As the car drove around the curves, a father and daughter discussed the annual cultural festival that was coming up. The daughter was thrilled, as her father was going with her this year. Her crimson eyes, the same color of blood, glinted in the moonlight. Her raven black hair blew in the breeze as the top was down.
Her father looked nothing like her, his eyes a sapphire blue, and his hair was the color of pale gold. He wore it in a long ponytail, and he was around 6'5". His eyes never left the road once, as he drove the speed limit.
Ai was sitting next to him, her school bag still around her shoulder. The radio played the latest song by Yoko Kanno, and the moon was full. Suddenly, Ai saw her father stiffen, his eyes glazing over. She looked worried...the last time he had a vision someone died violently. He came to, and cursed.
Suddenly, he pulled over to the shoulder, and looked to her.
"Ai, I have something to tell you."
"I'm not your daughter..." she said, sad. Somehow, she always knew.
"Not by blood, no. But by love yes. Blood doesn't matter to us."
"Why are you telling me this now, Otou-san?"
"Remember how you woke up in a hospital with no memories? How you don't remember your mother? Or your grade school friends?"
"How can I forget? I have to live with the others teasing that I don't have a mother..." Ai said bitterly.
Her father held her, and told her the truth he'd been hiding for over three years.
"Your name is Enma Ai. And you were once known as Jigoku Shoujo."
"My name is Ai Flowright. And nothing anyone says will change that!" said Ai vehemently.
"Good girl. I can tell you what I recall of your old self, but right now we are at a crossroads."
"A ley line? Here?" she sounded highly skeptical.
"A crossroad of fate, Ai-hime."
There it was. Her nickname...one she always loved hearing. Which meant the next move was hers.
"What will happen?" she asked. Being an occult otaku meant she knew about destiny crossroads very well. It also meant no friends. The other girls thought her obsession with death, hell and the occult creepy.
She even had three voodoo dolls in her bag, each with a different name.
"You have three choices. One, you can return to being a normal girl with a false past and no memory of your days as the Hell Girl. Two, you become my daughter for real. And three..."
"What is my final option?"
"Return to being the Hell Girl, under the control of the Spider."
He gently held her hand, and gave her a vision of how she became Hell Girl, and her tasks of ferrying souls to hell. She was used to this by now.
"Would you like to see what Death is like?" was the last thing she heard.
"I definitely DON'T want to deal with option three. But I would like to see those people again...what were their names?"
"Ichimoku Ren, Hone On'na, and Wanyuudou. They often took the form of straw dolls. All the person would have to do was pull the string, and the offending soul would be sent to hell. But they did it at the cost of their own souls when they died."
"What would happen if I return to a normal life?"
"The same thing that you're doing now basically. No matter what option you choose, you'll never be able to reincarnate."
Ai looked surprised at this.
"The day you made the deal with the Spider, you lost that option. That bloody spider gains power by taking the souls of humans from me. Annoying brat..."
"The spider is a brat?"
"No, it enjoys taking the form of an insolent brat with wide eyes. She was plenty mad when I scooped you up immediately after she let you loose. You had just spared a child from hell, and she let you go to die. I stopped that mob from killing you, and we've been together ever since."
"Why are you telling me this now?"
"Because that same spider is waiting for us on this road. She'll wait until I speed up to around 50, pop up in the middle of the road, and either make me hit the cliff or go over the guard railing. She wants us to die, or for you to join her under stress."
"Was that your vision?"
"Hai. So what's your answer, Ai-hime?"
Ai thought carefully about it...then had to ask, "What would happen if I truly became your daughter?"
Her father sighed...
"Ai, I am Death's Avatar. It's my job to see that the souls of the dead reincarnate...or are destroyed once they wear down too much. If you became my true daughter, the spider would never again be able to bother you...in fact, you'd have control over her. I control the purvue of heaven and hell, and right now hell is over-crowded because of that damn brat."
"You mean I would be put in charge of hell?"
"Pretty much. The paperwork isn't too hard...and you get to choose who helps you."
"I don't fit in with the living, I don't want that spider to have control of my fate again..." said Ai aloud, turning to him.
"I choose option two. I want to be your real daughter."
"Do you hear that, Batshit Spider? You're not getting her back. Now go before I call the council to judge your actions!" said her father, clearly.
"You will regret interfering, mortal," growled a menacing voice. Ai could have sworn she saw a child with big blue eyes glaring at them both. A fierce wind whipped up, and started to lift the car up. Her father looked mildly surprised, and looked at her. She was terrified!
"Do you trust me, Ai?"
"Take off your seat belt, and grab my arm. Whatever you do, never let go."
Ai grabbed his arm, as the car went flying off the cliffside. She couldn't help it, she screamed. As they grew closer to the water, a large pillar came towards them. It enveloped them, and Ai knew they were under water. She tried to keep her mouth shut, so she could hold her breath longer. It often surprised her classmates that she could hold her breath underwater longer than any of them.
"Ai-hime, you can breathe here, you know. As the Master of Water, I can manipulate the air underwater. You're sitting in a bubble. I won't let you die."
Ai opened her eyes, and she found that he wasn't joking. They had to be at least 2,000 meters underwater, yet she didn't feel the pressure at all!
"Ai, meet one of my partners, Ceres of Water. Thanks to her, my elemental mastery of water is off the charts. If you want, we'll see if we can get you a dragon too."
Suddenly, they were surrounded by a bright light. Ai could see several people, all floating.
"Welcome back, Yuki-kun!" they all seemed to say.
"Tadaima! Everyone, meet Ai! She'll be in charge of the Hell section from now on."
"Eh? But isn't she a bit young for such horrors?" asked one woman.
"This is the famous Enma Ai. Sorry, Ai Flowright from now on. She's chosen to be my daughter instead of dealing with the mortals and the spider."
'Congratulations, Yuki. And welcome to the realm of Death, Ai-chan.'
"Who said that, Otou-san?"
"That was Death. He usually doesn't talk much, except to me. If you want, later I can show you how I do my job."
"I wouldn't mind..."
"Make yourself comfortable, Ai-hime. Later I'll be taking you to see the place I came from. We might even run into those people again, if you want."
"You mean the three who were always with me as Hell Girl?"
Ai smiled, and he knew she was interested.
"Welcome! Excuse me sir, you're not allowed..." started the woman, who then openly stared at Ai. Her black hair was held up, and she wore clothing that showed a little too much skin.
"Gomen! My daughter was tired from walking all day, so we went to the first place I could think of to take a break. Is it alright for us to just order water?" asked Yuki.
"What's the girl's name?" asked the woman, still staring at Ai.
"It's Ai Flowright, ma'am," she corrected politely.
Regulars came in, including a man with one of his eyes covered up. The second he saw Ai, he froze, then mechanically walked to the bar. Another, older gentleman came in with him. He stared in shock as well, then joined his friend.
"Seems you're popular here, Ai-hime," chuckled Yuki.
"Stop that, Otou-san. Who's turn is it to cook dinner?" Ai chided.
"Want to flip for it?"
"I'll do it. You always cheat anyway."
Yuki chuckled, and they left. As they exited the grocery store, Ai turned to her father.
"We're being followed. And they don't feel human either."
"Seems that they did recognize you. If you want, you can ask them to help you with the paperwork. I'm still behind on the dead souls papers."
Ai seemed to look for something in her bag. She looked triumphant as she held out three straw voodoo dolls, each a different color. All three had an identical red string.
"I've always wanted to ask...what names did you gives those?"
"Ren...Hone Onna...and Wanyuudou."
She could have sworn she heard three gasps, and turned. There was nothing there...except for a strange eye in a nearby building. It blinked, and she kept staring.
"It's rude to stare, Ai-hime."
"I know, but for some reason that doesn't creep me out..."
"Let's head home, Ai."
"Was it really her?"
"It seems so. But I thought the batshit spider had her killed by that mob."
"I must admit, I was surprised to see her again...especially in that bar with someone she calls Father."
"She remembers us. And that isn't right. Wasn't our punishment for us to see her and never remember us?"
"I wonder who that man was?"
The next day, Yuki left Ai in the hands of the spirits, so they could teach her about how they did things. Ai was highly interested in how her father simply hit his scythe three times, one for each blade. She felt the power from the staff disperse, and the earth seemed more peaceful.
Ai was fine with staying in the realm of Death. It seemed better than school at this point.
Yuki walked back into the bar. Sure enough, the three were there.
"Konnichiwa!" he said, cheerfully.
The bartender's eyes widened, and she gave him the standard greeting. The other two pretended to ignore him. He sat next to the older one, and asked for a small shot of sake.
"What's your name, stranger?"
"Yuki Flowright. I know your names. And I know that you're worried about my daughter Ai."
Their eyes widened in surprise.
"Relax. The batshit spider will never get her hands on Ai again. Not if it wants to live and steal my souls anyway."
"Who are you?"
"I'm the avatar of Death...well, the current one anyway. I rescued Ai from that mob, and gave her the choice to either join back up with the spider, become a normal girl...or my true daughter."
"Then that girl is...?"
"Your former master, the Jigoku Shoujo. She said she doesn't mind doing the paperwork required for running Hell."
"You didn't think Death involved filing, did you? Neither did I at first. But right now I need help. Thanks to that Batshit Spider turning Ai-chan into Hell Girl, Hell is overcrowded."
"I can sense lonely spirits...besides, even if that spider hadn't taken her, her soul would have been destroyed. It was too worn out for it to reincarnate. Not to mention pulling one over that brat made it worth it!"
They seemed to relax, as they realized that the man genuinely cared for their mistress. That is, until he said, "Would you like to see her again? She's slowly regaining her old memories."
"Our punishment was to not interfere with her..." started Wanyuudou.
"Ah, but that was for Jigoku Shoujo. She no longer falls under the scrutiny of the spider. And I say you can see her again. That, and once hell confirms her as caretaker, she'll be more powerful than the spider."
They decided to visit in a week. He left, and went to Ai. He found her already working on the paperwork...seems she got bored.
"I found you three assistants, if you want them Ai."
Ai looked relieved, and started to remember. Her days as Jigoku Shoujo, meeting her companions, sending people to hell on request. She spent the entire day filing and marking papers. Soon the last hundred years worth of paperwork was filed and gone. Yuki was highly impressed, as it looked like this might be easier for her than he thought.
For the next three days, Ai cleared up hundreds of years worth of backlog. Now souls that were stuck in hell to long were immediately reincarnated. The entire place seemed to lighten up. It was the fourth day since Ai had become his daughter. He came up with something in his hands.
"What's that, Otou-san?"
He let her open it...it was a brand new kimono. Multi-colored flowers and butterflies were on it, and the background fabric was a midnight black. Ai was surprised, it must have cost a fortune!
She tried it on, and found it fit her perfectly.
"I figured you could use a new one for the festival. Besides, I saw it and immediately thought of you."
As they walked to the shrine, Ai was very happy. She didn't care if the three from the bar were around, she was going to have fun! She even won some goldfish, and ate at least one of each food served. It was going great...until some stereo-typical motorbike gang bumped into her father.
"Watch where yer goin' foreigner!"
"You bumped into me. And I'm not foreign."
Right as the gang was about to attack, they seemed to sense something was off. Suddenly they backed off before running as fast as they could. Yuki grinned evilly.
"Killing intent is so much fun to use on idiots."
Ai noticed the three following them look a bit relieved. Yuki noticed as well, and grinned even wider.
"You can go talk to them if you like."
Ai seemed to decide on this, and snuck up behind them.
"Konbonwa. Lovely festival isn't it?" Ai said, trying not to laugh when they collectively jumped. She could swear she saw the bartender's bones, but it made no sense.
"What are you doing here, Ai-chan?" asked the woman.
"I was wondering why you three were following us. Otou-san said I could talk to you, so here I am."
The man with only one eye showing smiled. This version of Ai was adorable! As they chatted a bit, they were shocked that she knew their names!
"What school do you go to, Ai-chan?" asked Ren.
"Otou-san was tired of me being picked on by both the girls and the teachers, so he's homeschooling me."
"Oh? Why would they tease you?" asked Wanyuudou, surprised.
"I'm an Occult and goth otaku. In fact, I even carry these three voodoo dolls in my bag at all times. I can't count the number of times that the other girls have tried to take them."
Ai pulled out the three straw dolls, and their eyes widened in shock.
"I've even given them names. Ren, Wanyuudou and Hone On'na. I don't know why, but they seemed to fit them."
Yuki walked up to her, and said, "It's getting late Ai-hime."
"It was nice talking to you," said Ai.
The three were in complete shock. It appeared as if Ai was regaining her previous memories. The fact that she kept three dolls that had an uncanny resemblance to them when taking vengeance was surprising to say the least. They never realized how much she cared about them. Ren noticed a certian child staring at them in fury.
"The batshit spider is here. What should we do?"
"Nothing. That stupid spider can't hurt you if you don't let her trick you. Actually, I've come to ask you three something," said Yuki, walking up to them.
"What?" asked Hone On'na.
"How would you like to be with Ai again? She could use some loyal assistants..."
"Is that even allowed?" asked Wanyuudou.
"Yup. In fact, Death wanted to know if you wanted to help her again. Seems that batshit spider and her website have taken a firm hold in hell. So now we have to restart it. Only this time, Ai will be in control."
"So we'd go back to being...?"
"Yup. And Ai won't be hurt again."
The three looked at each other, and said "We'll do it."
A door appeared, and they walked in. Ai was behind a desk, finishing the last of the backlog. Then she started on the more recent pile. A laptop was beside her, it's screen completely blank.
Ai looked up, surprised.
"Welcome back, Otou-san. Welcome to Death, Ren-san, Wanyuudou-san, Hone On'na-san."
"You don't have to call us san, Ojou."
"The site will go back up next month. Only this time it will go beyond Japan."