A/N: So I'm concerned that I might have made Yukari a little OOC in this chapter, but I'd like to try and defend myself. First, Yukari is a child. A very mature, intelligent child but still a child. She's immature and generally quick to respond, either with anger or compassion. Furthermore, she's a lonely child, which just makes the previous statement all the more true. That said, I'm open to your ideas on this. Anyway as always, enjoy.
Yukari smiled as she watched Moka talking to her friends. The vampire was just so very beautiful, so very graceful in everything she did, it made watching even her most casual movements a pleasure. She sighed longingly. Moka was so… perfect. Beautiful, elegant and refined. Everything a young lady should be.
Even her choice of companions was mostly impeccable. While Kurumu lacked Moka's easy elegance, she was a fairly attractive and popular, Yukari grudgingly admitted, which made her a fitting addition to the vampires circle of friends.
Of course, the key word was mostly.
Her eyes narrowed as she looked at the fourth occupant of the room. Tsukune Aono was sat between Moka and Kurumu, seemingly content with listening in with their conversation, only occasionally interjecting. Yukari watched him carefully for a moment, then shook her head in dismay. For the life of her, she couldn't understand why Moka chose to spend her time with someone so very plain. His looks were no more than average and he wasn't from any great, powerful clan, at least as far as she could tell. The most interesting thing about him was his strange pet, that bizarre flying lizard. Plus, he was rude. And a bad loser.
And yet Moka had spend nearly all her free time from the first day of school onwards with him, relaxing, studying and even eating lunch together. As if that wasn't enough, he'd somehow also garnered the attentions of Kurumu, who'd all but attached herself to him, declaring him her Destined One, which was effectively a proposal.
"Yukari, you've gone awfully quiet?" She looked up to see Moka watching her with concern. "Are you ok?"
"I'm fine," She smiled up at Moka. She was so kind too. "Just thinking a little."
"I see," Moka nodded thoughtfully, then spoke up. "Out of interest, what club did you join, Yukari?"
"Oh…" Yukari fought down her excitement. Moka was interested in her! "I didn't really join one. None of them caught my interest,"
That was a lie of course. She'd been interested in a few of them, but the interest hadn't been returned. She felt a bubbling of a familiar anger at the memory. Witches and Warlocks were virtually identical to humans, barring one key point. They possessed Youki. By definition, that made them Youkai, a separate and independent race from humanity. They were the original creators of most forms of Youjutsu and the most magically skilled of all the numerous species of Youkai, positions that by all rights, demanded respect. Respect they were not given.
Other Youkai, either out of jealousy or an inability to separate Witches and humanity, shunned them. Or worse, actively preyed on them, as if they were nothing more than members of the common human herd. She'd hoped that things might be different at this school, but it had been in vain. The majority of the school was as ignorant as normal, even her own class watching with unconcealed distaste at best.
She dismissed them from her thoughts. They weren't worth thinking about. They were little more than animals, lashing out at anything and everything.
"Really? Then why don't you join the newspaper club?" Moka asked, drawing her from her dark thoughts. For a moment she said nothing, blinking in surprise. Moka had invited her? To join the newspaper club?
She fought down her excitement. That earlier loss of calm, where she'd tackled Moka had been deplorable. She had to be calm, refined…
"I'd love to!" It came as an excited squeal, and she froze, blushing bright red in embarrassment.
Moka laughed slightly, a gentle, kind sound and Yukari felt her face get even redder.
"Well, once Gin get's back, we'll see about getting you signed up, okay?" She smiled softly, and Yukari blushed for an entirely different reason.
She was so perfect!
Tsukune watched Yukari carefully for a second, then relaxed. Her delight at Moka's suggestion was obviously genuine, and seemed to have fully occupied the young girls thoughts. Her mood was infectious, and Moka was smiling happily at the young witches excitement, Even Kurumu seemed somewhat amused by it.
He wasn't quite so happy about it though. If she joined the club, she'd no doubt find ways to be in Moka's company as a nigh constant thing. Not a problem in and of itself, but it made using his magic a problem, as he'd likely be around Moka fairly often as well.. She'd nearly caught him today, and that had been only a relatively minor spell. What if he had to cast a more noticeable spell? Like a lightning bolt or a fireball? She'd be able to pick up on the fact that he was using arcane energy almost immediately and from that it was only the tiniest leap of logic to figure out his identity.
There were ways to conceal the true nature of his spell casting, of course. If he was willing to devote some of his capacity to it, he could render his spells all but undetectable to even the sharpest senses. Even the Chairman wouldn't be able to feel his spell casting. But that had a pretty steep cost, and the idea of having less than two thirds of his normal number of prepared spells didn't sit well. Besides, even if she couldn't sense the arcane energy, the fact that he'd cast a spell would be obvious and she wouldn't sense any Youki either, which would open a whole bunch of new questions which he didn't really want to answer.
Maybe I'm overthinking this, he thought, I mean, it's quite possible that she'd be more accepting of who I am than most.
While Witches were hardly friends with the Mage's League, there was a certain understanding and respect between them. Witches had pioneered Youjutsu in many ways after all, and if there was one thing any mage could respect, it was skill with magic. The fact that Witches were physically indistinguishable from humans helped too. But they were still Non-Humans, and that had always been a barrier between any co-operation.
Had been. He stressed that even within his own mind. If there was going to be any kind of peace between Youkai and mages, it certainly wouldn't come about if people were still thinking about the past.
"What do you think, Tsukune?" His reverie was broken by the sound of Kurumu's voice next to his ear, and he looked up.
"Sorry? I was blanking out a little." He apologised, scratching the back of his head awkwardly.
"I was asking what you thought about Yukari joining," She nodded towards the witch, currently in conversation with Moka. "Won't it be a bit of a problem, with, y'know,…you?"
So it appeared that Kurumu had had much the same thought line as himself. He felt a little touched. While the succubus made her affections for him well known, it was a pleasant feeling to realise that she was also thinking about the situation he was in as well.
"Well…" He hesitated. While on one hand she was definitely right, he felt a certain reluctance to voice a complaint about Yukari joining. It would have felt like kicking a puppy. A slightly creepy stalker puppy, but a puppy nonetheless. Eventually, he just shrugged. "It'll be fine. I'll deal with it, one way or the other."
Kurumu gave him a doubtful look. While she loved her Destined One's kindness towards others, she couldn't help but feel that he took it a little too far sometimes.
"Hello all. How did you enjoy the first print of the year then? " The door opened, and Gin stepped through casually.
"Well, It was going fine," Tsukune grated, giving the werewolf a nasty look. The seniors abandonment of his post was still a sore point. "Until our club president bailed out halfway through."
"Meh. You guys did fine without me," Gin waved his hand dismissively at the complaint. "Besides, I had stuff to do."
"Like taking a nap? Or maybe installing some cameras in the changing rooms?" Tsukune asked, still fixing Gin with a glare.
"What? How did you-," Gin paused then gave an awkward cough. "I mean, no! Of course not! That would make me a bad person. Which I am not. Because that's terrible."
For a brief moment, silence reigned.
"Once we're done here, would you two mind going to the changing rooms?" Tsukune asked Moka and Kurumu calmly. "You might find something of interest there. Torian will help you look."
"Your lack of trust offends me," Gin said, indignation radiating from his body. He sighed resignedly and sat down at the head of the room, before pointing a finger at Yukari. "And who's this young lady?"
"Ah!" Moka stood, introducing the young witch. "This is Yukari Sendo. She wants to join the newspaper club."
"Really?" Gin blinked in surprise, looking at Yukari expressionlessly.
"Yes. I'd love to be a member, if you'd let me join." Her hands were clenched tightly on her lap. He was going to reject her. She knew it. They'd all rejected her and this would be no different.
Gins face was thoughtful as he looked at her and then up at the ceiling, as if deep in mental deliberation.
"Why not let her join?" She turned ,surprise evident on her face, to look at Tsukune, who was speaking up. "We could certainly use the help and if nothing else, she's probably better with a typewriter than most of the school."
"Hmmm?" The senior replied, leaving his thoughts. "Ah, no. I haven't got a problem with her joining, that's fine. I'm just wondering if I could drop of a notice of her membership with Ms Nekonome before the end of the day."
Yukari felt a strange excitement building up within her. Since she'd come to this school, she'd been an outcast. None of the students had wanted anything else to do with her and really, the feeling was mutual. But now, she wondered if this was how it felt to belong to something. It was… pleasant.
"Congratulations, Yukari!" Moka smiled beatifically next to her and she turned smiling back up at the older girl, her excitement showing on her face, despite her attempts to restrain it.
"Thank you so much, Moka! Is it ok if I call you Moka? Thank you!" Her speech was speeding up, as if she was trying to spout out everything on her mind at the same time.
Tsukune grinned at the sight. No matter how troublesome it might be, the girls presence would certainly make things livelier, that couldn't be doubted. Already an almost festival atmosphere was sweeping over the classroom. Even Torian had raised his head from his near perpetual slumber, which would spare him the trouble of waking the dragon up later on.
"Well, looks like we've got another of your species, Tsukune. Probably got the most magic users in the whole school now." Gin grinned, flashing his canines. "Wonder how we can use that to our advantage?"
Yukari turned round with remarkable speed, an incredulous look plastered across her face. "What?"
Gin gave her a surprised look.
"You mean you didn't know? Tsukune's a Warlock."
Yukari spun to face him and he sighed. There was that troublesome situation.
Now how to proceed? He really didn't feel like telling her the truth. For one thing, Gin was in the room, and he'd had a hard time pinning down the werewolf's personality. While he generally seemed like nothing more than a perverted slacker, he occasionally showed focus and drive that suggested hidden depths. Very well hidden depths, the thought of cameras in the girls changing rooms reminded him. Frankly, he didn't know how Gin would react, or whether he could be trusted to keep quiet, at least for a little longer.
So he'd play along for now.
"Hi?" He inquired of Yukari, matching her intense stare with an innocent look.
"Why didn't you tell me?" She snarled. He realised ,with some amusement, that she was throwing a temper tantrum. He shrugged.
"It didn't come up."
"What do you mean it didn't come up?" Her voice was nearly hysterical as she faced him and he frowned, previous amusement dwindling. She was far more upset than he'd expected, glaring at him like he'd betrayed her somehow. "Why didn't you tell me or something! It was obvious what I am!"
The most obvious (and truthful) answer was that it hadn't come to mind at the time, but it was doubtful that she'd appreciate so flippant an answer.
"Why does it matter? You know now, right?" He held up his hands to placate her, but she seemed barely aware.
"Earlier…" Her gaze focused back on him. "Earlier when you came in, you had a spell on you, didn't you? I thought I'd made a mistake, but you had a spell on you!"
"Well, yes. But it's no wonder you didn't really notice it," He said, trying to sooth her. "I'm really bad at Youjutsu, so my spells tend to be really quite weak-"
"So you're a failure as well? Well that's just perfect." Yukari's voice was bitter as she cut across him, and Tsukune stared incredulously at her. Gone was the arrogant, but energetic and cheerful young girl, who he'd argued with just ten minutes ago. She was livid, staring at him with resentment and something else that he couldn't place, but was incredibly familiar.
"Yukari! You can't call people that!" Moka scolded, moving in front of the witch.
"That's right! Who do you think you're calling a 'failure'?" Kurumu spoke up standing beside Tsukune defensively. "He's my Destined One!"
Yukari stared at the two of them, then backed away. Tears were forming in her eyes as she shook her head, as if denying something.
"Wait, hold up-" Tsukune stood up and Yukari turned, running out of the door. "Yukari!"
The room was frozen in a shocked tableau, Tsukune standing with his hand outstretched.
Ah, he thought, her expression still clear in his mind. I thought it looked familiar.
Envy always looked so pained.
Yukari sniffled in the bushes, tears already making their way down her cheeks. Stupid, stupid, stupid! She called herself a genius, but she'd just messed up worse than any fool. Why had she acted like that? Tsukune hadn't done anything wrong, he'd even supported her when she joining the club. He'd been a little mean to her earlier, but it had been in good sport like a friend teasing her. So why had she lashed out? Why had she ran? It didn't make any sense.
Except of course, it did. Most things do, once you thought about them.
Tsukune was a Warlock, from the same species as herself and likely, the only other within the entire school. By all rights they should be friends. But he was different from her.
While she had been alone, taking comfort in watching another from afar, Tsukune had surrounded himself with friends and companions. When he'd just been another student, she'd just accepted that he was more charismatic, more open, more lucky than her. The fact that he was in the same situation as her, yet had made so many connections to others… It was like a slap in the face. A taunt, created specifically for her.
She rubbed her eyes, which were already turning red and puffy. It was so childish. She'd lashed out at him and through him, at Moka and Kurumu over some quasi-imagined slight. And after they'd just accepted her into the newspaper club as well, just to make the situation even more ridiculous!
No, she'd been childish and cruel. She'd called Tsukune a failure. How many times had similar words been levelled at her, decrying her for nothing more than being born as she was? What did it say of her, that at the slightest disappointment, she lashed out?
"They probably hate me now…" It came out as a whimper as she sniffled once again. An overwhelming sense of self-pity rose up within her and for a moment she felt the urge to simply wallow in it.
"Well hello there, little miss genius." She froze at the sound of that cruel, mocking tone. She rose her gaze up, only to see the face she least wanted to see. Her class representative stood there, a cold smile on his face. He was surrounded by a selection of his friends and lackeys, all of whom bore a similar reptilian smile as they watched her with hungry looks. "Something wrong?"
While she'd always been separated from the rest of the class, the class representative had gone out of his way to ensure that remained so. Her every success was dismissed, her every mistake expounded on and made into a mockery. He hated her and had made no secret of it. But right now, his gaze contained more than mere hate. He looked… hungry.
She moved to back away, but the tree she'd been leaning against blocked her path. To her sides a few of the students had formed a rough perimeter, cutting her off an escape. Panic began to cloud her already distraught mind, and she scrabbled for her wand. Too slowly though, as the class representative moved forward, wrenching the thin device from her hand with ease. She winced in pain, staring with eyes already stained with fresh tears at the older student. She wanted to scream or shout for help, but his cold eyes told her exactly what would happen if she tried either and fear paralysed her movements with a vicelike grip.
All around her, her erstwhile classmates were shedding their human shapes like an old skin, taking on their true forms. Their gazes didn't waver even as their forms shifted, surveying her with the hunger and patience of devoted predators. She tried to scream, raw panic overwhelming the primal fear but a reptilian hand seized her head, stifling her even as arm snaked around her torso, lifting her from the ground.
The Lizardman holding her hissed in amusement at her struggles, keeping her pinned firmly against it's chest.
"Come on. This place is a little too open for a meal." The class representative remarked to his friends, his tongue running along his large, jagged teeth. "Let's go somewhere a little quieter."
He turned, stalking off into the forest next to the school; his pack following after him. Yukari kicked and screamed to no avail, gripped tightly in the Lizardmans arms. Her eyes turned to the darkness of the forest, growing ever closer, and fear covered her mind like a blanket.
"What was that about?" Kurumu asked, staring at the door that the young witch had just run out off.
"I-I'm not sure." Moka said, concern written across her face. "I think we should go after her."
"Why?" Kurumu responded bluntly. "Whatever's wrong with her, she ran off because she didn't want to be around us."
Frankly, she was more than a little peeved at Yukari. A Destined One was the focus of a succubus's life. Once they'd found that single, special person; selected for them by fate itself, and acquired their love (An easy task normally. Tsukune was proving quite resistant to the idea) the two were considered bound together. To insult a succubus's Destined One was worse than slandering the succubus directly.
"But still…" Moka hesitated, turning to Tsukune for support.
Tsukune was quiet for a moment, then nodded in assent. "Yeah, I think we should find her. She's probably just a little confused right now."
"If you say so…" Kurumu said, shrugging her shoulders.
"Well if you do find her, tell her to get back so that I can get her signature on this damn thing before the days over," Gin said, waving a form at them. "I'd like to get it to Ms Nekonome as soon as possible."
Tsukune waved a hand in acknowledgement over his shoulder at the senior as he left the room, Moka and Kurumu behind him and Torian at his usual place on his shoulder.
Of course, saying that they would find her was one thing. Actually doing it was quite another. The Academy Campus was huge, comprising not only the buildings themselves, but a fair stretch of cliff side and quite a large forest. Searching blindly would take far too long and would almost certainly be fruitless anyway.
More than that, Tsukune didn't know what he'd say even when they did find her. He had a fairly good idea as to the cause of her outburst. She was jealous. She'd been lonely and depressed, watching Moka from afar and there he'd been, cheerfully talking to her. The fact that he was the same species as her, yet so much more… accepted must have stung like a slap to the face. He just wasn't sure what he could say to that to make her feel better.
Likewise, Moka's concern was easy enough to understand. Moka had told him about her time spent in the schools of the human world, and the sheer loneliness she had experienced from the distance her classmates had kept from her. She obviously saw a kindred soul in Yukari, and wanted to help her. It was an act of kindness that was quite typical of the vampire.
"This is pointless," Kurumu stated, landing back down beside them. He turned to face her, pulled from his thoughts. The succubus had taken to the air to get a birds-eye view of the grounds along with his familiar, but it didn't appear to have helped. "There's just too much ground to cover. There's no way we're going to find her before nightfall at this rate."
"She's right," Torian hissed, settling back on his shoulder. "We can fly, but there's too many places hidden from an overhead view. We could be right above her, and we'd still miss her if she happened to sitting under a tree."
"Tsukune, couldn't you use magic to track her?" Moka inquired, looking at him.
"Well, yeah. But she'd almost certainly feel it, unless she's really distracted." He replied, shaking his head. "And she'd know it was arcane magic, not Youjutsu, which would just be a whole new set of problems to deal with right now."
"And there's no way you can hide that?" Moka asked, biting her lip.
Tsukune hesitated at that. The scrying spell he had prepared was merely a basic one, and thus quite noticeable. Technically however, there was a way to create a new one here and now. Scripting, as the particular technique was known , was a method for a wizard to convert his spells into raw magical energy, and from there back into alternative spells, negating the inability to draw from the Vein without both a ritual circle and extreme focus. In theory, it was an incredibly powerful technique, giving wizards most of the advantages of sorcerer's without any of the disadvantages. In theory, that was.
In practice however, it was hugely wasteful. If a wizard was to convert a spell containing four units of magic back into raw power then without a circle to contain them, three would simply vanish into thin air before he could put them to use. Effectively, to construct a spell that required five units of magical energy, a wizard would have to break down twenty units worth of spells. Such a vast drawback had meant that few wizards even bothered to learn the already challenging technique.
The versatility of it had appealed to him however, and he'd put considerable effort into not only learning, but mastering it. Eventually, he'd achieved a slightly better ratio. Two wasted units for every one usable one. It had been a considered a remarkable achievement, especially for one so young, but he'd never been satisfied with it. It was still too wasteful for any kind of prolonged battle. Frankly, he hadn't even wanted to use it after his fight with Saizou, preferring a scroll instead.
But this isn't a battle, he reminded himself. It's a search.
"Actually, there is." He closed his eyes, focusing on the spells bound to him. "Give me a second. " He paused. "Oh. And you might want to step back a little. It's a little surprising when you see it for the first time."
The arcane power thrummed as he surveyed it. After a moments pause, he selected a few of his offensive spells, the release of which would create roughly enough energy.
Moka and Kurumu stepped back in startlement as a aura of emerald green light emanated from him, surrounding him like a drape of fine silk caught in a tempest. The arcane power seethed around him. Sitting on Tsukune's shoulder, Torian seemed utterly unperturbed by the forces surrounding him.
Tsukune incanted and the magic coalesced, the vivid light forming the precise patterns and glyphs of a spell. Even as it happened, he could feel the unused energy vanishing, returning to the Vein. Even as the spell neared completion, the drain continued and for a moment he feared that he was going to have to break down another spell to obtain enough energy. Scrying was fairly high level magic to begin with, and adding the trait of being unnoticeable to it took considerable power.
It turned out to be a needless concern. The spell completed itself just in time, the last few vestiges of magic dwindling into nothingness and the glow surrounding him fading away.
He relaxed taking a deep breath of air.
"Tsukune, are you ok?" Kurumu asked concernedly, stepping next him. "What was that light?"
"Unconstrained magical energy reacting to the environment," He responded. "And yeah, I'm fine. It's perfectly harmless."
"It was beautiful…" Moka admitted, a slightly awed look across her face. Kurumu nodded in agreement. Tsukune smiled at their reactions.
"I thought so too, back when I first saw it," He replied. "I still do, really. Familiarity never erases wonder. Not with magic."
A certain nostalgia rose within him at his own words. He'd spent most of his childhood studying magic. Oh he'd played with friends and toys the way all children did, but it had been magic that had consumed countless hours studying by dim light in the library into the early hours of the morning. He'd never regretted it, not once. Magic had been exciting, magic had been powerful, but more than that, magic had been fun. And it had been pleasant to find that the years hadn't dulled that.
"Well then," He said, traces of a smile still remaining. "Let's see what our errant witch it up to."
He began the incantation, only for Kurumu to interrupt.
"Hold on a second!"
They all turned to face the succubus, who seemed as if she'd come to a realisation all of a sudden.
"This spell lets you see where she is, right?" He nodded and she continued "What if she's in the bathroom?"
Tsukune paused at that. It was actually a good question. Scrying hadn't exactly been developed with the privacy of the one being viewed in mind. There certainly wasn't any kind of modesty filter that he could trigger.
Moka blushed at the idea. "Maybe you should cast the spell, and we'll look first."
"The scrying window is linked to me," He replied. "You two won't see anything aside from air."
"Then we'll have to find another method." Kurumu said firmly. "You're not allowed to look at other girls that way."
Tsukune held up a hand. "Whoa, wait up there. How are we going to find her then? You just said it yourself not five minutes ago: There's way too much ground to cover by any normal means. And what do you mean, 'other girls'?"
"Well, you can look at me like that anytime you want." Kurumu replied shyly, blushing.
"Kurumu!" Moka scolded.
Tsukune rubbed his brow. He had to take these girls aside one day, and explain what 'priorities' were.
"If I might offer an alternative and cut this discussion short," Torian hissed from his shoulder. "I can see the window as well, and my interest in the bodies of you mammals is nonexistent."
"Not a bad idea." He nodded. The familiar contract really was quite handy. "Alright, Torian's suggested that he can look for me. That OK with you two?"
"Fine with me."
"That should be fine."
"Right then," He turned away from them, his hands forming arcane patterns. "Grant me the sight of leagues. Show me Yukari Sendo."
He closed his eyes as he completed spell, relying on Torian to tell him what was to be seen. The dragons sudden intake of breath however, raised some worries.
"Tsukune," There was a note of concern in the dragons voice, unusual for the unflappable familiar. "You should see this."
He opened his eyes and looked into the window. Instantly, his blood ran cold. The scene before him was like something out of a horror film; A single lone girl, surrounded and trapped by monsters deep in a
"Looks like there's a half-dozen or so," Torian noted. "If we just rush in unprepared, we might be in a little troubl-"
A barrier expanded, invisible glyphs creating a field of protection that encompassed his entire body. Torian snorted in amusement.
"I guess we're prepared then."
"Tsukune, what's happening?" Moka asked, staring at him. "What are you doing?"
"Yukari's in trouble." He replied, running through his spells. He had a prepared Teleport, but it was the standard spell, not the more powerful version he normally favoured. Which meant that there'd only be two of them going. He glanced to the dragon on his shoulder, who gave him a fanged grin in response. Suited him fine, no need to drag Moka and Kurumu into this. "I'll just be a minute. Head towards the forest and I'll meet you there.."
He ignored their calls, already half way through his spell casting.
Yukari shivered, both in fear and cold. Her cloak had caught on a tree when she was being dragged through the forest, but it hadn't slowed her captor down at all. He'd merely ripped it to shreds, leaving her feeling terribly exposed, both to the elements and the hungry gazes of the predators surrounding her. After a few minutes travel into the forest, they'd thrown her against a tree trunk. And then waited. Watching her.
It hadn't taken her long to realise their intent. This was both revenge and a cruel game to them. They wanted her to run, so that they could catch her. So that they could show her how useless the intelligence she'd boasted of was, how worthless she was. Despite her fear, she'd done her best to meet their eyes whenever possible. She'd already worked out the inevitable. She was going to die and they'd eat her corpse. Or maybe they'd start by eating her, and she'd expire halfway through. The thought filled her gut with dread and her mind with a numbing fear, but also a strange defiance. If nothing else, she wouldn't give them their chase. She wouldn't be a mouse, hunted through the trees.
A stirring among the lizardmen suggested that they'd realised she wasn't going to run and were far from happy at having their sport denied. A brief, violent discussion occurred, quickly ended by the largest of them, the class representative. They split, forming a semi-circle around her, while the class representative approached her.
Her stomach clenched and she felt tears welling up in her eyes as he got closer. Razor sharp teeth ground against each other and a thin strand of drool hung from his mouth. This wasn't fair! Eveything had gone wrong today! It wasn't fair! It wasn't fair! It wasn't-
The world split, then reformed as a new presence stepped through the gap.
Her head whipped around, senses ingrained in her since she was young pulling her eyes like a magnet. In the centre of the small clearing they were in, behind the class representative, a man had appeared.
Unfamiliar symbols spun in the air around him, glyphs that spoke of a power both familiar, yet so very different from what she wielded. She'd never seen it, never felt it before, but she knew what it was. Arcane magic.
Tsukune Aono stood amongst the invisible maelstrom, watching the scene before him with a closed, guarded expression. It only took a brief moment for the lizardmen to become aware of their 'guest'.
"Who the hell are you!" It was the class representative who roared, leaping away from the newcomer as he spoke. Tsukune ignored him, turning towards Yukari.
"You alright?" She stared at him, too dumbfounded to answer his question. A dozen thoughts ran through her head, clashing off of each other. He stared at he questioningly, and she collected herself enough to nod.
Tsukune relaxed, a relieved expression crossing his face.
"You!" The class representative watched the exchange with some worry, his eyes flicking between the two. "I said, who the fuck are you!"
Tsukune darted round, levelling his gaze at the offending monster. "Be still."
The Lizardman froze, his mouth wide open in a roar. The others skittered away from him, as if he was infected by some horrible disease. Anger and panic warred in their eyes.
"The rest of you…" Tsukune eyes travelled across the entire pack. "You have five seconds to lea-" He paused, looking back at Yukari, shivering on the ground, and his face hardened. "No. You know what? You don't."
His right hand rose into the air, and Yukari stared at the power gathering there. A sickly grey luminence leaked out from his clenched fist, one that spoke to her of cold, dry earth and a place where the land moved and had a life all of its own. He brought his hand down, slapping the open palm against the ground.
"Rise, child of Terra Mater! Heed the call of man!"
The earth trembled and then shattered. A vast figure, only vaguely humanoid by virtue of having the right limbs, rose from soil. It's surface was light orange, formed of clay or sandstone and stone rubbed across stone with every impossible, reality defying move it made. It stood in front of Yukari and Tsukune like some terrible guardian awakened from a long slumber.
"Well then," Tsukune said, his voice quiet."It's clobberin' time."
The earth elemental roared, it's empty throat somehow producing a sound like a landslide, then charged. The lizardmen scattered, retreating from the behemoth with as much speed as possible. One of them tried to fight, and a stone hand slapped him away, bones crunching as he skidded along the ground. He would live though, Tsukune knew. He'd ordered the elemental not to kill, and the creature would obey. Pain and injury however, the being would hand out in healthy measure.
A second Lizardman climbed a tree, leaping from the branches at the mound that served as the elementals head. A backhand caught him mid-flight, swatting him to the ground where he lay still. The remaining three ran, the sheer extent to which they were overmatched becoming painfully clear.
"No." Tsukune said, shaking his head slowly. For some reason, he felt terribly angry, yet terribly cold at the same time. There were always those like this. People cruel and vicious, who fed their own pride by playing with those weaker than themselves. There was no purpose to their actions, no overarching goal. Just pointless, shallow cruelty. But it seemed like in this Academy, they gathered thick as mayflies. "You don't get to run."
The green aura burst into existence as he broke apart a half-dozen minor spells. They reformed under his will, taking on the shape of the spell he desired. He focused on the fleeing Youkai, and slowly extended his hand. His hand clenched as if grasping something, and yanked.
The Lizardmen were pulled back, an invisible force dragging them towards him with incredible force. One of them was driven into a tree, cracking the wood by sheer force of impact. The other two slammed into his barrier, rebounding off of the invisible force to the ground.
He watched them try to drag themselves up, groaning and hissing. A wasted effort. The elementals huge hands slammed them back to the ground, pressing them deep into the damp earth. They struggled weakly and, ultimately, pointlessly. They fought against a being with a body of earth and stone. It would not weaken or tire like beings of flesh would. The lizardmen seemed unable to realise this, squirming desperately.
"Enough. Put them to sleep." The elemental siezed the two Youkai, lifting them high and throwing them hard to the ground once again. This time, they didn't try to stand up again. Which left only one. He waved a hand at the earth elemental dismissing it. The magic maintaining it's existence gone, the stone goliath crumbled, becoming no more than a pile of rocks.
The leader of the pack hadn't moved. Not that it was capable of doing so, at least not for a few hours when the spell would wear off. But it was aware of what had occurred and Tsukune could all but feel it's desperate, animal panic.
He stood in front of the Youkai and gave a strangely bitter smile. This was the second time he'd found himself in this position, standing in front of a held monster, wondering what judgement to pass.
"Perhaps you'd like to plead your case?" He asked the Youkai, staring straight into it's immobile eyes. "You may move."
The class representative lashed out, its claws deflecting harmlessly off of the barrier he'd erected. Tsukune's eyes narrowed. He swept his hand and the wind swept into the Lizardman, throwing it through the wood. The monster groaned on the floor as Tsukune approached it, and he regarded it's injuries. Not heavy enough. Not by a long shot.
"You will never do this again." He said, staring down at the prone creature. "When you return to school, you will be the model of politeness to Yukari. You will be nothing but friendly and helpful, and you will actively work to ensure that no-one repeats what you did here today. Are we clear?"
The fallen monster looked up at him, eyes dazed but with a hint of stubborness remaining. He gave a grin at that, then continued.
"That wasn't a request. That wasn't even a demand. That was what you are going to do. Or," He kneeled down by it's side. "I will kill your friends in front of you. Slowly. Then I'll do the same to you. Slower. And then, once all's said and done, I'll have a new pair of boots made from your face."
It was a bluff, but the Lizardman's eyes had lost any trace of defiance. It nodded desperately and Tsukune smiled, wide and friendly.
"Good! Off you go then, and take these things with you." He gestured at the rest of the pack, collapsed in various degrees of injury. "When we next meet, I expect that you'll have nothing but thanks for me."
The Lizardman stared at his smile, then nodded furiously, running to gather it's fallen comrades.
The pseudodragon on his shoulder gave a slow, hissing laugh at the sight. "Your father would be proud, Tsukune. "
Tsukune snorted. "Why? Because I bullied some lizards into doing what I say?"
"Bullied? I would say it more along the lines of terrorising them into it." The lizard replied. "It vaguely resembled how your father deals with the sorcerers. Only with a little more violence. "
"With Moka and Kurumu hanging around me, I'm going to have a reputation at this school anyway," He shrugged, walking back towards Yukari. "It might as well be one that carries a certain degree of respect and fear with it. Besides, now that people think I'm a warlock, I can be a little more free with my magic."
"As you've just aptly demonstrated." Torian deadpanned.
Their conversation cut off as he approached Yukari, who was staring at him. Her face was blank, but her eyes watched his every movement carefully, no doubt observing the arcane patterns of his barrier spell.
"Uh… Hi?" He suggested. He felt the urge to slap himself. What kind of a thing to say was 'Hi'?
Yukari looked at him for a few moments, then gave a small smile. "Well, you did say you weren't a very good warlock."
Tsukune smiled. "Yeah, It's really not my thing." He relaxed. Yukari had obviously worked out what he was, and was telling him that it didn't matter. He could almost feel a weight being lifted from his shoulders. He slipped off his jacket and offered it to her.
"Thank you." She gave him a grateful smile.
The sound of clapping suddenly broke through the clearing, and Tsukune twisted to face the source. A man was walking towards them, his hands slowly, rhythmically striking together. Long gold hair drooped down his back and a black coat covered most of his body. An amused smirk crossed his aristocratic face, which fit the air of arrogance the man projected.
"Oh, I don't know. I thought that was quite the display." The smirk grew only wider as he surveyed Tsukune. "You handled them quite well."
Tsukune stepped in front on Yukari protectively, meeting the eyes of the newcomer with a steady gaze. He didn't know who this man was, but the simple fact that he had been in the area, and hadn't done anything to help Yukari made him more than a little cautious.
"Do I know you?" He asked.
A dissatisfied frown crossed his face briefly, before it settled on a more neutral expression. "I suppose you wouldn't, being a first year. I am Kuyou, the head of Public Safety Commission, more commonly known," He sneered. "As the Student Police."
Tsukune felt Yukari tense behind him at that, which told him a fair bit about the Student Police's reputation. If that was the case, then it was probably best to act politely. He didn't need any enemies with a large powerbase.
"You are correct, I was not aware." He gave a brief bow. "It is an honour to meet you."
Kuyou watched him for a second, eyes narrowed, then gave a satisfied nod. "Good. It appears you understand the respect that the position is due. Something that the whole student body could stand to learn."
"If I might ask, were you aware of what these students were going to do?" He kept his tone level and polite, but was already running over a list of potential options. He highly doubted that Kuyou would have been able to keep his position if he wasn't far more powerful than the average Youkai. He'd already exhausted a number of spells in fighting the lizardmen, and had used up a fair few to power the scrying spell to find Yukari in the first place. A battle was not what he wanted right now.
"As a matter of fact, I was," Kuyou replied. Tsukune tensed, preparing to grab Yukari and Script a teleportation spell. "Had you not arrived when you did, I was intending to hand out punishment to these cretins myself. I was rather looking forward to it actually." A bloodthirsty smile crossed his face. "You let them off far too lightly."
Tsukune made a non-commital gesture, keeping his distaste off of his face. Looking back, he didn't feel ashamed or awkward about the brutality he'd displayed. The lizardmen had certainly deserved it and doing it had been necessary to ensure that Yukari would be safe in the future, he hadn't enjoyed it. It hadn't been a fight, so much as a needed course of action. Looking at Kuyou's face though, he got the feeling that the lizardmen had been lucky that he had arrived when he did.
"Make no mistake however, I was quite impressed by your skill at Youjutsu," Kuyou continued, apparently misinterpreting the reason for his silence. "In fact, I have an offer for you, one that is rarely given to first year students. If you would like to come to my office, we can discuss the details."
Tsukune hesitated. "That sounds interesting, but I'd like to take Yukari to the infirmary first."
"Very well," Kuyou nodded, sparing a single uninterested glance for the witch. "I have some work to do regardless, but I expect you to come as soon as you're done. I do not take well to waiting."
The older student left at that, striding towards the exit of the forest and Tsukune turned to Yukari.
"Can you walk?"
"Y-yeah." She grasped his outstretched hand, and he pulled her to her feet. "I can't believe Kuyou just let us off with that though."
Tsukune looked down at he curiously, as they began to follow the path the Head of the Student Police had taken. "Is he that bad?"
"He's a tyrant," Yukari replied. She covered her mouth when she realised she'd spoken so loudly, but the older student had vanished into the trees ahead, and couldn't have heard her. "I mean, that was the first time I've met him, but he has a really bad reputation. He turned to Student Police into his own tool, and uses them to ensure that no-one is speaking out against him."
"That bad, huh?" Tsukune said thoughtfully. He could believe it. Under the thin veil of politeness that he'd affected, there had been an almost palpable sense of violence and arrogance emanating from Kuyou. Overall, it hadn't been pleasant to be in his company, even for a short time.
They walked in silence for a time, till they finally broke out of the trees.
"Tsukune! Yukari!" The shouts of Moka and Kurumu drew their attention.
"Tsukune, what happened? You just vanished into thin air!" Kurumu exclaimed, running right up to him. "Do you know how worried we were?"
"That's right!" Moka agreed, crossing her arms and looking at him angrily. "We didn't know what you'd seen, or what was happening. We've been waiting here for ten minutes!" She turned her attention to Yukari, and gasped. "Yukari, what happened to you? You're covered in cuts!"
The two of them exchanged glances, then gave an amused chuckle.
"We'll explain on the way." He said. "Yukari could probably do with getting into something warmer than my jacket."
"So you knew what Tsukune was when you saw him arrive?" Moka asked while dabbing Yukari down with anti-septic. While Youkai were generally highly resistant to most diseases or infections, witches were essentially human in many ways, and care had to be taken. Her skin had been cut or scraped in several places by both claws and scratching branches so infection was a risk.
Yukari winced at the stinging but spoke up regardless. "That's right. Arcane magic is really different from Youjutsu, so once I got a good look, it was easy to tell what he was using."
"The same applies to me," Tsukune said. "I can detect and determine the nature of most Youjutsu spells. It's one of the first things that you learn as a practitioner of any kind of magic."
"But I have to admit I'm interested as to why you're here," Yukari continued. She paused, and then a look of panic crossed her face. "I mean, it's not that I don't trust you, you saved my life! I-It's just that I'm curious."
He shrugged. "It's not a problem. Just a bit of a long story."
He went explained his reasons for being here, going over it in fine detail. By the time he was done, Yukari had gone from looking interested to incredibly frustrated.
"I cant believe I couldn't place you by your name!" She exclaimed, grinding her dainty knuckles into her brow. "Everyone knows your father! I should have been able to guess who you were from your family name alone!"
"It's not that uncommon a name," Tsukune replied. "Don't beat yourself up about it. I'm actually glad that you couldn't see the connection. It means that others won't either."
"I suppose…" Yukari agreed reluctantly. She was silent for a moment but then stood. "I still have to say something. I'm sorry for what I said, and for being so childish. It was my fault that you were dragged into this mess."
Tsukune blinked in surprise, then waved his hand dismissively. "It's not a problem. Really. If anything, I'm glad that you acted like you did, when you did. That attack probably would have happened anyway, and I might not have been there to help you when it did."
A deep blush had spread across Yukari's face as he spoke. She looked down, fidgeting and murmuring.
"Sorry?" Tsukune inquired, leaning in towards her.
"I said you looked really… impressive when you saved me." Yukari whispered, her face flushing even further. "But you're kind too, aren't you?"
She looked at him directly in the eyes, a wide, beaming smile across her face. "I've fallen for you, Tsukune."
His mind went blank. This was… unexpected.
I'm not even going to touch this mess, his mind responded. You want to keep attracting girls, you do that.
"But I haven't given up on Moka either!" Yukari continued, emphasising her point by slapping a clenched fist into her palm. "I'm going to make sure we all end up together."
"I don't think so!" Kurumu exclaimed, grabbing Tsukune's arm. "He's my Destined One."
"W-w-w-wait? You mean… together? Like that? W-w-with you and Tsukune?" Moka had turned scarlet, a thin trail of what appeared to be steam emanating from her head, her shock at the idea obvious.
Yukari grabbed Tsukune's other arm and and Moka's as well. Tsukune had been alone, even more than she had. While she'd been crying about the contempt her race brought her, Tsukune had persevered, knowing full well that the revelation of his identity could draw outright aggression from much of the school. It was inspiring.
Tsukune sighed as chaos swallowed up the infirmary. As always, the company of his friends (now one greater) was exhausting. But also, he found himself admitting, fun.
Tsukune opened the wide black door with some caution. After a brief tussle over who he was apparently destined to be with, Tsukune had reminded them of his summons to meet the Head of the Public Safety Commission That had raised some concerns. Kurumu had even briefly tried to persuade him to come up with an excuse not to go. Apparently, the reputation of the group was a little less than stellar. He'd managed to persuade them that is was in his best interests to go anyway with the argument that Kuyou hadn't seemed like the kind of person that was exactly accepting of excuses. He'd left Torian behind as well, somthing the dragon had fought hard against. In the end though, the familair had grudgingly accepted that Kuyou would see him as no more than a pet, and that bringing a pet to a meeting was not good manners.
"You are the recruit Kuyou found?" He looked at the source of the voice. She was tall andquite beautiful, with a finely crafted face and rich, dark purple hair. Anywhere else, and he have have suspected it was dyed. Not in this place. Light eyes, their shade matching her hair examined him with a certain curiosity and she drew in a deep breath, as if scenting him. "You smell good. Like a human."
"Sorry, what?" He asked, stepping back from her nose. Recruit?, he thought, ideas running through his mind. Had his earlier display of power somehow caught Kuyou's attention enough that the Youkai had decided to recruit him? He rather hoped not, it would only be a whole new selection of problems. Rather more important for the present time, however, was the hungry look she was giving him.
"I said you smelt good, recruit." She leaned further towards him, taking another deep breath. "Tasty and succulent, like a well-bred human."
"Is that so?" He replied evasively. "Well, I'm sure you'll have all the time in the world to sniff me later. Where's Kuyou?"
The purple-haired beauty laughed at that. "Ha! At least you have balls! Even most of the Student Police would have pissed themselves if I'd suggested that I might like to eat them. No wonder Kuyou decided to pull you in. People with backbone always cause trouble when they're not standing beside us."
Tsukune raised an eyebrow at that. "You were testing me?"
"Partly. You really do smell delectable. Far better than most of the pathetic trash that call themselves students in this school." Keito walked towards another door at the back of the entrance room. "Follow me. He's been waiting a while."
He followed her out into a corridoor, only slightly brighter lit than the entrance room had been. "Now for you own sake, be respectful." Keito said quietly. "I like you, so I'd hate to have to clean up your corpse so soon." She gave him a vicious grin. "It'd be a terrible waste of someone like you."
"I'll keep that in mind." He deadpanned in response.
The reached a lage, ornate door at the end and Keito knocked. A familiar, cultured voice rang out.
"You may enter."
She opened the door and stepped through, gesturing for Tsukune to follow.
Kuyou was sitting at a desk, hands clasped together as he stared over them at the newcomers. The ever-present smirk on his face was clear as day, even in the weak light that broke through the window behind him.
"Sir, I have brought Tsukune Aono, as per your orders." Keito's casual voice was decidedly more reserved as she spoke, undertoned with a certain amount of fear. She bowed.
"Very well. You may leave." Keito bowed again, retreating from the room quickly.
"Good luck." She whispered, so quiet he could barely hear her, even with her mouth next to his close the door behind her carefully.
"Keito will have told you why I called you here?" Kuyou asked, though it was less a question and more a statement.
"In broad strokes, yes." He replied. "But I'd like to hear it from you, if possible."
The Youkai stood, his figure framed by the light coming in through the window. "Very well. I am offering you a place within the Public Safety Commission." He paused for effect, then continued. "This is an offer with little precedent, as we normally recruit from either Third Years, or Second Years who have shown remarkable dedication to what we uphold."
"Then why are you making it?" Tsukune asked, watching the older student curiously. The gears in his mind were turning, working out the benefits and disadvantages of the situation.
"My reasons are twofold. First of all, you showed both power and the will to use it when you punished those pieces of trash earlier. You'd be amazed how many Youkai there are that are powerful, yet have no drive to use their strength. You, on the other hand, saw an incident that threatened someone, and used your abilities to bring about a satisfactory conclusion."
"Secondly, you are a member of the Newspaper Club; a group with which we have had… friction with in the past." Kuyou continued. "To ensure that a repetition is not necessary, an observer is needed. Someone who would filter their works and actions, and make sure that they are not overstepping their bounds. As an already accepted member of the club, your assignment to this role would likely cause the least amount of resistance."
In other words, he'd be acting as a regulator, ensuring that the Newspaper Club didn't write anything that could be construed as opposing the Student Police. Not exactly the nicest of jobs.
Kuyou watched him for a second. "I see that you have already grasped what I am asking of you. Good. Intelligence is a trait far too rare in this place."
"I'm a little hesitant to reply without a little more information," Tsukune admitted. "What does the Pulic Safety Commission do exactly?"
"A pertinent question," The older student responded. "Despite whatever rumours you might have heard from the rabble, we are the upholders of this schools laws. . Those who complain do not do so because we are supposed tyrants, but because they are not. It is we who stand between beasts like you fought today, and the others of this school. Any actions we take are justified by that alone, no matter how harsh they may seem."
Tsukune had to admit that on one level, Kuyou had a point. This school had savage pupils, of that there was no doubt. But the stories that Moka, Yukari and Kurumu had told him alone put more than a little doubt on the argument that their actions were justified. Blackmail, extortion, violence and abuse seemed to be the watchwords of the Student Police as far as the rest of the schools populace was concerned. From what he could tell, they were little better than the monsters they were supposed to keep in line. He wasn't sure that he wanted to join a group like that, and he certainly didn't want to be forced into a position where he was supposed to be monitoring his friends.
On the other hand, as a member of the Student Police, those close to him would be protected from both rogue Youkai and other members of the Student Police by proxy, which would be a weight off of his shoulders. He could also try and minimise the cruelty of those he worked with, far more efficiently than he could if he were to be outside the group. And while he wasn't fond of the idea of monitoring the Newpaper Club, someone was going to be sent to do it anyway, and he doubted that they'd be as lenient as he would be.
Finally, he doubted that Kuyou would take his refusal well. It would be almost a personal insult to refuse him at this point, and the older student was far too proud to merely let that pass. Making an enemy of Kuyou's status in the school was something he really didn't want to do. All things considered, there was only one choice he could really make.
"In that case, I gladly except the offer." He said.
"Excellent," Kuyou sat back down. "Keito is assigned as your mentor, to help you 'learn the ropes', so to speak. If you have any questions, ask her."
The Youkai stared up at him, his ever present smirk still there.
"Welcome to the Public Safety Commission."
-End Chapter 5-