No copyright infringement intended. All rights reserved to its respective owner: YU-GI-OH is the work of Kazuki Takahashi.
This is something I started on my free time. I'm still trying to ripen the plot and technique, so I doubt there will be prompt updates, but I wanted you to have a first take on this material. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to read. :) Your feedback will be appreciated.
Background and realms
A mysterious plague haunts Domino, one revolving the intermittent death of innocent humans. To take control of the matter, Peace Council or the Higher Peace sends its noteworthy Dead Gods (Shinigamis) to capture the killers that were once part of their council and have lost their way. The taking of souls is the job of Shinigamis. However, some Shinigamis cannot control themselves by taking humans souls without reason. They are now called the Lost Seekers.
The Kingdom of Jule is a Sanctuary of Angels that help souls settle in their respective afterlife. The two realms combine their efforts into minimizing the roaming Lost Seekers who snatch souls before a human's time of death.
Genre: Fantasy/ Romance.
Peace Council/ Higher Peace: A realm where the Shinigami's reside.
Atem: Head of Peace Council, he holds the highest power in the realm.
Shadi, Sugoroku, Dartz and Mahado: Peace Council members. These members decide the future course of the Lost Seekers.
Marik Ishtar: Fought to bring back the Rights to the Izanami Passage in order to restore the minds of the Lost Seekers who were previously Shinigamis.
Jonouchi (Jou): Kisara's original Shinigami.
Seto: Kisara's family's Shinigami.
Kingdom of Jule/ Sanctuary of Angels: A realm for Angels and the last place a human soul travels after death. This is where souls are judged based on its lifetime of good and bad deeds.
Angels: Bakura and Mokuba.
Anzu Mazaki and Yugi Muto: Fiancés.
Akhenaton: Grandfather of Kisara.
Ishizu Ishtar: Kisara's manager.
Lost Seeker in Chapter 1: Bandit Keith
The afterlife can be unsuspecting. Those that are part of the infinite realm are sent to retrieve souls from the upper world, the human world. For the majority soul-takers, this task is simple because a dying human finds peace in death. However, when a soul-taker loses his sense of guardianship and rebels against the Higher Peace, he will ultimately seek all form of life and steal souls from humans whose time of death haven't been reached.
Alliances between the Kingdom of Jule, the White Angels or those from Heaven, and the Realm of Shinigamis have strengthened over the course of centuries for one purpose alone: to remove these estranged soul-takers that have lost self-control from the human world. Those who lust after souls should be killed since they endanger the function and taint the Kingdom of Jule and the Higher Peace, but most essentially the helpless humans.
"I am considering their offer." Said the Council Head to the room of vigilant Shinigamis. He stepped down the narrow staircase to observe their pale facades and piercing glares. "Kingdom of Jule wants us to send their guardians to the human world and remove the Lost Seekers." Atem gazed upon the men thoroughly.
"My dear friends, I don't doubt your intentions for a second. If the number of the Lost Seekers increase, we must take our spot and fight for humans and for Jule, the Angels."
Shadi nodded contemplatively. "The Lost Seekers have been increasing. We don't know why our Shinigamis are turning against each other. For five centuries, there were seven who lost their sense of guardianship. Today we have more than twenty." He brushed the pad of his thumb on his forehead as if to wipe away the traipsing ache in the thought. "If only I can understand what's happening to our realm, I'd do anything in my power to stop it this minute."
"I don't doubt you would." Echoed Atem firmly. His amethyst eyes searched the vacant stares of his comrades. "We must protect the humans. Jule needs our help. We, the Shinigamis, must stop every last of the Lost Seekers. They are scrounging through the human world, taking souls and indulging in their deaths. So many lives have been taken unwillingly!"
"Perhaps we should revise our systems." Suggested Mahado from the right corner of the dark room. He moved into the seam of light filtering from a miniscule crack in the ceiling. "We only take souls of those that end according to Lachaise's will. We must strip the Lost Seekers of their powers."
"No!" Shouted Sugoroku instantly. "Removing the souls of the Lost Seekers is the only solution. We can't cage them forever. They will find a way to be free and raise havoc again. They must be put to death, completely."
"The previous seven who first turned against us," Began Atem guardedly, "Were exiled for eternity in Jule, which is linked with Heaven, where Shinigamis can't extract the souls of angels. At the time being, it was the best solution we had. However with their increasing numbers, it's solemn proof that exiling is not the answer we need to stop them. You are right Sugoroku."
"We cannot kill a Shinigami." Shadi interrupted. "Death gods are spirits nonetheless. It is not up to us to take away the life of our own. I wish there was a simpler answer to this."
"It doesn't call for a simple answer." Sugoroku notified. "Killing the Lost Seekers is not a crime. They have lost their senses. They have forgotten themselves and lust after lives. Why mustn't we eradicate them?" He seethed.
"Before we reach that point," Shadi scowled, "Let's find out how our Shinigamis are losing their will? Why have they weakened and crave souls?"
"Their sense of responsibility doesn't exist." Assumed Atem. "Turning against their tasks, they've sullied our name and revel in destroying life. They are no longer Shinigamis. If they can't remain loyal to their duties, I will definitely remove them completely. This vile weakness—does not represent what a Shinigami is!" Atem turned toward the silhouettes in front of him. "I want you to bring me the first of the seven. I must speak with him and find out why—why he weakened and sullied our names?"
"Yes," Nodded Jonochi, "I will leave for Jule."
"Be careful, Jonochi." Atem whispered, eyeing the blond fretfully. "The Lost Seekers can turn all of us against each other."
"I will." Jonochi assured and waved over his shoulder. "C'ya!"
"Bringing a Lost Seeker here?" Spat Sugoroku crudely, "Do you have any idea what you've invited to our sacred land?"
"I wish to speak with one and have my questions answered."
"If they poision they rest of our Shinigamis, what'll happen then?"
Atem had an urge to smirk at the troubled council member. "Surely you don't think I'll invite them to gallop our land like a free person? I assure you, the Lost Seeker will be contained. No one will go near him."
Sogoroku only held his breath to let Atem finish before charging again. "How do you plan to stop them?"
"For now, our Shinigamis will hunt those wandering the human world. All of them will be brought back here to me. If the Lost Seeker retaliates and causes a threatening situation to a human being, including our Shinigamis—" Atem glanced at the man lounging against the wall silently in the shadows. "Then you find it in your judgment to do what is right, Seto."
"Hmph." Grunted a sound from the corner.
"You are one of the highest ranked and most trusted Shinigamis in our realm. Please, save the humans from falling victim to the Lost Seekers. In the past," Atem smirked aloofly as if a memory filled his vision. "You were the one to capture the seven and sent them to Jule. It mustn't be taxing for you. But remember, not to lose control, not to forget just who you are. A Shinigami, one who takes the soul of a dying one and brings him peace, nothing more."
Life is a one-time gift. It unwraps at its own pace, and like anything given to one, it must be kept safe.
"…Found three bodies locked in the basement of the Haiden Residence. Investigation hasn't progressed and no one knows the cause of the deaths. The family was last seen coming home in the afternoon. Neighbors say they didn't see any strange activities. The mourning relatives were informed of the deaths early morning—"
Click— A horror movie.
"Quickly, hide in the attic. It won't find you up there. Hurry!"
"Mommy, don't leave me!"
"Sakura, darling," Gasped the mother to her daughter tearfully, "Don't breathe a word. Remember how we play hide and seek? You need to play your best today. Don't make a sound or move until it goes out."
She hugged her daughter and helped her inside a trimmed opening in the wall. "Be good, ok?" She cupped her daughter's cheek lovingly one last time and slid the wood in place.
Backing away from the wall, the mother wiped away her tears. "I'm, sorry, Sakura." She wept, running back downstairs. "Mommy won't ever see you again."
The moment she descended the stairs, a mountainous creature seized her.
"He was with me last. One minute I was getting water. The next minute, I turned around—He was gone!" The father doubled over, sobbing in his hands.
In the background, a paramedic wheeled away a body bag into the truck. "I don't know what happened. I couldn't do anything!" Cried the father hopelessly. "My son."
Grimly and with a heart as tired as bulls plowing under the sun, she exhaled loudly at the TV and switched it off. There was a steady comfort in the black screen. The room was silent, no one screamed and there were no news about a dead body. A blank TV was much better, she decided.
It had been happening for eight months in Domino. Corpses were found under paranormal conditions, often without wound marks or struggle and likely presumed as a natural death. The recent accumulation of dead bodies was suspiciously increasing, from the most random incidents at that.
One day two children were found dead in their bedroom while their parent's went to the grocery store. Four months later, the parent's were found dead in their car. Some Tuesday, a group of kids would go watch a movie and browse the mall. In front of the entire crowd, all of them collapsed, not breathing, their pulse dead, and no one knew why.
As strange as the incidents were, they incessantly occurred. Finding them on the news daily had somehow turned normal. In spite of it, the ill feeling churning in her stomach never subsided at the sight of another body bag, or a weeping family who fell victim from a tragic loss. Death after death, none made sense, but they happened too often.
Often she debated packing her bags, purchasing a ticket overseas and disappearing forever. Watching the news as if it were a non-stop horror movie was distasteful and left her sleepless, without an appetite for months. If she could convince her jii-chan to go overseas, she would.
He resorted to an intangible belief that if he stayed in Domino, where he lived his whole life, he would find fulfillment by being laid to rest next to his wife and children. In other words, he would rather die at home with the rest of the mourning neighbors who had found out about their relatives inconvenient deaths. There was a deep feeling spawning in his heart. A feeling to die along with the young children he saw in the news, and those of which he heard from the neighbors.
She was certain that was the actual reason why he lingered in Domino. Forget 'home is where the heart is' he wanted to die quickly, but she wouldn't allow it.
Placing the remote on the floor by her bare feet, she looked up at the clock. It was six in the afternoon and the sun was setting outside. All doors and windows were locked. The stillness of the house made the ticking of the clock bang like a revolving gun in her ear.
"Jii-chan!" Running up the stairs, she knocked on his door, "It's time for your medicine." Creaking open the door, she tiptoed inside the dim room.
Shelves inundated with tomes hovered all four walls. Some volumes lay discarded on the couch, on the floor and the nightstand while others remained stacked in the open closet. He was reading in his favorite crimson chair facing the open window.
She frowned and flung the window shut to cut off circulation. "It gets cold easily. You don't want to get sick, do you?" She suspected with a critical look at his wrinkled face.
"Getting sick is natural. What's wrong with you?" He lowered his glasses on the bridge of his nose. "Aha, I did take my medicine. And yes, I did eat. No, not the chicken because it was too hard for my teeth—I haven't finished the chapter yet so don't force me to sleep." He warned.
"Reading, reading, reading," She put a hand on her hip, a fretful scowl and frown identifying her displeasure at the state of his room and his disheveled appearance. "Too much reading will make you dizzy again."
"Will you go do something else?" Akhenaton was peeved by her criticism. "Do what normal girls your age would do."
"School, work, date, you have friends?"
"How can I leave you home alone?" She whirled around and folded her arms. "Don't you know how dangerous it is outside? Who knows what you'll do with me gone."
"I don't need a babysitter." He chuckled, "Look at this, getting rebuked by a nineteen-year old know it all. Hah, my granddaughter sure is conservative, isn't she?"
"It's called being careful." She huffed. "Everyone needs to be careful going outside." She eyed the window. "Who knows what number of bodies will drop tonight..."
Akhenaton raised a brow at the page. "Don't bore yourself with the news," Absently reaching over the nightstand, he shoved a book at her. "Here. Revel."
"I don't want to read about the Mechanics of a Bridge!"
"Kisara, being knowledgeable about various aspects and subjects in life is what makes a woman interesting. Do you prefer Botox, makeup and waxing than learning the function of the technical and physical world?"
"Stop lecturing." She returned the book on the nightstand and loomed over the countless series lying by the foot of his chair. "You used to be a college professor but your habits haven't changed. Jii-chan, you're retired and you've started to sew back buttons to your shirt—doesn't that say anything about you?"
"That I'm saving money? What's wrong with that?"
"Ugh." Kisara knelt to her knees to delve the stack.
His warm hand fell on her head and brushed her silver-bluish hair with thick long fingers. "Kisara… Koi, how long do you want to lock yourself in the house? You haven't gone to work in a week."
She hugged a book to her chest without noticing. "Is it weird I feel insecure going outside? Half of the staff at my company," Kisara gulped with solemn eyes, "Are dead, no one knows how or why. How do I go back to the empty office?—I used to eat lunch with most of them. Now I won't ever see them again."
"If you want, you can leave the country." He said.
She looked up, "No way! I'm not leaving you here alone."
"I'm a grown man who has lived a longer and harsher life than you." Akhenaton implied assuredly, "Why are you afraid for me?"
"Because I don't want to leave you." She snapped. "What happens if I never get to see you again? What if—right here, right now is our last conversation?"
"I'm an old man, my life can be over any minute, Kisara. But you need to grasp yours. You can't be afraid of the world forever."
"Fine, don't agree with me and stay locked in the house for as long you want. Not like you listen to me." He fixed his glasses to continue reading.
Kisara peered at the book in her arms. Sitting up, she skimmed the pages. "Why do you have a book on the afterlife?"
"Like I said," Akhenaton flipped a page in his perusal, "Knowledge of various aspects and subjects in life make a woman interesting."
"Not to burst your bubble or anything, but girl's with a big head can sometimes be a huge turn off."
"Turn off?" He pulled the book away, stunned. "Women can't be 'turned off'. The entire speech is incorrect. Are they appliances with a switch?"
Shaking her head, she elaborated, "It's not always attractive if a woman knows too much."
"Says who?" Akhenaton glared. "Don't listen to the garbage." He began reading silently. "There is no harm in knowing, in fact, it broadens perspective and cultures your understanding of the practicality and mechanics of life and it's relationship with the world."
Flattening the book on the floor, Kisara regarded a monochromic illustration of an angel snaking away the soul of a human. "Heh, do these exist?" She whispered at the diagram. "Fairy tales were especially designed to make real life shitty."
Akhenaton spared a sidelong glance at the book in her possession. "That is a Shinigami, a Death God, as foreigners call it. They are responsible for taking souls of dying people to Heaven. Theirs is a separate realm than Heaven though. Look closely, do you see anything peculiar he bears?" He leaned over her head.
Kisara indicated the left arm grasping a chainsaw blade. "A chainsaw." She mumbled dubiously and blinked. "Really? They cut people and drag their souls. Seriously, what bull shit."
"Disbelieve all you want." He muttered at her unconvinced expression. "Some would call it a 'scythe'. In spite of the appearance, the blade is used to cut the thread of life Lachaise's sews. It can also be used to remove evil spirits promenading our realm despite our unawareness."
"If they do exist," Kisara attempted patiently, "Then there should be a whole lot of Shinigamis in Domino."
"Shinigami's are universal, they can be anywhere at any given time."
Ring, ring! Ring, ring!
Kisara was on her feet dashing out of the room to the telephone downstairs. She unhooked the receiver and held it to her ear. "Moshi moshi."
Heavy breathing echoed on the other line. "Kii—Kisara?" Whimpered a soft voice.
"Anzu-chan." Kisara braced herself, "Wha—What's wrong?"
Sniffles attached her weeping response. "It's… Yugi."
Mechanically, she slammed the phone back in the hook and stared at it emptily.
What could be wrong with Yugi? Why would she cry and call all of a sudden? Were questions she wished to ask, but in fear of the answers she had restrained. Kisara charged toward the walk-in closet and flung on her coat.
"Jii-chan." Kisara grabbed her keys from the hallway shelf. "I'm going to see Anzu-chan. I'll be back soon!" Before forgetting, she slipped her cell-phone in her pocket.
Pausing, Kisara switched the power button. To prevent disturbances during her refuge at home, she cut all contact with co-workers and friends. Once the screen flashed luminously in her palm, she found over thirty-four missed calls in addition to voice messages piled on the screen.
"Call my cell if you need anything." Kisara opened the front door and secured it.
Anzu was on the floor of her living room. A sobbing mess with disheveled brunette hair, swollen blue eyes, and skin as pale as snow. Kisara knew her hide-a-key spot before entering the somber home. Closing the door, she saw light flickering in the living room. Her legs peeked from the corridor on the floor. Kisara darted and knelt by her prone form.
Grabbing her up, she cradled Anzu in her lap. "Anzu-chan, what's going on?"
Anzu only clutched her waist and sobbed in her abdomen like a wounded child.
Fifteen minutes of placating, finally Anzu managed to answer in between sobs. "He—He—Was sleeping on the couch. I was in the shower," She gestured to her moist hair. "I got out and heard a strangling sound from the living room. He threw the remote at the wall and I came over." Trembling, she pointed at the dent by the ceiling. "Yugi was on the floor, unconscious. No matter how much I—" She sobbed in Kisara's arms. "He wouldn't wake up. I don't know what's going on?"
"Anzu-chan," Kisara held her firmly. "What did the doctor's say?"
"They don't know what happened to him." Anzu withdrew, tearstains glistened the apples of her cheeks. "They told me to go home and wait."
"So," Kisara whispered with a trembling tone, "He is stil...alive? Right?"
"Barely." Anzu rubbed her face on her sleeves. "He is struggling." Unable to contain herself, she sobbed in despair. "I don't even know what—what happened to him? I can't—I couldn't stop! He—" Immediately, Kisara's arms yanked her tighter against her person.
"Shh, don't cry." She rubbed the back of her head. "We'll go to the hospital together if you want. The doctors are trying to figure out what's wrong." Her hand paused on Anzu's shoulder. "Did you notice anything weird before calling the paramedics?"
Lethargically, Anzu pulled back, her pink-red eyes hot from constant crying. "There were marks on his throat."
Indeed the marks were unusual and instantly noticeable. Kisara touched Yugi's hair gently, gaze transferring to his narrow throat. Anzu lingered next to the bed, clutching Yugi's limp, cold hand in hers.
"Yugi…" She pressed his knuckles to her cheek and sobbed. "Please, wake up."
Retreating from the bed, Kisara clenched a fist on her raging heart. The marks on his throat were bruises, creating an illusion of long thick fingers with tags of nail marks. A normal observer would claim the hands were beastly and inhuman. She didn't know what fit the description, except the hand marks did not belong to Yugi.
Walking out of the patient's room, Kisara stayed in the waiting area, uncertainly debating the proof on his neck. Undoubtedly the officials had taken note, but what conclusion had they arrived to? Whose hand marks were they? While Anzu was in the shower and Yugi watched TV alone—who else was in the house?
Gazing out the window in the waiting room, Kisara regarded the dark night flushed with stars and streetlights. In the heap of waiting visitors, she sat with her back turned to the exit, head twisted toward the windows passively. Another visitor filled a chair on her right.
Why are all deaths in our city inconclusive?
A random attack on an innocent life, and if Yugi never woke up, would Anzu be the next victim? So many similar cases bestowed the country and none could make sense of it. Criminals in jails dropped dead too. Heavy security in crowded districts was in place, nonetheless, the deaths never ended.
The more she thought about it, the more determined she became. Shooting to her feet, Kisara strode back to Yugi's room. At the door, she felt the skin on her back tickle and swung around.
A patient was being wheeled across the hall by a tall figure. He leaned down to brush the gray head lightly. "No more worries. It will be over soon and you can find peace."
Kisara plunged open the door to the room. Anzu blinked tiredly and sighed aloud. "Kisara?"
"Come and stay at my house."
Anzu rose from the chair and captured Kisara's right hand. "I would love to, but I can't leave Yugi alone."
"Anzu-chan, something terrible is happening. I can't let you stay here. Come with me." She pleaded.
Anzu pulled her in her warm hug. "Thanks for your care, Kisara-chan." Anzu smiled. "But until Yugi wakes up, I don't plan on leaving."
Kisara frowned, holding back her unease by uttering rationally, "I can't force you but if you change your mind, you're welcome to stay with me."
"Thanks," Anzu sat back down, taking Yugi's hand. "I want to keep his hands warm. Look how cold and pale they are." She rubbed his knuckles. "He has the smallest hands and making gloves was always on my list of things to do," Anzu gave Kisara an embarrassed glance, "I never got around to it though. I regret it now. At least, they would keep his hands warm if I can't hold them later."
Kisara clenched a hand reassuringly on her shoulder. "Yugi will wake up."
Anzu gazed at him longingly, feeling a tear tickle from the corner of her right eye.
"He fought for his life. Whatever tried to choke him," Kisara trailed sadly, "He didn't let it win."
Anzu brushed her wet cheek against his palm. "Can't you feel it?" She sniffed. "How miserable I am seeing you like this, Yugi? Can't you feel the tears on my face?" Loudly she sobbed without a care, pushing her face on the mattress.
When the doctors asked Anzu to leave, she didn't. Instead she resorted to stay the night at the waiting room outside. Covering her with loads of blankets and revitalizing her with cups of coffee, hot cocoa and ramen, Kisara made sure Anzu ate something to keep her physical state stable.
"You can't get sick," Kisara said late at night when the waiting room was left with a single light and not many patients were around. "Keep your health up. When Yugi wakes up, you have to greet him with a cheerful smile."
Nodding, Anzu agreed. "I do. You are right, I have to."
It was another hour later, in the deep of the night when a sudden crowd of doctors and nurses sprang into the halls. "Patient in room 347 is unresponsive! I checked on him ten minutes ago and he was fine." Claimed the nurse to the frustrated doctor.
Alertly, Anzu sat up and Kisara had curiously risen to her feet.
"Hurry and contact his family." Directed the calm doctor before opening the door of the patient's room.
Anzu only curled an arm over her eyes and returned to sleep. Kisara covered her with her blankets. Unlike the doctor, she couldn't keep herself calm. Rubbing her cold fingers, she slipped them in her pocket and glanced over her shoulder at the windows again.
Creak…The door in the hall fell in the lock. Soft footsteps glided on cool tiles. A fragile elderly man limped outside. Eyes wide, a serene smile deepened the wrinkles of his pale face. The noiseless shift in his footsteps were undeterminable, but the flutter of his blue robe shimmered against the silver garbage can, forming an elusive reflection at the top corner of Kisara's eyes who stared at the moving shape on the window.
Flinging around, Kisara stared at the empty doorway. What was that?
Glancing back at the window, the patient uniform fingered the corners of the glass, passing behind a visitor's chair. As if floating, it dove toward the transversal hall.
Feeling scarring goose bumps travel over her arms and back, Kisara carefully wandered out of the room into the transversal hall. "Hello?" Her echo breezed past the closed rooms and bathroom. She stopped at the end, staring up at the large window that trembled from the whipping wind outside. Reaching over the sill, Kisara pulled the metal lock.
There he was, standing on the left ledge. His pale robes shook in the fluid wind and the gray hair shadowed his eyes. She thrust the window open, almost throwing herself over urgently. "What are you doing?" Kisara screamed.
Silent dark eyes blinked at her calmly.
Kisara pushed herself over the sill, crawling on her elbows and stuck her head out. The wind grabbed the long straws of her bluish air, tossing it over her eyes. "Stop!" She called anxiously, "Get down from there!" She studied his face in the stark moonlight.
I remember him. He was the patient in the wheelchair.
"You shouldn't be outside." Struggling to climb out of the window, Kisara grunted, "How'd you get out there in the first place?"
Averting, he stared at the city below.
She was wrestling with gravity but hung on to the sill. Gasping, Kisara glanced outside. Her fingers loosened on the wood and she plummeted on the tiled floor.
How can it be? Fearfully standing up, she stared speechlessly at the now empty ledge. He jumped?
"Someone!" Kisara ran to the clerk by the waiting room. "Someone!" She gasped at the assistant behind the counter. "There was a patient standing on the window ledge. I don't see him anymore. I think he might've jumped!" She indicated the hall.
Within moments, doctors and nurses rushed to the destination. They searched the street below and for signs of footprints on the dust of the ledge.
"So what you're saying is you saw one of our patients on the window ledge?" Asked the Chief of the Department, pressing his glasses against his nose with glaring eyes. "But no one jumped, there are no bodies or footprints on the window."
"I'm not lying! He was standing a few feet away from me!" She insisted.
"Please, go home." The chief turned around, closing the door to his office.
"I swear I saw him!" Kisara knocked the door.
Anzu grabbed her arm, luring her away. "What are you doing?" She asked under her breath. "Stop making a scene."
Astonished, Kisara removed her arm and halted. "I'm not. He stood so close I could've grabbed him, but I couldn't get out the window."
"Kisara…!" Anzu begged. "Don't do this, not now, please!"
"Do what?" Kisara demanded. "I know what I saw."
"But there was no one there. They checked the security cameras and it showed just you yelling at the empty wind." Anzu touched her pale cheek. "Why don't you go home? Maybe you're tired."
"But..." Kisara turned her head away. "Anzu-chan, I-I."
"There is no proof." She said gently. "Please, Kisara, go home and rest."
"I'll be fine. There are lots of doctors and nurses around if I need anything. I'll call you and let you know how Yugi is doing." Anzu assured.
"I just—" Painfully, Kisara closed her eyes and clutched her temple. "I thought I—I swear!"
"It's been a long day," Anzu nodded, "We're all tired, go home, I'll see you tomorrow."
Reluctantly, Kisara brushed Anzu's hand. "Ok. Then I'll see you."
Outside, she peered up at the building and the clear sidewalk. Maybe I was going a little crazy.
Crossing the street to the parking lot, Kisara retrieved her keys from her pocket. Swiftly, she checked her phone if her jii-chan had called. She entered the elevator of the parking garage after noticing he hadn't called.
"No more worries. It will be over soon and you can find peace."
Unknowingly, her heart screamed in her chest. That man who was with the patient…Kisara tried to remember his face.
Another visitor filled a chair on her right. He sat down next to her when she was looking out the window.
A patient was being wheeled across the hall by a tall figure. He leaned down to brush the gray head lightly. "No more worries….You can find peace…"
To her lack of knowledge, the doors pushed open. Kisara remained gaping fixedly at the floor. Now that I think about it, the man's clothes and the tattoos on his hands…
Atem watched him from the corner of his eye. "Seto, I urge you to help the weak and bring back the Lost Seekers. The world will be empty if they continue. Lives can't be governed by these seekers."
He turned on his heel toward the door as soon as it flung open and a striking built man sauntered in the room.
"Raphael," Atem grounded his teeth guardedly, "You were clumsy today."
Rubbing the tattoos on his wrists, Raphael crackled his neck and smirked at Seto before replying. "What can I do? I've been trying to grant wishes but I'm only a beginner—compared to our high ranking and supreme—" He slapped Seto's shoulder proudly. "Seto here."
Seto threw his hand off and strode away.
"If it were Seto, no human around would notice a thing, of course. He works flawlessly." Raphael remarked.
"It was your task to take the soul of the fragile man. Each of us is assigned to a particular being. Don't be skeptic and do your job correctly." Chastised Atem, "For a Shinigami, it can't be hard granting the final wish of a dying one."
"I'm still adjusting to the change in my ranking." Raphael reasoned, "The old man wanted to see the city one last time on his own legs, so I held him up. He looked pleased, if it weren't for that distracting girl on the window." Raphael rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
Rigidly, Atem advanced upon him. "You didn't let a human see, did you?" He demanded. Seto, who was trying to mind his own business swung around at the news.
"I…Well…." Raphael hesitated, "She somehow followed him."
Atem stepped back sturdily. "Humans mustn't witness such a scene! Especially the sight of taking of another's soul, it is sinful. Have you forgotten what it can do to the innocent girl?"
"Relax." Raphael placated. "It's nothing serious."
"Nothing serious?" Atem growled deep in his throat as if he were ready to could murder the Shinigami. "What have you been learning so far? A Shinigami's presence must only be known to the person facing death, no one else. After seeing it, she will devote to locating us. And with the league of Lost Seekers rummaging the world, she will come across them soon."
"She will be protected." Raphael guaranteed. "Several Shinigamis are already tracking the Lost Seekers in her city."
Controlling his fury, Atem turned toward the spectator. "Go." He ordered Seto. "I'm sure news of a human witnessing the taking of another's soul must appeal to the Lost Seekers. She can be in trouble."
"I'm very sorry," Raphael bowed his head.
"If you're sorry, then find the Lost Seekers and bring them here." Atem ordered. "But don't ever let another human see you again."
It happened a long time ago, almost like an illusion or a made up dream.
The sun-flushed afternoon was warm in April, a regular family outing for three. Her dad was loading baskets and toys in the trunk. The empty streets were warped in serene silence. Glancing over his shoulder, he waved at his daughter.
"Kisara, go bring my bag from the door."
She darted back up the stairs, toward the waited bag at the front door. Entering the foyer, Kisara peered in the kitchen for her mother. "We are about to leave!" Kisara hummed happily.
"Just a sec." Replied her mother from somewhere in the living room.
Taking her dad's bag, she headed back to the driveway.
It never made sense why she was able to see the dark shadow on the sidewalk. Approaching the car cautiously, Kisara dropped the bag on the floor. Her eyes locked on the cloaked man standing behind her father. His blue eyes widened on her in revelation.
Frowning Kisara murmured, "Oto-chan, there is man standing behind you." She pointed.
He tensed and retreated the instant her father turned around in question.
"Where?" To her father's eyes, the streets were deserted. Ruffling Kisara's light hair, he chuckled, "Do your imaginary friends want to tag along on our trip?"
Glaring at the stealthy man in black, Kisara folded her arms. "He is not my friend. I don't know who he is."
"Eh?" Her father reached for the bag on the ground. "Say goodbye to him and get in the car then. We don't want to be late." Inspecting the items within the trunk one last time, he closed the trunk and opened the passenger seat for his daughter. "Hurry, Kisara." He called.
It wasn't her first time seeing him around. The blue-eyed man lurked around the house even at night. She only saw him wandering the compounds of their house, like a predator one would say and despite that, he didn't seem harmful.
One noon in August, she was hunched over her drawing pad, spilling colors on her designs by the patio door in front of the back yard. The quiet weekend created a chance for her working parent's to unwind. A sound of footsteps crunched against the patio, Kisara tugged her head up at the strange noise. She grabbed her sketches and opened the glass door.
Her mother peered over the arm of the couch. "Kisara?"
"I'm going in the backyard," Kisara replied.
"Ok." Her mother turned back to the TV.
The noon heat burned the flesh of her arms and legs. Her back found shelter from the sun due to her lengthy open hair. The soft thuds of her slippers descended on the wooden deck before they glided softly on the white cement. Kisara glanced at the brilliant blue sky.
Crink—crink echoed the sound of rusted metal grinding against each other.
She turned in the direction of the sound. He was sitting on a swing across the yard, by the red seesaw. Since he was familiar, she hasn't been afraid of approaching him and jerked a finger at him accusingly. "That's my swing."
His eyes had paled in the luminosity of the sun and so did the skin. She had to be blind not to remark on the odd color.
"Are you not feeling well?" Kisara tilted her head worriedly. "Why are you always around my house?" She sat down on the grass in front of his boots and began weeding the long grass with small fingers. "Always playing with my toys and following oto-chan. I heard people like you are dangerous so you better watch out." She yanked a fistful of grass and began dosing them on his boots.
"I can call the police on you." Kisara crawled on her side to pluck a small white daisy. The sapphire hue of her eyes lit up elatedly at the blossom. Raising her hand, she held it up to him. "Flowers always make people feel brighter. Here!"
He regarded the pedals emptily. As if lost in his thoughts, his right hand whipped from the chain of the swing to the daisy. Inches before contacting the pedals, the entire blossom shriveled into dust.
"Hmph." His hand dropped against his leg.
Gawking at the dead flower in disbelief, Kisara glared up at him. "Why'd you do that? Not even the Flower Fairy can fix it." She sorrowfully gaped at the dust in the grass. "You big meanie. You like killing stuff, don't you?"
Looking up directly into his eyes, she forgot her anger. The eyes she peered into shot remorse like darts at her and forced her back on the ground. With her mouth agape, Kisara mumbled apologetically and blinked back tears. "Why do you always look the same?" She whispered, "You're the saddest person I've ever seen." Rubbing her tears with the back of her hands, she carried her sketches to her lap and revealed it to him.
"I'm going to show it to my parent's. When they see you are real, you're gonna be in big trouble." She raved. Of course, in the eyes of an adult, instead of pride that fueled her bones at the figures, a frown would be invoked. Though it was her hard work, they were merely unimpressive stick figures.
One sketch depicted him standing next to her father. The other, another stick figure was of him at the front of their house. The third one was of his face and glaring blue eyes. She had managed to replicate the cobalt hue in significant detail.
"Don't move an inch," Kisara opened another blank page and began scratching on the paper insanely with a pencil. "When my parent's see you using my swing without my permission, you're gonna get it." She scrunched her face distastefully. "I'm gonna tell the Flower Fairy on you. She is gonna have a royal fit."
Dropping the drawing pad, Kisara blinked at him hopefully. "Did you know she has 9,999,999,999,999 brothers and sisters scattered across the world? She shows up in the biggest flower from a bunch all the time." Springing excitedly to her feet, Kisara ran to the garden.
He scowled as she yanked a crimson large rose from her mother's garden. Wagging her fingers, Kisara darted back to him. "Here, I found her."
He regarded the deep red flower as the pedals bristled in the wind. Glancing at the small green stalk filled with thorns, he blinked at her bloodied fingers.
"She won't show her true form to a flower killer like you. She is in disguise." Kisara notified. "What if you try to kill her too?" She cupped the flower tenderly and whispered. "It's ok, you're safe, I promise to look after you as long as you continue to send your brother's and sister's to oka-chan's garden."
Soon, her cheerfulness ebbed when her father died exactly a month later. The blush of her cheeks faded and instead screeching tears were replaced. Sobbing in her mother's shaking arms, Kisara mourned for months. For an unknown reason, perhaps out of distraught loneliness, she searched for him and waited on the swing in the backyard for years.
He never came.
Five years after moving to Minato, Tokyo with her mother, Kisara kept memories of her father close to her heart and enjoyed a quaint lifestyle with her mother. It was the day after the fireworks festival, she was busy making origami's in her room.
"Kisara?" Her mother called from downstairs. "Come have dinner."
"Hai." Dropping her incomplete project on the table, Kisara danced her way out of her room, shimmying in circles and hopping twice from side-to-side down the stairs. On the last stair, she courageously spun on her heel and pushed herself over the banister, throwing both feet over and landed on the smooth floor.
Her foot slipped, twisting her ankle, she lurched forward on the floor. "Ah!"
Her mother came out of the kitchen in concern, "Did you fall?"
"No, I'm good." Hopping on her intact foot, she threw herself in a chair with a playful grin.
Her mother frowned darkly, "Come eat dinner, it'll turn cold."
Sitting across from her at the dinner table, Kisara picked up her chopsticks and clapped her hand gleefully.
"If it's too spicy let me know." Murmured her mother.
"I will." Kisara picked up a roll. A shadow fleeted across the table. Stilling her movements, she looked up at the blinding lamplight that shuddered. "Oka-chan," She gestured at the light, "An earthquake?"
"I didn't feel anything." She searched the room.
Returning to her food, Kisara began eating. Five minutes into her meal, a chilling numbness stole her appetite. Slowly she looked up at the looming shadow over her mother. The chopsticks fell against her plate, one rolled somewhere on the floor.
"Kisara?" Her mother frowned questionably, "You don't like it?"
Pinching the table edge with her fingernails, Kisara sealed her lips and swallowed her bite. "I'm—" She had yet to look away from the figure, "I'm going to my room. I have homework." With her announcement, Kisara darted toward the stairs.
A part of her knew what was coming. His presence alone in the household spurned the warmth of vivacity she and her mother shared. It made the hours she spent with her mother limited and somber.
She only understood the tragedy that followed after his arrival. Physically Kisara was prepared to handle what was about to occur. She helped put on the clothes on her mother's dead body on the day of her funeral. She walked calmly and met with her relatives without a tear. She prayed at the funeral home and accepted their condolences. As the doors closed after the relatives waved goodbye, she fell to her knees and cried wretchedly in the crypt that had become her home.
A few weeks later, she moved to Domino to live with her jii-chan, Akhenaton.
Wearily opening her eyes, Kisara glanced at the blue box next to her head. Unlocking the lid, she peered at the colorful paper flowers.
These were for him.
She stood up and placed the box on the table.
I've made up my mind.
Kisara went downstairs to collect her coat from the closet. Arranging her hair away from her face, she buttoned the coat to her neck.
I'm not going to be scared anymore. This is the least I can do for Yugi who fought to survive.
Opening the front door, she glanced over her shoulder at Akhenaton drinking coffee over a book. "I'm going to work, jii-chan. See you in the afternoon."
"Be careful." Akhenaton smiled.
If her supervisor were strict and menacing like many in the corporate world, Kisara would have been fired ages ago. Ishizu Ishtar, on the other hand, was too empathetic for her own good.
"Kisara!" A tearful Ishizu darted toward her once she aborted the elevator and embraced her. "I'm glad you're ok. I thought something happened to you. I called your cell and you never responded."
Guiltily Kisara dodged her worried gaze. "I was in sloth mode actually and took refuge at home."
"You do realize how uncertain the future of Domino is?" Ishizu admonished, "Sometimes I don't even know what happens to my employees—and here you are enjoying a little holiday."
Bowing apologetically, Kisara whispered. "I'm sorry, Ishizu-san."
Beckoning Kisara with the flick of her finger as she marched into her office, Ishizu relayed, "You have tons to do. Eeryone is vanishing at the drop of a hat. Thirteen employees sent their resignation letters. Half of them are migrating, and twenty-seven from the marketing department are missing. The police is investigating their whereabouts." Ishizu seated behind her desk and indicated the voluminous mountain of folders. "Life or death—someonehas to pull the load in the fluctuating economy. For the last several weeks, it has been me." Ishizu blinked pointedly at the glum Kisara. "I'd skip work too because of the dangers but because of my important role—I can't."
"We are all indebted to your hard work, Ishizu-san," Kisara automatically replied, "We would be jobless if it weren't for you."
Ishizu reviewed her desk. "I doubt anyone cares about jobs these days." She grabbed a large stack and helped them in Kisara's hands. "You are the one I can count on, Kisara."
"I won't let you down." Kisara nodded.
It was easier to drown in overdue work. Hour after another, she chipped away the insane mountain of folders and ran errands. Groaning at her desk late at night, she rubbed her aching neck. Ishizu was packing to leave in her office.
Dutifully, Kisara followed her example and turned off her desk light. She met with her supervisor at the elevator with a meek smile. "Have a goodnight, Ishizu-san." Kisara politely waved.
"You too. I'll see you tomorrow?" Ishizu entered the lift, raising an inquisitive brow.
"Absolutely." Kisara promised.
Ishizu pressed the lobby button. Her green eyes traced the flashing numbers. "Thanks for not running out on me. I can't tell who is by my side anymore. It's hard to run an office by yourself. At one time, our city bloomed and soared, now it's like another dimension."
"True." She whispered, feeling dejection and loss evolve in the pit of her stomach.
"Who knows what'll tomorrow bring?" Whispered Ishizu forlornly at the opening doors.
Her slender frame was one to admire and be envious of. Ishizu Ishtar was a successful woman in her professional life. Like most in the world, her personal life was insinuated by tragedies. Her husband died of unknown causes last year. The baby in her womb was taken away from a miscarriage.
The emotion in her admission filled Kisara with dread as she followed Ishizu into the lobby.
Working at the company for a solid three years, she was able to witness smiles of elation on her supervisor's face. Now, devoid of smiles, like a fragile china doll, pretty and smooth on the outside—Ishizu was cracked from the inside. She wasn't to be blamed for the troubling situations that whirled her wonderful life upside down.
Despite her beauty and excellence in the professional world, Ishizu, too, was someone who couldn't control the disruptions in life.
"Goodnight, Kisara." Ishizu waved.
"Take care." Kisara watched her cross the street of the parking lot and unlock her Mercedes.
Tucking an unruly strand of hair behind her ear, Kisara hurried to her car. Panting against the frigid temperature, her fingers forked through the keys in her pocket in search of the car key. A cackle combed through the silence of the dark night. Pausing alertly, she reviewed the deserted area. A flurry of freezing wind blew through the streets, tossing posters every which way.
Lowering her arms from her eyes, Kisara glanced at the stumbling man on the street corner. Meandering by himself, his arms and legs convulsed uncontrollably. Shaking his head wildly, the panting man scurried across the street, running past the streetlights and trashcans. He halted suddenly on the sidewalk, head tilted sideways with starry dark eyes. Amazed by the deserted area, slowly the man stepped around and stared directly at her.
Gasping, she backed into a random car and slid out of the way. Hands fisted in her coat, she jogged eagerly to her vehicle. She couldn't stop herself even if she wanted. Her running feet stepped in stagnant puddles, staining her shoes and pants. Unconscious of the numbing sensation seeping into her clothes, Kisara pressed the unlock button on the car remote. Opening the driver door, she threw herself inside and locked the entire vehicle properly.
Out of breath, head dipping on the wheel, she clutched the seatbelt with trembling hands.
Why…Hot tears dripped on her lap. Why am I so scared?
Clenching her teeth, she inserted the key and turned on the ignition.
I made up my mind.
Reversing out of the parking lot, she sped toward the exit and slid into the streets.
I'm won't be scared anymore.
Parking the car in the driveway, Kisara sat back and stared aimlessly at the house. Her palpitating heart had yet to calm. Gaping up at the dark house, Kisara aborted the car and unlocked the front door. Depositing her coat in the closet, she trudged into the empty kitchen, which she grunted apathetically and routed upstairs Akhenaton's door instead.
"I'm home." Kisara peeked inside. His prone form in the bed put her at ease. Sighing aloud, she whispered before closing the door. "Good night, jii-chan."
Akhenaton glanced away from the wall. Turning on his back to face the ceiling, he released a loud sigh. He had nothing to think about, but his mind wandered to uncertain places that no longer made sense. He reasoned it was due to the non-stop reading, but even reading books didn't keep him up at night, glaring blankly at the ceilings. This kind of a thing never happened in the past. Nothing else in the world made any sense or felt seemingly relevant, except one thing.
His favorite chair, the crimson one overlooking the window, was occupied.
In the absolute silence, he hardly recognized the sensations of being the subject of a voyeur. As if the eyes were peeling the skin off his body, he turned his head to the side to look at open window. Then his eyes swept to the dark arm draped on the armrest of the chair. In the dark, he couldn't determine the sight. He found that he didn't want to, since by closing his eyes and pretending to sleep had no affect on dispelling the dread filling his bones.
He realized he had been trying to do it for the longest hour. Waiting to hear Kisara's car move up the driveway and listening to her ascending footsteps on the stairs. All the while, his spectator hadn't moved a single hair in the chair. As if he weren't real, or alive.
For a moment in his silent debate, he figured the man was a figment of his imagination.
Should I be worried? Akhenaton mused.
Gradually widening his eyes, Akhenaton scrutinized the shadow intently. "You can't be the same thing they write in those books." He murmured.
"If I am?" The sound was colder than a draft in the heart of winter.
"Good-luck convincing Kisara. She gave up on fairy tales long ago."
"But the one I'm here for is you." Whispered the slithering voice, flinging the room in cryptic gloominess.
"If I'm not ready yet?" Akhenaton muttered.
"The scent of death reeks from your bones stronger than ever."
He stared at the figure considerately. "Is this what you do? Watch the ones in the mouth of death and send them off?"
He bowed his head to reply, "My job is to help you find peace in your last hour."
"Is now the time?" He wondered idly. "But I wanted to finish that book, I haven't gotten to the ending…"
"I won't force your soul to leave your body. You may only linger in the finite world as long as Lachaise deems appropriate."
"How much longer do I have?"
"Ah…" He slurred as if drunk. "Will it be enough to say my goodbyes? Am I the only one that can see you?"
"Hmm." He rose to his towering height and noiselessly approached the door. "Two more days until your last breath." Walking in the hall, he silently closed the door and listened to the stillness of the home.
The sound of water splashing on the floor echoed behind the door farther in the hall. Stepping in front of the bathroom, he stared at the dim light underneath.
In the darkness, a long sleeved hand flattened on the wooden door. Is it you?
Raising her hand, she held it up to him. "Flowers always make people feel brighter. Here!"
The memory was so fine and unruly, the mere grips of returning to it made him emptier. Rubbing his temple in sudden fatigue, he leaned against the wall. The thumping of beating water strummed on the wood inside of the bathroom.
Strange markings on his neck...
Putting away the comb by the faucet, Kisara stoically regarded her reflection. Slowly, she reached up to lightly grasp her narrow throat.
Someone tried to strangle Yugi.
"I can't tell who is by my side anymore. Who knows what'll tomorrow bring?"
Eyes turning faint, Kisara rubbed her face with her palms. She stared at the brush, then an indignant yawn weaseled out of her mouth vociferously. She sluggishly returned to her bedroom and slumped dizzily on the edge of her bed.
She couldn't stop thinking about what occurred with Yugi. They couple lived alone and no one but herself knew the location of the hide-a-key. Clearly no one entered their home.
Kisara dropped on her back, blinking sleepily at the ceiling. It could happen to jii-chan and I. We both know Domino is no longer the city it once was.
She glanced at the treasure box on her table. Flinging her arm over it, she nudged the lid and picked a random paper-flower. Kisara dropped back on the bed, clutching it to her waist.
It never made sense why she saw him or why he followed her parent's? Each time he appeared, he took someone precious to Kisara away. First, it was her father. The second time, her mother was taken. She accepted it diligently, because she couldn't make sense of it. Seeing him was an illusion due to her lonely mind. Occasionally she would sculpt paper flowers, but after she was done, she had no idea what to do with them.
It's out of pity.
Kisara believed in the beginning. Another paper-flower later, she hid them in a box.
He has the saddest eyes.
One more time, she made another and dropped it inside like a ritual. Eventually, the box was full—each dedicated blossom a result of her thoughts of him.
One day, Kisara decided to stop and shoved the box somewhere in her closet. As the saying goes, out of sight, out of mind—she began to forget the blue-eyed man who would sit on her swing in the backyard.
Moving to Domino stimulated a new lifestyle. She was a normal girl with aspirations. Then dead bodies of familiar people began appearing. As much as she wanted to run away and hide, her thoughts returned on the strange man. Older and wiser since she last saw him, she recalled his clothes intently.
Why did the flower wilt when he touched it? Why did her parent's die each time he appeared?
Kisara buttoned her coat. Eyeing Akhenaton sipping his early morning coffee. Suddenly she dropped her hands and wandered toward him.
"Jii-chan," Kisara whispered.
Akhenaton pried his eyes away from the newspaper. "What?"
"What did you do to my sketches?"
Confusion beaded his eyes at the question. "What sketches? You draw?"
"I brought a shoe box filled with sketches when I moved here. What'd you do with them?"
"Why?" Akhenaton frowned. "You're not a kid anymore."
Uncertainly, Kisara glanced at the quaint living room. "I thought I could take a look. Some of the drawings were of oto and oka-chan."
"I'll find it for you." He offered.
Without a word, Kisara opened the door.
"Kisara." Akhenaton stood up from the chair, his cup of coffee steaming in his hand, "How about we go to the bookstore later?"
"Give me the name of the book, I'll get it for you on my way home."
"How coldhearted are you? I'll find it better if we went together."
"Why?" Kisara scrunched her face, irked, "All of a sudden?"
"I haven't been to the bookstore in ages."
"You can go now."
"I'd rather go with you."
Speechlessly she opened the door and stomped outside. Akhenaton grabbed the portal from slamming shut in the lock. "Get me Quin or Wittgenstein—Pynchon, if you will?"
"You already have them in your collection."
"I've written on them thoroughly I don't dare turn another page. They can break, you know?"
"And whose fault is that?" Kisara turned around with a smirk. "I'll get them, anything else?"
His smile strained and the corners of his eyes pinched, clawing wrinkles from the both sides of the cheeks. "Yes. Come home safely."
"Aren't I the most conservative "Noobish-stay-at-home-bible-hugger" granddaughter in your terms?" She descended the stairs into the parking lot, "What danger can lil innocent me get involved in?"
He didn't find anything pleasant at the remark. Obviously young, brilliant but naïve as a little lamb in his eyes, Kisara was nevertheless the little anguishing girl who wept for years in his arms after her parent's died. The memory of her sobbing recklessly fogged his attention from books, fancy authors and delicious steaming coffee. He watched her drive out before locking the door and stared at the drink in his cup with a detached expression.
The shadow that had been patient forwarded from the living room hallway at last. Three-feet transversal to Akhenaton, he hovered the hallway.
Looking up distantly at the creature, Akhenaton indicated the cup. "Want a cup? I made extra."
Seto averted, "Mortal contraptions, including food, don't have the same affects on us."
"Mortal humans." Akhenaton found listening to the words out of the creature's mouth peculiar in the sunny morning. He glided back to the kitchen counter and setting the cup. "Very soon, I won't be able to enjoy things I've taken for granted. Take this cup of coffee, for example," He indicated with an index finger and smirked at Seto. "Have you ever felt the warmth of fresh coffee, Shinigami?" Knowing the answer from the impassive shadow, Akhenaton chuckled animatedly. "Of course not, of course not. We, humans, are so much like this warm cup of coffee. We also lose warmth, vigor, flavor and sit cold waiting to be tossed. Guess you came at the right time for me, heh-heh-heh."
"The decision to take a soul is not determined by us, but Lachaise." Seto informed scathingly. "Taking a soul is not taxing. A touch can enervate you mentally and physically."
"You disturbing creatures who scrounge the world for dying people," Akhenaton glowered but hopelessly looked away, "It'd be better for you to come for me at the last moment. The very sight of you reminds me of what I'll turn my back on."
"It was coming," Seto murmured with a sardonic smile. "You sensed me months ago."
Perturbed, Akhenaton rigidly sat back in the chair.
Stepping into the kitchen soundlessly, Seto stopped in front of the counter, eyes immobile on the man. "That night four months ago, it was I in front of the museum. Judging by your stricken expression at first sight, you sensed who I was."
Wearily he nodded, "I…Did, I— Ever since that night I've felt like I'm being chased." Akhenaton rubbed his wrinkled forehead. "I avoided going outside not because of the dangers but my personal phobia grew strong. Little did I know it would creep into my house and find me. You—" He regarded Seto, "You are someone who goes by the written word, the rules. I can tell by your face that you're from a diplomatic environment. Shinigami's can be vengeful too, but I don't have to worry about you."
"You have one day." Seto whispered.
Carrying the large load books in her arms, she hunted the aisle for another title. "Knowing his voracious reading habits, he'll finish these by tonight. No harm in getting s'more." She smiled at a particular title and added it to her collection.
Next to her left, a man accidently nudged against her heavy arm. "Oh, I'm sorry!" He gushed.
"It's alright." She backed away from the shelf toward another section.
The city is emptying. Our economy is plummeting with the loss of customers and businesses.
She passed by a magazine rack.
The city is wrecked in horror that no one cares about tabloids, fashion and entertainment.
Kisara plucked a magazine and skimmed through the pages curiously. Nude lipstick, striped shirts and dark hair are in.
As if guilty, she returned the magazine. How terrified am that I can't live the life of a normal girl?
She unloaded the books on the counter and pulled out her wallet.
He had shadows under his eyes from sleepless nights, and the coarse of beard was thicker than ever. The numbness of his stare made her feel it deep in her bones.
He is just like me.
Kisara watched him scan the books.
It can happen any second. But we don't run away because of our responsibilities.
"Will that be all for today?" Asked the clerk.
She leaned forward to read his nametag. "Hai, thank you, Aspa Roba-san." Quickly, she held out the sufficient cash.
His fingers barely grazed the back of her wrist when his hand slumped against the counter, and his eyes rolled back, collapsing behind the counter.
"Roba-san!" Gasped Kisara, hovering the counter fearfully, "Roba-san!"
He coughed blood from his orifice, the crimson ink blended in the rug. A thin line of crimson tickled across his throat and his body stilled too suddenly.
Kisara shoved away from the counter and whirled toward the customers. "Someone, he collapsed! Hey! He—" The eerie silence clawed shivers down her arms and legs. Kisara turned to the side and moved toward the shelf she visited earlier. Lying prone on the floor was the man who had accidently bumped her arm, the circulation of hot blood seeping from his orifice.
He is dead. She realized, backing away. They are all dead.
Kisara flung around and dashed outside. The beating of her footsteps pelted on the cold sidewalk, echoing through the hallow street that once breathed with vivacity and humans.
Why? Kisara turned on the street corner.
Why did I have to see that?
Why in front of me?
She stumbled against a wire near the wall of an apartment. Kicking it away, she hurriedly went to her parked car.
Ignoring the sound with a fervid shake of her head, she continuously pressed the unlock button on the car remote. She felt the sensation riding up her spine, the digging on the skin made her shriek before she was slammed against the window of her car door. There was no one in the reflection. Leaning breathlessly against the door, she turned around, searching the empty street. The middle of her back tickled like a threading needle. Shaking fists pushed down on the door handle, Kisara flung herself inside and locked all doors.
Streets, lights, signs and driveway—was all she remembered on the ride home. Without a care, she slammed the front door in the lock and anxiously ascended the stairs, running to her bedroom and forced the lock hard that the wood cracked. Her legs wobbled but she was on the floor crying miserably that her mind couldn't keep up.
"Kisara," Akhenaton waited outside her door worriedly. "Kisara?"
Pushing her hair away from her wet face, Kisara flung on the door, flinging it open. "Jii-chan!" She gasped, clutching him. "It was horrible!"
Perturbed, he steadied her trembling figure with a gentle hand on the shoulder and pushed her back, "What happened?"
"Everyone at the bookstore," She sobbed, "Was killed. And there wasn't a single person with a weapon."
"That doesn't make sense," He frowned.
"There was no one there. Everyone just—collapsed, dead!" It was like in the news but having witnessed it first hand made it unbearable. Curling a hand over her eyes, she sobbed raggedly for fluid ten minutes. "I can't believe it. They were alive one second and the next, dead. Who could it be? I don't get it." She wheezed.
He patted her head and helped her sit on the floor. "Calm down, we'll report it to the police."
"I ran as fast as I could." She quivered. "I left before something else happened." Doubling over, she covered her head. "I'm a coward but it was frightening!"
Reaching around her back, he let her head rest on his arm. She clung to his sleeve like she had done many years ago upon moving first to Domino.
"Jii-chan, 'ka-chan—why did she have to leave me? I was a good girl!" Kisara wept, "Oto-chan didn't even get to see how good I do at school." She trembled like a sick child.
Rubbing the back of her shoulder, Akhenaton set his jaw.
She still trembles today, so much that I can't hold her still. That's right even if she gets older, she is a girl who gets frightened.
His fingers rubbed against warm moist on the back of her coat. Retracting his palm, Akhenaton's eyes widened at the crimson liquid dripping on the floor. Kisara wearily pushed away the hair from her swollen eyes.
"What happened to your back?" He cried, almost pulling her around for inspection. "Kisara, there is blood on your back!"
"Blood?" Lost, she reached behind to graze the wet region and rubbed the blood against her fingertips. "I made sure to get out before anything happened."
"Whatever it was—" Akhenaton dourly uttered, "Was about to take you too."
Her mouth parted, she paused and studied the blood critically. At the car, I was slammed against the door from the back. Could it be from then? She did recall a distinct sensation of ripping skin that burned like a scar.
"Hurry and clean the blood." Instructed Akhenaton frankly. "We'll report the news to the police. Go, don't sit there and cry," He shot up astonishingly fast for a seventy-three year old.
Though unwilling, Kisara obediently returned to her room and closed the door.
Lingering outside, Akhenaton caught his forehead with his fingers and almost sobbed from frustration that tensed every nerve in his old body. The raging blood coursing through him felt like it struggled to reach his heart. His blurred vision left him immobile. Regaining his composure, Akhenaton glanced away from her door.
Seto was at the end of the hallway, watching silently.
"Do you have any idea?" Akhenaton gravely muttered, scowling, "What terrible things could've befallen my grandchild?" Without waiting for a response, he droned, "Yes, you're all about spirits and the afterlife—but humans are in more danger than ever and none can explain the cause."
"If you care to know," A steel coldness embedded in his blue eyes as Seto replied unflinchingly, "Observe the scar on her back. You will understand the attacks are not of this world but another."
"Not from this world?" Akhenaton repeated. "Then where is it from?"
From his pocket, he dropped black dust on the wooden floor. "This used to be a Shinigami, one of which attacked tonight at the store." Seto indicated the scattering powder splashing against his boots, "Many of them are cursed and blinded. They lost reason and are removing humans souls by force." His glare turned ferocious on Akhenaton, "Didn't I tell you that a single touch of a Shinigami can weaken your human body and soul?"
"So it's—" He mouthed in disbelief. "It's your doing?"
"Our Peace Council is detoxifying the confused and disillusioned Shinigami's from Earth." Seto approached Kisara's door. "They attack in excessive quantities and tonight is no different. News of deaths penetrates easily in both realms. Her time of death hasn't arrived. If she lingered, her soul would've been torn out of her body. Fortunately she left just in time."
"You are telling me your Shinigami's are out of control?" Akhenaton spat uncontrollably. "A Death God having no control of himself? How can that be?"
"An accumulative of 100,000 Lost Seekers populate the Earth, increasing by the second. We, from the Peace Council are destroying them one by one."
"Oh, so you are going by the rules and killing off those who don't?" He skeptically growled, "A Death God with no control is too ridiculous to put to words, you fiend!"
Calmly, Seto turned to the bedroom door, sensing her approach from within.
Kisara pulled open the door, a frown possessing her small lips and her solemn dark blue eyes suspicious. "Whom are you talking to?"
"I'm thinking out loud." Flustered, Akhenaton looked away from Seto.
"Sounds like you're yelling." Kisara murmured.
Akhenaton paused on Seto looming over her doorway. "Why? Do you think I'm talking to spirits, angels, or perhaps a Shinigami?"
She didn't react and instead turned her back on him. "It's a claw mark." Kisara lifted her shirt slightly.
Taken back, Akhenaton blocked her from Seto's eyes. The Shinigami raised a brow but didn't move. "Kisara, do you mind not pulling your shirt up so willingly?" He muttered sourly. "Even the very walls have prying eyes these days." He blinked at Seto.
Keeping her shirt up, Kisara mumbled, "Why? You're my jii-chan. It's just my back."
"I don't want you to reveal your back like this. You are always conservative, what happened to you?"
"The claw mark burns if I keep it covered. If I don't show you, then whom?" She demanded, glaring in frustration.
Submissively, Akhenaton peered at the large marks scarring the paleness of her skin like a trail of fire. "Luckily, it didn't puncture more than the skin, but it's not too deep." He diagnosed.
Seto folded his arms. "A mark of prey."
Abruptly, Akhenaton swung to him. "A mark of prey? As in a pronounced target?"
"Jii-chan, what are you rambling?" Kisara fidgeted.
"Hmm." Seto nodded once. "A Lost Seeker has claimed her his target. He will strike her any moment if he chooses. Similar situations consist of members of the same household, friends, or associates fall victim to one Lost Seeker. She will meet with the situation, herself."
Insanely infuriated, Akhenaton glared at the Shinigami. "Quit stating facts like you're reading a mundane news report!" He shoved a finger at Seto's immaculate expression contemptuously. "And that look on your face—doesn't match with your job. We are talking about an impending attack on an innocent girl!"
"Jii-chan…" Kisara uneasily turned around, eyes strained cautiously, "What…Are you…doing?"
He had forgotten himself, and her for the most part. Akhenaton rubbed his temple, "Mhm, Kisara I was having a debate with myself. I've gotten in the habit of talking to myself, my senile days are finally unveiling. Don't worry, you'll get used to it." He was about to pat her arm but she stepped back. Her studious glare fixed on his shaking left wrist.
"Your hands shake when you're nervous." She accused, "What are you talking about? Whose expression? What impending attack?"
"I—" Akhenaton sighed, "I heard somewhere about the claw mark you have on your back. It means you are an intended target."
The brilliance in her blue eyes darkened. "Whose target?"
"A—" He tapped his chin, "A… The thing invisible to the eye and only reveals itself if he chooses." Akhenaton passed a curious glance at stony Seto.
"You're babbling." She stated indifferently.
"I—" He searched the floor shamefully. "Must be, yes, you are right."
Suddenly she turned and stormed inside the room, slamming the door in the lock. Kisara pushed herself against the wall, her body frozen on the cool wood.
He was talking to someone. Kisara rubbed a hand over her fatigued eyes.
"Oto-chan, there is man standing behind you." She pointed.
"Where? Do your imaginary friends want to tag along on our trip?"
She slumped against the floor and listened to her throbbing heart.
Was I truly imagining it back then? Neither oto or oka-chan saw him but why did I?
Kisara eyed the window curtains.
Is jii-chan in the same perspective as I was when I was younger? He can see something, carry normal conversations but...
" 'Invisible to the eye and only reveals itself if he chooses'?" She pondered under her breath.
Feeling her spine tighten as the arms on her sides stiffened into blocks, Kisara could only stare at her moving legs stride out of the room back outside. "Jii-chan," She nervously murmured, her voice in ruins from her turmoil mind.
Akhenaton was not in the living room or his bedroom. Kisara rushed to the left wing upstairs. She stopped next to the narrow stairway of the attic by the guest bedroom. Her footsteps slid softly against the stairs, she halted at the sight of the parted door where strays of light sprawled on her toes and pants.
A hand pushed the door and his silhouette filled the doorway. Looking at him widely, Kisara pointed at the shoebox in his grasp. He scowled at the item thoughtfully. "Your sketch box, I found it." He offered.
Kisara touched her quivering bottom lip, a sound scratching inside of her throat. "Do you—Do you see him too?"
Her timid whisper made him squint his eyes. "What did you say?"
She yanked the box out of his hand. "Do you see things no one else can see?" Kisara eagerly mumbled.
Akhenaton pushed past her and continued toward his room, he switched the lights in the hallway. "Sleep, Kisara. The frightening scene earlier is getting to you. Get some rest."
"I don't mean to sound like a neglectful citizen for not calling the police, but the attack will inundate the news tomorrow." Akhenaton informed. "Someone will report the news."
"Don't you want to see it?" Kisara demanded.
Akhenaton examined the clutched box. "The sketches are precious to you, keep it close so you don't forget their faces. Oh, you might want to take up drawing again. I'd like my portrait in there too." He smiled.
He didn't see.
Kisara nodded sullenly and watched him step into his room. She turned on the hallway light before taking a stair. Removing the box lid, Kisara shuffled through the sketches restlessly. After a five-minute search, her fingers pried within the heavy stack of messy colored pictures. She stopped on a monochromic portrait and let out a sigh.
"So you're still here," Kisara whispered at the paper, "I thought I'd forget what you looked like."
Emptily, she gazed up at Akhenaton's door.
"Around 10:30 pm last night. So far no suspects come to mind, but police are under way with the investigation. There will be more updates on this incident coming up."
Akhenaton regarded his transfixed granddaughter glued to the TV early morning. She hadn't changed from her pajamas and he assumed she wasn't returning to work. "If you go anywhere, be careful," He worded, tasting bitterness sharply against his tongue. The feeling raked his insides, boiled in his bloodstreams since last night.
Forlornly, he stared at Kisara's back. That brilliant kid, that shining kid, I won't get to hold anymore.
"Is the coffee done yet?" Kisara asked, vigilant of the changing scenes on the news.
Grabbing a cup from a cupboard, he dispensed the fresh batch in a cup and let it sit.
"What's the matter?" Called a slithering voice from the left corner of the kitchen. Akhenaton didn't look up to meet the cunning glaring blue eyes of the Shinigami. "Any last regrets?"
Dismissing him completely, he took the cup and set it on the coffee table in the living room. "Kisara," Akhenaton halted in front of her, blocking the TV screen, "Get a weapon and keep it at your side at all times."
"A weapon?" She sat up. "Bu…"
"Don't argue." He sharply cut her off. "There are too many dangers. You can't protect yourself by staying locked at home. Someday, all your resources will be gone, and you'll have to go outside. Hiding and waiting for matters to alleviate is not proactive."
"Shall I purchase a gun?" Kisara frowned.
"Anything will do." His gaze skittered to the kitchen corner. "Um, I will look into what will be effective. In the meantime, do some of your own research."
A hopeless stare at her hands and she whispered quietly, "It would make sense if I knew what the problem was. What's causing distress in the our city? I've heard it's all over Oceania too. We are facing more than criminals and pirates. Something…destructive…menacing, more condemning and evil." Kisara rose to her feet, shook her long hair in her mumble. "Can a mere weapon do the trick?"
The question left the house in gloom. In the pitch-blackness of night, the door of her room slid open. Steadily making toward her bedside, he leaned forward with a smile.
'Reluctantly we blame ourselves. But this is true, we are desperate to blame others. We are used to believing we are infallible, that's why. We can't do wrong but other people can.'
A hand shifted the hair from her cheek. 'Kisara' The hot breathed tingled in her ear. 'Forgive me.'
Choking awake in her bed, Kisara glared at the shadows. Hot tears glided across her cheeks, dripping heavily on her thighs. Lightly, she touched her cheek.
Someone… Clenching the blanket, she tossed them on the floor and set her trembling feet against the cold wood.
A terrifying ache invigorated as she desperately wandered out of her room toward Akhenaton's. His bed was vacant, or that he hadn't slept in it since the sheets and blanket were untouched. The needle like terror in her heart burst into flames. Kisara chased down the stairs.
Her quivering hands clamped the handle of the front door. The wind was brutal and bitter in the middle of the night, stinging her skin. She was little ways down the stairs of the porch. Her numb hands worked through the gate locks before striding into the empty streets.
In my dream, Kisara darted on the sidewalk barefoot. Someone spoke to me. A familiar voice, a friend's voice and one I trust most.Tears scrolled from the corner of her eyes, blurring the windy streets in her hurry.
His footsteps were sullen whereas hers were wild and skittered across the frigid sidewalk like a cheetah. He looked up at the white moon with a half-hearted smile. She could only sob and refused to yield. He looked behind at the forlorn streets, noting the shadowed creature still and absolute at his side. He was never alone because of the Shinigami.
"Sometimes we want to forget our past pains. But as we grow older with these pains, I understand how it changes a person. I'm able to look into another's eye undoubtedly because of it." Akhenaton murmured to Seto. "We are fragile beings that tend to tear easily. But you've never understood the concept."
He scrutinized Seto's indifferent countenance. "If you weren't a Shinigami, I'd have you marry my granddaughter." Akhenaton folded his arms to shield from the cold. "Of course, there were in her sketches of a man with blue eyes, bearing an astonishing resemblance to you. I figured it was her imagination. I understand, Shinigami's never reveal themselves to anyone, unless it is his time of death." He halted with a pondering glance over Seto.
"I've done a lot of thinking. For the one thing I will be leaving behind." Akhenaton whispered, facing Seto. "It may be a hindrance to you but it is important to me. I thought I should do the right thing or what is best for the time being." He reached out, nearly taking Seto's black sleeve but let his fingers hang in air. "Seldom do I feel desperate but today I have no choice. Will you grant me my last request?"
Hunching over, she crossed the blank street. "JII-CHAN!" Screaming, she dashed to his side. "Jii… chan—!" Gasping, Kisara clung to his shoulders with sobs, almost shoving him a good two footsteps back.
Immediately, Kisara pulled back and shrieked breathlessly. "What are you doing out here?" Assessing his attire, she clenched her fists on his thin shirt. "It's so windy out here and you're not dressed warm. Why are you here so late?"
Akhenaton touched her right cheek, "I should be asking you the same question?"
She sobbed in her hands. "I… I felt… Something bad was about to happen." Tipping her head up at him with her tear-stained face, she quivered, "You weren't in your room and I just had to find you."
"I suppose your instincts are sharper than I realized." He smirked passively.
Guardedly, Kisara straightened. "What's with your expression?" She whispered, resisting from trembling.
Akhenaton looked away from his feet to the streets ahead. "If I told you I must go somewhere and you can't come, will you head back home quietly?"
Kisara moved forward to grab his hand. "Where? It's late and unsafe. We can go tomorrow morning."
"Will you do this for your jii-chan, one last time?" He tilted his head with a tight smile.
One last time? "Wh-why?" Kisara wondered.
"I need some fresh air."
"Well—so do I." She exclaimed. "Stuck at home all the time, don't you think I need fresh air too?"
He turned his head, "Go on home, Kisara."
Walking slowly away, Akhenaton folded his arms. "And don't come outside again." He looked up to see that he had been walking alone.
The silent shadow accompanying him hadn't shifted from Kisara's side. Uneasily, Akhenaton looked between the two. Kisara gaping hopelessly his way while Seto stood with a numbed expression, blinking away from the light-haired girl.
"Tell her you won't be returning." Seto issued.
This was the easiest and a coward's way out. Akhenaton frowned at his granddaughter. It was just a way out without giving you distress.
"Ki-Sara." Akhenaton whispered.
She ran into his arms, tightening her grasp on his shoulders. "Jii-chan," Kisara murmured on his shoulder. "Tell me what's wrong, what are you hiding?"
"Something everyone in his or her life must do." He replied, staring at her hair flutter across his vision like sails in the sea. "One day you will understand. And you'll see why I hesitate, why I feel anxious, why I wanted this for you…"
The streetlights darkened over her closed eyes. Cautiously, she stared up at the sky and the pale street glistening like a river. The color brought tears to her eyes more than his words. Her grip on his shoulder loosened only slightly, but she felt she was being tossed away. With a dizzy shiver, she looked up at the dark shadow standing meters before her eyes.
In the silver light, his piercing blue eyes hooked onto hers unblinkingly. She wanted to shake her head and move back from Akhenaton's warm arms.
Instead Kisara stood frozen and gaped speechlessly at the familiar creature she knew from ages ago. Her blood turned cold, and her shivering lips could only exhale the strained air that hurt her lungs.
Seto touched Akhenaton's shoulder with a fingertip, eyes unmoving on Kisara.
In her arms, she felt Akhenaton stiffen.
Hoarsely, Akhenaton said, "Ki-sara, forgive me."
His entire palm was soaked with white and slowly Seto withdrew. Akhenaton's arms fell to his sides, both his knees buckled as he collapsed at Kisara's feet.
"Jii…Jii-chan." She fearfully crooned.
The gray colors of his hair shimmered stark white in the light. Seto's hovering shadow covered his wrinkled face.
Leaning down, Kisara cupped his cold face. "Jii-chan!" Gasping, she shook his shoulders. "What's wrong with you? Wake up." Seizing his arms, she restlessly began tugging.
"Don't forget." Seto whispered.
Widely, she stared up at his lonesome shadow in the moonlight. It was not a look of surprise but a look of fast recognition. "You..." Like she was facing a familiar nightmare from when she was a child.
He clenched his hand, revealed glowing tattoos in the corners of his wrists. He was not smiling, it wasn't a smirk, but the coldness of his gaze made her want to jump to her feet and hit him.
"The face you saw during the moment of his death." He hissed.
Death? Horridly, Kisara clutched Akhenaton's collar. "Jii-chan! Are you? No—Wake up! What're you doing? Jii-chan!"
Seto glanced at the figure on his left.
The man's spirit looked on remorsefully at his crying granddaughter. "Was it right this way?" Akhenaton watched Kisara sob against his body on the middle of the street. "She couldn't tell what happened."
Turning on his heel, Seto motioned to the spirit. "Follow me." He waved his hand gently, picking up the breeze. "You are awaited in Jule where you will be judged."
Leaves clattered around Kisara's shoes, lifting her bowed head, she peered at the disappearing shadow through tears.
Tears couldn't make up for the emptiness. Let alone sleep, food, chores… It was unbearable. She called the funeral home to prepare for Akhenaton's casket and body while she packed his belongings and shifted them out of his bedroom. There was too much work, and despite her unwilling hands and legs didn't want to be a part of the funeral, somehow she did everything on her own. Packing his clothes, phoning relatives to spread the dark news and waiting at the cemetery with unidentifiable people who claimed to be a distant relative or friend.
It was just like before at the time of her parent's death, but now, she wouldn't share it with anyone. She'd close her heart and bear with it. Even doing so after several weeks from the funeral, every pore in body was repulsed by her robotic actions.
Retching in the faucet, her knees trembled. The paleness of her fingers deepened across her palm and wrists. Groaning from her burning throat, she rinsed her mouth and wearily closed the faucet. Stumbling, she fell against the bathroom wall, letting her bare feet slid across the wood, one hand across her aching stomach, the other on her burning throat but none to wipe the rivulets springing from her eyes.
She was a mess. Never leaving the house or going to work, the last she had spoken to Anzu, she was told Yugi was discharged and had returned home. Fortunately there was some good news in her world.
To think, she'd try to sleep through her days curled somewhere in the house and forget everyone, everything, like the last surviving soul on the planet. If that were to make things better, her health wouldn't deteriorate.
The tears dripping from her eyes said something else.
Blue eyes…Cold voice…
"Don't forget. The face you saw during the moment of his death…"
Cupping her mouth, Kisara plunged into the toilet, dispensing more bile.
How much more? She sobbed as her body convulsed under the pressure. How much more do I have to endure?
Slumping on the floor with her head bowed, she cried, feeling her hot tears slid on her knees. A hand pushed down the lever, flushing the toilet. Her shaking feet led her toward the living room downstairs. Fatigued, she fell on the couch, seeking relief from her tormented mind and body.
Seems, nothing is going right. Kisara dizzily stared at the black TV screen.
"Jii-chan." She croaked.
If I just close my mind and heart, I won't feel a thing.
Turning her face on the pillow, she held her breath on the cushion. The fierce beating of her heart pumped against her left palm.
The claw mark on her back was blacker and stronger than ever. She roamed her house like a ghost for months, hopelessly watching the sky redden in the morning and blacken like ashes at night. One day she would cry her heart out. The next, she would be an emotionless mannequin. Strange how her body adjusted by the day, and when Anzu called several times, leaving worried messages on the voicemail, Kisara gaped at the telephone tiredly.
What's the point?
Kisara wandered on the streets midday to purchase groceries.
The sickness of the heart lasts longer.
Absently she fingered her cheek and glanced at the store windows. More variety, more changes, but no customers inside.
Wherever I will go, the problem will continue to exist.
She rushed into the grocery store to purchase necessary cooking ingredients and beheld a familiar terror at the counter. The female had blond hair and lavender eyes. Diligently she scanned the items and quickly bagged her purchases.
Hesitantly, Kisara held out the cash. Please, God. Don't let anything happen, please.
The last time she stood at a counter, the clerk fell to his death between seconds. She could not handle another episode.
"Thank you!" Smiled the clerk, taking the money and opening the cash register.
Still in shock as she departed the store, Kisara ran through the streets, disregarding her ramming elbows against strangers. At the pedestrian crossing, she stopped out of breath. Her fingertips tingled as a shadow skittered over her head. She looked up at the brilliant sky, a river of emotions riled up in her throat. Squinting her eyes, she turned on the crossing path.
The bag pelted against her left leg and her focus on the upcoming streets remained undeterred. A gruesome shiver passed from her back to her shoulders. Clenching her teeth, she jogged toward the sidewalk, pushing past an oncoming man.
Her foot slid back on the edge of the sidewalk, twisting her ankle as she slumped on her palms and knees.
This was not what she bargained for. To fall on the sidewalk with her rear stuck in the air. Jerking her head up in astonishment, Kisara barely held the nerve to spit expletives when the back of his coat slapped her across her left cheek, covering one eye and sealing her gaping mouth in the solemn scent of ashes, skin, and cold stones. She nearly shivered before turning her head to the silent man who was staring at her with blue eyes.
Shakily as she drew to her feet, her grip tightened on the plastic bag. Her throat constricted and burned.
Brown hair and slender stature covered in a black coat blowing in the breeze.
She rubbed her forehead miserably and yanked around, picking up her strewn items. Without much choice, she jogged home and slammed the lock in place. Grabbing the kitchen counter, Kisara sank into a chair with wobbling arms and legs.
I thought it was about to happen to me.
Biting on her lip furiously, she hissed deeply. Why was I terrified?
Another call from Anzu rang through the cold home loudly in the late afternoon. The bag of unpacked grocery lay on the counter. Standing next to her desk, Kisara peered at her old sketches. The swing, daisies, roses, her father and mother smiling during dinner—there was one missing. Rummaging through the box, she tore through the entire collection, tossing them carelessly over her shoulder.
I saw it but where could it be?Anxiously, she probed her room.
Crawling over her bed, she scattered her pillows and flinched at the sketch hidden underneath the covers.
I must be an idiot. She cursed at herself, flinging the sketch toward her face. Keeping a stranger's sketch in my bed.
Her fingertips lingered on the sapphire hue of his eyes.
"I could've sworn it was you." She murmured widely.
If I asked you for the truth, what will you tell me?
Kisara curled on her side on the bed and scanned the ceiling.
You were there when oto-chan died, when oka-chan died, and now...
Her stare became cruel and her lips curled. "You took jii-chan too." Rolling over, she covered her head as if to push away a nightmare.
Everyone I loved, you took them away.
Almost suffocating with fury, she shot up in her bed in the brink of night. Her fist slammed into the box of paper-flowers, letting them roll into corners.
And all these years I thought of only you.
Tearfully, she grabbed her head.
I waited to see you again like an idiot.
"Shinigami's are universal, they can be anywhere at any given time."
Crumbling to the floor, Kisara clutched her aching stomach.
Racing out of the room, she flew into the bathroom and dispensed her empty stomach into the faucet. Finding relief after three minutes, she dumped her head back once more, shakily vomiting. The cycle continued for a good forty minutes until she sagged against the cupboard, weeping.
Why didn't I think of it before?Kisara covered her face. He is a Shinigami.
Swaying back to her room, Kisara intently stared at her shadow on the shut door. Twisting the lock in place, she trudged back to her bed. Stepping over the paper flowers that had accumulated with her thoughts of a Shinigami through the years, she was disgusted at herself. Taking the edge of the bed, Kisara glared at the blackness of her bedroom.
This silence is so much like me.She rubbed her arms. Black and cold.
Dropping her arms on her thighs, Kisara's eyes widened.
What is that feeling? Something feels… She turned her head to the right.
Reaching back, she grabbed the burning spot on the center of her back.
As if jii-chan's warning wasnotenough… Kisara flung herself over the side of the bed for her knife.
Removing the guard, she treaded toward the window.
A cold arm snaked across her chest, nails clamped on the pulse of her throat.
"Who are you looking for?" The claws clung into her flesh.
Flinching, Kisara slid the knife on top of the wrist, breaking away from the hold. She lost her balance and fell against the desk, her knife bared above her head. "You may think you can take lives at will," Kisara hissed angrily, "But not mine!"
His boring red eyes widened at the fierceness of her words. A sly smirk glided up from the corners of his thin lips. Lifting the large blade from his right, he aimed it at her head. "Resistance. That's what I want to see. " He hissed merrily and moved toward her, "Not many have the nerve to speak against one such as me."
Kisara jerked away, stumbling back into a wall. "Don't come near me."
He rolled up his left sleeve, unthinkingly revealing a pair of tattoos on the sides of his wrist. The crimson hue of his eyes brightened gloriously as he said, "I don't let my targets bicker." Shoving the scythe at her neck, he relished the sight of fear tear into her expression. "Little girl, trying to play warrior?"
The soft voice whooshed from the left corner of the room, as if it had belonged there, or it always had been there. His noiseless footsteps had only to be unveiled from the glittering streetlight spilling through the window to indicate he had moved closer.
"What's the matter?" Scoffed Bandit Keith gruffly. "Still going by the rules?" Automatically he yanked Kisara against him and forced her around, claws digging into her throat.
She jammed the knife somewhere in his ribcage only to find he hardly flinched from the impact.
"Tsk, tsk, mortal weapons can't harm me." He clenched her throat tighter, letting her squirm. "Look at her face, Seto." Keith grinned with bloodstained eyes madly, "Look at the horror she feels at the time of her death—this feeling is one to enjoy I swear. You don't know what you're missing." He grunted at the shadow.
Struggling with suffocation, Kisara scratched his long arm. "Let….Let..." She panted, eyes doubling back. Her heart throbbed vigorously in her chest. She could hear each dipping and blowing of her pumping heart forcing circulation in her body.
Jii-chan, She whimpered. You warned me about dangers.
"How about giving it a try?" Keith rested the scythe on Kisara's shoulder. "Mortals can't compare to us. Even now, as I feel her restless heartbeat against my fingers, she is weakening under my powers." Chuckling, he looked at the audience. "How much longer do you think she can survive? Ten? No three more minutes?"
Kicking her leg, Kisara twisted her body courageously. I won't be weak. I won't let this happen.
Numbly, Seto clutched the scythe. Out of the corner of his eye, Keith stared at the shedding of dust from the weapon. The withering particles glided to the wooden floor. Growling, Keith soaked her life force through his fingers.
Seto shoved him into the window. The whipping glass flooded the air in seconds. Keith's body fragmented into pieces of powder. Whirling around to the helpless girl on the floor, he shielded her against the biting glass.
Peering over his shoulder, Kisara watched Keith's shape dissolve with the wind. With a whimper, she ducked in Seto's arms and clenched her eyes shut.
You said they are universal.
Her fingers clenched on the coat that moistened from tickling tears.
But did you know, jii-chan, that they are the reason why we are suffering?
As the ringing glasses ceased, he plucked his hand warily off her small back, resisting the urge to shove her weary body on the floor. Kisara's fingers were knotted on his coat with her weeping face hanging lowly.
"Are you here," She wept, "To take me too?"
Seto brushed her pale fingers off his coat before climbing his extreme height.
She lifted her tear-flushed face at him and squinted her eyes from the beating wind entering the small room. "As much as I hate the sight of you right now, I need to know." Kisara managed to control her breathy tone. "I need to know why—"
"It was a request." Seto cut her curtly.
The sound of his voice made her tremble more than the furious wind. Clenching her fists, she quietly rose with a bowed head. "Then should I thank you?" She bitterly spat. "Should I grovel and plea for saving my life?"
He stared back at her angry eyes with a bored expression. "Do what you like."
"Get out of my sight." Kisara hissed in a heartbeat. "How dare you come into my home? Uninvited! How dare you lure my jii-chan—you bastard." She clenched her teeth, pain rippled through her blue eyes and she glared at the floor. Instantly she stood fascinated by the field of paper-flowers she had once made for him.
I never thought this would happen.
Kisara rubbed her forehead, fatigued. The bones of her body screeched with exhaustion. She swayed slightly on her heels, but the noose of anger around her throat compressed the physical distress. She was solely aware of her fury, and the consequences of the attack.
Like a calm shadow, Seto sailed toward her locked door. Clearly, he had another method of walking into rooms than normally inhabited. He was, after all, a creature of a different realm. Watching the lining of his long back, Kisara felt her fury sink into a web of solemnity and unease.
He helped me.
She watched the door close after him. Kisara rubbed her bruised throat.
Does it make sense? It's been seven years since I last saw him, until he took jii-chan away four months ago.
She sat at the edge of the bed.
It hasn't been more than a few minutes but my heart is already forgiving him.
She regarded the door for a long time. Why? Kisara rubbed the tears from her eyes. Why did I see you years ago?
The next morning, Kisara was hesitant to walk around her home. Though the attack was unsuccessful, she didn't know when the next would occur. She fixed her home alarm and ransacked many boxes of Akhenaton's books. Taking the one she scorned earlier, Kisara sat in the living room reviewing the notes and pictures. Hours of page turning, she lowered her head and closed her eyes.
Many years ago when you came to me, I asked you.
Busy making another origami, Kisara grinned at her enormous collection piling on the table. " 'ka-chan will like one too." She smiled.
The windows over her table shuddered, pulling her fixation from her work to the Tokyo city in the distance. In the reflection, a long shadow lounged against the wall of her closet.
Her chair dragged back as she whirled around, amazed by the presence. "You." Kisara gasped, all fear and worry replaced by a welcoming smile. "I wonder what happened to you? How come you didn't come to my oto-chan's funeral? After you left, he died." She frowned, walking up to him.
Seto's examining eyes strayed to the origami in her hands.
"Oh, this is nothing!" Kisara dismissed his stare and darted into her closet, shoving him from the door in the process. She dug through the shelves and meekly stepped out. "Look at this Tamari ball. 'Ka-san got it for me."
His long fingers wired around the beautifully tailored ball. She expected the ball to wither in his grasp, however, noticing the opposite, she grinned.
"I thought you'd ruin the ball like you ruined the flower I gave you." Kisara grumbled and paused, "How come you don't talk?" Her eyes widened in realization. "Are you mute? You need a hearing aid?" Stepping back, she pouted. "Does that mean, all this time when I talked to you—you couldn't hear me?"
Seto blinked and returned the ball to her. He shifted from the closet and moved toward the door.
"Wait!" Kisara grabbed his sleeve, bringing it against her cheek. "I thought I'd never see you again. Where are you going?"
His darkened gaze was polished with pity. Silently, Seto withdrew his hand.
"When you come next time, I'll make something for you too." Kisara saluted. "The Flower Fairy told me to tell you, she might forgive you for killing her sister's and brother's."
The corner of his mouth lifted slightly.
Kisara folded her arms, "Can I ask why you suddenly showed up at my house again? Oka-chan doesn't know yet. But if I tell he, she won't like you hanging around."
Seto lifted his hand over her head, sensing her freeze for a second. Thinking against it, lethargically, he let his hand slide back to his side.
To me, you were the loneliest thing I've ever seen. But every time you left, I became eager to see you again. I wondered… and wondered for years… When that would be.
Kisara moved a page up to stare at the diagram of a Shinigami.
You came to take my mom that time. But you couldn't say it.
Sitting up, she fell back on her chair.
But when you took jii-chan away and told me to never forget your face. Your eyes, that were once sad, glowed with greed—were frightening.
"Look at the horror she feels at the time of her death. This feeling is one to enjoy. You don't know what you're missing."
Grunting, he rubbed the sharp protruding sides of his temple hidden under the hair.
"How about giving it a try?"
Enraged, Seto quickened his pace toward the council room. The doors were open but his boots slowed toward the stairs near the elongated table occupied by the members of the Peace Council.
"You have come," Atem stood up from his chair, gesturing him to a seat, "Come here, and let us talk." He welcomed.
The members looked upon him stonily but he had long become accustomed to their nonchalance since he resorted to treat them in the same manner. As Seto took a seat next to Atem, he found somehow he had become their subject of interest. Even Atem's honest amethyst eyes were cool looking with doubt.
Hand on chin the Head of Council murmured softly, "The scent of another Shinigami breaths off of you, Seto."
Blue eyes remained fixed on the table where his tattooed wrists hung loosely on the edge. "I encountered multiple on my visit."
The occupants stiffened automatically but Atem coolly sliced with a snap of his teeth, "Dead Shinigamis."
Undeterred, Seto smirked, "I received the Lost Seeker's with the best of my judgment as all of them vie to snare innocent souls. I did what was asked of me according to your wishes."
"Nonetheless," Atem slowly intervened, "Killing another Shinigami, your brethren, is it not a forbidden act?"
"Lost Seeker's don't deserve to bear our title." Seto added swiftly, "Those that have lost reason and fail to restrain from taking souls, despite surmountable power—they can't control themselves and thrive on shedding blood. Aren't we responsible for controlling them?"
A conclusive smile tied around Atem's mouth, he bowed his head in acknowledgment. "I trust you, Seto. Do not be disturbed by a debrief." He gestured toward the occupants around the table. "They are our brother's who deserve to have their answers."
"But eradicating a Lost Seeker who was once a Shinigami, one of us, guiltlessly," Began Marik in his staunch to understand Seto's motives and actions, "How can you simply sit there without a care?"
"Are the lives of humans relevant than Lost Seeker's?" Gripping blue eyes held Marik fast in his chair as Seto composedly questioned.
"I believe in cleansing all of the Lost Seeker's using the help of Kingdom of Jule. Long ago, they fathered a method to restore Gods of all forms to their purpose in case it came upon such a situation. It has been banned but if we give it a chance, perhaps the Lost Seeker's will return to us."
"A willful hope but farfetched." Seto notified.
"Farfetched?" Incredulously, Marik shot to his feet, slamming his fists on the table as he leaned forward. "The main purpose of the Izanami Path is to keep us in check! Instead of elimination, why not urge them to take the path. We must believe in Izanami, she can help us for sure."
"We understand your meaning," Atem placated, "But have you forgotten the process and endurance of the path? The reason we blocked it in the first place was because previous Shinigami's thought to cleanse themselves but never returned, not to this day." His sweeping scrutiny stayed on the calm Seto and back at the hotheaded Marik. "We can predict how torturous Izanami's path can be."
"I still believe it is worth a shot!" Marik cried.
"Don't forget," Seto growled at Marik with a tilt of his head over his arm, "Regardless of your form, you will be purified. It's better for the Lost Seeker's to meet with their end by us. Izanami will not be forgiving toward us once she learns how the Lost Seeker's have gotten out of control."
"Can we be blamed?" Marik demanded, "Lost Seeker's can't be condemned for losing reason. Whatever triggered them to forget their duties—I believe they are innocent and have become tools to a bigger adversary."
"All of it is theory." Atem said.
"How do you know the Izanami Path will not work? How can you say it is torturous? Not one of us has ever experienced it."
"Izanami's punishment knows no boundaries."
Sheepishly Marik averted, "For breaking rules and her trust, we deserve any form of punishment given by the Goddess. But killing them should not be up to us."
"What do you prefer, Marik?" Seto's eyes narrowed, "Millions of dead humans and the world to end, or the growing population of Lost Seeker's minimized?"
Marik's eyes widened. "Haven't I made myself clear?"
"You find the longevity of parasites crucial than the transient humans who need protection." Standing up, he met Marik's eyes evenly. "If you want to talk about percentages, go and take a look at the corpses falling in the middle of the streets within the blink of an eye." He clenched his teeth. "You won't believe how easy it is for them to kill and try not to blame yourself for not protecting enough."
"Seto…" Atem gaped at the moving back of his comrade stalking out of the room.
Lingering outside the door, both of his ears tickled under the faint weight of a somnolent whisper.
"How about giving it a try?"
Hissing, he bumped into the wall while grapping his temple. Stop it!
"This feeling is one to enjoy. You don't know what you're missing."
Smoothing the frustrated scowl on his brows, Seto glared at the dark walls before him. His numb hands flexed at his sides, panting with the weight of his wandering thoughts that urged unwanted memories from recent events. He thought it was all right to recall at first, however, Keith's words were firmly rooted in his brain, marking a territory through his body that trembled at the sheer meaning of reveling.
"If you glare at the wall any longer I may have to use force and drag you with the end of my scythe." Slowly, a shadow approached Seto from the left.
Dartz's heavenly rain of pale hair swung at his sides as he brushed his fingers softly through the tresses. Heterochromatic eyes narrowed suspiciously on Seto's pale countenance. "The once unmoving prince of Shinigami's bears a strained expression. You look perturbed by something." He observed and blinked. "Is it finally time to tell the council, Seto?"
He shoved furiously away from the wall. Fists dangling at his sides and the deepening of his grim expression did not faze Dartz who regarded him more closely. "You've been torn from your brother and chose your path eight centuries ago into the realm of Shinigami's. How do you deal with the turmoil? Don't you wish to submit yet? Others have fallen to the same fate due to exhaustion." Moving toward him, Dartz laid a hand on Seto's right shoulder. "But Shinigami's aren't humans, we don't have emotions. Is it us who lost ourselves or the Lost Seeker's who gained their sense of feeling?"
Seto slapped the hand and walked away.
"Their outrage is caused by the repression of emotion and desire, forcing them to kill everything in its path. These are the Lost Seeker's you've sworn to eliminate, Seto."
He stopped suddenly.
"If one day you become weary, come to me," Dartz murmured resolutely.
"Hmph." Seto continued toward the double doors.
"It's already showing, Seto." Dartz whispered at the distancing man vanish outside the hallway doors. "The weakness is beginning to consume your resolve. Soon, the crater-like darkness won't spare an inch of what you hold most important."
Kisara closed the box of paper-flowers she spent hours searching. Kicking the box away with a huff, she stared at the broken glasses across the floor. Picking up the pieces, she tossed them in the garbage. Unconsciously, she traced the bruise embellished with claw-marks and swollen veins on her throat.
I still have to report to Ishizu-san.
She rinsed the mop in the bathroom.
If I still have a job, that is.
Swinging the soaked mop over the arm of the tub, Kisara fastidiously wrenched the water before mopping the upstairs hallway.
Here goes to hoping.
She fixed a lop-sided mirror, once again her eyes feasted on the magnifying marks on her throat.
"Tsk, tsk, mortal weapons can't harm me."
The thought of his voice invoked chills over her thin body.
Shall I engineer an out of the world weapon to use on Death Gods? Or convene with an alien to merger in order to create a product? Their phenomenal skills and my knowledge will make a good team.
While she let her mind run away with inconclusive notions, she scraped and cleaned everything in sight.
"It was a request."
Abruptly her hands stopped and she glared at the floor.
So he knew I was about to get attacked. By whose request did he come? Certainly not—
The sound shaking glass reverberated across the hall, leashing Kisara back to her bedroom door.
Clenching her grip on the mop, she thrust open the door and raised the bat in warning. "Get out or I'll call—"
Seto nudged the bin of glasses near the opening in the wall, ignoring her completely.
The mop dripped to the floor by her feet. "How did you get inside my house?" Kisara questioned.
A simple shake of his left wrist and the glasses sprang forth from the bin. He had only to indicate the direction and the broken glasses sculpted back to its original structure inside the windowsill. Without a word, he dissolved into thin air. Leaving her gawking silently and spying on various corners and inches of her room.
Kisara snuck downstairs later in the evening. She had left the kitchen light on earlier. Skating toward the front door, she dialed the alarm code.
Jii-chan, we were never safe. We just needed something to make us convince that we were.
Closing the lid on the alarm box, Kisara went into the kitchen to switch the lights off.
To relieve our minds, we needed a reason to feel secure. The problem is, jii-chan...
She sullenly left the kitchen. In the stubborn darkness, his shadow cloaked the couch as Kisara wandered past the living room, upstairs.
Things like security do not exist.
Early morning, Kisara stuck her feet in her shoes at the front door.Throwing open the door, she secured the lock and went to her car.
Ishizu looked fatigued at her table. Seeing Kisara, her brows soared in surprised. Running out of her office, she clamped Kisara tightly in a hug. "I heard what happened," She murmured, "I'm sorry about your jii-chan."
Kisara accepted the comfort willingly. "Thank you, Ishizu-san."
"I'm glad you took time off." Ishizu smiled, gesturing Kisara into her office. "I wouldn't want you working half-heartedly."
"No, I'm not here to do that," Kisara quickly informed. "I want to—"
"I still have no clue how I survived these last months." She dropped in her chair, slapping her cheeks with the pad of her fingers, frowning. "But I'm glad to see you back."
"I'm glad that you've accepted me back…again."
"Of course!" Ishizu waved softly. "I can't rely on anyone but you, Kisara."
"Thank you." She bowed and assuredly shook the offered hand.
"Do what you can for today," Ishizu denoted the boxes of files. "I've had my share of cracking it but I trust you."
"I will do my best." Kisara swung toward the boxes.
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