A small hand reached out, the pale skin luminescent in the vermillion haze of the Red Night, as the hum of flapping wings came closer. A dark shape swooped out of the sky, claws pressing gently into the flesh of the girl's arm. The shadowy bird cawed, its ruby eyes glinting. A small smile bloomed on the girl's normally emotionless face.

"Thank you, Tasogare," she said quietly, her nimble fingers stroking the raven. "Tell Mikazuki-san I said thanks for letting me borrow you."

The ebony bird cawed again, sounding almost impatient.

"Sorry, Tasogare, I forgot," the girl said. "And tell Mika-san that I will be meeting her at dusk, alright? And warn her that they are coming."

The bird nodded in humane understanding as a sheen of light enveloped it, shining bright as a star. The blaze ebbed away, revealing a majestic snowy-white hawk, its beak and wing-tips gilded and its amber eyes sharp. The hawk jostled about, relieving its cramped muscles.

"It's much better in your original form, isn't it?" the girl asked. The hawk nodded once more before spreading its wings, taking off into the bloody heavens.

The girl bowed her head, deep in thought, her vermilion eyes troubled. She pressed a leather-bound book closer to her chest, her pale, almost white lavender hair tickling her cheek as scarlet ribbons flapped in the breeze.

"Hakumei no Mikazuki was always protective . . . but to go that far. . ."

"Really, what happened to her?" Ayame asked worriedly as she stared at Misuzu's blood-stained figure. "She looks dead."

"Suddenly everyone's a critic," Misuzu muttered under her breath in a mutinous tone. Kakeru frowned unhappily as Misuzu winced, casting a withering glare at her blood-clotted shoulder. Akira watched, her face impassive although her eyes showed the barest signs of sympathy.

"C'est vrais," she said quietly. "Although, Misuzu, it was your choice to go through this."

Despite her words, Akira's eyes suddenly flashed towards Kakeru. He jolted back a step in surprise and fear. Her eyes were narrowed, almost wolf-ish, the violet shade of her orbs flickering cerulean blue.

You should know whose fault it is, her voice echoed through Kakeru's head, cold and forbidding. You alone should know. Vous serez sa mort, garcon. You alone will be her death, Satsuki Kakeru.

Kakeru shivered as something drove into his chest, icy and sharp yet searingly hot. He could feel his breath hitching in his throat, a red haze covering his thoughts as he tried to move. The feeling spread from his chest throughout the rest of his body, the icy flame consuming everything. It hurt, it hurt so much. . .

And then her gaze was gone, leaving him free of the agony's grasp. Kakeru stood there, breathing heavily as he massaged his chest, desperately trying to gather his bearings before anyone noticed his brief moment of discomfort. He looked up to meet Misuzu's anxious gaze, her violet eyes concerned and disturbed.

"What's wrong?" she asked, her voice low and husky. Kakeru shook his head quickly.

"Nothing," he said, feeling as though the lie were stinging his throat. "Nothing at all."

Misuzu studied him, her lips a tight line, before she decided that maybe she was just overreacting. Kakeru could feel a bitter taste in his mouth from lying to one of his closest friends. He'd tell her what happened later, when that hostile archer was nowhere nearby.

Kakeru was snapped out of his thoughts as Ayame bounced forward on the tip of her toes, coming just the slightest bit closer. Instinctively Kakeru placed himself in front of his friend, Raikiri raised threateningly as lightning arced through the blade.

"It is fine. Put your demonic blade down, Satsuki-san," Akira's cold, almost mocking voice cut in as she took a step forward, her slender arms crossed as she frowned at him with great dislike. She gave Ayame an expectant look.

"You're the water girl, aren't you?" she demanded, her voice void of any friendliness. Ayame, unperturbed by the girl's aggressiveness, bobbed her head up and down as she produced a candy bar from her pocket and bit into it.

"So you were that creepy girl who was spying on me that other time," Ayame said, her large innocent eyes wide and her mouth full of chocolate. "You are so freaky up close."

Akira raised her shoulders up and down. Then, in a nod that only Kakeru noticed, she dipped her head slightly to one side. Kakeru could feel his mouth tightening.

"Sayuki-san won't hurt us," the archer continued. "So we should leave, before Misuzu-san bleeds herself to death."

Misuzu made a scoffing noise as she muttered," Idiots. I'm surrounded by a bunch of overprotective idiots."

Kakeru sighed, his eye flickering over their surroundings apprehensively. The rescue had been far, far too easy. Granted, Misuzu did come out looking as if she ran through a slicing machine, but neither he, Takahisa, Yukiko, or Yuka were wounded in any way. And now, everything was unnaturally quiet, without the barest trace of oni. He glanced at the others, wondering if they shared his sentiment. Ayame was completely untroubled, which was expected considering that she was the newest and therefore would have the least idea of the true danger. Yukiko, too, seemed unworried, although that, too, was expected, since Yukiko was a happy, bouncy girl and was rarely unhappy. Takahisa, however, was eyeing the surrounding landscapes uncertainly, his red eyes scanning the many buildings. Yuka still had Kakeru's arm in a vice-like grip, and Kakeru couldn't help but smile knowing that she was safe. His gaze passed on to Misuzu, who stood a little behind him. Her face seemed unsullied despite the slice across her cheek. Misuzu looked as she always did, calm, immaculate, and thoughtful with that gleam in her eyes that told you she had something hidden up her sleeve. Kakeru's study carried on. The blue-haired boy bit his lip.

Akira was gone.

How she had disappeared so easily was beyond him. He glanced from side to side, surveying the many buildings as he tried to glimpse black hair. The black moon yawned above them, a deep abyss, and he could feel a cold trickling feeling down his spine. The streets were completely empty, with no signs of life anywhere. It was too silent to be natural, no oni, no monsters, no sound. And now Hakume Akira was missing. He felt sick to his stomach.

He breathed in relief as he caught sight of the black-haired archer who seemingly teleported onto a building just a little bit ahead of them. He felt slightly silly for the panic attack he had, but Kakeru was too relieved to care. His relief swiftly turned into worry as Akira shivered as if a tremor had gone through her. He watched as Akira stood still for a moment before she whirled around, leaping gracefully from her perch onto the ground, dashed towards them with the grace of a canine. Her eyes were wild as she brandished her bow.

"Run! RUN!" Akira screamed, her stormy gaze flickering a multitude of colors as she motioned for them to run. "THEY'RE COMING! GO!"

"What?" Takahisa demanded.

"Je ne sais pas!" Akira yelled. "I don't know! But they're coming! GO!"

She threw a glance back at whatever adversary was, pirouetting around as her ebony bow flashed in a glimmering wave as she drew it. Kakeru unsheathed Raikiri in response. Whatever doubts he had about the archer, she seemed genuinely worried. Misuzu turned to him, her composure still there in spite of the uncertainty and fear that had snakes its way into their group.

"Get out of here," she commanded with her natural authority. "Bring Ayame back to my house. Stay there. And no buts," she insisted as Kakeru tried to argue. "Get out of here. Make sure the others are safe."

"We can't leave you!" Yukiko protested, her cobalt eyes wide. Takahisa glared at Misuzu.

"You'll be dead if we leave."

"Better that I'm dead instead of all of you!" Misuzu shouted in exasperation, her amethyst eyes flickering with violet flames as she drew Kannagiri. "Go! I'll help Akira. We'll hold off whatever it is!"

She could see from their determined faces that they would not leave her. She felt a wave of affection that was immediately put down by frustration. They were being fools. Why couldn't they understand? They meant everything to her, the closest thing to family after her mother died. She couldn't lose them just because she couldn't get them to listen. She couldn't! Her blade burst into flames as her patience evaporated with like vapor.

"Go," she snarled one last time as she glared at each of them in turn, holding their gazes. "Now."

And she whirled around, throwing herself away from them as she sprinted after Akira.

Kakeru tried to swallow his frustration. That idiot! His eyes trained on Misuzu's disappearing figure as she flashed away from him in a blur of red flames, away towards whatever screwed up demon felt like messing their lives up. Why was she always like this? He still remembered how in the Red Night f before, how she would always use herself as a diversion for them, to give them time to get away. And now, remembering those times, he kicked himself mentally for ever allowing her to do that. Now look at what habit that got her into. Sacrificing herself when she was practically ripped apart.

"I'm going after her," Kakeru said as he reached his decision. "You two stay behind. If she finds out all three of us came, chances are she'll lecture us all day afterwards, assuming we survive. I'll go alone."

Yukiko and Takahisa looked at each other, then back at him. Yukiko nodded her head, her blonde hair bobbing up and down in coordination.

"Okay," Takahisa said, clapping his hand onto Kakeru's shoulder. "At least we know now for certain that she'll be back alive."

"Why do you say that?" Kakeru asked, cofused, as he let Raikiri idle at his side for a moment. Takahisa grinned.

"It's obvious," he said, his ruby eyes glinting. "She's your special someone. Not," Takahisa amended as Kakeru opened his mouth," In the same way as Yuka is, but she means a lot to you, doesn't she?"

Kakeru nodded mutely. Yukiko smiled as she jumped forward, grabbing Takahisa's hand. "Good luck, Kakeru-senpai!"

Yuka stared at him, her grip tightening around his arm. "No," she said. "I'm not leaving you, Kakeru-kun. Come with us! Kusakabe-senpai doesn't need our help. She said so herself."

Kakeru tried to loosen Yuka's grip on his arm. "Yuka, you saw how wounded she is. I need to help her. I can't leave her like that."

Yuka stared at him, her sky-blue eyes wide. "Then I'm coming with you, Kakeru-kun. I will keep you safe."

Kakeru shook his head. "No," he told her. "You can't."

Yuka's eyes narrowed. "Kakeru-kun, don't you trust me? Or is Kusakabe-senpai stealing you from me?"

Kakeru shook his head, struggling to keep his voice gentle. "Yuka, I don't want you to get hurt. It's not that I don't trust you. But. . ."

Yuka smiled at that, putting her finger over his mouth. "So Kakeru-kun really does love me. Then I'll do what you want, Kakeru-kun." She smiled again. "Let's go then, Yukiko-chan, Takahisa-san."

Kakeru watched his friends fade into the distance with Ayame close behind them before dashing off after Misuzu.

Akuma stared at the ceiling, his mouth turned slightly into a frown as he rested his head on his arms. Yoshi and Kuno were off whispering somewhere, and he felt no need to bother them. That kid Aki was just sitting there, looking like a crazy, homicidal statue as he glared at the floor as if it had personally wronged him. He didn't talk to that black-haired kid, either, since he had a feeling Aki would sooner singe of his eyebrows before even saying one word to him.

Kusakabe Misuzu's house was nice, stately even, and he wondered how the hell some random seventeen year-old girl got a villa. Kusakabe-san seemed kind enough, with her composure and manners. Hirohara Yukiko, the short blondie with glasses, seemed sweet even if she acted like she was on a sugar high. Tajima Takahisa was punkish, but Akuma knew he had good intentions. He might even call Takahisa a friend. That left Satsuki Kakeru, Minase Yuka, and Hakume Akira.

Kakeru was a strange one, in Akuma's opinion. After all, the blue-haired kid wore a freaking eye patch twenty-four seven. But if Takahisa and Misuzu were fine with him, then he couldn't be too bad. Besides, he seemed like a good kid, even if he was kind of anti-social.

Minase Yuka seemed sweet in the same way as Yukiko, although she overdid the whole "cute, innocent little girl" act. From what Akuma had seen, she always had a grip on Kakeru, whether it was on his clothes, arm, or just around his whole body. With her lovable look, she could get away with the clinginess without making it seem stalkerish, but Akuma had a feeling that was what she was like. An obsessed Satsuki Kakeru stalker.

But Hakume Akira was a puzzle. Somehow, from what she said and acted like, he couldn't get a read on her personality at all. One moment she was slightly sarcastic but not unfriendly, and the next she was trying to kill people with ethereal projectiles. But whenever he was near her he felt some strange sadness emanating from her, like a strange sense or aura. But that was crazy. Akuma knew that no one could read minds. It couldn't be true.

These people summon freaking demon swords out of their fingernails! A voice inside him shouted. Akuma groaned.

Inner me, that's only Misuzu-san.

Your point is? That Kuno kid controls earth, dammit! Takahisa burns stuff up! How much more proof do you need before you accept it!

"I don't have any special powers," he said out loud, receiving a strange look from Yoshi. Akuma groaned again, turning over on his side. "Talking to myself is so problematic," he muttered under his breath. "I hate having voices inside my head."

Suddenly something incised through his mind, an image of a girl with dual blades dancing around a silhouette. The girl's hair was black with purple tints. Akira.

Another figure came into view, this one with flaming red hair matched by a burning sword. This girl sported several wounds, and yet despite that she loped along gracefully, joining the battle. Another shape was coming close behind her, a boy with blue-hair and an eye patch. Misuzu and Kakeru.

Akuma jolted up, nearly crashing to the floor as he made his way to the door.

"Nakamura-senpai?" Kuno called from across the room. Akuma turned, his hand on the doorknob. "You shouldn't go. Misuzu-senpai told us that staying here would keep us safe."

He was saved from answering as Aki got up, his voice chilly as he pushed his way past Akuma.

"My sister is in danger," the boy hissed, his voice hostile. "I won't sit here uselessly all day long."

He threw open the door before darting off into the Red Night. Akuma sighed as he followed, calling back," I'm getting Aki back. You two stay here!"


Vous serez sa mort, garcon - You will be the death of her, boy.

Je ne sais pas- I don't know.

C'est vrais- That's true/it's true