemed like forever before Soubi finally arrived. In reality, it was only 20 minutes, which was long enough for the evil fairies to make their way back in the house. Hitomi hadn't been all that disappointed to see them. Her first question was, who was that? Youji, naturally, was the first to dish,

"That was Seimei, Ritsuka's older brother …"

Natsuo had added, "Who died. He was bound and burned to death. That's why Ritsuka came to live … here."

"How can that be? Someone back from the dead?" Hitomi had said, thinking about the look in his eyes. Natsuo had put it well – it was the look of someone dead.

"That's what everyone wants to know," Youji said cheerily.

Her second question had been, how the hell did you get into the house? They took her outside and showed her how they scaled the back wall like monkeys and then worked together to open the laundry room window. But, they insisted they had a good reason – they were about to go home when Natsuo felt a fighter nearby, and it couldn't have been Mimoru, who's a sacrifice. They had thought at first that it had to be Soubi, so they snuck back into the house to watch you guys smoosh, was Youji's simple explanation.

Appalling, and yet they saved her. What if they hadn't been lurking around?

Hitomi looked up from her tea to find both of her parents staring at her. She pedaled forward as fast as she could, realizing at the last moment that her mother had asked her a question,

"I'm sorry, mom – it's been a long day. I zoned out there for a few minutes. You know what, I think I'll get to bed."

Since that was fine with them and they had no further questions, she hurried out of the kitchen and up the stairs to her bedroom as fast as she could without being suspicious.

Inside her bedroom she flipped on the light and looked around. No matter what Soubi and the evil fairies had to say, she still felt like … he was here. Those eyes! What would he have done …? And then she had to admit it – she needed to be a little more thankful to Natsuo and Youji. If it hadn't been for them, really – what would have happened?

Hitomi hadn't been upstairs to her bedroom all evening. She'd left school at the usual time, but instead of coming home, she'd gone shopping, and then … everything went crazy. The window shades were still up and her curtains were still open, even though it was late. What would the neighbors think?

She went over to the window. She didn't mean to, but she looked outside. In the neighbor's yard across the street, something disappeared into the darkness. A minute later a text came through on her phone:

don't worrythat was just Youji,ha ha ha

Whew. After closing the window shades and curtains, she curled up on top of her bed, still fully dressed. It was 4:00 a.m. before she felt her eyes close.