NIGHTMARE INSPECTOR: the lost volume
My tribute to my newest manga obsession! And my newest manga cutie. (Actually, there's quite a few in this manga, but only one is a main character) Don't ask me where "the lost volume" crap came from. I guess I just wanted this story to be viewed as if it really was a part of the manga. I guess you could also blame 4Kids' "lost episodes" of the Ninja Turtles.
Night One: the dream fairy
Under the cover of darkness…they come to the Silver Star tea house…seeking solace. There the Baku waits – the dream eater, fed only by the nightmares of others – to release them from their suffering. But…
"It's odd. It's been four days since we've had a customer," Mizuki commented from where she sat, staring worriedly at the yellow-green haired boy at the table in the back corner of the tea house.
"Hiruko doesn't look too good," Hifumi added, arm resting on the back of his chair, cup of coffee in hand, as he also looked over at the boy in the corner. "Is it just me, or is his skin even paler than normal?" he asked.
Hiruko the Baku sat in the same spot he always sat in the Silver Star at night, waiting for a customer. But there hadn't been one customer in several days. No customers, meant no nightmares for him to eat, and Hiruko was starting to feel the pains of hunger. His bluish-lavender eyes held a blank and almost lifeless look, as his fingers absentmindedly stoked the black cat curled up on the suitcase that lay on the table in front of him. "I want a nightmare…" he moaned under his breath, inaudible to the other two in the room.
"Yes, I'm worried about him," Mizuki confessed.
Hifumi glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. In truth, the tall lavenderish-blonde had a huge crush on the owner of the Silver Star Tea House and didn't like it when Hiruko was the center of her attention. A customer better come soon… he thought sourly, his chin resting on his arms folded over the back of the chair as he half glared at the Baku in the corner.
Hiruko, fatigued from hunger and pessimistic about the lack of customers, silently stood up and made his way toward the stairs. "I'm going to bed," he said softly but loud enough for the other two to hear.
"Oh." Mizuki's eyes traveled up to the clock on the wall. It was still early for Hiruko to be turning in for the morning, but she could understand with business so slow. "I'll wake you if a customer comes," she smiled lightly.
Hiruko didn't reply, merely begun his ascent up the stairs. But no sooner had his foot touch the second stair, did the door to the Silver Star open with a familiar 'ding'. Hiruko froze in place, then slowly turned to the dark haired girl who'd enter the tea house.
"Hello!" she chimed brightly. Her dark hair hung freely about her slim frame, ending about the top of her thighs, her sapphire blue eye sparkling like sunshine on a lake. Her pale pink kimono was covered in different colored chrysanthemums – red, white and yellow – the sash the same shade of blue as her eyes. There was no way this girl was suffering from a nightmare, she was just too…perky. But Hiruko found himself turning back to his usual seat; after all, this girl seemed…interesting.
"I know it's late," the girl continued, a seemingly permanent smile spread across her lips, "but I was in the area and decided to see if the tea was really as good as what I've heard!"
"Oh, yes, of course," Mizuki smiled, remembering her manners and duties as hostess. It was unusual to have regular customers like this at night. "Is there anything else you would like?" she asked pleasantly, disappearing behind the counter to make the tea.
"Um…" the girl pressed a slender finger to her lips as she contemplated this. "Got any little tea cakes?"
Mizuki confirmed that they did indeed have some while the girl looked for a place to sit. Well, looked isn't really the best description – all but two seats were unoccupied – so it was really more a matter of deciding which seat she preferred.
"I thought you were going to bed," Hifumi stated, as Hiruko returned to his seat, leaning over from his own seat at the table in front of the one the Baku sat at.
Hiruko didn't respond, but kept his eyes trained on the new girl, his chin resting on his palm.
Aforementioned girl finally decided where to sit and plopped down in the chair across from Hiruko with a cheerful, "Hi!"
Hifumi was a little taken aback as to why on earth she would choose to sit with the gloomy Baku of all people.
A dry smirk pulled at the corner of Hiruko's lips. The exact seat where his customers sat – too bad this girl wasn't a customer, evident by her cheeriness. All of Hiruko's customers had quite the opposite demeanor.
"So, why were you out so late?" Hiruko asked, as if he was actually trying to engage in light conversation.
"I could ask the same of you," she replied with a soft giggle, then paused briefly before answering. "I just kinda like the night. It's so peaceful and comforting, you know." Her expression had changed from bubbly to peaceful; Hiruko had to admit, he liked this expression better on her pure face, untainted by any trace of make up or blemish.
The corners of Hiruko's lips turn upward ever so slightly in the faintest hint of a grin. He knew very well. As a Baku, he lived for the night, although for him it usually held the promise of a delicious nightmare.
Mizuki returned with the tea and cakes, including two more cups for her and Hifumi. If she was surprised by the girl's choice of seating she didn't show it. "Hello, I'm Mizuki," she said pleasantly, pulling up a chair to the table.
Getting crowded… Hiruko thought, his eyes glancing toward the stairs, contemplating whether to stay or leave like he'd originally planned before the girl showed up.
"Oh!" The girl's eyes widened and her cheeks colored slightly as she realized she'd forgotten some of her manners. "I'm sorry! I completely forgot to introduce myself!"
Cute, Hiruko thought idly, as he observed the girl's flustered face, the faintest trace of a smile pulling up the corners of his lips. Then the not-quite-a-smile vanished, the usual stoic expression returning to the Baku's face as he questioned his own thoughts.
Meanwhile, the girl in question had quickly recomposed herself. "I'm Kurisutiina Narita, a dream fairy," she said with a smile; and with a flourish of her hand, she produced a thin wooden wand coated with a mahogany varnish and delicate silver swirls traveling up the side.
The stoic expression was gone. For a full second, all three stared at her in surprise and some confusion, before a wry smile spread across the Baku's face. "So that explains it," he murmured to himself.
Mizuki and Hifumi, however, were still left in the dark.
"A dream fairy?" Mizuki asked, inadvertently stopping Hifumi from making a fool of himself, yet again.
"Yeah. I can get rid of people's bad dreams," Kurisutiina explained.
Something clicked in Hifumi's head. Unfortunately, it was the wrong click. "Oh, you mean like a Baku?"
"No, dream fairies don't eat or even enter the dreams," Kurisutiina corrected, and paused to contemplate how to explain it. "It's kinda like, we can erase the bad dream and replace it with a good one; well, most of us can, it can be done different ways. So, I give people these charms!" During the explanation, she reached under the top layer of her kimono and pulled out a small trinket, showing it to the three observers. "Which basically have the same effect, but it's easier than manually changing the dream."
The occupants of the tea house stared down at the trinket in the dream fairy's hand. Even Hiruko was interested; after all, he'd never seen a dream fairy's charm up close before. It was a roughly two inch, eight pointed silver star sprinkled with glitter. There was a little loop on the top point where you could thread a string and hang the charm up.
"Wow, it's so pretty," Mizuki complimented.
"Yeah…" Hifumi agreed. "Do ya have one shaped like a cat?"
Then, as if by some telepathic phenomenon, both the hostess and the lodger looked up from the charm, at each other with various facial expressions of "oh my god," at Hiruko behind them, then back at Kurisutiina in front of them.
"You don't think…?" Mizuki asked quietly.
"You mean she's the reason there haven't been any customers?" Hifumi blurted out.
Kurisutiina blinked a couple times, tilting her head slightly in confusion, unable to make sense of the remarks. This was a tea house, wasn't it? Why would she interfere with its business…?
"Oh, I'm terribly sorry," Mizuki apologized, seeing the dream fairy's confusion. "You see, Hiruko, here, is our resident Baku," the hostess explained, motioning toward Hiruko sitting in his chair, "and we haven't had a customer in several days now."
It clicked. "Oh… I guess I've been stealing your customers, then." What to say? "I have been getting people with rather strange dreams, lately," Kurisutiina said. There was a short silence while the dream fairy chewed on her lip. If he hadn't eaten in a while, then he must be hungry, and it was kind of her fault, so she should do something to help him. She replaced the wand and dream charm to their respective places, and looked back up at Hiruko. "So, you haven't had a meal in while…?"
Hiruko shook his head.
"Well…" Kurisutiina hesitated. "I guess I could give you my nightmare, it has been starting to bother me—wha—?"
Hiruko was on his feet, cane pointed at the dream fairy's astonished face. A wing blew inside the tea shop, surrounding the Baku and customer. "Sleep now… Leave this world behind."
Kurisutiina's eyes opened again to find herself in her nightmare, Hiruko examining its contents with the usual stoic expression. "You didn't even let me explain!" she exclaimed.
The Baku gave her a subtle but cold glare. "Listen, when you haven't eaten in 4 days, you aren't exactly picky about your next meal."
"R-right." The dream fairy blushed lightly at the pang of guilt she felt reminded of the fact that it was probably her fault he was so hungry.
"So what's this about?"
The dream was dark, desperate cries and moans for help coming from distant writhing images. Kurisutiina stood trapped inside a glass prism in the center of the space.
"Can't you hear…?" Kurisutiina asked forlornly. Her head was titled downward, her eyes shadowed by her bangs, her hand placed lightly on the glass. "Their screams… their cries for help… and I can't do anything," – Her voice took a sharp edge, her hand clenching into a fist – "trapped in this glass prison!"
Hiruko looked around the dream again, a bored expression. It was disappointing, really. Such a simple dream, with a simple solution.
The dream fairy's hands moved to cover her ears. "I want to help them, but I can't! No matter how many times I try to break the glass—not even a crack!"
Hiruko let out a long sigh. "Why do think you're having this dream?" he prompted. Kurisutiina raised her head to look at him, a question in her eyes. "You're a person who naturally wants to help people. Something must have happened to make you have this dream," the Baku continued.
"Well…" Kurisutiina's eyes shifted downward. "Lately a lot of customers have been having really terrible dreams, dreams that send them so far into despair, I don't think my charms have been strong enough."
"Then that explain it."
The dream fairy looked up at the Baku in confusion.
Hiruko raped his cane on the glass. "This prism is a symbol of your fear. You can't break it because you don't believe you're strong enough. So, the solution is simple."
"…I have to believe in myself…"
The Baku grinned.
Kurisutiina smiled softly, a determined look now coming to her face. "I have to overcome my fear. I have the power, I can help them." She drew her wand from her sleeve, pointing it at the glass in front of her. "I won't doubt myself!" A brilliant light erupted from the wand, smashing through the glass and enveloping everything. Hiruko brought his arm up to shield his eyes. A few seconds later, the light faded and Kurisutiina stood freely in front of the Baku, smiling brightly. "Thank you!"
Hiruko blushed faintly as the girl's arms draped around his shoulders in a hug. It was…unusual, he'd never been hugged this way before. But even so, a faint smile crossed his own lips.
"Time to wake up."
"It was a simple dream," Hiruko said as he finished explaining the nightmare to Mizuki and Hifumi. Kurisutiina had skipped out after finishing her tea and cake, a bright smile lighting up her whole face.
"Still, I can image it bothered her quite a bit," Mizuki replied. "She obviously loves to help people."
"I wouldn't mind running into her again," Hifumi commented, chin resting on his arms folded over the back of the chair.
Hiruko looked up at the clock. It was turning to early morning. Standing, he made his way to stairs to retire for the day. No customers would come this early; the dream left by the dream fairy would have to last until the next night. The dream itself had tasted sweet, not like bloody dreams, it had a different sweetness that he couldn't identify. A smile tugged slightly at his lips. I suppose that's fitting for a dream fairy with such a kind nature.
And chapter one is finito! (Finally…) Review please. And let me know if I still have some typos. Next chapter out as soon as I can manage.