A/N: Apologies for the late update. I've been busy over the past few weeks. . Not to mention, I accidentally spilled juice on my keyboard, making the Space key really hard to use.
Glyphs: And there are also ones who are based off Rozen Maiden. Though they're not really as common as the ones you've listed. (Which I don't consider as that original as they're both written by the same author...but that's just me.)
I'm surprised very few people remember Sion. And even if she's in the story, she's either mentioned or just there. No love triangle business, which strikes me odd. At least from the ones I've read. I would add more filler characters, but the problem is that I can't just seem to find a role for them. :/ Maybe in my other fanfics.
And Nagihiko's arc is coming to a close very soon. Just bear with it for a few more chapters. ^ ^
Maya: I know, right? Not even Ikuto looks that masculine. :/ (Since he's a catboy.)
Jillkun-ness: I'll try to add more about Tadase in the future. ^ ^; (Though the most I can do at the moment is to explore more into the hints I've already given.)
Hitomi pressed her head against the door as the members of the Fujisaki family gathered in the large room reserved for family meetings. Her heart beat fast with anticipation at the thought of the news she was about to uncover. The family usually shared snacks and drinks while they talked about various things, yet still are able to keep a dignified posture no matter how many cups of sake they chugged down. She could see the shadows of each family member, which were easily identifiable to her now, since they always sat in the same seat.
"How is your daughter lately, Akio?" Hitomi heard the headmaster ask her father. Her father, Akio Fujisaki, was the brother of the headmaster's wife. Even though this made the head Hitomi's uncle, she was constantly reminded from a young age to always address him as "the Headmaster". Akio Fujisaki was often rumored to be the unluckiest of the family since he inherited the dance school in Harima. It was a common joke among the family members that Akio's house was the most haunted of all compared to their's.
"Her condition is getting better. Though it's always good to be cautious of things. We make sure that she never goes pass her limits during practice." Hitomi giggled silently, knowing that her father had no idea that she was currently eavesdropping on them when she should have been in bed. It was annoying how she was often treated delicately like a valuable object. Hoarding secret information about the family was her way of payback.
A sigh came from one of the family members, "I wish the same could be said for my child. He's such a workaholic. He would practice until he's practically sweating all over. Lots of practice is good, but it's quite tiring to get one of the servants to fetch him water and wipe him with a towel."
"But isn't that a good trait? After all, the heir acts just like that. I'm not so sure if it's to that point though, but I know he squeezes in practice whatever spare time he has."
The entire family muttered in agreement. But Hitomi tensed at the mention of the family heir. It was never brought up but the air always seemed to charge with tension at the mention of the heir, Nagihiko Fujisaki. Some sympathized with his situation, forced to disguise himself as a girl in public as to family tradition, and also had to deal with the pressure of being the next in line. Others envied him greatly, wishing their own child was the heir to the Fujisaki Dance School and not him.
Hitomi was fond of her cousin, for he was the only one who didn't treat her like an expensive vase. It hurt her deeply to see the family so divided when it came to him. She knew that the headmaster and his wife loved Nagihiko very much, but whenever she told him that, it never stopped his constant desire for them to spend one day like a normal family without the family business being brought up at all.
"Speaking of which, how is the heir doing? Your son?"
The voice was taunting, but the head pretended as if he didn't hear it.
"He's doing well. He made a few friends at his middle school. Seems as if he adapted well."
"Friends with them as Nadeshiko?"
Again, another taunting tone.
Unable to stand it anymore, Hitomi quietly got up and went down the hallway. She was tired of it. Of hearing the same thing over and over again. She knew the family meant no ill will. They were just afraid that Nagihiko would forget the responsibility on his shoulders once someone accepted him as himself, not as Nadeshiko.
She stopped walking at the sound of laughter, which came from the wide open rock garden where her cousins were playing. They raced around the old cherry blossom tree, their hands outstretched to catch the falling petals. It was the only place in the Fujisaki main house where they could forget all worries and be normal kids. Hitomi glanced at each of her cousin's face, looking for Nagihiko. There was no sign of him anywhere. She continued walking down the hallway, having a slight idea where he was.
She stopped when she reached a large room with only a scroll hanging on the wall. Hitomi reached out and slid the thin door open, to see her favorite cousin in utmost concentration, his hand gently holding onto a paper fan. His feet moved gracefully across the floor, barely making a sound. Hitomi was in utter awe as she watched him danced. He was as graceful as a swan and stunning as a butterfly. One could hardly believe this was a boy dancing. When he ended his routine, she felt like clapping her hands together in light applause at marvel of his skill.
However, the look on Nagihiko face made her stop; washing away the feelings of admiration she felt before. He looked tired. As if he had been up all night practicing.
"Are you okay, young master?" The voice belonged to Baaya, one of the servants to the Fujisaki household.
"I'm okay. I just…." His masculine voice raised an octave to a more lady-like voice, "Can you get me some tea, Baaya-san?"
"Right away." Baaya got up from her seat in the room and headed for the door. Hitomi hid behind a wall, waiting until Baaya was completely out of sight. Seeing that the coast was clear, she snuck into the practice room to find her cousin untying his hair.
"Nagihiko." He looked up at the sound of his name, pocketing away his hairband.
He smiled weakly, "Hi, Hitomi-chan."
She took a seat next to him, "I saw you dance. You were great."
Nagihiko shrugged, "Not really. I think it still needs some more work."
"Don't say that. You do have potential to be a great dancer, Nagihiko. Everyone else is too busy fussing about your gender to realize it."
"Hm…." Her comments didn't seem to raise his spirits.
Hitomi sighed, "Stop worrying. Sometimes I wish you weren't so…" She trailed off, trying to find the proper word for it.
"Well, I wouldn't say that, but more like you're too soft. Anyway, stop worrying about your gender conflicts. Look at the bright side. At least you're going to stop crossdressing soon."
"I know…It's just….Did you know that I'm going to Europe soon?"
She was surprised, "Europe? Why?"
"Mom says that they have good dance classes there and would be a chance for me to 'extend my horizons', according to her."
"Oh….So what about it?"
"I'm scared," he admitted, "About how to break to it her. Not to mention, I haven't even told her about my true gender yet."
"I've met her. I don't think she's going to take it that badly. She looks like the type who can accept people easily."
"Really? You've met her? I thought you would have been against our friendship."
She raised an eyebrow, "Why would I?"
"I was expecting that you thought I'm only being friends with her so I can forget Rima-chan."
"If that was true, I don't think you would have been able to befriend her."
He agreed, "True…I only befriended Amu-chan because she reminded me of her…The way they keep things to themselves…" Nagihiko suddenly fell back, looking upwards to the ceiling. His hand and his bangs covered part of his face, so Hitomi couldn't see his expression. "To be honest, I only approached her out of the desire to feel needed. But now that I've achieved that, I'm not sure what to think."
"…You know she has a reason. Otherwise, I don't think she would have left you in the first place."
He was unfazed, "I know that already. It still hurts though when I think about it."
"Are you sure you two haven't seen anything?"
A police officer was interrogating both Nagihiko and Rima outside the clothing store. Ami clutched onto Nagihiko's hand. Even though she wasn't there when Nadeshiko attacked, she was still frightened by what happened. Though no one was hurt, the store was seriously damaged. Windows broken, clothes scattered across the floor, and jewelry smashed to pieces. Sirens blared loudly as police cars were pulled over. Yellow tapes reading "Do Not Enter" were taped over the front doors of the store.
They glanced at each other and shook their heads, "Nope."
The police officer nodded, "I see. Thanks for your time." He stopped when he notice the bloody scar on Nagihiko's stomach, "My god! What happened to you?"
"Someone tried to make off with my money but ended up slashing me," Nagihiko said with a straight face.
"Should I call an ambulance? That looks pretty bad."
"No. I'm fine."
"If you say so." The policeman walked off to talk to the other witnesses. Nagihiko unconsciously brought his hand to his stomach, lightly touching the spot where Nadeshiko attacked him. He could still feel the pain even though he knew it would heal eventually.
Rima faced him, "Are you really okay? You still look like you're in pain."
"I told you, I'm fine. I can't be killed that easily anyway."
"Nagihiko!" He saw Kukai, Tadase, and Ikuto running towards him. They made their way through the crowd as they approached him. Akki was with them too, whom Ami hugged as soon as she saw him.
"What are you guys doing here?" Nagihiko wondered if the incident at the store made it to the news.
"We heard what happened. Are you alright?"
Kukai wrapped an arm around his shoulders, "Geez, don't worry us like that! We were afraid something happened to you!"
He smiled sheepishly, "You're partially right."
The other ghosts looked to see Rima standing at the side, who stared back at them blankly. Kukai and Tadase immediately jumped and hid behind Ikuto, who happened to be the tallest person there.
"W-Why is the exorcist here?"
"Because I was there when the attack happened," Rima replied. She noticed Ikuto, "Huh? I don't remember seeing you before."
Nagihiko introduced him, "That's Ikuto. He's not really much of a talker."
For some reason, Rima stared at him intensely, as if she was put off by something.
"….I see. Nice to meet you."
"Nagihiko? Is that you?"
A girl came up from behind them, her amber eyes wide with surprise. Nagihiko frowned. Did he meet this girl before? He struggled to remember. The only thing he could conjure up was the feeling of family-like attachment to this girl.
She pointed at herself, "Do you remember me? It's Hitomi-chan."
"Hitomi-chan…." His eyebrows shot up in recognition, "…My cousin?"
Hitomi smiled, "Yes. It's been so long." She turned to Rima, "If you don't mind, Mashiro-san, I'll have to talk to him for a couple of minutes."
"Go ahead." Despite the tone of her voice, the wavering look in her eyes gave away her disappointment.
Nagihiko glanced at Rima, a part of him wanting to stay a little bit longer. Yet he was curious about his family, and what had happened to them ever since his death. He hoped that his parents were okay and not much of the Fujisaki family was in disarray.
"This evening someone attacked a Beams store, causing almost a million yen's worth of property damage. Witnesses say that it was a girl carrying a naginata. The police suspect it was the same person who stole the naginata at the Harima Archaeological Museum. Luckily, no injuries were reported."
Raiden watched in silence as the news reporter move onto news about the latest developed android in Osaka. He raised an eyebrow.
"I didn't think Nadeshiko would pull such an aggressive move. But I guess it's because she's becoming desperate."
"Who's becoming desperate?"
Raiden suddenly felt something sharp touching his throat, ready to pierce it. He glanced to his side to see Utau standing next to him, holding out her trident like a poised hunter. A red butterfly fluttered about behind her.
"And here I was hoping that I would go through one day without having a weapon at my throat…."
Utau lightly pressed her trident deeper into his throat, "I'll say it again. 'Who's becoming desperate?'"
"Even if I tell you who, it wouldn't be the person's true name."
Impatience flared in her violet eyes, "Stop playing mysterious. Just answer the question."
Raiden would've shrugged had Utau's trident not been in the way, "It's the truth. Besides, I don't think there's a point in telling you because this person has no connection to you." When he saw the surprised look on her face, he continued, "Isn't it true, Utan? You're only interested in information that's relevant to you."
"I don't have time for your riddles," Utau snapped, "I came to you because I have some things to ask you."
Raiden pretended to yawn, "Another interrogation? Geez, you really hate me don't you?"
"The entire human race does," she replied without hesitation. Utau lowered her trident down, just slightly. "Lately, Amu's been acting weird and was absent from school for a few days. Also, there are rumors going around concerning Mashiro. Are you behind any of them?" Her tone was threatening, demanding for information.
"I'm hurt. You just go right to the conclusion that I'm the cause of all of that? Without any proof?"
"Who else would stir up so much trouble?"
"For your information, I have nothing to do with Hinamori's behavior as it was all her own doing, not mine. As for the rumors regarding the little priestess….those were someone else's doing." Even though he was smiling, bitterness didn't fail on creeping its way into his heart. He secretly wished he had orchestred all of those events. Things would have been more fun for him that way.
She remained suspicious, "Is that the truth?"
"Fine. I'll give you two hints. One: Some of the rumors surrounding the Hinamori mansion might actually be true. Two: Some of the little priestess' old enemies might have something to do with the rumors. Happy?"
"Hmph." But Utau seemed to ease a little. Her eyebrows scrunched together as she tried to work out the hints he gave her. After a couple of minutes, she gave up, shaking her head in frustration. "Forget it. I'm leaving."
Raiden stopped her, "Hold it. You didn't answer my question. I said that you were only interested in information regarding you, but now you just asked if I was involved in two other peoples' business. Why should you care? They have nothing to do with your brother."
"You-" Utau whirled around with a snarl, aiming her trident for his head. However, Raiden simply stepped aside, the trident striking thin air.
"Maybe the headstrong idol has finally turned soft. Or maybe you are becoming distracted from your goal."
"I'm still determined to find my brother," Utau said with absolute certainty, "I just can't forgive people who toy with others' lives for fun. Manipulating them to do their dirty work…Hurting the ones they love the most….Forcing them to make decisions that would destroy them in the end…I can't forgive those kinds of people." Her eyes were filled with absolute loathing as she stared into Raiden's own, "Mashiro's fate is tied to freeing this town from its cycle of darkness, but I, as a demon hunter, will slay the Phantom Lord and send him off to his grave."
The edges of Raiden's smile twitched with amusement, "You? Slay the Phantom Lord? Don't make me laugh. Even the little priestess is no match for my Lord. Your powers are far too weak to even stand up against him." Despite his words, the thought interested him. The Phantom Lord dead….His heart filled up with glee. But he knew Utau could never be the one to take down the Phantom Lord. He could only be defeated by a power that she and Rima would never access. A power that was strong enough to dethrone him...
"Anyway, I admit that I've changed my priorities. I'm putting aside the search for my brother until everything's settled. Too much is going on, I don't know a thing, and I don't like it."
Raiden chuckled, "Fine. In return for your touching speech, I'll give you this photo of the culprit behind the rumors."
Utau shot him a look, "Are you high?"
"Nonsense. Drugs don't affect me. Though anything with caffeine tastes quite fine, I might add." He placed a slip of paper in her hand, "Do what you will with it. I'm not involving myself in this case."
Her eyes went wide with shock upon unfolding the paper. It was a photo of a group of girls walking down the school hallway. "This is…"
"That's right. The same girls who-"He didn't get to finish as Utau immediately ran off, towards the direction of the store. Raiden pouted.
"You didn't even let me finish."
"There were crows flying everywhere…" Nobuko said with a grand gesture, "The sky was dark and you could hear a clap of thunder in the distance. The only thing that stood out was the glow of streetlights and the full moon up above. Then, the notes of a sad violin melody danced across the winds. I looked around for the source of the sound. At the silhouette of large house against the moonlight, I was sure I could spot the figure of someone standing on the roof, playing a violin."
She was sitting in the living room of the Hinamori mansion, resting a cup of tea in her hands. The ghosts and Rima were there also, the ghosts fidgeting restlessly while the exorcist took a sip from her cup of hot chocolate. They all exchanged looks while Nobuko continued on with her story.
"Why are we even here?" The only ones actually interested in Nobuko's story were Ami and Akki, who stared at her intently. Ikuto sunk low in his armchair, bored. For some reason, after running into the insane fortuneteller, she decided on their own to talk to them over a cup of tea. And to talk at their mansion because she was afraid "he" would come back again.
"I was feeling weak in the knees, my eyelids drooping sleepily. The notes were sad yet it made me feel very tired. I didn't know why. It was as if my strength was being sucked out of me. I struggled to lift up my head, just to see a dozen of glowing orbs surrounding the town. It was like seeing a bunch of fireflies on one summer night. Yet I had a hunch they weren't fireflies. But then another light appeared which shone brighter than the rest. It was a column of light shooting down from the sky next to the house and I could see four-"
"Are you even sure it was a nightmare?" Rima asked, "It sounds more like some crazy dream."
Nobuko was not fazed, "Ah….It was only a nightmare because I knew I was looking through someone else's eyes and not my own."
"Uh huh…" Rima was still skeptical.
"But I guess I did go a little too off topic," Nobuko said thoughtfully, "Anyway, the reason why I am here is because my sixth sense detected a strange surge a couple of days ago. Do you guys know what that was about?" She took a sip, smacking her lips loudly as she waited for an answer.
"Are you talking about Kairi's disappearance?" Kukai asked.
Rima frowned, "What about Kairi?" Realizing what he had said, Kukai swiftly clasped his hands over his mouth.
Tadase covered up for him, "What Kukai means that if Saeki-sensei sensed where Kairi's presence was since he's been missing for the past few days."
Nobuko sniffed, "I don't know why you guys are hiding it from her. It's not as if she's going to tell anyone."
"But she's an-"
"-An exorcist," Rima finished, "Boohoo. Just so you know, I have absolutely no interest in weeding out the entire race of ghosts in this town. So you can either relax or continue to distrust me."
Ikuto shrugged when his fellow ghost friends looked at him for advice. The way he saw it, it wouldn't have mattered either way. Though choosing to trust the exorcist's words would probably be a great benefit to them. Maybe she would know something about why Amu was gathering pile of ashes from the fireplace.
Nobuko was the first to break the silence, "So is it true that ghost disappeared?"
"Hm. Well, it was bound to happen anyway." Even Ikuto flinched when she said that. Rima's eyebrows scrunched together, seemingly wanting to say something but kept her mouth shut.
"It's the truth. Though it surprises me that his time came so quickly. Then again, it's different for every ghost."
Tadase was interested, "It is?"
"Yes. It depends on how much of their memories they recovered and when they started regretting things." Nobuko then tapped her chin thoughtfully, "Actually, that reminds me. The reason why I wanted to talk to you is about this little theory I have."
"Theory?" everyone asked in unison.
"It's nothing really that philosophical. Just a food for your thoughts if you will. Have you noticed that there are more demons than ghosts in this town?"
"Now that you mentioned it, I have," said Rima.
"Also, have you ever seen other ghosts beside yourselves?" Nobuko asked the Paranormal Attendants."
"We…see them in the spirit world?" Kukai said it as if it were a question.
"No. I mean as in have ever met one face-to-face in the human world?" The ghosts looked at each other, at a loss for words. They've never thought about it before.
"See? It can't be a coincidence." She took another sip of her tea, "My theory is that the reason is because ghosts are not entirely here because of last regrets they had before death."
Both Rima and the ghosts leaned forward in their seats, now interested, "What do you mean?"
"I mean that the high percentage of demons in Harima means that a lot of ghosts turned into them once exposed to the human world. A human's soul becomes a ghost because of lingering regrets. But because of those feelings, most cannot survive amongst the living. Yet you five managed to last a couple of weeks. And able to have a physical imprint on this world to boot."
"Your point is…?"
She ignored the question, "You serve the Phantom Lord, right? Tell me, how much truth do you think there was in his words when he told that you were to become servants to the Hinamori family?"
A stunned silence followed her words. It took a moment for it to register completely in the ghosts' minds. Was she suggesting that they had been set up?
"B-But I saw other ghosts training as well," Tadase stuttered.
"I admit there's a history of ghosts serving humans. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. But because ghosts can't stand watching other people go about their lives while their's just stopped, the number has dropped dramatically. However, not all ghosts become servants to a human. Some are just left to wander the human world as they wish. Why do you think that is?"
"Because not all of them were capable?" Kukai guessed.
"Probably. And what I found out was that most of the humans the ghosts served were connected to the supernatural. In other words, Paranormal Attendants, the Phantom Lord made you serve Amu Hinamori because he fears her."
A stunned silence followed her words as she continued to babble on, "Though I have no idea why. Hinamori's powers are sealed and incredibly weakened because she's a human."
"What happens if-" Tadase's question was cut off when a sudden rumble shook the entire house. Out of fear and surprise, everyone held on to a piece of furniture as the ground shook. No one understood what was going on. It couldn't be an earthquake. Earthquakes weren't common in Harima.
Suddenly, the ground was still, the rumbling noise gone. Though all of their legs were still shaking from the impact.
Nobuko frowned, "Strange. I felt a wave of energy just now." Rima stared at her oddly, her facial expression hinting that she knew something they didn't.
"From where?" she asked.
"I think from below us. Is anyone down there?"
"My sis," Ami replied, "She's been hanging out there lately."
"Where's the basement?"
"Next to the staircase near the front door."
Without another word, Rima rushed out of the living room, her eyes wide with fear. Ikuto stepped forward to follow her until Nobuko stopped him.
"Don't worry. I don't think your mistress is in grave danger. Whatever it is Mashiro can take care of it."
Ikuto frowned, "You don't think Amu was behind that earthquake?"
She shrugged, "It's possible. She's not exactly herself right now, is she?"
Even though Ikuto didn't want to believe Amu would do such a thing, he couldn't help but agree with her.
Amu checked if everything was in place.
A pile of a dark ashy substance sat in the middle of the basement, which Amu cleared for the ceremony. A circle of glyphs was written on the ground with a piece of chalk. Nothing seemed to be out of place. Yet she was still hesitant.
She shook her head furiously. Why was she hesitating? Nothing bad would come out of this. Just Kairi coming back to life. She looked back at the book, her eyes staring at the last step listed on the page.
"The resurrection process is a trade. For bringing a human back to the living requires something of equal value. Something that's enough to sustain the balance of the world once the person crosses from the other side to this world."
Amu's fingers were clenched around a knife, a tool that would help her make the sacrifice needed. Fear seized her heart the second she stepped forward to the pile.
She wasn't afraid of giving a sacrifice. No. She was afraid it wasn't going to work, and something else would come out of this instead. Something that she may soon come to regret for the rest of her life.
She lifted her finger, gently pressing the knife against it. A small sting of pain told her that it worked. Taking the knife away, a small drop of blood oozed out of the cut she formed and dropped to the pile. She watched as its color went from a bright scarlet to a deep crimson. Satisfied, she stepped back and looked at the book.
"Place your hands on the magic circle," Amu read out loud. She placed her hands on the edge of the circle, "Now repeat the phrase: 'Ye dead corpse awaken and arise from the dust. For I shall open your grave, the Earth giving birth to ye departed soul. Rise, one with no flesh! For I am ready to exchange my very being to feed thy hunger.'" She stopped, "Wait. 'My very being'? Doesn't that mean-"
The ground suddenly shook beneath her, a column of light shooting out of the center of the circle. She desperately tried to keep her balance, her eyes squinting from the harsh glare of the light. She saw crackles of energy circling the pile of ash as it swayed from side to side.
Then the rumble stopped, the light still glowing from the magic circle. The crackles of energy vanished and the ash stopped moving. Did the ceremony stopped working? Then the light suddenly turned a malicious purple, the crackles of energy springing back to life, growing bigger and bigger. A shiver went down Amu's spine. The ceremony was going right yet something was awfully wrong.
That was when tentacles emerged from the pile, wrapping around Amu's arm. She could swear that her arm was deteriorating, the tentacle slowly eating away. Her brain told her to get away but she was too paralyzed to move. A scream was caught in her throat, unable to make its way out.
A loud screech rung in her ears as if in response to her thoughts. The tentacles jerked away from her arm, startled from the noise. Amu noticed that it was being dragged back into a glowing portal that opened up in the center of the circle. She watched both out of fear and awe as it was being sucked up, its scream bouncing off the walls of the basement.
The portal vanished, along with the moving tentacles. The only thing that remained was a rotting smell and the magic circle. A deep mark on the floor rubbed off the letters written at the edge of the magic circle. Amu gently touched one of them. It felt as it was recently formed and by something sharp.
"What do you think you were doing?"
The voice belonged to Rima, who was standing above Amu, her arms folded across her chest.
"Rima….? Why are you here?"
"I should be asking you that question." Rima kicked the ground, sending a cloud of chalk dust flying. "I scratched out some of the glyphs, cancelling the ceremony. The crucial point in conducting a spell is if the magic circle is written correctly."
Even though Rima was an exorcist, Amu knew there was no way she could know that much about occult. "How did you-"
"What were you thinking?"
Amu flinched, "Huh?"
Anger flashed in Rima's eyes, "Don't play dumb with me! I know that you were trying to resurrect Kairi! Do you honestly think you were doing him any favors by trying to bring him back to life?"
She began to argue, "But you-"
"Right. I don't know anything. I only knew Kairi for a few days. But I know no dead person would appreciate being brought back to the world of living."
Amu fell silent. She had nothing to say against that. She looked back to the center of the room, remembering what the pile had transformed to. A grotesque human-like creature with tentacles flailing out of its back. She clutched the edges of her skirt. The ceremony had failed. And she almost got killed doing it too.
"What am I suppose to do now?"
Rima snorted, "That's obvious. Stand up and stop spending your time in this place."
"But what if you can't?" All of her emotions were spilling out of her at this point, making her voice louder than she intended, "What if the reason you can't stand up isn't just because you're sad over someone's death? What if it's because you're afraid? Because even if you stand up, you'll still end up losing someone else. What's the point of standing up when you're going to be knocked over anyway?"
The anger on Rima's face faded, replaced with heartfelt sympathy. "I don't know," she admitted.
"Then why did you help me? Why did you help me even if you didn't know the answer?"
"Because I made the same damn mistake years ago!"
A period of silence followed her words as Rima avoided her gaze. Amu was stunned, unable to come up with a proper response.
"I said I made the same damn mistake." Her hands were clenched in fists, her locks of butterscotch hair brushed against as her face as she lowered her head. "Granted, I was tricked into doing the ceremony…But that doesn't change the fact I still believed him."
Rima placed her hands on the magic circle. She could feel her powers coursing through her veins. Perfect.
"So ironic. Me, an exorcist, bringing someone back from the dead."
"Ye dead corpse awaken and arise from the dust. For I shall open your grave, the Earth giving birth to ye departed soul. Rise, one with no flesh! For I am ready to exchange my very being to feed thy hunger."
Like a row of dominoes, each glyph on the outer edge of the magic circle lit up, a strong wind filling the room. The pile of ash started to shake violently, as if roused awake by the magic. The room started to shake as well, objects sliding off tables and shelves. Rima was sure the commotion was loud enough for even her parents to notice. Her arms were starting to shake, the effort to let the magic flow from her fingers exhausting her.
"Come on!" she prayed, "Where is the power of the head priestess when you need it?"
In response to her thoughts, the magic circle glowed brighter than ever before. Relief filled Rima's heart. It was working!
But that relief was soon replaced with worry as the light changed from a bright green to a dark purple. Rima watched in horror as the pile of ash grew bigger and bigger, to the height of an average human. Two arms shot out of its sides and a head slowly formed at the top of the pile. Rima lifted a hand to her mouth to keep herself from hurling.
It was a big mistake. The thing fell onto the floor, twitching. Its hand was stretched out, struggling to reach out and touch her.
Its tone was filled with affection when it stated her name but it slashed through her heart with terror. She felt her eyelids drooping sleepily, the magic flowing from her hands weakening. The thing stopped as it noticed the magic entering the magic circle was fading. Rima fell over, moving away from the magic circle. It was becoming too much for her to handle.
She heard the voices of her parents as they ran over to her. She felt one of them wrap her arms around her, surrounding her with warmth she had long forgotten. She heard the voice of her father talking rapidly into his cellphone, calling for help. Rima looked to her side to see the thing move into the shadows, the remains of magic still crackling around its body.
The ceremony had both succeeded and failed in bringing him back.
Amu stared up at the ceiling of her bedroom. She could see the coat of white paint breaking away and fading. She would have to ask one of the ghosts to paint it over.
Rima had left after her surprising confession. Amu remembered her words before she left.
"The ceremony both succeeded and failed. And I sacrificed a good chunk of my powers."
Amu didn't want to know what would've happened to her if she went ahead with the ceremony. That thing wasn't human. Since she had no magical powers, the one thing she would've sacrificed would be her life.
She slowly rose up from her bed. "What do I do now?" she asked herself. There was no point in trying the ceremony again. But she didn't know how to face the others. Too many emotions were boiling inside of her, guilt over Kairi's disappearance, fear of the others' disappearance, and confusion over what she should do.
"Wait….How did I got over Kairi's death in the first place?" Amu recalled purposefully spending time with friends to chase her memories of Kairi out of her head and replace them with new ones. No….There was another factor too. She racked her brain, struggling to remember.
"Huh? You don't remember him, Amu? You know, that boy that was a demon hunter."
That was it! She remembered waking up one day and couldn't recall where she got the plaid case from. Heck, she couldn't even remember the face of the person who gave it to her. But why? There was no way someone could lose their memories of someone so fast over a short period of time. She tried again, hoping to recover more memories.
"There's this temple I want to show you, Amu-chan. Wanna come?"
Amu stopped. Weird. Whose voice was that? It didn't sound like anyone familiar. She vaguely remembered holding a small amulet in her hand. The same one she had with the words: "Matching" on it. And also someone else holding the same amulet as her's. The voice sounded like it belonged to a girl. What was her name again? Na…..something.
Amu yelped as a girl materialized in the window. Her ponytail seemed to sway in an imaginary breeze. She rubbed her eyes vigorously to make sure she wasn't dreaming.
Nadeshiko smiled, "That's me."
"But how? You're….You're not supposed to be here!" Amu knew she had to be dead. There was no way a human could appear in a window.
She shrugged, "Well, I'm not exactly human right now." Nadeshiko floated in mid-air while in a sitting position. A strange sparkle shone in her amber eyes, "I was wondering, have you heard about the rumors surrounding Rima Mashiro at your school?"
"I think I've heard of it…Wait, how do you know this?"
"Does Ri-I mean-Mashiro-san have any enemies?" Nadeshiko asked, ignoring her question.
"Enemies…? Well, a lot of girls in her class used to hate her but things pretty much settled down now."
"Did any take extreme actions against her?"
"There are the ones who stole her gag manga to provoke her…."
Nadeshiko smiled an especially bright and sunny smile, "Thanks, Amu-chan. I'm sorry but I have to leave now."
"Huh? So soon? But I haven't-Hey! Wait!"
Nadeshiko was already gone, Amu's own reflection staring back at her. She scratched her head in confusion. It seemed like she was only her to ask about Rima. But why? As far as her memory served, Amu knew she never met Rima since they were in the same school.
"Come to think of it, her hair and eyes look just like Nagihiko's…Isn't that too much of a coincidence? Unless…"
She rushed out of her room to find Tadase coming up the stairs with a broom. Even for a ghost he looked exhausted.
"Tadase-kun, do you know where Nagihiko is?"
"He went off with his cousin to talk about something."
Tadase smiled sheepishly, "It's a long story."
"Does she know he's a ghost?"
"Probably. She didn't look surprised when she saw him."
"Hm…..What's her family name?"
"I think it was Fujisaki. You know, the one who owns a chain of Japanese dance schools."
"Ah hah!" Nadeshiko's family name was also Fujisaki. "Thanks, Tadase-kun." Not giving him time to reply, Amu ran down the stairs for the front door.
"Hinamori-san, where are you going? Hinamori-san!" Tadase's shouts were lost to her when she made it to the first floor.
"I'll be back soon!" she yelled over her shoulder. She was so stupid. All the time sulking about Kairi had made her forgot all about the other Paranormal Attendants. She couldn't afford to lose one of them again.
She ran through the streets, dodging many people in her way as smoothly as she could. Some stared at her in surprise as she ran past them. Her heart pounded loudly in her chest from the adrenaline. She frantically looked over her shoulder every so often to check the progress of her pursuer.
A flash of a blonde pigtail encouraged her to run faster. Utau Hoshina sure didn't know when to give up. But she knew how scary she could be when angered.
She spotted a crowd of people up ahead. She ducked behind them, crouching down to her knees so she wouldn't be seen. She held her breath, praying that Utau would be fooled.
Utau ran right past her, not even once glancing in her direction. From the look on her face, she looked like she had no clue where she had gone. She let out a sigh of relief. Once Utau was out of sight, she took out her cellphone and punched in several digits.
"Hello?...Yes, it's Amaya. Hoshina-san found out….I don't know. She just came up to me and asked if I was the one who spread the rumors….I didn't tell anyone! Maybe one of you guys blew our cover!" Out of frustration, Ayama hung up. How dare they think she was the one who exposed their plan!
Ayama sighed, leaning her back against the mailbox. The crowd that provided her cover was gone. But it didn't matter. Utau was no longer here. Dusting off the seat of her skirt, she stood up and slowly walked down the sidewalk. She wanted to make sure Utau wasn't walking back up the sidewalk looking for her.
She stopped in front of a narrow pathway between two stores. It led to a stop on the black fence lined up against the canal. The shadow of the two buildings provided excellent shade and their structure made it impossible to approach the place from the side. This was supposed to be their meeting place.
Ayama frowned. Something felt off.
"Guys? You there?" she called as she peered into the darkness. No one answered back. Ayama took a step forward. "Guys?" she tried again, "Okay, this is getting creepy; you can stop playing games now." She felt her foot slightly brush against something. "Huh….?"She looked down to see a shoe partially covered in blood.
"Ah!" Ayama quickly drew back with a frightened yelp. That couldn't be…..? Fearfully, she looked up slowly to see who it was.
Honoka, one of her classmates, was propped up against the wall, her head lolling. A gaping bloody wound was on her leg. Ayama could tell from the dull light in her eyes and the whiteness of her skin that she was already dead.
"W-What is this?" Shivering, she could see other girls slumping against the wall, having various bloody wounds on their bodies that lead to their deaths. Puddles of their blood stained the cement floor. Cold sweat dripped down Ayama's face. How did this happen?
"Oh? I missed one?"
Ayama jumped, "Who's there?"
"Right behind you."
She whirled around to see a tall girl with her violet hair tied up in a ponytail. She was holding a naginata in her hands, its blade covered in blood. Ayama backed away until she found herself against the wall.
"W-What do you want?"
"You were one of them, weren't you?" the girl asked, leaning forward, "The ones who started the rumors and the ones who harmed Rima-chan."
"I-It wasn't my idea! I swear! We were only talking about Mashiro until Nikaidou-sensei showed up-"
"I don't give a damn about that, bitch." The polite and graceful features on the girl's face shattered at once when her lips curved upwards into a psychotic smile. "It doesn't change the fact you were involved."
Ayama fell to her knees, pleading, "Please spare me! I'm sorry! I won't ever do it again, I promise!"
The girl didn't seem to be paying attention to her, holding her naginata up high, "Normally, I would be sorry too…But I'm doing this to prove that I'm just as real as he is."
Nikaidou made a face as he scuffed the bottom of his shoes against the sidewalk. It left a bloody mark. He sighed. This was just great. He didn't want to be questioned by his co-workers about why there was blood on the bottom of shoes. He looked at the bloody pathway, staring at the newly killed body of a girl lying facedown on the concrete. He knew Nadeshiko was probably the cause of this. Nikaidou was also aware of her behavior. He noticed that she was slowly becoming more rebellious, refusing to follow orders and acting on her own.
"If I'm right, it's probably going to try to impersonate him next."
"Stop right there!"
Hearing his name, Nikaidou whistled, "Time to go." Just as he was about to walk away, a strong gust of wind sent him flying, causing him to land faceflat on the cement. Hard. He sat up, rubbing his nose in pain, "Ow…." His other hand grabbed hold of his glasses….Only to find them fractured.
"This is just great. There's no way I'm going back to work looking like this."
His eyesight coming into focus, he saw a teenage girl standing before him, her hands on her hips. Her blonde eyebrows were scrunched together in a glare, her violet eyes almost penetrating.
"You know I can sue you for abuse. And since you've quit the entertainment industry, no attorney is going to care whether or not you're a celebrity."
Utau snorted, "Like hell I care. You know why I'm here."
Nikaidou tapped a finger on his chin thoughtfully, "Let me guess….It's definitely not about today's assignment is it?"
"2 points. Now when are you going to drop that stupid teacher act?"
He laughed, "Ahahaha. What are you talking about, Hoshina-san?"
"It was kind of obvious. Seriously, what kind of teacher would be that klutzy?"
A dark blast of energy was sent flying at Utau, who immediately blocked it with her trident, pushing her back several feet by the force. Nikaidou took the chance to stand up, dusting himself off.
"At least I'm don't toy with people like Raiden. I only act different because I don't want anyone to suspect a thing." Then his tone became more serious, his face twisting into a dark smirk, "And I would kindly ask if you do not dare to provoke me again. That attack just now was me going easy on you. Next time won't be so easy."
"You son of a-" Utau suddenly fell down, her limbs glued to the floor. She struggled to get up, only for her to fall back down.
"What did you-"
"In case you didn't know, I am acquainted with the Phantom Lord. So therefore, all of Harima, which is his territory, are also under my control." Just as he was walking past, Utau's hand shot out to grab hold of his leg. Nikaidou looked down at her in disgust.
"You're not getting away with this."
He kicked her hand away, "I'd like to see you guys try." He admitted that he feared their powers for some time. Most of all, Amu. But considering how she easily fell to depression since Kairi's disappearance, he had worried over nothing.
A/N: I am planning to write off all of the ghosts, whether or not they vanish or become a demon. Since this story isn't really full of bubbles and sparkles...Hopefully no one misinterprets this as me being a cruel author or whatever.