Chapter 3: 沈む月の下で会う(shizumu tsuki no shita de au, Meeting Under the Descending Moon)
T/N: Thanks Vera for help with the title.
A/U: Usual disclaimer applies (11eyes isn't mine).
Misuzu and I exchanged dumbstruck looks. Her expression changes suddenly, probably mirroring my own. "Where are the other three?" we asked simultaneously.
"Hey kids, are you alright? You look confused," an elderly man asked.
"Huh?" It was as though any ability to think was wiped from my mind.
Thankfully, it seemed, Misuzu didn't have the same problem. "We're fine, just disoriented. I think I might be getting sick again." She coughed to emphasize the point.
The man's wife looked at me, "And what about your boyfriend?"
"We aren't dating," I quickly stammer out. With a slight cough, I answer her question. "I'm just a little tired, is all."
"Oh, excuse me for assuming." The woman bowed as she apologized.
The man offered us a hand. I grasp it and he helps pull me back to my feet. As I let go, he asks a question I should have expected. "Are you sure you're all right? Your hand is bleeding."
I quickly take a look at my palms. Both are still covered in blood, both mine and the Knight's. This could be a problem if I can't explain it. I take a look at my robes; they're also still soaked in the blood from the explosion.
"It must have come open again when I fell," I mutter, hoping the man will leave it at that. "I cut my palms open cleaning the ceremonial swords at my family's shrine and the stiches must have come out."
"Toshi, we should get you to a clinic to have them bandaged up again," Misuzu suggested.
"Sorry for causing you to worry about us. Have a wonderful day!" I bow and we quickly take our leave to return to my house.
Having changed out of my bloodstained robes, I rummage through my room to find the first-aid kit. I carefully pour the hydrogen peroxide over the lacerations on my palm, wincing at the pain. The bandaging itself, on the other hand, was significantly harder to do with one hand. After ten minutes of struggling, I ask Misuzu to tighten the poor excuse for a dressing.
Looks like I won't be sparring any time soon. Or staying alone for an extended period until I can safely wield my sword.
Around midnight that night, I received a call from Yukiko. She explained what happened following Hachiman whisking the three away. When they returned, they found themselves at their school. They split up to return to their own houses shortly thereafter.
The next day following school was spent looking through various texts to find something about the Black Knights. Out of the five of us, nothing was found that helped. We couldn't find any mention of the girl in the crystal, either; mind, a name would make it much easier.
The following week passed by without incident; the Red Night hadn't summoned us.
The only problems that I encountered were my classmates—the two or three that will actually speak with me—asking about the bandages on my hands and wrists. I just repeated the same lie I told the elderly couple.
Once the bandages were removed, I found myself an owner of two three-inch long scars. My strength remained unwavering.
"Class, please turn to page ninety-eight in your books," the old teacher commanded. He looked like a man that had long since left his prime years behind him. How he was still alive was beyond me, as was how a person could talk so monotonous all the time.
As I started to flip through the history textbook, I noticed something off about the classroom: cracks had slowly begun to splinter out from the corners of the room. They crept down the walls of the room, slowly inching along. Reaching out for me.
I tried to ignore them, but as the class proceeded, it became increasingly impossible. The bleeding tendrils of the night had locked around me; there was no escape. I carefully reached into my bag to pull out the ofuda cards.
Naturally, this would be the exact moment Sensei would ask me a question. "Kurokawa, what was the year that…"
His voice was overpowered by the sound of glass cracking invading my ears. Pieces of the roof broke off and falling to the ground, ejecting splinters of the world into the air. I took a deep breath as everything exploded.
I thought my school was horrific on a good day; the Red Night didn't hold anything back. The walls were lined with pulsing veins and rotting flesh. Every light I could see were open gashes, spraying blood along the floor with every pulse of the walls. The floor was a lattice of bones; through the centre was what appeared to be a spinal cord. That would make the bones branching out ribs… The air was putrid, hazy and wet with warm, bloody mist.
"Definitely a good thing I wasn't here for the first shift," I coughed, tasting the metallic flavour of blood.
The door, thankfully, looked normal enough. That is, until I went to open it. The wood melted into strands, finally solidifying into a tangle of intestines.
I closed my eyes, held my breath, and pushed through the door. The hallway looked even worse than the classroom. Flowing down the walls was streams of blood that spider-webbed along the bony floor.
The scream came from each end of the hall. The akuma have changed.
The sack-like body had grown. The wings protruding from its back had split into a total of four wings, now buzzing to hold the large mass in the air. From the torso of the demon, sprouted four transparent, blood-red tentacles. Surrounding the head were faces of various sizes. The face was something from nightmares; it was that of a baby's face, but joined at the sides to another face, with the shared eye being slightly longer. The two mouths opened, emitting another of its disconcerting cries.
I dove through the intestines composing my classroom's door. Without a second thought, I threw an ofuda at the window, shattering it. Never before have I been happier to be on the ground level of the school.
In the distance, a large cloud of fire erupted beyond the buildings. Was it another person, or was it a gas station exploding?
"Come forth, Ama no Murakumo no Tsurugi!" Eager to be anywhere but this living abomination intent on claiming my life, I raced towards where I thought the blaze originated.
Flames leapt out of the windows of a nearby building, shattering the glass; the shrapnel soared out into the street.
Scattered across the street were small blazes. Blue, red, green, and orange flames danced over the asphalt. A black flame crawled over the body of an akuma, slowly devouring the demon.
If it wasn't for the bloody overcast, this would almost be a pretty scene. Almost.
Another explosion shattered the silence. I was thrown into the air from the shockwave of the blast. The road where I crash-landed on was melted and still very warm to the touch.
I rolled over and dry heaved due to dizziness brought on by the ringing in my ears and a possible concussion from landing.
Several minutes passed by in absolute silence. The flames didn't crackle or spark like they should. The breeze was ever silent.
"Toshi? Is that you?" a voice called out. I coughed as a second voice joined the first. Both sounded female, but with my ears still ringing slightly, I wasn't sure.
"Kurokawa-senpai!" That had to be Yukiko, her bubbly voice was unmistakable, ringing or otherwise.
I scanned the area around me to find Yukiko, Misuzu, Kakeru and Yuka crowded around me. "Glad to see some friendly faces here."
A flame shot into the air a short distance away.
"Those flames brought you here, too?" Misuzu asked.
I nodded. With the aid of Misuzu and Kakeru, I was brought to my feet, albeit still very dizzy.
"Senpai, what should we do?" Yuka looked to our Onmyouji companion and I.
"We go investigate that blaze." I stated, without anything else to suggest.
Yuka and Kakeru helped keep me from falling over while Misuzu guided us towards the flame, Yukiko covering our backs. The pace was painfully slow, but it was the best I could manage without stumbling.
We came to a clearing with two people standing in it, a silver-haired boy in the same uniform as the others and a girl in the same uniform, with long, black hair.
The boy was roughly my height, had piercing red eyes, and held flickering balls of plasma in his hands. The girl, on the other hand, had brown eyes and carried a sketchbook and pen in her hands.
The boy was first to speak up. He said his name was Takahisa Taijima. He also introduced the girl with him as Kukuri Tachibana. When Kakeru got a closer look at her, he tensed up. Perhaps he knew her or someone that looked like her. We each introduced ourselves in turn.
Cracks sprang out from the centre of the clearing. I inhaled deeply as the Red Night exploded to reveal the normal world once more. This time we found ourselves in a field a couple blocks south of Shin-Ayame Tower.
I exhaled as I careened forward. I slipped from Yuka and Kakeru's grip and ended up sprawled out on the ground. The pain in my skull had exploded to my entire body. Once more, I found myself collapsing following a return from the Red Night. My last thoughts were along the lines of "I really need to stop this."
Akuma: lit. "Demon"
Toujinfu: The unblessed ofuda; used for creating the spells
Onmyouji: Followers of Onmyoudou
Onmyoudou: Lit "The Way of Yin and Yang"
Akai Yoru: Lit "Red Night"
Ama no Murakumo no Tsurugi: Susanoo's legendary blade; lit "Sword of the Gathering Clouds of Heaven"
Ofuda: The charms given out at Shinto shrines.
Zuuoooooooo!: Recreation of the Larvae's scream from the anime.
Hachiman: God of War and the Divine Protector of Japan and its people.
Sensei: lit. "one who came before"; a teacher or master in general usage.
Senpai: upperclassmen/senior student, relative to the speaker.
Sorry if this chapter seemed a little rushed at the end, or perhaps too short. I wanted to get another chapter out within a decent amount of time (it's been too long for my liking).
I mainly wanted a chapter to introduce the two remaining protagonists and have the main characters meet one another. The title was the main plot event for this chapter (The characters meeting under the black moon as it slowly descends towards them).
Also, I hope I didn't traumatize anyone with my descriptions of Toshi's school. Haha. I'm not altogether sure where I came up with that, but whatever. It fits.
Anyways, I don't know when the next chapter will be out. I probably won't have another chapter out until after my last final around mid-June. I've got graduation crap to do this week, a ceremony and party on the 25th and 26th/27th, respectively, then it's exams not long after that. Also, with family visiting from tomorrow (May 20th) until sometime after June 7th, I doubt I'll find much time to write. Sorry!